The Fish
for 3 October 2000. Updated every WEEKDAY.
 
[Suck Staff]
 

[Tim Cavanaugh]
Tim Cavanaugh
Special Guest Editor

 

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Terry Colon
Art Director

 

[Heather Havrilesky]
Heather Havrilesky
Senior Editor

 

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Joey Anuff
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Caddyshack Culture

Great stuff. You guys continue to amaze. What a great free read, and no advertising. The mysteries of economics. Time for another Caddyshack fix.

DD
<Nullen@aol.com>

One of the great things about Suck continues to be the lack of advertising on its pages. Sometimes I wish Our Publisher would relax his moral standards and get some, though. I, at least, could use the dough. But the guy just hates money. I think he wrote a book about how stupid it is, or was that a golf instruction video? I'm a little confused these days.

Slotcar H.

 
[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]
 

Slotcar,

Just a couple of thoughts;

1. You totally ignore the Meatballs franchise and its effect on popular culture. You mean to tell me you don't sing the "C*I*T*'s" song at family gatherings. That you don't chant Spaz, Spaz, Spaz, Spaz at every hot dog eating contest. That when you watched Chris Makepeace in My Bodyguard, you could not help but think of him as Woody the Wabitt.

All I can think is you choose to ignore think cinematic high-water mark due to some sort of old school Haley Mills hand in the warm water incident that is too painful for you to revisit.

2. I am not annoyed by the gopher. My peers and myself cheer for him like the shark in Jaws, like Jason, like Freddy, like Death in a Sweedish movie. So take my advice Mr. Hatebath and step off the gopher.

Your Faithful Reader,

Joseph A. Iacovelli Esq.
<Joseph_Iacovelli@rsausa.com>

Esq.,

Both Chris Makepeace and I thank you for writing in. I was too busy rooting for your mama at the last hot dog eating contest I attended to chant "Spaz," but as for the gopher, you're right. He is like Max von Sydow in The Seventh Seal. Murray's death match with him is like a game of chess played on a golf course of light- and dark-green checkerboard squares. The gopher haunts Murray still. Look at Groundhog Day. Gopher, groundhog, what's the difference? Why is Murray's career so mixed-up with woodchucks whose colloquial names start with the letter G? In this context, the unfunny Murray-vehicle Larger Than Life, with its elephant co-star, starts to seem like a desperate attempt for the star of Meatballs to decisively split with ground squirrels by taking up with a pachyderm.

Slotcar H.

 
[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]
 

I was at the grocery store the other day and saw a Talking Gopher from Caddyshack! It jorbled more than talked, really. Thought you might care.

Th»ric W. Jepson

Dear th.,

I've been wondering whatever happened to the gopher. Was he bagging groceries or just hanging around trying to get someone to buy booze for him?

Thanks for the heads up!

Slotcar H.

 
[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]
 
The Importance of Being Average

Subject: Re: average white bland

Hi, 4.0:

Nice piece, as usual. And have you noticed that the ironic use of the term "normal" seems to be at an all-time high? Look at the soon-to-be-disappointing (and, no doubt, irritatingly white and young) TV fall season, where the use of the term graces "The Trouble with Normal" and "Normal, Ohio" in a facetious manner.

Once upon a time, during an age founded on assembly lines and the "organization man" management style (cf. "Apostles of the New Entrepreneur: Business Books and the Management Crisis" by Bill Boisvert from The Bafflers' "Commodify Your Dissent"), being "normal," "one of the boys," and "keeping up with the Joneses" were considered a good thing. Now we have to "think different," while "sometimes you gotta break the rules" or "be your own dog."

I haven't yet figured out if the rise of rampant individualism has made our society a much better place, but I'm not yet ready to bet anyone's farm on it.

Tim Nekritz
<nekritz@dreamscape.com>

The thing that's great about the facetious "normals" in the titles is that television networks now assume you have to be told the setting is wacky - as if the ten-years-ago TV version of an Alaskan bordertown or a blue collar northern Illinois household were bleak, Jon Jost-like portrayals of American life as lived. I recommend skipping all new broadcast TV for two shows, if you can find them: the subtitled Asian soap opera mini-series syndicated to some big cities, or the greatest television show in the history of the world, Al Alberts' Showcase.

I don't know if rampant individualism has done the world any good, but it didn't do my blood pressure any good stuck sick at home watching professional football last weekend. Given the number of obnoxious displays — the type of which would have led me to have my face getting stepped on in a McDonald's parking lot if I had tried them in high school -- when I read Vince McMahon is not going to keep his players from letting loose when they celebrate in his XFL, I can only imagine this means he's going to let them urinate on each other or set cheerleaders on fire.

