Are Girl Scout Cookies Healthy?


No. But this is going to be a really short article
without some additional context...

Those cute little girls selling cookies around your neighbor are delivering junk-food snacks that are astonishingly unhealthy. ( Just four Samoas have 50% of your recommended saturated fat intake for the day... ) To be fair, the Girl Scouts do offer a healthier choice -- the Cranberry Citrus Crisp, which is their one cookie with absolutely no saturated fat whatsoever. Unfortunately, it's not being sold by most of the troops (with many offering just the six most popular cookies). And apparently half the troops in America get their cookies from a bakery which isn't even offering it.

Wait, you're still thinking about buying some delicious cookies, aren't you? Okay, then here's some neat trivia. In 2012, that Samoa -- also called a "Caramel deLite" -- was their second most-popular cookie (representing 19% of all cookie sales). But the Thin Mint was still their most popular cookie, representing 25% of all cookie sales. Other popular cookies included the Tagalong/Peanut Butter Patty (13%), the Do-si-do/Peanut Butter Sandwich (11%) and the Shortbread/Trefoils (9%). Together, just these five cookies accounted for 77% of all cookies sold.



All this information comes from the official FAQ for Girl Scout Cookies, which helpfully points out that you can even buy ice cream with Girl Scout cookies in it. And surprisingly, it's actually more healthy than the cookies themselves. An entire half cup of ice cream -- even the "Girl Scout Cookies Samoas" flavor from Breyers -- contains less fat and less sugar than four actual Samoa cookies! It's even got less sodium and fewer carbohydrates -- so the message is clear. If you want to fight childhood obesity, feed your children Girl Scout Cookie ice cream instead of actual Girl Scout cookies!


I mean, seriously. Here's how much of your "recommended daily allowance" of saturated fat will get gobbled up by just four Girl Scout cookies...

Caramel deLites (Samoas)50%
Tagalongs 50%
Thanks-A-Lot 44%
Peanut Butter Patties 40%
Lemonades 40%
Thin Mints 25%
Chocolate Chip Shortbread23%
Thank U Berry Munch 20%
Dulce de Leche 18%
Peanut Butter Sandwich 17%
Do-si-dos 13.3%
Trefoils 10.4%
Shortbread 10%
Savannah Smiles 6.4%
Cranberry Citrus Crisps 0%


And presumably this nutritional information is for adults, meaning a four-cookie serving would be even less healthy for your kids.


But what's really stunning is the way their nutritional information is being presented. For example, in 2011, the Los Angeles Times (citing The Chicago Tribune), made this startling allegation.
The Girl Scouts, on their honor, pledge that the top-selling cookies have no trans-fats.

But they do...

The Samoas, Thin Mints, and Tagalongs seem to be exploiting what's basically a loophole in the food-labeling rules of the FDA, according to the Tribune. If a product's serving size contains less than half a gram of trans-fats, they're allowed to report that as zero percent. So instead of calculating the amount of the dangerous substance in a standard four-cookie serving, for those cookies the calculation is instead performed on a smaller two-cookie serving size. Magically, the dangerous trans fats disappear...and it also results in the apperance of less fat, sugar, and other unhealthy ingredients.



To be fair, the Girl Scouts do acknowledge this trick on their web site -- sort of. They write honestly that "Selected varieties can claim 100% trans fat–free status," from which you can infer that yes, there are still trans fats in the other cookies. (They even put the phrase "zero trans fat per serving" in quotation marks, calling attention to the fact that it's more of a figure of speech...) According to the Tribune, the offending ingredient with the trans fat is partially-hydrogenated oil -- and to this day, you can still see it on the ingredient list for at least five different girl scout cookies.

     Thin Mints
     Samoas/Caramel deLites
     Tagalongs/Peanut Butter Patties
     Thanks-a-Lot
     Lemonades

This becomes more significant when you remember that in just 2007, the Girl Scouts sold over 200 million boxes of cookies. (And the first three cookies on that list accounted for 57% of all cookies sold in 2012.) Maybe it's a good thing that in 2009, the Girl Scouts actually reduced the number of cookies included in each box of Thin Mints, Do-Si-Dos and Tagalongs.

Because while they may be tasty, that doesn't mean that they're healthy!

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The Eight Geekiest Halloween Costumes


I think every geek secretly wants to dress up as a zombie, and then go on a rampage to destroy mindless middle-managers. But that's probably just me — and it turns out there's some even better ideas for Halloween costumes.


1. Gollum from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy

In a way, this latex Gollum mask resembles the very soul of trick-or-treaters. When it comes to sugar-y candies, "We wants it, we needs it. Must have the precious..." No wonder America is fighting an epidemic of obesity!




2. Yoda from the Star Wars movies

You don't have to fly from Tatooine if you're seeking the great Jedi master Yoda. Apparently he's co-hosting The Today Show with Kathie Lee Gifford. In 2009, news co-anchor Hoda Kotb turned up this fantastic Yoda costume, while Gifford dressed as C-3PO, and Al Roker become Han Solo.

But they must really hate co-host Ann Curry, because they made her wear a Darth Vader costume throughout the entire show...


3. Trinity from The Matrix

Everyone wants to look cool for Halloween, and let's face it, there's no cooler costume idea for geeks than the crew from The Matrix. Trinity is a machine's worst enemy, she's lethal with martial arts, she's liberated herself from the Matrix, and oh yeah, once she even brought Keanu Reeves back from the dead.

But more importantly, she really knows how to rock a black latex trench coat!



4. Iron Man from The Avengers

You know what would make this costume even better? If it actually shot real repulsor beams. Just imagine a patronizing suburbanite greeting a cute little Tony Stark wannabe — and suddenly their doorstep gets incinerated by a high-voltage blast of pure electrical energy. "Trick or treat!" says the little Tony Stark wannabe.

"I'm still mad about last year, when you gave everybody apples."

And apparently, so are the rest of the Avengers...






5. Angry Birds

There's nothing geekier than basing your Halloween costume on the characters from a phone app!

And for extra effect, make snarling bird noises whenever you get to somebody's house — and then hurl your body against their walls to see if you can knock them over.



6. Hagrid from the Harry Potter movies

There's already something Halloween-y already about a school for witchcraft and wizardry. But to embody its heart and soul, try dressing up as gruff, loveable caretaker, Hagrid, who makes friends with everybody — including spiders and griffins.

And if anyone gets tired while trick-or-treating, you can just drive them home in your flying motorcycle



7. The Scooby Doo gang

I was always pretty sure that Velma was a lesbian, that Shaggy was a stoner, and that the ghost would always turn out to be someone like old man Johnson, who'd wanted all that gold for himself. (And he would've gotten away with it, too, if it hadn't been for these meddling kids...) But after 40 years of chasing ghosts, the Scooby-Doo gang are all cultural touchstones — and the one with the glasses has become real a nerd girl icon.

Now marketers are selling a complete set of costumes for each character. But of course, you can always try making your own costumes at home...




8. Beaker from The Muppets

Speaking of annoying middle managers, what's the deal with Dr. Bunsen Honeydew? Whenever I watched The Muppet Show, I felt sorry for his poor red-haired lab assistant Beaker, who always seemed to find himself trapped in the internship from hell.


Week after week, Beaker was called on to demonstrate one dangerous invention after another. ("At last, your family can be protected from the heartbreak of gorilla invasion...") But in 2011, someone finally created this loving Halloween tribute to the world's least-lucky muppet.

It's nice to think that he finally escaped the world of science altogether, and is now just trolling around the neighborhood collecting candy on Halloween!



See Also:
The 10 Best Monster Ads
Lost 'Horrors' Ending Found on YouTube
Will 'The Hunt for Gollum' Satisfy True Fans?
The Mormon Bigfoot Genesis Theory
The Ghost of the D.C. Madam
Why Thomas S. Roche Dreams of a Zombie Apocalypse Dead Woman Blogging

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The Secrets of Stieg Larsson

Photo of Stieg Larsson author of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
One of Amazon's best-selling Kindle bloggers shares the
startling real-life backstory behind The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Last spring, Random House made a startling announcement. One of their authors had made e-book history, becoming the first author ever to sell one million digital copies of a single book. But of course, their announcement was haunted by a dark irony. It was six years after that author's death — and a life of mysterious secrets.

The book is "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," by Stieg Larsson (who died of a heart attack in 2004 at the age of 50). And there's an even darker secret behind the origins of the book. Larsson was haunted by an assault on a young woman that he'd witnessed in his own teenaged years. That's according to a new biography about his life which was just released in September.



"For Larsson geeks such as myself, the unearthed details of his past and the fond recollections of his ceaseless pursuit of justice are gripping," wrote one reviewer. 12 years before his death, Larsson had started an intense friendship with another Swedish journalist named Kurdo Baksi. In fact, Baksi actually appears as himself in Larsson's final book, "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest." Its hero, Mikael Blomkvist, visits the offices of Black/White Publishing, and then later reads about his own visit in a surveillance report.
It was 2:30 in the afternoon. He didn't have an appointment, but the editor, Kurdo Baksi, was in and delighted to see him.

"Hello there," he said heartily. "Why don't you ever come and visit me anymore?"

"I'm here to see you right now," Blomkvist said.

"Sure, but it's been three years since the last time."

They shook hands...

In the novel, the two are old friends, since Baksi had begun his career publishing that magazine secretly at night, later hiring Mikael as a proofreader. ("Blomkvist sat on a sofa while Baksi got coffee from a machine in the hallway. They chatted for a while, the way you do when you haven't seen someone for some time, but they were constantly by Baksi's mobile...People called from all over the world to talk to Baksi.") Then Mikael requests an introduction to Baksi's Kurdish uncle, because of his expertise in getting immigration-related residency permits.
Baksi knew that Blomkvist was busy planning some sort of mischief, which he was famous for doing. They might not have been best friends, but they never argued either, and Blomkvist had never hesitated if Baksi asked him a favour.

"Am I going to get mixed up in something I ought to know about?"

"You're not going to get involved... And I repeat, I won't ask him to do anything illegal."

This assurance was enough for Baksi. Blomkvist stood up. "I owe you one."

"We always owe each other one."

The real-life Baksi tells a story that seems so intertwined with the novels, at first I had to wonder if it was a hoax. But "Baksi walks the line between grieving friend and impartial investigator reasonably well..." a reviewer noted, and another article by ABC News confirms that the real-life Baksi does publish a magazine about race relations that's called Black/White. And they also report that Baksi's book -- titled "Stieg Larsson, My Friend" -- ultimately clarifies a surprising connection between what Larsson wrote and his own childhood. This part of the story is a little graphic, but it ends with a teenaged girl shouting "I will never forgive you."

In 1969, 15-year-old Stieg Larsson had watched, terrified, and did nothing as three friends had raped a 15-year-old girl. Larsson later phoned her to apologize (though she shouted "I will never forgive you"), and according to Baksi, the author was haunted by the incident for the rest of his life. "It was inevitable that he would realize afterwards that he could have acted and possibly prevented the rape." The girl's name was Lisbeth -- and in his book, Stieg gave her name to his own empowered heroine.



Each section of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" opens with a statistic about the number of assaults on women. Baksi believes the novels were "his way of apologizing", according to one article, and Baksi himself remains committed to avenging that 1969 assault. ("I don't even know if Lisbeth is alive," he tells the reporter, "But it's very important to me.") The book's original title was "Men Who Hate Women," and there were two other news events which moved the author to write it. A fashion model was killed in 2001 when she'd tried to end a relationship with a boyfriend, and the same year a Swedish-Kurdish woman was killed when she tried to break away from her father.

Possibly because of the author's real-life commitment, his books ultimately shattered several records in the publishing industry. The combined e-book sales for all three books in the trilogy is more than three million, Larsson's publishers told the New York Times. And in both print and non-print editions, it sells another half a million copies each month. In the United States, hardcover sales alone were 300,000 copies for "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" -- which was only released in the U.S. in September of 2008 -- and the trilogy has sold nearly 17 million copies.

There's a rumor that a manuscript exists for a fourth, "nearly finished" book. (Before his death, Larsson had claimed to have ideas for at least 10 more books in the series.) Ironically, his widow has earned a single penny from the sales of the book. (Playing off of Larsson's title, one article described her as "The Girl Who Didn't Inherit a Fortune.")

I've read "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," and it really is quite a story. And I also remember last year, when all three of Larsson's e-books simultaneously occupied the #1, #2, and #3 spots on Amazon's best-seller list. There's another biography about Larsson's life, written by an expert on crime fiction, who notes that Stieg Larsson's life "would be remembered as truly extraordinary even had his trilogy never been published. Larsson was a workaholic: a political activist, photographer, graphic designer, a respected journalist, and the editor of numerous science fiction magazines." (Adding "At night, to relax, he wrote crime novels…")

But in one of the great ironies, that biography of the best-selling e-book author has never actually been released in an e-book format. When the book was released last year, I looked on the positive side, noting that "it’s nice to see that in the middle of the book-publishing feeding frenzy, the author himself is receiving some genuine appreciation from the people who knew and remembered him."

And with the release of "Stieg Larsson, My Friend," that's even more true.


Read this author's Kindle blog online, or click here for a free two-week subscription on your Kindle!

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Resurrecting Reznor’s ’90s Discovery – Mondo Vanilli (an Interview)


Let's see if I've got this straight...

Once upon a time, there were some bizarre mid-80s songs riffing on the Beatles — something about the 20th anniversary of the summer of love. They fell into the glow surrounding Mondo 2000 magazine, and in a deconstructive burst of creativity, became a flexible vinyl record inside the printed magazine. Almost. But then the same creative team decided to do "something disrespectful and different " to the industrial and acid house music of the mid-90s's — and then somehow, Trent Reznor gets involved. (At the mansion where Charles Manson murdered Sharon Tate — but that's another story.)

Reznor's label ultimately signed "Mondo Vanilli", but then refused to release their first (and only) album, I.O.U. Babe. Nearly 20 years later that lost album suddenly re-surfaced on the web, crashed all the servers, and then continued falling through time. The whole album is now finally available for downloading for just 50 cents at BandCamp.com (which also offers a full preview), and re-visiting it all now is like an alternate history of the '90s. R.U. Sirius's original band "The Merry Tweeksters" gets reincarnated into "Mondo Vanilli" while resurrecting some lyrics from Sirius's forgotten '80s band "The Party Dogs" — and also in the mind-bending mix were a performance artist named Sim1 3Arm with some cool music composed by Scrappi DuChamp (and a crazy music theory professor lurking somewhere in the background).



But the band hoped to pioneered what every '90s visionary would later prescribe — virtual reality. Mondo Vanilli's shows dispensed with the cliched self-indulgent ritual of an actual performance, and instead inadvertently preserved what the "Unheard Music" blog called "A lost artifact from the heady cyberdaze of the 1990s Bay Area." And in another web miracle, the voices behind this virtual phenomenon have impossibly become real again. Just as mysteriously, R.U. Sirius materialized before me, and began explaining what it all means.

10 Zen Monkeys: You were eyeing a six-album deal with Reznor's label at one point. Was that as exciting as it sounds?

RU SIRIUS: Suddenly, we were confronted with the idea of a serious major rock career.  Would I be the first mildly overweight, weird-looking lead singer to launch into rock stardom at 41 years old?  Anything seemed possible.  On the other hand, the contract locked us in to a record company for a long time and it looked ugly.   So anything also seemed impossible.

10Z: But you were also looking at touring nationally as a breakthrough performance art "phenomenon".  So what kind of cyber-fame visions were sparkling in your eyes?

RU: We were asked about touring.  I don't believe there had ever been a touring rock band that eschewed ordinary performance in an absolute sense.  Maybe The Residents, but they were sort of more outside traditional rock, musically.  We began to daydream about something on a Robert Wilson scale and sent along a proposal for the theatrical presentation to the record company, which I'm sure scared the crap out of them.  

If I remember, we also suggested that rather than tour like a band, we would tour like a theater group.   So we could do a few weeks in San Francisco and a few weeks in NYC...  that sort of thing.  There was no context for any of this within the usual and very inflexible routines involved in promoting a new rock band. I'm sure it would have made more sense just to give in and get a bunch of supporting musicians together and just do an ordinary theatrical rock show with some non-ordinary lip sync-ish type elements in which the band completely disappears from stage for periods in favor of something else.

10Z: So ultimately you'd use virtual reality to become virtual stars?

RU: As far as cyber-fame visions and all that, it was all so experimental and seat-of-the-pants making it up as we went along that it was hard to really envision it all, but our agent was pretty experienced and thought we were going to be successful.  And we were being asked to think about music videos, a conventional and popular medium that I think we could have used to great advantage.  Some people thought Thanx! would be a hit.  I may have been a one hit wonder... which, if you've ever had DMT, is all you need.

10Z: So will this music ever finally be released as a CD?

RU: As a matter of fact, a CD is going to be available in about a month, and if people drop me a line I'll put them on a list for it. (To this address: Sirioso @ Yahoo . com ).

10Z: Is Mondo Vanilli's music even more relevant today? Or if I said that, would you accuse me of just being polite?

RU: Conceptually, Mondo Vanilli might be less relevant in the sense that you've already had something like the Gorillaz… also Milli Vanilli has faded somewhat as a historical sign post and one of them committed suicide. Also, there's more hostility now towards the sort of reflexive irony and postmodernism that we were playing around with then. I don't think I would choose to do Mondo Vanilli now. I mean, I'll do it right now if there's a demand for it, but it's not something I would come up with today.

And some of the lyrics are dated. "President Groovy lobs another bomb / I'm gonna help Prince make a CD ROM / Sitting in the dark with my modem and my gun / We're gonna stay in tonight Rosey and make that data highway run."

Actually, there's a funny story behind the Prince and the CD ROM line. One of his "people" — a middle aged, very straight and uptight looking white dude with an attaché case, as a matter of fact — came up to Mondo 2000 to learn what he could about this whole "cyberculture" thing, because Prince wanted to make a CD ROM. This was after I'd already quit the magazine, but I happened to go up to the house that day to hang out and discovered this meeting would occur. It turned out that Madonna's people had been around just a few days earlier to get cyber hip.

Meanwhile, this was a particularly desultory period around Mondo. There was a super-weird vibe around. So the guy (who shall remain nameless, but let's call him Jasper) who was the point man for organizing this meeting with Prince's representative was drunk. And I remember sitting there with the rep after he'd shown up in the living room of this second Mondo house that had been established down the street from the original… and there were maybe a couple of other Mondo people who had come by for the meeting, but nobody came in to speak to the guy… they all went upstairs, and there were slamming doors and slurry words and weird noises emanating from above. And I just sat there in front of this poor guy just sort of smirking.

I think maybe after about a half hour, people came into the room and "Jasper" introduced himself and there was this sort of meandering and pointless conversation. It was pretty hilarious. I didn't say a fucking word the whole time.

Anyway, back to Mondo Vanilli… people seem to like the music more now than they did then. I think there might be two reasons for that. For one, people were much more purist about their genre identities back then… and we were all over the place. I actually thought I was being original when I described us as genre benders. It actually seemed like a real challenge to some types of subcultural conformity. Now, pretty much everybody's eclectic, probably because of this tremendous access to all sorts of music.

Secondly, people expected a certain thing from me back in 1993 or '94. It would either be a musical hacker manifesto or it would be groovy raver positivism, but it would have something to do with how they thought about Mondo 2000. And this album was off on a weird angle, lyrically and musically. I used to tell myself that it was a great album but it wasn't a match to anything that anybody wanted. I think that was probably true. It was an orphaned act of creativity.



10Z: You told one interviewer that most of the audience seemed to hate your experimental live shows. Some guy described one particularly amazing performance (in the comments on an article at Boing Boing about IOU Babe). He wrote:
I don't know if it was a Mondo Vanilli performance, since Sirius was the only name/face I recognized, but it was a trio of him, another man, and a woman, so chances are good.

… I think the second guy was singing, or yelling, or something, but it's a blur compared to what I vividly remember: R.U. Sirius sitting in a crib, clad only in a diaper, smearing chocolate 'poop' all over himself and crying for his mama. 'Mama,' meanwhile, had removed her pants and was plucking hardboiled eggs out of an Easter basket, inserting them into her vagina, and then 'laying' them on a plate outside the crib.

I witnessed this in silent awe, standing no more than 5 feet away from the players in this narrow little shotgun-apartment gallery with maybe 15 other young confused hipsters, for 20 or 30 minutes. When things looked like they were about to take a turn towards 'audience participation,' however, I quietly but willfully made a beeline for the exit.

It HAD to have been a prank performance, a spoof on the grand folly of bad performance art, because otherwise, if it was sincere, it was the wankiest pile of poo I've ever witnessed. But at least it gave me a great ' And that's when I realized I was truly in San Francisco' story.


So… do you remember that?

RU: Yes. It was Sim1's "Send Me To Paradise" performance at Art Attack. It wasn't an official Mondo Vanilli show. We didn't use Mondo Vanilli music, but we were all involved. Actually, the crib — which had spikes pointed inward — was on one side of the space, near the window, and Sim1 was several yards away in front of most of the audience, so she wasn't actually "laying eggs" in front of me. I don't remember much audience participation. I do remember that guys came close to Sim1 after awhile and started doing something… maybe fondling the eggs!

Sim1's performances were always funny… and that was their intention, other than the presentation of a sort of series of tableaus. It was like viewing a series of surrealist paintings, most of them involving sexuality or excrement.

Her crib remained in the Art Attack gallery window for a while and caused some protest from socially responsible types.

10Z: What other performances did you guys do that caused trouble?

RU: I think there were some bits of trouble that I've forgotten, but I don't remember much specifically. David Pescovitz (from Boing Boing) told me that a woman he knew was so offended by Sim1's part of a Mondo Vanilli performance at Café Du Nord that she kicked over a can of paint. I don't remember that happening, but I remember that this really valuable lambskin coat with a fur collar that used to make me look rich and dignified (which I bought for only $80 at a girlfriend's insistence. She kept on whispering to me that it was worth like $800) got soaked with white paint when I was moving stuff off the stage after the show. That single act might have wrecked my potential life as an elegantly wasted entrepreneur, now that I think about it.

We did a performance titled "Eat Cake" at the new age Whole Life Expo that went over like a lead balloon. I don't think anybody liked that one!

10Z: Will these stories be part of the MONDO 2000 History Project… and how is that going?

RU: Absolutely. I'm sure there are some funny stories that other people can fill in. The History Project is going pretty well. I think I can complete it within the two years deadline I set for it. I recently had a breakthrough regarding how to write my own memory fragments… Basically, if I give each memory fragment a colorful title, it inspires me to tell the story as a story and to have fun with the language. I just figured that out a couple of weeks ago.

10Z: Why do you think Trent Reznor wanted to sign you guys to his record label and why do you think you never heard from him after the whole thing crashed?

RU: Well, I should mention that he'd taken shrooms at the party so that might have entered into his good feelings about our demo tape and promotional package. The promo package was pretty audacious and absurdist. He might have been swayed by the affected arrogance and the real disrespect for record industry conventions. And it was a good demo tape! It had versions of Thanx!, Love is the Product, and Wraparound World on it. It was good shit.

He was still excited about us after the psilocybin wore off.

Who's to say what happened after, aside from the situation with Interscope, which I don't blame him for. Maybe he didn't really get the album, as a whole. We heard he liked some of it. He also went into a well-publicized… ahem… downward spiral around that time. And we did make merciless fun of him for a few years after it all happened. He may have seen the "Keane painting" that Scrappi made of him, which we had online. Sad big-eyed Trent, with the text "Take a walk down lonely street" on it. We were pretty mean! (Laughter)



10Z: You're a pretty big Reznor fan, aren't you?

RU: I'm a medium-sized Reznor fan. I really loved Pretty Hate Machine and The Downward Spiral. But to me, all the stuff since then seems like more of the same. I know that fans and critics all say, "Oh, he's changed so much," but I don't see it. Scrappi used to say that he should show some real flexibility and do an album that's totally pop. I think he could do a great one. That would be really interesting.

10Z: Is there anything about your dealings with Nothing Records that you would add to your previous interview on Unheard Music?

RU:Yeah, the weirdest thing was what happened after the record was completed and the Nothing management suggested that we should have a manager. So after we approached a few people we knew who turned out to not be available, we asked the record label for advice. And they put us in touch with Olga Girard, who was the ex-wife of Trent's road manager, Gerry Gerard! She was managing Monster Magnet at the time, and maybe a few other bands... I don't remember. But she went to L.A. for a couple of weeks, and it was either right after or during the time when we were let go by Nothing Records.

And when she returned, naturally we were hoping she could use her influence and do some battle for us. And she told us something had happened in L.A. that made her decide to quit the music industry entirely. She wouldn't say what happened, but she said it didn't have anything to do with us. And she did quit the music industry, totally, and wouldn't really communicate with us at all. A total paranoid breakdown. Maybe the Illuminati got to her! They're tryin' to keep R.U. Sirius down, man!

10Z: Isn't it weird how the actual music industry has changed so much (with people downloading individual songs from iTunes, listening alone on their iPods...)

RU: It is all very strange. Is this what we wrought? I like the idea of an album. A song like "Free From Head" probably doesn't have much resonance unless you're listening to "IOU Babe" in its entirety. I mean, it has a nice jazzy feel, but what the fuck is it? If you're listening to the whole thing though, it's an important part of the atmospherics and the gender dialectics.

But I think there are a lot of generous open-minded people out there now who will listen to an album as an album if you tell them that's your intention. I remember maybe about 10 years ago, Lou Reed was ridiculed for telling people that his latest album release should be listened to as an album and not just scavenged for songs. I think more people are much more willing to be appreciative of what someone is trying to do now. The knee jerk snarkiness of generation X has been modulated a bit... no thanx to Mondo Vanilli, of course!

10Z: What would've happened if Mondo Vanilli had gone on American Idol? (Or America's Got Talent...)

RU: Many televisions would have bullet holes in them.

10Z: Are you surprised that downloads of the 20-year-old album have exceeded the bandwidth capacity at the web site that had been hosting their big comeback?

RU: It was a shocker when the release on BandCamp went onto Boing Boing and we discovered that we couldn't give everybody the free copy we'd promised. Now we're used to it and growing fond of the 50 cents apiece. Hmmm, 50 cents. Maybe "Get Sick or High Crying" should be the name of the Mondo Vanilli comeback album.

10Z: How do you feel looking back on it now...

RU: Nauseous.

No, actually Mondo Vanilli was a lot of fun. There was a whole lotta laughing going on. I do think I should've been a rock star. I'll just say that flat out, even though it's both a cliché and a bit of a taboo within countercultural circles. I think it fits my personality.

I think the world would have gotten more from me, in the long run, if I could have been even more self indulgent!

See Also:
Meeting Trent Reznor on X at the Sharon Tate Horror House
Hear Mondo Vanilli on BandCamp
The Mondo 2000 History Project
Introducing the Mondo 2000 History Project

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The Secret History of Charlie Brown’s Christmas



As America settles in tonight for the 45th broadcast of "A Charlie Brown Christmas," YouTube is revealing one of Charlie Brown's strangest secrets.

Though it was the first animated Peanuts special, it followed a six-year period where the whole gang was recording commercials for Ford Motor Vehicles.



Year after year, Ford cranked out animated Peanuts advertisements for their cars, plus a Ford-sponsored variety show (that was hosted by Tennessee Ernie Ford). Was Schulz finally getting back at his advertisers through A Charlie Brown Christmas?

In a strange twist, the Ford ad campaign itself was originally the idea of a small child, according to Lee Mendelson's 2000 book, A Charlie Brown Christmas: The Making of a Tradition. An advertising agency executive had brought his young granddaughter to work, and when she'd overheard he was looking for a new character to endorse Ford's cars, she'd suggested, "Why don't you use Peanuts?" Then the grown-ups got involved, and eventually Schulz himself had said, 'Sure, I don't mind doing that because the only car I've ever driven was a Ford."

In fact, one of the first cartoons was about advertising itself. "Why don't you write some advertising on your kite, and sell it to the people at Ford," Lucy suggests to Charlie Brown...



But you have to wonder if Schulz secretly felt ambivalent about the cartoons. When Ford's animator first arrived, along with an executive from his advertising agency, Schulz greeted them with a sardonic sign on his home that said "Welcome New York, Welcome Hollywood." By all reports, he was a sincere and spiritual man, and throughout his career, he even kept his home phone number listed in the local phone book. After five years, maybe Schulz saw A Charlie Brown Christmas as his chance to finally send a message of his own.

They'd recorded the childrens' voices for the whole show in just a few hours, according to Melendez's book. (Peter Robbins, who gave Charlie Brown his voice, remembered that "It was very strange for an eight-and-a-half-year-old to pretend to be depressed about Christmas, the most joyous time of the year!") Christopher Shea, who played Linus, mostly just remembers producer Bill Melendez howling to create the voice of Snoopy. Yet the show ultimately won both an Emmy and a Peabody award, and eventually its popularity spawned another 45 animated Peanuts specials, along with four animated Peanuts movies and even two different Broadway musicals.



But its success is even more ironic when you consider its very clear message about not commercializing the holidays. ("The half-hour special first aired on Thursday, December 9, 1965," notes Wikipedia, "preempting The Munsters and following the Gilligan's Island episode 'Don't Bug the Mosquitos'.") But in Hollywood on the same day, both the Daily Variety and Hollywood Reporter ran the producers' ad sharing "Our special thanks to the Coca-Cola Bottlers of America Who Have Made it All Possible." And another ad in TV Guide reminded viewers the innocent characters were "Brought to life...and presented to you by the people in your town who bottle Coca-Cola." But what's even stranger is that originally, the Coca-Cola logo actually appeared in the cartoons themselves!

"In the 'fence' scene, where several of the Peanuts gang are attempting to knock cans off a fence with snowballs, Linus is seen knocking down a can with his blanket," Wikipedia reports, adding that "In the original airing, this was a Coke can..." There's also a deleted bit in the skating scene, right after Snoopy grabs Linus's blanket and hurtles Charlie Brown into the snow under a tree. In the deleted scene, Linus is hurtled in the other direction, into a sign which Wikipedia reports originally read "Coca-Cola."



"Although the FCC eventually imposed rules preventing sponsor references in the context of a story (especially in children's programming), this had no effect upon the decision to impose these edits. The Coca-Cola product placement elements were removed when the company ceased being the sole sponsor, replaced in 1968 by Dolly Madison snack products, who continued to sponsor the Peanuts specials through the 1980s, along with McDonald's."


In fact, originally the special ended with the Christmas carol — "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing" — being interrupted by the following voice-over: "Brought to you by the people in your town who bottle Coca Cola."

"This is very ironic," commented one user on YouTube, "considering how the whole special is denouncing commercialism..."



35 years later — on the night before he died — a 77-year-old Charles M. Schulz was discussing the Christmas special one last time with the man who'd co-produced it, Lee Mendelson. Schulz was excited about a book they were preparing together about the special, and his feelings about it were still very clear. Over the decades they'd produced 45 animated specials, but Schulz always insisted that the Christmas special had been his favorite. And in his book, Mendelson would also take a moment to remember something else that Schulz had told him years before.

"There will always be a market in this country for innocence."

See Also:
The 5 Lamest Charlie Brown cartoons
Psychiatric Help, Five Cents
Christmas 2.0: Subverting the Holidays with Re-dubbing
A Charlie Brown Christmas: The Making of a Tradition
Santa's Crimes Against Humanity

Read More

Nancy Drew’s Sexy Secrets



I'm not saying Nancy Drew was a lesbian. (Believe me, I still remember the pushback on our 2007 article, How Gay Were the Hardy Boys.) But the original Nancy Drew stories were written in 1930, and sometimes their outdated language creates a problem.

"Will you tell us why you came here, and promise never to divulge to a soul a word about this place?"

"I promise nothing," Nancy declared.

"What!" the men ejaculated in astonishment.


I hate it when that happens....

That's an actual quote from the 1933 edition of Password to Larkspur Lane. The language was updated in later decades, and most readers have never seen the original texts. But before Nancy even hooked up with her butch friend Bess Marvin, she'd enjoyed this strange adventure with a young femme named Helen Corning.

After Helen and Nancy Drew encounter a suspect, Helen gushes "I just hated the looks of that man. Let's think about something pleasant." And then...

The girls accordingly enjoyed themselves by admiring each other's dainty lingerie, choosing the stockings which would best match slippers and frocks, and so for a time forgot the mystery. Helen was in ecstasies over Nancy's powder blue evening gown...


And when Nancy finally sneaks into the bad guy's house, Helen actually kisses Nancy Drew.

"Good luck," she whispered.


I swear I'm not making this up! ("Helen kissed her chum," it says on page 173.) That's how mind-bogglingly innocent people were in 1933. Or... There's something else going on here.





Nancy even spends the night sleeping with Helen. And the next morning, when she tells Helen she has "an adventure" in mind — Helen can't wait....

She threw back the covers of the bed and began dressing rapidly. "Hurry up, Nancy," she cried gayly.

"Lead me to this adventure..."


And to hell with sleuthing!

Sorry, my mind wandered off there for a second. Or am I the only one who sees sexy lesbian bondage overtones in the 1930 frontispiece illustration for The Mystery at Lilac Inn? (See the picture above.) Even twenty years later, when the books were updated, Nancy Drew was still tied up at the hands of the domineering jewel thief Mary Mason.




And then there's this 1939 scene from The Clue of the Tapping Heels.




Though I've also had sexy lesbian bondage fantasies involving another Nancy...




Still, I want to believe that even the most prudish reader would be curious about a chapter titled "The Man with the Whip." ("You saved me from a very unpleasant experience back there, Effie...") But the real moral of this story is that even in 1933, Nancy Drew kicked bad-guy ass.
"'Oh dear, this is something I don't know much about," the girl said in vexation. "How does one go about crippling an airplane motor?"

Maybe it helps to think of the books as antique children's pulp fiction...


A Little History

The first Nancy Drew books were action-packed adventure stories ghostwritten by the first woman ever to receive a masters of journalism from the University of Iowa in 1927. Mildred Wirt Benson (under the pen name "Carolyn Keane") still remains an unsolved mystery, but it's obvious that she lived in a different world. Benson practically fell through time, according to Wikipedia, living for 97 years, from 1905 to 2002. And though she didn't write Password to Larkspur Lane, she is responsible for the The Mystery at Lilac Inn, which is often cited for another unfortunate anachronism in the original Nancy Drew series — racism.

In fact, the book's first three chapters are all about Nancy trying to find a substitute housekeeper when her maid goes out of town, with Benson writing that there's a "slovenly colored woman" who Nancy rejects (along with an "Irish woman," and a "Scotch lassie.") And in a 1930 Benson book, The Hidden Staircase, she uses almost identical language to describe the villain's maid — a "fat, slovenly looking colored woman". When Nancy sneaks in through the cellar window — and accidentally makes a noise — she brings the villain's maid downstairs to investigate. And then the maid says....
"I done reckons my old ears is playing me false. I hears noises dat sounds like dey was in de basement and dey was only in my haid."

Yes, Benson writes the maid's dialogue with the same dialect throughout the book. Later Nancy sneaks into a room in the hallway, and the villain's pet parrot starts squawking. The maid comes running, and Nancy hides in the closet.
"How comes you so excited to-night, talkbird?" the woman demanded crossly. "You carries on like a fool with all yo' squawkin' and speechifyin'."

And when the cops finally come, the maid holds them off with a shotgun.

To be fair, it was a long time ago. When Applewood Books ultimately republished these original texts in 1991, they added a preface with some soul-searching, acknowledging that "Much has changed" in America. ("The modern reader may be delighted with the warmth and exactness of the language, the wholesome innocence of the characters...but just as well, the modern reader may be extremely uncomfortable with the racial and social stereotypes...")



No matter how ugly these scenes are, the preface concludes, "These books are part of our heritage. They are a window on our real past." And all of these books were eventually re-written, though even those changes offer their own cultural clues.

By the 1950s Mary Mason's simple getaway car had become an elaborate two-man submarine, and jewel thief Mary was transformed into a spy for a massive foreign espionage ring — presumably reflecting anti-communist Cold War tensions.




But the changes also stripped away much of the gritty personality from the characters, reducing them to the bland action-hero stand-ins we know today, and making them more suitable for an ongoing series of massively-franchised children's books. In the original books, the Nancy Drew character was much more realistic, which explains the impact she had on earlier generations. USA Today even reports that on the Supreme Court, all three female justices cite that original Nancy Drew as an influence — Sandra Day O'Connor, Ruth Ginsburg, and Sonia Sotomayor.

But now the updated characters are so insistently good, they almost dare readers to invent their own sexy subtexts. In one episode of That 70s Show, Jackie insists on reading a Nancy Drew mystery out loud during a sleep-over with her boyfriend. ("Dammit." says Kelso. "Why do I always have to Bess?") And in 2004 the commenters at Something Awful even submitted their own sexy re-imagined covers for both Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books.


The world's changed a lot, even if Nancy Drew hasn't. (If Nancy Drew is a lesbian, don't tell Pamela Sue Martin. In 1978, when she was 25, the TV actress who'd played Nancy Drew in the 1970s did a naked pictorial in the prototypical men's magazine Playboy.) I want to believe modern Nancy Drew writers understood this secret intrigue when they created a 1995 TV version. Its last episode ends with Nancy abruptly breaking things off with her boyfriend Ned.

"He was right. Our relationship is a mystery. But it's the one mystery I can't seem to solve..."

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the very first Nancy Drew books. But it's important to remember that no matter how quaint she started out, every once in a while, even those original old-fashioned Nancy books would still blurt out something so surprisingly progressive and modern, it'd make you want to cheer. For example, in the 1933 book Password to Larkspur Lane, Nancy tells her friend Helen to wear hiking clothes, since they're sneaking through the woods. I think this should be hung over the arch at the Nancy Drew School of Business.
"We are going to use strategy, but not charm, so put that frilly frock away."

