"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 18 December 1997. Updated every WEEKDAY.
Hit & Run CXII



Hats off this week to David

Foster Wallace, who with his new

story in the January Harper's

proves once again that whatever

we can do (namely, spew pages

upon pages of self-indulgent,


stream-of-consciousness gabble

and disguise it as picking the

scabs - with the calm adroitness

of a neurosurgeon - of a

mildly-abraded Zeitgeist), he

can do more profitably and to

greater critical acclaim. The

story in question, which is

entitled simply "The Depressed

Person," is as usual jam-crammed

with Wallace's trademark

metacommentary about the anguish

of being a sensitive,

highly observant, and painfully

self-conscious person; this

time, however, we fear D. F. W.

may have inadvertently tripped,

tragicomically, like a

modern-day Buster Keaton in a

toque instead of a porkpie, into

a labyrinth of post-ironic

sincerity so dimly lit by his

oft-formidable wit, and applied

himself somewhat too diligently

to a subject so hackneyed and so

totally overworked, that no one

will be willing to follow him

except to laugh and point.1


1. Though we could, of course,
be mistaken. A lot of people eat
that shit up.2


2. Which reminds us: Does D. F.
W.'s editor at Harper's really
think prepositions are the sorts
of things big-name authors
should be ending sentences in?



"In an unstable, unloyal,
technologically isolating world,
it's the solid values, sturdy
connections, and safe harbors of
yesteryear that resonate....
They're rebelling in their own
way - not on the streets but
back to hearth and home." -
Time, 10 November 1997


Forget Coupland's Generation X,

Ad Age's N-Gen, Pepsi's

Generation Next, and Motorbooty's

Generation, um, Motorbooty,

there's a new kid in town,

according to Time magazine:

Gen-Nest. So what if it won't

look dope on a baseball hat? The

triannual pegging of squares in

the pages of fat-circ

newsweeklies is one of the few

dependable vaudeville acts we

have left, and the

Gen-X-to-Gen-Nest narrative is

nothing if not comic ballet,

scripted strictly to genre

conventions. Witness the story's

neat trajectory, from anxiety of

identification (Who are they?

What are they doing? Why are

they different?) to bestowals of

approval, as the Other comes to

its senses to become more like

Us. Sound familiar?


Recall the august press outlets'

nods of assent as Clinton Mach I

transmuted from dangerous

liberal indiscipline to budding

maturity simply by hiring

consummate insider-hack David

Gergen. Or the same outlets'

relieved sighs, if not outright

glee, as key members of the

wild-eyed freshman GOP Congress

member class of '94 showed signs

of becoming acclimated

("co-opted," man!) to the byways

of the Beltway. As with "dialog

with Iran" and "Christmas

returns to Cuba" headlines, the

other-turned-another story line

reveals more about a medium's

mindset than its subject's. It's

part of its dream of the

middle-of-the-road, that grand


nowhere-gone-everywhere, all

free radicals oxidized and

safely bonded, where there's

always room for one more.



"You've already paid your money,

why look at ads?" has always

been the beef with pre-movie

advertising. In the logical

inverse of that argument, EDS is

piloting ads in a place where

they can really do some work -

the ATM. While a Money Store

plug might ease the pain of

overdraft, it's disturbing to

see this innovation commanding

scrutiny while advertising

theorists all but ignore the

more radical breakthrough of

the recent past - ads in urinals.

With consumer mindshare already

sorted out by financial status

(Denny's restroom or NYSE

executive stall?) and gender (in

most cases), the opportunities

for target marketing appear at

least as boffo as with ATMs

(bonus placement: EDS's pilot

featured spots for The Full

Monty). Indeed, ATM ad packager

CashPoint just about gives the

game away with its cross-media

comparison checklist, in which

American Standard's porcelain

Buddha comes up rosy:


Actionable ----- Check
Guaranteed Delivery ------ Check
Color Graphics ------- You
Betcha Cash in Hand ------- In a Way
Quiet Dialog ------- In Almost All Cases
Outbound ------- And How!


Reverse-migration opportunities

abound. Too-corporate messages

like "Amount entered exceeds

available balance" could be

spruced up with potty

witticisms: "Don't look here,

the joke's in your hand." And

who needs "Thank you for using

Express ATM," when you've got

the immortal junior high



He who writes on bathroom walls
Rolls up shit in little balls.
He who reads these words of wit
Eats those little balls of

courtesy of the Sucksters