"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 19 November 1998. Updated every WEEKDAY.
Hit & Run CLVI


[psstt ... if you don't like the alt tags, don't read them]

It's a formula that was tried

and true when The Day of the

Locust author Nathanael West was

still drinking bathtub gin: 1)

Make dire statements about the

city of Los Angeles. 2) Predict

impending and abundantly

deserved apocalypse. 3) Collect

paycheck. And nobody has

followed the pattern of

connecting disappointing weather

and divine retribution more

effectively than Mike Davis, the

universally adored author of

1990's City of Quartz and this

year's Ecology of Fear. After

all, who doesn't want to hear the

moralizing bedtime story of how

"Southern California has reaped

flood, fire, and earthquake

tragedies that were as

avoidable, as unnatural as the

beating of Rodney King and the

ensuing explosion in the



Friends of Suck who have been

saddled with the task of

fact-checking the MacArthur

Genius' work over the years have

been lifting their eyebrows,

screwing up their faces, and

muttering about suspicious

discoveries. But since that's

what most of them do most of the

time anyway, we paid little

attention to their contortions.

Meanwhile, Davis has rested

comfortably, in our book anyway,

atop his abundant footnotes,

tornado conspiracies, and claims

of a city invasion by

dispossessed mountain lions. But

the Getty Fellow's own mudslide

may finally be at hand.


"[Davis] needs to make it sound

as if LA is worse than every

other city in every category. So

he writes about wild animal

attacks and doesn't pay any

attention to traffic accidents.

He's a weird guy," said New

Times LA columnist Jill Stewart,

whose critical column on

Davisteria hits the streets

today. Even better is a long

email we received Monday from

intriguingly named Malibu

resident Brady Westwater. Unlike

Davis' global network of

adulators, Westwater plays off

of the author's strength: his

fabled footnotes. While we can't

vouch for Westwater's prose

style, his footnote explorations

are enlightening. Westwater

highlights places where Davis

cites sources that contradict

him, instances where Davis cites

only his own work, and best of

all, a case where Davis cites

himself contradicting himself.


Of course, the whole point of a

footnote, like a helpful link,

is that you know nobody will

follow it. So Westwater's effort

would really just be nit-picking

if not for his legwork in

disproving, among other things,

Davis' claims that LA rainfall

is more ferocious than a

monsoon, the Northridge quake

was the costliest natural

disaster in American history,

and the Bunker Hill development

is a steel-walled fortress of

plutocracy. "The only ghetto I

experienced was the one in Mr.

Davis' mind," Westwater zings.

(Actually, we're starting to

warm to his prose style.) If you

want a copy of Westwater's

manuscript, you'll have to email

him at WWMALIBU@aol.com. Of

course, Davis' own work is far

more readily available. Which

makes sense. Fact-checking is

dull, but there will always be

new LA haters eager to hear

about how it's just like Blade



[now back to our regular self-effacing bullshit: looks like a meth lab, smells like a candle factory -haight/ashbury

It probably doesn't speak too

well of our half-remembered

careers as actual reporters that

the one piece of solid advice we

got from our hard-bitten editors

was, "Read the whole press

release." But apparently this

bromide may have been wiser than

we knew. Last week investors

sent stock of AvTel

Communications Inc. up a modest

1,200 percent, from US$2.25 to $31

a share, on news that the

company was providing high-speed

online access. Only after

trading was halted did it become

clear that AvTel's technology

was not a new high-speed modem

but, rather, a fairly common,

high-speed modem access, with

service limited to the Santa

Barbara area. It's not so much

that the information wasn't in

the press release as that clever

traders had managed to extract

only the news they wanted to see

and fill in the gaps with stuff

they wanted to hear. One thing's

for certain though: AvTel was

doing some kind of Internet



The AvTel fiasco was somewhat

like the case of poor ITEX

Corporation, which got a similar

bounce when one of its press

releases was confused with a

more exciting press release from

Integrated Telecom Express Inc.,

a completely different company

that recently got a cash

injection from Intel, a company

that we believe does some sort

of computer thingamajig. How

many people were fooled in this

case we can't say, but it

probably has something to do

with the impending doom of Los

Angeles. We're expecting to see

stock in Theglobe.com (down 57

percent and heading south at

press time) being offered in an

MLM spam any day now, but then,

we suspect the whole company may

be just a press release.

Meanwhile, we're hoping to send

out an announcement of our own

within a few days, and while

we're figuring out what our

story will be, you're welcome to

mail cash directly to this



[doug marsh's technique for removing his slide from his pocket mid-song]

You'd think there would only be

so many ways you could spin the

Cold War, what with the way it

turned out and all. But that's

never stopped anybody from

trying. We can't help thinking

there's a common thread linking

Kenneth Branagh's icy narrative

of the US-Soviet Great Game, Joe

McCarthy's rebirth as an unsung

American hero, and this week's

report that the Soviet Union

duped the United States into

believing it was a ballistic

missile powerhouse. According to

the Moscow magazine Vlast

(Power), in 1965 the Mighty

Integral led American

intelligence to conclude that

the USSR had developed the GR-1

missile by parading dummy

rockets in a May Day Parade.


Of course, we already know that

a similar failure to recognize

the Russian space program's

collapse in the mid-'60s spurred

America to put a man on the

moon. Which makes us wish the

Russkies might try bamboozling

us a few more times. If Vlast is

to be believed, this attempt at

spy mastery "scared the West

into an expensive response"

(i.e., allowed us to maintain a

military-industrial complex that

employed millions of Americans

and helped fund the most

comfortable way of life in the

history of the human race, while

the Russians bankrupted and

dismantled their country trying

to keep up). What a clever

battle plan. No wonder they make

such great chess masters.

courtesy of the Sucksters

[Purchase the Suck Book here]