The Fish
for 27 March 2001. Updated every WEEKDAY.
[Suck Staff]

[Tim Cavanaugh]
Tim Cavanaugh
Special Guest Editor


[Terry Colon]
Terry Colon
Art Director


[Heather Havrilesky]
Heather Havrilesky
Senior Editor


[Joey Anuff]
Joey Anuff

[Go to the Suck Alumni page]
Suspension of Belief

"the forces that most effectively drive [BeliefNet] are the same ones that propelled George W. Bush into office — the millions of Americans who take seriously the notion that Bill Clinton was a figure of unprecedented vice and immorality in American politics, that our moral crisis demands answers bigger thanourselves, that we need to take a cold shower in our spiritual traditions."

I'll grant you that this is an effective description of the forces that drove W. into office, but I find it hard to believe that those forces — Messrs. Scalia, Thomas, Rehnquist, and Kennedy, and Ms. O'Connor-- are the ones that most effectively drive BeliefNet. If they rely on those five people for most of their traffic they're in worse shape than you think.

In other words, don't you think "propelled" is a little bit strong for someone who backed into the White House the way W. did? His popular-vote loss wasn't even the smallest of the last 40 years. (Kennedy-Nixon 1960, Nixon-Humphrey 1968).

Matt Weiner

Thanks, Matt.

It's true that if we lived under a different Constitution, George W. Bush might not be President right now. It's also true that that would be a good thing. It's even more true that we should make a Constitutional amendment eliminating the electoral college, and most true of all that we should make a constitutional amendment requiring that the entire Bush family be paraded through the streets of Baghdad naked in cages.

However, since Bill Clinton is the only recent Democrat who's been able to win under the current system, and since it's going to be a long, long time before the Democrats can find a candidate with anything like Clinton's skill, it's smart to stop viewing Gore's loss as some kind of judicial error and start assessing it as a loss. If Gore hadn't been such a fuckup, if Bush hadn't gotten a ton of votes (more than Clinton received either time, and possibly — if we recounted every county in every state in the country — a majority), the case never would have come to the Supreme Court in the first place.

yr pal,


[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]

There's something about Bush's "faith-based charities" (nobody -- not even Bush -- can bring himself to say "religious" for reasons unfathomable) that sounds remarkably like Cisco's public exhortations to buy their products for the good of the economy, and practically, for the good of the country. That is, whether it's sending money to churches, funding Internet II, or imposing unconstitutional taxes through sugar-coated "it's for the schools" rhetoric, the federal bureaucracy engages in less and less useful public service. Instead, it's been supplanted by marketeers for entities that are or ought to be strictly private. What Bush forgets in all of this is that churches are more effective as charities precisely because they are responsible to their donors. But imagine the kinds of flim-flam churches could engage in if they could suddenly drop all their charitable activities tomorrow. Talk about an invitation to politicize religion!

Rob McMillin

If you want to disabuse yourself of the notion that churches are respsonible to their donors, make friends with a priest. Having recently had the privilege of going over the books at one of the finer Orthodox parishes in our fair city, I can tell you Satriale's Meats runs a cleaner operation. Whether that is common practice I can not say, but I've never known any church to be particularly aggressive in making sure parishioners know exactly how the collection baskets get disposed of.

And it's a little late for Cisco to be using our patriotism against us. Aren't they the ones who put out those "Are You Ready" commercials with all the pseudo-Koreans and Singaporean nuns and such? Screw that, buy American!

yr pal,


[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]

Dear Tim:  

You're perfectly correct; this unseemly bias against Zoroastrians has to stop. The official state religion of the Persian Empire, it had major influences on Christian development (where do you think Manicheanism comes from?) and plausibly was ancestral to Judaism. Thus, not only should it be included in the Abrahamic religions (yeah, I've run across that one too...who's writing this stuff?), it probably should have pride of place. And anyway, have you ever been to a fire altar? Stood by the Towers of Silence? Awesome stuff, in the original sense of the word.  

Alan Kornheiser

Very true. In fact, Muslims count the Zoroastrian Zend or Pazend as one of the ten books Abraham received from heaven. Not only that, the temples of Persia, according Edward Gibbon, were devoid of images, and at least three centuries into the Islamic Conquest were left undefiled by the new rulers. The great change came when a zealous Imam excited the Muslims of Herat to destroy an ancient Zorastrian temple — which was bigger and more impressive than the adjacent mosque. When the Zoroastrians complained to the local ruler, sez Gibbon: "[B]ehold! four thousand citizens of Herat, of grave character and mature age, unanimously swore that the idolatrous fane had never existed; the inquisition was silenced, and their consciences was satisfied by this holy and meritorious perjury."

This kind of propaganda continues even today, against a faith that never worshipped idols or committed any big blasphemies. It would be interesting to know whether contemporary Magi are O.Z.s or people who got interested in reviving what is essentially a dead religion. I remember talking to some hippy in the seventies who said he worshipped fire, but I was pretty little then, and my knowledge of comparative religion was slight.

yr pal,


[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]

OK, that article was just fucking brilliant. Careful research, historical perspective, vicious criticism, lighthearted mockery, and a Spawn reference, all in a one-page piece. All my content needs have been fulfilled; I need never read anything more. You should be very proud of yourself. (Well, you should feel bad about the me never reading anything again part, but proud about everything else.)

Seriously, nice job. Your writing is a constant source of reassurance that not *all* the best content on the web is porn.

