VACUUM

for 28 October 1996. Updated every MONDAY.

 

 

Real Live Reader Mail! Send us a
letter, but we might shorten it to
make it better. Names are changed
upon request, if you think it
best.

 

We would be lying if we didn't
admit that reader mail this week
was unbelievably excellent. We
thank you, we embrace you,
gentlest readers. We'll take that
as a strong vote against further
personal email publication -
though it's true, we live for the
thrill of brazenly ignoring a
strong vote.

Let's start with An Entirely Other
Greg's "Rebel Without a Pause,"
since it heralded the most
applause from faithful readers
everywhere. Most notably, Someone
from Netscape writes:

I've just read your article, "Rebel
Without a Pause," about the
gadget-wars between Netscape and
Microsoft.

Though I work at Netscape, I'm one
of the "underground" people here -
there are many of us here who, for
various interpersonal/management
reasons, are neither fired nor
actively on a project. Such a
young company developing "fat"
like that seems wrong. But that's
neither here nor there.

[]

It's been disappointing working
here, and you have hit the nail on
the head when you say the new
stuff is "fun" and the maintenance
is not. That's not why I'm
disappointed, though. The
corporate culture here is some
sort of neo-yuppie phenomenon
where the Generation-Xers (yeah,
me included) have suddenly started
driving brand new BMWs, but
haven't yet parted with the
piercings and dreadlocks. Growing
too much too fast, Netscape is
"Baby Huey."

Why am I telling you this? I want
to give you a better picture of
what makes Netscape the way it is.

The atmosphere here is fast-paced,
bawdy, gaudy, wild and a bit
rough, but the attitude lacks
perspective. Human Resources
encourages the hiring of young
college grads over more
experienced workers, which seems
to me to be creating some
imbalance here.

I'm gravely disappointed in our
CEO, Jim Barksdale, who could
impart his vast experience to the
troops, yet some of the management
between him and the bottom rung
people are shamefully untrained.
(Not everyone fits that profile by
any means, but some are simply not
suited to the task). How this
isn't filtering up to Mr.
Barksdale, I don't know.

The war cry here is "Beat
Microsoft." The focus on another
company has become an obsession
that supplants the guileless
devotion to hard work that
consumed this place only a year
ago.

What I'm trying to get at is that
this company is populated with
young, short-sighted people who
don't see the value in creating
one really good product instead of
creating a whole family of
somewhat workable products.

I'm embarrassed that Netscape puts
out these frequent beta releases!
Netscape is a glitzy company of
kids, quickly put together, and
probably quickly torn apart. Don't
sweat it; it will all be over
sooner than you think.

 

"Glitzy company of kids"...
"quickly put together, quickly
torn apart"... if it weren't for
the specificity of your proper
nouns, how would we know that
you're really from Netscape, and
not across the street? Or across
the hall... or across the room...

 

Troy Jackson
<troy.jackson@medtronic.com>
writes:

YES! It is about time somebody with
some visibility (Even if it SUCKs)
threw a rant about the excremental
state of browser software. For the
last three years my anger over
having to get new and better
hardware to run increasingly more
worthless software has been
brewing up ulcers and violent
rants that threaten to
hospitalize/institutionalize me.
Why the @#$!@%$ can't anyone seem
to put together a Software Suite
or functional browser that won't
vomit up on a daily basis.

I have been reduced to
brick-throwing (foam rubber
unfortunately) fury on so many
occasions by "divide-by-zeroes"
and "GPF's" that if I haven't made
a backup in five minutes I feel
worse than riding a cheap carnival
ride with a hefty dose of crack
paranoia. I'm pretty young, but
retroactively lust for the days
when my damn Software worked
WITHOUT an extensive restructuring
of my machine and 2 OS
re-installs.

[]

Sick of Being an Unpaid Tester,
Troy E. Jackson

 

Of course, now you're an unpaid
Suck writer.

 

Many a Suck reader was thrilled to
find political commentary in the
pages of Suck. Ben Frueh
<bfrueh@allaire.com> writes:

Subject: Fuck the Debates, Fuck
Articles about the Debates

You couldn't write a political bit
satirical or funny enough for me
read it. The elections are three
weeks away for Christ's sake.
Isn't a solid year of media drivel
enough? Tell your fellow Sucksters
to lay off.

