for 18 May 2001. Updated every WEEKDAY.
Hooked On Crank
Another great piece in Suck today. Well, you guys probably don't trust anything without a sneer. How about, "It was so good, I immediately cut it out and pasted it on my own Geocities website so everyone can read it without giving you hits."
We at Suck are happy to share our content with any and all comers, encouraging people to print our articles and hand them out on the street, add them to their own Web sites without attribution, or compose derivative works, such as lavish musicals, all without fee or license. We also like long walks on the beach and puppies.
Suck's corporate masters, however, frown on the piracy of our intellectual property and will sue you to your component atoms. Prepare to be ground to dust, worm.
Suck's corporate masters also like puppies, but only if they're done medium rare.
A better link for the "scourge of street musicians":
Music fees for Girl Scout camp: That's how the cookie crumbles 1996-08-26 South Florida Business Journal
While it's normally my practice to scour five year old copies of the South Florida Business Journal for links, I somehow missed this one. But you're right, it's perfect: No more "Puff the Magic Dragon" for you, you thieving little paramilitary urchins! No more "Happy Birthday"! No more "Starfuckers, Inc."!
Subject: Software is evil.
First off, I like Suck, and I'd probably like you, if we went out and got some beers.
I don't agree with what I think is the point of your essay: The Software Industry is even worse than other media industries in regards to unfair intellectual property constraints and poor customer satisfaction.
The problem with intellectual property in the digital age is that it's a lot easier to duplicate than it was back in the old Analog Years (5000BC-AD1990). It's also a lot harder to see and touch. People are still people, after all, and if it's invisible, it doesn't really seem to exist at all. That doesn't mean that it didn't take 60 mythical man-months to develop, and that it hasn't changed all of our lives. This stuff is valuable. More objectively valuable than creative intellectual property, since it's the result of engineers (a highly objective bunch, even if I am one), not artists. Some people might disagree on whether certain software "sucks", but there's no lack of lucidity about what it does. Engineering is also generally not a hobby for most people, and aside from the recent Free Software Movement (don't even get me started!), nobody's engineering in exchange for weed, or free beer at the bar.
Terry's a great illustrator, too, but the cartoon with the guy calling for tech support on his DVD hits the mark a little closer than Terry probably intended. Anyone who works on modern autos knows there's more software in a new car than in a new Palm Pilot. It runs in firmware, and is generally not executable on its own, but there's thousands of lines of code behind Audi Quattro, even more regulating fuel on a Saturn (if you were unfortunate enough to buy one). There's DSPs in just about everything you buy that does anything interesting (CD players, DVD players, clock-radios), and all of these have software built in. Your microwave's got more RAM than PCs did 10 years ago. So, every time you buy anything, you're paying a little license fee to Texas Instruments. Every time you buy a blank tape, you pay a little fee to ASCAP. If those cartoons were depicting a dark software-invasive future, then the future is now.
As usual, Microsoft is targeted as one of the evil purveyors of software inconvenience. Maybe it's because the following occurs in the linked address:
"Business models: The increasing numbers of failures in the .com space show a flaw in many of the existing Internet business models. Advertising as the primary revenue stream Operating under the assumption that market share equals revenue Free now, pay later"
Anyway, as the things you want to do get more and more complicated, more and more software needs to be written. The consumer demands it, and who am I to argue? The customer's always right. Right?
Oh, I don't think that the software industry is any worse than other media, just a little further ahead of the curve. Software has always been digital, so the industry has been coping with the problems that presents to businesses since its inception. Hell, Bill Gates first made a name for himself by berating people for copying Microsoft's BASIC for the Altair. Music and movies and books and other media have a whole physical, analog history to drag behind them, but as the content makes the transition to bits, so will the thinking of the companies that put them out. One obvious tactic is to follow what software companies have been doing, and doing pretty successfully.
That said, I think you're placing too great a distinction between what's "objectively useful" and what's "art." It's all bits perfectly reproducible bits and someone who wants one or the other is going to grab it if it's convenient. Take Napster, for instance. How do you combat that natural human tendency? Encoding, lawsuits, per use licensing, bundling everything that's become familiar to software buyers.