You go, girl!

Don't let anyone tell you how to behave — no matter what decade it is!


Click here to purchase the original 1933 text
for Password to Larkspur Lane

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The Most Depressing Children’s Books Ever Written


Okay, Curious George didn't really die from an overdose of ether. But after launching a blog reviewing children's picture books, I've discovered that some stories can be just as depressing!


1. The Jester Has Lost His Jingle

"Here I lie, I have a tumor...

And you ask me where's my sense of humor?"


This book was written by a 22-year-old diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease, who died just before it was published.
Published posthumously, it became a best-seller in 1995, and received a touching afterward by Maurice Sendak. ("I remember the face — the enthusiasm....")

No one laughs at this jester's jokes in the castle, so he tries downtown, where he's confronted by the sight of a miserable homeless man. ("It's kind of hard to laugh or joke / when you're unemployed and completely broke.") A man smoking a cigarette on a graffiti-covered subway explains to the jester that "The world is not a funny place. It's filled with pain and tears." And then the jester visits the hospital's cancer ward...

Eventually the jester brings a smile to a little girl's face — and then, to the entire city, as the unusual plot of author David Saltzman lurches to a happy ending.

Six months later, Saltzman was dead.


2. Fireboat


Fluffy bunnies? Happy little puppies? Nope. This children's picture book culminates with the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

Maira Kalman emphasizes that on 9/11, two airplanes "CRASHED, CRASHED, CRASHED into these two strong buildings...." It's illustrated with a two-page watercolor showing a cloud of debris plummeting from the top of the tower, to help young readers visualize the impending carnage. Turn the page, and another two-page watercolor shows flames sweeping uncontrollably through the buildings at ground zero. And then there's another two-page spread, showing exactly what that same fire looked like that night.

They're not quite the cheery images you'd want to savor before bedtime. It's the climax of a story about the history of New York's famous fireboat, the John J. Harvey, which sprayed water on the burning towers all night with a volunteer crew. Which is why the book is called "Fireboat" — and why parents received no warning whatsoever that the book closes with the World Trade Center attacks until it surprises them in the book's final pages.

"Thanks for making me cry my head off in front of my child!!" wrote one reviewer on Amazon.


3. Rickie and Henri

"Unfortunately, Curious George's parents were both dead, since they'd already been shot in the head by local hunters."

That's basically the story Jane Goodall tells in Rickie and Henrie. Though she uses a real monkey instead of Curious George.


Based on a true story, Goodall's picture book describes a mother monkey who tenderly holds her little baby — a female monkey named Rickie. Rickie's mother carried her from place to place, and "comforted her when she was hurting or frightened." But in the next picture, Rickie is shown screaming beside her mother's dead body, as a man with a gun walks away.

And no, he's not wearing a yellow hat...

"The hunter seized Rickie and pushed her into a tiny basket, while the infant chimpanzee, who didn't understand, went on screaming and screaming for her mother." (Who does nothing, because she's already dead.) In the next illustration, the scared little monkey is locked in a cage on a pole, and she's already been wounded by shotgun pellets. But "however much she cried, there was no one to help."

Eventually the little female monkey is rescued and taken to Jane Goodall's institute and sanctuary. Where Goodall decided to write a very depressing children's picture book about her...





4. One Candle

A family gathers for their Hanukkah celebration. And then grandma starts reminiscing about Buchenwald...

"We were separated from our families and put into a camp," she says, remembering her experience as a 12-year-old girl in the Nazi death camps.
Working in a kitchen guarded by an intimidating Nazi soldier (standing with a German shepherd guard dog), she'd shared the barracks with her 13-year-old sister. And most of the book is told as a horrified flashback, as the girl remembers trying to smuggle a potato past the guard for a Hanukkah celebration.

The book explains the death camps as simply as possible. ("The Germans didn't like the Jews...") But another relative at the present-day Hanukkah celebration counters with a more nuanced perspective. "The Germans didn't like a lot of people. It wasn't only the Jews."

And then the flashback returns to the death camps....


5. On That Day



"Fireboat" may have covered the World Trade Center attacks, but at least it wasn't done with a tissue paper collage. Because ironically, that had already been done by Andrea Patel, a Massachusetts schoolteacher — and pastry chef, and musician. She represents the earth as a big blue circle of tissue paper, then writes "One day a terrible thing happened," as a big red splotch appears on that circle.

"The world, which had been blue and green and bright and very big and really round and pretty peaceful, got badly hurt.

"Many people were injured. Many other people died. And everyone was sad."

Then she tries explaining terrorism to children — using more tissue paper collages. There's a tornado, an earthquake, and a fire — all bad things that happen naturally. "But sometimes bad things happen because people act in mean ways and hurt each other on purpose," she writes. "That's what happened on that day, a day when it felt like the world broke." Then there's a picture of the pieces of the world blowing away and drifting across the blank whiteness of the next page...

The book was finished within weeks of the September 11 attacks, and Patel donated all the book's proceeds to a 9/11 charity, but the whole exercise is still a little disturbing. People fumbled for the right response to the terrorist attacks, and in the end, this is probably Patel's most inadvertently honest sentence.

"This is scary, and hard to understand, even for grown-ups."


6. Smoky Nights
It's the Los Angeles riots — through the eyes of a child.

What could possibly be more magical?

"It can happen when people get angry..." a boy's mother says. "After a while it's like a game." The boy sees fires, and watches two men stealing a TV from an appliance store. Then another window breaks at a shoe store, and two men and a woman climb in through the broken glass.
That night his own apartment building is set on fire, and the boy and his mother have to flee to a shelter for safety. Author Eve Bunting actually lives in Los Angeles (and her illustrator lived just an hour away). Which is why one of her next fun-filled stories was about poor day laborers fighting for work in a Los Angeles parking lot.





7. Michael Rosen's Sad Book

"What makes me most sad is when I think about my son Eddie.

"He died."

"I loved him very, very much but he died anyway."

That's Michael Rosen, a British broadcaster, and his son died of meningitis in 2004 at the age of 19. "Sometimes this makes me really angry," Rosen writes in his book. (Its title? Michael Rosen's Sad Book.) "Maybe you think I'm happy in this picture. Really I'm sad but pretending I'm happy."

Rosen was 56 when the tragedy struck, and he's startlingly open about the experience of coping with a loss. Why is he smiling and pretending to be happy?

"I'm doing that because I think people won't like me if I look sad."

It's a depressing read, but it's also a brave moment of personal honesty. And maybe he's also sending us a message about depressing children's books.

Sometimes the truth can be very unpleasant...


See Also:
Lost "Horrors" Ending Found on YouTube
Six Freakiest Children's TV Rock Bands
Blossom Dearie's Conjunction Junction Romance?
How Gay Were the Hardy Boys?
Homeland Security Follies

Read More

Ten Albums that Defined the Dot Com Era – Part 2



Click Here for Part One

I spent New Year's Eve 1999 at my ecstasy dealer's condo in E-ville (natch), staring at a spectacular view of San Francisco Bay. And even the twinkly bright city sported a patchy waterfront fog like the chin pubes on a 1990s hipster...

I'd spent the entire decade with the same girl, and as we approached the door to an obscene feast of cheese, booze, and drugs — we were stopped short by a pair of very pretty and very fucked up people.



"Oh my god," the gorgeous brunette half giggled, half implored, "do NOT eat the sushi!"

With that they stumbled down the stairs to god knows where. It was only 11 p.m...

We'd arrived late, and thank Christ. The party people were not happy, as Mr. E had generously spiked the catered sushi with liquid LSD. And while I certainly admired the opulence, I couldn't understand why he did it, since he — and most of the kids there — were more about pills and coke. (Plus, I'm not a fan of the Pearl Harbor approach to getting your friends ripped to the tits on acid. Or your enemies.)

It was a great night — despite the grumblings of some who weren't as fortunate as we were in our early warning about the hazards of the hamachi. We watched as the clock struck midnight, ignoring the media hype about a coming Y2K apocalypse, yet feeling on the brink of something.

For me it was huge personal change, good and bad. But because I'm not really a coke guy (well, sure, there's Vegas and... well, you smell what the Rock is cookin') — and because I had to drive us home — I stood out on the balcony of a brand new condo, built and rented with dot-com dollars, the only person there who wasn't on drugs.

What was I thinking?


1. Kruder & Dorfmeister — The K&D Sessions


Like I said before, this list is not in any kind of order. But, sure, placement means a lot, and in Part 1 of this top 10 list, my placement of Kid A in the #1 spot was no accident.

So I've certainly wrestled with this decision again for "Part 2". I feel like the following album is just as top-notch a time capsule for the period as any piece of art or expression. But in the 1990s, if you were anywhere in San Francisco where music was being played — apart from Lucky 13, the late, great Fulton Street Bar, or Zeitgeist — you heard The K&D Sessions, whether you liked it or not. And most MDMA-dabbling, sexuality-exploring, HTML-coding city dwellers liked it.

As downtempo DJ fodder, this record was as necessary to your arsenal as the Bible is to a missionary. As something you'd put on at your place after being up on E all night, it was quite simply perfect. (Not too quiet, not too perky...) As music to bang to, it was even better than Sade. And it holds up easily to this day, embodying the best of what DJ culture had to offer, tastefully, artfully, and not without wit ("Kruder and... Dorfmeister?").


2. Beck — Midnite Vultures

Beck - Midnight vultures

Beck took Prince's advice to heart — to party like it was 1999 — when the year actually came. And he pushed his tongue-in-cheek flirtations with blue-eyed soul to its limit, from the James Brown dance moves to the over-the-top blue-eyed soul wailing on the quintessential nerd ballad, "Debra." It was a stroke of genius for Beck to intentionally counteract the angst of the entire decade in 1999 with a record so giddily fun that it made his previous, Odelay! look practically dour.

It was different than the "K&D Sessions," which was best when coming back from the club/party/Bacchanalian clusterfuck. Midnite Vultures was the record you'd play on your way out while popping the pills or chopping the pills or hiding the pills or maybe even shoving 'em up yer arse (if you had the proclivity to do so).

What I'm saying is that there were lots of pills around...


3. LTJ Bukem — Progression Sessions



When compiling this list, I realized I'd almost forgotten about drum and bass. But while it's rare to hear this genre in its "pure" form these days, its influence can be heard in dubstep — all the rage this year — and on the London scene with acts like Joy Orbison. And at the turn of the millennium, drum and bass was a bold new form that embraced and exploited technology. In fact, it could not exist without it.

What was fascinating about drum and bass out in the clubs was how it cleaved a wedge between dancers on the dance floor. The shuffling, intricate rhythms of d&b aren't kind to the amateur booty-shaker, so you'd get a mix of weed-smokin' head-nodders (raises hand) plus those bold enough and skilled enough to pull some amazing, post-breakdance moves.

Roni Size was arguably as influential as Bukem, but it was Bukem's frequent live shows with MC Conrad that endeared him to San Franciscans. Still does.


4. Various Artists — Rushmore (Soundtrack to the Film)

rushmore_original_motion_pi

You know what I remember about the 1990s? The yuppie fear of car-keying, as gentrification kicked into high gear in former working-class neighborhoods like the Mission and SOMA. The pitched battle between the recently enfranchised and the constantly disenfranchised. The inevitable defeat of the latter.

As a nerdy outsider from a low-income neighborhood, I actually had things in common with both groups, so I tended to stay out of the argument...

One thing I can say for sure, only one of these groups' contingents was listening to the "Rushmore" soundtrack. Mark Mothersbaugh's wittily wistful sensibilities mixed with mild moroseness to create a great soundtrack — not just to the film, but also to long-winded, angst-ridden posts to your LiveJournal. Shudder.


5. Moby — Play

moby

Ugh. There, I said it. Not exactly one of my favorite records, by not exactly one of my favorite artists. I just can't risk people thinking that omitting it reflected a failure to grasp what people were listening to at the time.

So for you douchebags, here you go. And for the rest of you, I sure hope you enjoyed "Play"ing with me as I reflected on what was — no matter how you slice it — a fascinating era...in music.

Click Here for Ten Albumds That Defined the Dot Com Era - Part One




See Also:
Dan the Automator Remixes the Blue Angels
How the iPod Changes Culture
10 Video Moments from 2006
Paul McCartney on Drugs
Eight Druggiest Rock Star Stories

Read More

Ten Albums That Defined the Dot Com Era


So where were you 10 years ago?

Making more money than you were entitled to? Getting involved in a drug-fueled polyamorous relationship? Thinking about how after almost 20 years of prescience, Prince's 1999 might become oddly irrelevant?

Okay, you may be forgiven if you weren't having as much fun as you should have been having during the dot-com VC era. (Not by me. But whatever...) But there's no absolution if you weren't at least listening to some interesting music. This was the time of Napster's infinite-mp3-download-orgy, fer chrissakes!

I know, I know, there doesn't seem to be much nostalgia for that time. For comparison, it was only 10 years after Kent State that the creative process began that spawned The Big Chill. And not only am I unsure that this generation is capable of such a piece, I'm unsure that anyone is even interested in trying!



A lot of people are entitled to their share of bitterness over the burst of the dotcom bubble. Someone sold a lot of kids on the idea that the Brave New World had been reached. And when that wave of prosperity which brought us there — for a happy, shiny moment — rolled back violently, these kids found out even drugs wouldn't help.

But it's time for us to realize that the brevity of the whole dot-com era helps us distill its magic, as well as that bleakness which followed (and still continues to this day). At the time as someone who was older than most of the people I knew, I'd seen enough shit to enjoy the good times while they were there — and this attitude continues to inform my perspective.

Hence this piece...

But enough philosophizin'. If you love music like I do, these albums should trigger whatever nostalgia you feel is deserved by those times. Or maybe we can just be fascinated by the fact that 10 years from now, it's doubtful that the word "album" would even be applicable to such a list.

Whatever. Let's play!


1. Radiohead — Kid A




This list isn't in any particular order, but even so, I think this is a great place to start.

Today bands like Phoenix and Animal Collective think nothing of fusing elements of what used to be called "electronica" into a "band" context. But when the group that inherited the mantle of "The Greatest Rock Band in the World" from U2 seemed to barely unpack their guitars from their cases — in favor of sounds more akin to Aphex Twin — it was a bold step into the future.

Of course, the reaction from the rock crowd was a bit hyperbolic. If you listen to it now, Kid A is hardly a rejection of all things rock. The acoustic lament "How to Disappear Completely," the fuzz bass in "The National Anthem," the electric piano in Morning Bell — all of these represent a record grounded in song sensibility.

But yes, all these years later, as a DJ you can still work "Everything In Its Right Place" in its right place. Hypnotic — and propelled by the Fender Rhodes electric piano that defined this era in the band's history — "Everything" is a full, unabashed embrace of a new kind of pop that arguably hadn't been pushed forward since David Byrne and Brian Eno's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts.




Kid A also allowed bespectacled hipsters who were way-too-Wilco to be caught dead listening to Hooverphonic a way to hear beats and blips they otherwise couldn't have accessed. So, uh, there's that.


2. The Flaming Lips — The Soft Bulletin



While some artists were ending the decade with a party vibe, Oklahoma's previously experimental freaks the Flaming Lips finally popped out of their chrysalis with a highly personal and intimate concept album — about death, mostly.

Couched in an inspired dynamic of lush soundscapes and (virtual) orchestration, mixed with a dash of punk sensibility — one lonely mic on the drum kit — Wayne Coyne's lyrics about the death of his father ("Waitin' on a Superman") and the band's bizarre struggles ("The Spiderbite Song") helped usher in the new age of post-ironic pseudo-sincerity.


3. Thievery Corporation — The Mirror Conspiracy



For the sake of disclosure, I am a DJ, and was arguably at the height of my "career" during the dot com era. So while you'll have to forgive me a bit of nostalgia and obvious subjectivity in this list's content, if you're in my demographic and think you didn't hear Thievery Corporation at that time — you're wrong. You might have wanted to hear the Dwarves instead, but you heard TC all the same.

There's no use denying the overwhelming presence of DJ-friendly acts and works on this list. But chill music, frisky enough to rock a club or a house party, meant the D.C. duo was a DJ's best friend. And at the same time I can recall hearing "The Mirror Conspiracy" blaring over PC speakers just as much as the Mackies.


4. Tool — Lateralus




Despite the above statements on the ubiquity and influence of electronica, it wasn't all about blips, beeps and knob-twiddling. There were also plenty of former nerds and misanthropes who still needed an outlet for frustrations that MDMA and getting laid hadn't quite ironed out.

In fact, I remember when this record came out — having almost forgotten the sheer boyish thrill of … metal! Rock Band was years away, and Hot Topic hadn't started marketing Iron Maiden shirts to 14-year-olds whose parents had barely hit puberty during the band's heyday. So indulgences like Lateralus were still a bit taboo.


However, this album has nothing to do with the adolescent nature of metal of yore. Like all of Tool's music, the art-rock flirting and complex themes and lyrics on songs like Schism make them strictly for grown-ups.


5. Air — The Virgin Suicides



For me, this record represents change.

Personally, it was a time of intense personal evolution and tumult. For Air, it was a complete reversal of the dreamy, kitschy charm of their debut album, Moon Safari. An opiate dream of a soundtrack, it owed as much to Pink Floyd's soundtrack to the film More as anything happening on a contemporary level at the time. "The Virgin Suicides" flew in the face of expectations for the French band, while helping create the moody atmosphere in Sofia Coppola's debut film.



For the ecstasy-driven culture of the dot commers, it presaged the comedown that one must expect when getting so high. Minor keys, dark themes, and no happy ending. It was still only 2000, and we were still sucking on the VC tit. But not for long.

Did Air know something we didn't?


Click here to read 10 Albums That Defined the Dot Com Era, Part II.

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“Every Sizzler restaurant in America?!”



"Some people want world peace," says Reed Fish. "Others want to photograph every Sizzler in the USA.

"A dream is a dream..."

Reed and his wife Liz are raising money on the internet to fund a tour of every Sizzler restaurant in America — which they'll photograph. And then self-publish the photos in a book. Called "Every Sizzler in the United States of America."

"Just as there's beauty in every person, there's beauty in every Sizzler," they explain on their fundraising page. "We make the photographs blurry to help bring this out..."

"Hopefully, a gallery show will follow."

And within a few weeks they'd attracted over $2,000. Kodak even donated film. The average donation size was over $50. And they'd proved something important. "We had the guts to do this," Liz wrote on their blog, "and no matter what happens, I'm proud of that."


Image via Google Maps street view

But why Sizzler's steakhouses? "Sizzler is Americana..." their page explains, grasping at the ghost behind this peculiar fascination. "If there isn't one in your town, there probably used to be..." In their web video, the couple fumbles to explain their quest's strange power.
REED: We really feel that chains, and especially Sizzler, tells us a lot about who we are as a culture.

Or, as they suggest in another part of the video.
LIZ: We're doing this so you don't have to.

REED: We're taking one for the team.

So who are these people? Reed Fish is that Reed fish — the screenwriter behind the quirky 2006 romantic comedy I'm Reed Fish, which Variety described as a "Charming, rural version of a pre-wedding panic." Two years ago the real Reed Fish married Liz, a professional photographer. And that's when the weirdness began...

Their Sizzler-rific quest is now 16 percent complete. Reed announces in their video that "We've already shot 34 of the 206..." While there's still 172 restaurants left to photograph, at least they're down to just 150 cities, Liz adds in a blog post. And she provides a glimpse of life on the Sizzler-photographing road.

"Our record so far is six Sizzlers in one day. The six-Sizzler day is actually kind of a rough day — because of navigating, traffic and, honestly — burnout."



It's not the first time someone has tried this. Thirteen years ago, when the web was young, Jason Alan Pfaff launched "Project: Denny's, attempting to visit as many of the chain's 2,500 franchises as possible.

But Reed wants to hit all the Sizzlers — so they're turning to the internet for support. So far "the Fishes" have attracted 38 backers — and three comments. ("Don't forget the menus!") — on the fundraising site Kickstarter. "If our project gets funded on Kickstarter, we're definitely going to try to get it all done before the end of the year," says Reed. ("It would be a mandate," adds Liz.) They've drawn $2025 in pledges, but with just six days left to raise the remaining $10,000 needed.

"But hey — a few weeks ago, if someone had told you 34 people would back The Fishes for almost $1700 (so far) to go photograph every Sizzler in America, would you have believed it?"

I interviewed Liz and Reed Fish about the weirdness, the art, and the secret American passion — and how it all led them on a collision course with a corporation named Sizzler.



10Z: Have you talked to Sizzler?

REED: We have. Essentially, giving them a head's up, because I didn't want them to hear about it from someone else who wasn't me. We had a good conversation — they thought it was a fun idea, and they were excited that it was their brand being promoted. But our strategy is, we're not doing an ad for Sizzler. We don't want to have an adversarial relationship, but we...

LIZ: You're half afraid someone's going to claim offense with it and say, "Okay, I'm going to sue you and prevent you from doing this."

REED: Obviously, this isn't Fast Food Nation! We're not taking a stance about whether Sizzler is good or bad. In a way, it's more of a documentary project.

10Z: "Hi. I'm planning an art installation with photos of all your franchises." So how'd Sizzler react?

REED: The thing is, I'd left a message — I just said what I was doing so they'd call me back, so I didn't get to hear their first response. I didn't get to hear, "You want to do what?!"

And I did most of the talking... I wanted to let them know that we didn't really want them to — we weren't asking them for money. And I think I did say, "But if you want to give us a gift card so that we can have dinner on the road, that'd be great."

10Z: How'd he respond?

REED: He just kind of laughed. And didn't send me a gift card. They thought I was a little crazy.

Honestly, they loved the idea. I think they just thought, "Wow, this is great this guy wants to do this..." And they thought it was funny.

10Z: On your web page, someone demanded "Where's the disclaimer that says this project was underwritten by Sizzlers?" And Reed responded: "Okay, here's the disclaimer: Sizzler is in no way affiliated with this project. That's why we're on Kickstarter trying to raise funds!"

LIZ: I've also had people say, "Why are you putting this on Kickstarter? That's the dummest thing, because you should just have Sizzler pay for this." And it's like, "No. It's an art project, and we want to have control over it. It's not an ad." Its genesis was completely different from anything that Sizzler would create.

REED: And we also — if it was a campaign from Sizzler, we wouldn't be trying to raise money. We'd just be doing it, and trying to get press as we're doing it. The whole trying to raise money — it's just counterintuitive, in a way. Especially considering that we're pretty far from our goal right now. Sizzler can be a tough sell. Especially when you're pitching it as a serious art project.

LIZ: I think we've had a hard time figuring out how to promote, because I think we feel like if we're trying to promote it as an art project, people don't think of it as super-serious, even though we really do. But we're presenting it in sort of a light way to bring people in.

REED: We feel like it's a populist art project.

LIZ: Yeah.

REED: It's not just for the hoity-toity crowd in New York. We love those people, but ...

LIZ: Maybe we're between crowds...

10Z: But how do you really feel about Sizzler?

REED: I swear, when we tell people, for the most part their face lights up. "Oh, I love Sizzler."

LIZ: It's kind of nostalgic.

REED: And at the same time, our friends don't go to Sizzler at this point. It's almost if you — it's almost ironically, if you're in the hipster/L.A. crowd or whatever. It's not something that people go to quite a lot. But it's one of those things — it's actually good.

10Z: I think we're approaching an answer to the biggest question. Why Sizzler?

REED: Because it was Americana. If you say "Sizzler", everyone's like, "Oh, god, I used to love it when I was a kid." Everyone.

It really evokes a reaction to anyone who grew up in the United States... They have a feeling about Sizzler. I believe a lot of the ones that have closed were in places like Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin... What I've heard from people is "Oh, I grew up in Connecticut. There used to be one there, but it's gone."

That's one of the other reasons why we think it's really great. It's kind of emblematic of the change in the culture. It's like your bankruptcies and closings — we've actually, in our travels so far, gone to two Sizzlers that were closed that were on the web site. So we drove over there, and it's kind of like the scene in Vacation where they drive to Walley World and it's closed. We drove from Los Angeles to New York, and the Sizzler was closed.

LIZ: But there were other Sizzlers in New York, and it was okay. And at the same time, we've seen new Sizzlers go up. And the development is different now. They'll be in mall parking lots — there'll be a Home Depot and the anchor store, and then there's the Sizzler.

REED: Sizzler itself is aspirational. It's a very middle class — middle to lower-class chain. Those are the people that go there. And I remember — it was a special occasion to go to Sizzler when you're a kid. It's like, "Oh yeah! We're going to Sizzler." And it's all you can eat, which is — nothing more American than that.

LIZ: Yeah, it's value. I think all those things are very much things that we seek as Americans. It's something that maybe we don't think about being quintessentially American, but I think it represents a lot of things throughout the years that, from the 1950s... It's one of the original chains.

REED: I think there's things that are specifically Sizzler, and also things about it that are just more general, in terms of the way Americans embrace chains and chain restaurants and stores.



10Z: And yet neither of you has childhood memories of Sizzler?

LIZ: But when Reed told me — when we initially talked about this project, I immediately was like, "Yes." I didn't have to explain — because you just get it. Because my family used to go to Shakey's and Pizza Hut, and that for us was a very similar experience. It was a way that a family could go out, and it felt nice. At the time, they used to wait on you. I'm the youngest of nine, so the fact that we could all go out was such a big deal.

REED: I actually had the idea in college, 15 years ago. And I think — like, I don't know if it was our first date...

LIZ: One of our first dates. "What are your dreams? What do you really want out of life?" And Reed said: "I want to photograph all the Sizzlers."

REED: If you tell a girl that, and she smiles and thinks it's great, you pretty much know then that that's who you should be with. It just made so much sense for us to do it together, because I think it's something we both felt a passion for. And it was a great opportunity to do this kind of epic thing together — with your best friend and the person you have trust in and you believe in and trust artistically. It's been fantastic.

10Z: So what's it like photographing Sizzlers?

REED: Sometimes you have to drive for hours, and sometimes it's a few minutes. But invariably we'll be driving up to one and right before we see it, or when we see it, Liz will say something along the lines of: "Now that's a beautiful Sizzler..." Such a genuine excitement from her at seeing the next Sizzler and seeing what it's going to look like.

LIZ: There's definitely a variety of Sizzler styles. And I find a lot of the architecture interesting. I mean, we saw in — where was that? The flat Sizzler. In New York — in Massapequa, there's one Sizzler that it's just — it has a flat roof. It's just a box. When you pull up to it, there was just something about the Sizzler that looks like a box that....

REED: It was the world's saddest Sizzler.

LIZ: And I hate to say that, but ...

REED: But one of them had to be the saddest.

LIZ: And we noticed it had a "For Lease" sign. So once its lease is up, it'll probably be out of there. It was sort of like this weird, sad Sizzler...

And it's also about the neighborhood and the atmosphere.

REED: One of the larger themes about the project is the sameness of the American experience, of how wherever you are in the country, you can eat the same food at the same restaurants and shop at the same stores. That for me was one of the central ideas about it. But then in the execution about it, you go and find that maybe they do serve the same steak, but in different buildings, in different neighborhoods. And all the people who work there bring their own unique experience to the place. So no two are exactly alike.

Sizzlers are like snowflakes.

LIZ: It's true, actually.

REED: And then also, you meet the people there, who are real people, nice people — people just trying to make a living. What I think it has done for me is humanize this chain. Where you were kind of going in thinking this chain is emblematic of the United States and the sameness everywhere — but there's humans behind it, and kind of an endearing human experience. I relish the differences in all of them. And they're not exactly the same.

10Z: So what's the most dangerous Sizzler you've been too?

REED: I think Sizzler is a very non-dangerous place. I think Sizzler, to me, is — like, it's safe. Sizzler is what it is, and it's not necessarily full of exciting stories, but it's beautiful nonetheless.

LIZ: We did take Reed's dad with us and photographed some of the Sizzler's around San Diego... And he was just like, "I just don't understand why anyone would give you money for this." And he kept saying that, over and over. We went to two or three with him, and he just kind of stood around.

REED: Taking your dad to — that's the scariest moment of all. And that's my other favorite quote: "I just don't get why the photographs have to be blurry."

10Z: I know it's a conceptual art project, but why do the photographs have to be blurry?

REED: Well, a few reasons. I think it kind of enhances the beauty of the Sizzlers. And it gives them also a sense of nostalgia. It enhances the feeling you have. You have these kind of memories, and it's a subtle reference to that.

And then the other theme we were talking about, in terms of the sameness of the chains — if you blur it, the actual specificity of the site kind of melts away a little bit, so you don't know if you're looking at the Sizzler in Flagstaff or Barstow or Orlando.

10Z: So what was it like photographing the Sizzler in Barstow?

REED: I have no comment.

I don't know if Barstow is renowned for being the most awesome place in the world — you stop to go to the bathroom on the way from Las Vegas to L.A. — but I believe that the photo we took of the Barstow Sizzler is really beautiful. So there is beauty in these places that we overlook.

10Z: How's photographing in New York City?

LIZ: It was hard to do them all in one day. It felt like an epic day. I mean — I think it's Smithtown. You really feel like you're in a small town, in a way. It's just so much different than, let's say, the Queen's Sizzler in New York.

We really experienced some traffic and that New York driving where — and then we ended up having to go back to Brooklyn and drive across. It was one of those days where it's just like — you can't wait to get out of the car, because it was just such a difficult driving day.

REED: One of the great details is in Orlando. The Sizzlers there... they actually serve breakfast in Orlando! But in Orlando, they really cater to British tourists for breakfast. So you go in there, and it's all these British families in leisure soccer gear hitting the buffet. And in the buffet they have beans and stewed tomatoes and all this British food. And it's really the weirdest, oddest thing.



LIZ: I think a lot of people would say, "Oh, I wouldn't be able to spend that much time with my spouse." Or my girlfriend or boyfriend. It has a lot to do with our relationship... We inspire each other, in a way. And we do want to spend the time together. And it has been a really great experience, for that reason.

REED: And so it's maybe a quest to find the most romantic Sizzler. You get to do it with your best friend and the person you love the most — who gets you the most. I mean, geez, real honestly, does it get better? I don't think so. Photographing Sizzlers with your wife? I mean — wow.

10Z: What's the reaction you're getting to this project?

REED: It runs the gamut from people thinking this is the greatest thing ever to people saying, "You guys are idiots." One guy said, "This is either the most brilliant thing I've ever seen or the stupidest thing I've ever seen." That to me is just about as big a complement as you can give. We're really serious about it, but I kind of like that people maybe don't know if we're serious

10Z: When I first heard about this, I just assumed Sizzler was funding you as a viral marketing campaign (like that stealthy paid placement in a real high school graduation speech for the movie "I Love You, Beth Cooper".) The big question is: How can we be sure Sizzler isn't paying you?

REED: In our video — and this interview — hopefully we come across genuine enough. We had been wondering that, and it's kind of too bad that it's gotten to that point, and that's the first thing that people think. I'd do the same thing — I'd wonder, too.

The fact also is, I'm a really bad liar (both Liz and I are)... The projects we choose may sometimes be wacky, but that doesn't mean we're not serious about them.

10Z: Seriously — it's the culmination of a year's-long dream?

REED: I would say, 15 years.

10Z: Ironically, Sizzler declared bankruptcy during that time, in 1996.

REED: That was a dark day for me. I remember where I was when I heard the news. No, no, I'm just kidding. But it's been a long time coming.

10Z: So how exactly will you pull off this nationwide road trip?

LIZ: We took all of the Sizzlers off the web site, because they do list all the addresses. So we printed that out...

REED: They're all listed on the web site, and then we just went through and Googled all of them and where they are. Because Sizzler doesn't have a map.

LIZ: If there are multiple Sizzlers in a town, we just sort of map them out as we go...

10Z: And then after you've visited a Sizzler, you get to change the color of its pin on Google's map?

REED: It's a great moment — just to get it off your to-do list. Sometimes you want to get to the end of the list. And that will feel good, when we change that last pin's color. That will feel like an accomplishment. That will feel like the culmination of a year's-long dream.

10Z: What about all the Sizzlers in foreign countries? There's 81 Sizzlers outside the U.S. — scattered throughout Australia, Japan, China, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Singapore.

REED: That would be, I think, the sequel.


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Will ‘The Hunt for Gollum’ Satisfy True Fans?

The Hunt for Gollum

Hardcore Lord of the Rings nerds will get a little somethin'-somethin' on Sunday to help them through the Middle Earth drought until Jackson's production of The Hobbit is released.

But let's be real. This internet-only production isn't a "fan film." Rather, it's a vehicle for a crew of young, talented Hollywood wannabes to break into the industry by showing their chops.

It's true, the flick could end up being as badly-written and poorly-acted as your average fan film, but it's not likely. And in any case, the production values completely deprive the audience the pleasure of audio-visual comic fail should it turn out to be otherwise unwatchable. The trailer proves that.



There is further evidence that this is a professional endeavor, not an amateur one.

The lead actor who plays Aragorn, Adrien Webster (who claims to be a devout "fan," as do all of the 150 volunteer crew-members) was pressed to provide some nerd credentials so that the audience didn't feel it was being exploited.

"I don’t think we’re exploiting anything," said Webster. "I'm actually Viggo Mortenson's evil twin."



But, while we have no doubt that the guy makes a convincing Ranger, what could he offer in the way of story details from the LOTR appendices that the plot's allegedly drawn from — something to indicate a real depth of love for the mythology that would show he's anything more than a casual cinema-goer like so many "fans"? Not much. (He couldn't even give us a good nerd joke from on-set.)

"I think it does follow more closely to the books in terms of timeline," Webster said. "The movie deals with Aragorn’s search for Gollum after Gandalf has charged him with this task. It allows us to show more of Aragorn the Ranger."

Well, yeah, but we read that on the movie's website, dude.

From an interview with the film's writer-director, Chris Bouchard:
It's all written in the appendices of the books, where he tells of what Aragorn and Gollum got up to before the trilogy began. Last May I took elements from that story and didn't even have to fill in many gaps before I had a 25-page script. It worked like a short episode — an additional chapter of the Peter Jackson trilogy... Above all I was so inspired by Peter Jackson's trilogy. And jealous that he got to make it first! I loved the scale, the quality, the epic scope of it all and figured, hey, maybe we can do that too.

The filmmakers do seem unaware that the chapter in Fellowship of the Ring titled, "The Council of Elrond," includes Gandalf's report to the Council regarding Gollum — his capture, imprisonment, and escape from the elves of Mirkwood.

"Hunt" film editor Lewis Albrow claims in his bio on the crew page that he read The Hobbit when he was seven and LOTR when he was 11, but then — what's this? — "he skipped past much of The Council of Elrond"!

Gandalf's report on Gollum is omitted from Jackson's film adaptation.

It's pretty clear that crafting a traditional, if low-budget, piece of cinema was the driving factor in making this film. This is supported by the fact that Bouchard's been occupying his time in recent years making independent, low-budget zombie movies, not learning Elvish or arguing online about whether Tolkien was a racist.

As for the legal status of the project, Bouchard has said that he's been in contact with the Tolkien estate and that they were OK with it, though his movie's disclaimer says otherwise. (It warns that The Hunt for Gollum "is in no way affiliated with, or sponsored or approved, by Tolkien Enterprises, the heirs or estate of J.R.R. Tolkien, Peter Jackson, New Line Cinema, HarperCollins Publishers Ltd. or any of their respective affiliates or licensees…")

And while the overt visual mimicry of Jackson's films raises obvious questions about dilution of trademark and other legal vagueness surrounding fan fiction, it's also clear that, with such a non-profit, online-only film, the rights-holders have very few options. The film is finished and loaded into the chamber. Regardless of any legal victories by those who might want to stop the release of this thing, it only takes one anonymous finger to pull the trigger and fire it around the world in an instant.

"I'm just saying my prayers and eating my vitamins brother," actor Webster told us. "I haven’t been involved too much with the legal side of things."

Any publicity would only guarantee a larger audience. And a more general audience would likely be made up of folks who are even less able to distinguish between a New Line Cinema release and an "amateur" fansploitation effort.

How precious.

See Also:
Neil Gaiman has Lost his Clothes
When Cory Doctorow Ruled the World
Lost 'Horrors' Ending Found on YouTube
A Selection of Obscure Robert Anton Wilson Essays
Is The Net Good for Writers

Read More

Blossom Dearie’s “Conjunction Junction” Romance?



Did the woman who sang "Unpack Your Adjectives" ever get together with the guy who sang "I'm Just a Bill"?

It turns out the answer is yes! Sort of...

Blossom Dearie was an occasional singer on Schoolhouse Rock, and so was Jack Sheldon, who sang the gravelly-voiced conductor song Conjunction Junction. When Blossom came to Hollywood (for a big recording session at Capitol Records), Sheldon was her trumpeter. "I was madly in love with Blossom at the time," he remembered wistfully. "We were going everywhere and doing everything together..." reads his remembrance 34 years later from the liner notes of Blossom's re-issued album. "Blossom was marvelous."

(Click to hear Jack's love-struck trumpet
on the album's title track, "May I Come In?")

Blossom Dearie, the beguiling blonde jazz chanteuse, died Saturday at the age of 82. But when she'd met Sheldon in 1964, she was just 38, and had already lived in Paris for several years — even though she didn't speak French! Within a few years, Blossom had recorded several jazz albums and married a Belgian saxophone player named Bobby Jaspar, who had recorded with Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Chet Baker. In 1963, Jaspar died of a heart attack at the age of 37 — but Blossom Dearie was about to earn her own fame in America.



