The Fish
for 14 June 1999. Updated every WEEKDAY.
 
 
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Guns and Butter

"(T)he decision to fire cruise
missiles at Afghanistan and
the Sudan for the purpose of
sending a message," as you
put it, can be blamed
on the understanding gap
between military and
civilian cultures.

That gap is very real and, I
agree, has potential dangers.
However, the decision to fire
a couple of missiles at what
have since been proven to be
innocent targets is one of
the best examples of
dogwagging in recent memory.
Look back at the coverage and
you'll see that the joint
chiefs were hardly even
consulted. That was a
strictly civilian (and
political) decision,
precipitated by the First
Fellator's impending grand
jury deposition. Christopher
Hitchens' piece in Vanity
Fair
(January 1999?) is a
great recounting of all
the similar attempts
to use the military to
deflect attention from
Clinton's problems.

This abuse of military power
for political aims only
exacerbates the discontent in
the military and magnifies
any feelings of separateness
from the rest of society.

<zimmermd@msnotes.wustl.edu>

Which is exactly the point our
correspondent made in his
essay. Someday, Bill Clinton
will be gone, and we'll once
again be able to see the
logic of a civilian
government. It may not seem
to make much sense right now,
but really, someday, Bill
Clinton will be gone.

Sucksters

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

"Ricks tells story after story
about the cultural isolation
of a Marine Corps that views
itself as a nation within a
nation, stronger and smarter
than the great undisciplined
masses. There's a cost to
that kind of partitioning:
Ricks describes Marines who
feel pretty sure that they'll
ultimately be forced to fight —
literally fight, go to
war with — their own
countrymen, cleansing the
nation of its fifth column of
cultural Marxists. The gap
between military and
civilians, Ricks argues,
threatens to pit the two
against each other in a way
that could ultimately
threaten the nation's
constitutionally sanctioned
civilian hegemony."

You mean you didn't realize
this was the whole point of
military culture: to train
(brainwash) one group to
regard themselves as distinct
from the common citizen so
its members won't have any
real moral conflict when its
leaders tell them to turn on
their own women and children,
on their own families. The
historical origin of
organized armies was to keep
the subjects in line, and the
governments, royal families,
and five-star generals who
call the shots have never
forgotten that. Is Suck
getting naive, or have I
become even more cynical?

<alanb@datamedia.demon.co.uk>

Maybe that's the way it is in
that cloudy monarchy you live
in, Alan, but this is
America, where we bend the
knee to no man, and all the
citizens live in a state of
well-armed liberty.

Proudly protecting our right
to arm bears,

Sucksters

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

Dear Suck — and today you do,

Your bullshit rant about
military culture really got
under my skin; I know it is
your job to do that. However,
gross generalizations are
never fair, and they display
a distinct laziness on the
part of the author. Several
points:

* Military culture is
different than civilian
culture because it has to be.
Given the things that the
military has to accomplish in
short periods of time, it is
necessary to limit the
freedoms of its personnel.
Wake up, dumb asses. Your
freedom was purchased
with the so-called culture
you disparage. I really
think you are offended mainly
because you could never hack
the discipline it takes to be
a successful soldier, marine,
airman, or sailor. You are
obviously a group of
time-wasting, cowardly
critics that hide behind
language.

* We have no real, discernable
civilian culture in the
United States. But I guess
the person who wrote this
coffee-shop horseshit
deludes himself into thinking
every time he has a
pseudo-intellectual
conversation at Starbucks he
has immersed himself in some
high "culture."

* The fact is the lowest life
forms in the military, who
are guilty of the kind of
thinking you mention, are
still a step above your sorry
effete asses. What do you
crap heads know about service,
honor, sacrifice, or valor?
My dingleberries know more.

* As a former officer, I know
something you do not: The
military trains soldiers on
ethics to a much greater
extent than any civilian
institution. Write about
something you know, or
do the research, you bunch of
sorry twits.

In summary, I would just like
to say, blow it out your ass,
Suck-heads.

And have a nice day.

Steve Degnan
<s.degnan@worldnet.att.net>

I guess reading comprehension
wasn't emphasized in your
officer training — was
it, Steve? The author of this
article — who, as a
matter of fact, is right now
practicing service, honor,
sacrifice, and valor in the
army — made all the
points you make in your
letter - though he may have
thrown you off a bit by
writing with actual grammar
and style.

