The Fish
for 22 April 1999. Updated every WEEKDAY.
 
 
Suck Staff
 

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[yes, it's a plunger. i'll l
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Development Manager

Stained-glass Windows

Your J. D. Salinger bit was
very clever and touching. To
a person such as myself who
appreciates words but who, on
a scale from one to "poet,"
is about a two, the piece
nudged me uncomfortably in
this direction.

Your depiction of Salinger's
home life struck me,
obviously perhaps, as that of
a monk. While a monk seeks
religious enlightenment in
seclusion from the human
element, Salinger seeks
literary enlightenment. He
might even produce the
Platonic Great American Novel
in a meditative state, then
lock it up tight because to
read it would cause insanity.
What I see, then, is Salinger
only doing what any highly
principled novelist/poet must
do in order to transcend
"this."

I dismiss such mind candy as
fallacious, but I wonder
sometimes how much of that
reasoning appears in the
product of Suck's
publications (and any hip,
with-it, exclusionary, creative
endeavor, including my own,
The Simpsons, half the stuff
on Comedy Central, magazines
such as Paper and Wired,
every fundamentalist
religion, etc.). I discovered
my work, unmarketable and
unpalatable as it is, is laced
subconsciously with notions
of "Only I can truly
understand it," side-by-side
with "If you don't pretend or
try to understand it, you are
worthless," which I see when
reading Suck (and I mean that
in the nicest way possible).
This sort of creative shield
envelops the work in a human
repellant aura, preserving
its transcendent artistic
holiness while letting the
peons take a gander - if
they're appreciative enough
(and visit a sponsor or two).

What I'm trying to say is
that our creative efforts
similarly aspire to the
purity that Salinger is crazy
enough to think he can
achieve, and it is nice to
know he won't do it either.
So let him hole himself up
and, as you aptly project,
publish 30-plus years of
transcendent, humanity-free
stale bread. It will keep the
rest of us honest.

Thanks for your virtual ears,

Chris Moseng
moseng@mninter.net

I see what you're saying, and
there's a good deal that's
hard to dispute. But.

Interesting territory, this.
Without going into it in too
great detail - I'm extremely
lazy, is why - I'll
just point in a general
direction.

Octavio Paz was a diplomat
and wrote spectacular, sharp
essays about national
identity; Franz Kafka was a
clerk for an insurance
company and wrote definitive
allegories about the
relationship between
institutions and individuals;
Dashiell Hammett was a
Pinkerton detective; David
Foster Wallace teaches
undergraduates; A. A. Milne
shot a lot of heroin and
traveled extensively in the
criminal underworld.

To say the same thing two
different ways: 1) Writers
who've produced compelling
writing have participated in
human life, and 2) Purity is
for assholes.

Someone with more energy can
take the argument from there.

Ambrose Beers

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

Two things:

Re: "... describing the
greatest poetry ever, without
putting it on paper." A while
ago I read an interview with
John Irving where he was
talking about The World
According to Garp
(I haven't
read it). He said, "The
hardest part of the novel was
that I kept saying Garp was a
great writer. So I had to
create a short story that
would live up to this." This
can be torn down ("so he
thinks the short story has to
be incredible and he thinks
HE can write it?", etc.), but
that's not the point. I
didn't read it, so I doubt if
he succeeded. But man, at
least he tried.

Re: "... that genius
Salinger." Back around 1992
(probably), Newsweek came out
with an article on IQs. Hell,
maybe it was around the time
of the ol' bell curve book,
but I don't think so. Anyway,
they did one of their helpful
little informative asides,
with graphics of course. In
it they had Muhammad Ali, J.
F. K., Madonna, Einstein, and
Salinger - you know, icons.
They listed the IQ of each.
Don't know how or where they
got this info. But they said
Salinger's was 110!! It was a
very interesting article
("Did you know Madonna has an
IQ of 140? Who says? How
'bout Newsweek, bitch").

I liked that article, and the
reason I remember it so well
is because I remember it
often: "Fuck, at least my IQ
is a lot higher than
Salinger's. That means great
things are ahead of me. I
just have to do them."

DeLori

He in fact created a
perfectly nice story for Garp
- not great, but nice. Credit
for trying, definitely. And
my understanding is that
Salinger actually had a much
higher IQ in, like, previous
lives.