 

And Alan B. Thomas
<thomasab@acq.osd.mil> was
similarly encouraging, not just
regarding our political coverage,
but regarding all of our coverage:

So, the debates are boring and
predictable?

"The stupefying sameness of the
debate after its first 90/60/30
exchange..."

Do you actually read what you
write? The daily columns which
constitute the Suck screed are
more predictable than a mid-80s
edition of Pravda. Perhaps your
banner should read, "a fish, a
barrel, a smoking gun, and a
predictable column." Have you ever
considered retiring?

 

Why retire when you can get paid
for doing nothing? Or, at least,
very little. But apparently we
could do even less! Perhaps if
you'd help us understand what you
find predictable about our
columns, then maybe we can predict
how to change them to suit your
needs... But then again... Oh
well. Whatever. Never mind.

 

Many delayed but hilarious comments
poured in regarding E.L. Skinner's
Zero Baud, "4-Wheel Drivel."
Eric Irrgang
<meirrgang@mail.utexas.edu>
writes:

THANK YOU for writing this article.
This SUV phenomenon is one that
has confused me for some time now.
Though I have a step-brother who
uses his to speed down the
non-existent "back-roads" to get
to the shooting range and a cousin
who drives his on terrain that he
can't hike or ride his bike on, I
know many people (none relatives)
who pay huge amounts of money on
big huge "trucks" so they can
paint them all fancy, toy with the
body and show them at automotive
events for people who smoke crack.

Most of them have never seen mud.
I'm not saying that one way is
better than the other, mind you.
Hell, I never could figure out why
someone would want to go through
the effort of off-roading when
it's so much easier to take the
highways anywhere. In this
day-and-age, why NOT be lazy?!
(You get more time to smoke
crack.).... As you said, there are
people who legitimately take
advantage of the capabilities of
these crazy vehicles. It's like
the others just want everyone to
think they fall into this
category, for some macho reason. I
mean, how many body-builders do
you know who leave the gym to go
out to USE their muscles and crush
peoples' skulls or lift cars?....

[T]here's a cowboy somewhere in the
cattle ranges of West Texas or the
Australian outback who NEEDS a
Bronco or some such thing, with
power, carrying capacity, 4wd, and
ground clearance, to do his job.
The contradiction, though, seems
to come with the 'S' in 'SUV.'
Unless, of course, you're a
rancher in Montana, who lives far
from the ranch and works on a
tight schedule, but you'd have to
be smoking crack...

 

That cowboy (who needs a good 4WD),
Steve F. Milstead
<bigbend@juno.com>, writes:

Liked your piece on poor ol' Isuzu
& the urban suv phenomenon.

I live in Terrell County, Texas.
We're one of the biggest counties
in the state (bigger than some
states); yet we have fewer than a
thousand humans here. The US
Government still classifies us
formally as a "frontier." Note:
use care in saying there is no
wilderness left in North America.
I'm in spots everyday where there
hasn't been another human since
before the Comancheros.

If it wasn't for my tough little
(Isuzu) 4WD vehicle, I'd have to
pack it up and leave the county.
Getting to the office for me, on
some days, means 4-6 hours of
utilizing the handy 4WD feature.
Yet I seldom need the rear window
washer/wiper feature - or the
6-speaker jillion watt
surround-sound audio system. Hell.
We can't even pick up a radio
station out here. And cassette
tapes last about a week in the
hot, dusty environment.

This particular model came with
mudflaps that hang down almost to
the ground. I tore them off on the
rocks in the first few hours...

[]

Point is simple. I called every
dealer within 500 miles and begged
for a "basic model" without all
these bells & whistles. All I want
is 4WD and a seat - in a
dependable vehicle. These little
japanese trucks ARE dependable. I
put 100 thousand miles on my last
one, mostly offroad, and it acted
like we'd just begun our romance.
But the bells & whistles are
standard issue. And I pay. And
pay.

Sure would be nice if the social
elites in Austin and Seattle would
switch to some other status
indicator and leave the 4WD
vehicles to those of us who gotta
have 'em. Maybe then I could get
one without electric windows - the
first feature to break on ANY
vehicle in my part of the world.

Ciao fer nao,

Steve Milstead
Somewhere South of
Sanderson Terrell County,
Texas

 

Thanks for writing, Steve. Have you
considered a) taking a shot at
Hollywood, b) running for public
office, or c) appearing in a
full-page, glossy ad for Isuzu?
The American public craves
authenticity, and you, my boy, are
keeping it real. You may not know
this, but "real" is real rare in
these parts. Please write us more
often.

