VACUUM

for 12 August 1996. Updated every MONDAY.

 

 

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it.

 
[]

It was "I'm Not Special, You're Not
Special" week here at the Suck.
Let's begin with Polly Esther's
"Mid-Hype Crisis," which garnered
a vitriolic mention in the
"3-Minute Roast." McGlaze@aol.com
writes:

 

Why Suck Sucks (or) A Fish, A
Barrel, and a Gun Pointed at its
Own Head

Our roasting cousins at
www.suck.com have always provided
a fresh jolt of ridicule to an
otherwise ridiculous World Wide
Web. Suck's recent take on the
denizens of S.F.'s South Park area
(the dreaded "Multimedia Gulch")
hit so close to home, it must have
been written in front of a mirror.
Though the rant by pseudonym Polly
Esther touched on early adopters
in the Web "revolution" waking up
knee-deep in "hoopla," and how big
corporate types were taking all
the fun from the
lattes-and-T-shirt crowd, the
mid-life crisis she spoke of was
going on within the walls around
her. Ranting about the Web, while
being supported by the Web, is one
thing. Ranting at your bosses and
co-workers, while the whole world
reads the gory details, is quite
another. Or does Polly pass up the
quad frappucinos and croissant
sandwiches, really munching on
sardines and pumping gas as a day
job? Doubtful. Instead, Suck
(owned by Wired) is on the
forefront of the Web's latest
game, Crap on Our Corporate
Bosses. David Letterman made an
art of it at NBC/GE...oops, an
EX-employer. But this game is
popping up all over the Web: Slate
makes Microsoft's Steve Ballmer
look like a cad, MSNBC's "The
Site" uses anti-techno ranter
Cliff Stoll for commentary (then
again, who don't they use as a
talking head?), and now Suck dumps
on each new section designed by
their co-horts at HotWired. Is
this a new form of self-criticism,
to be hailed as the First
Amendment's greatest triumph, or
are these Suck rants the product
of disgruntled stockholders of a
non-existent IPO? Or perhaps, the
cynic might surmise, Wall Street
was ready to shower IPO bucks on
Wired Ventures, then read the fine
print of what it was buying: Suck
crapping on its parents,
advertisers - anything that
moved. That bouncing baby, green
goo dribbling down its chin, just
bounced itself right out of the
money. Gulp down those frappacinos
while you can, folks. Make it a
quintuple.

 

Polly Esther responds:

 

But of course I'm snarfing all the
quad lattes and almond croissants
I can - I'd have lost every last
creme-filled cruller to think this
ship couldn't sink at any minute.
But the fact remains that there's
a lot to point and jeer at around
here, including hack writers like
yours truly. I knew that years of
neurosis and self-loathing had
to be good for something...

It's natural that, once people
start raking in cash and embracing
a brand new "culture," the
self-importance and ego-bloating
can be downright disconcerting.
This is true for any industry -
fashion designers, artists,
businessmen, consultants... Once
professionals meet some level of
success, they invariably end up
proselytizing about why they have
that special something that makes
the world go 'round, while the
audience silently begs for a loud
snicker from the back of the room.
But then, these are the same
people who make it possible for me
to get paid to express my
opinions, and I appreciate that.
Hey, thanks, guys!

Of course, it's not always nice to
bite the hand that feeds. But
would you prefer that Letterman
not dish NBC, that Slate not bait
Microsoft, that "The Site"
restrict itself to breathless
frothing on the enchanting affect
technology has on each and every
one of our lives? As if NBC,
Microsoft, and web hype aren't
three of the most deserving
targets around... Call it "gory
details" if you like, but without
such criticism the world starts to
look like a huge consumerist pep
rally, and I, for one, am all for
the naysayer in the corner,
grumbling about the cheerleaders'
dirty socks.

In the end, we're about as likely
to sink Wired Ventures, Inc. as
Letterman was to topple the NBC
empire, and if we really thought
we were that powerful, we'd be
suffering such delusions of
grandeur they'd suspect we'd been
smoking the dummy pipe from
sunrise to sunset. But then, with
the kind of vainglorious
proclamations floating around in
these parts, maybe such
hallucinations wouldn't seem so
out of place.

 

Of Johnny Cache's "Faster,
Pussycat! Click! Click!
," Ben
Turner <infinity@conline.com>
writes:

 

Ah yes, Suck - where they've gotten
tired of making money and getting
exposure by praising the Internet,
and instead just make money and
get exposure by predicting its
death.

 

Well, we are, at least ostensibly
"all about" the Internet, so it
probably follows that we'd both
praise and insult it on a regular
basis. If we're attacking it more
lately, it's that Alanis Complex:
we'd never insult her if she
weren't so undeniably (and
undeservedly) popular. But then,
we'll always laud the Internet for
its oh-so embraceable
lucre-generating qualities.
Anyway, in case you haven't
noticed already, this web thing is
all about trends, so get used to
it.

