Art by D.S.

AT SOME POINT IN RECENT HISTORY — 1993? — the act of aimlessly poking around the Internet via hypertext transfer protocol (“http” — anagram: the excretory transport flop) came to be marketed as “surfing” or even, to more hopeful marketeers, “cybersurfing.” Given that most of the surf dripped through 9600 or 14.4-baud modems into 386 or '030 receptacles to be stared at by people whose principal athletic achievements ranged from the bovine to the catatonic, I always thought the term “fishing” worked better. “Fishing the Net” has a certain rebellious quality to it, something that other substitutes for “surfing” — browsing, rummaging, shuffling — lack. Physically, the act of fishing the Net strikes an almost plagiaristic resemblance to live-bait fishing for largemouth bass from a boat in the middle of, for example, Lake Shelbyville, Illinois: Having spent a few thousand dollars on an 18-foot Bassmaster and adjacent tackle, one sits almost motionless, dangling one's worm and staring off into seemingly unfathomable space, awaiting the coincidence of a tug at one's line. It's expected that such a tug might take the better part of a day (“a bad day fishing is better than a . . .”), and that when it does, and when the line doesn't snap, the resulting download will be less likely a fish than a water-petrified shoe. The prevalence of pornography bobbing along on the brightly littered surface is evidence that many anglers have yet to learn the value of a loose grip on the rod, which increases one's sensitivity to impending nips such that one doesn't try reeling something in before having set one's hook.

The point of fishing, in my opinion: 1) fish; and 2) the possibility that amid the idyll, some transcendent, mystical coincidence might transpire before one's (and only one's) eyes.


The creators of Surf Fishing ( present you with a high-quality photograph of a dead, beached cobia and matching kayak, and invite you to “personalize and SEND this card NOW!” Scroll down past “Your Message Here — Sender” and you'll find they mean business. Simply fill out the form (including your choice of picture captions — ” . . . with a little faith . . .,” “Wishing I was Surf Fishing” or “Type your own message”), then preview and e-mail the dead cobia to your friends — for free! Your choice of peach, white, silver or violet backgrounds at no extra charge.

DOWNSTATE ILLINOIS, 1970: AN 8-YEAR-OLD was watching a half-hour fishing show starring Virgil, his sidekick Tim and various uncredited bass. In gear-dangling vests and hats, Virgil and Tim simply sat, rising only to set a hook, reel in a “Good feesh!” “Myup! Reel good feesh!” and model it for the viewers at home. De-hooking their catch, they'd briefly analyze their technique and then toss the feesh back and return to their perches on either side of an opaque cooler, where a few oblique Old Milwaukee­style comments would serve as a segue:

“Coupla cold ones'd be good right about now.”

“Myup. Reel good.”

“And we'll be right back with Tim's new Bluegill Crappie Casserole recipe.”

Goes to commercial.


Tired of paying big bucks for overrated seafood and computer maintenance? Download Ivan's “Quick” Technique for Cleaning Crappie (
(a 1.6MB AVI) and let largemouth-bass expert Ivan Martin show you his stuff. And/or rerun last year's corporate computer-maintenance MPEG hit ( for more of the same.

BACK IN ILLINOIS, THE COMMERCIAL is for a brand of soybean herbicide — possibly Treflan by Elanco ( or Prowl. Three farmers are interviewed in their three separate natural habitats, one in northern Illinois, another in central, another in southern: three white men in their early 50s (in blue jeans and caps and with mustaches and late-afternoon high-contrast squints) standing before their trusty plows or harvesters, explaining to someone off-camera the improvements in their lives correlating to their switch to Treflan by Elanco or Prowl to rid their farms of foxtail, velvet leaf and other popular herbivoral nightmares. As each man is interviewed, his name appears in the lower right corner. And all three men are named LaVern. LaVern Deeters, LaVern Myers, and I can't remember the other one. But LaVern Something. Never had I heard of let alone met a man named LaVern, and here were three of them thrown together in some sort of fiendish corporate triumvirate.


Where once the name of Virgil harked back to the supreme poet of imperial Rome (Publius Vergilius Maro, 70­19 B.C.), you'd now be hard pressed to hear it spoken in public anywhere outside of the Ozarks. Among 440 other classics, P. Virgil Maro's Aeneid, depicting Aeneas' founding of Rome, is available from MIT's Internet Classics Archive ( Good feesh.

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