The Fish
for 4 May 1998. Updated every WEEKDAY.
 
 
Suck Staff
 

Joey Anuff
Joey Anuff
Editor in Chief

 

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Art Director

 

[the fixin' pixie... ]
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Production Manager
and Head Electrician

 

Heather Havrilesky
Heather Havrilesky
Senior Editor

 

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Ian Connelly
Marketing Manager

 

[Copy Edit]
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Suck Alumni Text
 

Carl Steadman
Carl Steadman
Co-Founder

 

Ana Marie Cox
Ana Marie Cox
Executive Editor

 

Sean (Duuuuude) Welch
Sean Welch
Suckgineer

 

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

Dumbstruck

Dear Suck,

In your elitist article, you
criticized the dumbing down
of American culture. Frankly,
what you describe as dumbing
down is in fact the process
of making the fruits of a
well-rounded education more
accessible to the ordinary
American. We can't all be
snobby, privileged, snubby,
rich, middle-class kids who
can afford the privilege of a
college education.

If only America could have
the kind of education system
that Australia has, there
would be no need to "dumb
down" anything.

Dr. Godfrey Tanner Curtin
University Western Australia

Elitist? Why I was just
having a brandy Alexander at
the club with my school chum
Trad, when the topic of the
lower classes came up.

"Simply charming people," I
said, "but really, they
haven't the first idea how to
mix with the right sort. Why
I've seen chaps who would
think nothing of eating an
apple in the street!"

"Good lord, you're right,"
Trad shot back. "And what can
one make of these bragboast
Australians presuming to
strut around like peacocks,
telling us what for about our
schools?"

"A country where they toss
dwarfs for sport lecturing to
us? It's a perfect fright!"
Then I called for my
gentleman's gentleman:
"Cambridge! Another snort,
there's a good fellow!"

Vicki

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

Vicki,

Thank you for reminding me
how stupid I am. I sincerely
appreciate your effort to
illuminate my ignorance.

You will be flattered to know
I think your article really
sucked.

Jon Burnham
<jburnham@bootheel.net>

Well it wasn't specifically
directed at you, but since
you're willing to fess up, I
think that's admirable.
Remember that the only stupid
question is the one you don't
ask.

Now what seems to be the
problem?

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

Vicki,

Let's not forget the dumbing
down of the land. In his book
"The Geography of Nowhere:
The Rise & Decline of
America's Man-Made
Landscape," James Howard
Kunstler pines for the olden
days of small-town life and
the family farm.
Interestingly enough, though,
he blames the rise of
mega-malls, gated
communities, and Disney
World, not on the dim-witted
populace, but on the
automobile. He looks to
zoning laws, car-free city
cores, and revised tax laws
as the solution, and yet it
never once occurs to him that
the problem might just be bad
taste and lack of imagination
in an increasingly expanding
world. The corporate sprawl
has made so much dull
sameness - whether it's a row
of tract housing or a Gap (or
two) in every town. This
might explain why the
20-somethings of today are
nostalgic for the music of
their great-grandparents -
like the swing and hot jazz
of Squirrel Nut Zippers or
the show tune cabaret of
folks like Rufus Wainwright.
Small-town community life is
deceased - it exists only in
our minds and in our art.

John Sopkia

Maybe, but a more logical
explanation might be that
people like owning their own
homes. If I recall my US
history correctly, the people
who filled the suburbs after
World War II weren't moving
out of small towns - they
were fleeing roach-infested
apartments in Red Hook and
Germantown, compared to which
even a pre-fab Levittown
shack or Massapequa rancher
would have seemed like a
palatial estate. The overall
result may not have been too
pleasing to the eye, but
nobody makes personal
decisions based on overall
societal effect. It was a
simple decision: "Now that
I'm back from Iwo Jima, do I
want to live like a sardine
or like landed gentry?"

Critics of the suburbs tend
to forget that, historically
and overwhelmingly, people
like having their own homes,
with yards and garages.
Suburbanization may have been
a disaster for community life
and the environment, but it
opened up that way of life to
millions of people who had
never had it before.

Vicki

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

Morality Play

I was reading your column
today at Suck and decided to
offer you some friendly
advice on your traffic
ticket. California has
something called "the basic
speed law" or code 22350. If
you got written up for a
violation of this then you're
in luck - fight the ticket
and tell the judge that under
those conditions 45 was not
an unsafe speed.

The civil code for violating
a posted speed limit is 22352
- if he wrote you up on this
one it's much tougher to
fight. But most officers
don't know the difference and
always write you up for a
"basic speed law" violation.

Thanks,
Chris Beron
<cberon@ microsoft.com>

True enough. But I live in
Colorado, now ... Although I
sure do plan on hitting the
law library, pleading not
guilty, and being generally
unpleasant about the whole
thing. I'm not much of a
giver-inner when it comes to
this stuff. Actually kind of
looking forward to the
trial....

Ambrose Beers

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

Having sacrificed eight hours of
a beautiful sunny day
yesterday to attend traffic
school I feel that I should
share the benefits of the
education I have been
privileged to partake of: Any
sign which says "Speed Limit"
is merely a recommendation.
It is legal to drive at safe
speeds above the speed limit.
Of course the definition of
safe is up to the officer,
but I imagine that one could
debate it in court. Signs
which say "Maximum Speed," on
the other hand, do indicate
the legal limit.

Also turns out that driving
barefoot, changing lanes in
intersections, and cutting
through gas stations are all
legal when safe in
California. Cool, eh?

