The Fish
for 29 November 1999. Updated every WEEKDAY.
 
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Hit & Run

I'm not sure where John
Barrie found the statistics
to claim that "[we] are
catching 20 to 25 percent of
all AP high school students"
who plagiarize, for it is
certainly not like that at my
school. As a senior in a
northern Virginia high school
taking three AP classes —
government, English, and
calculus — (as well as
taking two as a junior:
chemistry and history), I know
firsthand that plagiarism in
AP classes is out of control.
Almost every single student
either regularly copies
another's work or hands out
their own work to be copied.
While some classes are next
to impossible to cheat in,
such as English, classes like
government and history are
incredibly easy. Essays,
charts, outlines, you name it
are typed up by one person
and forwarded to the 60 other
members of the class. No one
ever gets caught. My history
teacher from last year
proudly boasted to us on the
first day of class, "This is
not a class where people
cheat. In the past five years
that I've taught AP history,
only two people have ever
cheated. They were both
demoted to standard history
and suspended from school for
five days." By the next week
all of his students had
traded and copied papers
almost a dozen times.

Cheating will screw people
over in the long run, though.
A college may be impressed by
an A+ in calculus, but when
they see a 1 on the AP exam,
their opinion will change
immediately. More than
likely, Mr. Barrie got the
statistics on high school AP
classes from Florida, where
the government pays for all
students exams. Students who
usually fail can take the
classes for free and, with
the help of the weighted
grade, end up with a D even
if their grade average
for the year is a 2 percent.

I admit to plagiarizing work
in my AP classes. Sometimes I
am just too busy or too tired
to do it myself. It still
pisses me off, though, to get
back an essay I wrote and get
a B, and turn to the person next
to me who copied my essay,
and see that they got an A.
Oh well.

Matthew McCluskey
<anthonyblaine@hotmail.com>

It's your last name, man. Put
a "sky" on the end of any
last name (and, double
screw-job, a Mc- at the
beginning) and boom, instant
prejudice. Lower grade. Less
respect. Loogie burger. You
name it.

Suck: Cultivating your
delusions just like a shrink,
but with faster, friendlier,
and cheaper service and
without all that discomfitting
fake empathy.

the Sucksters
 
Fish With Letter Icon
 


In response to your issue
today about plagiarism: A
couple of years back I had a
student plagiarize one of my
own published articles as one
of three he cut and pasted
into his term paper. Reading
the paper and realizing I'd
read some of this before, I
cross-checked. My response to
the student: "I couldn't have
said it better myself, but
it's still an F!"

This is no urban myth; I have
the term paper somewhere in
my files.

Brent McClintock
Associate Professor of Economics
Carthage College
Kenosha, Wisconsin 53140
<mcclin1@carthage.edu>

Seems like teachers have this
passive-aggressive thing
going on where, when you
plagiarize, they don't tell
you, they just give you an F
without explaining it. I
mean, no one every really
knows for certain whether or
not they got caught, but then
the teacher tells his
little story to generation
upon generation of students
to follow. Why are the actual
plagiarists so often left out
of the loop?

These probing questions and
more, if the price is right.

Free,

the Sucksters
 
Fish With Letter Icon
 


Sucksters,

Egads, what are college grads
to do now? For that matter,
what are college professors
to do now? One question I
would like to have seen
addressed is if this tool can
be used to keep the
professors in line. Too many
handouts for Class 101 are
mere photocopies of other
texts, and some textbooks
seem to be iterations of the
same work. When can the
students demand that the
teachers live up to these
standards? I had one
assistant professor claim
that her handouts were her
own work, when in fact they
were retyped sections of Neil
Postman's Amusing Ourselves
to Death.
Apparently she felt
that no one was going to read
the book closely enough to
discover her charade.

Taking down students
shouldn't be the only
application of this tool.

Russell May
<russmebs@hotmail.com>

Go after the professors all
you want; you'll get nowhere.
Tenure is a funny thing. My
dad, a professor of economics
back in the day, used to ask
me (very smugly, chuckling
all the while), "Do you know
what I'd have to do to get
fired? Commit a felony. Do
you know what a felony is?" I
didn't. "Like, for example,
murder is a felony," he'd
reply. For a long time I was
praying to God that my dad
wouldn't go and murder
someone because, I mean, why
would that come up, just out
of the blue, if it weren't a
possibility?

Wait, why are you listening
to this highly personal
revelation? This has nothing
to do with you, OK? Mind your
own business.

Queen of emotional plagiary,

Polly
 
Fish With Letter Icon
 


Subject: Violent, glassy-eyed
babbling

I'm glad someone besides
myself recognized the genius
in the famous "crack versus
the Web" quote mentioned in
the plaigerism article. I
have had that Suck article
bookmarked for the past three
years, and my only regret is
not having been caught
plaigerising the quote
myself. There is still time,
it appears.

Regarding catching plaigerism
of undergrad term papers, if
you have ever read a bunch of
said papers, one cannot help
noticing how badly written
most of them really are.
Stolen phrases and sentences
may be difficult to pick out,
but a largely plaigerized
paper sticks out like a sore
thumb. The only difficulty
comes in actually proving
that it was stolen by
finding the source.

I can't believe 45 students
got caught in one class. Back
in the pre-Web days of the
mid-1980s when I was at
Berkeley, I knew lots of
boneheads who handed in
verbatim papers and never got
caught. This always made me
feel like a chump for
actually writing anything. I
say throw those bums out.

Turns out that covering your
tracks while stealing
intellectual property is the
most valuable skill of all.
Probably always has been.

Yr pal,

Cameron Geiser
<cameron@ slip.net>

Is plagiary the hardest word
to spell, or what?

The best is when a plagiarist
plagiarizes all the
idiosyncratic spelling errors
of the original writer. Now
that's thinking.