Struggling with a low-normal
IQ,

Ambrose Beers

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

War Stories

Today's rant was extremely
disappointing in its flippant
and poorly considered
comments. While poorly (or
even not) researched articles
in Suck are funny when about
the idiocies of pop culture
or whatnot, the seriousness
of war, death, executions,
and deportations just makes
such writing seem trite at
best and intellectually
offensive at worst. Stick to
what you know and do best and
save your unsupported
geopolitical arguments for
the bar or coffee shop, where
you can surround yourself
with like-minded people who
won't care that most of what
you say is coming straight
out of your ass. Since the
piece was not funny at all, I
can only assume it was
supposed to have some
persuasive value. However,
its total lack of reasoned
analysis drowns out whatever
good points may have been
buried below the fluff.
Better luck next time.

Bradley Messmer

I'm waiting for the part
where you dispute some piece
of what you're criticizing.
What, there wasn't any
violence in Rwanda? We did
intervene? The KLA is a
garden club? Air campaigns
are historically effective?

Got facts?

Ambrose Beers

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

Your article reminded me of
past events we have learned
to repeat, again. Politicians
making military decisions.
Bill Clinton has conveniently
forgotten lessons learned in
Vietnam, where the White
House decided what and when
to bomb, when to shoot first
or wait, and when to turn
tail. When we finally pulled
out of that mess we also
turned our backs on the
killing fields' "genocide,"
later giving brief mention of
the one or two million people
"cleansed" from the land.

The administration's promises
sound exactly the same now.
The troops will be home from
Bosnia for Christmas, were
Clinton's words two years
ago. How many times did we
hear that during Vietnam?

Only the players change.

Dave Young

One of the more interesting
trails of information
dribbling out of the
administration these days
concerns the difference in
opinion, prior to the start
of the bombing, about what
said bombing would
accomplish. If we can believe
the leakers, the point of
view expressed by the
military was that a bombing
campaign wouldn't be
especially effective; our
esteemed Secretary of State,
on the other hand, expressed
great confidence in the
premise that Milosevic would
curl up in a ball the instant
the bombs started falling.
But, hey, what would a bunch
of career military officers
know about the effectiveness
of bombing?

Ambrose Beers

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

A nice, well-written article,
as usual. But one thing kept
popping into my mind: What's
your solution? It's one thing
to point out the hypocrisy
and foolishness of others
(Suck's raison
d'être), but it gets
tiresome reading these
Monday-morning-quarterback
rants that offer no new
ideas. Constantly criticizing
others' ideas and actions
without offering logical
alternatives diminishes the
impact of your criticisms,
which is too bad because
you're an intelligent writer.

Perhaps your next article
should be an essay detailing
YOUR foreign policy ideas,
specifically, concerning the
United States' role as a
global policeman. I have a
hunch, whatever your plan is,
it would be pretty easy for a
writer like yourself to tear
it apart.

"You gotta ac-cen-tuate the
positive, e-li-minate the
negative," etc.

(If this gets in Fish, please
leave off my email address.
Thanks.)

My solution: I show up in
Belgrade and proceed to
personally put the slap on
this Milosevic character.
Like Bruce Lee, kind of, but
without all the grunting.

Or, failing that ... familiar
with the so-called "Powell
Doctrine"? Said doctrine has
been dismissed, with disdain,
by the folks at 1600
Pennsylvania Avenue, but -
whoops - the old son of a gun
seems to have learned
something about the use of
military force from all those
years in the, you know,
military and stuff. In short:
Don't get involved in foreign
conflicts in which your
interests aren't directly
threatened. But, if you do,
don't get involved in any
foreign conflict in which you
aren't willing to suffer
casualties. And don't act
with anything less than
overwhelming force, ever,
period. Despite my own
reservations about the Gulf
War - against our old friend
Saddam Hussein, who we helped
to arm, and on behalf of a
spectacularly wealthy
monarchy - the point seems to
have been made there.

And it seems our problem for
the last 40 years has been
that we've tried to kind of
get involved in armed
conflicts, which doesn't work
and forces an escalation. The
thread running through the
conflicts we've been involved
in is a desire to project
force; that is, we've gone to
war to show that we can, to
let the world know we're a
superpower. We've been
"sending a message" for
several decades now, rather
than deciding between right
and wrong and committing with
clarity and determination.
(Please note: I've probably
done a less-than-great job of
explaining the Powell
Doctrine, but I've done so
off the top of my head.
Sorry!) (The language used in
the Johnson White House
consistently centered on the
notion of the United States
as a "guarantor.")