 

Gretchen Anderson
<ganderson@mail.ikonic.com>
writes:

"If the sordid histories of Amtrak
and Greyhound have taught us
anything, it's that we're simply
too selfish and impatient - and,
perhaps, too self-important - for
trains and buses. "

Have you ever ridden Amtrak or
Greyhound? I know we're all lazy,
but they're not trying too hard to
win business. I'll bet you dollars
for donuts that Amtrak has never
heard of the expression "on time."
And as for Greyhound, well -
sitting on a dingy bus that smells
of urine with the sounds of
transient, suburb-kid, deadheads
("And then when I took the third
tab, Jerry just rocked!!") is at
least as bad for one's vision of
the human race, as driving is bad
for the ozone.

 

Ye gods, Gretchen! Open your mind!
Of course deadheads constitute the
least tolerable subculture on the
face of the planet, but realize
that every encounter with them is
a little test - a test of your
strength, of your centeredness, a
test of your ability to open your
mind to a whole different horizon,
albeit one that embraces cutesy
dancing bears, smelly blankets,
drum circles, utterly idiotic
dancing, the stench of patchouli
oil and BO, a pervasive
juxtaposition of roses and skulls,
ratty hairdos, soggy grilled
cheese sandwiches, overuse of the
phrase "I need a miracle"...
Actually, forget it. There is no
level of consciousness high enough
to overlook those offenses.

 

E.L. Skinner's "Eurotrashed" brought
many a complaint from Europeans
thinking that we were trashing
their lifestylesTM. Pia Krentzel
<pia.krentzel@telenordia.se>
writes:

I just read your column and I must
say that it's very clever and sort
of interesting (it doesn't end the
world hunger but fun to read), but
why this hate towards Europeans?
Did a French girl ditch you once?
I must say, as a Swede, that I
feel a little curious about you
now. Where does all these
judgmental ideas come from? And
saying that the interest for
Europeans things are new, and
stupid and so on. Coffee is not
European, I mean, have you ever
seen a coffebean field in France,
Germany or Denmark? Americans
have, as you said, no history more
than a couple of hundred years but
that is no reason to dislike other
countries who do. I think that you
are an intelligent creature on the
wrong track here and need to get
perspectives.

Are Budwiser a good beer? I think
not, but that is my personal
opinion. German beer is good and I
like Swedish beer too. But what I
really want to ask you is: Do the
border within the original idea
really matter? If it were the
other way around maybe you bee
writing how uncivilized Americans
were, and that their beer were f-n
close to water and so on. Are you
jealous of countries who have
generations of receipts? Who have
traditions? If you don't like the
European "invasion" of America,
why are you "invading" Europe? why
are there Macdonalds, 7Eleven and
General Motors everywhere? You
shouldn't through rocks in a house
of glass (old Swedish saying)
which means that you should
practice what you preach sort of.

 

E.L. Skinner responds:
[]

Thanks - Merci! Takk! - for your
insightful comments. We hope you
didn't mistake our little screed
for "Eurobashing." Afterall, love
knows no borders, and neither does
Suck. We hope you enjoy American
products as much as we enjoy
Volvos, the Nobel Peace Prize,
and... er, lutefisk.

We recognize all too well the value
of your Swedish proverb "Those who
live in glass houses shouldn't
throw rocks" - but wasn't that a
Billy Joel album? Besides, we
Americans like to say "Those who
live in glass houses should move
or buy lots of curtains."

(We're just having fun - the
notorious American sense of humor,
you understand.)

Thanks again for writing! By the
way, the "girl who ditched me" was
Austrian.

 

Of Beau Nose's "Screaming in a
Vacuum
," Jack Wilson
<deejay@cu-online.com> writes:

Nice article. I simply can't wait
to see next week's Vacuum; angry
email from hundreds of IRC losers
(er, well, dozens anyway... not
sure how many of them can actually
read) should be even more
entertaining than crack.

 

Well then, read on! Todd
<antigrav@ix.netcom.com> writes:

Obviously you don't understand the
wider picture. The web will never
be a place for chatting the only
problem is that IRC hasn't been
upgraded for years. People like
you sit on your hands and trash an
efficient form of communication.
You don't try to let people know
what they can do with it, you
don't create hype. You don't do
anything that might cause a
company to implement a new program
to work with IRC and bring a
larger audience. You are central
to the web. If you would encourage
people to visit IRC, perhaps then
there would be development. What
is your vision? An internet with
multiple scattered chat networks
on web pages? Are you insane?

