The Fish
for 22 August 2000. Updated every WEEKDAY.
 
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Suck Alumni
Suck Alumni Text
 
Whee! The People

Are you going by 40th street black
now? I'll have to go back into the
archives and compare stuff. Reminds
me of techno DJs who find they have
to change names when they switch
genres (from jungle to deep house
or bigbeat, for example).

I'm just writing to say that that
was great (Whee!The people) for
reasons I'm only guessing at right
now and it has lots of interesting
implications for the town I'm
living in, Prague, but in the
opposite direction. Given the
hordes of Americans that stomp
through, maybe you've been here.
It's one of the only towns really
unscathed by WWII, and it was one
of Europe's gems to start with. I
worked at a paper a few years ago
here which once ran a picture of a
double-steepled cathedral on the
main square that made the steeples
look like mickey mouse ears. The
point being that the effect of
Disneyland is to make it difficult
to take something as beautiful and
old as Prague seriously. "It almost
looks like the real thing," people
joke.

Prague as theme park vs. Prague as
financial center is a serious issue
for planning folks here as modern
methods of using office space tend
to clash with those from, say, the
16th century. For the city to
thrive, both of those worlds have
to be coddled to and zoned for.
Downtown Prague today is a mix of
sunglassed, screaming Italians,
Czechs dressed up in Mozart outfits
handing out concert invitations,
chubby Americans in Jams and
college t-shirts, and suits talking
into their mobile phones in any
language as they sprint across the
old square. If Disney were to build
a park somewhere on the outskirts
of town, out by the industrial and
business parks already growing
there, I think Prague would have a
schizophrenic meltdown.

Great stuff.

(Any articles or book suggestions
that pertain would be appreciated.)

Robert McLean
<mcleanr@ini.cz>

Thanks for reading and sending a
note. My e-mail was briefly
switched with St. Huck's. Taking my
own look through his archives, I
wish I were him instead of me
full-time.

Thanks for the interesting take at
Prague, which I'm guessing is
nothing like Youngstown, Ohio but
sounds equally terrifying. If
Disney doesn't end up building
there, perhaps the closest things
to Mickey Mouse (squeaky voice,
inexplicable world icon status,
eerie and unsettling late-life
makeover), Mr. Michael Jackson,
will make good on his promise of a
Neverland (Really) East.

Best,

40th Street Black
 
Fish With Letter Icon
 


Second time writing to you. Thanks
for your response to the last.

Theme parks! Deep thoughts about
trivial pursuits, eh? Yet, this at
a time when I'm actually agonizing
about whether or not to attempt an
unbudgetable trip to Kennnywood PA
before they close for the winter
and tear down the infamous Steel
Phantom. In this case, nostalgia
over the impending loss of
something I've never seen is
motivating me to consider going
somewhere I'd never be motivated to
otherwise go--I'd never imagine
making a trip just to ride a
rollercoaster unless I knew it was
about to be torn down. Is that
effective marketing or what?
They'll probably make up, in
last-minute Phantom-mourning
attendance, what it costs them to
tear it down and build a new ride.
Also compelling, since I live in
topical Orlando, are your thoughts
on Downtowns and Park Culture; here
we have lost our downtown, as a
once-vital entertainment venue, to
the ersatz mini-metropoli of
Downtown Disney and Universal
CityWalk.In this case, amusement
parks are posing as places of
business, rather than vice-versa,
but then again, that's what they
really are anyway, right? Still,
it's sad for us, since Downtown
Orlando used to be really hopping
every night; now, if we want
nightlife, we have to go hang with
the tourists, rather than them
getting to come hang with us. In
any case, it's still a matter of
the better-presented rides
overshadowing the sideshow. I enjoy
your writing.

Stuart Nichols
<snichols@rollins.edu>

Thanks so much for writing. I was
interested in hearing from someone
who lived in Orlando. I watched
some footage of basketball player
Grant Hill making his trip to
Orlando to decide whether to play
for the Magic - because the lives
of multi-millionaires are more
important than my own - and I was
struck by the fact that what they
were selling as Orlando seemed to
have nothing to do with any sense
of the city, where I seem to
remember at one point there being a
clear distinction made by civic
leaders.

I hope you get to ride the Steel
Phantom. I'm all for manufacturing
nostalgia that whips you around a
steel track as opposed to sitting
there staring at you over half a
vodka-tonic.