- Ilya, puncturer of attempts at finding meaning in life (i.e. analytic philosopher) and Suck reader since the bottom of the Barrel

Ilya Farber

Admit it: It was the Spawn reference that really got you. Stay tuned for our upcoming five-part dissertation on Leprechaun In the Hood.

yr pal,


[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]

Dear Tim,

Great piece! It has been a mystery to me why organized religion has not made any more of a splash on the Web. Your comments on Beliefnet may offer a few clues. Beliefnet is apparently "for profit", meaning that it needs to cast as wide a net as possible. This is problematic for a religion. As you suggest, the various religious views don't mix well. It was intriguing to learn how Beliefnet has attempted to solve this problem by taking action to segregate its congregants.

One of my first Web projects (which, except for my day job, are all gratis design adventures) was to put together a simple site for the Methodist Church that sponsors my son's Boy Scout troop. My research at the time indicated most religious organizations' Web presence (presumably, not profiting from their sites) were pretty flat and unimaginative. That being my model, I designed a pretty flat and unimaginative site for Pflugerville First United, the final product of which was little more than a brochure, quite honestly.

But, I still don't understand the reason for this problem with religious Web sites. Where is the evangelism? Where is the zeal? the fervor? Maybe it is that religion has always been a push application, and on the Web push just never really caught on. Or perhaps truly ministering to people's needs requires more personal contact.

Anyway, your story got me to wondering about how a truly holy site might come to be, and I mused the following just for you:

Good earthfolk needed guidance day-to-day
(And, by the way, salvation absolute).
But Paradise is chaos when they pray,
And outreach issues, ever more acute.

The bricks and mortar Godhead was no chump--
He'd read the hypertext upon the wall:
Commissioned Gabriel to blow his trump,
Assigned the content to apostle Paul.

Domain name squatters handled by Old Nick,
Now Yahoo links cast pearls before the swine.
With prayer a CGI form and a click,
The Deity achieves his aims divine.

Few rolling blackouts hobble Heaven's gate,
Though Hell-bent hacks the home page desecrate.

Richard Banks

Actually, the fact that Beliefnet is for profit is, I think, a point in their favor, as it subjects them to the kind of disclosure requirements that churches typically avoid (see my response to Rob McMillin above). The first breach of church and state rules comes when the government awards tax-exempt status to certain religions (but not to others, as I found out from an episode of Sanford and Son in which Fred tries to start his own religion). Why, in fact, should the Catholic Church be free from taxation when McDonalds, which has brought more joy to more millions, is not?

Thanks for the sonnet. Thank G-d somebody still bothers to rhyme.

yr pal,


[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]

Hello there, Well, your piece was great. We all got a kick out of it. You have probably written the lengthiest piece thus far on our company! What we appreciate most was the "great writing!" We all need some levity these days, and you managed to send us a fair amount of traffic and allowed us to chuckle a bit as well.

Best wishes, Jocelyn

PS — Thanks for the complement: " Beliefnet, which does an excellent job of promoting itself."

Jocelyn S. Weiss Public Relations Manager Beliefnet, Inc. "We all believe in something" <>

Back atcha, Jocelyn. And when Beliefnet really does form its own religion, just remember who wrote the first gospel.

yr pal,


[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]

The Sky Is Falling


Given you claim to be a camel and might not even be female — is it wrong to love you?

More Suck columns, please.


Sean Dugan


Unfortunately, I must inform you that I am NOT female. In fact, I'm not female to the degree of a Ron Jeremy or a Peter North.

But be that as it may, it is NOT wrong to love me. Believe me, baby, nothing that feels that right could ever be wrong.

I'm glad you enjoyed the piece.

the Camel

[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]

Why, oh why are you called Alice the Camel.... Do you smoke a lot? High capacity for drinking liquids? What would it take to get your stuff in the NY Times...or invade the WSJ? Can your readers help?


Doug Sweet


We must accept some things without ever knowing a reason. Knowing why I'm called Alice the Camel would be like knowing why a raindrop is called a raindrop, or why my girlfriend is called The Town Bicycle. Wait just a damn minute ... Bambi!

Believe me, I'd love any help getting into the Times, but I have a feeling it's out of the question. Let's just say you can only send so many threatening letters to William Safire before you're labeled a "Security Risk," and told by some high-and-mighty Judge not to come within 100ft. of Mr. Safire or any other Times employee. Go figure.

Thanks for reading,

the Camel

[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]

Great story on the wailing banshees in the financial media. I work in the financial media, and I laughed out loud.

Sean Brodrick


Thanks for the note. It's always good to hear that you've got some cred with those on the inside.

Incidentally, I saw the Wailing Banshees in London in '77, before they went all "commercial," and that show fucking rocked!!


the Camel

[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]

[Contacting Us]
[Contributors Index]

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Physical Strength and How to Obtain It, by Eugen Sandow
Bamboozled, A Spectacular New Film by Mr. Spike Lee
G. Beato's all-new Soundbitten
William Demarest, Sultan of Snarl, in The Lady Eve (1941), The Palm Beach Story (1942), and The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944)
George Wallace: Settin' The Woods On Fire, directed by Daniel McCabe and Paul Stekler
Bobby Darin, Darin at the Copa (Atlantic)
Shinji-San in the floating world of indeterminate duration, by Peter Richardson
American Pharaoh: Mayor Richard J. Daley: His Battle for Chicago and the Nation, by Adam Cohen and Elizabeth Taylor
Neutral Milk Hotel, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (1996, Merge)
45, by Bill Drummond
Cliff "Ukulele Ike" Edwards, Singing in the Rain (ASV)
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