The Fish
for 30 April 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 Head Electrician


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

Morality Play

Why was the April 20 column
such a poorly-edited mess?
You had the message right
with no attention paid to
form- the result is that you
may have blown the most
important column of the year.
Your columns usually have
wicked sharpness, but today's
was a sloppy bore (the
traffic anecdote was
especially lame).

Why did today's column appear
late and with so few links?

Incidentally, thanks for the
Gingrich file. What a
pathological freak he is.

Best wishes,
Jay B


Okay, easy one first: it was
late because of a nasty
server error. It happens, OK?

Furthermore: finding
archived, linkable news
stories about religious
freedom in Turkey or
elections in Paraguay is not
so easy. Most of the
information I got for this
one came from members-only
news archives, and I paid for
access to some of the
stories. The Miami Herald,
for example, got a buck out
of me. So the choice is: Only
write about things that are
widely accessible for linking
on the Web - dirty teens,
Bill Gates is bad - or write
about broader things and give
up some links.

As for the traffic

I do think that the way we
view things in the aggregate
- and I recognize that
there's no such thing as a
monolithic aggregate, but
let's say that we're talking
about what the wide majority
of us are willing to accept
and live with - shows up
consistently in the
behavior of the institutions
that we support and pay for.
When we accept a rigid view
of the law's purpose at
the levels most of us
interact with law-enforcement
agencies - traffic court, the
zoning board - how likely is
it that we'll demand or
expect a nuanced application
of the law at more removed
heights? A traffic cop who
views his job as enforcing
what the sign says, without
regard to questions of actual
safety, has colleagues who
enforce drug laws and vice
laws and on and on; is the
traffic cop the only
thoughtless person down at
police headquarters, while
all the other cops have their
heads screwed on straight and
their priorities in careful
order? There really are
organizational cultures,
shared notions; bad laws, and
bad law enforcement, have
brothers and cousins.

As for the formlessness...

Well, hard to say, from here.
It's pretty tough to step
back and see something you
just wrote with a clean eye.
If it is formless, though,
it's not because it's a
"poorly edited mess." It's
because it's a poorly written
mess. I do think, or maybe
just hope, that it all
connects at least well enough
for the argument to be
recognized and understood.

But, in any case, I do
appreciate your message. I'm
guessing that you wouldn't
have bothered if you just
didn't give a shit.

And I sincerely hope that at
least some of this makes a
bit of sense.

Ambrose Beers

Fish With Letter Icon

I just read your parking
ticket piece, and it was, I
must say, quite nice. Very
good examples, very clearly
written. However, you
probably realize that you are
bound to see that same dazed
expression on the courtroom
faces as when you asked the
officer if there was any

I've recently gone through a
similar experience, and it
only added to my beliefs that
the traffic laws in this
country are more about
economics, and less about
public safety. Add to that
the fact that these laws are
enforced by police officers
who, for the most part, have
outlooks and world views that
could hardly be considered
enlightened, and it makes you
wonder. Perhaps all those
militia 'enthusiasts' aren't
that far off base.

Best of luck with your

Andrew Boyer

Ahhh. One of my favorite
subjects, and one of my
favorite stories...

I used to live in a town that
had a "no overnight parking"
law: No parking on any street
between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. You
were supposed to park in your
driveway or garage, instead.
But I lived in a house with five
other people, and our garage
held two cars, tops, and we
had no driveway (the garage
was in the back of the house,
off an alley). Oh, and it was
L.A., so we each owned a car
- you do the math. So we used
to get five or six $25
tickets, each, every month.
And we fought every ...
single ... one in court. And
we usually convinced the
judge to toss the tickets out
- dismissal, not a not guilty
judgment - at arraignment, by
explaining our circumstances.

But then, one day: A new,
hugely unpleasant traffic
court judge. She refused to
dismiss any of our tickets.
So we all pled not guilty -
like 25 tickets, written by a
dozen different night shift
cops. Most didn't show for
the afternoon trials. But one

And my roommate Ken held the
ticket written by that
particular officer. So. The
officer testifies - "I
determined that the vehicular
unit in question was parked
in an unlawful-type fashion,
and proceeded to commence
with the issuance of a
citation," the full dose of
official-speak - and then
stayed on the witness stand
for Ken to ask him questions.
Ken had done some research,
and found that the law
required the officer to prove
that the car had been
registered to him when the
ticket was written; he asked
the cop to do this. And the
cop smirked - he'd done his
homework, too, sort of - and
pulled out a print-out of the
registration information for
Ken's car, which he'd pulled
up that morning at the police
station. He handed it to Ken.
Ken scrutinized it for
several very quiet seconds,
with the judge and the cop
looking on impatiently. Then
he finally looked up, and
said: "Well, officer, this is
interesting. And it does
prove that the car is
registered to me today. The
question, however, was: Can
you demonstrate that I owned
this car on the day you
issued the citation
? The cop
just kind of stared, but the
judge immediately asked:
"Well, did you own the car
when the ticket was written?"

And Ken said: "Your honor, I
will make reference to the
fifth amendment. I decline to
answer the question."

Long, long, long silence.
Long silence.