In a funny twist of fate, an entire generation fell in love with her voice, mostly from just two songs — her vocals on two educational "Schoolhouse Rock" cartoons in the 1970s. Dearie and Sheldon actually sang together in a third cartoon, which featured every Schoolhouse Rock vocalist including Bob Dorough and Essra Mohawk. (In a song about the history of inventions, Dearie sings about Thomas Edison's mother, plagued by the lack of an electric light.) And it was her haunting vocal on the Figure Eight song which first captivated generation X. A cello in a minor key set a somber tone while Dearie's sunny girl-like voice thoughtfully advised children to "figure eight....as double four," and in a later video she described a rotten camping trip by unpacking her adjectives.

Jack Sheldon and Blossom Dearie became familiar to millions of children — or at least, their voices did. The short three-minute cartoons won four Emmys — even beating out Mister Roger's Neighborhood in the early 1970s. In the years to come, Sheldon would enjoy a lifelong fame, recording parodies of his Schoolhouse Rock songs. And Blossom? She became a cabaret singer. It's a dying art form — just a singer at a piano — but she had a wispy, sunny voice and a personality that could capture a room. On the day she was born, a neighbor celebrated by bringing peach-tree flowers to her family — one story says that's where she earned the name "blossom." And 80 years later, she was still delighting crowds at Danny's Skylight Room on Restaurant Row in the Broadway theatre district.

Sadly, that big recording session in Hollywood hadn't earner her big money. "I kept working, but it doesn't seem like there was much of an impact," Blossom once said. She appears on the album's cover in a mink coat — but the CD's liner notes point out that "It wasn't hers." (A secretary loaned it to her for the photograph.) Watching her pennies, Blossom once complained simply that "I don't want to have to worry about taking a cab uptown." Thirty years later she'd record the jingle for Calvin Klein's Obsession perfume, book-ending her first real fame in 1963, when she'd recorded a promotional album for Hires Root Beer — "the most rootin' tootin' songs of 1963."



"Today, the original LP goes for hundreds of dollars on eBay," one blogger noted, "when you can find a copy." She may not have gotten rich, but she delivered a million smiles, and left many people today feeling the same sentimental memory.

"I like to think that you might go out to Woodstock on some winter's day and see a little old lady skating by herself on a frozen pond, quietly singing Figure 8 in that baby-doll voice."

Read More

Death at Christmas



It's easy to hate Christmas: the endless forced good cheer, the media-driven consumer frenzy, the It's a Wonderful Life fantasy dissolving into a Married... with Children reality.

But no matter how bad your holiday is, rest assured that it could have been far worse.

1. Family Discord.
Home was definitely not the place to be for the family of R. Gene Simmons of Dover, Arkansas in 1987. The clan was rapidly becoming estranged from the family patriarch. Even his favorite daughter, who had borne him a son, had run off and gotten married. It was time for revenge. As each contingent showed up at the dilapidated family mobile home to try to put a happy face on for the holiday, Simmons shot the adults and strangled the children. By Christmas Day, he'd wiped out almost three generations of Simmons, 14 all told. It was the worst family slaughter in American history.

But wait — he wasn't done yet! For an encore a few days later, he went on a shooting rampage through a few former places of employment. He killed two people and injured four more before surrendering to police. He later became the first man executed by lethal injection in Arkansas.

2.The Season of Not Giving.
The holiday-fueled impulse to eradicate one's family isn't limited to the dysfunctional trailer park crowd. H. Sanford Williams was eminently respectable, having been an Army Chaplin, a Methodist Pastor, and finally the head of a charity, the National Retirement Foundation. Alas, the season of sharing had been a bust donation-wise and his foundation was in serious trouble. On Christmas Eve in 1957, the St. Petersburg, Florida man shot and killed his wife and two sons before turning the gun on himself.



3. Xmas Pageant Inferno.
It was the climax of the 1924 Christmas Eve pageant at the Babb's Switch, Oklahoma one-room schoolhouse. The last recitation had ended, the last carol faded. Now Santa himself was handing out bags of candy to all the children. But oh no! Santa brushed against the candle-lit tree. Within minutes, the room was a seething inferno, with 200 men, women, and children trying to force their way out the only exit: a door that opened inward. Thirty-four people died. But thanks to the heroic efforts of Santa and the schoolteacher (both of whom were themselves incinerated), only five children were among the dead.

4. The Deadly Christmas tree.
The substitution of incandescent lights for candles didn't eliminate the tendency of Christmas trees to turn into pyrotechnic yule logs. One of the deadliest of these modern-day holiday firebombs was Niles Street Hospital's 1945 tree. When a nurse unplugged the tree lights on Christmas Eve in the Hartford, Connecticut convalescent hospital, a spark ignited the dry needles. She grabbed a fire extinguisher, but panicked at the sight of the roaring flames and fled. Not only did she not even bother to call the fire department (neighbors, woken by the crackling flames, summoned them several minutes later), she left the front door open to properly ventilate the blaze. The building was completely gutted, and 15 patients and two staff died.

5. The Lethal Midnight Mass.
Christmas Eve midnight mass in Temoaya, Mexico in 1953 had just finished. Three thousand worshippers were peacefully filing out when someone tripped over the wrong wire. There was a bright blue flash, and then total darkness. All sense of peace and goodwill toward men vanished as the crowd transformed into a panic-stricken mob stampeding from the sanctuary. By the time the lights came on a few minutes later, 23 people were dead and over 200 injured.

See Also:
Five Awful Thanksgivings in History
Christmas 2.0: Subverting the Holidays with Re-dubbing
Atheist Filmmaker Launches Blasphemy Challenge
Alvin and the Chipmunks Launch IMunks.com
"Miracles"

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Lost “Horrors” Ending Found on YouTube



The web has resurrected a rare alternate ending to a 1986 musical about a monstrous, blood-sucking plant.

The spectacular 24-minute sequence shows an army of giant plants rampaging past city skyscrapers, overturning cars, swallowing railroads, and demolishing New York City, Godzilla-style. The U.S. army discovers the plants are bulletproof, and as helicopters flee, the plants swarm over the statue of Liberty.

It cost $5 million, took 11 months to produce, and has never been released.

Well, almost never.



Ten years ago, "Little Shop of Horrors" was available on a DVD including the toothier alternate ending — for exactly five days. But Warner Brothers failed to secure the proper copyrights for the alternate ending — and the DVD was recalled. For the next decade, producer David Geffen and Warner Brothers wrangled and promised to restore the original ending, until Warner Brothers finally discovered in 2007 that it had already been burned in a studio fire.

But while Hollywood argued, the coveted footage quietly slipped onto YouTube.

Watch Part I, Part II, and Part III


Fans of the 1986 musical version will recognize the ending's opening scene, which starts with the same shocks as the original off-Broadway theatrical production in 1982. (Blonde flower shop worker Audrey tries to water the enormous plant — which decides that it'd rather eat Audrey.) But the film makes explicit what was only implied in the stage musical's darker final number. Standing in front of an American flag, the three chorus singers (dressed in ominous robes) explain that "subsequent to the events you have just witnessed..."
The plants worked their terrible will
finding jerks who would feed them until
    the plants proceeded to grow and grow
and began what they came here to do
which was essentially to

    eat Cleveland
    and Des Moines
    and Peoria
    and New York

and where you live.


Ironically, the additional footage contained a prophetic scene with an agent haggling over the rights to the plant. He shouts "We don't have to deal with you. A god-damn vegetable is public domain! You ask our lawyers!"


A Long Strange Trip

There's something cathartic about the forbidden mayhem — and ironically, the raw cut returns the movie to its black-and-white roots. The legendary B-movie producer Roger Corman filmed the movie's original version in just two days — using sets that he'd borrowed from another film.

But his movie, released in 1960, marks a very real milestone in Hollywood history. "There was a big rush to finish before New Year's Eve," recalled Jackie Joseph. As the film's lead, she was interviewed for a 1988 book about the film, and remembered that "starting in 1960 you'd have to pay residuals." In fact, the site DVD Talk argues that when budget-conscious Corman finished his movie, something died in Hollywood forever. When the clock struck midnight on New Year's Eve, 1960, "drive-in films were stopped cold by the advent of residuals... Anyone who has studied Corman knows that this must have struck him like the bubonic plague."

But then again, the movie's weird idea had only sprang to life after "Roger and I went bar-hopping again on the Strip," according to Charles Griffith, the film's scriptwriter. (In Roger Corman's autobiography, Griffith remembers that while the two men were brainstorming, "I got drunk and ended up in a fight at Chez Paulette.") Somehow that inspired the idea of a cannibalistic restaurant chef — which became a man-eating plant for Little Shop of Horrors. 23-year-old Jack Nicholson appears briefly in the film as a dentist's masochistic patient, but it would've languished in obscurity if it hadn't been for two 11-year-old boys. They saw the film when it was released, and 20 years later, Martin Robinson and Howard Ashman turned it into a wildly successful off-Broadway musical.



The scriptwriter's other credits had included Attack of the Crab Monsters, Death Race 2000, and part of Barbarella: Queen of the Galaxy, so I want to believe he'd have some affection for the horror movie fans who finally uploaded the "lost ending" for the movie's musical version. And the movie seems to have haunted other lives as well. Mel Welles — the character actor who played Mr. Mushnick in the 1960 original— launched a web site 38 years later to share his memories about his work in Hollywood. At MelWelles.com, he held court for seven years, until he died in 2005 at age 81. (At the time of his death, he was reportedly working on a screenplay called "House of a Hundred Horrors.")

The strange magic continued through another generation, since the musical movie — released 26 years after the original — intersected still more nascent careers. The movie was directed by Yoda puppet-master Frank Oz, and featured Steve Martin as a sadistic dentist. John Candy did a memorable cameo, and the film also featured Jim Belushi and Bill Murray. And the voice of the blood-sucking plant came from Levi Stubbs, the baritone singer from the Four Tops who died just two weeks ago at the age of 72.

Maybe it's fitting that the story lives on for another generation — and on Halloween night, Stubb's voice haunts the web one last time.

See Also:
Secrets of the Perry Bible Fellowship
The Great Wired Drug Non-Controversy
Prescription Ecstasy and Other Pipe Dreams

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The Ghost of the D.C. Madam




After Deborah Palfrey's suicide, one sex-worker advocate blogged a message of sympathy, saying "I know who you're determined to haunt."

But eight weeks later, she received an email telling her that the D.C. Madam's ghost was talking back!



"I rather suspect this letter could come as a bit of a shock," warned "ghost whisperer" Daniel 'Trinity' Jackson. He identified himself as a professional astrologer — and "metaphysical teacher" — as well as an experienced psychic.

The 55-year-old astrologer lived 10 miles from Tarpon Springs, Florida where Palfrey had committed suicide in May. (Her body was discovered hanging from a noose in a storage shed behind her mother's mobile home.) "My reaction was simply 'This is really terrible'," Daniel says, adding that two weeks later, "I was at home in my living room when I became aware that another person, a spirit entity, had suddenly entered my consciousness and my body..."

Daniel says he now has the answers to the questions surrounding the infamous brothel-keeper's death. (Was Palfrey's suicide faked by government conspirators? Would she reveal the names of her famous clients?) Within 10 seconds, he'd identified the visiting spirit as Deborah Jeane Palfrey. (And to make sure, he'd verified it — with another psychic.) In July, Daniel was ready to contact the sex-worker advocate to say the madam was now available for questions.

The offer was declined, but 10 Zen Monkeys eventually conducted our own brief interview, emailing questions which would be relayed to the dead madam's ghost.

Would she reveal whether her suicide was faked by wayward government agents?

Yes.

Her ghost says...

This is absolutely false! I am solely responsible for the manner in which my life ended. There was no conspiracy that I became aware of to kill me. And even if there was, it was not successful. I took my own life; it was my decision, end of story. Or is it...?

The Government was my own dark shadow. The Government is very often our own personal dark shadow. Once we begin to recognize this we can move past the guilt, punishment, blame games and victimization. Until such time as the Human Race gets really, totally and completely fed up with limiting beliefs and values, our Government will stand as a reminder, a grim reminder that we are anything but a free people living in a world of real freedom and personal fulfillment.


Her ghost sounded much more philosophical than when we published this 2007 interview with the D.C. Madam — although it's possible that four months in the afterlife puts things in perspective. But an even more surprising revelation was that after running a brothel and hanging herself in Florida ...the D.C. Madam had gone to heaven!

It's not an either/or proposition! There is no afterlife judgment, no eternal condemnation, no 'fire and brimstone' and no angry God to punish anyone! Now there is a place for 'cleansing and repair' that certain individuals will have to endure briefly that forms all of the ancient myths about 'the fires of hell,' but that condition is temporary! It doesn't last forever!

I already briefly went through that myself and I write at length about that in Chapter 10 of the new book.


The new book? Yes, according to Daniel, it seems Palfrey's wandering ghost had kept coming around day after day, holding forth in long beyond-the-grave conversations. "I thought she might ask me to try and send a message to someone living that she was concerned about," Daniel says — but that wasn't it. She had wanted to learn "her disposition and her destiny" in the afterlife. But while she was doing that — she'd decided to dictate a book through him.

In fact, Daniel had originally contacted the sex-worker advocate to see if she'd write the foreword for his book, and maybe promote it on her site. ("Assuming this book is commercially successful, Deborah and I are agreed that substantial portions of the proceeds will be donated to a legal defense fund for women accused of prostitution or pandering and to women victims of rape and other sex related offenses.") And besides, he wrote sympathetically — dictating a book from beyond the grave might give Deborah closure.

Daniel also sells "Pre-Paid Astrology Services," according to his web page at freewebs.com. (Ten sessions cost $425 — with readings of children available for just $60!) But it was apparently much trickier to write an entire book with a ghost. "I literally let Deborah take full control of my body and she typed the book herself!
After Deborah finished each session, we would examine the manuscript together and occasionally I would offer editing suggestions... Deborah also received some assistance from some very wise "Guides" where she is in the afterlife.

There have been other responses to Deborah's death. Last month her 76-year-old mother went to a Florida courtroom urging some privacy over the death of her daughter, requesting that police photos of her daughter's corpse not be released to the public. ("This is the last thing I can do for my daughter," she told the judge. "Please don't let these pictures get out in public.") The judge ultimately ruled that the public could view the photos, but that they couldn't be published or duplicated. It seemed like the final possible episode in a year of fierce notoriety.



But had this helpful Florida psychic found a way to deliver the last word? Besides the political questions surrounding her notoriety — what powerful men secretly visited her service? — there's the bizarre vengeance in having the names spoken from beyond the grave. Last year bloggers pondered a rumor that Dick Cheney might even be on her client list. Through Daniel's psychic connection, Palfrey's ghost finally stepped up to the plate, and gave us an answer.

Sort of.

Her ghost continues...

Suppose for a moment I named more Government People in my new book channeled through Daniel Jackson. Such information would be nothing more than an assertion — hearsay — because Daniel does not have access to my personal records from Pamela Martin Escort Services. So legally speaking at least, naming more people could be dismissed as fabrication to sell the book and Daniel couldn't prove it unless he could obtain my business records...

The grateful ghost couldn't leave her psychic channel facing a libel charge "or possibly even worse." (Though she did add graciously that "My Channel Daniel by the way has worked and worked tirelessly for months to bring this book into reality.")

Daniel acknowledges that some people may be cynical about the validity of his claims. "I understand and appreciate that segments of the public do not recognize or accept either an afterlife or the possibility of psychic contact with spirit entities." And what's his response?

"I always leave it to individuals to decide for themselves the validity of such claims of contact."

Chapter Nine of the book even reveals that being dead has given the D.C. Madam the ability to see into the future.

It will also be discovered that love can be both amplified and transmitted exactly as if it were radio waves sent across the planet... By Year 2089 such an instrument will be nearly as common as are cell phones today.

But the book doesn't end without answering the obvious question: What's it like being dead? And in the strangest twist of all, Daniel's book has given the story of Deborah Jeane Palfrey something no one ever expected to see.

A happy ending.

Most of what I have seen here in the afterlife is just absolutely, positively remarkable; it's called Heaven for really good reason...!

[I]n my final moments on Earth I found myself hoping either for a Tiki Bar that is always open, or maybe a mountain glacier made of butter pecan ice cream and spiced rum cake but instead I think I got something much better!


Read The Book's Epilogue - "The Lesson I'll Never Forget"
and excerpts from five chapters

See Also:
Death of a Madam
The D.C. Madam Speaks
California Cults 2006
Scientology Fugitive Arrested
Dead Woman Blogging

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Archie Comics Fights Mp3 Pirates




Archie's band recently confronted mp3 pirates, as the 67-year-old teenager struggles to adapt to digital technology and a changing world.

Yes, 67 years. Archie first appeared in 1941 — the cartoonist's mother was a Ziegfeld girl in the 1920s — and the characters were based on teenagers the cartoonist knew in the 1930s growing up in Northern Massachusetts.

But now that he's approaching 70, Archie has started flashing around the latest technology in his plucky comic book digests. There's web sites, text messages, mp3s, and file swapping — all pushing a new image for 2008.



Jealous Veronica Lodge is still badgering Archie for looking at other girls — but this time, she's using a massive network of her technologically-enabled conniving friends, all armed with cell phone cameras spying on Archie. ("Who'd have guessed that 'Big Brother' would be a beautiful brunette named Lodge?" Archie complains.) It's the cover story for July's issue of Archie comics — titled One Click Away — and Archie tries to jam Veronica's mobile surveillance by wearing a disguise from a costume shop. (Though then the girl he's pursuing just shouts "Steer clear of me, weird-o" and whacks him with a shopping bag.)

And Reggie's still a big sneak — but in February, he teamed up with a hacker named "The Serpent" to swipe the answers for the math teach from Mr. Novak's computer. ("It was his idea to use a library computer, so they couldn't trace it back to my home computer.")

   


Then again, in Archie's fictitious world, cutting edge of technology has always been just a brush stroke away. Even back in 1971, Archie and his pals watched cartoon renderings of newspaper comics on a cutting-edge Univac mainframe (in a bizarre TV/newspaper hybrid called "Archie's TV Funnies.")


Archie apparently got his first PC in 1995 — which he used to troll online dating services looking for dates. (According to Archie Digest Magazine #137 his first message was a full-screen image of Veronica, barking "How dare you use this computer to find girls! Why I oughtta...") But the matrix had set him on a collision course with music pirates — even if it took 40 years. That fateful afternoon when Archie and his gang lost their innocence came in Archie #577 — when they discovered that their music was being pirated.

        

The story's called "Record Breaker," and it shows Archie dreaming of launching an online downloading emporium. ("No CD's! We're bypassing that whole system to reduce overhead... We'll get paid directly per download!") Dilton, the strip's resident geek, builds a cutting-edge distribution platform as Jughead, Reggie, and the rest of the gang sink their savings into a recording session. ("We'll make back our outlay with the records we sell!")

"Lets find out just how rich we are," Archie says cockily as they stroll into Dilton's downloading command center.


Archie's music career was over before it began, apparently doomed by his failure to implement an infrastructure for harassing Riverdale's music pirates. The story ends with Archie and Jughead sadly going back to their day jobs at the burger joint, now working double shifts to earn back their money, and abandoning the band altogether.

But then again, Archie's been working there since Roosevelt was President, cracking jokes he inherited from his father's vaudeville act.



But there's one voice in Riverdale who might understand — and it's not the school principal Mr. Weatherbee. Ron Dante was the real voice for the Archies, singing on all 100 of their records (and at least once even performing as the voice of Betty). At 63 years old, he's watched the music scene change — and in a 2000 interview, Dante shared his thoughts about online music.

In a world of fluff and filler songs, "you'll see the really good stuff rise to the top of the Internet at some point," he predicted optimistically to Cosmik Debris magazine, "and people will be able to judge for themselves. It's a revolution. It's going to change the world of music as we know it.

"It's evolution, too. We have to go through this."

Even though he created the Archie's music, he laughed off the teenaged pirates that are now harrying Archie and Jughead's band.

"With all this hubbub about record people worried about the Internet, the record business is up ten percent. Instead of ten billion, it's thirteen billion this year.

"So I'm not too worried."

See Also:
Records Broken By the Perry Bible Fellowship
Steve Wozniak v. Stephen Colbert — and Other Pranks
Six Freakiest Children's TV Rock Bands
Alvin and the Chipmunks launch iMunks.com

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Rush: The Last Taboo

Rush in 1978


As the redheaded, one-eyed stepchild in the Mondo Globo omniverse, I’ve written about some really fucked up shit; pretty much everything this side of fecalphilia.

And while I’m generally not shy about exposing my own proclivities, I’m about to reveal one that pushes the very boundaries of counterculture sensibility.

I love Rush.



Now, upon revealing this in person to some, I’ve seen the color completely drain out of the face, in a way that could only be rivaled by a revelation of secret daughter dungeon proportions. In terms of relationships, you definitely don’t want to let this cat out of the bag to a prospective mate until sometime between the farting in the bed phase and marriage.

The band is currently on tour to promote its latest release Snakes & Arrows. The tour is actually an extension of last year’s summer outing, which ended up being the sixth highest-grossing tour of the season.

With such evergreen success (Rush has been playing the same venues since I first saw them … in 1982), why does going to a Rush show still feel almost like sneaking into a NAMBLA convention?

Because much of their material showcases the instrumental prowess of drummer Neil Peart, guitarist Alex Lifeson, and bassist/vocalist/keyboardist Geddy Lee, that’s bound to alienate some listeners right off the bat. And while the band has taken strides to make their music more accessible over the years (and Snakes & Arrows has a sharp, fresh sound that’s remarkably contemporary for such a, well, old band), they ain’t gonna be mentors on American Idol anytime soon.

But I suspect it has a lot to do with the amount of baggage that Rush carries with it. The mythology of this legendary Canadian trio is fed almost as much on misconception as it is on their worthy musical achievements (including multiple Grammy nominations) and rabid fan base.

Because of their willingness to play with their sound over the years (evolving from the Cream/Zeppelin power trio blueprint to Yes-like sprawling masterpieces to a full embrace of synthesizers and MIDI technology in the ‘80s before stripping back down to a purely guitar-based rock sound), Rush means different things to different people. Even fans argue about “which” Rush is the “real” Rush.

Allow me to demonstrate:

Rush = Dungeons & Dragons. Thematically speaking, Rush never were a sword-and-sorcery band, though that perception thrives among the unwashed. They did use sci-fi narratives, but only to advance a larger theme, as demonstrated best in their seminal album, 2112, where futuristic elements are dwarfed by the Ayn Rand-ian perspective.

While there’s no doubt that plenty of RPG nerds have been into Rush since those bones were first rolled, you can file this one under “All puppies are dogs, but not all dogs are puppies.” That is to say, in especially the small towns of America, when considering the circle of life that is high school ass-kicking, it has just as often been the case that the one listening to “2112” has been the ass-kicker as he has been the hapless, bespectacled victim.

Rush is a heavy metal band. Wait, Rush is an ‘80s synth-pop band. It seems unlikely that these two misconceptions could co-exist in the popular culture terrain, and it is. However, I have heard both of these assertions made, and not just by the average yahoo, but by the media (below-average yahoos). Obviously age is a factor in determining which false statement you subscribe to. If you’re between the ages of 40 and 50, and all you know about Rush is “Working Man,” I guess you might call that heavy metal. I mean, you could also call it afro-funk if you wanted to, but whatever. On the other hand, if you’re between the ages of 30 and 40, and your first exposure to Rush was the MTV video for “The Big Money,” you could be excused for thinking they were … uh … The Fixx?

Girls aren’t into Rush. Okay, so there’s probably about as many girls into Rush as there are guys who watch “The View,” but let the record show that they do exist. I dated a girl last year who, to my amazement, was into Rush, and proclaimed it so defiantly my big toe jumped up in my boot. (She dumped me because I smoke too much pot. Go figure.)

Black people don’t like Rush. I remember the claim being made that you're more likely to spot RU Sirius in da club with Young Jeezy than a black person at a Rush show. This made me understandably self-conscious given my sensitive liberalitude, so I made a point of looking around at the last couple of shows and was relieved to see some color in a sea of pale flesh. I mean, there are probably more blacks at a Dave Matthews concert, but then again there are more white people at a Michael Franti show, so again, go forth and figure.

Geddy Lee isn’t human. He’s some kind of chipmunk. The aforementioned ability of Rush to tinker with their sound is one of the things that endears them to their fans. Hell, there have even been times when critics have been in synch with the band’s sensibilities (Grace Under Pressure, for example, was very in touch with its time, 1984, and appealed to critics for about a minute.)

Of all these phases, however, the most recognized, and paradoxically revered and reviled, was the first seven years of the band’s career, when Geddy Lee’s high-pitched yelps defined Rush’s music. And while Lee has spent the last 25 years proving he could also emote with more warmth in his voice, one could argue it still dogs the band. But at the same time, it is that original quality that would go on to influence vocalists like the Mars Volta’s Cedric Bixler-Zavala.

So let it be known that when I see my favorite band at their stop at the Sleep Train Pavilion (!) in Concord in the Bay Area this weekend, the sense of rapture that will somehow manage to overtake the copious amount of booze and weed in my system comes from unashamedly indulging in something the masses will never understand: The taboo of Rush.

See also:
Top 10 Pillars of Led Zeppelin Mythology
The End of Internet Radio?
The Satanic Cosmology of Jack Chick

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Hating Roger Ebert



Roger Ebert won the first Pulitzer Prize for film criticism. But 33 years later, is he part of the problem?

That's what Armond White is suggesting in a 3,200-word essay arguing that Ebert's "TV glibness" misses the meat of movies. Critics today discuss movies "simply as entertainment" detached from their moral and political context, White argues, and internet bloggers are compounding the problem with an elite hipsterism which is "diminishing cultural discourse."

Vanity Fair's James Wolcott quipped that the column "has something to annoy, invigorate, and agitate just about everybody."



The 20th anniversary issue of the New York Press found Armond White declaring war on the deadened souls of the movie-loving literati. This week White, who heads the New York Film Critics Circle, accused critics of ignoring politically-relevant movies like Steven Spielberg's Munich and War of the Worlds. Instead they'll only endorse dishonest films like There Will Be Blood or Gus van Sant's film about the Columbine shootings, the kind of movies White describes as "irresponsible," "pseudo-serious," and "sometimes immoral or socially retrograde."

And where is Roger Ebert's big contribution to this cultural dialogue, White asks — his insightful new idea or his notable style? But White takes his attack even further by noting Ebert's substitutes on the show now "loyally prevaricate in Ebert’s manner — a 'criticism' show owned and sponsored by the Disney conglomerate!"

"Prevaricate" is a strong word, but White is suggesting an industry-wide pattern of dishonesty spotlighting the movie industry instead of the movies. For example, when Premiere launched in the last year of the Reagan presidency, it focused on box office receipts "for that era enthralled with tax shelters, bond-trading and pro-trust legislation," and the magazine ultimately "perverted movie journalism from criticism to production news." To this day, White concludes, we're left with film criticism "that's blurred with celebrity gossip."

But even more he objects to a "disrespect for thinking" — and this is where the bloggers come in. If it's a tragedy, "it’s not just for the journalism profession betraying its promise of news and ideas but also for those bloggers."
The love of movies that inspires their gigabytes of hyperbole has been traduced to nonsense language and non-thinking.

It breeds a new pinhead version of fan-clubism.

Unfortunately, the "post-Tarantino cinema" requires critics to reach for the esoteric in a kind of grass root elitism. With the world of film criticism now globally decentralized, it crowns "a network of bizarro authorities" — pompous trend-followers "with a hipster/avant-garde pack mentality...an opinionated throng, united in their sarcasm and intense pretense at intellectualizing what is basically a hobby." White accuses "the Internetters" of confusing the ability to publish online with democratization — "almost fascistically turning discourse into babble."

"...it’s mostly half-baked, overlong term-paper essays by fans who like to think they think."


THE EBERT QUESTION

Roger Ebert once confronted a similar issue with film critic Pauline Kael, according to a story White adds to his column. Ebert asked Kael if she watched his show, legend has it, and Kael replied dismissively that "If I wanted a layman's opinion on movies, I don't have to watch TV."

But Ebert himself takes a more philosophical view to the flood of online voices. When the web was young back in 1996, Ebert wrote a column for Yahoo! Internet Life with his reviewing partner Gene Siskel assessing the movie information available online. "You can find out almost anything about the movies on the Web," Ebert wrote.

"Some of it will be true. Some will be pure invention. A lot of it will be advertising..."




But Friday saw an announcement that for the first time the Annual Roger Ebert Film Festival would be held without Roger Ebert. Earlier this month 65-year-old Ebert made headlines when he announced he'd return to writing movie reviews after a series of health problems, though he'd forego a fourth surgery which would restore his ability to speak. "I am still cancer-free, and not ready to think about more surgery at this time," he wrote in a letter in the Chicago Sun-Times (adding "I should be content with the abundance I have.") Ebert adopted his familiar playful tone — "Are you as bored with my health as I am?" — but stressed a familiar passion. "I still have all my other abilities, including the love of viewing movies and writing about them."

After three decades in the public eye Ebert is one of the most familiar faces on television, and he seems blissfully unaware of White's column. Friday the Chicago Sun-Times site even boasted a fresh post on Roger Ebert's blog — titled Ebertfest in Exile.
Every year I keep meaning to include "Joe vs. the Volcano" in Ebertfest, and every year something else squeezes it out, some film more urgently requiring our immediate attention, you see...

Ebert writes honestly that the movie "was a failure in every possible way except that I loved it."


CRITICIZING THE CRITIC.

Did White launch his argument at the wrong time? "Don’t misconstrue this as an attack on the still-convalescent Ebert," White warns. "I wish him nothing but health. But I am trying to clarify where film criticism went bad." But White's article still drew a thumb down from blogger Matt Zoller Seitz.

"His simplistic denunciation of the meaning and impact of Roger Ebert — who has done more to widen the tastes of the movie-going public and popularize basic cinema literacy than any critic in the history of print — is shameful, and would be so even without the 'I wish him well as he recovers' parenthetical."

In fact, it was the online blog Defamer that identified the context for Armond's remarks. "Escalating Film Critic Crisis Enters Crucial 'Everything Sucks' Phase" read their snarky headline, linking the introspection to anxiety about the recent dismissal of several prominent newspaper film critics. "The discussion turned especially profound this week as a selection of esteemed critics moved on to slapping anyone and anything that would stand still long enough to absorb their blows."

Sympathy may be rolling towards Ebert in this discussion, but even before his column, White had already racked up an unflattering section in his Wikipedia entry labeled "controversy"
Many mainstream critics accuse White of contradicting the grain of mainstream criticism only to provoke debate [citation needed].

He frequently praises films that almost all other critics have drubbed, such as Little Man, Sahara and Against the Ropes. He often focuses a large portion of his reviews to attacks on the critical establishment... He is also frequently accused of being an aggressive pop culture writer who lends intellectual legitimacy to commercial product.[citation needed]

Of course, this could be dismissed as another half-baked term paper essay from the opinionated throng. The entry also notes dutifully that White "pioneered the case for the music video being one of the most significant postmodern art forms" and authored a book on the life of Tupac Shakur." (Library Journal wrote that "White has interviewed few subjects and done only modest secondary research in his attempt to place the rap star in a larger social and cultural context. This will appeal mostly to fans of standard rock biography....")

But it may be Google News that delivers the ultimate verdict. Searching for references to White's article turns up exactly one — the snarky sendup it received at Defamer. Ironically the only news outlet paying attention is one of the bizarro authorities with their "hipster/avantage-garde pack mentality."

If a critic challenges the awareness of film critics and no one notices — does he still make a sound?

See Also:
Sexy Adult Secrets in 'Little Children'
Robert Altman's 7 Secret Wars
Dead Woman Blogging
Pulp Fiction Parodies on YouTube
Author Slash Trickster 'JT LeRoy'
Robert Anton Wilson: 1932-2007
Alvin and the Chipmunks launch iMonks.com

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Lawrence Welk vs. The Hippies


Lawrence Welk was approaching his seventies when radical changes suddenly hit America's music scene. The clash in the late 1960s shook the band leader, America's most famous square, and he confronted the raging turmoil in a series of shocking performances — at least, according to these five videos.

Thirty years before American Idol, parts of America were still uncomfortable with the very idea of rock songs even appearing on television, especially during Welk's squeaky-clean song and dance show. And since The Lawrence Welk Show ran for three decades, these videos suggest the ultimate long, strange trip. They're a window in time, capturing a bizarre never-world where the hour-long show actually surrendered happily to the coming onslaught of rock.

1. Sweet Jesus



Yes, "Dale and Gail" are actually singing about the excessive use of marijuana: the devil's weed, the great satanic corrupter of our youth — and the counterculture's intellectual lubricant. Welk really did trot out a 23-year-old rejected Miss Oklahoma contestant to croon a shockingly wholesome rendition of "One Toke Over the Line." Maybe he was trying to tell us something.

Nearly 40 years later, the clip ignited a new controversy. Tom Shipley, one of the drug-friendly song's original singers, uploaded Welk's version onto YouTube — and nearly immediately, it drew over 160 comments.
"Do these two know what a 'toke' even is?"
"This fails so hard it approaches win from the other side."
"I think I'm about to stab pencils into my eyes and ears."

Welk was famous again, but for all the wrong reasons, as this forgotten moment in time "sparked" a very 21st-century enthusiasm.
"I want to make physical love to this clip."
"Way to go, Light-em-up Larry!"
"a priceless moment in television history"
"Champagne...the gateway drug!"

Though perhaps inevitably, some commenters also searched for a hidden message in the couple's giddy vocal delivery.
"look at their eyes!!, their baked!!"
"oh. my. god. becky, look at her blunt."
"She has to be baked to wear that outfit."

There's no evidence that Dale and Gail actually toked up before singing the song. But when accordionist Myron Floren introduces them — there's obviously something that's making him cough.


2. Sucking on a Ding-dong




Welk's heroin habit eventually caught up with him, and he was swallowed whole by a voracious counterculture. In a shocking turnaround, he brought in Lou Reed to jam with the show's banjo player, organist, drummer, and orchestra, citing a song which was "high" in popularity.

A remarkable video shows the squares in Welk's audience bobbing in a slow waltz as The Velvet Underground rips through "Sister Ray." ("I'm searching for my mainer, I said I couldn't hit it sideways...")



"Wonderful!" Welk declares at the end.

"Mr. Welk... This isn't like you at all," you can imagine his singers saying. Though of course, by now you folks know we were only kidding about that heroin habit...


3. Stop the Music



In a historic telecast, five men in yellow blazers and five women in matching blouses were confronted by "Hippie Welk."

The smiley man who played polkas on his accordion suddenly appeared with long hair and Beatle spectacles, flashing a peace sign and barking "Don't you cats know this polka jazz is strictly from Squares-ville? I can't stand that kind of music."

The audience actually gasps...

Backed by a Day-Glo drum, Welk then launches his singers into Wilson Pickett's "She's Looking Good." (Joking about bands with animal names, Welk says "I just opened the cages, and look what I released... The Babbling Baboons.") It rocks. Even if Welk's cast isn't quite sure how to dance to it.

While the Velvet Underground video was a mashup, this clip really is from an actual broadcast. It's a seismic shift in America's cultural landscape, as the song's driving beat fries the minds of America for exactly forty seconds. But then Welk's two white "soul sisters" are interrupted by some very unconvincing acting, as two female cast-members complain "Mr. Welk... This isn't like you at all."

Returning to their pre-liberated state of near-infantalism, they ask Welk about his trademark champagne music. "Whatever happened to the music that went doodly doodly doodly doodly doot?" They give him a raspberry, the audience applauds loudly, and Welk smilingly says "Of course, by now you folks know we were only kidding."

"We wouldn't do that to you nice people."


4. Meet the Beatles.



Drugs influenced the Beatles too, but when they broke up, it was Lawrence Welk who picked up their countercultural cred, turning "Hey Jude" into one of "ten big songs" on his ground-breaking concept album, Galveston. But where the Beatles released "Hey Jude" together with "Revolution," Welk paired it up with a softer song — Glen Campbell's "Gentle on My Mind."



Its graceful trumpet solo inspired audiences to waltz and vote for Nixon, shortly before a startling full-orchestra crescendo into the chorus, and one brief flourish of funk from an unappreciated bass player.

In a surreal moment, the string section saws away underneath a giant golden sign which says: "Geritol."

It was nobody's Woodstock.


5. Smoke on the Water?



It was almost heroic the way Welk clung to his kitschy schtick in the face of a changing world — his own personal freak flag, flown gloriously high.

Welk was nearly 90 when he died in 1989, but he lived long enough to see another accordion player make the big time, possibly channeling his spirit. In the early '80s, Weird Al Yankovic offered up the ultimate tribute, mixing Welk's "Bubbles in the Wine" into an accordion medley of 14 ridiculously inappropriate songs, from Devo to Jimi Hendrix, the Clash and the Who.

Later footage of Welk's show was even spliced into a video for the hyperactive medley (which also included "Hey Jude"), creating a montage that's oddly reminiscent of the surreal bandleader himself. It ultimately proves that given enough accordions, any song can become soul-crushingly square.

Even "Smoke on the Water."


100 Years After



It's been 105 years since Lawrence Welk was born. (Tuesday would've been his birthday.) But this November saw an interesting coda.

A video was uploaded to YouTube showing an audience of high school students baffled by a vinyl record of Welk's polka band performing "Minnie the Mermaid." Their heads bob as Welk's deep-voiced singer croons about the time he'd spent down in her seaweed bungalow...