And so, once you've
decided to get into a
conflict and have done so
with a realistic
understanding of the type of
involvement it'll take to do
so with any chance of
accomplishing your goals -
and with a realistic understanding
of how many 18-year-old kids
from Iowa and East LA are
probably going to die as a
result - you tell the truth
to the people who are loaning
you those 18-year-olds.
Remember Bill Clinton's
detailed, brutally frank
discussion of the problem in
Kosovo during his
State of the Union address
back in January? Exactly.

Ambrose Beers

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

Hit & Run

Subject: Uppity Belgian
Motherfuckers!

Yeah. Fuck them Belgians.

Doesn't Lufthansa remind you
a little too much of the word
Luftwatte? Come to think of
it, I would probably be very
willing to fly Luftwatte
Airways.

Poorimole

That may be because "Luft"
means "air" in German. Also,
it's "-waffe," not "-watte."

Another dumb question
answered.

Yr pal,

Bartel

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

Subject: Johnny Hart

As a Christian, I agree with
everything Johnny Hart says
in his comic strip.
Unfortunately, he seems to
have forgotten the key
element of a good strip:
humor. You know, that thing
we all scan the funnies for
every Sunday. While I respect
his courage in taking a stand
in full color against
mainstream America, I still
think his strip is among the
most unfunny I've seen, and
frankly, it just plain sucks.

Kris Hunt

The most unfunny strip
compared to what? Beetle
Bailey?
Fred Bassett? Mutts?
The Family Circus?

Compared to most of what's on
the comics page, B.C. is as
funny as 10 Def Comedy Jams.

Yr pal,

Bartel

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

AN OPEN LETTER TO UPTIGHT
ASSHOLES!

I am an agnostic. I do not
believe, as I was raised to,
that Jesus of Nazareth was
the literal progeny of a
human-form Supreme Being.
Still, I respect Mr. Hart's
decision to continue voicing
his beliefs in his chosen
medium. Why? Because he
doesn't give a shit about
whether you like it or not.
He doesn't care if every
paper in America bends to the
pressures of a vocal minority
and drops his strip. And I
like that. His messages
aren't being beamed into my
skull against my will, for
crissake!

Each day when I pick up the
paper or turn on the
television, I exercise a
choice as to whether or not
I'm going to subject myself
to a myriad of differing
beliefs. I simply choose not
to. When I see "In God We
Trust" on our currency, or
when I recite the pledge of
allegiance, I am unwillingly
subjected to the monotheistic
paradigm. I choose not to
worry about it. Others
believe in all that; I don't.
I want them to respect my
beliefs, therefore I must
offer respect to theirs.

Does this mean I agree with
Mr. Hart's views? Of course
not! Didn't you read the
first paragraph, fool? He is
a self-described literalist,
which means he refuses to
acknowledge the many truths
the Earth has provided us,
and in my opinion it makes him a
blabbering idiot! Hmm...maybe
that's why I don't rifle
straight to the comics
section every day in a quest
to obtain religious insight
from the Wizard of Id. Maybe
you should stop doing so as
well!

So I must ask: How many times
do we have to go over this,
people? If you don't like
what someone writes, DON'T
FUCKING READ IT. Even better,
don't buy the paper if that
gives you some semblance of
satisfaction in your
miserable, pathetic life.

Why do you continue to
begrudge those who obviously
seek to do good, to send a
message of hope and love? So
it's not a message you agree
with - so what? At the risk
of sounding like Sally
Struthers, there are people
starving to death, killing
each other both here and
abroad. Why concern
yourselves with Johnny Hart's
religious views?

If you really want to protest
his comic, I'll give you a
good reason: IT'S NOT
GODDAMNED FUNNY! It hasn't
been funny in over three
decades! Comics are meant to
provide an outlet for
laughter. I haven't finished
a B.C. strip with anything
other than stony-faced
solemnity since I was eight.
Write your congressman about
that!

Assholes.

Steve Kling

Steve,

1. Watch you language.

2. You're sticking up for Mr.
Hart's right to free speech
even though you, like, don't
agree with his beliefs
and
all? You are truly a great
American. God, I admire you!

3. What is the deal with all
these people claiming B.C.
isn't funny? B.C. is
probably one of the more
consistently funny strips on
the comics page. You may think
nobody will argue with your
flat and unsupported assertions,
but they won't pass here, buddy!