40th Street Black
 
Fish With Letter Icon
 


Dear 40th St. Black, excellent
article on a fascinating subject.
Years ago the journal Glyph - which
I am sure has long ago vanished
from sight - published an article
by Louis Marin entitled
"Disneyland: A Degenerate Utopia."
The title says it all. Marin was a
bright guy but his point of view is
that of a snooty educated European
revolted by the horrors of American
commercialism. But if Max
Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno could
praise France - in 1947, when they
wrote Dialectic of Enlightenment -
for its whorehouses and pissoirs, I
certainly don't feel apologetic
about Disneyland or its assorted
congeners.When I was in graduate
school years ago, I lived next door
to Belmont Park in Mission Beach
here in San Diego. It had a great
creaky old roller coaster - which I
once rode on to sober up on a
Sunday morning - and during the
summer months, when the park stayed
open until eleven at night, the
entrance was littered with the
puked remains of cotton candy. But
my only memories of Belmont Park
are fond ones. I'm happy to have
had a chance to observe first-hand
the gutsy pleasures of an
institution like that - in contrast
to the more pasteurized ones of
Disneyland - just as I'm happy to
have had a chance to see live
burlesque when I was in my teens.
There's a wonderful painting by
Paul Cadmus of the Coney Island
beach in the 1930's that really
manages to get the raunchy
unstructured spectacle of Americans
at play on canvas - like a great
shot out of an early sound film.

Best wishes,

Dave Clayton
<daveclayton@worldnet.att.net>

Hi Dave.

Thanks so much for you note. I
found a photo of the Cadmus
painting —
http://www.photo.net/
photo/pcd0222/cadmus-
coney-island-58 — if anyone is
interested. It's extremely vivid.

My Belmont Park was
"Adventureland," in North Webster,
Indiana, home of the "Wild Mouse"
roller coaster, the amusement
equivalent of trying to drive your
totaled car away from an accident
because you told the officer you
could. Nothing was more terrifying
than the lean on that first curve.

I sure hope we're never expected to
apologize for Disney; the
straight-to-video stuff would take
up six months of free time all by
itself.

Best,

40th Street Black
 
Fish With Letter Icon
 


Muggling Through

When I got to the end of "Muggling
Through" I kicked myself for not
recognizing Reason's "Pop culture
is good 'cause lotsa people like
it" stance before seeing your
byline.

Bloom's an ass, but I have to agree
with him about the Potter books.
They're not bad; I can see why
people enjoy them (I did too), but
I quit half-way through the second
book because there are too many
other, better books to read. I have
to wonder if a lot of Potter fans
wouldn't feel the same way if they
had someone more winsome than Bloom
to help them find the really good
stuff. Good critics are more
valuable than the NYT best-seller's
list.

SMTIRCAHIAGEHLT

Michael Straight
<straight@email.unc.edu>

Who says everyone has to run around
reading really good books all the
time? There's plenty of room in the
world for OK books, especially when
they're made for children.

But you're right — we've spent
a long time reading books based on
whether or not they got good
reviews in the NYT Review of Books.
Boy, did we end up reading some bad
books. While You Were Gone? What a
turd.

Gripefully yours,

Sucksters
 
Fish With Letter Icon
 


Dear Mr. Mxyzptlk, what a great job
of pricking of Harold Bloom's
flatulently over-inflated balloon.
As one who had a chance to observe
Bloom in action some years back
—when he was a guest speaker
at a conference on fantasy and
science fiction lit where I gave a
paper —I relished every word.
Actually, I think Bloom is quite
good as long as he sticks to the
turf he knows, that of English
Romanticism. He deserves some real
credit for having rehabilitated
Romanticism from the trash can to
which the New Critics had consigned
it. I am old enough (56 going on
57) to have had an instructor as an
undergraduate at San Diego State
College who was a Yale product, a
student of Maynard Mack, Cleanth
Brooks, and W.K. Wimsatt, who could
hardly mention Shelley's name
without foaming at the mouth. What
I find interesting is how quickly
Bloom got off the
"deconstructionist" bandwagon once
he saw it was running out of gas
—probably the guilt by
association with Paul de Man's
political past unnerved him as
well. But the pompously oracular
position Bloom is trying to strike
on these shores is utterly
farcical, quite apart from the
conceptually threadbare quality of
his most recent excogitations on
literature. Bloom seems to be
aspiring to the sort of eminence
held by European intellectual
figures like Martin Heidegger,
Theodor Adorno, J.-P. Sartre, or
Jacques Lacan. But those characters
were a dying breed at the height of
their fame, and no one in this
country has ever occupied a
comparable position —all to
the good, as far as I'm concerned.
Henry David Thoreau remains the
prototypic American intellectual in
my books. But Bloom is hardly alone
in suffering from this folie de
grandeur. Susan Sontag, who used to
offer an interesting antidote to
the pieties of the academic
establishment, has become just as
stuffy, if not as overtly
conservative, as HB —she seems
to have taken herself for the
reincarnation of Hannah Arendt.
Once more, my congratulations!