But it turns out it was a time capsule within a time capsule, since the video came from a public access TV show they'd recorded for their local cable outlet in the 1980s. (An earlier episode featured a video by GWAR.) The two teenaged mid-80s hipsters are playing a song from 1957, just a pit stop on the song's journey to YouTube 50 years later.

The video has been watched just 87 times, but it drew one comment that puts the whole thing in perspective. "Now your show seems as ancient here as the Lawrence Welk record did..." In the future, maybe everyone will be Lawrence Welk for 15 minutes.

He'd learned to play the accordion before he'd learned to speak English at the age of 21, and rose from a poor immigrant family to become one of the richest men in Hollywood. But it was his earnest commitment to hokey friendliness that made him a kind of legend. Even if Welk never grokked the emergence of rock music, one YouTube comment suggested Welk had earned some respect simply for the role he'd played for the generations that came before.

"He made my grandparents — whom I loved dearly — happy during the final years of their lives. For that, I respect him."

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Adam West and Davy Jones Meet Sexina

Sexina starring Adam West

Ladies and gentlemen...meet Sexina!

A James Bond-style theme song rolls behind the opening credits of a new film featuring Adam West as a ruthless criminal mastermind. But its star is Sexina, part Britney Spears, part private-investigator-secretly-fighting corruption-in-the-music-industry.



79-year-old West plays a ruthless music industry overlord bent on destroying the sexy pop sensation with an evil boy band composed entirely of cuddly robots. The ultimate irony? The movie's theme is sung by Davy Jones, whose vocals for The Monkees in the 1960s make him one of the original boy band singers.

Davy Jones records the theme to Sexina

Click here to hear an excerpt from
Davy Jones' theme song for "Sexina: Popstar PI."


UPDATE: You can also click here for our list of
"Seven Forgotten Classics by Davy Jones

"Sexina is a very campy film, and Davy's track blends well with the tone," according to the film's publicists. It's one of 80 wildly original films being screened at the San Francisco's Independent Film Festival, now celebrating its tenth anniversary. ("What we're lacking in corporate dollars, we make up for with our devoted IndieFest filmgoers," according to founder Jeff Ross.) To promote the festival, the organizers even came up with their own bizarre trailer.



And Sexina, Popstar PI couldn't possibly be more indie. It's the brainchild of Eric Sharkey, whose resume includes uncredited work as a production assistant on the notorious Glitter (as well as Vanilla Sky). He's written, directed, and produced two previous films — though one was a four-minute short about a Coney Island Alligator Hunter (Her secret weapon: beer.) The other film, I Got Lucky, pairs a pot-head with a talking hamburger who can predict the future.

Sexina starring Adam West
In his sexy new movie, Adam West, who was TV's original Batman, schemes in the shadows for ways to overthrow the pop stardom of the film's singing sensation, Sexina (played by Lauren D'Avella). Sexina — real name: Maude Jenkins — has withstood all challengers, including a rival singer named "Sir Stabs-a-lot."

But now she's facing new competition from a narcissistic teen idol named Lance Canyon. (Church groups complained about his controversial song, "You Need The Extra Deep Love," but Lance responds that "My penis was touched by god. They should just worship it.") By day, Sexina and her bodyguard Chainsaw deal with the pressures of show business. ("I don't want a rapping Jesus in my video!") But she's also moonlighting as a kick-ass detective.

"We have our best person on the case," says her adoring female boss. "She's tough, smart, and very sexy. She also has the coolest walk, and a great smile."



But watch out — this movie is filled with unlikely plot twists. ("Not only is G-Dog not really from Jamaica. He's also a robot!") Besides inspiring the young students at Britney High School, Sexina must also investigate a kidnapping — the daughter of yet-another former teen star. The film's crazy mix also includes ninjas, cannibals, a man in a bear costume, and even a brief parody of Barbara and Jenna Bush.

Sharkey co-wrote the theme song's campy lyrics. ("She has the boobs and the brains of a queen. She's every man's dream... ") It's not clear there's a message in his film, although despite the villainous Lance's anti-drug commercial, he's also a big hypocrite. "There's still plenty of weed, cocaine, and ecstasy for everyone," he announces to his party guests, "as well as heroin, crystal meth, horse tranquilizers, vicodin, Xanax, modelling glue, yellow jackets, black beauties..."

Lance probably should've listened to the movie's theme song more carefully.
She's wicked cool and that's a fact,
so evil-doer's watch your back.
She'll get you....



Sexina: Popstar PI makes its world premiere this week at the San Francisco Independent Film Festival. Catch it Saturday (February 16) at the Roxie at 9:30 p.m.

And click here for our list of seven forgotten classics by Davy Jones

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An Obama Caucus Story from Idaho


Idaho Obama Caucus line

We parked and walked to the Qwest Arena on the Grove, where the line snaked out and wound and looped around as shown in the above image. Typically, the line was 5 people thick, and I swear it felt like a mile walk from the beginning to the end. Ironically, the end of the line where we were at 6:30 was about a block from my wife's parking garage, where we started.

There were more than 8,200 Democrats there (and according to the Idaho Statesman 1,600 people caucused in neighboring Canyon County, and more than 20,000 people showed up around the state — about four times more than in the last record year, 2004).



It was cold, and I felt like I was standing in a bread line in the Soviet Union. I felt sorry for the girl in flip flops and a miniskirt in front of me. But there was a lot of camaraderie!

There was no way we were getting in by 7:00, and Obama volunteers walked the line telling us that everyone was going to get to vote. Eventually other volunteers showed up with ballots, and we voted in the freezing cold. I filled in my ballot on a bus bench shaking my ball point pen to get it to work.



We left and got a cup of coffee. Everyone was talking about the caucus.

Some observations:
  1. Although they got a bigger venue in anticipation of a record turnout, the state party needed to think through getting that number of people inside. Other doors could have been opened.
  2. The Obama people were the best organized. In fact, they were the only ones organized! They were about the only volunteers I saw all evening.
  3. I have a friend who got into the building, and he told me that a large area was reserved for Hillary, and no one was sitting there.

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The Mormon Bigfoot Genesis Theory

The Mormon Bigfoot/Genesis Theory

Is it Bigfoot? Or a fugitive from the garden of Eden. Or maybe both.

The Journal of Mormon History recently published a new investigation into stories suggesting that the giant Sasquatch monster is really Cain, the murderous second son of Adam and Eve.

It may not be the first controversy tackled by new Mormon President, Thomas S. Monson. But the article's author, Matthew Bowman cites a 1919 manuscript describing Hawaiian missionary E. Wesley Smith "being attacked by a huge, hairy creature, whom Smith drives off in the name of Christ" the night before the mission was dedicated. His brother tells him the attacker must've been Cain. ("Now therefore cursed shalt thou be upon the earth, which hath opened her mouth and received the blood of thy brother at thy hand...a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be upon the earth.") And then he refers him to a story by a celebrated Mormon martyr who was one of Joseph Smith's original twelve apostles.



In 1835, as evening fell, missionary David W. Patten had spotted a figure walking near his mule in Tennessee. His tall, dark body was covered with hair, he wore no clothing, and...
...he replied that he had no home, that he was a wanderer in the earth and traveled to and fro. He said he was a very miserable creature, that he had earnestly sought death during his sojourn upon the earth, but that he could not die, and his mission was to destroy the souls of men.

I rebuked him in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by virtue of the Holy Priesthood, and commanded him to go hence, and he immediately departed out of my sight.


"As best as I can determine, the explicit connection to Bigfoot arises around 1980 in Davis County, Utah," Bowman writes on the Mormon Mentality site. "At that point in time, you have a conjunction of two things — 1) the publication of The Miracle of Forgiveness, which reprinted the original Patten story; 2) a rash of Bigfoot sightings.

"By the mid-1980s, the two strains of folklore begin to fuse, and the story gains resurgence, particularly on Utah's college campuses."

The book of Genesis does specify that God issued the mark of Cain, "that whosoever found him should not kill him." But did that confer immortality?

On the Mormon Folklore blog, Bowman received an interested response from someone who'd heard Patten's story at the church's Missionary Training Center, "where he was on his horse and eye-to-eye with the standing Bigfoot."
[O]ne of the missionaries suggested that this is another example of Satan copying the ways of God. His logic was that God preserved the lives of John the Baptist and the Three Nephites to work as agents for Him until the end of time — Satan did the same thing with Cain (thus, the ability to live through the flood).

There's already been a controversy about the Mormon church's teachings on Cain. Brigham Young believed that God punished Cain's ancestors, and that "the mark of Cain" was: black skin. The same belief continued through a 1966 edition of the church reference book Mormon Doctrine, and black Mormons were banned from the church's priesthood. But at that same time, church president David O. McKay announced that "It is a practice, not a doctrine, and the practice will some day be changed." The position was ultimately reversed by church president Spencer W. Kimball, and the church ordained its first black priest in 1978. (Thomas S. Monson, the new Mormon President, conducted that priest's marriage and sacred ordinances.)

Eugene England, a professor at Brigham Young University, addressed "the Cain legacy" in a 1998 article in Sunstone magazine.
This is a good time to remind ourselves that most Mormons are still in denial about the ban, unwilling to talk in Church settings about it, and that some Mormons still believe that blacks were cursed by descent from Cain through Ham...

I check occasionally in classes at BYU and find that still, twenty years after the revelation, a majority of bright, well-educated Mormon students say they believe that blacks are descendants of Cain and Ham and thereby cursed...

Of course, Mormon theory has faced skepticism before, like the blog commenter who opined that "The bible is just a waste of paper and the Book of Mormon is even less useful." But regardless of its credibility, the new attention to the "Bigfoot" legend provided an interesting opportunity to examine the way the church's theology had evolved.

"I find the idea that Cain, the original Son of Perdition in our theology, would degenerate into something half human/half animal is notable..." wrote blogger Fenevad. "[D]id it occur when Brigham Young was teaching that the Sons of Perdition would fall prey to eternal retrogression? ... Perhaps one message of the story is that evil is big and scary, but ultimately controllable."



And another comment notes that it's not the first time monsters from folklore have found their way into religious debates.
That reminds me of the story that I used to hear that the Loch Ness Monster was a surviving dinosaur, thus proving that the earth is not as old as scientists say it is. Uniquely Mormon? No. But I have heard variations on that one as a way to argue for young earth creationism among Church members back when that seemed to be a hot issue.

Over at Museum of Hoaxes site, blogger Alex Boese couldn't resist making the obvious joke. "[I]f Bigfoot is Cain, maybe Nessie is really the snake from the Garden of Eden."



But in a 21st century flood of information and misinformation, the discussion offers its own testament to the way new generations will grapple with questions about faith, folklore, and our popular culture.

Even if the commenters at the Mormon Folklore blog add their own twist.
I also seem to remember a story about a noted church leader — I think his name was Childs — sitting next to Cain on an airplane and starting up a discussion about the Book of Mormon only to have Cain tell him that his mission in life was to destroy the souls of men, especially the younger generation...

Hang on, no, wait... that was Mick Jagger. My bad.


See Also:
Santa's Crimes Against Humanity
Give Me Immortality or Give Me Death
Thou Shalt Realize The Bible Kicketh Ass
Scientology Fugitive Arrested
Atheist Filmmaker Issues 'Blasphemy Challenge'

Read More

Six Secret Lost Videos

These videos shed new light on the phenomenon that is Lost — or was Lost. A new episode of the mind-boggling mystery hasn't aired in nearly 8 months, and last year saw the show lose nearly 50% of its audience.

But Thursday Lost returns to the airwaves, and last season's finale was even nominated for an Emmy. Whether the series can recapture its glory, it'll at least provide something for TV-loving geeks to talk about.

And these videos will put it all in perspective.

1. The 117th episode?



Lost will end in three years, after 48 more episodes. But hardcore fans know that the final episode already slipped out last January, featuring surprising scenes with Sawyer, Kate, Sayeed, and Ben.

Some argued that actors Evangeline Lilly and Josh Holloway only filmed a three-minute parody to pander to geeks attending the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. (This theory is buttressed by the fact that Kate announces in the video that the first thing she'll do after leaving the island is attend the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas, adding that the men attending the show are all "dead sexy.") Kate also reveals which of the hunky castaways she prefers, Sawyer or Jack, though her answer takes an unexpected twist.



It's nice to see the cast acknowledging their loyal fans, even if they're also teasing them about the show's mysteries. This video ultimately captures a final showdown with treacherous Ben (played by Michael Emerson, who would later be nominated for an Emmy.) In the clip, Ben promises Sayeed "one simple unifying theory" that explains the mysteries of the island. (Sayeed thinks the answer is purgatory — but he's in for an annoying surprise...)


2. Episode 0



Sneak a peek at a bizarro world where there is no plane crash, or even a TV series — just struggling actors desperate for work

The first season DVD holds the rare "audition tapes" that were recorded by the show's actors. As Sawyer, Josh Holloway is good-looking, charming, and even a little bit younger. But even more surprisingly, it's a world of Sawyers, since his part was also coveted by three of the other future Lost actors — Matthew Fox (Jack), Dominic Monaghan (Charlie), and Jorge Garcia (Hurley).

But the most disturbing secret of all lies in Evangeline Lilly's audition tape for the part of Kate. It apparently comes from a parallel reality where Jack, the doctor, was killed in the very first episode.

"And whatever it is that killed Jack is still out there."


3. I'll Be Lost For You



This video suggests another little-known secret about Lost. It was originally a sitcom about wacky good-looking friends living together on an island. They frolic in the water in its original opening, their smiling faces showing what good friends they really are. A montage captures their warm moments of friendship — smiling, dancing, sharing peanut butter, and relaxing by the flaming jets from a recently demolished airline.

This video's title is "The one with the Friends spoof" (even identifying one of the actors as "Matthew Fox Arquette.") But it's letting the cast off easy. Elsewhere on YouTube, someone actually redubbed four full minutes footage of Lost footage with a sitcom laugh track.


4. Sawyer's acting class



The character of Sawyer charmed Kate, who sees tenderness under his gruff exterior. But the other castaways usually just see his volatile temper.

As the frustrations of island life mount, this remarkable video could be seen as a Lost drinking game gone horribly wrong. If you promised to chug every time Sawyer says "Son of a bitch" — prepare for alcohol poisoning.



It's surprisingly zen, a moment in time in which Sawyer's dialogue never changes, though the world flows on around him. Even when he's been captured and gagged, he still manages to snarl out a muffled version of his trademark phrase.

"Son of a bitch"


5. The magic turtle



Lost's writers received a warning message about the unsolved mysteries that are starting to pile up. (There's that smoke monster, the eyepatch guy, what "The Others" want, the ghost of Mr. Eko...)

But maybe they're more interested in discussing what would happen if Kate and Locke switched brains? The rival writers at comedy site "SuperDeluxe" offer a dead-on analysis of what this show's story meetings must look like.

"Everyone wakes up, and the ocean is missing!"
"Everything goes backward, for two and a half years!"


And a comment uploaded with the video suggests what the ABC show's writers are really feeling.

"It begins with the letter 'L' and rhymes with cost."


6. Hurley's Last Laugh



Jorge Garcia was 31 when the writers of Lost created the character of "Hurley" specifically for him. He was the first actor cast, going from stand-up comedian to top-rated TV star, playing the unlucky everyman who regrets ever winning the lottery.

In November of 2006, he even turned up on the David Letterman Show, reading a list of "The Top Ten Signs You're Obsessed With Lost." ("Number four: Your co-workers affectionately refer to you as 'That loser who's obsessed with Lost.") It speaks to the show's popularity that each of the ten jokes triggered some kind of recognition from the audience.

But maybe we're all just spending too much time watching TV.

See Also:
Leaving Lost Limbo
Five Freaky Muppet Videos
Pulp Fiction Parodies on YouTube
Six Freakiest Children's TV Rock Bands
Democratic Cartoon Candidates

Read More

Records Broken By the Perry Bible Fellowship?

Nicholas Gurewitch draws the Perry Bible Fellowship
Is Nicholas Gurewitch fulfilling a childhood dream? Photo by Jeff Marini

"This is the reason paper was invented. Give him your money now."

Marvel comic book writer Mark Millar joined the stampede which placed the first Perry Bible Fellowship collection into the top 500 on Amazon— before the book was even released.

25-year-old cartoonist Nicholas Gurewitch watched as the pre-order sales climbed past $300,000 for The Trial of Colonel Sweeto and Other Stories. Close to 27,000 copies were sold even before the collection of comic strips had its official release in November and crashed into Amazon's top 250. "It bounces off and on Amazon's best-seller lists all the time," Gurewitch told me, jokingly searching for an explanation. "Nifty cover? I'm not sure."



In December the cartoonist's site warned that only 3,000 copies remained, and now copies are "in short supply," Nick says. (The book's first printing had some errors which required a second printing to fully meet the demand, and Gurewitch confirms that "We are indeed gearing up for a third printing.") Publisher's Weekly reports that his publisher, Dark Horse Comics, received their biggest order ever from Britian's Diamond distributor.

"I think people respond to a packaged volume of comics much more than they connect with a computer screen," Gurewitch speculates about the response. "Seeing it on someone's coffee table, or seeing it in someone's hands, or on a high shelf, can affect us in ways far more grand than seeing it bookmarked on someone's computer."

Nick's cover for The Trial of Colonel Sweeto

In our interview, Nick shared even more surprising news. He's been building to this moment for two decades — sort of.

NICHOLAS GUREWITCH: My mom says I was doing cartoonist things at the age of 2, though that's hard to believe. But I was definitely story-oriented. She actually had us making little books around the age of 5 — me and my siblings.

LOU CABRON: Drawings and words?

NG: Early on, it was mostly pictures. And she would bind them with string.

LC: That's adorable.

NG: I think the idea of making a book was a really fun thing that was ever-present in my mind. I undertook a few on my own once I found a stapler.

LC: What was in the books you drew as a kid?

NG: The same stuff I'm doing now, I'm pretty sure. Lots of monsters, lots of robots, lots of dinosaurs...

I don't think I've always wanted to be a cartoonist. I've always just been a cartoonist. I've always just been making little stories.

LC: Colonel Sweeto shows a magical candy land where the reigning monarch practices some vicious realpolitik. When I contacted you, I almost wondered if you lived in a far-away fantasy castle of your own.

NG: I wonder if most people have that impression. I love castles. I plan to live in one some day. It's not wrong that you have that impression.

I wish it were true.



LC: I was picturing lots of monsters, lots of robots, and lots of dinosaurs all scattered throughout the PBF empire.

NG: It's a pretty quaint empire. My buddy Evan handles all the t-shirt stuff, and I had a friend helping me out with the prints. (They take in a lot more money than you expect, though I haven't checked my records in a while.)

Evan was actually my roommate in college when I first started the comic, and he's been writing a lot of the comics lately. He came up with the idea for Commander Crisp, as well as the one with The Masculator.


A panel from "Commander Crisp"

Earlier on Evan would come up with one out of four comics, and he's been doing that lately too. And my buddy Jordan is always really good about knowing how I should amplify an idea and he's come up with ideas on his own. We're all kind of on the same wavelength collaborating, and it's extremely easy.

LC: A writer for The Daily Show, Sam Means, described your comic strip as being almost psychedelic.

"The Perry Bible Fellowship is what Bil Keane, Jim Davis, and the guy who draws Marmaduke would see if they closed their eyes and rubbed them with their fists. It's absurdist, comic fireworks, and I can't get enough of it."

NG: I don't want to make judgments about my artwork, but a lot of people seem to think that it's good, and I chalk this up to the amount of time that I spend concentrating on it and enjoying it myself. If I enjoy it myself a lot, people tend to enjoy it a lot.

LC: Is that the secret reason why you use so many different styles? The strip about Finneas the heroic dog was drawn with acrylic paint, while The Throbblefoot Aquarium switched to the black-and-white style of Edward Gorey.

NG: I might be attracted to giving people the kind of response that makes them write in. That's always nice. I'm not terribly lonely, but its wonderful to hear when somebody recognizes that you've done something very subtle.

I like touching people on those levels. So it only makes sense to make references to childhood heroes and artists that I appreciate.

LC: You also told the Boston Phoenix. "There's something wonderful, and soon-to-be mythic, about the printed page... I'll always prefer it."

NG: I just have a feeling comics drawn on a napkin in 100 years will be far more appreciated than comics made on a computer. Don't you get the impression that we're getting bombarded by images that are digital? People often go straight to the digital format, which is unfortunate. I just really appreciate seeing evidence of hard work!

LC: Each of your strips always manages to startle me. For example, Hey Goat starts in the winter, but ends after the spring thaw, implying that there's been a horrible avalanche. You even told one interviewer "there's a lot to be said for chaos where order is making things very, very boring."

NG: I think I just always felt that it might be an aspect of my personality, that I think chaotic situations often reveal something about a scene or a person or an object that a still life wouldn't. It really squeezes out the nature of the characters.

Plus, chaos is just eye-catching. It's a necessary aspect of comedy and drama that there be some conflict.

LC: Does that mean you were a frustrated artist in school? Did you feel high school stifled your creativity?

NG: Or the spirits of the students, or the thinking of students.

I was an editor of an underground newspaper that we distributed in high school. We ruffled a lot of feathers. I think I have an FBI record because of it.

LC: How do you get an FBI record for an underground newspaper? Are you sure?

NG: Someone tells me I do, for certain.


A local pastor had seen the work that we were doing in the paper, and he must've thought we were more than the basic renegade kids because he wrote a letter to the FBI. This is right after Columbine, and he thought our paper displayed many warning signs for troubled youth.

He was probably right about that. We certainly were troubled youth. I just don't think we were the type of troubled youth that would express ourselves with guns.

LC: Well, wait — what was in this newspaper?

NG: We had a section where we presented fictionalized accounts of our teachers fighting each other, and how those fights would go. We'd show a big picture of them, and then a "versus," and then another teacher. It was really entertaining if you had these people as teachers. Lots of blood, lots of violence. Lets hope they never end up online.

We actually published the pastor's letter in the following issue. We also did a word search, and we hid the word "clitoris". It was a point at which we lost a lot of our audience.

LC: So you regret it?

NG: It's the type of thing I look back on and see as funny in retrospect. I think I get paid to make clitoris jokes now.

But I really enjoy having flexed my mind to the full extent at that tender age, because I think it's really helped me maintain a momentum. College was a little bland, but I think that's why I ended up starting the comic strip — because I was so hooked on my experience with the paper.

I noticed that the comics page at the college newspaper would get a heck of a lot of attention. It only took about a semester when I realized that's where I should be putting my attention, and not the articles about the dining hall.

LC: You were "discovered" when you won a comic strip contest in the Baltimore City Paper. When you entered that contest, where did you think it would lead?

NG: The Perry Bible Fellowship debuted in the New York Press the same week that it won, so there were parallel blessings. I had no prediction about where it was going. I just knew I appreciated the extra money while I was at school!


It was running in two papers when I graduated in 2004, so I gave myself a few weeks to see if I could call what I was doing a job. I sent out samples to ten more papers and heard back from about three. I figured that was just as good as trying to get a temporary job in New York City, so I ended up just staying home and doing the comic and operating from a studio space that I rented near my house.

The initial proliferation of the samples was the only time I sent out samples. Since then most papers have just emailed me — because of the web site, I assume.

I think the story ends right about now. Because I've still been doing it...

See Also:
Secrets of the Perry Bible Fellowship
Neil Gaiman has lost his clothes
The Perry Bible Fellowship Enters Semi-Retirement
Steve Wozniak v. Stephen Colbert - and Other Pranks
Jimmy Wales Will Destroy Google
George Bush vs. Spider-Man

Read More

Dead Woman Blogging



Theresa Duncan committed suicide in July.

But on New Year's Eve, five months after her death, she updated her blog.

January's Vanity Fair had already trumpeted "The New York Art World's Bizarre Double Suicide" in a cover story this month. (One week after Theresa's suicide, Jeremy Blake, her partner of 12 years, removed his clothes and walked into the ocean at New York's Rockaway Beach.) Morbid interest in her blog was only exacerbated when, three months after her death, a new post suddenly appeared on her blog just two days before Halloween. Its title?

"Basil Rathbone's Ghosts."



It's a weird final twist for the A-list blogger and game designer. In the last year of her life, Theresa's apartment was in a New York rectory "allegedly haunted by the ghosts of Edgar Allan Poe and Harry Houdini," according to Vanity Fair, and she'd developed an apparent intrigue in at least one ghost story.

Unfortunately, the entire 423-word post was written by Dick Cavett. On his own blog at the New York Times site, the former 70s talk show host had promised his readers ghost stories. In February he'd told a story about the actor who'd played Sherlock Holmes in the 1940s. (Moments after Rathbone's friend is killed in a car accident along with his beloved hunting dogs, the actor receives a phone call from a psychic who says she's received a ghostly message. "Traveling very fast. No time to say good-bye. There are no dogs here.")

Theresa wrote a post scheduled to appear at the end of October, quoting the entirety of Cavett's last six paragraphs.
The next time I saw Rathbone...more years had gone by, and he was in the act of receiving a summons for letting his dog Ginger off the leash in Central Park. I thought he might have decided, looking back, that it had all been some sort of bizarre coincidence, or maybe a highly original prank. He said, "At the time, of course, I was quite shaken by it." And now? "I am still shaken by it."

A note below the post warned that a second one would appear on New Year's Eve — the final blog post of Theresa Duncan.





And increasing the tension was another dark story lingering after her death — the couple's belief that Scientologists were secretly harassing her. Vanity Fair reports that her boyfriend Blake "wrote a 27-page document encapsulating their claims, which he planned on using as the basis for a lawsuit against the Church of Scientology." (They also report Tom Cruise's denial that he interfered with her negotiations to direct a modern version of Alice in Wonderland, which her agent says was blocked for "budget considerations.")

Theresa's fear of Scientologists had already led to bizarre confrontations with their Hollywood neighbors, according to the article.
"Theresa said to me, 'Jeremy and I have started a club where we've found a bunch of old men and we're letting them fuck us in the ass, and we wanted to know if you wanted to be a part of it.' I asked Theresa if she was joking. She said 'no' and repeated herself..."

In July, when O'Brien came home and picked up her mail, she wrote, Duncan "shrieked 'cult whore' and 'cult hooker' repeatedly. She was very frightening."

Both incidents appeared in a letter supporting the couple's eventual eviction from their bungalow in Venice, California in August of 2006.

But a strange mystery lingers over one detail of Theresa's story — the fact that rock star (and Scientologist) Beck pulled out of Theresa's Alice movie. New York Magazine found a curious inconsistency in Beck's statement to Vanity Fair that he'd "never met to discuss doing her film." Blogger Emmanuelle Richard says she found an Italian interview where in fact, Beck gushes excitedly about preparing for his upcoming movie debut. ("It will be full of energy and full of characters: some kind of Alice in Wonderland set in the 70s... The director is a friend of mine and it will be her directorial debut. We will begin shooting in the Fall.")

Or was their fast lane life simply catching up to them? Vanity Fair reports Blake sometimes took a hip flask of whiskey to his job at Rockstar Games, while Theresa "drank champagne by the bottle."

"It was starting to show in their faces; they were looking haggard."

After the couple's twin suicides, the New York Times ran an article about prowling through Jeremy Blake's computer, assembling his final artwork from the PhotoShop folders he'd left behind.

Other bloggers searched for a logic in the death of the two New York artists. "The same anxieties that underwrite Ms. Duncan's nightmare visions are to be found in the economic and technological circuitry that surrounds all of us," reads one post on the blog Jugadoo, "an erosion of stable modes of identity and selfhood..."
It isn't hard to imagine a future scenario when people will be able to generate AI-controlled virtual selves who will stroll around digital worlds like Second Life, having conversations with grief-stricken friends and family after their living counterparts are dead. That a person on the brink of suicide might leave a new kind of note.

And then Theresa's final blog post appeared.





It spoke of "twenty largely wasted years," saying trying to write is a failure "because one has only learnt to get the better of words for the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which one is no longer disposed to say it."

Theresa is quoting T.S. Eliot, but she'd skipped the first four passages of "East Coker" to focus in on the fifth. "With shabby equipment always deteriorating in the general mess of imprecision of feeling, undisciplined squads of emotion..."

Her final mysterious post was another long quote, arguing wearily that the great truths have already been recorded and "There is only the fight to recover what has been lost and found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions that seem unpropitious."
"But perhaps neither gain nor loss. For us, there is only the trying.

The rest is not our business."


See Also:
Scientology Fugitive Arrested
Give Me Immortality or Give Me Death
Robert Anton Wilson 1932 - 2007
Death? No Thank You
Miracles

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Alvin and the Chipmunks launch iMunks.com



It started when the real "David Seville" was facing bankruptcy, and spent his last $100 on a two-speed tape recorder. Soon he'd recorded a novelty record for Christmas that in 1958 sold an amazing 4 million copies in just 7 weeks. And "Alvin and the Chipmunks" were born.

His heirs are determined to keep the franchise going. After the movie was released, the Chipmunks' official web site began pointing visitors to an "iMunks" page for downloading Chipmunk mp3s — and not just songs from their new movie! Now re-located to Amazon.com, it includes nearly 100 songs from their 50-year career, including an 80s cover of the Knack's "Good Girls Don't," a 90s version of the X-Files theme, and their country duets with Tammy Wynette, Waylon Jennings, and Billy Ray Cyrus.



After the death of their original creator in 1972, his son re-launched their career in 1980 with an album called Chipmunk Punk. It included the Chipmunks' covers of songs like My Sharona and Blondie's "Call Me," and they continued their novelty success through the 90s with albums like "Club Chipmunk." (Its dance tracks featured their high-pitched versions of the B-52s' "Love Shack," the BeeGee's "Stayin' Alive," and "Play that Funky Music, Chipmunk.") There's even a version of "Hey, Macarena."

All these songs are available on the iMunks page, but unfortunately, there's a six-song minimum. The Chipmunks' new marketers are offering "silver," "gold," and "platinum" packages where the per-song price drops from $1 apiece to eighty cents.

But what's really newsworthy is that the singing rodents are here at all. In 1996 a lawsuit alleged that Universal Studios had bought a controlling stake in the Chipmunk franchise, but then “undertook the systematic destruction of a family owned and operated business” (according to an article in L.A. Business Journal.) They also reported the suit’s claim that Chipmunk-related revenue dropped 98% under Universal.


But there's a happy ending. Ross Bagdadsarian Jr. — the son of the original "David Seville" — told the business journal that “Everything turned out great in the end," and the big budget movie has already earned back its production costs, grossing over $84 million in its first ten days. The movie's closing credits even show record covers from the Chipmunks' multi-generational career, along with a note applauding Ross Bagdadsarian Sr. for having faith in his singing novelty act. And in the film the address of Dave's apartment is "1958", subtly reminding audiences that the Chipmunks have sung his song for nearly fifty years.

The film opens with the Chipmunks singing Daniel Powter's "You Had a Bad Day," and they later win Dave's loyalty with a doo-wop version of the classic song "Only You (Can Make the World Seem Right)" while standing in the rain. (Which they segue into "Funkytown," complete with choreography.) Despite the movie's flaws, a lot of care went into the choice of songs and the storyline.

It's drawing mixed reviews. (The New York Post declared that "this charm-free atrocity is awful enough to instantly cure any remaining nostalgia for the rodent trio.") After their tree in the forest is whisked away to Los Angeles, the movie launches an obligatory Hollywood sub-plot. The new Chipmunk actors could've been funnier, and Richard Roeper complained that as David Seville, TV's Jason Lee's uses the same acting style he uses on NBC's My Name Is Earl. The "dazed loser" persona may not compliment the computer-animated chipmunks, making it harder to suspend disbelief.

But the script was better than expected, giving each chipmunk a complete character and adding a story about whether they'd find a new home in the city. Toronto reviewer Stephen Cole pointed out that in audiences filled with children, the new movie was the favorite over The Golden Compass, "paws down." And yes, the new chipmunks really do love Christmas. And also, Sponge Bob Square Pants.


Maybe the film-makers are counting on a Christmas-time indulgence for their film about the giddy singing rodents. The Chipmunks' career has always included equal parts music and humor, and the history of American pop culture shows a strange ongoing love for their high-pitched voices.

And for better or worse, they've now found a way to bring Alvin and the Chipmunks into the 21st century.

See Also:
Haunted by Chipmunk Ghosts
Six Freakiest Children's TV Rock Bands
When Kurt Vonnegut Met Sammy Davis Jr.
5 Freaky Muppet Videos
What If Ben Were One of Us?

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Santa’s Crimes Against Humanity

Evil Santa

About the author: Robert Anton Wilson was the author of the legendary The Illuminatus! Trilogy. He died earlier this year.

In Burlington, North Carolina in 1990, a group of decent, Christian, hard-working folks who called themselves the Truth Tabernacle Church held a trial featuring the well-known elf Santa Claus as defendant.

They charged Mr. Claus, represented in court by a stuffed dummy, with all sorts of high crimes and misdemeanors. They charged him with paganism. They charged him with perjury for claiming to be Saint Nicholas. They even charged him with encouraging child abuse by appearing in whiskey ads. Worse yet, they found him guilty on all counts, for basically being a jolly old elf — i.e., a pagan god trying to steal Christmas from Christ.



It wasn't the first time Mr. Claus got the boot from a Christian congregation. Pope John XXIII threw the suspiciously merry old clown out of the Roman Catholic church back in the late 1960s. The Jehovah's Witnesses have always denounced Santa for his unsavory pagan past. (They also recognized Christmas trees as phallic symbols long before Freud.) Many fundamentalists believe that all pagan gods are basically one false god — the same demon in different disguises — and they think the disguise is thin in the case of this particular elf. It only takes a minor letter switch, they point out, to reveal Santa Claus as SATAN Claus.

I sort of think the fundies have it right for once. Santa not only has an unsavory pagan ancestry but a rather criminal family history all around. Let me Illuminize you...

As Weston La Barre pointed out a long time ago in his classic Ghost Dance: The Origins of Religion, you can find remnants of a primordial bear-god from the bottom of South America up over North America and over the North Pole and down across most of Europe and Asia. This deity appears in cave paintings from southern France carbon-dated at 30,000 BC. You can find him and her (for this god is bisexual) disguised in Artemis and Arduina and King Arthur, all unmasked via canny detective work by folklorists -- and etymologists, who first spotted the bear-god when they identified the Indo-European root ard, meaning bear. You can track the bear-god in dwindling forms in a hundred fairy tales from all over Europe and Asia. And you can find the rituals of this still-living god among the indigenous tribes of both American continents.

And Santa, like Peter Pan and the Green Man of the spring festivals, and the Court Jester — and (in an odd way) Chaplin's beloved Little Tramp — all have traits of the god that walks like a man and acts nasty sometimes and clownish sometimes and who was ritually killed and eaten by most of our ancestors in the Stone Age, who then became one with their god and thus also became (if the ritual worked) as brave as their god. See Sir James Frazer's The Golden Bough for the gory details.

And I swear the same god-bear tromps and shambles through every page of Joyce's masterpiece of psycho-archeology, Finnegans Wake. If you don't believe me, consult Adaline Glasheen's Third Census of Finnegans Wake.

Most folklorists recognize "the cannibal in the woods" as a humanized relic of the bear-god. The heroine, in 101 tales, meets him while on a mission of mercy. He generally sets the heroine to solve three riddles, and when she succeeds, instead of eating her he becomes her ally and helps her reach her goal. One variation on that became The Silence of the Lambs. Another became Little Red Riding Hood.

What? Hannibal Lecter another of Santa's uncouth family?

Yes, indeedy.

In some rustic parts of Europe and probably in Kansas, Santa retains traces of his carnivorous past. Children are told that if they are "good" all year, Santa will reward them, but if they are "bad" he will EAT THEM ALL UP. Yeah, the Boogie Man , or Bogie, or Pookah, or Puck, are all of somewhat ursine ancestry, although other animal-gods got mixed in sometimes.


As Crazy Old Uncle Ezra wrote in Canto 113, "The gods have not returned. They have never left us."

Jung might state the case thusly: Gods, as archetypes of the genetic human under-soul (or "collective unconscious"), cannot be killed or banished; they always return with a new mask but the same symbolic meaning. Related example: Young ladies in ancient Greece were often seduced or raped by satyrs; in the Arab lands, we note a similar outbreak of randy djinn; it India, it was devas. In the Christian Dark Ages, it began happening to young men, too, especially to monks. They called the lascivious critter an incubus. Now it's happening all around us, and the molesters come from Outer Space. The sex-demon, like the Great Mother and the Shadow and our ursine hero, and the three brothers hunting the dragon (recognize them in Jaws? Spot them doing their Three Stooges gig?) — these archetypal forces always come back under new names. Sir Walter Scott called them "the crew that never rests."

And the bear-god seems wakeful elsewhere. He has appeared prominently in other bits of pop culture — the movies Legends of the Fall and The Edge (both of which, curiously, star Anthony Hopkins, who also starred as Hannibal Lecter) and snuck into Modern Lit 101 not only via Joyce but also via Faulkner's great parable "The Bear." He also pops up to deliver the punch line in Norman Mailer's Why Are We in Vietnam?

We will see more of him, methinks.

Meanwhile, Santa, the Jester/Clown/Fertility God aspect of Father Bear, is doing quite well also, despite getting the bum's rush by some grim, uptight Christers. He has quite successfully stolen Xmas from X and brings pagan lust and pagan cheer to most of us, every year, just when we need it most — in the dead of winter. His beaming face appears everywhere and if we have a minor cultural war going on between those who wish to invoke him via alcohol and those who prefer their invocations per cannabis, we all share the pagan belief, at least for part of a week, that the best way to mark the solstice and the year's dying ashes is to form a loving circle and all get bombed together.

