The Fish
for 19 March 1998. Updated every WEEKDAY.
Suck Staff

Joey Anuff
Joey Anuff
Editor in Chief


Terry Colon
Terry Colon
Art Director


[the fixin' pixie... ]
Emily Hobson
Production Manager
and Drink Taster


Heather Havrilesky
Heather Havrilesky
Senior Editor


[Ian Connelly]
Ian Connelly
Marketing Manager


[Copy Edit]
Copy Edit

Suck Alumni
Suck Alumni Text

Carl Steadman
Carl Steadman


Ana Marie Cox
Ana Marie Cox
Executive Editor


Sean (Duuuuude) Welch
Sean Welch


Owen Thomas
Owen Thomas
Copy Editor


T. Jay Fowler

Production Manager

& Ass Kicker


[yes, it's a plunger. i'll l
eave the rest up to your imagination ... ]
Erin Coull
Production Manager


Matt Beer
Matt Beer
Development Manager

Identity Crisis

Every breath you
take ... As one who has
actually been involved with
direct marketing (probably as
punishment for some sin
committed in a previous
lifetime), I would like to
distinguish between truly
targeted direct marketing and
pseudotargeting, like spam.

Part of the problem is that
real direct marketing is
expensive. A good package can
cost several dollars per
mailing; even the least
expensive mailing will cost
40 cents or so to produce and
mail. Given that response
rates are never all that high
no matter what you send (I
once got a response rate of
less than 70 percent for a
completely honest offer of
free money: Return the
attached card, which already
has your name printed on it,
and I'll send you $10), only
an idiot doesn't work real
hard to ensure that only
people who care about the
mailing receive it. Spam, of
course, is free. If we start
charging - oh - 10 cents a
mailing, or even less, the
problem will go away. But I

Real direct
marketing is an effective as
it is scary. Start buying
books from for a
while, and by god they'll
start offering you books that
you really want to buy but
didn't know were available.
Start buying clothing by
mail, and eventually you'll
start getting clothing offers
of clothes that you like. Buy
plants by mail and you'll
soon be offered tulips at
half the price your local
garden center charges for the
same bulbs. Bad direct
marketing is just a nuisance;
effective marketing is a lot
more than that. The question
becomes one of not is this
effective, because it is, but
"Is this a Good Thing or a
Bad Thing?"

Probably depends
on how paranoid you are.
Personally, I like being
greeted by the bartender who
knows what I like to drink
and the clothing salesman who
knows what brands fit me. I
don't find this level of
"knowing" to be intrusive,
since what is known is about
me, not of me. (Yeah, you can
read this deconstructed in
more depth in "Within the
context of no-context," but
the idea is still valid.) I'm
not threatened; what I like
to buy isn't who I am. Maybe
you (well, not YOU but
somebody else) feel
differently and are
threatened. I don't know. As
far as I'm concerned, it's an
improvement, a way to give me
better service, and I like it.

Sensible discussion
should, I think, center on
whether such knowledge is
indeed a good or a bad thing
and how to deal with it.
Sensible discussion should
also center on how to force
spammers to restrict their
offerings to those with some
minimal interest in them but,
as you note, in a society
that encourages nonstop
Lewinksy watching, bandwidth
concerns are not really an issue.

Alan Kornheiser
The Doctor Is IN

You describe yourself - in the
first sentence, no less - as
"one who has actually been
involved with direct
marketing." And you do this
wholly without a detectable
note of shame.
Balls, buddy,
balls. And yet here I am,
writing back. Encouraging
you. So.

Amazon and many of
the other Web marketers do,
as you say, figure out who
you are, what you like, what
you do, you name it. And then
they send you a barrage of
offers that can be awfully
tempting. With you so far.
What strikes me, though -
and, given your preference
for the bartender who knows
what you drink and the
clothing salesman who knows
what brands fit you
(personally, I only wear
Jaclyn Smith housedresses and
alligator boots by Ked), you
probably know what I'm
talking about - is how much
the targeters don't really
hit the target. Quite a few
times, a book that has seemed
like really hot shit to me
from a distance has turned
out to be awfully
disappointing, once I did
something crazy like open it;
the cover is right, the
keywords fit my profile, but
it doesn't work. So I really
wonder just how closely
direct marketing can narrow
in on precisely the right

Although I
amdelighted to find myself on
the mailing list for the
Burpee seed catalog. Petunias
rock! Up against the wall!


Your clothing salesman is a
top-grade fuzzy logic
machine, a "person," and sees
you in your underwear. How
can you top that with a piece
of computer code? And without
seeming intrusive, as you
point out. So such knowledge
is good, but the not-quite-real
simulation of it is
not. I think. And stuff.