And then the judge, laughing
really pretty hard, found him
not guilty - and
congratulated him for knowing
the law. The cop, who looked
almost implausibly furious,
stopped us in the hallway -
most of the roommates had
shown up, and we were all
laughing and sort of
staggering around outside the
courtroom - to let us know
that he'd be looking for an
opportunity to impound our

He apparently never got that
opportunity, because we never
heard from him again.

And then, a few months later,
the state of California
"de-criminalized" parking
tickets - eliminating the due
process rights of people who
receive them. The law, gosh
darn it, just kept getting in
the way of their revenue
collection, and so had to be
removed from the picture.

Thanks for writing. Perhaps
one day I will have an excuse
to tell about the cop who
chased me, for supposedly
making an illegal turn, in an
unmarked car. I looked up,
saw this guy on my tail, had
no idea who he was or why he
was after me, and so began to
try to lose him. After a
couple of French
Connection-style miles, he...

But that's a story for
another day.

Ambrose Beers

Fish With Letter Icon

Fish On Fish

Subject: Stupid Hate Mail Day

You've had this "Stupid Hate
Mail Day" posted for several
days now. You're leaving it
up, perhaps, so as to impress
us with the effortless
demolition of your detractors
as affected by Polly and Co.?
Better for your rap that you
humiliate a more intelligent
opposition than this lot,
whose very presence on the
Web refutes my utopia-crazed
computer ethics prof.'s
optimism concerning the
social benefits of
wide-spread literacy.

Michael Fox

We should send you a
print out of a sample week's
worth of mail for your
professor. His ideas of
utopia should be immediately
dashed, if not by the idiocy
of the average response, then
by the idiocy of the average
Suck reaction to the average

But then again, the Web Site's
name is a real idiot magnet.

Which is nice, actually, if
only to boost our pathetic
little flaccid egos.

Revisiting That Snobbish
Elitist Pigs

Fish With Letter Icon

Dumb Mail on Dumbstruck

I meant to write something
about the fact that the apex
of snobbism is to snob the
snobs. Then I read the mail
you received and got even
more convinced that (at least
some of) the snobs you snob
are not that wrong.

With many thanks for granting
me again my daily dose of


Snob the snobs? Do you mean
"snub" the snobs?

Fishing for Fish,
Snubbed Snobs

Fish With Letter Icon

Perceptive essay! Much better
than a recent George Will
column which rambled
aimlessly and mentioned
professors who don't wear
ties, students who feel
entitled to have greater say
of their education dollars,
and racial quotas in
colleges. (George Will is
becoming more like Archimedes

Dumbmongering *is* an empty
pastime. An intellectual or
academic who sneers at the
ignorant often forgets that
while his or her knowledge
might be deep, it is
certainly narrow. Y'know, in
this crazy info-age of ours,
WHAT you know is diddly
compared to whether or not
you can *learn* anything. And
there are some people you
just can't tell anything. As
in Good Will Hunting, the
pivot isn't what esoteric
knowledge (say, graph theory)
one might know, it is whether
or not one's thick skull is
open to learning something

That we, the plain people of
America, are "dumb" merely
implies that we've filled our
heads with information we
find useful in our own lives
as opposed to the axioms that
others would have us parrot
viz Bill Bennett.

If the information we value
is the practical rather than
ponderous, the trivial rather
than the transcendent, one
shouldn't ascribe this to a
lack of knowledge, but
rather, a lack of

Oh come now. Imagination is
way overrated. Do we want
more Basquiats or more Alex

We're not sure. Maybe ditch
both and order more Jerry
Springers and Bob Sagets?

Ponderously Parrotting
Axioms, Sucksters

Fish With Letter Icon

I loved this! I've had the
idea for a long time that
North America is "dumbing

Your article simply confirmed
what I'd been thinking ever
since my daughter entered
Kindergarten. You know
there's a problem when our
kids' teachers have
difficulty spelling the word
"pumpkin" but no one seems to
feel it's a problem - after
all, the child is only in
Kindergarten (maybe so, but I
thought the TEACHER had gone
beyond that!).

"Dumbing Down" our educators
while protecting them with
unions and tenure is the
reason illiteracy is becoming

The United States and my home
country of Canada can share
in this embarrassment. We
have no right to complain
about our college grads being
unable to read or spell when
we turn their education over
to teachers who are unable to
do either of these things!

Keep those articles coming!
I've tried getting this issue
through to our local and
provincial powers-that-be,
and was threatened with legal
action if I persisted. It
would appear that you are as
"impressed" as I am with the
lowering of our standards.

I hope I didn't misunderstand
your views. If I did, oops.
If not, good show!

Kelly Sholinder

Right on, Kelly! Our college
graduates can't read or spell
because they're taught by
teachers who were once
college graduates who
couldn't read or spell! Or
something! It's time our
college graduates learned the
basics, at least!

P.S. Where exactly is this
"Canada" you speak of?

Fish With Letter Icon

The Stuff -- it's a list of stuff we like

Little link to Suck
Arrow Image
Contacting Us
Contributors Index
Little Barrel Link
Little Gun Link
A machine producing Suck
Link To Tech Notes