Heck, as you pointed out, it's already happening. It doesn't matter if you're going to record something original on a blank tape. A little payment to the ASCAP is already bundled in, whether it's appropriate or not.
"Whether it's appropriate or not" is the motto of the future.
The inclusion of the letter from Alex Moore in your column got me thinking...every once in a while, the things I regularly read on the web will include a letter from a reader who asks about writing for the publication. Usually, this letter is not very well written and seems to serve mainly as a reminder of how good the regular columnist is especially compared to so many who would like to replace him/her. I've seen examples of this in Modern Humorist, Savage Love, but no where more so than in Suck. I realize that writing is difficult and that producing interesting things to read on a deadline is even more difficult, but I also think that most writers are fiercely protective of their outlet. They realize that they can easily be replaced, if not by Alex Moore, then surely dozens of others. So my question is this: do you consciously choose to publish only the poorly written job inquiries?
Personally, I don't think it matters. I don't think even a young J.D. Salinger would get a shot at writing a regular column if he tried to get his resume past you. Of all your agendas, surely keeping your sweet job is the closest to your heart. I think you pick one of the many stupid letters from job seekers you get every day and turn into part of your column. This allows you to simultaneously make fun of someone and make yourself look good. I'm sure I would do it, too, but nobody writes me looking for a job even though my job is far from lame: I work in IT.
Another thing: lately your columns have been seriously hit and miss. They were once my favorite, but now I prefer the ones about the military by Ambrose Beers.
Thank you for your note. I publish all kinds of letters, some of which occasionally end with the words "I want to write for Suck." This comment is usually more of a closing statement or signature than a real attempt to seek employment. The letters aren't chosen because they include this request. In fact, in the past, I'd often edit the part about writing for Suck out, as it's usually completely tangential to the main subject of the email. Now I prefer to include all tangents, worthwhile or not, because tangents are part of the charm of each letter. But rest assured, seeking publication on Suck is hardly something I look for in a letter when I'm considering publishing it.
What I look for is something bizarre or interesting that I can run with in some other form. In the letter you mention, the fact that he was looking to write for us was a drawback, and I was tempted to cut that part out. The interesting part was the p.s., in which he urges me to read the letter outloud, in a funny voice. It reminded me of my early writing efforts, and how I'd carefully instruct the reader of my work on how it should be read/considered/framed. After 5 years of trying to write "funny" stuff every week, I know that no extraneous instructions actually work. It's either funny or it's not.
According to your note, it's usually not.
Thanks for the feedback!
Subject: Gah! You stole my joke!
Hey! "Come As You Are: The Musical" was *my* idea!
Oh well... great minds think alike. :-)
Wow! I like yours better, particularly the orphan picture, and the Grease picture. Fucking hilarious!
Although, you have to admit, "Rape My Funny Friend And Me!" is pretty much an instant classic and an Oscar shoe-in.
Thanks for the heads-up. Please send complimentary tickets asap.
Subject: Filler up!
I actually remember the very first Filler. It came on after The Goldbergs. We were actually going to retire for the night Pa had tickets to the Dodgers game the next day, and we wanted to get a good night's sleep before lunch and a streetcar trip to Ebbet's Field when Polly came on. Wow! We had never heard something so... so edgy, we thought, before. We imagined it would work even better with a graphical interface, but of course in those days all you had was your imagination... and in a way, it was even better.
Ronald Coleman, New York
Your imagination is always better, because it serves the particular needs of your little brain. If your brain wants Polly to be tall and mean-looking, well, there she is in your mind's eye, tall and mean-looking.
Of course, I'm the one who wants her to be tall and mean-looking. I prefer not to know what ~you~ want her to be.
But thanks for the trip down memory lane, nonetheless. Those were the days, huh? You should really consider pulling these memories together into a novel. I'm imagining sort of more cutting, snappy version of "Call It Sleep." What are you imagining?