4. Isn't Steve Kling one of
the aliases Tim McVeigh used
for his fertilizer purchases?
I'm pretty sure it was.

Yr pal,

Bartel

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

Stained-glass Windows

I'm interested in your
comment about Salinger's
unwillingness or inability to
put the poetry he describes
on the page in his novel.
Might it be possible he's
observing a literary
convention, much like the
dramatic convention of not
showing a painting,
especially when it's
important to the play,
because showing it would open
the thing itself up to the
judgment of the audience,
when they're really supposed
to be interested in the
characters' reactions to it?
Might it also be possible
he's at least humble enough
as a writer to realize poetry
isn't his strong suit and
hence he doesn't pretend he's
actually written the best
fucking poetry in the world?
Just a thought.

Tim

Sigh.

Yes, those are entirely fair
and reasonable interpretations.
Not that I agree or anything -
I am unfailingly correct,
like a machine with
no defects - but you may
have one there. Please

explain the meaning of
your email identity. "Hello,
vicar!" sounds like one of
those things men use to name
their penis.

Ambrose Beers

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

Being snide and humanist at
the same time is a rare
accomplishment. If only I'd
had this essay when my
sophomore English teacher
made us do a group project on
Nine Stories.

Thank you.

Elizabeth Childs

I actually lifted it straight
off one of those Web sites
that sell term papers. All it
would have taken you was 20
bucks and an ISP account.

And, anyway, it sounds like
your sophomore English class
was run like a group therapy
encounter at the Esalen
Institute. I'm sure whatever
you handed in was just fine.

Making up the humanism but
being entirely genuine about
the snideness,

Ambrose Beers

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

What is your beef, Beers? Who
cares if Salinger's a jerk?
So you think he's probably a
bad poet because he doesn't
stick his characters' poetry
in his fiction. Who cares?
Did Salinger ever call you up
and say, "I'm a great poet,
but I'm not going to publish
any poetry, because I don't
need to prove anything to
you?"

Why not? You must have liked
it, I assume. You went after
every other thing the public
knows about him with a
vengeance. I'm sure you think
it's fun to walk all over
Salinger purely because he
avoids public attention
(typical Suck childishness,
and typically a bunch of
fun), and I usually love your
columns, but you must have
been starved for material, or
stoned, or both, when you
wrote this. And, last, if
you're going to trash an
author and his writing both,
you should get an editor
before you publish: "He had
what my brother Walt used to
call his Eureka look, and he
wanted to tell me that he
finally thought he knew why
Christ had said to call no
man fool." (Because no man
wouldn't roll over and go
back to sleep if their
brothers woke them up for
that?
) This little chunk of
your criticism, conveniently
placed after a Salinger
quote, slaps your whole
column and its clumsy
attitude right in the face.

Who cares if his characters
have personality problems
that might mirror his own? He
just wrote a fucking story.
It was a good story too. I
noticed you didn't try to
stomp on Catcher in the Rye.

David Haner

Salinger called, but only to
tell me about the connection
between Jesus and Krishna.
And to pitch me on the value
of a macrobiotic diet. But he
hung up when he realized I
wasn't a hot 18-year-old girl
with a naive hero fixation
and a limber body.

There's a graf on Catcher.
But the whole thing was about
the possibility, suggested by
(I'm putting this in quotes)
"Salinger scholars," that the
man has been working his
heart out writing Glass
family stories. Be pretty odd
to discuss Catcher at length
in a piece discussing
Salinger's work on something
else altogether, yes?

Ambrose Beers

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

 The Shit
Left for Dead in Malaysia, Neil Hamburger, Drag City, 1999
The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium: American Culture on the Brink, Mark Dery, Grove/Atlantic, 1999
Crazy from the Heat, David Lee Roth, Hyperion, 1998
Keep It Like a Secret, Built to Spill, WEA/Warner Brothers, 1999
Abbott's Pizza Company, near the corner of Abbott-Kinney and California, Venice Beach, Los Angeles (delivery hours limited)
Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Pink Floyd, CD remaster, EMI 1994
Motorhead, CD remasters, all
Det Som Engang Var, Burzum, Misanthropy, 1998
Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park, Nashville, Tennessee
A History of the Modern Fact, Mary Poovey, University of Chicago Press, 1998
V., Thomas Pynchon, HarperCollins Publishers, 1999
The Coffee Mill, Emeq Refaim, Jerusalem, Israel
The Salesman and Bernadette, Vic Chesnutt, Capricorn Records, 1998
Good Morning Spider, Sparklehorse, Cema/Capitol, 1999
Third Floor, Anderson Building, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

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