As a pagan myself, I wouldn't have it any other way.

See Also:
Christmas 2.0: Subverting the Holidays With Re-dubbing
Alvin and the Chipmunks Launch iMunks.com
The Secret History of Charlie Brown's Christmas
Strange Sex Laws from Around the World
Robert Anton Wilson: 1932-2007
A Selection of Obscure Robert Anton Wilson Essays

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Top 10 Pillars of Led Zeppelin Mythology

Led Zeppelin a long time ago

At London's 02 Arena Monday night, rock gods Led Zeppelin will attempt to recreate the special alchemy that made them one of the most legendary live bands of their era.

Zeppelin were notoriously inconsistent on tour, with Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham often exploring extended jams on band classics to varying effect. I've talked to people who were lucky enough to have seen them live, and the reactions range from "They didn't sound like the records" to "best 20-minute drum solo ever."



There was no doubt, however, that when the band was on they were like nothing else on earth. Zeppelin was doing three-hour-plus shows complete with acoustic sets when Bruce Springsteen was still playing bars in Asbury Park. And unlike contemporaries The Who and Pink Floyd, Zeppelin never used backing tapes or additional musicians, relying instead on sheer audacity, volume and Jones' underrated multi-instrumentalism (the man played everything from the Mellotron to the mandolin to a triple-necked acoustic monstrosity, often while performing the bass lines with his feet on custom bass pedals!).

And while the jury's still out on whether age and the lack of a huge element of their sound (Bonham) will render them incapable of getting a modicum of that magic back, in some ways it doesn't matter. For once again, the mighty Zeppelin have proved their incredible ability to stay relevant.

For those of you who aren't old enough to remember Lester Bangs dissing them in Creem magazine or the magic of bringing home the brown paper bag that held In Through the Out Door (or in an extreme example, being RU Sirius and having your first acid trip while listening to "Dazed and Confused"!), here are ten reasons I believe the mythos of Led Zeppelin remains etched in stone at a time when anything of lasting quality in pop culture seems almost impossible.


10. "Here's to My Sweet Satan … " Although you'd never know it by their slanderous remarks, America's more extreme branches of Christianity (Pentacosts, Baptists) never met a better friend/punching bag than Led Zeppelin. When crackpot preachers started playing rock records backwards in a desperate attempt to scare parents into burning their kids' records (the scene where Kathleen Turner does this to Kirsten Dunst's records in the film The Virgin Suicides shows the unintended hilarious results of this ridiculous act), Led Zeppelin was one of their first targets.

And what better tune to focus their bogeyman search on than "Stairway to Heaven?" The most famous "backwards masking" message meant to turn little Bobby from Buffalo to the side of Beelzebub was the alleged "Here's to my sweet Satan," warbled by Robert Plant.

Of course, the band denied this, and you don't have to be a Grammy-nominated sound engineer to hear what is clearly a big pile o' Christian crap.

9. The Bill Graham Beatdown Before thuggish hip hop was even an art form, let alone an industry, Led Zeppelin had a posse in full effect. Led (no pun intended) by Richard Cole, a coke-fueled maniac whose powers of physical intimidation were only outmatched by Zep's manager Peter Grant, their security was half drug-and-teen-procuring entourage, half security force.

Despite a mutually advantageous relationship in which both parties suckled at the new teat of stadium rock, the muscle behind both Zeppelin and Bill Graham Presents had run afoul of each other, by the very nature of their need for control. In 1977, during a multi-night stint at the Oakland Coliseum, the shit hit the fan.

When a BGP goon vied for a Darwin Award by roughing up the 400-lb Grant's young son backstage, the manager, Cole and Bonzo gave the poor sap and another employee a beatdown that ended in long hospital stays. Graham, ever the entrepreneur, kept charges from being filed long enough for Zep to finish the Oakland Stadium gigs.

8. This Album Has No Title Though commonly known as Led Zeppelin IV, Zep's fourth record not only had no actual title, but failed to display even the band's name on its cover. Instead, the band developed runes that stood for each member – Plant's consisted of a feather within a circle and is supposedly the Feather of Ma'at (the Egyptian goddess of justice and fairness); Jones' was three interlocking ovals; Bonzo's was also three interlocking ovals, and could either be a symbol for "man-wife-child" or the logo for Ballantine beer, depending on whom you ask; Page's (called "Zoso," which has also been used as the album's title by some fans) is the only one created by its bearer, and so its mystical significance remains a mystery.

Obviously, brass at Atlantic Records weren't exactly aroused by the unprecedented lack of identifying reference anywhere on the record. But the band's insistence on this concept formed the basis not only for their reputation as a fiercely anti-commercial artistic force, but also provided much of the mystique that was vital during the band's existence, and crucial to their continued legacy.


7. Led Wallet When Zep fans first heard the unmistakable bashing of John Bonham's drum intro to "Rock and Roll" in a Cadillac ad a couple of years ago, many were heard to utter a groan. But closer analyses of the handling of the catalog of the world's biggest rock band reveals a relatively tasteful restraint.

Especially when you consider that Jimmy Page was once referred to as "Led Wallet" for his unwillingness to part with a pence.

Still, the band has never performed again apart from a handful of mediocre events, all for charity (Live Aid, the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary). Jack Black was seen in the film "School of Rock" begging Page and Plant to allow Richard Linklater (who was also thwarted from using their songs in his film bearing an actual Zeppelin track name, "Dazed and Confused) to use their music for the soundtrack. They declined.

In fact, use of Zeppelin's music in film has been confined to the films of their pal, Cameron Crowe. Some argue this restraint is excessive – one could imagine the impact of a Zeppelin track in, say, a Scorsese film. It certainly would be nice for the guy not to have to mine the Stones all the time!

6. Peter Grant Led Zeppelin might have been the first rock band to make the business of being in a rock band a … business. Previously, bands like The Beatles would make money only when the number of records sold reached a staggering amount, and even then often under duress. Their contracts favored the record company to an obscene extent.

Zep's ability to establish a revenue producing powerhouse employing record sales, touring and merchandising was largely due to the wiles and weight of its manager, Peter Grant. A former pro wrestler, Grant was the basis for fictitious band manager Ian Faith's cricket bit in This is Spinal Tap. Further evidence of his style of communication can be seen in the new re-release of The Song Remains the Same, where Grant is seen practically ripping the head off a "cunt" who, at a show in Cleveland, failed to stop bootleggers from selling posters.

5. John Bonham Could Zeppelin have continued after its influential drummer died from choking to death on his own vomit after 40 measures of vodka?


Two words prove the perils of such an endeavor, had the band even had the heart and spirit to carry on – Keith Moon.

It's an easy argument to make that The Who's two post-Moon albums (Face Dances and It's Hard) diminish the band's catalog by causing it to sputter to an inglorious end. And while this might owe as much to a fading of Pete Townshend's genius (Zeppelin were more like Queen than The Who in this respect, with Jones making significant contributions throughout the band's career), Moon took more than just the drummer's throne with him to the grave.

He also took a huge part of the band's spirit, and while Moon was slightly more of an extroverted character, the fact that Bonham's simple "fantasy sequence" in The Song Remains the Same (showing such high-concept footage as him urging his cow along the pasture as well as intimate peeks into his home life) is the only one that isn't totally laughable either in concept or execution speaks volumes.

And even though there is something clearly fitting in having his son on the kit, in all respect, there is only one J. Bonham anyone will be thinking about when the band pulls out his showcase, "Moby Dick," as they're expected to.

4. Don Kirschner's Rock Concert with Led Zeppelin It never happened, and when I saw an old TV clip of Deep Purple recently, the wisdom of Zeppelin's avoidance of the medium of television (due both to the limitations of sound quality at the time as well as their desire to control their image and increase their mystique, not easy to do when you're playing for housewives on "The Mike Douglas Show") becomes very clear.

3. The Mud Shark An underground legend that went public with Frank Zappa's toss-off reference to it in "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow" ("destined to take the place of the mud shark in your mythology!"), the story of a young band fucking a groupie with a small shark that had been caught while fishing out the window of Seattle's Edgewater Inn provided a blueprint for debauchery hardly equaled even today.

2. The Devil and Led Zeppelin In the commentary for his film The Man We Want to Hang, dedicated to the art of occult icon Aleister Crowley, filmmaker Kenneth Anger rather sheepishly admits that many of the pieces were seen courtesy of Jimmy Page, who had managed to consistently outbid Anger at auctions of the magician's work.

Then there's Page's acquisition of Crowley's Loch Ness mansion, in which many sinister acts of magick were perpetrated.

The guitarist's obsession with Crowley wasn't shared by the rest of the band, whose interest in the past didn't go much further than Elvis and "The Lord of the Rings." Still, a salacious media didn't hesitate to lump all in together, especially as Zep's fortunes seemed to turn dark toward the end (Plant's car accident in 1975, followed by troubled tours and the death of Plant's son in 1977).

1. What's in a Name? While the story goes that Keith Moon named the then-New Yardbirds "Lead Zeppelin" because he thought they'd go over like a lead balloon (badly), Page and Plant were immediately drawn to the inherent dynamics of light and heavy, which fit into their conversations about where they wanted to band's music to go.

Zeppelin weren't the first heavy rock band (and please don't call them heavy metal!), but they were the first to really understand and exploit the fact that heavy sounds even heavier when paired with lighter influences. Since then, rock bands from Iron Maiden to the Pixies to Nirvana have added new twists to the basic loud-quiet-loud dynamic.

Robert Plant once said the reason he thought people reacted to "Stairway to Heaven" favorably even after hearing it thousands of times is that it starts quietly and steadily builds in complexity and intensity throughout the duration of the song. At the same time, songs like "When the Levee Breaks" and "Kashmir" establish an intensity that never flags, but is still splashed with shades of shadow and light.

And that's the magic of Led Zeppelin, Charlie Brown.

See also:
Then End of Internet Radio?
Six Freakiest Children's TV Rock Bands
The Satanic Cosmology of Jack Chick
Author/Trickster JT LeRoy
Dan The Automator Remixes the Blue Angels

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Catching Up With an Aqua Teen Terrorist

Mooninite Terrorist Zebbler
January 31, 2007: a day that will live in infamy. The great city of Boston was brought to its knees by the appearance of unexpected L.E.D. placards in places where they didn't belong. Alert to potential connections between terror and anything a wee bit unusual, stout citizens and government officials alike in the land of the free and the home of the brave peed their metaphoric pants. The L.E.D. character was described in a CNN report as "a Mooninite, an outer-space delinquent… greeting passersby with an upraised middle finger." Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley was quoted in the same piece as saying, "It had a very sinister appearance." The horror. The horror.



A pair of young Bostonians were arrested for perpetrating this dastardly act as hired guns in a guerrilla marketing campaign to promote the upcoming movie, Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie. The two lads, Peter Berdovsky and Sean Stevens were charged with "placing a hoax device in a way that results in panic," a felony, and disorderly conduct. At a news conference, Berdovsky and Stevens refused to talk about the case but expressed a willingness to opine at length on '70s hairstyles. They were not taken up on their generous offer by the gathered media.

Berdovsky, known popularly as Zebbler, has plenty of hair to think about – long dreadlocks down to his waist. He also has a reputation in Boston — and increasingly around the world — as a popular VJ, video artist, performance artist and painter. Sentenced to 80 hours community service for his crime, he made the most of it, painting a delightfully trippy mural for Spaulding (physical) Rehabilitation Center. He was also recently voted the #12 VJ in the world by London-based DJ Magazine and was named Boston's Best Artist by Improper Bostonian Magazine. Zebbler also recently appeared in Berkeley, Caliifornia where his surround sound HD projection set was part of the opening reception for RIP.MIX.BURN.BAM.PFA at the Pacific Film Archives — an exhibit that "celebrates the cultural and artistic practice of remix."

Meanwhile, the film that brought down the city, Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie was, undeservedly, a commercial flop. (Maybe if they'd shut down more cities, people would have noticed.) But it is now out on DVD, so don't wait to discover what happens when Carl gets strapped into the insane-o-flex. Like the cartoon, the movie is, at times: ridiculous, stupid, hilarious, clever, and – of course – composed of cheesy bad animation. Rent it. You can't go wrong.

I interviewed Berdovsky aka Zebbler by email.

RU SIRIUS: Most people who read this will probably just know you as the guy with the long dreads who got caught up in the big Aqua Teen Terrorist scare of 2007. Were you in any way prepared to get caught up in anything that absurd?


ZEBBLER: Well it depends. I never expected anyone to freak out over the L.E.D. placards. However, I recognize people's perceptions of me. I behaved in a manner that was consistent with my knowledge of how I am perceived, although there were definitely a few unknowns. I have never seen a guy with long dreadlocks in a situation like mine. People's reactions were pleasantly positive. On the streets, in airports, stores, events — people who recognize me are generally very positive and curious.

RU: I've known a couple of people who have wound up in situations with Homeland Security basically around technologies that were not understood. They found themselves facing a veritable platoon of armed agents and various other types of hostility. How was your treatment at the hands of law enforcement, homeland security and so forth? Did anybody on that team say or do anything particularly bizarre or interesting?

Z: Yeah, there were lots of interesting statements from them. My interrogator gave me nothing but carrots to eat. I cooperated fully — since I had nothing to hide — but at times it was uncanny as to how convincing he was. He made me want to tell him my deepest secrets — a genuinely weird feeling. I had to snap out of it a few times. He promised to give me back all of the mooninites they have confiscated from me. It was a lie and I knew it as he was saying it.

The biggest surprise was from one of the older state police person. On the way out of the holding cell where we were held in overnight, there were whispers about us being famous as a result of what happened. One of the higher-ups came up to me as I was being led away in shackles and said: "My daughter is a huge fan of you. She watches the show and knows all about what happened. She was so excited that I get to see you." He paused for a second and added: "So... did you really mean to blow up Boston?" I think I just growled with disbelief after that statement and walked out to face the press staking out the holding cell in the bitterly cold morning.

RU: You're a pretty well known video artist and VJ. What do you try to do with the medium and tell us about a few high points in your career?

Z: I am moving more and more in the direction of solo surround sound custom HD video performances. I have spent several years creating custom psychedelic content in my resolution. To my mild surprise, it's starting to be recognized by the fine art community. I recently performed solo at Berkeley Museum of Art (California) as part of their RIP.MIX.BURN.BAM.PFA. There are also talks about performing for the Anchorage Film Festival (AK).

I tend to get physical in my performances. I am known for wearing costumes and masks during performances and potentially more than other VJs I have been mistaken for DJs during many shows.

Right after graduating from Mass College of Art, I went on a major US tour providing custom video projection performances for Ozric Tentacles. That was pretty great. A lot of work (25 shows in 30 days all over US) — but a great introduction to the industry and craft of live performance in big venues.

RU: You also worked recently with Alex Grey, the painter who is much known and admired in psychedelic circles. How have psychedelics influenced your work... and do you think your experiences helped you maintain your sense of humor throughout the whole Aqua Teen Terror crisis? You guys were pretty gracious and disarming when you went on Fox with Geraldo.

Z: Mmm... that's a big question. Psychedelics were a major part of my inspiration to create art. As a teen, I read a lot about human psychology and heard about the sensory deprivation experiments, where people are faced with nothing but their inner world. It inspired me to seek similar experiences. Probably, it was my desire to seek the unexplained, the otherworldly. It was a yearning to prove to myself that there's something outside the box. I have since learned to differentiate between genuine revelations and delusional mind tricks. I am not as intensely into mental experimentation these days — instead I'm trying to recreate a lot of the feelings, concepts and sensations through my art.

A life-changing psychedelic experience is an honest slap in the face with a realization of our own arbitrary position in the universe. Regular societal roles become unglued. Personal impulses reveal their egotism. It did not seem to offer a path to salvation, just a widening of perspective.

One doesn't need psychedelics to achieve those kinds of realizations however. While it helped my sense of humor to a degree — I think ultimately it's my personality that's responsible for my sensations and behavior during the Aqua Teen Boston Bomb Scare. When I am faced with an uncontrollable situation, I let go of trying to control what's beyond reach, and focus on what I can change. Both Sean and I didn't want this case to intimidate or frighten people. We were sick of media spinning stories to make them scarier. So we came up with a way to disarm the media — first with our press conference.



RU: Tell us about your video show, "I Wash My TV in Fear"

Z: It was my reaction to seeing so many fear-inducing messages constantly on our TV screens. Since the news became a business, they realized that fear creates the need to watch. The TVs at my performance were literally awash in fear. I recorded a day or two of television news and selected the most frightening messages to create a hyper saturated barrage of FEAR that I then perform live on multiple screens with custom music/edits/animations.

RU: So what did you think of the Aqua Teen movie? I thought it was pretty hilarious nonsense but you may disagree. And do you think it's weird that all the publicity didn't create any curiosity for the flick?

Z: I thought it held up strong with a hilarious start and beginning/middle. But, ultimately I was hoping for a more intelligent ending. Instead, it all just went to hell. But so be it — I had a good time. And it was a little strange that it didn't get that much attention. I attribute some of it to the execs freaking out and backing off from the promotional opportunity that this event gave them.

See also:
Is It Fascism Yet?
Burning the Man with Hunter S. Thompson
The Great Wired Drug Non-Controversy
10 Worst Spiderman Tie-Ins
Art or Bioterrorism: Who Cares?
Lost "Horrors" Ending Found on YouTube
Homeland Security Follies
Prior Permission Required by Government Before Each Flight

Read More

Five Awful Thanksgivings in History

Ku-Klux Klan

In many ways, Thanksgiving is an un-American holiday. Consumption seldom goes beyond an excess of turkey and pumpkin pie, and garish displays are limited to a few stupid parades and some of the most mediocre football of the year. Good old all-American chaos is down — but not entirely out.

Thanksgiving Day Massacre, Reno, 1980

Priscilla Ford had a long history of psychiatric problems and bizarre behavior, marked by such quixotic acts as suing the Mormon Church and attempting to speak at the 1972 Republican Convention. The capper came on the Thanksgiving afternoon when she got even with the City of Reno. In front of the downtown casinos, she steered her black 1974 Lincoln onto a crowded sidewalk and mowed down the crowds of holiday gamblers and gambolers. She left six dead and 23 injured in her wake. Pulled over a few blocks later, she told police, "Sometimes I am called Jesus Christ." She later expressed a fervent hope that she'd nailed 75 people, and explained the voice of Joan (Mrs. Edward) Kennedy had told her to do it. Nonetheless, she was found legally sane and duly convicted of murder.


Founding of the Ku Klux Klan, Atlanta, 1915

At 35, failed preacher William Simmons had found his true calling as a fraternal lodge leader. In addition to commanding five regiments of the Woodmen, he was a heavy in several Masonic orders and a Knight Templar. But his dream was to have his own personal fraternal organization. And he wanted more than funny hats and secret handshakes — he wanted to revive the Ku Klux Klan. His dream came to fruition Thanksgiving Eve when 40 handpicked men gathered to re-launch the Klan. A group of 15 stalwarts recessed to the top of nearby Stone Mountain for an early morning cross-burning. Simmons tied his first recruitment drive in with D.W. Griffith's famous film The Birth of a Nation, which opened in Atlanta the following week. And the rest, as they say, is history.

The Great Football Fry, San Francisco, 1900

Back in the good old days of Thanksgiving Day football, the hearts and minds of Bay Area football fans were not on dinner, but the day's "Big Game" between the University of California and Stanford. The 1900 edition of this classic was, of course, sold out. The roofs of the buildings surrounding the stadium were crowded with budget-minded fans craning for a glimpse of the action. Twenty minutes into the game, the roof of one building collapsed. Unfortunately, the building housed a glass factory, complete with a red-hot furnace filled with molten glass. Turkeys weren't the only things getting roasted in San Francisco that day. Twenty-two people were killed and over 80 injured in what remains the worst — and most bizarre — disaster ever to befall American sports fans.

Missionary Massacre, Zimbabwe 1987

Early on Thanksgiving morning, Marxist Zimbabwean rebels descended on two farms run by white Pentecostal missionaries. What they lacked in Thanksgiving spirit they made up for in their revolutionary zeal. First they tied up the 16 white missionaries — men, women, and children, including two Americans. Then, as they gleefully sang revolutionary songs, they hacked their captives to death. Officials could only describe the resulting carnage as "barbaric."

Executive Assassination, Cordoba, Argentina, 1973

At the height of the Argentinean urban terrorist fad, a band of 15 young men waylaid John Swint, the general manager of a local Ford subsidiary, on Thanksgiving Day. The Peronist gunmen, upset with the way President Juan Peron had turned on them, later claimed they'd only wanted to kidnap the American executive. But according to witnesses, it was a turkey-shoot from the get-go. The gunmen immediately started blasting away with shotguns and assault rifles, killing Swint's bodyguard and chauffeur and critically injuring another bodyguard. One blond gunner unloaded a quick machine gun blast into Swint's body at close range — just to be sure.

See also:
Reverend Billy Wants You to Stop Shopping

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The Furious Passions of Norman Mailer


Norman Mailer


He had two Pulitzer Prizes, and six wives.

But while sex remained a fascination for Norman Mailer (along with power and celebrity), he lived his ideas — the good ones and the bad. His life became an 84-year fantasmagoria of fulfilled impulses, and the strange and wonderful knowledge that resulted. Woody Allen once joked that when Norman Mailer died, he'd donate his ego for medical research.

Calling ego "the buzzword of the century," Mailer boldly explored his passions in nine different decades, leaving behind a secret second body of work — amazing stories about the story-teller's life.

Here's some of the highlights.

Movies Gone Bad

Attracted by Hollywood intrigue, Mailer devoted his third novel The Deer Park to the depravation of the entertainment industry, naming it after the notorious 18th-century pleasure groves of King Louis XV. ("...that gorge of innocence and virtue in which were engulfed so many victims.")

But in 1968 Mailer pioneered a new form of excess, filming five days of unscripted improvisation "to dissolve the line between fiction and actuality," one biographer wrote — "to set the stage for an explosion of human passions." Fist fights broke out, and the movie ends with a genuine brawl between Mailer and actor Rip Torn.

Publisher Barney Rosset lent his house for part of the filming, and remembered that things quickly descended into chaos.
My mother in law went outside, then came back into the house screaming, "There's a midget in the swimming pool...!"

Someone had thrown Herve Villechaize into the pool, and he was drowning.

Rosset drove to Mailer's hotel room, banged on the door, and shouted "Norman, you've gotta come back and get your midget!" Villechaize was taken to a hospital where his stomach was pumped (possibly for alcohol), but the next day, the future Fantasy Island star was back on the set.


The movie told the story of a movie director — coincidentally, with Mailer's name — who's considering a run for the Presidency. Mailer wanted to explore what provokes the assassination of political figures, but the cast unwisely included both Mailer's wife and his ex-wife, and at one point Torn even advised the actors to attack Mailer's film doppelganger with their harshest criticisms of Mailer himself.
"All you want to hear is how wonderful you are."
"You never listen to anyone but yourself."
"You're spoiled."

The movie's ultimate achievement is probably the brutal honesty it uncovered. Torn's attack on Mailer — while wielding a hammer — was apparently triggered by disappointment that the movie hadn't followed through on its assassination premise.

"Four of Mailer's children — Dandy, Betsy, Michael, and Stephen — were terrified, screaming after Torn's assault on their father... Calling Torn a 'crazy fool cocksucker', Mailer wrestled him to the ground, biting and nearly tearing off Torn's ear."


Celebrity Gone Wild

In 1971 Norman Mailer showed up drunk on the Dick Cavett show. Backstage he slapped guest Gore Vidal, then literally butted his head, according to Mailer's recollections in a 1977 article in Esquire.
Vidal: Are you crazy?
Mailer: Shut up.
Vidal: You're absolutely mad. You are violent.
Mailer: I'll see you on the show.

Vidal had written a nasty remark about Mailer (comparing him to Charles Manson), and when Mailer finally took his seat, he sat in cold fury, spitting out fierce and cryptic insults.
Mailer: Why don't you look at your question sheet and ask a question?

Cavett: Why don't you fold it five ways and put it where the moon don't shine.

The audience hated him — But then Mailer's competitive instincts kicked in, and during the commercial break he sobered up enough to collect his wits.

"Why do you have to answer them with insults and nasty statements and they're answering you maturely and with dignity?" a woman asked from the audience.

"They're mature and full of dignity," Mailer replied, "and they'd cut my throat in any alley..."


In that moment a famous feud began with Gore Vidal that lasted nearly 20 years. "I've been misrepresented, by my own paranoid lights, for twenty-five years in this country..." Mailer told Cavett's audience. "I have presumed with all my extraordinary arrogance and loutishness and crudeness to step forth and say, 'I'm going to be the champ until one of you knocks me off...' But you know, they don't knock you off because they're too damned simply yellow, and they kick me in the nuts, and I don't like it."

It was one of the great moments of live television, and Mailer regretted only that his points hadn't come through clearly, though he'd definitely made an impression. (As he himself described it, "The good byes were short. Mailer turned around and Vidal was gone.")

This fascination continued, Mailer holding a fierce contempt with the mass media while occasionally also flirting with it. In 1981 he appeared as the doomed architect Stanford White in the movie version of E.L. Doctorow's Ragtime. And in 2004 he even played himself in an episode of The Gilmore Girls.

The episode was titled "Norman Mailer, I'm Pregnant."


The Boxer's Rebellion

Boxers are artists, Mailer argued, facing the same high stakes of ego and punishment that a writer faces when staring at a blank page. Or maybe Mailer was just attracted by the brutal pageantry. ("I respect most boxers," he once wrote, "because they're violent people who learned to discipline themselves...") His book The Fight captures all the social nuances of Muhammad Ali's 1974 re-match against George Foreman in Zaire.

But Mailer didn't just watch boxing; he'd step into the ring, sparring recreationally with light heavyweight champion Jose Torres even when he'd reached his 50s. And at least once, it went even further. Yesterday one online boxing fan remembered Mailer's most bizarre boxing moment, interrupting the post-fight press conference after the 1962 world heavyweight championship.
...after Sonny Liston flattened Patterson, Mailer had stayed up partying most of the night. He returned to his room early in the morning, but instead of getting some rest, or at least a shower, had spent the remaining time before the post-fight press conference drinking some more while trying to chat up the chamber maid cleaning his room. He made Liston's victorious post fight conference but preceded to barge onto the stage and attempt to explain to Liston that he could existentially prove that Liston hadn't won, and that he, Norman Mailer, was the only man who could promote the rematch into a million dollar event.

Liston, apparently, stared in impassive, silent, disbelief as Mailer was carried out of the room on his chair.



Strange Politics

In 1967 Mailer wrote a book titled Why Are We In Vietnam in which the word "Vietnam" occurs only on the last page. Instead the plot concerns two hormone-addled teenaged boys who wonder which one will bugger the other first. (The back of the swaggering book featured a picture of Mailer himself with a black eye.) Two years later Mailer ran for mayor of New York City, backed by columnist Jimmy Breslin, on a platform proposing that New York City should become the 51st state.

"I felt God wanted me to go into politics to save New York," Mailer remembered last year. "I was a high-octane fool."


He brought his novelist's ambition to covering the political scene, once receiving an invitation to meet President Kennedy, and remained fascinated by political personalities for nearly sixty years, and their suggestions about the national mood. In 2003, at the age of 80, he published a new book titled Why Are We At War — this time filled with an unusually timely analysis of the post-9/11 world.

"Since I believe in reincarnation, I think the character of your death is tremendously important to you. One wants to be able to meet one's death with a certain seriousness.. Terrorism's ultimate tendency is to make life absurd."

But he felt that a crazy religious fervor lurked behind the Bush administration's response. "Once we become a twenty-first-century embodiment of the old Roman Empire, moral reform can stride right back into the picture."

His political insights continued to the end. Last year a collection of interviews found him weighing in on Bill Clinton's statement about the Monica Lewinsky affair, that "I did it because I could." "I think the style of phrasing comes because of his wife.

"Having been married six times, I have some idea of what one says on such occasions."


Sex and Beyond

Norman Mailer didn't just write a biography of Marilyn Monroe, he wrote two — one, written in the first person.

The 70s also found him writing a book of essays called The Prisoner of Sex, much of it rebutting the new wave of feminists who were criticizing his public statements.

One year before his death, he published a collection of interviews performed by his son John Buffalo Mailer. Bill Clinton's remark that "I did it because I could" had been labelled by Playboy as the epitomy of the boomer generation, an "amorality" that frees the fool to pursue all courses with abandon. But Mailer made a simple yet irrefutable distinction for his own life.

"My amorality — if we're going to get into it — was a search. I wanted to learn more about sex."

Throughout his life, Mailer remained forcefully unapologetic, clinging to his own sense of the sexes and insisting human relations couldn't be reduced to simple formulas or sweeping generalizations. 1974 found him sending this letter to Women's Wear Daily.
It has come to my attention that Gore Vidal has been speaking in your pages of my hatred of women. Let me present the following items.

    Number of times married:Mailer 5Vidal 0
    Number of children:Mailer 7Vidal 0
    Number of daughters:Mailer 5Vidal 0


These statistics of course prove nothing unless it is to suggest that the reason Vidal may have married no lady and fathered no child is due perhaps to his love of women and his reluctance therefore to injure their tender flesh with his sharp tongue.

Ultimately Mailer's feud with Vidal ended with a rapprochement in 1992, and after Mailer's death it led to one final irony. In a New York Times profile, it was Vidal's kind words which were offered as Mailer's ultimate vindication.

"Each time he speaks he must become more bold, more loud, put on brighter motley and shake more foolish bells. Yet of all my contemporaries I retain the greatest affection for Norman as a force and as an artist.

"He is a man whose faults, though many, add to rather than subtract from the sum of his natural achievements."

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Neil Gaiman Has Lost His Clothes
Author Slash Trickster "JT Leroy"
When Cory Doctorow Ruled The World

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10 Best Monster Ads

Monsters don't come from the Black Lagoon. They come from Hollywood. From your TV set. And especially — from advertising companies

And so do some of the strangest licensing deals you've ever seen...

1. Frankenstein Hates This Joint



It's the master work against which all other monster/ad hybrids must measure themselves. And also, it shows Frankenstein with arthritis problems.

Granted, a shambling undead man stitched together from corpses isn't the first thing you'd think of to promote an over-the-counter joint flexibility medication. But that's what makes it work.

Slate once observed that the ad is surprisingly memorable, even though "nobody gets tackled or bit in the face by a ferret."


2. Zombie Party



The Japanese will do anything to sell you Pocky. But a scary zombie movie?

Hmm, maybe it's a little too scary. Maybe it needs a cute girl and a dance number.


3. Ryoko the Vampire Slayer



Three sexy female vampires lurking in the back seat of a car run from four determined young men armed with their huge vampire-slaying crucifixes. Is it Buffy the Vampire Slayer — or just an ad for makeup?

This scary Japanese ad features coffins, wooden stakes, a surprise ending, and a health tip about fighting skin cancer.


4. Godzilla, King of Soft Drinks



He's the king of monsters, a giant fire-breathing rebuke to mankind's dangerous experiments with nuclear radiation. He can shoot laser beams from his eyes. And he's also really thirsty.

As Godzilla rampages through the city, destroying railroad tanker cars filled with wimpy lemonade, what can save Tokyo's citizens from their world of black-and-white terror? There's only one soft drink that can bring them deliverance, smiles, and cheesy 80s synthesizer music...


5. The Silver Bullet



OMG! Werewolf! Or is it just a party animal? Or just three gay frat boys?

Whatever it is, the solution is to stick a Coor's Light between your legs.



6. The Mummy wants Vaseline



Hey, everybody! Let's "Walk Like an Egyptian" — to a bottle of skin lotion!

18 years ago a guard's footsteps echoed through a creepy museum. He was about to confront a terrible curse, as an ancient naked mummified female rises from the crypt to...

...remind us of the skin lotion's non-greasy barrier against the loss of natural moisturization. Thanks, naked ancient mummified female!

By the way, the person who uploaded this video to YouTube had one word for the ancient naked mummified female.

"Yummy!"


7. The Creature from Aisle Eight




Ever amble into the liquor store at 2 in the morning, and feel like you're a monster? Well, you're not the only one...

This is a "conceptual" ad whose slogan is "Meet You There." Maybe it means your nightmares will meet you halfway — that some half-demon sea monster lurks to possess you if you start down the road of degradation signaled by Heineken beer.

Or maybe it's just another cute monster ad.



8. Dracula's Favorite Beer



Oh my god! Dracula is about to indulge that Transylvanian woman on the balcony with some sexy neck foreplay, and... no wait. All he wants is a beer. (Am I right, ladies?)

Then again, what do you expect from a guy who's wearing a cape? But at least it turns out those fangs are good for something else. (No, not that. The other thing...)


9. Sigourney Weaver vs. Aliens



I thought Alien was the scariest movie I'd ever seen, and its first sequel was even scarier. But it turns out Sigourney Weaver had a different motivation when she attacked the giant queen alien.

"All I wanna do is kick back and enjoy the DirectTV I just hooked up."

Yeah, right. So there's not a scared little girl named Newt cowering under the spaceship's deck grating? You just wanna watch TV? Thanks for spoiling the moment...



10. Elvira: Mistress of the Vegetarians



No one's done more for Halloween than Elvira — including a lot of bad commercials for Coor's Light. But last year she rose from the dead to deliver a fierce warning to the monsters of the world.

"Silly zombie. Flesh-eating is for worms."

So go vegetarian, Elvira urges. (It's an ad for PETA directed by Andy Dick.) Though Elvira always gives me the urge to celebrate Halloween with a cool, refreshing Coor's Light...

Does anybody else feel like getting drunk and watching monster movies?

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How Gay Were the Hardy Boys?

The Great Hardy Boys Prank

He hated the Hardy Boys. But he wrote the Hardy Boys. Did their original author hide secret jokes inside the famous children's detective books?

"In his diaries, my father talks about having to write another of those cursed books," the author's son told one interviewer, "in order to earn another $100 to buy coal for the furnace." ("It was very good money during the Depression," Leslie McFarlane recalled in a radio interview forty years later. Both interviews are linked from the author's entry on Wikipedia.)

But over 100 million books have since been published with the boy detectives he brought to life. "A royalty of even a quarter of one percent would've been all right," he added wistfully...



Leslie McFarlane, original author of the Hardy Boys
Ghost Writer Leslie McFarlane
In 1926, a 24-year-old McFarlane accepted a short-term contract position which led to his writing the first sixteen Hardy Boys titles under the pseudonym Franklin W. Dixon. "I never did learn what the 'W' represented," he groused in a commemorative introduction later. "Certainly not Wealthy."

It's the mystery of the disgruntled ghost writer, as I discovered when reading the original 1929 version of The Secret of the Caves and found myself wondering: Are there dirty jokes hidden between the lines? He'd "inject his wonderful sense of humor," McFarlane's daughter once remembered, to make the writing project "palatable."

"And then he'd finish and say, 'I will never write another juvenile book.' But then the bills would pile up and he'd start another..."

It's been 80 years since the Hardy Boys mysteries first appeared, and the change in our language is hard to miss when the two brothers first begin investigating a ring of car-stealing smugglers, and their best friend describes his stolen vehicle.
"The car is pretty well known around Bayport," said Chet. "It was certainly a gay-looking speed-wagon."

Wikipedia argues the word gay "implied a willingness to disregard conventional or respectable sexual mores...as early as the 1920s."

The Shore Road Mystery - original 1928 illustration
Original caption: "We'll tie them up until we figure out what to do with them."
In his 1928 book The Shore Road Mystery, McFarlane had accidentally chosen words whose meanings were changing, I thought. But the same accident recurred just a few pages later, when the boy's aunt Gertrude argued they shouldn't post bail for farmer Dodd's son. "You can't rely on men who don't have a woman around the house to keep them straight."

Interestingly, McFarlane's publishing syndicate had given him strict instructions on how to portray the boys' romantic lives, he revealed in the commemorative introduction. "It was intimated that relations between the Hardy Boys and their girl friends would not go beyond the borders of wholesome friendship and discreet mutual esteem."

Was the book's author wryly hiding double entendres as a backhanded slap at his employer and their straitjacketing guidelines?

Or do readers in the 21st century just have dirty minds...


I've agonized over this question, but if it's true, then McFarlane's magnum opus was a 1929 masterpiece of dirty double meanings called — what else — The Secret of the Caves. Within a few chapters, an elderly male shopkeeper is warning the Hardy Boys and their two male friends to stay away from the mysterious beach because "There's some queer things been goin' on down there lately." And what exactly does that mean, asks the Hardy Boys' friend — Biff.
"Nobody knows. But there's been queer lights seen down around them caves. And shootin'. Guns goin' off. Mighty queer doin's, they say..."

Chet whistled softly. "This sounds good! We may stay longer than we had intended..."

Wikipedia says the word "queer" already had sexual overtones by the late 1800s.

Hardy Boys covers - The Secret of the CavesMcFarlane's book even detours to report that the females in the book were feeling left out.
"I wish I were a boy," sighed Callie Shaw.

Iola Morton looked up from her ice-cream soda. "Me, too."

"It's tough luck that you're not," agrees Joe Hardy in chapter six, but unfortunately, exploring strange caves is a men-only job. McFarlane opens chapter eight by telling us that "The Hardy boys and their chums spent the night at a hotel in a small village..."

The four teenagers are on summer vacation, so there's time for some sleuthing. When they buy camping supplies, the old shopkeeper re-iterated again that it's a dangerous cave full of queer doin's, and Frank "smiled at this thrust."

But his younger brother Joe was even more enthusiastic.
"The one thing we're afraid of is a quiet outing. Excitement," he added slangily, "is our meat."