 

Of Lotte Absence's Sub-Middle
Management Worksick Blues
,"
somebody writes:

 

I hadn't SUCKed in a while, but I
was glad I did today.

My employer leaped headfirst into
the web about a year ago. We had a
big strategic conference coming up
and all our biggest customers were
coming to town to hear us thump
our chests about how great we
were. But to truly be considered
great, we had to make sure we were
keeping up with the Joneses of the
industry - so it was decreed that
a corporate web site would be up
and running by the time of the
conference. Goals? Objectives?
Strategy? Yeah, sure. Get it
running.

... To make an already long story a
little shorter, our site today is
almost identical to our site last
year, with no change coming in the
near future. My company is still
in the phase where the web is
viewed as a brochure - print it
once, and you're done.
Interactivity and timeliness are
arcane terms that bring nods of
agreement that they must be
important, but zilch as far as
understanding of how to get there.
And oh, by the way, budgets are
tight this year - we don't have
any money to do any "web stuff."

I'm 26 years old with an Ivy League
degree, and I feel like the
industry is already passing me by.
I'd love to get more involved with
developing the use of the web as a
true two-way communication
vehicle, but instead I feel myself
stagnating beneath the weight of
customers and co-workers who still
see photocopying text onto
pre-printed shells as the zenith
of "customized communication."

 

What's this Ivy League thing - are
you some kind of botanist?

Anyway, the idea that a "web
presence" is the latest method of
"updating" one's corporate image
is certainly amusing, so you
really shouldn't complain...
except that I guess you're not
really applying all your knowledge
of botany. Have you considered grad
school?

 
[]

David Benjamin
<dbjag@aolnorth.com>
writes:

 

Enjoyed your commentary. Please
don't feel so special.

Replace "website development" with
"software development" and the
saga describes the last ten years
of my life. Well, ok, I was one of
the twenty-somethings with
attitude and not the beleagured
project lead.

My Dad informs me that in the late
fifties and early sixties you
could have inserted the word
"solid-state development" (meaning
the advent of transistors over
vacuum tubes) and be pretty much
on track as well.

So there you go! A timeless essay
template! A few more of those and
we'll all be calling you Erma
Bombeck of Dilberts, well, except
you're not dead.

 

Or the Dilbert of Erma Bombecks...
Naturally most comedy is formulaic
in the end. Not to mention the
"essay" genre in general.

Any feelings of specialness are
delusional and, eventually,
elusive. We're guessing that
"software development" tag isn't
serving you quite as well as it
did a year and a half ago, eh?
Back when The Red Herring was
interviewing your PR people every
other day? Ah, well, we'll all
have our little insignificant
glimpses at perceived
significance, right? And they'll
repeat themselves, as evanescent
and inconsequential as the latest
MTV Buzz Clips. As Harry Truman
once said, "The only thing new in
the world is the history you don't
know."

 

And like many who wanted to play
the "Name That Company" game,
Jonathan E. <jeve@206.15.64.22>
writes:

 

It sucks that you didn't spill all
the beans and name the folks that
dealt with you in such a shoddy
and antiquated fashion. Sure we
can guess who you're referring to -
but why cast guilt by aspersion.
If this medium is to be worth more
than a flash in the pan, if it's
to be worth more than a damn
sinkhole of time, the dispersion
of this sort of traditionally
sensitive - but complete -
information to others who need it
is essential.

 

Well, the medium may change, but
litigation stays the same. We have
to follow the same basic rules
(kind of) or the lawyers start
calling. We're still in Kansas,
Dorothy, so don't go talking to
strange little men with
lollipops...

 

Of Ann O'Tate's Zerobaud, "Men Made
Out of Words
," Tom Dowe
<TDowe@utxvms.cc.utexas.edu>
writes:

 

To paraphrase humorist Ian Shoales,
satiric riffing on management
texts is something you can always
count on - such screeds crop up at
regular intervals in alternative
magazines in much the same way
"newly discovered" photographs of
a half-clad Marilyn Monroe appear
from time to time in Life and
People: they remind us to yearn
for youthful innocence by
pruriently exposing air-brushed
details of something we can't
possibly have.

Who among Suck's readers is really
ever going to achieve either the
middle-manager status or acquire
the smarmy pusillanimity which
would make serious reading out of
the business books you discuss?
Don't get me wrong - it's a great
service to have the particularly
scornworthy nuggets laconically
excerpted for my smug consumption.
This way, I can sneer and derive a
kind of moral satisfaction while
despairing that my Master's degree
in English will never get me any
farther in life than my current
job as a telephone receptionist.