Best,

40th Street Black

 
[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]
 

i'm a little worried that by writing i am opening myself up to nasty repartee at my own expense (suck types like to do that as i'm sure you know) but i wanted to tell you that your columns are consistently well-written, concise, and offer cool, oblique views into our surpassingly weird world. they are always a pleasure to read, and they make ya think. thanks.

ok, you can make fun of me now

Jon Dohlin
<jdohlin@wcs.org>

I wouldn't dare make fun of you — that's the nicest letter I've received that wasn't from a college friend I browbeat into helping me look good in front of the editors.

Thanks,

40th Street Black

 
[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]
 

Dear Tom Spurgeon,

Very enjoyable article. Although I've known about Middletown since I was in my early teens, I regret that it is still on my list of books to be read. A couple of other things occurred to me that may have accounted for the sensation the book created when it first came out. One of these was rise to prominence of sociology as a discipline in this country after World War I, particularly in comparison with European countries. The Germans, most conspicuously Max Weber and Georg Simmel, created the theoretical foundations of modern sociology, but in that country it has remained a respectable yet relatively marginal discipline in comparison with its status here. (The founding of the Institute for Social Research in the 1920's would have seemed a wildly radical gesture by the standards of German academia, even if the Institute had not had such an obviously Marxist bent from the beginning.) However, the rise of sociology coincides--and probably not so coincidentally--with the emergence of advertising as a major business enterprise and the creation of big ad agencies, many of which are still with us today. And the practice of ad agencies and their clients of commissioning professionally trained researchers to do marketing surveys to determine what the "average" American was likely to purchase must date already from that time, I think. Last but not least, those phenomena in turn coincide with the rise of radio broadcasting, one of whose main effects was to further accelerate the process of cultural homogenization that had started with the building of the railroads and then really got into gear with the rapid growth of auto transport, an event whose significance you rightly note.Have you ever seen King Vidor's great film The Crowd, made in 1928? While it would be a mistake to interpret the film as a kind of leftist critique of American life--as Andrew Bergman tends to do in We're In the Money--but it provides an astonishing portrayal of lower middle class life in New York city just at the moment the Lynds were polishing their study for publication. Vidor later went on to film Ayn Rand's right wing tract The Fountainhead in what might termed American fascist style, and similar values are discernible in The Crowd. At least, the older film is indebted to Ralph Waldo Emerson instead of Rand, and although Vidor depicts the failure of his hero as inevitable, he regards him with compassion rather than contempt. The picture is available in quite a good video with a new orchestral score. If you can't run down a copy, let me know and I'll be happy to lend you mine.

Best wishes,

Dave C
<daveclayton@worldnet.att.net>

Hi Dave.

Thanks for another thorough and interesting letter. I've heard of but not seen the Vidor movie, so I'll track that down. I think the Lynds' contribution was more effective and had longer legs than a lot of the activist writing of the period and from earlier decades because the Middletown Studies were superficially benign. Like one of those big magazine articles trying to sum up an emerging generation, the prescriptive elements are often forgotten in favor of the sheer novelty of the sweeping arguments being made. The documentary filmmakers who worked in Muncie in the late 1970s nailed down the class differences — while adding touching portraits of race and generational disagreements — but scared and depressed people to the point where none of the films, save perhaps the portrait of a struggling pizza owner, really served as a stepping ladder to a greater, and meaningful, discussion of those kinds of differences. They were too depressing.

Best,

40th Street Black

 
[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]
 
Caddyshack Culture

Subject: re: Gunga Galunga

While you were on the subject of SNL Alumni, golf, and Tiger Woods, you forgot one of the more memorable moments of the last couple of (mostly lame) years of SNL, the 'Biography' they did of Tiger Woods, starring Tim Meadows as Tiger (complete with disturbingly white teeth) and Tracy Morgan as Earl Woods. Earl goes on about how when Tiger was a young boy all he did was talk about 'golf is great, and I love golf' then it flashes to Tiger saying 'The first memories I have of my father are of him taping a golf club to my hand, he had this crazy look in his eyes'. Back to Earl talking about how great Tiger is 'He's like another Ghandi' Tiger returns with 'Yeah, when I bought him a house he was like 'gee thanks Ghandi' I guess he wanted a bigger house.' As far as I can tell, Golf is still just another excuse to cover up a drinking problem (not unlike fishing) and thats fine, the only golf I ever play kinda resembles polo (drunken golf cart golf--try it sometime--you'll love it, and you'll be asked never to return to the course).