"Ye'll get lots of it if ye go pokin' around them caves," the old gentleman predicted.

Maybe that was the book's rejected first title — Excitement is Our Meat.

In any case, by chapter 15, the four friends have started exploring the caves. There's a lot of darkness and candles, but apparently the four lads aren't alone. Within a few pages, the chums are approached by a strange looking old man.
"What a queer duck he is!" exclaimed Biff.

"I'll say he is!" ejaculated Chet Morton.

So that's the secret of the caves...


I wouldn't have said anything, except for an earlier scene where Frank Hardy regains consciousness in one of the cave's pits — and the narrator uses a tell-tale adverb.
[W]ith the aid of the rope, and with Joe and his chums pulling lustily, Frank was soon hauled to the top...

It's a strange book. The Hardy Boys' cave does prove to be filled with pits, but for the most part McFarlane's story records the mystery of the missing mystery. Until chapter 17, which veers suddenly into startlingly unwholesome territory.

The Secret of the Caves - The Hardy Boys - original 1929 cover


They were just approaching the cliff that hid the cave from view when Frank halted and peered through the fog at the base of the rocks some distance ahead.

"Do you see somebody lying there, Joe...? Seems like a man sprawled on the sand...."

The boys hastened across the rocks in the direction of the figure on the shore...

They came up to the man sprawled on the sand. He was not dead. An empty bottle lying by his side told the reason for his slumber.

"He's drunk!"

So "The Secret of the Caves" is — they have a liquor license?
He was quite senseless from the effects of the liquor he had drunk... "This is luck!" exclaimed Frank.

Uh-oh...
"What shall we do with him? asked Joe.

Frank groped in his pocket and produced a length of stout cord.

"We'll tie him up first!"

Say, what kind of beach is this, anyways?

The Hardy Boys had apparently identified their sexy smuggler as an escaped criminal who's wanted by the police — and their stars are lining up.
"What if he puts up a fight?"

"He's too drunk."

They throw hat-fuls of water into in his face to revive him — but when he wakes up, they keep throwing more water at him.
"Hey! What's this?" roared the car thief indignantly. He had just discovered that his wrists were bound.

"Just a little joke," said Frank.

Water was streaming down the man's face. He was thoroughly aroused by now.

"I'll say he is!" ejaculated Chet Morton.

The Hardy Boys prevailed, and eventually turned their captured smuggler over to the police. I don't know if they then lit a cigarette — but I decided I didn't need to read any further. I'd already guessed the secret of the caves.

But one tantalizing mystery about the Hardy Boys remained. How could such a wildly popular detective series be created by a man who was so ambivalent about them? And could he really write a total of 21 Hardy Boys books without leaving behind a hint of his true feelings?

As the years ticked on, Leslie McFarlane dreamed of writing a great epic novel about the Canadian north. But instead, he lived just long enough to see the Hardy Boys turned into a cheery Saturday morning cartoon with their own faux-60s rock band.



McFarlane's creations continued marching through the decades, with the books' texts suffering major revisions to keep up with a changing world. Ben Stiller and Tom Cruise are even reported to be collaborating on a new movie based on the characters called The Hardy Men.

Shortly before his death, a radio interviewer surprised Leslie McFarlane, then in his 70s, with a quiz about his original ending for The Shore Road Mystery. In the book, the Hardy Boys had investigated the baffling disapperances of cars along the old shore road. So who committed the crime?

"I haven't the foggiest idea," the author answered. "And I don't really care."

But last year in an interview with the newspaper of McMaster University, McFarlane's daughter shared a haunting memory. At the end of his life, he'd delivered one last sad and final irony.

"You know, I think people are only going to remember me for those damn books."

Click here to purchase McFarlane's original 1929 text
for The Secret of the Caves


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CWILF Island: Hottie Candidate Spouses

michelle obama

Let's face it, being attractive has never exactly been a prerequisite for being First Lady of the Nation.

Take Margaret Taylor, wife of 13th President Zachary Taylor. Now there's a face only a shovel could love. And Herbert Hoover's wife? I dare any erection to withstand that vision. (It bears noting that, of course, these guys weren't exactly Marky Mark, either.)

Sure, there was the occasional Jackie Kennedy, the odd Ellen Arthur, betrothed to 21st President Chester A. Arthur. On balance, though, most of them were as funny-lookin' as their presidential partners.



Times have changed, of course, and today a shady character like Nixon — that shifty, sweaty fucker — could hardly run for dog catcher. So obviously (and especially in this culture where double standards rule the day), everyone's had to step up their game to be taken seriously in national politics.

But in Campaign '08 the candidates' wives have taken it to a level that didn't exist even just four years earlier. Don't believe me? Take a look at how much worse they looked in 2004!

Ga-a-a-a-ck!



So while most of the media are content to pretend to quibble about issues, we've decided to assess the fledgling campaign the only way it really deserved to be qualified – by rating the Top 5 CWILFs of the 2008 presidential race!

Just so that we're clear here: CWILF = Candidate's Wife I'd Like to Fuck. I'm embarrassed to have even had to spell that out, but you never know.

Now without further adieu, let's bring on the CWILFs!

5. Judith Giuliani

Judith Giuliani


Madonna mia! I'm a sucker for Italian broads, so in some ways I like her more than some of the others. But, she's guilty by association, so the fact she's willing to be with this skeevosa makes the baby Jesus cry. What can you say about a guy whose own daughter didn't tell him she was accepted to Harvard, and who publicly endorsed Barack Obama just to spite him? But more on her later …

4. Jackie Dodd

Jackie Dodd


The hotter of the two (!) Mormon candidates’ wives. And you never know about those magic underwear – everyone assumes that these must be granny panties, but since nobody’s talking about it, they could have modernized them into thongs or bikinis. And the fact that she managed to make her husband forget about dating the likes of Bianca Jagger and Carrie Fisher (in her hot Jedi days) says something, right?


3. Michelle Obama

michelle obama

Oh my, forget about the historical implications of Barack in the so-called White House, how about some hot chocolate in the Oval(tine) Office? Some bootylicious lovin’ in the Lincoln Bedroom? Is that even irony? I’m not sure, but I’m into it. The fact that she’s no wallflower (she’s described herself as having a “loud mouth”) only makes my hardened wood petrified.

2. Elizabeth Kucinich

Elizabeth Kucinich


Progressive superhero Dennis Kucinich has been getting his balls broken over his new hot, young trophy wife, and I for one am going to make sure this doesn't stop anytime soon. I haven't seen an example of beauty and the beast this extreme since, uh... the last time I got laid. Thank god she at least has a little beaver tooth thing going on with her mighty incisors, or else someone might accuse him of pandering to the electorate.

1. Jeri Thompson

Jeri Thompson

Despite the ick factor of actually imagining her curling up with that flubbery fossil, the wife of jowly, drawling old bastard Fred Thompson takes the fuckability cake. She's one of them there smart chicks, too (if I go to my grave without ever having banged a political consultant, it'll only be because god thinks I'm a douche and wants to see me unhappy).

Honorable Mention: Bill Clinton

Okay, he’s actually more of a CHILF, and I certainly don’t wanna fuck him, but I’m amazed by how many girls consider this guy an unqualified, no-questions-asked panty-dropper. Issues of age, infidelity, even politics fly right out the window. So for the love of god, if Hillary wins, somebody keep him away from zaftig Jewess interns, will ya? Also: can a First Gentleman be impeached? Pray for a Democrat-controlled Congress.



Honorable Mention: The Daughters


I decided not to make a separate list of candidates’ daughters I want to fuck. Not because that would be “wrong” (please!) – only because I couldn’t come up with a cool acronym. CDILFs? Doesn’t work.

But I can't resist calling out the previously mentioned Caroline Hanover (Giuiliani) and Meghan McCain, who’s just about the complete opposite of Hanover. McCain is accompanying her father on the campaign trail, maintaining a blog, and looking like the hottest prospective First Daughter since, um, the last REAL one. (Yes, I'm the father of Jenna Bush's baby. There you have it. Though she told me girls can't get pregnant that way.)

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Reverend Billy Wants You To Stop Shopping

Reverend Billy Wants You To Stop Shopping
Photo by Fred Askew

You may want to start shopping more, just to increase your chances of running into the brilliant and hilarious anti-consumer performance artist Reverend Billy and his mad crew.

But if you're averse to hanging in malls, you now have another option — you can watch What Would Jesus Buy?, a new film directed by Rob VanAlkemade and produced by Super Size Me director Morgan Spurlock. The film follows Billy and his "Church of Stop Shopping choir" on a trek across America, between Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2005, as our protagonists try to inject a little bit of genuine holiday spirit into the frenzy of the Xmas shopping season. (You know — love thy neighbors, help the needy, give peace a chance...)



To accomplish this, Billy and the choir tweak the harried shoppers with some good-natured, mock-Biblical preaching and singing that challenges them to put away their credit cards and get with some spontaneous, joyful, and real human experiences. Reverend Billy is Bill Talen, a seasoned performance artist who moved from San Francisco to NYC in the late '90s — and if the prospect of an hour or two of typical lefty agitprop leaves you dry, don't worry. He's a funny man who could charm the pants off of Scrooge.

Naturally, when I had the opportunity to interview him, I had to give him a bit of a hard time. Sorry, Reverend, I have a lot of ambiguity about the tendency of some people on the left to tell us how to live – and the anti-consumerist left may be the worst of them all. Of course we may indeed need to change how we live, but there's something too finger-pointy about the whole thing for my taste and it makes my right knee jerk. (That's my libertarian knee. My other knee is left.)

But what the hell. I can't walk down a city street without dozens of signs trying to persuade me to start shopping. (And someone is trying to persuade you to shop right in the middle of this very article!) So I've got to make some room for Billy and his choir, even though I'll shop wherever and whenever the fuck I want. (Though that isn't very often!)

In addition to the film, Public Affairs has released the bookWhat Would Jesus Buy: Fabulous Prayers in the Face of the Shopocalypse, which contains some of Billy's finest rants, including a description of The Church of Stop Shopping's historic visit to Disneyland at the end of the '05 tour.

RU SIRIUS: So tell us a bit about yourself, Rev Billy. Before Bill Talen was ordained as a Reverend in the Church of Stop Shopping, did you do other types of performance? Can you tell us a bit about them?

REVEREND BILLY: For a long time I was a storyteller and bodybuilder who hitchhiked. In other words, I was a simulation Beat Poet who arrived at least 20 years, maybe 30 years late.

I had long Conan-style hair, and I would stand up on the Interstate with my thumb out. At truck stops I would write rhapsodic poetry on napkins. I loved the dark world behind truck stops, the hidden world of small towns with white clapboard facades and strange hedges. Then I would get a job on someone's ranch, fall in love with their daughter, stay for six months.

Once I performed one of my monologues at a truck stop, which was unusual because usually the two worlds didn't mix like that — but they gave me a big ham as my pay!

RU: How did you hook up with Morgan Spurlock? Did he come to you or did you come to him?

RB: Morgan and I lived for a long time in the East Village about a mile apart. I was preaching in a community garden on Rivington in 1999, and he was there being an NYU film student at the time. So this is an argument for staying in the neighborhood. Do the work, shout in a garden, and the world eventually sits in the seats.

RU: But did you ever have much attachment to brands or have a tremendous lust for shopping?

RB: Gandhi said, "Become the change you seek." I think I could do better at not shopping.

I've been touring lately, so recycling becomes difficult. In fact, being on jets and in motels, I end up surrounded by containers — plastic mostly, boxes and packages and bags. I'm constantly stuffing garbage into cans while sitting down with my computer, and some gentle human being from Winnipeg is confessing to me that she is shopping too much. It won't do for me to preach Stop Shopping and then be covered with the wounds of fossil fuel.

RU: OK, let me lay my balls on the table. We have many similar political ideals and I appreciate your entire shtick. I think corporations have way too much power and I think we can do better than a society that's entirely centered on production and consumption.

But I never could get much of a hard-on over consumerism. In fact, even before I heard about your magnificent preachings, I wrote, "Consumerism is the original sin of the counterculture." I think that's true, and everything that implies follows. Fundamentalist anti-consumerists have sinful things they can not do to follow the way — to feel righteous and like they're doing good works. They get to feel morally superior to those heathen, unenlightened, brainwashed shoppers. And they get to preach the word.


Honestly, after hanging out with really hardcore anti-consumerist types, I always wrap myself up in furs, buy a tub of genocidal chicken from KFC and settle in to watch Flava Flav pick a new girlfriend.

Ok, not really, but isn't there something a bit too preachy about the whole thing, Rev?

RB: Oh yeah, god. We are all sinners, and keep laughing — definitely! Jesus. I've never had the temperament to be ideological or religious (we say we are post-religious) but I know these limits are just defenses.

I do respect, though, the people who resist consumption in a more thorough way than I do. We need that end of the spectrum — the rigorously maintained compost heap in Vermont, the freegans and their dumpster raids in the cities. I regard such people highly, and where would we be without them?

On the other hand — human suffering from fundamentalism as such, from Mao to L. Ron Hubbard to the Atkins diet to the Khmer Rouge — let's face it, an unbending law is probably wrong. We proceed then, laughing and singing.

RU: Laughing and singing, indeed. Tell us something about your cast of characters. You must have had some great, strange, creative people on this traveling tour...

RB: Well the choir and the band are like the 7 Train in Queens. From all over the world. We have folks from Nigeria and Korea and Sweden and Venezuela.

Consumerism is a worldwide malady, it hits us all. So for our message to make sense we need the world's citizens there to testify. The serious deadly report of global capital's empire comes from all these different folks, whipping up their "Change-a-lujahs."



RU: I was once asked to describe what brands I was unreasonably attached to, and I couldn't really come up with anything, unless you count decrepit rock stars from my youth in the sixties. Do you think the strong sense of branding — and conversely against branding — is more of a GenX and post-GenX theme?

RB: I'm more concerned with the ambient presence of logos, the simulated sex-life while walking through a canyon of supermodels, the nano-science that leaves smart people well-paid because they reported on the neuro-switch in our brains that makes not buying impossible, the impulse inevitable.

So — brand loyalty isn't so much the question when we walk around inside these totalized environments. We don't have to love them anymore like that, like in the 50's when a Chevy was your iconic permission to be wild.

RU: Do you enjoy the fame that you have?

RB: Well it's all so new I don't know it very well. I'm in the East Village now and "Hi Rev!" rings out, but I've done real work here with Savitri D and the singers and musicians. Community gardens, and little bakeries and 53-year-old indy shops and the tenement house where Edgar A Poe wrote "The Raven" — we defend these places. So this is more like real fame, community fame where individuals choose to like us — not some Machiavellian media thing...

We're constantly amazed by Morgan's savvy, and appreciate the fact that from it we'll be able to go to community groups and help them with funding and press as they try to stave off a supermall or something... The book and the movie will help us with this work.

RU: But it also seems that hip "bobos" enjoy consuming media stories about "culture jamming" of various sorts, say, on the pages of Wired or even Wall Street Journal.


I think lots of people who don't share your views probably feel more amused than threatened. Do you ever feel yourself entering into the proverbial Society of the Spectacle, and does it matter?

RB: The condition of voyeur-Boboism is not a static one. Many souls come over from that kind of consumption, when they are ready.

So it is our job to keep dancing, keep preaching and singing, and especially to go to the activists in the communities we visit, and take the hit with them. Always pull the spectacle screaming toward the political change; drag the entertainment toward the activism.

More and more people are walking with us.

RU: Can you say more about your chorus members from all over the world? Do they have different approaches to the "Stop Shopping" theme? What have you learned from them?

RB: Well, Adetola's parents are Nigerian, whereas Urania is Greek-American, and Mi Sun is getting her residence visa after growing up in South Korea. Taking these three folks — the religion from their childhoods is more or less fundamentalist, if you go back far enough, but also internationalized and humanist, if you come forward. Adetola, Urania and Mi Sun seem to have found a spiritual home in "backing away from the product" (ed: a church ritual) judging from the fervor of their singing, and our personal sharing about it while we perform and tour.

Many Americans find it unbelievable that denying the impulse of living-through-more-stuff can be so powerful as to be called "spiritual." Those are the folks that underestimate how powerful advertising, packaging, and all those happiness schemes really are. Consumerism is a virulent fundamentalistic system. Our souls wait to be free of it.

RU: But do you think consumer culture can actually be liberating to cultures that are escaping various forms of puritanism like Iran or China?

RB: Lots of things can be. We have to be careful that our natural born American chauvinism doesn't start making excuses for standard imperialism.

If you are asking — "Is the globalized economy a necessary step in an evolution toward freedom?" Absolutely not. Usually the exact opposite. The puritanism of product-loving is more insidious, but not less anti-sensual.

The way out of the puritanism of systems like those in Iran and China might be better accomplished by rejecting "Free Trade," the American celebrity tradition, etc. Many re-find their own indigenous cultures, and then come back to the international community by contacting other parallel movements abroad. This is happening in the World Social Forum — under-reported by our commercial press — but a worldwide phenomenon nonetheless.

RU: You're writing and rap seems to advocate a return to place — the village life. I spent my teens and some of my twenties in a smallish town in Western N.Y. (I think the only corporate stores were J.C. Penney's, Woolworth's and Macys). It sucked. It was drab, dreary, ignorant; and small towns enforce conformity.

That's why bohos move to San Francisco and New York. Couldn't mobility actually be a lot more progressive and liberating than place?

RB: The defense of the First Amendment Rights of public space, embodied in the commons of a village or the streetcorner of an urban neighborhood — the idea of a child's unmediated sense of wonder coming from nature and neighbors... this line of reasoning doesn't have to take you back to a Norman Rockwell small town.

We are simply looking for ways to describe a healthy community, which certainly also exists in the cafe society of San Francisco and the village in New York — where the Stop Shopping Church is most popular.

The thing that is more drab, dreary, ignorant and conformity-enforcing is the mall, the privatized street, the vapid landscape of traffic jams and the toxic-coated no-humans-land of the suburbs. We go into those "seas of identical details" with our singing and preaching. We wade into traffic jams and motorists — god bless 'em — roll down their windows to say hi and get info. The Consumer-scape isolates us, and the new media that the corporations fear most is the media of talking and listening between citizens.

Change-a-lujah!

What Would Jesus Buy? is opening on Friday November 16 in eight cities, including New York, Denver, San Francisco (Lumiere), and Seattle.

The premier in NYC will be attended by Morgan Spurlock, Reverend Billy, Savitri (director of the performance and activist events of The Church of Stop Shopping) and director Rob VanAlkamade, and not least: The Stop Shopping Gospel Choir and the Not Buying It Band. The 7 PM NYC screening is a fall fundraiser.


See Also:
Has The Man Infiltrated Burning Man?
Kneecaps, Eyeballs and Livers for Sale: The World Organ Trade
The NoSo Project: No Social Networking
They’re Dreaming of a Boobs Christmas

Read More

Five Druggiest High School Sitcom Scenes


They put the "high" in high school.

While drugs are a complicated experience, TV shows are not. So when the characters in a show about high school students tackle the issue of illicit substances — the characters are in for some very funky trips.

And so is the audience...

1. Freaks and Tweaks


Judd Apatow captured the existential moment every stoner faces when Lindsay smoked Nick's stash on a very special episode of Freaks and Geeks. A paranoid Lindsay isn't worried about losing high school innocence, but reality itself.

As acoustic guitars play a come-down tune, there's a beautiful speech about having faith, even from the other side of an altered reality. But ironically, after this episode aired, the entire series was cancelled — and Lindsay's whole universe really did cease to exist.

2. That 70s Bust

They'd already smoked pot for over eight years. In their high school yearbook they even wrote "What a long strange trip it's been....in Eric Foreman's basement."

But in one extra groovy episode of That 70s Show, Eric's hard-assed father Red finally catches the whole gang lighting up. And then the four stoned teenagers endure a histrionic lecture in the kitchen as its wallpaper seems to sway with trippy special effects

"Who taught you how do to this?! Was it those damn Beatles?"

"It's like Amsterdam down there!"

3. Saved by the Caffeine Pills

Saved By The Bell was notorious for its feel-good storylines — about personal responsibility, loyalty among friends, and the soul-crushing dangers of caffeine pill addiction.



In another episode, the cast also turned their backs on a pot-smoking TV star and recorded an explicit anti-drug message with NBC President Brandon Tartikoff. Although not all their fans agreed.

By the time that scene hit the internet, it was looking a little different...



It's all right. In the comments at YouTube, one party-pooper points out that the clip has obviously been edited. ("He originally says, Don't do drugs, then they all say, "There's no hope with dope!") If you watch closely, someone's even tampered with the closing credits, which now urge viewers to phone the NBC pot line — to get a free sample.

And a third commenter just says he couldn't stop marvelling at Screech's tripadelic shirt.

4. Welcome Back, Uppers

Epstein and Barbarino act like "we took some of them pills" in an earnest anti-drug episode of Welcome Back, Kotter. Unbeknownst to them, Horshack has already wolfed down a real handful of uppers, and their pretend stupor is complimented by — well, with Horshack, it's kind of hard to tell.


They'll scare Freddie "Boom Boom" Washington into going straight — especially with 25-year-old high school student John Travolta acting like "one of them druggie people. Real dum-like. 'Gimme drugs. Gimmie drugs...'"

Ultimately their six minutes of play-acting prove that it takes more than good intentions to cure drug addicts. It also takes some bad examples.

5. The Brady Bong


As Mr. Brady pulls the station wagon into the driveway, he discovers his son Greg is acting a little "dopier" than usual. But 17-year-old actor Barry Williams wasn't fooling anyone...
Greg: ...far out!!

In real life, Williams was stoned, as later investigations proved, in an episode of The Brady Bunch which was — ironically — titled "Law and Disorder." (Young Bobby Brady is appointed the school's safety monitor, but misses tell-tale signs of obvious reckless behavior...)

This is where the two worlds come together — the fake TV family, and the actors caught in the middle. Ultimately Barry Williams decided that his legendary drug scene represented just another form of play-acting. In his autobiography, he wrote that "Getting stoned instead left me...feeling as phony as the turf in the Brady's backyard.

"Maybe I should've just smoked that."

See Also:
Six Freakiest Children's TV Rock Bands
Paul McCartney on Drugs
Dustin Diamond vs. Sgt. Harvey
The 5 Sexiest Apple Videos
The Simpsons on Drugs: Six Trippiest Scenes

Read More

Britney vs. Bin Laden: A Celebrity Comeback Battle



What a weird, wacky week of high-profile iconic resurrections!

In one corner, we have a disheveled, sickly looking maniac who can barely move and appears to be in some kind of drug-enduced stupor while babbling messages of madness.

And in the other corner, we have Osama bin Laden.



But are these two really that different? Neither of 'em have had a decent hit in the U.S. since 2001, that's for sure. And right now both are hell-bent on trying to regain some traction in terms of contemporary relevance… appropriately enough, both in the field of video.

Ask any of Osama's wives, and they'll tell you our favorite joltin' jihadist is actually the sentimental type, and has got hisself all verklempt over today's anniversary of that thing that happened six years ago. (Which he did. Yes, I said it. Now all you conspiracy nuts can spam me at FlossWithMyAssHair.com.)

First we get last week's reminder from bin Laden that he continues to play Road Runner to our Wile E. Coyote … meep meep! Sure, he looked about as stiff as Andy Dick at a Boys & Girls Club Pancake Breakfast, but look as good at that age I will not, hmm?

At least you gotta give props to his cinematographer for making sure his colostomy bag stayed outta the shot. Bravo! Now we're expecting his second video in as many weeks. Joy! I can't wait for another chance to be compelled to put aside my wicked Western ways and embrace Mustafa or whoever.

It certainly won't happen while I fight the urge to join the chorus of Britney-haters who seem to think it was a bad idea for her to shake her flabby, unsexy ass in front of millions of people. Yeah, like I can ever resist that temptation.

Everyone knows I'm no homo (although I'm totally gay for that new Iron Man trailer!), and I certainly likes a little jiggle on my jello. But this is no Beyoncé-esque, taut, round rump we're talking about here. Britney might as well tattoo the Frito-Lay logo on her ass.

Okay, so she's not quite Gwen Stefani in the post-natal department … whatever. Obviously it was all about the "dancing." I mean, I tell people I "dance," and I certainly will go out to clubs and "dance." But when I saw her on the MTV Video Music Awards, I knew instinctively that this was the same "dance" I do around 1:45 about 20 minutes after I should've left the club in a drunken heap. Or that time I decided whiskey and Vicodin would really unleash the Deney Terrio in me. Not so much. (The look on 50 Cent's face said it all – I had the same look when I saw Cirque du Soleil's Zumanity show and they launched a midget 50 feet into the air.)

Of course, this is all to promote a new single ("Gimme Monostat 7" or something like that) from the Brit-ster, whose recent contributions to the world include keeping various nannies busy and showing off her cooch.

So now that we've introduced our challengers, let's see how they stack up against each other in hand-to-hand comeback combat...



Tale of the Tape

bin Laden – Exiled terror icon. Once a reviled boogeyman for the Bush administration, now more like the Johnny Carson of Jihad. (You see him once in a blue moon, and he looks worse every time).

Britney – Fallen pop tart. Once a Madison Ave poster girl inspiring erections across lines of age, race and income, now more like the girl you end up bangin' after a drunken 3 a.m. introduction at the Jack in the Box drive-thru.

Let's get ready to rumble...


Still Sexy?

bin Laden – I don't know, man, it's not really working for me without that whole rough 'n' rugged cave thing going on. Plus I prefer my terrorists wild-eyed and frothing at the mouth. Ol' Ossie just doesn't have that eye of the tiger anymore.

Britney – She looks like her belly button stinks. Ew.

Winner … bin Laden!


YouTube-ability

bin Laden – As previously stated, the guy just really doesn't have the dynamism anymore. And unlike Britney's choreographer, al-Qaeda's production team didn't have the wits to surround him with high-flying, acrobatic jihadists doing somersaults in the background to give it some sorely needed pizzazz.

Britney – Like watching a perfect trainwreck. Except the train is too fat and drunk to speed down the tracks, and it kinda waddles its way toward disaster. Britney's performance was her generation's "Aloha from Hawaii." Only Elvis didn't look this bad till he was 40, and she's … what?! 25?! Sweet mother Mary!!

Winner … Britney!


Will It Fly?

bin Laden – Is there anyone left with half a brain who hasn't realized this guy is the Colonel Sanders of Islamic extremism? Twenty years from now nobody will even remember he existed, but they'll still be handing out buckets of terror with his face on 'em. The only real question left for bin Laden is how much time his kidneys will leave for him to get really desperate for attention.

Britney – Judging by what a predictable mess the last five years became for Ms. Toxic, I'm guessing not. I mean, think about it – we're talking about someone who's managed to make Christina Aguilera look like Ute Lemper by comparison! The only real question left for Britney is whether she'll end up like Anna Nicole Smith. Although I personally have little interest in seeing her bloated corpse anytime soon. Not when her bloated non-corpse is still worth some entertainment...

Winner … You tell us, in the comments.

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Secrets of the Perry Bible Fellowship

Secrets of the Perry Bible Fellowship - Nicholas Gurewitch Interview

It's startling, it's funny, it's disturbing, and it's brilliant — and always with deceptively-innocent titles like "Hugbot," "Colonel Sweeto," or "Weeaboo."

Nicholas Gurewitch finally agreed to pull back the red curtains of his mind and share some secrets (and some unpublished art) with his beguiled fans.

The 25-year-old cartoonist created a web phenomenon with his comic strip The Perry Bible Fellowship, where there's always a new storyline, and often even a new style. I spoke with Gurewitch about his work and his forthcoming book, The Trial of Colonel Sweeto and Other Stories.

LOU CABRON: Can you explain some of the mystery away? Tell me something I don't know about The Perry Bible Fellowship.

NICHOLAS GUREWITCH: I hide a lot of things in the comic — details that I hope resonate with people when they read things for the second and third time. I do love planting things like that...

LC: I was just proud that I'd spotted that same curly line in the Masculator strip last week that was in your first strip six years ago, Stiff Breeze.

NG: It might be the same breeze in all these strips! I think it might be God messing with people.

Stiff Breeze
LC: Your first comic also had a hidden phallic shape in the clouds...

NG: That may have been a very formative one — the comic that determined the persona of The Perry Bible Fellowship.

That one was kind of created by accident, but most of the comics that followed seemed to get their power by hiding something. I got high off the fact that some people noticed it and some people didn't. It almost made the people who noticed it feel more privileged.

I think I've been trying to appeal to that ever since...

LC: Now I have to know — what else have you hidden in the strips?

NG: I like hiding characters from one comic in another comic, or objects from one comic in another comic. Or people in a comic.

I tried to put the author Charles Bukowski in the comic strip Gamblin' Man. I think it may have been successful, because I noticed that a Charles Bukowski web site had mentioned his presence in the comic.

LC: Wow! Can you give me any other examples?

NG: I think you can see in the comic strip The Other Girls — with the vampires... I might rather avoid giving too many clues.



I don't generally do celebrities, but I've had a lot of people accuse me of planting ex-girlfriends in the comics. (Laughs)

LC: So what do you say to that?

NG: I think you've got to shrug it off.

LC: So you're not drawing your ex-girlfriends into your comics?

NG: That's my official answer.

LC: Your strip No Survivors had a weird backstory. It shows a man spelling out "Marry Me" with the corpses from a plane crash. You told Esquire that you'd ended a relationship with "a very gorgeous girl," and were trying to convey your sadness to her!

NG: I just found my situation very comical. I don't think it's a coincidence.

Forbidden Frontiers and "Cave Explorer"

LC: So could the Perry Bible Fellowship cartoonist ever dream up a strip that was just too strange? Ever have an idea that was too far out to publish?

NG: Occasionally, but it's usually because it's too far out for me. It's never because its too far out for my audience. Sometimes I don't really want to see them.

LC: But in your FAQ you've also said some strips aren't online because they're "not meant for the internet."

NG: Occasionally I'll just outgrow my appreciation for an old strip, and I'll remove it from the internet. Or there's one that I never thought was funny that got published that I never bothered putting online. Or there's one that's just too offensive...

I put a bunch of these lost strips in the book that's coming out. There's a whole section of the book devoted to comics that have been supressed from public view. There are a couple that are overly offensive that are in the book. I've hidden a few things in there...

LC: Can we see one?

NG: Sure - here's the first frame.


This lost frame for Rhino Brain appears in Nicholas Gurewitch


LC: One of my favorite strips is Cave Explorer — where a man builds a couch-cushion "cave" to trick his son into getting on the school bus.

NG: That's something that eveyone does, every day, in small little ways. I don't think everyone does it that literally, but we're constantly manipulating children. So to see it done very visibly, and in an enjoyable way, is almost kind of — it throws a wrench in our conception of ourselves.


LC: Does this mean your parents tried to trick you like that?

NG: I don't think we ever set up "Cave Explorer." But any parent that tries to outsmart their child to get them to do something is kind of engaging in this activity. If they try to get the kid to think about a new topic or they mention something advantageous about school that day — any time they cut a corner when they're parenting.

LC: Laughing Squid spotted something apparently based on another of your comic strips, Nice T-Shirt. Someone's selling "Avenging Unicorn" action figures, "with four interchangeable horns that can be used to impale a mime, a new age/hippie girl and a business man."

NG: I always thought that was really bothersome.

LC: Really?!

NG: What I took from what it was that person had probably seen the "avenging unicorn" comic that I did. And I think the giveaway is that there was no reason to think that the unicorn was extracting vengeance on any of the people he was supposed to impale.

Also, the fact that a mime actually has something go through his chest seems reminiscent of The Perry Bible Fellowship archive again. I did one where a mime gets hit in the chest with a bullet. (There's also their "Unicorn Power" chewing gum, which is even more bothersome because it looks so tasty.)

I had some people telling me — wondering if I was getting a cut of the profits from them.

LC: So if it's not licensed by you — what did you do?

NG: I think I just got a little sad for a day, and left it at that.




LC: Sad? Was it that far from the original comic strip?

NG: I thought they missed it entirely. The toy almost comes off as mean-spirited. What bothers me about the toy is that there's no reason to think that any of those people should be punished.

The comeuppance in the comic is entirely appropriate. I think the beauty of the strip is that there are unlikely protectors out there. The boy wearing the shirt doesn't even bid them to do it. I think it's just the nature of the unicorn to protect the person who wears their mantra. And I adore the fact that the bully absolutely deserves what he gets.

Food Fight and the Fans

LC: Do your strips get any other weird reactions from readers?

NG: This one kid thought I was enjoying the guy who yells "food fight!" in the Food Fight comic strip.

I despise that man! I don't think he realized that. I hate him with all my heart. Seeing him in action is something I find extremely amusing...

There's almost always a punishment element to these terrible people in the comics. It's not just badness for badness's sake. People don't see the bigger picture a lot of times. They see something bad and they think it's automatically endorsed. I condemn a lot of the characters in my comic strips.

LC: Do you ever get people complaining that "This strip wasn't as funny as that strip?"

NG: That's a really common review. I think a lot of people think the comic is slipping lately.

But I think people have been saying that since the first six strips came out in college my freshman year. I had my roommate saying, "These new ones are okay, but you'll never get back to that first semester." It's been that way every step of the way.

I laugh at it just as much as I always have.


LC: Wikipedia says you almost never receive hate mail.

NG: I've learned to make really quick and vague replies that make them sorry for asking.

I had a really long dialogue with someone who wrote in who was quite disgusted. He said he couldn't figure out how I thought certain things were funny — that there was no excuse for thinking that someone's death could be funny. He was particularly disturbed by the comic Hey Goat, where the last frame indicates an avalanche and a skeletonized couple next to the goat. He said there was no reason that could ever be funny.

LC: What did you say?

NG: I basically apologized and let him know where I was coming from. I think my explanation to him was that in that case, I thought it was very funny that his downfall — his fate — was determined by something absolutely unnecessary. It's pretty frivolous to yell at a goat and let him know that you're in love. I really like the idea that that was his undoing.

By the end of it, we were pretty friendly. We realized it's impossible to know anyone's intentions without meeting them in person. It was something really nice like that.

LC: I have to ask you — where did the title come from?

NG: My buddy and I were just looking around his room and he had a poster on his wall of this traveling singing group. And they were performing at the Perry Bible Fellowship. They were called the Hyssongs.

He actually framed it and gave it to me as an apartment warming present a few months ago.

The poster — it would be embarrassing to anyone who owned it.


That's them — but not the same image.

LC: So when people ask you about the title, what do you think?

NG: I think, a mental sigh. And then I proceed to try to cover up the fact that I'm not sure that there is a very good reason why the comic strip is called that....

LC: How many emails do you get, anyways?

NG: It varies quite a bit. But there's one instance that really gave me an idea about the crowd that was waiting for each update. I'd published online The Throbblefoot Aquarium. I was blown away with the fact that within five minutes of posting, I had received 20 similar emails — appreciating the parody of Edward Gorey.

It's tough to figure out. I get the impression that people think I get a lot more email than I get.

LC: Do you want more?

NG: Everyone says, "I'm sorry for loading up your inbox. You must have a thousand of these." I do probably get more email than I'm comfortable with. I think I have a few from last May that I need to respond to...

I want to respond to all of them. Sometimes I just don't know what to say, so I put it off for another day.

LC: What's the strangest reaction you've ever gotten from a fan?

NG: Every once in a while, I'll get a piece of fan mail that touches my heart. The other day a young lady sent me an envelope full of grass. It had little to no explanation along with it, but it was nice to receive. It was strange encouragement.

LC: Did you write back?

NG: There wasn't a return address.

LC: So after six years of strangeness, do you have a message for all your fans?

NG: We're in this together

Perry Bible Fellowship - Lost Frame - Rhino Brain (Art, no text)


See Also:
What Happened to the Perry Bible Fellowship?
Records Broken by the Perry Bible Fellowship
Lost "Horrors" Ending Found on YouTube

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Burning the Man With Hunter S. Thompson

Paul Addis a.k.a. B. Duke
Image courtesy of Scott Beale.

Twelve weeks ago we recorded an interview with Paul Addis — the man who burned the Man and was promptly arrested for arson. And even back then, he was constantly flicking his lighter.

"He never asked for permission to smoke in my house," remembers Jeff Diehl, co-host of the The RU Sirius Show. "And he chain smoked the whole time, even though he doesn't inhale."

This was at least partly because he was in character — Addis was performing as Hunter S. Thompson in a one-man show (a local newsweekly said it "feels like a reckless, all-out verbal assault") called "Gonzo: A Brutal Chrysalis," and was discussing his idol. Before the show was over, he'd identified the "heir apparent" to the Gonzo journalist.
Matt Taibbi. Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone is the heir apparent to Hunter Thompson.

He is on the mission... I first noticed him about two years ago when he went to Burning Man and proclaimed it for what it is — toothless and wallowing in its own muck and irrelevant to anyone or anything...

Eight weeks later, we interviewed Larry Harvey, the festival's founder. While there's no indication of what motivated Addis, Burning Man was already under criticism for a new policy.

On our podcast, Harvey addressed a simmering controversy over the presence of environmental exhibits at the base of the man which some participants thought were too commercial.

"We...informed everyone that they wouldn't be allowed to advertise," Harvey said. "They wouldn't be allowed to pass out their cards; they wouldn't be allowed to brand anybody; they wouldn't be allowed to talk about their product." He attributed the backlash to a Business 2.0 article which he said used business terminology to describe the event. (For example, calling the festival's attendees "customers.")

I don't see that commerce and community are allergic to one another. That's absolutely absurd... For instance, when participants are producing something that others might need in the desert, we let people know about it. So you can take those two value systems and make them overlap in such a way that they reinforce one another... To be against commerce is to be against your shoes, your shorts...