Still, given the relatively
abbreviated form of a Suck essay,
I can't help thinking, why bother?
It's one thing to have Tom Frank
and the crew at The Baffler engage
in thorough, utterly persuasive
cultural criticism by attacking
the entire genre and ruthlessly
exposing the economic (as opposed
to merely stylistic) illogic of
its afflatus over the course of
ten pages or so. Your warmed-over
contempt, though, does little more
than give me a warm, fuzzy feeling
on a particularly nasty Thursday
morning.

Thus, I suppose, does the Web exert
its awesome power to mute dissent
even as it purports to provide a
new forum for it. I'd suggest more
important targets (more political,
more pernicious, more pervasive),
but I've begun to doubt that
Suck's short-form rants can convey
the moral gravity required for
such discussions.

Anyway, keep up the good work.

 

Ann O'Tate responds:

 

While I'm sure that the folks at
Currency/Doubleday like the idea
of equating tomes like
"Co-opetition" with nudie pix of
Marilyn Monroe, the masturbatory
nature of these books lies more on
the server side, if you know what
I mean. A quick look at the jacket
blurbs reveals a reach-around
chain as closely knit as it is
tightly held. The management text
scam is incestuous, and hardly
covered at all by anyone without a
specific interest in it, so I have
trouble seeing the problem with
pointing out its absurdities to
"lay people" - if, in fact, that
was what I was doing.

Sad to say, HTML-jockey-turned-
headset-wearing-conference-caller
seems like a growing demo, and
we've got the referer logs to
prove it. Sure, the thought of an
industry even remotely influenced
by the kind of bare-knuckled,
barefaced scatological insouciance
we pull out of our collective ass
on a daily basis would probably
have even Friedrich Hayek calling
for some kind of government
intervention. But then again,
maybe the market does have a way
of regulating itself... heard of
any hot net IPOs lately?

And as for this "Baffler" that you
speak of... your willingness to
stick with Tom Frank's prose for a
full ten pages is what is truly
heartwarming on this nasty Monday
morning.

 
[]

Perhaps better know as The Son of
Spam, Jacob Cazzell
<jacobcaz@inetdirect.net> writes:

 

Hello, I don't know you and you
don't know me; I'm hoping that you
might see fit to tell my story
though. Starting in March Hormel
Foods has been pestering me
because I registered spam.net as
my domain name. I have been
maintaining a page that is totally
unrelated to anything "Hormel",
but because I have no finical
resources, and I'm the "little
guy" Hormel has seemingly won.

So I need to find an avenue to let
people know what is happening,
what can happen to them, what we
must avoid! I am urging everyone
to show their support and
hopefully I will manage to get
back my domain name. If a mass of
consumers cry out, the beast we
call business will be tamed!

All I am asking is for people to
send me a note of support through
email, I am planning on forwarding
all messages to the customer
service department at Hormel. If
people really want to support my
cause and help the Internet then I
am urging them to boycott all
Hormel products altogether.

 

Um, gosh... boycott all Hormel
products altogether? Aren't you
asking a little much? What about
our daily Spam and Eggs, our
lunchly bowl o' Hormy Chili, our
nightly Spam Supreme avec shiny
pineapples? Even if a mass of
consumers does cry out, you can
rest assured nothing will tame the
beast we call business but
another, bigger business beast.
Disheartening, perhaps, but true.
Clearly you've never worked in a
customer service department -
let's just say that these thought-
provoking, carefully crafted
emails won't be delivered straight
to the CEO on a silver platter.
But then, all this "controversy"
won't hurt those hit counts, will
it? Just make sure they know your
new domain name.

 
[]

We knew that someone would want to
sue us eventually, but not for
this... Evileye111@aol.com
writes:

 

Your stickers fucked up my wallet!

Somewhere down the line I acquired
a number of your "see-thru"
suck.com stickers, and placed them
in my wallet, in the part that one
might place a picture of a loved
one.

That was a few weeks ago. Today I
noticed I couldn't remove some of
my other cards! THE SUCK STICKERS
WERE STUCK TO EVERYTHING!

I am really mad. It near ruined my
wallet. I think you should warn
people of the shabby quality of
these items before it affects more
people.

 

It takes some longer than others to
figure it out: You treat Suck as a
loved one, and you're only gonna
get screwed.

But, come one, those old stickers
are collector's items! They're
certain never to have a second run,
so scrape off the goo and put that
thing behind glass!

Anyway, as you might have guessed,
we're as likely to "warn" people
of the shabby quality of those
stickers as we are to "warn"
people of the shabby quality of
our small-minded columns. Please.
If you're not really mad, then
you're not sucking correctly.

 

And finally, a postcard from the
Suck intern, John:

 

Suck -

So far I have had a wonderful vacation.
In Sun Valley I have been spending most
of my time at a driving or shooting range.
Golf is not my sport, but shooting could
have some potential. I'll stop by and
say hello when I get back.

- John

 

courtesy of
Polly Esther
and you