Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Missing Suck

Hit And Run, RIP
This week, both Slate and are celebrating their 10th anniversaries of being online. Slate is being deliberately contrarian as is their almost stereotypical modus operandi. The folks are looking back nostalgically at the dawn of the internet era. Even Joel Achenbach is crowing about his contribution to cyberspace and moaning about the challenges of bringing new humorous content to the web every day. Both of these websites deserve some respect for their vision and determination. But one website predated even them.

I would instead like to mark a different sort of anniversary. A little over five years ago on June 8, 2001, went fishing and never came back. It didn’t even make it’s sixth year anniversary, let alone the tenth, which would have been last August. Matt Sharkey has written the definitive history of its short chaotic life. Amazingly the full site is still available, frozen in amber complete with archives.

Suck was one of my first “must read” sites on the internet. It’s motto was “A Fish. A Barrel. A Smoking Gun.” It took an iconoclastic look at the internet, technology, pop culture, publishing, or any other topic deserving ridicule. In many ways it was an online soulmate of Spy Magazine, fitting in well with my cynical world view.

Suck had a lot of bloggish features that marked it as being way ahead of its time. When many websites were (and many still are) garish splashes of every possible color with little boxes all over the page gasping for attention, Suck had centered text double-spaced down the center of the page. Links to recent articles were in the left column and other stuff filled the right column. It was a masterpiece of legible web design and a style that deserves to be emulated. The Google home page takes distinct clues from the uncluttered simplicity of Suck.

It also had fresh new original content daily, which was rare in the online world back then. Most other sites had a home page with links to infrequently updated new content. Suck put the new stuff right on the front page every day, making it very sticky and addictive. My day wasn’t over until I saw the new article (blogpost wasn't even a word yet).

The most brilliant part of the site were the inline hypertext links. Sometimes they were an important part of the article, other times they led to some side issue, but often they were just a bit of whimsy that added an entire new layer to the humor. Unfortunately banner ads and pop-ups have conditioned us not to click on links, but the links were the icing of the rich moist cake that was Suck.

Without Suck, there would not have been Defamer or Gawker or Wonkette. Especially Wonkette. Ana Marie Cox wrote under the nom de joke Ann O’Tate at Suck and took that “we’re barely sober here” style to Washington with her. Another great writer was Heather Havrilesky and her alter ego, the drunk, bitter, lonely Polly Esther, who teamed with the inimitable Terry Colon. Their cartoons mocked corporate life in the technology world in a way that makes Dilbert look like Family Circus. I still get a nostalgic tear every time I see Colon's artwork in Time or Esquire or some other bastion of the MainStreamMedia™.

Suck's alumni are now strewn across cyberspace, where they continue to write funny good stuff, but that once in a lifetime lightning in a bottle has escaped. I still surf my favorite sites daily for a chuckle or a snarky observation and there are plenty of sites that provide them.
But, sometimes I just miss Suck.


Elizabeth said...

Great post, I'll have to check out the archives.

Anonymous said...

"A little over five years ago on June 8, 2001, went fishing and never came back. It didn't even make it's five year anniversary, let alone the tenth, which would have been last August."

math ... does ... not ... compute...

If it's 10th anniversary would have been August 1995, then it was almost 6 in June 2001 ... did you mean "next August."

Sorry for the pedantry. I'm in the middle of editing a bunch of stuff. It's hard to turn of that part of your brain!


Anonymous said...

Sorry for the pedantry. I'm in the middle of editing a bunch of stuff. It's hard to turn of that part of your brain!

Though apparently I was totally capable of turning it off long enough to make several embarassing typos, including the dreaded "it's/its" mixup. D'oh!


yellojkt said...

Thanks for the proof-reading, josh. I've gone and fixed the text.

Anonymous said...

Heather Havrilesky is my golden god and she, along with King Kaufman, are the only things keeping me subscribing to that ever more inane website.

Marc said...

Suck sounds similar to "McSweeney's" which is similar to High-brow comedy. I read it daily. Some days it's funnier that others, some days its boring. It's mostly humorous, though.

yellojkt said...

I didn't even realize Heather writes the "I Like To Watch" column until I saw it on her blog. My taste in Salon columns was justified. She writes a little too much about reality shows, but then so does Lisa de Moraes of the Washington Post. I guess it's just the demands of the beat.

McSweeney's is more arch and self-conciously literary than Suck was. The word "snarky" had to have been invented for Suck.

Zachary said...

It won't succeed as a matter of fact, that's what I believe.
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