Plagiarists are not thinkers,
though, let's face it.
Personally, we'd rather write
a hideously rambling,
fact-free diatribe than copy
over a fact-loaded,
well-presented paper someone
else wrote.

But that should come as no
surprise.

the Sucksters
 
Fish With Letter Icon
 


You mentioned in Hit & Run,
11 November 1999, an urban
myth about someone being
given an essay to mark that
was plagiarized from his
own work. Well, I'm here to
tell you it's no myth. It
happened to my father, who is
a university lecturer. He was
marking a master's thesis
(not from one of his own
students), thinking, "Gee,
this is great stuff, I
totally agree with what this
person is saying," when it
finally dawned on him that
what he was reading was, in
fact, a large chunk, almost
word for word, of his own PhD
thesis.

I guess the student figured
that since the thesis was
more than 10 years old and
written in another country no
one would notice.

Caitlin Fegan
<greebo@mad.scientist.com>

Oh yeah, your dad, Brent
McClintock, wrote to us
already. So did Mikey. Did
you know he's still alive,
but he's sworn off Pop Rocks
for good?

More than 10 years old and
not funny, even in another
country,

the Sucksters
 
Fish With Letter Icon
 


Filler

Polly,

Yeah, the seven deadly
American sins story is not
unlike the Moose Turd Pie
story. If you aren't
decisive, secure, optimistic,
serious, smelling fresh air,
calm, and unsuspicious about
the pie you're eating, you'll
have to go out and find the
turd the next time. Then
you'll have to move up your
own ass. I hear they love
slick, worthless, nasty
pieces of shit up there.

Smelling roses,

Jeepy

PS Canadians are like the guy
with the smallest dick in the
locker room who keeps saying,
"But ... but ... but ... I'm
captain of the chess team!
I'm the leader of the
badminton team!"

"Yeah, yeah, OK mister
shuttlecock."

Tiger Pounce
<pounceandkiss@yahoo.com>

Hey now. Let's not go and
gang up on the guy with the
smallest dick in the locker
room. I mean, really, who's
keeping track?

Answer: You are.

I may be insecure, but I do
trust the pie. How far will
you get in this life,
spending all your time
second-guessing the pie?

Polly
 
Fish With Letter Icon
 


Dear Polly,

While I bet you thought you
were being funny, Wednesday's
Filler is one of the most
eloquent pieces I've ever
read. Is France as cool as
you made it out to be?
<suicide-machine@
anti-social.com>

That depends on how much you
like titless, creepy,
disaffected types. Hell, I
don't know shit about France.
Veronica's got my number.
Damn, baby girl. Yikes. Ooch.
Zoinks.

Anything but eloquent,

Polly
 
Fish With Letter Icon
 


Subject: Better every time

Your work just gets better
and better. You must really
be a sick person! :-)

Farouk Rojas Mustafa
<farouk@ acnet.net>

I must be getting sicker and
sicker every day. Keeping
this job depends on the
dissolution of my mental
health. I wish my friends and
family would be more
supportive about that little
fact. Damn them!

A time to bitch, a time to
blame,

Polly
 
Fish With Letter Icon
 


Dear Polly Esther,

Are your Web visitors
panicked about Y2K? Help ease
their millennial fears by
selling them Rolling Stone
and other great magazines
that will take their minds
off of imminent doom! You'll
be able to earn a 15 pecent
commission from now until 1
January. Your site will lose
no traffic. We are Enews.com,
the Internet's largest vendor
of print magazine
subscriptions.

John Kelly
<John.Kelly@enews.com>

Excellent. Online content
used to be king; now it's
just an outlet for selling
print magazines.

If I could sell Web visitors
anything, it would be little
booklets of tips on surviving
in a world made for those
without the capacity for
critical thought. Lord knows
I've been much happier since
I sold my brain up the river.
I'm selling myself out as we
speak, and losing no traffic
in doing so. I'm cleaning my
oven as we speak, and losing
no brain cells in doing so.
What was I saying?

Panicked,

Polly
 
Fish With Letter Icon
 


Subject: McSweeneys

Have you made fun of these
smirksters?
http://www.mcsweeneys.net/

Andrew Hazlett
<awh@manhattan-institute.org>

Those little pants-crappers
get more good press than
Yahweh. Those whippersnappers
get more positive
word-of-mouth chatter than a
tearful Virgin Mary. Why
should I add to the din? That
earnest little smartass has
slept with half the
devastatingly beautiful women
I know, and I must know about
four devastatingly beautiful
women. Why should I ramp up
his mojo, I ask you? Some
pies have all the luck. Then
again, maybe they'll publish
my crap when Salon kills it.

Smirking but pieless,

Polly
 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

 The Shit
Seeing Calvin Coolidge in a Dream, John Derbyshire, St. Martin's Press, 1996
Peekaboo's Masks, 2492 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco
West Beirut, director Ziad Doueiri, 1999
"The Smartest Cartoonist on Earth," Daniel K. Raeburn, The Imp, Vol. 1/No. 3, 1999
Mad Monster Party, Rankin/Bass Productions, VHS, Deluxo & Black Bear Press, 1967/1999
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill, America's Best Comics, 1999
Hermenaut No. 15: "The Fake Authenticity Issue," editor Joshua Glenn, summer 1999
Guillow's Sky Streak rubber-powered balsa-wood glider (without landing gear)
Webvan
Very Emergency, Promise Ring, Jade Tree, 1999
Mean Magazine No. 5, summer 1999
Slickaphonics, Replikants, KillRockStars/Rue St. Germaine, 1999
"Cash, Interesting, Summer Holiday", The Young Ones, Foxvideo (BBC Video), 1988
Driver (PSX), GT Interactive, 1999

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