Best wishes,

David Clayton
<daveclayton@worldnet.att.net>

Oh, intellectuals and all their
foamings at the mouth. It's enough
to make you eat a six pack of
chocolatey ho-hos and watch 10
straight hours of Brittany babbling
on about her oh-so-precious
virginity on Big Brother.

Thinking the Salon Big Brother
coverage deserves a Pulitzer
Prize...

Sucksters
 
Fish With Letter Icon
 


For what it's worth, I was watching
Letterman or one of the other late
night talk shows when Bill Cosby
came on in order to promote his
(then) new movie, Leonard Part VI.
He actually apologized for the poor
quality of the movie, stating in
his own defense that, "They payed
me an awful lot of money." I
believe that this apology came even
before the move came out. However,
this incident was so many years
ago, that my precise memory of it
has faded.

Mark H. Ehrlich, Esq.
<mhe@aviationattorney.com>

That would have to have happened
many years ago, because we're
pretty sure that most promotional
contracts celebrities sign state
pretty clearly that you're not
allowed to openly trash a movie as
long as it's in the theaters.

Or maybe that's something their
contracts should say. Either way,
it's amazing he got away with it.
If only everyone would tell the
truth, we'd never have to waste our
time with shitty movies again.

Damn that Joel Siegel!

Sucksters
 
Fish With Letter Icon
 


10 points if you get the reference.

With respect to today's Suck, I
think Harold is suffering from a
mental attitude that does not allow
him to take a more sociological
approach to reading. The readers of
recondite stuff don't need his
approval, and those of us who are
Potter fans are fans because the
books are either 'cracking good
reads' or because for all their
flaws we can close our eyes and see
the story happening in a way TV
can't touch, or maybe because of
the unbelievably angry subtext of
the books, which takes on the
British class system with about as
much steam as George Orwell. JK
writes from the rage of the
outsider and this animates her
stories above the usual kiddie
kark. And she dares to be
politically incorrect, which takes
more balls than the feminists are
displaying these days, alas.

Critical thinking, I agree, is
missing. I can wail at the wall of
western civilization along with
Prof Bloom on that one. But the
smartest purveyors of literature
use the popular stuff to point to
Other Things; they don't sniff and
wail about clichés. It's a long way
from Archie comics to Maus, and
it's a fuck of a long way from
Transformers to Ulysses, but it's
up to the critical thinkers to
connect the dots, and I don't see
Bloom doin' it.

Thanks for a good column.

Best regards,

Allegra Sloman (Mrs.)
<allegra.sloman@xantrex.com>

Wow, sniffing and wailing about
clichés sounds pretty fun.

Suck: Sniffing and Wailing About
Cliches Since 1995.

Sucksters
 
Fish With Letter Icon
 


Whee! The People

Note that, by your definition,
Paris is a theme park. While
business is still done there, it's
all been moved to the outskirts
(easily reached by excellent public
transportation), where highly
efficient high rises hold the
high-tech companies that power
France (and that the French prefer
to pretend don't exist). Downtown
is Gigi and baguettes and the
world's best produce and some
really pretty street scenes. It's
all done so well that the
Parisians, by and large, don't seem
to realize they're extras in the
park.

It's not unique to Paris of course:
there's Prague and Florence and
Amsterdam and.... It's just that
Paris is bigger and does it
better.I'm sure there's a moral
there somewhere.

Alan Kornheiser
<ASKornheiser@prodigy.net>

I'm more than suggest Europe be
viewed a gigantic theme park
complex, if only for the chance all
currency would then be destroyed in
favor of the convenient,
around-the-neck day pass.

40th Street Black
 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

 The Shit
Krushchev Remembers, by Nikita Krushchev (authorship disputed), translated by Strobe Talbott
Five-Star Day Cafe
Athens, Ga.
Salon's "Action Figures"
TV ad
Donna's Famous "Long and Short of It," by Donna Anderson and friends
Two-Lane Blacktop, directed by Monte Hellman (The Anchor Bay/Universal letterboxed edition)
George Bush, Dark Prince of Love: A Presidential Romance, by Lydia Millet (Scribner)
King Kong: The Complete 1933 Film Score, by Max Steiner Moscow Symphony Orchestra, William J. Stromberg conductor (Marco Polo)
Eightball #20, by Dan Clowes (Fantagraphics Books)
The ECW's Little Spike Dudley
Stan Kenton, City of Glass, featuring arrangements by legendary weirdo Bob Graettinger (EMD/Blue Note)
Comix 2000, Edited and published by L'Association, 2000
Star Dudes
Do you know of stuff that doesn't actively suck? Things so good they deserve to make the Shitlist? Send your suggestions to us.

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