for 2 February 2001. Updated every WEEKDAY.
Thanks for another good Suck column. I think I read in a profile of you (Comics Journal? can't find it again) that you have a novel coming out in November. Is that 2000 or 2001? Amazon didn't list anything by you, as far as I could see.
You did indeed read that piece of information in the place of my former full-time employment, the Comics Journal. I'm not sure what my editorial successors were thinking when they wrote that contributor bio, particularly at that time, but it was probably a reference to my first attempt at writing something longer than 1400 words: an unreadable story about small-town drug dealers called "Playing Ricky Morton." Fortunately for the cause of literacy, I've never even submitted that monstrosity anywhere. Right now someone is trying to place a book based on the "Kiss My Grits" breakfast essay Suck ran last Fall, which I'd love to do if only for the field research.
Thanks for asking.
40th Street Black
Well for Lord's sake why does Amtrak have to be profitable anyway? Too bad there's no mandate to shut down the interstate highway system unless it becomes profitable by 2002.
Steven M. O'Neill
That's a very good point. As I recall, Amtrak was started in large part because the various lines that provided passenger service were bailing because it was unprofitable. And ironically, if Amtrak had gone deeper in the red initially keeping certain corridors alive in the '70s and '80s, they'd be in much better shape for some sort of rally now. Given that Americans love their cars so much they've stopped making sidewalks that go anywhere, the Amtrak situation may be hopeless. Still, Amtrak service has in the past seemed so willfully crummy that anything to light a fire under its butt has to be considered a good thing. I just hope we don't end up in a re-run of the downside to Amtrak's first couple of decades, with decent rail service being provided in politically and economically profitable corridors and track coming up everywhere else.
40th Street Black
excellent story, as usual, which goes without saying. however, one factor you didn't mention was one big piece of machinery working against the future of rail: the airtight power vacuum of automakers and oil companies.
these were the entities, after all, who were behind the huge highway-construction bills that forever changed small-town america and the nation's downtowns in the middle of the past century. and they also put the tongs to the consumer bus travel industry, buying bus companies and dismembering them and/or keeping them inefficient ("downtown: cities back from the edge," by roberta brandes gratz and norman mintz, 1998).
it's hard to believe that industries with virtual monopolies on overland travel (who constant acquaint cars with freedom ... which should come as news to gridlocked commuters) would idly stand by and let the train movement get on track. unless they don't believe it has a chance in the first place ... and the rail industry does have its share of doubters, to be sure.
anyway, thanks once again for the excellent work!
The process by which auto companies purchased public transport companies and ran them so that people would buy cars they also switched trolley systems into bus lines where they could is one of the funnier "I can't believe they could be so evil" true-life stories of the 20th Century. And you're right, if trains were revitalized in any significant way, they'd probably be the first to step up to the plate and mess with them. At this point (and forgive me for the Super Bowl weekend sports metaphors) my guess would be we're talking about National Football League/Arena Football League relationship where improvements in rail could be ignored as largely insignificant to the auto industry bottom line. But that's just a guess; for all I know Texas oil concerns made Bush get Tommy Thompson the hell away from Amtrak and into his cabinet.
40th Street Black
Although offered as support for the most recent rather witty dissertation, the following extract may cause consternation in some circles: "... the direct cause for victory in the last war fought on American soil". It is not at all clear what war you are referring to and perhaps more importantly is there a war held on 'American soil' that has been won by the legitimate inhabitants/residents? Help.
I think we're fine as long as we agree all of these wars were fought so that writers like myself can indulge in obscure rhetorical points and lousy sentence construction. Sorry about that.
I believe that rail played a direct role in helping the U.S. preserve its union in the American Civil War. Further, and because a relative asked me on the phone, I think the important thing about the way rail was used in WWII was not only as a way to keep resources moving throughout the country to various international and military dispersal points but as a way to help cement the economic revitalization of the southern states, a sometimes-ignored key to U.S. worldwide economic dominance in the '40s and '50s.
40th Street Black
Re: "Ditzy bankteller squeeze"
I'm sorry; I've been out of town and I'm still out of touch. I haven't even seen this movie. But surely you're not referring to *Rebecca West*?
I think the answer is "sort of," but it's the film that provides the sort-of reference, not me. The movie ends with Steenburgen's character, "Amy Robbins," the woman who exchanges his Victorian money for devalued Carter-era cash, joining Wells in the past. This character's subsequent iconoclastic contributions are asserted in the film's happily ever after text wrap-up. This is, of course, much more potentially insulting than saying H.G. Wells lacked the imagination to project future events in his writing without having seen them first.
40th Street Black
Hit & Run 01.25.01
I though my friend carlie made it clear we don't like no more Canadian cracks anymore. Can you talk more about about Quebec? We're different than them you know, we are the only purveyors of culture in Canada which, Toronto being the prime example, only tries to imitate the US. Look at Montreal I say! The streets, the people, the atmosphere, the poutine! When are you going to showcase the poutine, a Quebec creation if there ever was one. Here are my poutine links. It is a dish to be enjoyed with a nice vin maison, a la maison.
Signed, lonely in T.O,
Well, Eric, here at Suck it's not one of our top priorities to showcase the poutine. If you'd like to showcase the poutine, we want to strongly encourage you to follow that calling. However, if we went around making the showcasing of poutine our top priority, well then, we'd hardly have time for much other, much useful and interesting pursuits, like writing lengthy, rambling articles rich with Canadian cracks (mmm, nicely put, huh?) and answering fascinating letters like yours.
You might want to note that "Thermos" is a brand name and a far superior product to the Aladdin vacuum container. Growing up on the industrial coast of Connecticut, it was a source of local pride that the company known in those days as "King-Seeley Thermos Co." was headquartered in nearby Norwich (the town that also gave us Benedict Arnold). Aladdin was merely a pale imitation of the real Thermos, and carrying an Aladdin to school marked you as hopelessly declassé.
The Thermos Company website offers an extensive corporate history section.
Animal J. Smith, NYC
Animal! Hey, we've been meaning to track you down. Our band really needs a drummer, and we think the chops you showed back in your years playing with Mr. Teeth are mighty impressive. Gotta cut the hair, though, dude, we're going for a post-punk industrial electronica meets Tribeca hip look, and the stringy long red locks don't quite jibe.
Send your rep's number, pronto.
The Meat Muppets
Oh, you crazy Sucksters. I've never considered "love child" to be a racial slur. To me, it's always meant a "child born out of wedlock." Dictionary.com gives me a few definitions, including a reference to Jane Austen, but nothing to do with race. Whoever decided that they needed to make this a racial thing should perhaps think again. When I saw the word "pickaninny" pop up on my monitor, I almost spit bottled water all over it. This is a stretch, guys. I think the first perpetrator of derogatory remarks about this case is Suck, plain and simple. Talk about finding fire where there's no smoke.
Alexia C. Henke
Oops. We meant to pull the article titled "Alexia C. Henke Considers 'Love Child' Racial Slur" until we spoke with you. Sorry.
Your mention of spitting bottled water on the word "pickaninny" makes us slightly uncomfortable, though. Today it's the word, sure, but that's just where it begins tomorrow, you'll be spitting on an actual person. A human being, Alexia. Maybe you think certain human beings aren't good enough for you, just like regular old tap water isn't good enough for you.
And don't go using the word "perpetrator" just so we'll think that you're "down".
When your ass is on fire, smoke gets in your eyes,