The Fish
for 11 May 1999. Updated every WEEKDAY.
 
 
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Likely Story

A funny thing happened on the
way to the IPO.

I have been a faithful reader
of Salon these past few
years, but their redesign
leaves me cold. Before, I
could count on seeing five or
six articles with headlines
that gave enough information
to draw me in.

Their redesign offers instead
a mishmash of bland refers
[what's this?] that are not
too different from any
midlevel daily newspaper.
They lost their attitude in
an attempt to offer "serious"
news, yet I never thought
they were frivolous before
(well, except for their sex
offerings).

Do I really what to read a
story about how Boston police
fight crime without using
Guiliani's tactics? Or
suspicions that the Littleton
killers were gay? Puleaze!

Instead, when I come in to
work, I pull down Suck. I
still visit Salon, but I read
a lot less of it than I did
before.

<bpeschel@heraldonline.com>

While a daily newspaper
written with the
sophisticated style of a
magazine would no doubt be a
hit, the trick, of course, is
to find enough stories that
are not just standard
newspaper filler, and then to
produce those stories on
increasingly short deadlines
with no decline in literary
quality. I'd have to agree
with you that at the moment
Salon isn't really pulling
this off - the only section
that comes close to doing it
is the media section.

Also, it's good to hear
you've discovered Suck is a
much better way to start
one's daily avoidance of work
than Salon. Given that we can
barely manage to fulfill our
current editorial rate,
you'll never have to worry
about being faced with an
overwhelming screenful of
bland choices - we keep our
mishmash confined to one
essay a day and a few random
letters like this.

Huck

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 


Kornheiser du Jour

Ahem, Sainted one:
Have you actually read Salon
lately? Or is this just the
inevitable result of the
delay between writing and
publication, even online?
While it was always fun to
make fun of Salon, from time
to time they've broken news
and had interesting
columnists. Alas, the remake
seems to have blanded them
down to nothing. There is a
self-proclaimed mandate to
minimize hard news and
politics. In short, they've
morphed themselves into
People.com. Or maybe
VanityFairLite.com.

What the hell. Maybe the
world has been waiting for an
online middlebrow magazine
with nothing to say.
Presumably they did their
homework, conducted surveys,
read the entrails, hired
consultants.

I still say it's spinach. And
I give it eight months, tops.

Alan Kornheiser
<Askornheiser@prodigy.net>

I am unfamiliar with the
self-proclaimed mandate to
minimize hard news and
politics - did I miss it in
the S-1 or the attendant
press releases somewhere?

Re: Its increasing blandness
- you are right on this
count, I think. In part,
Salon's editorial appeal has
always hinged on its bland
brand of provocation, but
with new attritions like the
People section and the
obituaries, it is certainly
diluting the impact of the
worthwhile parts. While I do
think a national, daily
version of the Observer holds
great promise, it does indeed
seem as if Salon is moving
much more quickly toward
Vanity Fair for Dummies, or
People for People Who Claim
They'd Never Read People.

Huck

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 
Worm's-eye View

St. Huck,

In the words of one of your
esteemed colleagues: "Jesus
Fucking God."

With regard to your piece
"Worm's-eye View," how could
you have possibly missed our
site? Truly hilarious,
really: "A Web cam that moves,
that talks?" "Ask and ye
shall receive ...," and all
that.

http://www.hereandnow.net/

Your piece was well argued,
but you seemed to have
glossed over a few of the
more pertinent issues at hand
(understandably, of course,
since I myself am only just
now beginning to discover
these by actually living
through them).
Erik
<erik@hereandnow.net>

What can I say? When I read
about your site elsewhere, I
said to myself, "Jesus
Fucking God, why did they
send a press release to Salon
and not to me?"

In any case, I now know about
the site and plan to start
watching, especially if you
guys start solving crimes or
something, or at least break
out into the occasional
spontaneous game show.

Best,

Huck

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 
Dr. Death,
Attorney at Law

Though I am basically in
agreement with your thesis,
your discourse about the
Mumia Abu-Jamal case
surprises me. Granted Mr.
Abu-Jamal did himself no
favors with his conduct
during the original trial,
but your statement, "... given
the defense's inability to
explain away key physical
evidence and the fact that
one of its strategies
involves a search for an
unidentified gunman with
'Johnny Mathis hair' - he
will almost certainly be
given a lethal injection," is
highly irresponsible. Casting
aside the more outrageous
arguments on his behalf for
the moment, did you consider
- or even know - that the
judge in the case has a
strong affiliation with the
Fraternal Order of Police,
that certain ballistics
reports show the bullet that
killed the police officer
could not have come from Mr.
Abu-Jamal's gun, that many
defense witnesses now claim
they were threatened by the
police, and that these same
police didn't even check to
see if Mr. Abu-Jamal's weapon
had been fired?