Hope that clears everything up.

Ambrose Beers

Fish With Letter Icon

Tasty piece!
Features so nicely the two-
sided emptiness of human
communications. Wouldn't it
be grand if we all spoke
individual, distinct
languages instead of being
locked in a delusional system
of conventional marks and
gruntings? Oh, we already do?
There I go again, convoluted
like a torus. (No, you're a torus!)

You left out one
part: Advertising already is
information. It needs to be
filtered, but so does the NY
(All the News That Fits) T.
It is information, it is a
reflection of trends, so when
a media vehicle rejects
advertising, (Ms.), it offers
a truncated data set.

And another thing, torus-butt:
If the Web would like to
maintain its anarchic feel,
and I wish it would, spam
should be the champion
anarchist! With massive and
ever more sophisticated
spamming, any average user
would lose all track of what
was coming in from friends,
from corporate offices, from
the government, from
conspiracy theorists. All
information would become
supremely suspect, as well it
should be.

To quote Ren: "Oh,
rapture!!" (Voice-over
optional, provided by reader.)

That is all.

Jack Garman

Checking the Suck file ...
yep, there it is right there.
"Jack Garman, chicken butt."
Guess that just about settles that.

As for your twisted
lust for anarchy, I like
getting messages from such
individuals as - but not
limited to - friends, family,
creditors, and Suck readers,
even when they do seem a
little poultryesque on the
back end. So, yes: I am
obsolete. (Ob-so-lete. Ob-so-lete.
Ob-so-lete.) I like
information, filtered or tap.
It doesn't matter. I even
read the newspaper. True!
Can't your type just let a
few of us oldsters putter
around in our quiet little
gardens? Why, Jack? Why?
There I go again, convoluted
like the Torah.

Thanks for writing.

Ambrose Beers

Fish With Letter Icon


Today's suck was
really insightful. It reminds
me of all the shitty friends
I've had. The charts were
helpful, but I don't
understand the thing about
everyone thinking your
significant other is an
asshole on the pie chart.
Please explain. Otherwise,
total kudos!


That's one of the uses for a
friend: Letting you know,
when no one else will, that
your boyfriend is a jerk and
that it's time to face the
music and dump him. If you're
like most people, though,
you'll turn your back on this
good advice, grow alienated
from your friend for being so
"harsh," spend more and more
hours with your asshole
boyfriend until you're
utterly insecure and
simpering and worthless and
he dumps you, at which point
you'll go crawling back to
your long lost friend but
she'll be dating an asshole
of her own, which will be
intolerable to you since
you're in a distinctly
bitter, recovering-asshole-lover
phase, so you'll make
new asshole-loathing friends
who seem much better than
your old friend. At first.

Peanut Butter Kudos,


Fish With Letter Icon

Wow! Do you really feel that
way about friends? You ARE
fucked up, aren't you? And
all this time I thought it
was an act.

Is my Voice more
Authentic if I'm acting
fucked up or if I'm actually
fucked up? (Wanna hear about
my parent's divorce?)

Pop Irony in the Shadow of Thomas Frank,

Polly Esther

Fish With Letter Icon

Urban Hipster, etc.

The accusation that urban
hipsters adjust their
morality to meet their needs
(or wants) is immaterial,
because everyone does that. I
think what you are attacking
is their transparency and
willingness to contradict
themselves. This sophism
annoys me too. That having
been said, at least they're
attempt to logically justify
their actions. Compare this
to the '80s, when everyone
willfully drove muscle cars
and snorted cocaine (or maybe
today's "immoral" youth
simply lack a predetermined
logical framework to give
themselves something to work
with. Furthermore. In some of
your jabs, the urban hipster
is right. You should not, in
fact, care about physical
appearance, although I guess
your point is that this is
just an excuse on their part
to not shower....

joseph hammerm

You should not care
about physical appearance,
but you do, and to claim
otherwise is to lie. Lying is
sometimes justified,
especially if you're the
president. Boob jobs are
rarely justified.
Rationalizing hipsters give
me a rash. Hip jobs can be
rationalized. Hip companies
frequently have lying boobs
for presidents.

Irrationally Yours and Claiming Otherwise,


Fish With Letter Icon

hey, you guys show
class. i really dig the
format and topic selection at
this very unique web site. i
also delight in the ofttimes
tongue-in cheek replies to
savvy letter writers. i'll be
keeping myself posted.


Hey, that was polite
and informative. We like the
tone and voice of this very
unique email message. We also
delight in the ofttimes
stifled formality of your
impromptu comments, delivered
via the Internet. Be sure to
keep us posted on keeping

Fish With Letter Icon

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