Addis's anger at the festival pre-dates the controversy. Laughing Squid's Scott Beale discovered that five years earlier, Addis praised a reporter at San Francisco's alternative newspaper, SF Weekly — for another negative article about the Nevada festival, saying it showed that the festival was over-controlled.
One by one the rules have risen since 1997, and not just to protect the participants from themselves. Those rules and judgments, such as what art is permitted in Black Rock City and radical free expression's outer limits, are determined in line with what will make the most money for Burning Man and generate the fewest potential controversies in the media. As such, Burning Man's overall relevance is kept safely within the realm of harmless diversion, quietly under the feet of the same elements that tame all other aspects of society.

In the letter he also laid into Burning Man founder Larry Harvey. "No amount of diffusion filters can give Harvey what he doesn't have: vision or loyalty," Addis wrote. "Don't fear the Hat, ladies and gentlemen. He's just trying to realize what it's like to be the Bill Graham of the 21st century."

Addis' Mug Shot
This morning on a dark playa, at 2:58 a.m., some festival goers gathered to watch the lunar eclipse, according to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle. A festival organizer told the Associated Press that Addis was then spotted by many festival-goers — deliberately lighting the Man on fire. A blogger at C|Net reported the frantic conversation he overheard on the Burning Man communications channel:

...the most poignant moment of all, however, was when Crimson Rose, one of the six people on the Burning Man board that runs the event and the person in charge of the Man, said...

I want that asshole arrested...And I want the first shot.



Larry Harvey had earlier been hit by a lawsuit from John Law, an early organizer of the Burning Man festival. One of Law's supporters — Chris Radcliffe — has been advocating the communal ownership of the Burning Man trademark (rather than its current ownership by Burning Man, LLC.)

"I just spoke with Chris Radcliffe, who is currently in Portland" Scott Beale at Laughing Squid wrote, "and he said that he has paid the $3200 bail for Paul’s release, but they have not let Paul out yet because he is refusing to give his name to authorities."

A 56-year-old lawyer from Napa who was at the festival gave a disgusted quote to the Reno Gazette-Journal. "Nowadays people seem to want to use terrorist acts for political reasons rather than by debating, talking or reasoning." And a Burning Man ranger — Ranger Sasquatch — saw the attack as something even more pitiful.

"Someone went to a great extent to interfere with everyone else's burn. I think, frankly, an attention whore has made a plea for attention."

There may be more behind the act's motivation than that, and it probably would be instructive to think, "What Would Hunter Do?"

RU Sirius Show co-host and life-long admirer of HST, Steve Robles, thinks he knows: "Hunter would have stopped attending when they banned firearms and started organizing camps so you wouldn't get run over by a wayward car in the middle of the night while sleeping off the tequila."

Then again, it is also true that Addis' one-man show is poised for a West Coast tour.

See Also:
Prescription Ecstasy and Other Pipe Dreams
Interview with Paul Addis, a.k.a., B. Duke
Catching Up With an Aqua Teen Terrorist
Has 'The Man' Infiltrated Burning Man?
Anarchy For the USA: A Conversation with Josh Wolf
California Cults 2006

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The NoSo Project: No Social Networking

NOSO - No Social Networking

Does all this so-called social networking crap make you wish people would stop being so fucking friendly? Do you long to disconnect? Artists Christina Ray and Kurt Bigenho, and web developer Gilbert Guerrero, joined me on the RU Sirius Show to talk about their art project, NoSo (short for No Social Networking), which is here to fulfill your need for greater social isolation. This is how they describe it on their video introduction on the NoSo website:

Welcome to NoSo. NoSo is a real-world platform for temporary disengagement from your social networking environment. The NoSo experience allows you to create No connections, by scheduling No events, with No friends. You may be asking yourself, "Why do I need NoSo?" As someone who's online 24/7, you have a lot to keep up with. When you're not blogging, your vlogging. When you're not vlogging, you're podcasting. When you're not podcasting, you're Skyping, texting, IM-ing, dating, trading, sharing, subscribing, downloading, updating, linking, approving, adding, checking, sending... I think you get the picture.

Sometimes, you need a break. Sometimes, you need NoSo.


Ray and Bigenho checked into the show via Skype from New York City and Guerrero joined us live from our studio in San Francisco.

To listen the full interview in MP3, click here.


RU SIRIUS: Please explain the basics of what happens, or what not happens, in a NoSo.

CHRISTINA RAY: We invite people to take a break from their every day experiences carrying around laptops and cellphones, and give them the chance to just disengage from the noise, the social network, the constant communication that's going on around us all the time. We let them just experience the absence of that — the feeling of being without all those distractions. And a NoSo could happen in a number of different places. It could happen on a street corner, or in a cafe, or in an installation in a gallery setting.



KURT BIGENHO: In a NoSo, you schedule a time when people will be in a destination through our web site, but you're not meant to engage with anyone while you're there. You're meant to have your private experience within this larger social thing.

RU: This is sort of an anti-flash mob. But at the same time, it's sort of like a flash mob, isn't it?

KB: Yeah. People have termed it an inverted flash mob or an anti-flash mob. Because we do allows people to schedule an experience — and then we kind of call it a non-experience. We're playing with metaphors of connectivity versus non-connectivity. And it's sort of a network that is there but also is not there at the same time.

RU: Are any of you familiar with Brian Eno's concept of a nightclub where everybody just goes and sits in silence?

CR: Yes. (Laughs) There may be some similarity there.

KB: Brian Eno is definitely a personal hero. I love that concept.

RU: So Christina, aside from making fun of social networking, do you also do it?

CR: Oh, absolutely. (Laughs) We're a highly connected unconnected project, if you will.

RU: So you'd say that you're ambivalent about social networking?

CR: Yes. I think you could say that.

RU: I think I read in Christina's biography that all your artwork is really involved with exploring space — sort of exploring urban space. Can you talk about some of the ways in which you've done that, and how they connect to the current project?

CR: Through street photography, I became interested in the concept of psycho-geography, which relates to how your urban environment affects you and vice versa.

I was doing that for several years — looking for new ways to explore the city. So I came across experiments that people were doing using alternative mapping techniques — maps that they created on their own. People were doing sort-of map mashups and creating interesting ways to explore the city.

It started because I was looking for new places to photograph. Since then, I've done a number of public space projects that deal with mapping and collaborating — sort of using the people who are on the streets to participate in a project or instigate actions. It's created a number of different collaborations. And this is really just the most current one, because what we're trying to do is use the space of the city to allow people to have a new experience.

RU: It all sort of reminds me of the Dérive going back to the Situationists. They sponsored these sort of freeform wanderings all over the urban terrain, many years ago. Gilbert, describe your experience with NoSo.

Gilbert Guerrero: Well, NoSo headquarters is sort of at the Southern Exposure gallery here in San Francisco. And we had a zone there that was kind of blocked off or cordoned off as a place to disconnect. Once you walked into that zone, you have to turn everything off. The experience was actually sort of amazing.

I'm a contractor, so I spend a lot of my time working in cafes — you know, changing environments, working on my laptop. And at Ritual Cafe here in San Francisco, you'll walk in and see fifty people in there all facing their laptops and nobody is talking to anybody else.

CR: Environments like that were part of the inspiration for this project. For example, at the South by Southwest conference or other technology conferences, you'll have two or three hundred people sitting in a room together, and everyone is listening to a presentation, texting, chatting, sending emails... all at the same time.

KB: …Blogging about it....

CR: ...IMing — everything! All at the same time! While they're trying to listen to a presentation! So there's this meta-level of connection going on, even when you're sitting in a crowded room full of people. I think that's funny. And at the same time, it points to a lot of larger issues about how technology is affecting us.

RU: Do you get a lot of participants in these events… or not-events?

KB: We've had a pretty good number of registrants. A lot of people write in saying, "Hey, we're in Toronto" or "We're in Mexico City. Can we do a NoSo there?" We set it up so that it's local. It was launched in San Francisco, and all of the NoSo's take place in San Francisco. So we've had interest from around the world. People want to collaborate and open it up and allow other people to have NoSos. Everyone's talking about social networking, and websites are being relaunched incorporating video, podcasting, and what have you. So I think by taking the antithesis of that — providing a sort of a counterpoint — we hit a nerve.

RU: There's this odd thing about the economics of "Web 2.0." It's very convenient for the people who own all these companies. Because basically, they set up a thoroughfare and then people pay to provide the content that they then pay to experience. Are you, in some ways, parodying that economic relationship?

CR: In a way. The project has kind of an emptiness about it. You have a user profile with not much information in it. You have a social network with no friends. You have a photograph that's not you. So it's sort of the opposite of a lot of these social networking sites. There's no money to be made from it. It sort of subverts the common Web 2.0 experience.

RU: Do you get interesting responses from people about the experiences that they've had as a result of going to these?

KB: Yeah. Some people felt sort-of refreshed or energized. They came out and they wanted to chat about their experience. They wanted to talk to people, and made a few phone calls. It's almost a Zen-like experience for people.

GG: I know a few people who actually felt intimidated by the experience. It's not quite snubbing someone else, but it's close to that. Maybe it's aggressive to not say something to somebody.


CR: I got feedback from some people who said they felt it was like being in an elevator. It's sort of awkward, and you're not really sure what to do. You want to look at your phone, or do something. That awkward experience was common.

RU: Kurt, tell us about your earlier projects — The Sams and The Organizers. Is there a relationship between those ideas and what you're doing with NoSo?

KB: The Sams was a project that Christina and I did at something called Art Basel Miami Beach in 2006. We formed a group called The Organizers to develop a project that involved participation, organization, and getting people into interesting interactions with an audience, in real time and real space — out in the world. The idea for the project was essentially to clone Samuel Keller, who is the director and the most ubiquitous figure in the event. So we created a series of kits — a hundred kits that we handed out at a cloning ceremony in a gallery. And they allowed you to sort of transform yourself into Sam Keller. And the kit included a t-shirt, instructions, a fake badge, and a bald cap — because Samuel is bald. So it was kind of a humorous concept that involved creating a group — kind of an instant army who could go out into the social scene of Art Basel, which is very much about going to the right parties and the right events… getting on the list. So we wanted to have some fun with that. We were encouraging people to infiltrate the scene, in a sense, and to do it as this kind of shared identity.

RU: So everybody could say that this fellow who was popular on the scene was at their party tonight, no matter where their party was. I think Andy Warhol used to do something like that in New York City.

KB: Exactly. Yeah.

RU: We had V. Vale from ReSearch Publications on The RU Sirius Show a couple of times. And his main theme was that we no longer have interior lives because we're so completely mediated. Is this part of what you guys are trying to challenge as well?

GG: That's something I've been doing a lot more thinking about. I know that I get tons of spam in my Inbox. I work full time in San Francisco as a developer and as an artist. I'm constantly promoting all kinds of things, and associating myself with other organizations. So if you type my name into Google, there are pages of stuff about me. That's kind of scary. So I want to go backwards now and reverse that whole thing about the importance of identity on the internet — to try to squash that.

In a way, NoSo is doing that, because you can be anonymous there. You can participate without letting anybody know who you are or why you're there.

RU: Do a lot of people sit there and read books, by any chance? V. Vale is very adamant that people need to read more books. Of course, he sells books!

CR: Sometimes when you're in a NoSo, you're not actually sure who else is there. If you have a profile on our calendar, you can schedule a NoSo. So if you decide to have your NoSo at a Cafe, you'll show up and you might be reading a book. But it's unclear who the other participants are, and what they're doing.

That was one of the original inspirations for the project — a kind of hiding in public space. Not only are you not using your devices, but you're also not sure who else is in on the joke, or in on the secret. So you might be reading a book, you might be just sitting on a park bench lurking on the corner, window shopping — whatever it is — all the while you're participating in a NoSo.

See also:
The NoSo Project website
The Sams
How The Internet Disorganizes Everything
A Conversation with Justin Kan of Justin.tv
Twittering the Twitter Revolution
Good Griefers: Fortuny v. Cook

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The Male Scale: 10 Archetypes


Legends of the Fall - Brad Pitt

Manhood is in flux.

Until the 19th century and the beginning of the Women’s Suffrage movement, traditional gender definitions prevailed. But as women gradually claimed their share of political power, they were not content with the classic male-work-rational-strong vs. female-home-emotional-weak dichotomy that dominated — and of course they shouldn’t have been.

Men resisted the movement until they could do so no longer. As women took steps to define their own gender roles, men missed the opportunity to do the same. We were left with a confused, ragtag concept of what it means to be a man, defined not by ourselves, but rather by contrasting ideals from two sources — liberated women and posterity.



But most modern men defy these narrow stereotypes, taking pieces of each. So without further ado, I now present to you...

The Male Scale

John Wayne1: John Wayne
The cowboy. Solitary, doesn’t need anyone else, but everyone else needs him to save the day. He is untethered by the world, an emotional Gibraltar. Therein lies his power, and his doom.
 
 

James Bond2: James Bond
Bond is…almost untrammeled. As a spy, he is defined by his one “weakness,” a desire to save the women who he encounters, and not solely for the sex. It is this chink in his armor, this mite of sensitivity in an environment where it could mean his death, that has made his image an echoing one.

Hemingway3: Hemingway
Hemingway would pretend to be Wayne, hunting and fishing and eschewing the women for the guys. For Chrissake, he got a special dispensation to hunt U-Boats in the Caribbean during WWII, which really just was him and his buddies getting drunk in pleasant waters. But his manliness, down to his nickname — Papa — was always a bit of trying too hard, always a dodge from the heavy emotions that consumed him. His characters were constantly hurt and refused to show it. He was the sensitive man who couldn’t bear to think it, so tried to cover it up with obscene displays to the contrary.

Jason Bourne4: Jason Bourne
As we reach the middle of the scale, Bourne is a twist on Bond. He has that something that many men crave, that surety that every other guy he sees, he can take in a fight. But he’s also a man in search of himself, haunted by his status as an assassin. If you choose to see it that way, he represents a drive towards self-awareness that few action heroes attempt.

Harry Potter5: Harry Potter
Harry isn’t the best wizard. He’s not the smartest. But he is the bravest. He alternates between brash actions that make you cheer cringe, and moments of self-doubt and emotional connection that, well, make you cheer and cringe. He is motivated by the desire to protect, but also for love and family. And, of course, he combats evil. It’s fitting, perhaps, that the balance is embodied in a child, who is less affected by the cultural ideas that can take root in the soul after so many years.

Brad Pitt6: Brad Pitt
Right, right. We all know he plays a badass Irish boxer, a secret agent, and Tyler Durden. But let's not forget roles like Tristan in Legends of the Fall. (Sure,Tristan was one of the Knights of the Round Table in Arthurian legend, but the name also means "sad"). And, since hooking up with Jolie, Pitt has actively been trying to change his image from sex symbol to humanitarian aid symbol. That Vanity Fair cover he got so upset about was said by some to be working against this new image.


Barack Obama7: Barack Obama
Obama is a sensitive voter’s fantasy, hitting all the right notes of compassion and unity and hope. He lets us fantasize about the possibility of a President who isn’t a 1 or a 2 like most of those we’ve gotten over the years (particularly from the Republican party). Although he displays a strong chin, he is constantly criticized for his “lack of experience,” meaning his indecisiveness, lack of definitive policy, etc. In effect, he’s being criticized for not being more like Wayne or Bond.

Anderson Cooper8: Anderson Cooper
The compassionate anchor. Cooper vaunted into celebrity, of course, with his impassioned reporting from New Orleans during the Katrina disaster. He attracts viewers who want something beyond that dispassionate traditional approach, an anchor with whom they can connect emotionally. His stature, fine features, and blue blood are also not prototypically masculine, but are part of a package that a lot of people find appealing.

Danny Tanner9: Danny Tanner
On Full House, he was father and mother, teaching his children about emotions really more than anything else. He was respectable, the kind of dad a lot of people would want. Of course, that didn’t stop everyone from calling him gay to the point that Bob Saget wrote a hysterical song defending Tanner’s heterosexuality.

Mr. Sensitive10: Mr. Sensitive
Just to get the point across, I’m going with a caricature here. In the certifiably crappy movie Bedazzled (whose only redeeming feature was Liz Hurley in shifting, besequined outfits), Brendan Fraser for his wishes switches his personality around in an effort to win the heart of this one girl. At one point, he wishes to be “sensitive,” which just means that he starts crying over crap like the flight of a bird. The lesson I think we’re supposed to take away: some, or even a lot of sensitivity is good, but for God’s sake, be a man!

So now I ask you: is this scale accurate? Is it skewed in one direction or another? Where do prominent figures you know fall? (I think Bush is a 1.)

Ethan Todras-Whitehill is a freelance writer who covers technology, travel, and subcultures. He contributes regularly to The New York Times and several national magazines. He also blogs at crucialminutiae.com.

See also:
The Scientific Laws of Romance
Nancy Drew's Sexy Secrets
Girls Are Geeks, Too
Why Chicks Don't Dig the Singularity
Top 5 Cartoon Hunks

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Has ‘The Man’ Infiltrated Burning Man?


Corporate sponsors at Burning Man? Heaven forefend!

The controversy started when Business 2.0 ran an article saying that Burning Man had invited some "green energy companies" to participate in the exhibit. Among the companies involved, the article revealed that Google would be producing an online 3-D service called Burning Man Earth.

Burning Man Maximum Leader Larry Harvey joined us for a weekend edition of the RU Sirius Show where we talked about the hubbub, which he claims has been misreported.



As coincidence would have it, the following week I interviewed Chicken John — an eternal thorn in Larry Harvey's side – about his San Francisco Mayoral candidacy and I asked him about the Burning Man controversy. He didn't comment specifically on the presence of green companies, but rather seemed to feel that the whole "Green Man" theme was mainstream and lame. (Mimicking voice of Larry Harvey) "This year Burning Man is going to be about... ahhhhh... green"... And it's like, dude -- you're reading this off of the cover of fuckin' Vanity Fair. Are you kidding? It's a fad."

The following conversation is about Burning Man and commerce. Diana Brown and Jeff Diehl joined me in this interview with Larry Harvey.

To listen the full interview in MP3, click here.


RU SIRIUS: This year at Burning Man, you've invited some "green energy companies" to be part of a "World's Fair of Clean Technology." Although the companies involved have not paid for sponsorship, and are prohibited from branding and direct marketing, some burners are in a virtual frenzy about the intrusion of commercial interests onto their hallowed ground.

So two questions: in the abstract, is the sort of countercultural hostility towards all commerce over-the-top? And in the specific: Yo, Larry, what's up, man?

LARRY HARVEY: I think you said it right. It is virtual hostility, inasmuch as it is all taking place on the internet. And so let's not forget the virtuality of this reality.

RU: So you haven't caught an F2F — no pies in the face or anything like that?

LH: No.

RU: I got pied once.

LH: Did you really?

RU: "Selling out cyberpunk"

LH: (Laughs) The ideology of this issue is sort of interesting. Back in February, we announced that we were going to have a pavilion at the base of The Man, and we'd bring in technology. And we said that this would involve business people. We also informed everyone that they wouldn't be allowed to advertise; they wouldn't be allowed to pass out their cards; they wouldn't be allowed to brand anybody; they wouldn't be allowed to talk about their product, they wouldn't be...

RU: Now wait a second. I think branding people would be popular at Burning Man.

LH: I've actually participated in a branding. I held the flashlight. This is in the playa in dark, and...

DIANA BROWN: That was nice of you!

LH: Well, yeah! (Laughs) I was...

DB: Lest they not see where they're going, and turn it on you!

RU: "Property of Hell's Angels?"

LH: I was there to help!

DB: Larry's a giver!



LH: Anyway, I've never used the word "branding" in relation to anything we do, privately or publicly. I've instructed some staff members that you don't brand people; you brand cattle. And what's happened is — there's a whole generation that's grown up that apparently never paid too much attention to anthropology. They speak entirely in terms of business advertising. Where you might say "identity," they will say "branding," because that's the only kind of identity that they're aware of.

But in creating this pavilion, it's really not our intention to brand anybody. The controversy all started with the article in Business 2.0. We'd announced our plans in detail months before, and no one said anything. And I believe that people are responding to the writer's attempt to translate what we were saying into business-speak. I told him, "If you involve a people in the creating of something, it makes it a lot more meaningful." And he turned that into: "Make our customers feel like they're experiencing something."

DB: He translated it into business speak. Participant equals customer.

LH: He turned it into a kind of manipulative strategy you'd use if you were marketing. Of course, that upset people. And then they got the idea that we were opening the gates to big corporations. Now, we went to big corporations and told them that we wouldn't allow them to advertise; we wouldn't allow them to do anything with brands, we wouldn't allow them to jump up on a soapbox and harangue the multitudes.

DB: …slap stickers on the backs of passing heads?

LH: We wouldn't let them do anything that would sell their product. They all...

RU: …but what if they built a really eccentric-looking soapbox, very much in the tradition of Burning Man... like an art car soapbox.

DB: Pepsi caps.

LH: Well, they weren't even interested in it as viral marketing. They just all walked away. There are no big corporations.

RU: Except Google. They're big.

DB: Google is a verb.

LH: I'm excited about the Google thing and have been from the beginning. But what we've ended up with — it was hyped a little. It was called a World's Fair. And I'm here to tell you; it's not exactly a World's Fair. We've got a little over thirty exhibitors in this space at the base of the man. And the great majority are DIY projects by participants — burners — with no business profile whatsoever!

RU: But if you think about the sort of DNA of Burning Man, it's all in the presentations. And everybody presumes that all presentations are basically unaffiliated individuals and groups with no commercial interests related to what they're doing.

LH: Yeah, that's the big question some people had. It's an authentic question. It's the first thing that would occur to me — "What's their motivation for doing it?" Well, the DIY folks — their motivation is the same motivation anybody has at Burning Man. Come out and create something! And then there's a lesser number of people involved who are small-time, mom/pop entrepreneurs. These are not hulking corporations either.

The only element that could be considered "big capitalism" – and it's not that big — would be the guy who's coming out with this immense solar array that we're going to build. It'll power The Man — the Pavilion. And when we're done, we're gonna break that up and give it to the county seat of Pershing County and Gerlach. (ed: location of annual Burning Man festival.) So it'll power a hospital and a school. Why is he doing that? He usually brokers larger deals. They usually deal with big institutions. That's how the company makes money. But he's not interested in marketing to our participants. He just thought it would be cool!

The only other thing that could be confused with evil corporate colossi would be the wind turbines. We're gonna have some really neat-looking big wind turbines. And they'll be around the man. In that case, we went around the marketing people at the company involved and talked to the scientists. Scratch a scientist, you'll find an artist. So they said, "Cool! We want people to see these really neat wind turbines." I don't think there's even a consumer model of the wind turbines, so I don't think they're marketing.

So there's no marketing going on — virally or not — and there aren't any big corporations.

JEFF DIEHL: But do you think this might be opening a sort of Pandora's box? You'll have to turn Burning Man completely green. You can't have a big solar array powering part of it one year… I mean, you can't go backwards, right?

LH: I don't think you can, no.

JD: You have to have it every year. And then you're going to want to expand it.

LH: Yeah! If you're sincere, you have to persevere.

JD: Yeah. And to eventually power the whole project with renewable resources — that's gonna involve a huge cost.

LH: It might be an achievable ideal. We're doing everything we can this year. We're not going to back off on that effort. But no — it's not the slippery slope to corporate conquests at the event.

RU: You don't see a baby step towards sponsorship?

LH: No.

RU: Maybe I should move on to the broader question. Do you really have to be defensive about this at all? What about the larger question of people's general hostility towards the idea of sponsors. Let it be said that the RU Sirius Show is happy to accept sponsorship.

DB: Also, has Burning Man spawned entrepreneurs? Are there some small mom and pop companies or artists that actually became successful because people learned about them from Burning Man?



LH: I'm not sure that it's led to any businesses. But I can testify that it's given a lot of artists extensive careers outside the event. We pay them for all their materials. And we've given out money. Last year we gave out quarter of a million. This year, it's more like a half-a-million. And then the artists go on the circuit. They show up at various countercultural festivals and they make a profit on stuff that they've already constructed with our money. They show up at Coachella — Coachella is full of Burning Man art. And — gasp - they make money. It's commerce. Artists are actually practicing commerce. I know that's a very controversial subject, but...

RU: Do you think it really is? Of all the people who say that they hate commerce -- don't most of them practice it on a small scale?

LH: I don't see that commerce and community are allergic to one another. That's absolutely absurd.

I wrote an essay in our newsletter last year about commerce and community. My conclusion was that — if the end product of commerce is profit, and the end product of all the organization we do is to generate culture and community — they aren't mutually exclusive. People get outraged at commerce conducted at such a scale, and in such a political climate, that it's destructive of community – and at the way advertising can be insidiously coercive.

All that's true. When you have the stockholders at one end of the process and the consuming public at the other end – and there's that distance – that breeds actions that have no conscience whatsoever. But there isn't any reason not to engage in commerce. For instance, when participants are producing something that others might need in the desert, we let people know about it. So you can take those two value systems and make them overlap in such a way that they reinforce one another. If either one of them dominates and completely subsumes the other, then both take corruption from it. To be against commerce is to be against your shoes, your shorts...

RU: People drive to Burning Man in cars...

LH: Well, I mean people who raise that as an objection — that's Luddite. And everybody knows that, if they stop and think. When people say something's too commercial, they mean that a capitalist process has just sucked the soul out of something.

JD: The times I went to Burning Man, I compared the hype about this being a non-commercial event to the reality. And on the whole, there was a real sense that I was pulled outside of the larger economic operations of the world for a week. Sure, there are tons of products that are used to make Burning Man happen. Everybody who goes there buys products with brand names from big corporations that they use there. The unique thing about Burning Man is that it's the end of the line for a lot of those products. Whereas out in the normal world, they're usually put to some sort of further use which feeds back into the economic system. At Burning Man, as long as its terminal for those products, it creates kind of a special place for the people who are out there.

LH: It does. It's a spiritual proposition. You know, goods don't come instilled with meaning. That's the illusion that advertising creates. "You've got the lifestyle; you've got a life." I'm sorry. It's not true.

If you buy something in the marketplace, take it out to Burning Man, and then use it for a creative purpose, you have instilled that with meaning.

DB: A different meaning than perhaps was originally intended.

LH: Exactly. Years of consumerism have just made people passive — and yet bitter. It's a terrible combination. The instilling process doesn't mean anything to them. They've spent their lives consuming.

RU: In terms of people getting sort of bitchy about all this — Burning Man has been around for a long time, and like anything that's been around for a long time, people start getting bitchy. Is that part of what's going on here?

LH: Oh, that's a big part of it. People have got the idea that you can go out there and be free and thumb your nose at the man. You can pretend that you don't lead your life for eight days. So by a perverse logic, by being around for a long time, we become the man. The people who organize the event – in some instances, people who devoted their entire lives to it — are evil.

RU: "Don't be evil."

LH: Go back home and act like you did at Burning Man. Start to change it out there. You'll find plenty of collaborators.

And you have people who say, if it weren't for the Burning Man organizers, it would be a great thing. I can follow their logic, but I can't agree with it. We're not the man. We all create it. There are participants who say, "There'd be no Burning Man except for us." True. But there wouldn't be one if not for us, too. There's a cart and there's a horse, and people can decide for themselves who the horse is.

See also:
Counterculture and the Tech Revolution
Anarchy For the USA: A Conversation with Josh Wolf
Raising Hunter Thompson
Prescription Ecstasy and Other Pipe Dreams
Mondology Volume 1 Free Audio Download
California Cults 2006

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‘The Simpsons’ On Drugs: 6 Trippiest Scenes

Homer Simpsons Smokin' Weed

It's no secretThe Simpsons has relied as heavily on drug humor as Diff'rent Strokes did on "Whatchoo talkin' about, Willis." Ranging from binge drinking to marijuana use to LSD-like hallucinations, all the members of the Simpson clan — and a great many other residents of Springfield — have enjoyed a wide variety of drug-induced exploits.

Even The Simpson's Movie included at least one instance of Homer craving something psychotropic, saying, "More, please!" to an Indian chief's flaming brew. So let's re-cap some of the "high" points of what is arguably the world's foremost pop culture institution.

6. Guatemalan Insanity Peppers



Drug blog Dosenation.com calls it a highlight of The Simpsons' "nods and winks to the drug-using populace." Exquisitely crafted in theme and form, this segment could be seen as the ultimate tribute to the psychedelic drug experience, complete with self-discovery, adventure and even an animal guide (a coyote with the voice of Johnny Cash).

We imagine The Simpsons writers are especially proud of this 1999 episode. Notice when Homer first swallows the psychotropic pepper, he says, "More, please" — the exact line he's now using in the new movie's trailer. Maybe the writers are sending a secret signal to all Homer's fans in the drug culture:

He's still a druggie after all these years.

5. "Wow, that saxophone would make a great pipe."



Homer gets a prescription for marijuana. Marge is troubled, the kids bemused, but Homer, who indulges as expected, is also conflicted. His remedy: "Do as I say, not as I do."

In other episodes, Homer...
  • Has insomnia and watches a late night TV commercial for "Nappien," which "won't cause foot-fattening or elbow stink."
  • Takes expired medication he finds in a neighbor's trash. When Marge tells him to stop, he says, "But Marge, what if I'm not getting enough ... [glances at label] ... estrogen!"
  • Invents a drink — the Flaming Homer, a.k.a. the Flaming Moe — in which the main ingredient is children's cough syrup.
  • Gets the entire town of Springfield high when he distributes a beverage made from carrots and peyote.
  • Takes another man's medications while visiting his father in the nursing home. Grandpa comments, "The pink ones keep you from screaming."
  • Gets high on cleaning-chemical fumes and hallucinates that he's being attacked by Scrubbing Bubbles, Mr. Clean, and other characters.
  • As he and Ned Flanders drive to Las Vegas, they pass a car driven by a warped and hallucinating Hunter S. Thompson as drawn by Ralph Steadman.
And of course, Homer's fondness for Duff beer is legendary.

4. "What am I smokin'? Oh yeah..."



About as straightforward as possible — even in Spanish — and without any apology. Otto the bus driver is portrayed as smoking pot while driving the kids to school.



In other episodes, Otto...
  • Complains about blatant false advertising as he storms out of a housewares store called "Stoner's Pot Palace."
  • Is told by Mettalica to never listen to their music again, ostensibly for being a druggie.
  • Mistakenly answers this true-or-false question while practicing for his driving test. "Alcohol improves your ability to concentrate."
3. Marge's LSD?

Marge Simpson hallucinates that the walls are melting, and that a roasting turkey is talking to her, after she drinks tainted tap water. (Shown here in an extra-trippy version that was redubbed for foreign markets.)

In other episodes, Marge...
  • Attends the Broadway play Kickin' It, "a musical journey through the Betty Ford Center," with the kids during a trip to New York.
  • Is maliciously portrayed in a political ad as saying "Now it's time to do some coke off the blade of a knife..."
  • Has a false-positive test for crack and PCP after taking a parenting course. Confesses to being high on LSD, "love for my son and daughters."
  • Checks into a rehab clinic herself after excessive drinking with Homer.
2. Naked in the Fermentarium

Lisa has LSD-like hallucinations after drinking the water while on a ride at Duff Gardens. Proclaims, "I can see the music," and "I am the lizard queen!" (Homer had been binging on an enormous sandwich he'd brought home from the company picnic, and sent her to the park with her Aunt Selma.)

In other episodes, Lisa...
  • Becomes addicted to "Trucker's Choice" brand speed, a gift from Bart.
  • Has LSD-like hallucinations featuring The Beatles after receiving nitrous oxide at the dentist's office. Later in the same episode, the entire family gets high when the dentist accidentally leaves the gas on.
  • Comments to Bart that the air at a Hullabalooza music festival "smells like Otto's jacket," a reference to their pot-smoking school bus driver (see below).
  • Comments that the pot smoke emanating from Homer's room "smells like the art teacher's office."
1. "Ow! My Bones Are So Brittle."

Bart Drinks "malk" at school, "now with vitamin R" (a slang term for Ritalin).

In other episodes, Bart...
  • Gets drunk on beer during a St. Patrick's Day parade.
  • Asks Marge to pick up some "Flintstones chewable morphine" when he gets the flu.
And in 1990, federal "drug czar" William Bennett made headlines when he warned patients at a drug treatment center that watching The Simpsons was "not going to help you." (He'd spotted a Bart Simpson poster on the wall that said "Underachiever — and proud of it.") Later when he made a conciliatory offer to sit down and talk to Bart, Matt Groening issued a counter-statement on behalf of Bart.

"If our drug czar thinks he's going to have a conversation with a cartoon character, he must be smoking something."

Do you have a favorite Simpsons drug reference? Tell us which ones we overlooked in the comments.

See also:
The Cartoon Porn Shop Janitor: Carol Burnett vs. Family Guy
Paul McCartney on Drugs
10 Worst Spider-Man Tie-Ins
Hallucinogenic Weapons: The Other Chemical Warfare
The Great Wired Drug Non-Controversy
Pulp Fiction Parodies on YouTube

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Hype Smackdown: iPhone v. Paris Hilton


iPhone v. Paris Hilton

It's a battle of pop culture titans as two empires -- one high-tech, one high-rise -- clash in explosive PR fury. Since these two heavyweight memes have climbed into the competitive media ring of their own volition, we thought we'd size them up for you. As Stephen Colbert would say: "Pick a side -- we're at war!"


iPhone: Simple to use.
Paris Hilton: Simple.

iPhone: Well-protected against viruses.
Paris Hilton: Has herpes.

iPhone: Critics complained battery life too short.
Paris Hilton: Critics complained prison life too short.

iPhone: Provides driving directions.
Paris Hilton: Knows how to drive. (Sort of.)

iPhone: Responds to touch from multiple fingers at once.
Paris Hilton: Responds to touch from multiple fingers at once.



iPhone: Wants to be held by everyone.
Paris Hilton: Wants to be held by her mother.

iPhone: Sexy footage leaked onto the net.
Paris Hilton: Sexy footage leaked onto the net.

iPhone: Appeared in multi-million dollar ad campaign.
Paris Hilton: Appeared in House of Wax.

iPhone: Everyone wants what's in the box.
Paris Hilton: Everyone knows what's in the box.

Feel free to make your own comparisons in the comments...

See also:
Expect Trouble Activating Your iPhone
I'm a Mac v. Bill Gates: iPhone debate
5 Sexiest Apple Videos
How the iPod Changes Culture
Wonderful Wizardry of Woz


Read More

Anarchy for the USA: A Conversation with Josh Wolf

Josh Wolf (photo by Steve Rhodes)
Photo by Steve Rhodes

Josh Wolf spent more time in prison than any other American journalist in U.S. history for protecting his source materials — videotapes taken at an anti-globalization demonstration in San Francisco. He was finally released on April 3 of this year. Press reports about Wolf have described him as an anarchist, and he has described himself as an anarchist sympathizer.

Wolf has been all over the media talking about his free speech struggle with the U.S. Government. He was on "Democracy Now!"; received a now-traditional media hazing on "The Colbert Report"; and even had a brief but fairly sympathetic interview in Time.

While we conversed about his case, we also wanted to delve more deeply into the issues that motivated the case in the first place: anti-globalist activism, anarchism, and his new projects to "Free The Media" and give prisoners a voice in the blogosphere.

Scott J. Thompson, Director of Research at the Walter Benjamin Research Syndicate, and Jeff Diehl joined me in this conversation, originally recorded for The RU Sirius Show.

To listen the full interview in MP3, click here.


RU SIRIUS: There's been plenty of talk about your case, so we're going to go into some other things, but I think we should talk a bit about the conclusion. I think people found it a bit confusing and anti-climactic.

JOSH WOLF: It was a bit anti-climactic. And it was also reported incorrectly all over the place in the press. The stories ranged from things like: "The government decided they have no interest in Josh Wolf and therefore they are letting him go" (that would've been nice) — to "He finally caved under the pressure." Both of those are factually inaccurate.

Basically, there were two things that the government wanted. One of those things was that tape. I felt that I shouldn't have had to turn that over to the government, but at the same time there was absolutely nothing sensitive or confidential on it. So it was worth fighting for, but once I had lost my fight in the district court level in the 9th circuit, there wasn't really any reason not to publish the tape and simultaneously turn it over to the government. I mean, yeah, those shots of my shoes are a bit embarrassing but they're not worth going to jail over. So once we had exhausted our appeals, we offered to turn over the tape in exchange for my release. But the U.S. Attorney said he wouldn't accept anything but full compliance with the demand of the subpoena. That would have involved testifying before a grand jury and turning over my documentation for my video-editing software... there was a pretty exhaustive list of demands in the subpoena. But on February 14, the judge suddenly ordered the case into mediation with a magistrate judge. During the course of two mediations, we came to an agreement – I would publish the tape and then turn it over to the federal government, and they would not object to my release. And they decided to call this full compliance with the subpoena, although it wasn't full compliance at all.



So that's where we stand right now. The government still has the option to re-subpoena me to try to make me testify about the content of the tapes or what I saw there that night. But I don't think they're going to because they know that I'm not going to testify. I'll go back to jail and it will be an even bigger public fiasco for the U.S. Attorneys office. And they're not really short on public fiascos right now.

RU: You got a fair amount of support from the mainstream press on this. I assume that the government figured you were some punk blogger, and they could yank you out of all social circumstances and throw you deep into the hole, and there would be very little discussion about it. But quite a few journalists expressed their concern in terms of the protection of journalists. Did this surprise you at all?