Any one of these things
should merit a new trial,
especially in a capital case.
Not acquittal mind you, but a
new trial. Given that the
mainstream media has been so
biased in reporting this
case, it does not help when
"pundits" such as you stir
the shit just so you can have
an essay that flows well. (By
disregarding, either
intentionally or
unintentionally, inconvenient
facts that would serve to
discredit your point of view,
I hereby beatify you with the
title of "Pundit" Rapture.)

Please do not associate my
opinions with my employer,
for then I will be forced to
act as my own attorney and
only belabor your point.

Ben Scharp

What a shame you cast aside
the more outrageous arguments
on Mumia's behalf, as they
seem to be what's drawing out
the Hollywood crowd.

You will find no one more
suspicious of the police in
general than this mischievous
imp from another dimension.
Indeed, as a being who spent
a couple of years in the City
of Brudderly Love and almost
daily walked past the actual
site of the shooting in
question, you will find no
one more suspicious of the
Philadelphia police than
yours truly. And yet, simply
because the police are evil
(and may or may not be a
necessary evil), that hardly
exonerates everyone taken
into police custody or
convicted in a court of law.

Contrary to your ballistics
story, the wounds in the cop
were consistent with a .38
pistol; Mumia (who had been
shot by the cop) was found at
the scene with the .38 pistol
registered to him and five
freshly spent cases on the
ground. The gun had clearly
been fired recently; while
some witnesses have reported
being pressured (and I'm sure
they were), others have stuck
to their stories. Sure, Judge
Albert Sabo is a
law-and-order asshole who did
Mumia no favor by allowing
him to represent himself, but
the jury that returned the
guilty charges was mixed
race, deflating charges of
the most blatant sort of
racism. The local press at
the time of the trial was
decidedly on Mumia's side -
Philadelphia's cops are known
for their thuggery - but
became convinced of Mumia's
guilt as the trial proceeded,
which should tell you
something. Contrary to
Mumia's defenders, he does
not claim innocence via a
clear denial of the charges,
but rather goes into larger
contextual issues (e.g.,
racism, poverty, etc.) when
discussing the topic. And
indeed, many of his defenders
- including those
small-screen glitter boys, Ed
Asner and Mike Farrell - are
really against the death
penalty. That's a cause worth
fighting for - look for Mr. M
in the front row of that
demonstration - but that's
not the same as claiming
innocence for a guilty man.

Mr. M

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

Without getting into the
merits of your general thesis
that it is a mistake to
represent oneself in a murder
trial, it seems important to
point out that in fact Mumia
Abu-Jamal was NOT permitted
to defend himself in court.

Also, your linking of Mumia
to Charles Manson and Colin
Ferguson seems like a
particularly cheap shot,
given that Mumia has
steadfastly maintained his
innocence, and in the 15
years since the original
trial virtually every element
of the prosecution's case has
been dismantled. Most
significantly, the key
prosecution witness has
admitted to lying about
Mumia's participation in
order to avoid a jail
sentence.

Bob Stein
<caxton@earthlink.net>

Again, Mumia has not
maintained his innocence; his
supporters do that for him in
ways that are less and less
persuasive over time (hence
their shifting stories about
what really happened). And
Mumia did conduct his own
defense (though his attempt
to place MOVE member John
Africa as co-counsel was shot
down), choosing long
harangues about racial
inequity over a presentation
of facts that might have
exonerated him or at least
made a jury think twice. From
time to time, Mumia would be
ejected from the court, then
allowed back in until the
next flare-up.

Mr. M

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

Mr. Mxyzptlk:

Excellent article. Honorable
Mention should go to
67-year-old James Taylor Sr.,
sentenced to die on 5 June
for killing a newlywed couple
at the Fraternal Order of
Eagles St. Valentine's Day
dance. The first person in
modern Ohio to represent
himself in a death penalty
case, Taylor dazzled the
court with his oratory
acumen:

"You can put me to death, but
that's all you can do after
I'm dead."

Jeffrey Jones

Truer words were never
spoken.

Mr. M

 
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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