I suppose this yellow journalism:
"its essentially pedophilic
nature." is the best you can do.
You make a simple doo daa web page
with a couple of articles trashing
the internet and then tell the
mass media who doesn't understand
the internet anyway. Money money
money. The only reason I read your
article was because a co-worker
told me about it. I don't have
time for you, and do the world a
favor, don't pay your next $50
domain name registration fee, ok?

Welcome to the internet, obviously
you haven't been here for long.

 

Oh, you've certainly got our
number! In fact, we just rigged up
our Performa and started cruising
this thing you call IRC about a
month ago. We immediately sat on
our hands and yelped, "This
sucks!" and put it on a doo daa
web page. We only read your letter
because that coworker told you to
check out our article - tell that
coworker guy he's a jerk! We don't
have time for this, mister, we've
got more shallow assessments to
churn out!

 

Of last week's Hit and Runs,
particularly the one in which we
cited P.O.V.'s "breathless-yet-
Details-oriented" and
Swing-ish ways, Larry Smith
<lsmith@livewire.com> writes:

Subject: POV wants to buy you a
drink

One thing, and then I have GOT to
get to work, darlings: if you
continue to mention Swing in the
same breath as POV (a venture
which has survived with day jobs,
18-hour days and hard work before
an investment made life mildly
bearable, not unlike Suck
pre-HotWired buy), we will deploy
special agent Wieners to get you
all. He is taller than you and
knows where you live.

Wishing you world peace, strong
lattes, and a long life of merry
suckstering, Larry Smith Associate
Editor POV Editor, boulevards.com

 

We understand your rage in
implicitly being compared to
Swing, scourge of the magazine
world. But let's face facts: that
Wieners boy couldn't throw a punch
to save his life, giant though he
may be! Tell that biatch to step
off before he gets an X-tra Large
Beatdown, Sucky-style.

 

Steven B. Chuck
<steven.b@electromedia.com>
writes:

Unless I missed something (and I
miss a lot) I would have thought
that dumping an ad into your
CONTENT in manner more brazen (and
less humorous) than the product
placement scenes in Wayne's World
would have been accompanied by a
little (some?) fanfare on your
part. Not even set off by frames
and you missed out on another
chance to call yourselves whores.

What gives?

Granted that the Sony blurb was,
uh, Sony advertising, but I am
assuming that you did get paid for
it. I'd be real fucking
disappointed if you tell me you
didn't get paid for that shit. Is
this is an illustration of the
"content v. advertising" debate -
I mean, that piece wasn't so
stupid or funny that you included
it as content, right? Did you
include that as content and not
even ask for money? I know that in
a way every link you include is
advertising, but they're SONY.
They pay for anything.

Please clarify. Also include jpegs
of Ana and Heather.

 

Thank you for employing the
question "What gives?" in your
letter. It's one of the fish's
favorite things to say.
Unfortunately, in this case, we
got jack shit. You aren't
supposed to get paid for public
service announcements - or at
least that's what Sony told us.
Then again, we felt it was our
duty to let the masses know what
was going down in "the hood."
Misunderstanding only breeds fear,
you know. For instance, can you
believe that people are upset
about "drivebys"? Apparently,
that's just young people's way of
satisfying their curiosity, or, as
Sony translated, "assessing the
situation."

And speaking of curiosity, check
out the GIFs of Ana and Heather
below - suffice it to say Terry's
illustrations never do those two
justice. They're virtually
goddesses! Uh, virtually.

 


 

Let's end with some good wishes
from Bruce R. Allen
<ballen@ntr.net>, shall we?

What an unfortunate set of
circumstances you all have
entered. A world that can benefit
from keen insight and social
commentary, won't.

A wealth of talent and brilliant
insight wasted on dunderheads that
think sucking is cool.

You mention in your tech notes that
you still can't figure out what it
takes to make Netscape's whats'
cool page. Well duh, as you say.

May you wallow in obscurity until
you mature.

 

Wallowing in obscurity is highly
underrated, sir. You're mature and
you're enjoying it, aren't you?

 

words
Polly Esther

pictures
Terry Colon