But boy, you're right about
how the United States has no
real discernable civilian
culture. I mean, sure,
there's Herman Melville,
Scott Joplin, Howard Hawks,
Elvis, Carole King, Michael
Jordan, Steven Spielberg,
Washington Irving, Franklin
Delano Roosevelt, and Star
Wars,
but these are really
indie, alternative phenomena,
obscure in the United States
and completely unknown in
other countries.

Keep harvesting those
dingleberries.

BarTel

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 
All the World's a Rave

Subject: Shake that
Shakespeare!

Hey Sucksters,

Loved your concept on that
Shakespeare bit! But you're
missing out on a market that
has lately gone almost
completely untapped:
musicals. Here's a thought,
just to get you started:
Something's Rotten in
Denmark,
starring the Artist
Formerly Known as Prince as
the Singing Prince o' the
Danes and Joe Pesci as
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
who would not go gently into
that good night. I noticed
you've all been getting into
Salinger lately, so when the
Shakespeare bit hits, you
could follow up with Holden!
Holden! Holden!,
starring Leo
DiCaprio as the dysfunctional
yet lovable hipster who's
just tryin' to keep it real.
We can't miss, babe!

Have your people call my
people,

Dan Greenfield
<dannotdan@yahoo.com>

Daniel, my brother,

Dibs on the casting couch.

Keepin' it unreal,

James

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

Subject: Shakes-me-up-speare

Hello Monsieur Bong,

Much like the fiasco that was
Crystal Pepsi, I suspect
these revisionist versions of
Shakespeare's classics will
prove to be ridiculous and
short-lived. The people most
likely to shell out cash for
this sort of thing are
frustrated English teachers
desperately trying to turn
15-year-old heads away from
the perceived cultural vacuum
of MTV and the Cartoon
Network. I wouldn't call it
desecration, though. It's
just stupid and misguided.
The dumbass in art class who
decided to carve a cross into
his leg with a calligraphy
nib didn't rock the
foundations of Christianity,
and certainly setting
Othello on a basketball court
won't sully Shakespearean
studies for those who live to
love his work. Casting Dennis
Rodman as the title character
might, but only until the
last copies left in the
US$5.99 bin at the local
video store are thrown out
or shoplifted by junkies.

One of the things I find
amusing about the
entertainment industry is its
tendency to take a pretty
great thing (Great
Expectations,
for example, or
anything Jane Austen ever
wrote) and attempt to
"improve" it. Herein is the
rub: You can steal the ideas,
you can strip the story to
its bare bones and work new
language around it, you can
cut the scenes you don't like
and add naked women, graphic
sex, and violence, but you'll
lose the essence of the work:
the words. A writer can
develop the most unique and
amazing plot, but without the
language, it's an outline,
not a masterpiece.

I find The Bard's brilliance
rests not in his plots,
anyway. Shakespeare writes
sappy love stories, reuses
the same devices and
characters (for example, the
girl dressed as boy to fool the
love interest thang), and his
story lines are about as
predictable as an episode of
Dawson's Creek. His sonnets
are brilliant, though. His
dialogue is gorgeous, rich,
and occasionally
breathtaking. I can read, or
have read to me, Shakespeare
for hours on end. The Cliffs
Notes,
however, are as dull
as Top Ramen without that
special flavoring packet. In
the tenth grade I was
assigned an oral report on
Julius Caesar, and the only
way I could make it
interesting was to sing the
plot summary to the tune of
the Brady Bunch theme song.
Terminator II had just come
out, and nobody was all that
impressed by the violence and
treachery in ancient Rome.
Maybe I should have thrown in
a superfluous cyborg just to
maintain the class'
interest. I got a C, in case
you care.

Updating old Shakesy's
language is just plain dumb,
but I don't like to dis
revisionist settings and
costumes. I once played
Leonato in a version of As
You Like It,
which the
director set in a 1950s
diner. OK, so maybe it was
cheesy, and maybe this
particular piece of
information proves exactly
zero points, but I thought
I'd bring it up anyway. My
acting career never went
anywhere, by the way.

Yrs truly, dawn m. gabriel
<dawn@stumpworld.com>

Shall I compare you to a
summer's day?

And what are you wearing?

XO James

 
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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