Disclaimer: I'm not a legal
expert. This is just what the
traffic school guy told me.

Luke Dahl
<luked@emu.com>

A secret: I used to teach
traffic school, about a
million years ago. Let's just
say that I should never, ever
have been asked to work at
something that required me to
be alert and
fully-functioning at eight
o'clock on a Saturday
morning. I'm fairly certain
there are still people out
there who resent my very
existence for the 8 hours I
inflicted upon them.

I apologize for the loss of
your sunny day. Perhaps your
message is my opportunity for
redemption.

Ambrose Beers

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

Damn, Homey!
Go get 'em with the continued
rabid, weasel-in-heat ferocity
that I enjoy reading.

Ahhh....

Jonathan Wright
<jon_junk@hotmail.com>

Rabid weasel? In heat? You
haven't been talking to my
ex-wife, by any chance, have
you?

Thanks for the message. The
support is much appreciated.

Ambrose Beers

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

Whatsa Matta wit you AB,
An ex-girlfriend's father
(he, a retired lieutenant
corporal or something) once
explained to me, "Son, a lot
of very smart people, people
much smarter than you and me
very carefully made these
laws, it is our
responsibility to follow the
laws, not to question them."

How dare you question the
speed limit? It was imposed
for your safety! We need to
have some laws against people
like you!

Christopher Dahle
Attorney at Law
<ctdahle@amigo.net>

Christopher,

Jah, gut point - I vill just
obey der orders.

I have worked as a reporter.
I have met many lawmakers. I
have marveled, often, at the
fact that some of them could
do things like "stand" and
"read." If these are the
alpha males, I'm thinking the
pack's gonna go mighty hungry
come winter.

Your ex's dad sounds like a
hoot: Men wake at dawn, boy!
Now drop and give me twenty!

Ambrose Beers

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

I cannot thank you enough for
taking on the ultra-hypocrisy
associated with the Religious
Right and Christian
Coalition. I speak today as
probably the only person on
Capitol Hill with the
complete collection of
"Happyland" fanzines. For
those lucky enough to not be
in the know, it was a
publication lauding the
degenerate lifestyle of Times
Square as chronicled by
Selwyn Harris (now peacefully
departed to another place).

I was especially horrified by
"Meet the Press" this Sunday.
The panel consisted of Rep.
Steve Largent ( NFL
Hall-of-Famer who recently
admitted to the NY Times that
his new favorite game is
"Name that Biblical Verse"
played with Alpha-Bits), Sen.
John Ashcroft (A teetotalling
member of the horrendous
"Singing Senators," Ashcroft
actually released a gospel
album titled, obviously, "The
Gospel According to John"),
and the all-time great Pat
Buchanan. I sat in my bed
hungover and dazed as these
goofs tried to continually
outflank each other to the
right. There was so much
tacking going on I felt like
I was watching a yacht race
where the winds blow only
west to east. As I watched, I
knew only too well that this
wasn't some form of joke
being played on the American
public.

Earlier last week I spent
some time with members of one
of the three "Meet the Press"
guests. I was a bit shocked
at the hateful nature of
their rhetoric. Beating up on
the poor and on immigrants
isn't helping the value
system of our nation, it is
in fact undermining it.
Claiming that there is no
room for compromise and
understanding isn't
courageous morality, it's
inexcusable ignorance. I have
often heard people talk of
erring on the side of the
Angels, and I have often
wondered if those who do so
can actually see these
Angels, and if they can,
where I can get some of the
stuff they're smoking.

If you believe any of
Einstein's theory, it is
clear that all things are
relative, with the exception
of the speed of light, which
is constant. (But after
seeing photos of Mr. Einstein
one is left wondering what he
smoked to get his hair to
stand up like that, and what
Angels he was kickin' it
with.) Morality is
ever-changing, we call this
phenomenon evolution. Of
course there exists both
right and wrong, but between
them is a whole lot of gray
area. People searching for
"simpler values" are usually
simpler people, and between
the black and white they have
created in their minds is
usually not a lot of gray
matter.

See You in Hell, Pagan,
Seamus McFatso

Thanks for the message, but
wow - you can't go letting
people know that you think
like this and still expect to
hang on to a job on Capitol
Hill. Haven't you been
briefed on poli-speech yet?

Anyway, yes: People looking
for simpler values are
usually running like hell
from something called "life,"
which persists in being messy
despite every imaginable
effort to order it into neat
straight lines through
legislation, regulation,
religion, prosecution,
persecution, morally outraged
letters-to-the-editor, and
Sunday morning hate-fests.
Darn that life thing, anyway,
for not playing along. The
problem is that, in addition
to all that gray, no issue
ever plays along a single
axis; there's almost never
simply a nominal good
competing against a nominal
bad, but instead a whole
bunch of conflicting nominal
goods competing against a
whole bunch of conflicting
nominal bads. I actually kind
of love this - wouldn't a
simple, highly ordered,
guaranteed-safe life just
bore us all to death? I like
to think of the complexity as
nuance, rather than
difficulty. Which probably
means that I won't be running
for Congress any time soon.

Who do you work for, anyway?
What's it like being sane in
that environment?

Oh, okay, one more thing. I'm
taking a congressional tour
with my mom, and we pass this
old man in a hallway. And mom
leans over and whispers:
"It's Jesse Helms - and there
are no cops around! Quick!"

Mom's a card.

Ambrose Beers

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

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