Being the ball,

Robert
<robert@logixx.com>

Yes, Robert, golf carts were one of the best things about golf until its current revival began looking down on them. According to the behind-the-scenes tribute that precedes Caddyshack on Warners' 19th anniversary video of the movie, the oh-so-crazy gang at work on the film had a number of course-grinding golf cart wars in their off hours. I'm surprised souped-up carts haven't been manufactured that can be hitched to SUV's and pulled behind them to country clubs. If they do get around to making them, I'll happily edit the magazine dedicated to them that will inevitably emerge.

Slotcar

 
[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]
 

Subject: re: Elihu, will you loofah my stretchmarks?

Yep, Slotcar, you hit a hole in one on this one. Another--or should I say, yet another, indice is that Wesley Snipes job in The Art of War, was apparently hunting after gophers for the government of the United Nations. Well, moles, but moles, gophers--what's the difference. Good work!

Richard Von Busack
<regisgoat@earthlink.net>

Von B.,

Everyone has their favorite line. But someone attached to the stretchmarks moment is truly disturbed. The way the film moves from Lacey half-naked in bed to Knight's elderly wife in the shower is one of the film's ickier moments. The whole SNL/Lampoon crowd always showed a fear of aging, and Ramis played that up in Caddyshack. You'd think the Second City-trained Ramis would have a little sympathy for the domestic life of Ted Knight's Judge Smails, but no. In this case I think the Smailses deserved a little better. After all, Knight is the backbone of the movie. In true straight man tradition, he holds the whole thing together for the sketch comics Murray and Chase and the standup Dangerfield. Would that woman really ask her husband that question? Of course mere verisimilitude can't detract from the line's immortality now.

You're the guy who saw The Art of War?

Slotcar

 
[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]
 

Lots to say about this . . . let me just rattle off a few thoughts as they come to me

. . . first, you're absolutely correct about the historical significance of this film and about its sheer comic genius . . . and these are entirely intertwined. That is, the film plays mercilessly on the most taboo subject in our culture (the codes and symbols of economic status) in roughly the same moment in which we first began to register the dark undertow of the Reagan era, the moment when this most repressed body of concerns came bouncing back up in the wake of "the sixties" to torment us with renewed fury. For the first time in a very great while, people were interested in joining country clubs (and they were anxious about exactly how to go about it and what certain things meant) and those who had never left them were thrilled to discover that they no longer had to be embarrassed about the pleasures of living that way (and yet their relief was alloyed by a roving buzzard-eye wariness about whether or not they were just stepping into a yet more demeaning and complicated prank). Let me say it another way: people who were not "old money" had been enjoying and cultivating the post-war boom for a generation or so (despite the nervey down-turn of the early 70s) and were now looking forward to appropriating some of the symbols of the old leisure class; and the old leisure class had just come through a deep humiliation (the sixties) when it was considered morally suspect to have a lot of money and denim became the uniform of all forward-looking "people." And so you've got a bunch of idiots (who aren't quite sure what they're doing) posturing and preening in the suburban summer sun for each others' benefit. A juicier terrain for big, big laffs is hard to imagine. One thinks of the best period of the old National Lampoon, say '74 to '79 — those folks had their eyes trained on the same terrain as the Caddyshack artists.

I think your assessment of Clinton here is dead on the money — he didn't learn his schtick in the 60s. The 60s, after all, were a deadly serious time, the stakes were high, and everybody knew that many weren't coming back (I'm trying hard to avoid the cliches of Morrison Hotel here, and its tough, cos even though Jimbo was a jack-ass, he had a knack for acting out, albeit in caricature, what quite possibly were the creepy truths of that disintegrative era, ie Manson, Viet Nam, the Panthers, Hells Angels, et al); Clinton on the other hand is a good-natured cutey with a juanty giggle and sophomoric impulses, whose considerable charm derives from his hang-dog, aw-shucks ability to persevere the way rodeo clowns like Chevy Chase do, all silly tumbles and smug resilience; and the Bush father-son duo is of course entirely prophecied by the Ted Knight / Spaulding dynamic. In fact, the whole film, as you imply, is an act of prophecy. It even has a prophet-like character in Bill Murray. Appropriately, it is he who brings the turd-in-the-pool passage — perhaps the most searing comedic tour de force filmed in our life-time — to a skull-shattering conclusion by flipping back his white mylex hood and having a hearty chomp on this most excluded, repressed, anxiety-inducing dollop of sweet, chocolatey truth.

