Thursday, April 17, 1997
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Understanding Mediocrity
by Marsha McLuhan

Hall-of-Famers from across the spectrum of desire, locked together in a room with Hall-of-Famers from across the spectrum of design.

That's where Marsha McLuhan's latest business-thriller, Understanding Mediocrity (Smirnoff, 303 pages, $24.95) begins and ends, copping, along the way, a kind of "Unified Feel Theory," which is made that much worse, for being really not even so bad, after all.

But, rather than, you know, like, read the fucking book, or something, we simply e-mailed McLuhan, to try to get her take on the book, now that it's become just a fucking box, just a unit, just a fucking piece of merchandise, just product, just another fucking SKU or whatever, to her, and she can be totally objective about it.


I'm a reporter with SWJ and rather than, you know, like, read your fucking book an all, I thought I'd e-mail you and get you to do my work for me. OK?

So like either tell me everything about yourself and the book, especially things like whether you are able to be jerking someone off with one hand, while writing it (the book) with the other hand? -- or else answer this one question: 'Now that Understanding Mediocrity (this is you speaking, get it?) is just a fucking box, just a unit, just a fucking piece of merchandise, just product, just another fucking SKU or whatever, I have come to realize..... (and then fill in the rest).

Thanks. And Please answer this today as my deadline is this afternoon.


Rebecca Kramer,
Street Wall Journal, or whatever


Thanks for giving me the opportunity to talk about my new book, "Understanding Mediocrity: Inside Wired and Suck," or whatever.

As you probably know, even if you haven't read it, it is about my travels in the Himalayas or wherever, to find, you know, the ancient reclusive shamans with the esoteric knowledge of either the secret language of cats or the secrets of "early reincarnation" -- which is when the soul leaves the body years before its actual physical death.

Though I went on this quest for purely spiritual reasons, I was also fairly sure I'd be able to at least, cash in on one of these esoteric secrets or other, in the event that neither was able to, you know, like, save my fucking ass, beyond a reasonable doubt.

In my search, I fell through many black holes, and rode too many compression algorithms too far in the wrong directions.

My first lead took me to Ivory Tower, Texas, where James Austin had written "Price and Prejudice," and where I had scheduled an interview with the One-Minute Vampire who came in from the cold, or whatever.

I turned on the tape recorder:

"I was born in Ivory Tower, Texas," she began, "Where James Austin wrote 'Price and Prejudice,' and where Faith Crapshoot started the world famous International House of Panic Attacks. So just shut the fuck up, and mind your own business. Interview Over."

Abruptly, she got up to leave.

"Wait a minute," I said to the One-Minute Vampire, "I have travelled all this way at great risk in order to learn either the language of cats or the secret of early reincarnation, or at least, how to find some reclusive esoteric Himalayan shaman. But, if you're in a hurry, I'd settle for knowing, you know, the true nature of the Self or whatever. You know, I mean, the Self that's left when you subtract Nature and Nurture."

The One Minute Vampire returned and sat down.

"These ideas I am about to give you," she said, coldly, "Are simply for selling and re-selling. They are not in any way to be used for believing in, living by, or trying to understand."

"Of course," I said "I understand completely."

"And you understand," she continued, without missing a beat, "That once you hear what I have to say, you'll have no choice but to be, from that moment on, the biggest fucking asshole you can possibly be.

"And that once you're in that competition," she went on, "You can NEVER opt out -- and only by destroying every one else first, in a most vicious and brutal fashion, can you seemingly rise above it all and enter the hallowed Hall of Fame of the top 10 most utter fucking assholes of all time."

I nodded, and the One Minute Vampire took out her CDA, and held the tiny screen so we both could see it.

"Once upon a time, I was, like you, a totally empty, totally soulless person who wanted to be a more effective manager" she said, "And so I went looking all over the world for a world that was like that, where thinking about it automatically eliminated it, so you didn't have to think about it anymore.

"And, like you, I have interviewed many One Minute Vampires and many One Minute Assholes, and then some. And everyone of them gave me the same fucking answer."

I was ready to hear the answer, but she stopped abruptly and stared silently off into space.

"I'm ready to hear the answer," I said, trying not to be too intrusive, yet, well, you know...

Without moving or changing expression, she started talking -- unquestionably to me, but without ever turning or gesturing in my direction.

"Wyatt Arp, the famous sculptor-sheriff," she began, "Had just kidnapped the moon, and was working on the ransom note he'd send to the Sun:

"'If you ever want to see your fucking earth's moon again,' he wrote, 'Then leave US$120 billion dollars in unmarked bills, small denominations, in the phone booth on a corner to be named at a later date. No bait money, no dye-paks.'

"But then he got hung up on which phone booth to use for the drop, so he called his good friend Sonny Bono, for advice.

"'Fuck the Sun,' Sonny Bono said. 'Blackmail the fucking galaxy, man! They've got all the bucks!'

"'But they care less,' Arp said, 'And are less likely to pay at all.'"

But, before she could finish the story, she broke down laughing and had to be carried out by Janet Reno, in a strait jacket.

So now I just had to wait there, in this fucking Texas town, till the next mystic shaman or whoever came through with the answer to the search I couldn't even remember what it was about anymore.

So while I was waiting there, with nothing happening, and nothing better to do than read some recent issues of Wired and Suck, I was suddenly inspired by the "whole new world" they presented, and so, instead of writing the book I had intended, called, "How to Blow Yourself," I wound up writing this book, instead, about understanding Wired.

Thank you for giving me this golden opportunity, which I'm sure will bring many showers of possibility, hope, and suicide.

-- Marsha McLuhan


Thanks so much for the timely response. Unfortunately, because of, you know, like my editor an all, I was only able to use the part about the hand job. But we both really enjoyed all the other stuff, too.

-- Rebecca


Copyright (c) 1997 by C3F