The moment is so incredible — he's dressed as if cleaning up nuclear waste, dressed in symbolic white, hooded like an executioner, and then he performs an act that prophecies G. G. Allin and the whole punk uprising. The film could have ended right there — indeed the entire art of cinema should have take a five-year hiatus to ponder that one moment. For an entire social universe had been mapped — and effortlessly annihilated. A permanent landmark in American art.

T. R. Johnson
<trjohnso@uno.edu>

Your exegesis is sobering and all too accurate. However, I can't sanction the idea that the cinema should've taken a five-year hiatus after the Baby Ruth scene. That would've deprived the world of Jerry Lewis's Cracking Up.

As for Jim Morrison, if he was going to act out the disquieting truths of the Vietnam era, he should have considered doing it in mime.

You mention The National Lampoon. Several readers wrote to chide me for not mentioning the genius of Douglas Kenney, the real mastermind behind Caddyshack. Like all true Kenney-ites, these readers are stealthy, background types. They insisted that their Kenney-promotion not be published. So now's as good a time as any to remind people that Kenney, a comedy writer who made the Lampoon hip and also brought Animal House into the world, is a fading figure in comedy history, harder to fathom these days even as his legend grows. His untimely death in 1980 — he fell off a cliff in Hawaii — deprived the movies of the inspired underpinning the John Belushi generation needed, and his death gave Lorne Michaels free reign to usher in an era of woeful mediocrity. Perhaps he wouldn't have stopped the coming lameness anymore than JFK would've stopped the Vietnam War, but that's another thing we'll never know.

Slotcar

 
[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]
 

One might argue that this is just another glib attempt to "Ty" this years presidential election into our popular culture, suggesting that Americans lack a certain "gravitas" in the selection of their political leaders as well as their recreational choices.

No, no Judge. Nobody says that. Not as far as you know.

Although I am partial to the musings of the "40th Street Black", when it comes to crafting an entertaining, thought provoking, down-right funny, quasi-political essay, you're no slouch.

Don't sell yourself short, Judge. You're a tremendous slouch!

Regards, etc.,

Steven P. Sanabria
<diegodeigh@pikeonline.net>

Well, Steven, with scare-quoted puns like that, I only have one question to ask: What's your handicap? And there's nothing a writer likes more than a letter telling him that although the letter-writer really likes some other writer a lot, he's OK, too. It's kind of like Mary McCarthy getting a letter that says, Although I'm partial to the plays of Lillian Hellman, I thought The Group was pretty kicky! (Not that I'm comparing 40th Street to Lillian Hellman. That's something we'll only be able to do once 40thSB publishes his memoir about his years with Dash.) Thanks for writing, and you're right about me. In fact, I'm slouching right now.

Slotcar

 
[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]
 

Dear Slot,

You hit it dead solid perfect. What a tour-de-course!

I watched Caddyshack get stiffed in the Top 100 Funniest Films, too, and I had exactly the same reaction, except I forgot to write a brilliant cultural analysis afterwards.

I recently screened Caddyshack for my 15 year old son. He is a pretty funny kid, meaning he appreciates comedy. He only seemed lukewarm when he watched it with me, but I noticed him watching it again later. In fact, he must have seen it several times, because now he quotes all of Bill Murray's dialogue perfectly. I never would have thought Caddyshack would help me build a bridge with my son, but now all it takes is "Hey, Lama. How about a little something, you know, for the effort....." and we look at each other and laugh like two teenagers.

"Caddyshack is about how a new establishment replaces an old one."

Being the ball,

Richard Banks
<rbanks@mail.onr.com>

I like your sneaky reference to the TV-movie Dead Solid Perfect with Randy Quaid. Jaded golf movie lovers everywhere are trying to build it into another Caddyshack. Good luck to them.

I'm glad you and your son can bond over a movie, but life isn't all Bill Murray comedies, you know. Maybe you guys should go rent How Green Was My Valley or something. It may not be a golf comedy, but at least it has "Green" in its title.

Slotcar

 
[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]
 

I guess I will have to rent it now. Honestly, I've never seen it. I can't tell you how many times I have chuckled, nodded my head and pretended that I got the reference in my lifetime. I was always vaguely aware that it was from "that dumb movie with the annoying gopher". I guess that may be why I've never been much of a party girl. Maybe if I rent it I will finally be able to fit in at all the suburban cocktail parties I attend.

Suzi

Big Pete
<roboape@netzero.net>

Suzi,

Does Big Pete know you're using his email address to send strange writers praise? I bet you're A-OK as a party girl even if you don't know what people are talking about when they say, Big hitter, the lama. There's more to life than that, as those suburban cocktail parties will prove if they're anything like the ones I go to.

Slotcar

 
[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]
 

 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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