JOSH: The reception from the journalistic community has been very much mixed — especially in the mainstream journalist community. Even from the alterna-press, there were some mixed receptions. Some journalists realize that if they're coming after me — they're next. And they realize that this whole concept of objective journalism is kind of a misnomer. You can never be objective. But some get very offended by the idea that I should be protected, because protecting me makes it easier for them to be attacked as being part of the same group. And I think that's one of the things at the crux of the public's reception to protests in general. I mean, in this particular protest, there was one violent incident where one police officer was injured probably by one protester. And because of that. the 150 people that were there now get described as terrorists.

RU: The big mainstream media question is "Can bloggers be journalists?" In fact, you wrote an essay with that name. And I think the counter-argument would be that nearly everyone could become a blogger, and then everyone would be protected from giving evidence. So a group could conspire to break laws and members who blog could be protected. Karl Rove could become a journalist and make the same kind of claim!

JOSH: That argument's flawed, because if you are involved in a criminal activity, you don't have to testify because you're protected by the Fifth Amendment.

RU: Good point!

JOSH: But it's true that in Grand Juries they like to get rid of the Fifth Amendment. They say, "Here's a waiver. You no longer have the Fifth Amendment." But I've been reading the Constitution over and over again, and I can't find any section on giving waivers to the Fifth Amendment. And consider the First Amendment — freedom of speech. Why doesn't that include freedom of silence? Why does the freedom to speak not include the freedom not to speak? And so, yes — journalists should be protected in order to protect the act of journalism. But in a larger context, why do we have coercive custody to force people to testify? I mean, it's really a form of very low-grade torture — we're going to hold you in custody until you break down and speak.

RU:: It's definitely something we don't accept from gangsters, but we do seem to accept it from the state. Tell us a little about your prison experience. What kind of prison were you in and what kind of interactions did you have with the prisoners?

JOSH: I was in a federal detention center, which is sort of like a…

RU: (jokingly) It's a country club!

JOSH: It wasn't a country club but it was kind of like being in a really, really low-rent camp. But you can never leave. I kept waiting for the fishing trip, like when you're at camp, you're thinking about the fishing trip. It never came.

SCOTT THOMPSON: That's torture.

JOSH: It was kind of like being in a college dorm, except there were fewer choices. There weren't any girls. Unlike college, there was not much in the way of drugs or alcohol. The guys were all pretty cool. They were mostly a combination of bank robbers, drug dealers, a few white-collar criminals.

The most interesting segment of the prison population are the "Piezas." (A "Pieza" is a Mexican Roadrunner. The term has been adapted to those that are here from Mexico.) Most of these guys had no prior criminal history. They were in jail for crossing the border — an imaginary line. We've decided that's a felony. And they've been getting between three and five years in jail. And while they're incarcerated, they have to work. And they're often fined for their crime. They're fined an amount that just happens to add up to the 12-cents-an-hour that they make while they're incarcerated. So our government has time-share slaves. Instead of getting our slaves from Africa, we're getting people that come to America to build better opportunities for themselves. And they end up spending three-to-five years building government furniture.

RU: This kind of slavery or serfdom becomes even more interesting when you have privately-owned prisons. I imagine that you were in a state-controlled prison.

JOSH: It was a federally-owned prison. I think there's somewhere between three and five privately-contracted prisons in the federal system. A lot of states, particularly in the south, have more private prisons than public prisons. It's very disturbing that we have contracted out our prisons because there's a certain public oversight that's expected — or at least should be expected — when it comes to a government-run operation. But when you give prisons to the Wall family to run, it becomes a private business. And lots of things that are private in private businesses remain private. When that involves controlling human movement, it becomes really dangerous

RU: I think having a profit interest in incarceration is about as skeevy as you can get. Although I certainly know some libertarians who would disagree with me. Did you wind up finding any compatriots in prison? Did people discuss politics? And did people there know why you were there?

JOSH: Most everyone was aware of it. Of course, the level of understanding varied. In its simplest terms, I was there for refusing to cooperate with the government. I was going to jail for not being a snitch. Having not committed a crime and then also "not snitching" – that's pretty respectable in the prison hierarchy. I think the only person above that was probably Greg Anderson because he's a friend of Barry Bonds. Not snitching on Barry Bonds… that was like… "Whoa! And he's a trainer! And people in prison are into working out so that's a sort of demigod-like position.

In terms of the politics, I found compatriots at different levels. I spoke about political activism. I had a few books about anarchism that were sent to me that were passed around the prison. It's kind of interesting that those got in. They didn't try to censor it.

RU:: They didn't understand what they were, probably.

JOSH: They weren't going to allow a press release to come out that the prison was censoring reading material.

RU: Tell us about the project you are developing involving prisoners.

JOSH: I've started prisonblogs.net. We want to pair up individual prisoners with sponsors on the outside who agree to type up what they have to say and post it on their own blog. There are lots of military blogs, which the government's currently trying to crack down on. So now we'll have prison blogs. The media oftentimes can't get access to what goes on behind those walls. And the people I've encountered have amazing stories about prison culture and their oppression at the hands of the guards – stories that don't get out to the public.

RU: Are they ever allowed to blog at all? Also, wasn't there a law passed against interviewing prisoners — a sort of blockade against prisoners communicating to the media?

JOSH: It can be different between the states and the feds. In federal prisons, you can interview prisoners — I've seen prison interviews. At the facility I was in, they refused any filmed interviews, but they permitted phone interviews. I don't know exactly what the state rules are, but I know Schwarzenegger just vetoed a bill that would've opened the gates a little further. But I'm dealing with what prisoners can do, in terms of self-publishing. I know they can't get publish with a byline and they can't get paid for it. Now I don't know whether a blog counts as publishing with a byline, but...

RU: …Is there evidence that this will be allowed?



JOSH: There's no evidence so far to indicate that they won't allow it. Some prisoners have blogs right now. We've found about a couple-of-hundred. But there are no avenues for prisoners who want to blog but don't necessarily come from tech-centric backgrounds or families. They don't have a chance to get their voice and artwork out there. So this will sort of democratize the media for a class and a group of people who are cut-off and denied all the opportunities that, say, middle-class Americans have – people who already have their YouTube, MySpace, and Flickr accounts.

RU: There's been a lot of talk about your case in the media, but there hasn't been a lot of discussion in the media about the demonstration that lead to the case. How would you characterize the issues that were at stake at the demonstration and your interest in that?

JOSH: The demonstration was against the G8 Summit that was going on in Gleneagle, Scotland at that time. I happen to align myself philosophically against globalization. With The WTO, the G8 and these other sort of private groups, large governments plan how to exploit smaller governments and small helpless communities and individuals. It's a winner-takes-all, king-of-the-hill sort of approach to planning our future. So I'm opposed to that. And I did take to the streets with my camera in order to document this demonstration that I knew wasn't going to get a lot of attention. In terms of the activities that were used in this demonstration, I think most of them were not necessarily tactically sound. I think there's a time and a place for people to drag newspaper stands into the streets in order to stop, say, a threatening stream of riot cops that are about to attack. I don't think it makes a lot of sense to drag a newspaper stand in the street when the cops have already called off the riot squad. So there were numerous things going on there that I felt were not tactically sound. I wouldn't have engaged in them myself. But I do support a diversity of tactics. And I feel there should be balanced between the privacy of those involved and the need to expose the news of what they're doing to the world.

RU: Some of these tactics have been associated with a concept or a group that's called "black bloc." Basically, the idea seems to be what we used to call "trashing" back in the early 70s – when I did it. (Laughs) The idea is violence against property. Is it ever effective? Was it effective in Seattle? And isn't it stupid to keep doing the same thing over and over again?

JOSH: Any discussion about the effectiveness of tactics that involve breaking the law becomes very sensitive. Just describing what is effective is opening the door to conspiracy to commit terrorism. So it's a very shaky topic to get into.

I think it's not effective to try to cause economic damage to large corporations, because the amount of isolated damage that is done at these sorts of protest is really a rounding error. It's like, "Oh, we had to spend $500 to fix this window and cover up this spray paint."

RU: It's sort of embarrassing, really.

JEFF DIEHL: It's the public exposure. It suddenly gets the media eye looking at this movement or…

RU: It worked once in Seattle, maybe.

JOSH: I think if a Starbucks is coming into your town, and it's the first Starbucks, and some people who don't like it decide, "We're going to do something to prevent this Starbucks from being built" — then I think that could be tactically sound. I'm not saying that people should do it, but it does make some tactical sense.

But to simply go and hit all these windows — you know, smash up a few Starbucks — it can create some attention. In the post 9/11 world, that attention is too easily connected to groups like al-Qaeda. So I don't think it's going to further the cause of trying to achieve a non-hierarchical, mutually fair, non-capitalistic society.

RU: That's the question. Do these tactics have any place at all in successfully changing things, or are they really just getting their rocks off?

SCOTT: Around 1987 - '88, on Haight Street, there was an attempt to build a Walgreens. That nascent structure was dynamited by malcontents. And it turned into...

RU: We're not getting a confession here, are we? (Laughter)

SCOTT: No, I was living in Chicago at the time. Anyway, they realized that the community really doesn't want a Walgreens.

JEFF: There was a philosophical argument after the Battle of Seattle. That action basically got the mainstream — and the public's attention around this whole anti-globalization issue. Hardly anybody had even heard about it. Some would argue that there wasn't much of an anti-globalist movement before Seattle

JOSH: Not in America, no.

JEFF: And some would argue that the spectacle of the damage created the success there, so the damage was necessary.

RU: But it was also mixed with the fact that a lot of demonstrators showed up. That – in itself — was unusual. But a peaceful demonstration definitely could've been ignored, like many other large protests.

JEFF: Right.

JOSH: Look at what the Weather Underground was able to accomplish during the Vietnam war. They had a tactical place and were somewhat effective. But the enemy has been changed from communism to terrorism. So acts that the government can easily label as terrorism can very quickly become counter-productive. I think that's part of the reason that we have this vague war on terrorism — anyone that does anything disruptive can be treated as a terrorist.

SCOTT: Right now, the government is attempting to label any oppositional show of force of any kind as terrorism.

We're surrounded by cops of all stripes. We're surrounded by security guards of all kinds. We're surrounded by all sorts of military people, and they are the only ones that are allowed to use brute force against an unarmed populace that dare not even organize on a premise without a permit. It's just completely a violation of the whole idea of the right of freedom of assembly in the United States

JEFF: Josh, obviously it's not to your benefit to be thrown in jail again. But if we can't even talk about tactics, then the authors of the Patriot Act have won, right? This whole area has been bracketed off for people who are involved in opposition. And historically, this has been the only type of activity that has ever caused any significant social change – confrontation, destruction of property, or violence.

JOSH: Our founding fathers were engaged in terrorism or direct confrontation during the Boston Tea Party. That would be labeled terrorism now. If the Boston Tea Party happened last week, what do you think George Bush would say about it?

RU: They'd be in Guantanamo.

It's interesting that you brought up the Weather Underground, because there are two things to think about with their tactics. Number one: historians show that the reason Nixon didn't nuke Hanoi during the Vietnam war was because he was frightened of what the anti-war movement would do to America. He wasn't thinking of the Quakers. He was probably thinking of the Weather Underground; the freaks who burned down the Bank of America and stuff like that.

But on the other hand, fear is a very effective tactic for organizing reaction. We see it now, particularly, under the guise of terrorism. Basically, the current unofficial Republican slogan is "Be afraid. Be very afraid."

The Weathermen sort of had this theory that youth was a class that could be excited and organized for revolution. It was possible to believe that in the early 1970s. I don't know if there's even a receptive audience for this kind of thing any more.

SCOTT: I think there's actually a very receptive audience. I think that many people might be experiencing a real disappointment and disaffiliation from the "mainstream left" — these people that organize some of the mass demonstrations that are always held in the same place. And we all get together and we all get photographed by the same helicopters flying overhead. They've seen us all before. Nobody ever thinks, at the last minute, let's change tactics. Let's hold it n front of "The Chronicle" building, and scare the hell out of those people.

JEFF: Well, you wouldn't have a permit for that.

SCOTT: Of course. You must have a permit. The populace dare not spontaneously get together and show its discontent with the powers that be.

JOSH: Protests have been reduced to nothing more than processions. They have a cathartic effect. Everyone feels like they're doing something. And in a sense you're doing more than just voting. But civil engagement begins at voting, it doesn't end there. And protests are just one step further. But in order to really make a change, people have to actually really get their hands dirty and do something. That could involve writing a law, and then working your butt off to actually get it passed, if that's the course of action that you choose. Or you could make a blockade around a business that you think needs to be shut down; you could start a picket line and yell at people when they cross it and make it so that business can't continue its enterprise. Or maybe you think it's most effective to burn down the bank like they did at U.C. Santa Barbara in the late '60s. All of these tactics have limitations and they all have values. It really just depends on what you think is going to work and why you think it's going to work.

RU: I question whether any of these things — demonstrations, riots — are really effective anymore. And you've been involved recently in trying to work with the system. You've been helping to create a law to protect journalists. Do you see any contradiction between being an anarchist sympathizer and trying to get the federal government to create a law to protect journalists?

JOSH: I'm sure many other people do. My political philosophy is that the best society would be one where the precepts that we followed were formed through consensus. But we don't live in that society. We live in a system of laws made by people who claim to represent us, but so often don't. For instance, on the night Nancy Pelosi was elected, her own constituents passed a law saying that they want the President impeached. And Pelosi immediately made a statement that impeachment was off the table. So clearly, these people don't represent us. But at the same time, they still make the laws that we live under. If I can help pass a law that would've prevented me from going to jail for seven months — a law that defines journalist as anyone who's gathering and disseminating information (with a very limited exceptions that involve imminent harm to human life) — then why shouldn't I work for that? Sure, it's a band-aid. It doesn't deal with the fact that we have a repressive grand jury system that needs to be abolished. It doesn't deal with the fact that the right to a fair trial just doesn't exist.

RU: I agree with you because I'm a reformist. The way I view human nature — I don't think that the anarchist ideal is very likely to work in the foreseeable future. But still, any attempt at change is a discussion of tactics. I mean, Nancy Pelosi's argument is about tactics too, really. She's saying, "Well, I'm actually in the Congress and in order to pass laws, I have to use these tactics. I have to take impeachment off the table because it's not going to be accepted in mainstream discourse and if I go for it, I'm not going to be able to change anything."

JOSH: But whether impeachment is accepted or not, she's elected as a representative. And this is one of the clearest cases where the city she represents voted for a resolution to impeach George Bush on the very day she became Speaker of the House? Is she a representative of the Democratic Party? Is she a representative of San Francisco? It doesn't look like it. How indirect is this representation, and how indirect should it be?

RU: She's either sold out or she considers herself wiser, tactically, than the people she's representing. And you can have either interpretation.

SCOTT: I think this highlights the bankruptcy of representational government in this particular time. I think you can count on one hand the number of representatives who actually pay attention to their constituency. These people in Congress are only taking orders from very wealthy donors or powerful corporate people. They don't really listen to the people that don't make a certain amount of money, or don't have any money. They don't listen to the people they should be listening to. It seems to me that that there's no sense of civic responsibility in this country. We're not taught civics. People have a tendency to think, "Well I just don't really want to think about that. I don't want to worry about that. I elect X, and he or she will take care of everything for me." And he or she is actually totally in the hip pocket of the powerful interests.

JEFF: Josh, you had this thing happen where you got a lot of attention. And this was maybe a big chance to publicize a lot of the views of the circles that you were in before the protests – people with certain shared goals related to anarchism and so forth – stuff that doesn't get much publicity in the mainstream media. I could see some of them being a little bit disappointed that you're focused on passing a law.

JOSH: The way I see it — there are a lot of things you can and should do. And to embrace as many of them as possible really can't hurt. I mean, maybe you can say, "Hey, we shouldn't pass a law because these band-aids – these reforms – because they are going to make the system more livable, more tolerable. And we should actually do things to increase suffering in order to foment a revolution." A lot of people take that view. But I don't see it that way. I think anything that reduces suffering shouldn't be ignored.

RU: Some people might not object from that old "heightening the contradictions" argument. They may just make the argument based on decentralization. Don't ask for the protection of the federal government. (Of course, as we know from the medical marijuana situation, the federal government trumps everyone else.)

JOSH: I think it would be a great thing if San Francisco absolved itself from the federal government. It didn't work in the Civil War, but that was fourteen states trying to go. If San Francisco said, "Yo. We're sick of the Patriot Act. We're sick of you raiding medical marijuana clinics. We're sick of the fact that two people that love each other don't have the right to get married. We're doing our own thing now, what would the federal government's response be?

RU: Armed invasion?

SCOTT: The federal government will soon be dealing with that and not just from California. Many states are going to move away from a federal system. Or that's always a fear…

RU: I think that's going to be a while. (ironically) The Balkanization of America could take a few days. It might happen someday.

SCOTT: But you know, in 1986 - 87, if you had suggested the Soviet Union would not exist in three years, people would've said you're out of your gourd. That's not possible. Now look at it.

RU: I just saw Chalmers Johnson on PBS yesterday. He has a book out that is basically about the fall of America. It's apparently coming up next Tuesday, right after you listen to the R.U. Sirius Show.

SCOTT: The fall of America's coming up next Tuesday?

JOSH: Let me put it on my calendar.



RU: Tell us a little bit about your Free The Media project.

JOSH: I'm trying to build something called the "Free the Media" coalition. It will be at MediaFreedoms.net. (There's an alpha site up right now.) Basically, I'm trying to create an environment for discussing issues of media literacy. I'm planning a sort-of Open Source forum as well as meat-space satellites at various college campuses. We'll get into the role of the news media. We’ll talk about how independent or alternative media – along with established media — really fill in the marketplace of ideas. So we're trying to build a dialogue with independent journalists, establishment journalists, and then everyday viewers to try to shape the future of the media. And we'll look at what sort of protections and new formats and new ideas should exist. And it will also involve raising public awareness of issues and gathering funds for worthwhile stuff. The next time, a journalist in a legal situation like the one I found myself in might not have the backing of The Chronicle or the New York Times.

RU: There seems to be a sort of techno-anarchist paradigm, if you will, that has emerged over recent years. You might call it the decentralization of the means of production of reality. You have democratization through open source and Wikipedia and blogging and all those kinds of things. Do you see the use of this technology as a tactically effective way of bringing about a post-hierarchical society or is it peripheral?

JOSH: Well, that breaks into all sorts of schisms very quickly. I mean, we have blogs that allow people to post their own radio shows and put up their own videos. And that really does democratize the information. But then, simultaneously, we have these large corporate constructs coming in and controlling and censoring much of that dialogue. When Digg decided that they weren't going to permit the copyright code for the HD-DVD...

RU: Well, their was a popular revolt and they backed down.

JOSH: They did back down. But how often do things get censored without any revolt happening at all? Flickr was deleting someone's comments, at some point, because they said they were combative in nature.

RU: Well, wait a second! You just deleted somebody's comments.

JOSH: I actually never deleted any comments...

RU: Oh. But you kicked somebody off your site, didn't you?

JOSH: Someone made a particularly vile comment, and I said I'm reserving the right to delete comments that look like this.

JEFF: Did you set a principle about what type of comments you would allow in the future?

JOSH: I basically set a principle that I was reserving the right to remove comments, rather than saying what I would allow. I haven't actually removed anything. But when one commenter attacked another commenter with a sexually vile comment about sand in her vagina with no provocation – I start to wonder. I mean…

RU: Well, was it consensual sand, or... (laughter) forced sand. [Awkward silence] Errr… let's move on.

JEFF: What more is there to say, really, than "sand in the vagina?"

See also:
A Conversation with Justin Kan of Justin.tv
Dispatch From a Surrealist Autocracy
Dear Internet, I'm Sorry
The Perversions of "Perverted-Justice"

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Top 5 Cartoon Hunks

Animation has provided us with countless lady hotties, but cute cartoon guys are harder to come by. (Maybe it's because this is traditionally a domain of prepubescent boys and older male nerds.) However, I've had my share of cartoon crushes, and here are the best of them...



5. Silver Surfer



OK, this one is going to seem trendy because of the movie, but I had a Silver Surfer action figure way back in college. His appeal is unquestionable: a big silver hunk of man on a surfboard, a perfect combination of intensity and laid-back surfer chic, kind of like Owen Wilson.

This guy will save your life, then take you for a fish taco on the boardwalk.

4. James Barris



Confession: I have an enormous crush on Robert Downey Jr. So when he showed up in A Scanner Darkly, my crush naturally transferred to his new avatar.



Barris is classic RDJ. Although Downey is a brilliant actor, he never seems so comfortable in a role than when he is playing a druggie. His magic — and I choose to believe this also holds true in real life — is that he can make even the biggest fuck-up irresistibly charming. Even though I'm a longtime member of the Keanu fan club, RDJ stole the scene here, as he always does.

3. Aladdin



All you have to do is scroll down this list of Disney princes, and see that the role of Mr. Charming was historically lacking in hotness — a bunch of middle-aged looking WASPs who usually arrive in the last few minutes of the film to sing a song and sweep the damsel away on a horse. Well, that all changed with Aladdin. He's a homeless guy with a bangin' bod, a great personality, a hilarious buddy and a cool pet.

I love how his scrappy bravura cracks to show a vulnerable side once he assumes his alter-ego of Prince Ali. Let me tell you, chicks dig this type of thing. We were all there swooning with those ladies as he paraded through town on an elephant, knowing that his confidence was concealing a secret shyness.

2. Rio Pacheco



Rio from Jem and the Holograms is one of those guys you like even though you know that he's kind of an asshole. He started out as a good guy, a volunteer at the foster home and Jerrica's boyfriend. But he developed a crush on Jem (Jerrica's rockstar alter-ego) and the show ended on a cliffhanger with Rio double-timing two girls who are the same person! This is undoubtedly one of the great unsolved endings in television — this whole Sopranos thing pales in comparison!



The truth is, Rio's bad side is what makes him sexy: the lying, the deceit, the secrecy. And yet he can be a real sweetie when he wants to. I mean, if Jerrica really trusted him then wouldn't she tell him her identity? Perhaps with a guy like this you need to have your own secrets.

1. Trent Lane



Absolutely the most crushable cartoon fella out there; even the ever-cynical Daria couldn't help but blush a little when Trent was around. Trent's rock star slacker attitude was peppered by a hint of zen calmness, his soft raspy voice delivering the type of inane truisms that only truly attractive people can get away with.

Finally, his slight slouch suggested a world weariness — a wiseness, dare I say? — that perfectly defines a classic childhood crush: your friend's older brother.

Jacki Lewin is an American living in Madrid, Spain. She blogs at 7 Years Late.

See also:
Lost 'Horrors' Ending Found on YouTube
5 Freaky Muppet Videos
Six Freakiest Children's TV Rock Bands
The Cartoon Porn Shop Janitor: Carol Burnett vs. Family Guy

Read More

How the Internet Disorganizes Everything

The internet disorganizes information for you, so you can organize it for yourself — alone or with friends. That is the distilled essence of David Weinberger's theory about how we create meaning and understanding for ourselves in these times. Weinberger's provocatively titled new book, Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder, has been widely praised and may take it's place alongside The Long Tail as an epoch-defining tome.

Weinberger was also a co-author of the notorious boom-era best seller, The Cluetrain Manifesto. A fellow at Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for the Internet and Society, Weinberger is now doing a regular podcast for Wired News called The Berkman/Wired Miscellaneous Podcast.

The interview was originally conducted via Skype for NeoFiles.
To listen the full interview in MP3, click here.

RU SIRIUS: When I first saw the title of your book — Everything Is Miscellaneous — I immediately thought of my old friend Ted Nelson. He had a saying: "Everything is deeply intertwingled." Sure enough, as I got into the book, you beat me to it. You actually deal with this quote in the book. How does Nelson's idea relate to your idea?

DAVID WEINBERGER: Nelson's idea is that the world is intertwingled. That's just a great, made-up word that says that things don't come in neat categories. Sometimes we need to put things into very strict categories, and we manage to do that. If you're working at the Department of Motor Vehicles and somebody comes in with a boat trailer, you've got to decide: Does it or does it not belong in the category of licensed vehicles. We have to make these sorts of decisions. But that's not the normal case. The meaning of most things is linked, loose and ambiguous. The category systems that we've had in the past, the taxonomies – each with its experts — have not generally reflected that intertwingularity. But the web, with its link structure, and with its messy, ungoverned, permission-free link structure, perfectly represents the intertwingularity.



RU: In the world of atoms as opposed to the world of material stuff, it's easier to make all that intertwingling available. It seems almost like we're in a virtual "Six degrees of Kevin Bacon" world. Everything is six clicks away.

DW: Yes. The internet works that way. And there are so many different links and ways to get to things because the significance of our world works that way. That's why things on the web have accumulated so many messy, unpredictable links. Lots of people have seen lots of ways in which things are related, and we can express that on the web. We don't have to minimize it.

You know, in a library, a physical book has to go on only one shelf under one category. That's not a natural restriction; a single book is about many different things. But even when you try to make up for that restriction with the catalog card, which is a very reduced form of meta-data for the book, the size of the card is dictated by the inconvenience of atoms. The size of the card means that you can't put in very many of those references. But on the web, everybody can put in his or her own references. We can have hundreds or millions of references and links and connections of meaning linked to a single resource. There's no limit. So, in some ways, the web reflects better the complexity of the linked nature of the world.

RU: The massive hyperlinked web of correspondences and information that Nelson talked about with his Project Xanadu in the 1960s is happening, but it's sort of self-assembling. There's a sentence in your book that's unobtrusive — or you might say it's miscellaneously in the middle of a paragraph somewhere — but I picked it out because it seems to go right to heart of what you're saying. This is the quote: "A big part of miscellaneous information contains relationships beyond reckoning." I think it's the "contains relationships" part that's important – because although everything is miscellaneous, we're not just talking about noisy chaos.



DW: No, we're not. I'm admittedly using the word miscellaneous in a slightly extended sense. The value is not that it stays miscellaneous, and we can never find or make sense of anything. Quite the opposite. It's all there as potential. We can mine knowledge and information from it. But I don't think that's all that interesting. What's interesting is that we can also discover meaning and its significance — stuff that actually matters to us. So every time we sort through the stuff, we cut through it and see the connections that are interesting to us. And depending on what we're trying to do, we see the world in a new way. We can now do this quite fluidly, and we'll get even better at it over.

RU: The order is found by the end user. A friend of mine has a business and his slogan is "living à la carte". That seems to be kind of what we're doing with information, and so many other things.

DW: Yes, but when you order à la carte, everybody orders individually, based upon their tastes. I wouldn't want to leave it there! The most exciting and important advances in how we're making sense of this miscellaneous soup is that we're doing it socially. We're doing it through social networks; through recommendations from our friends, from sites that do that more formally; and from what shows up in our inbox. So this is not the Daily Me constituting the world based on our own individual interests. It's the "Daily Bunch-of-Us." It's loosely defined groups of people making this happen.

RU: So this is not the wisdom of the individual or the wisdom of the crowds, but the wisdom of small social networks?

DW: Yeah. It's the wisdom of the group. The crowd actually turns out to be quite lumpy. We know some people better... I know that this person over here is really useful and knowledgeable about FCC rulings, but I wouldn't ask about cars! But this other person loves talking about cars.

RU: In Ethan Zuckerman's blog post about your book, he asks: "If knowledge is a pile of leaves instead of a tree, how does the shape of knowledge change?" Do you have an answer for that?

DW: Yeah! First, there's the tree-like structure of knowledge, in which categories are carefully arranged. So there's a root and then there are branches, and every thing has to be neatly on one branch and only one branch. Each thing has a special spot and only one spot. And that shape is very useful for some types of thinking. It's certainly the shape that you use to divide up your laundry. You divide it by person, and then by body part and so forth. So you are constructing a tree. It represents how we sort and order physical objects and it's very useful.

But when we make things miscellaneous, we get to shape it the way that we want. And frequently, the shape is going to be a tree. And sometimes the shape is going to be a cluster in which there is overlap. It's every type of human relationship. It's every possible shape and so there isn't a shape. It's this potential we have before us that we can shape in ways that make sense to us at the time. And the "us" is — in fact — a social group.

RU: You refer to this miscellany as a "third order." Can you explain a little bit about this idea?

DW: In the First Order, you organize the things themselves. An example would be the physical books on the shelves.

In the Second Order, we do something that we've gotten very good at over the past couple thousand years — we separate meta-data about the stuff in the First Order. So we're still dealing with physical objects. In terms of books, it's the card catalogue. We're separating the meta-data. We've reduced the amount of information we're dealing with to what fits on the 3 x 5 card. It's much less than all the information about the book. But with the Second Order, you now have a few different ways of sorting (or categorizing). For instance, you can sort by author, title, and subject.

In the Third Order, everything becomes miscellaneous — both the data and the meta-data; the content and the information about it. The principles that guided the organization of the first two orders no longer hold.

RU: So are you saying that the first order is basically pre-taxonomy? And the second order brings that into being. And then, the third order changes how taxonomy operates – or are we leaving taxonomy behind?

DW: We're not leaving taxonomy behind. Rather, we are embracing every possible way of organizing — every shape of organization that works. And sometimes taxonomies are exactly what we need. So we have taxonomies, we also have playlists. Playlists are not really taxonomies. They're just lists. (I guess you could say they're the edge case of a taxonomy.) Playlists are really useful for some things. They're really useful for music, for example, or for syllabi. But they're not a very good way of organizing a complex library, because the list gets too long. We will use every type of organization we need, including taxonomies, when they make sense.

RU: I guess if you label your iPod music lists — say, "anti-War songs" or something like that — then that becomes a sort of taxonomy. A little mini-taxonomy. In some ways, it seems like we're really obsessed with classification these days. You have things like the human genome project. There are various projects to catalogue biological life forms. And apparently Edward O. Wilson is now doing some kind of an encyclopedia of all life. Where do those types of projects fit into your schemata, if they do?

DW: They do, because we are developing knowledge out of a pre-existing taxonomy. We make links!

Let's just limit the discussion to tags — we are not doing that because we have an existing taxonomy, but we may be able to generate a taxonomy based upon the set of tags. In fact, the most important thing is that you can generate lots of taxonomies based on a single set of tags. So it is useful to have an order of species. And scientists have been arguing about the nature of species and how you cluster them since Darwin. The argument over what constitutes a species continues among biologists still.

Sometimes you'll define a species, and thus a set of categories; and then the relationship of those categories, because you're interested in the history of their actual descent. But sometimes you'll be interested in how populations — within isolated areas separated from each other — work. At that point, their common ancestry may not be as important to you in your categorization scheme. So sometimes it will be more useful to cluster things in ways that look at their functionality as opposed to their DNA. So there are all these potential ways of organizing species. The great thing is that now we can have them all. It's all miscellaneous. If we're doing epidemiology work, one sense of species may be more important to us than another. We can have it all!

RU: Can you conjecture about the personality changes that might happen with people whose ability to organize the chaos of information is being democratized? Is there any danger of a sort of virtual narcissism?

DW: I'm a little less concerned about that than some other are because I think this activity is as social as language is. In fact, it's very closely related to language. Actually, the old idea that you could sit down and organize the universe by creating a taxonomy seems to me far more narcissistic than the bottom-up stuff that we're doing now, which is more democratizing.

RU: Do you think people are empowered by it? Do you think it might be a sort of evolutionary step for human beings?

DW: I do think it's an evolutionary thing and I do think that people are being empowered by it. But I sort of think those two things separately.

Taxonomies are power. With a centralized top-down taxonomy, one problem is that somebody gets to say what you are. And lots of people will inevitably disagree with the categorization. A really bad example of this is what happened to a popular musician living under apartheid in South Africa, By the time he was fifty, he had become a different race five times because the law had changed. And once, he had to leave his wife and family because of it.

So taxonomy is power. It's not always that gross. But let's say you're trying to decide where Scientology or Jews For Jesus or Baha'i goes in the category of religions. Are they at the same level as the big ones? Power resides in that decision. Now that we can create local clusters of meaning, local taxonomies, categorizations — a lot of that power dissipates. That's a good thing.

RU: Not only can we democratize the taxonomies that are created, we can locate new taxonomies, in a sense. We can have lots of them, as per Wikipedia.

DW: Yes. And furthermore, what works about Wikipedia is the fact that just about every other word is linked. That's more important than the categories. The categories of Wikipedia are really more like tags – and that system totally sucks! It's broken! It's barely usable. (Maybe they'll fix it.) But the fact that every article is penetrated by link after link after link going everywhere says that this messy web of meaning is more important than coming up with a nice set of categories.



RU: How would you compare what you're saying with Everything Is Miscellaneous to the two big tech business memes of the times — Web 2.0 and The Long Tail? Do you feel you're extending that? Are you taking it a little further out? How would you relate to all that?

DW: Well, from a point of view of authors' narcissism, I started working on this before either of those things came along. So I've watched them, and I do think there are relationships among all three of them.

Clearly, the long tail is about how content and ideas and stuff is spread out rather than centralized. If you're doing long tail economics or long tail business, you've got to wonder how you are ever going to provide a single categorization scheme for your products that is going to work for the entire long tail. Because, in terms of big topics, the long tail isn't actually interested in anything. The consumers on the long tail are interested in their own quirky individual things. That's the power of the long tail. So I think you want to move towards a miscellaneous way of thinking through how your customers are going to find what you want. So it's a good match.

Web 2.0 is, of course, a notoriously free term. In some ways, it's a set of examples, things that you point too. You say, "Blogs are happening, and Wikis are happening, and APIs are opening up, and there are greater mashups of information." Many of those things enable the representation and use of miscellaneous data so it all pretty much fits the miscellaneous model.

See Also:
SF Writer Rudy Rucker: Everything Is Computation
How The iPod Changes Culture
Jimmy Wales Will Destroy Google
Counterculture and the Tech Revolution

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The Scientific Laws of Romance

Romance?

About the Author: Ethan Todras-Whitehill is a freelance writer who covers technology, travel, and subcultures. He contributes regularly to The New York Times and several national magazines. He also blogs at crucialminutiae.com.

In high school, and particularly college, I was The Guy Friend. You know, the one who has all those cute girls that he’s not dating whose friends don’t understand why he’s not trying to hook up with them. I was always more comfortable with girls, having grown up effectively with three sisters. And for those girls—and I think they would agree—I was great at demystifying the male-female interaction.

Well, I had help. My father’s scientific mind had concocted a simple set of laws that relationships seemed to follow. And with my own scientific mind, I developed these laws further. So without further ado, I present to you:

Whitehill’s Law of Constant Distances

The Law: In a relationship, there exists a Constant Distance (CD) between two people that must be maintained at all times.

I. CD Equilibrium
There are not one but two CDs in any given relationship, one for each party. When the two people’s CDs are the same, congratulations: you have CD equilibrium. You may copulate in peace.


I.1. Changes in CD Equilibrium
Once a CD Equilibrium has been established, it is still possible for it to change. But it must change gradually, over time. Sudden attempts to change the distance, especially when initiated by only one party, will result in the other person instinctively moving to re-establish the CD, likely using Pushes or Pulls.





II. CD Disequilibrium
If the two CDs in a relationship are not the same (i.e. one person wants to be closer than the other), or if the CD Equilibrium is disrupted (i.e. one person wants “more” from the relationship or “less”), you have a CD Disequilibrium. If a CD Disequilibrium lasts for too long, the relationship will inevitably end, possibly on Jerry Springer.


II.1. Causes of CD Disequilibrium
Constant Distances are not merely determined by the affection of the two parties. Love and compatibility play a strong role, but so does circumstance. Two primary circumstances have a substantial effect on CDs: Life Plans and Schedule.


II.1.a Life Plans
Life Plans are any exogenous factors that a person puts above the relationships. If a person does not believe in marriage, for instance, or in long term commitment, that Life Plan creates a greater CD with a person who does not share those Life Plans. Desire or the lack of desire for children are another factor. Preternatural attachment to sauerkraut is yet a third.

II.1.b Schedule
A person’s schedule can have a substantial, if temporary effect on CDs. If one person in the relationship is exceptionally busy for a certain period of time, and their free time is inhibited, their CD may appear to change for their partner. It does not necessarily change for that person themselves—they may still wish to spend 50% of all their free time with their partner—but since the total time and attention paid to the partner changes, it appears to be a change in CD. This will usually result in the partner enacting Pulls or False Pushes.


III. Pushes and Pulls
There are two primary ways in which people behave in a CD Disequilibrium. The general principle is that both parties will seek to change the other person’s CD to match their own.

Typically, the person who has the greater CD (i.e. the person who wants “less” from the relationship) will only use one tactic: the Push. The Push is any action or behavior intended to distance oneself from the other person. It may involve ignoring phone calls, delaying response to text or email messages, or shying away from previously established patterns of affection (sex, cuddling, or verbal affirmations).

The person with the smaller CD is the more vulnerable one in the relationship and as such has more at stake. This person will generally employ both Pulls and False Pushes. The Pull is the opposite of the Push. It is any action or behavior designed to bring the other person closer, like an increase in patterns of affection, demands for stronger commitments, or puncturing condoms with a needle.


III.a. The False Push
When the person with the smaller CD employs a Push, it is typically a False Push. The action or behavior will have all the hallmarks of a real Push but will be disingenuous. The false Push is enacted in order to make the person with the greater CD believe that he or she is in fact the person with the smaller CD. The hope is that this will then cause the person with the greater CD to behave as described above, enacting Pulls of his or her own. The danger in this strategy, of course, is that sometimes a false Push can engender another false Push, which might create such large perceived CDs that the relationship simply ends. If it were not for False Pushes, romantic comedy screenwriters would be out of business.




IV. Case Study: Yolanda and Howard
Yolanda and Howard have been dating for three months. Yolanda is a lawyer, and Howard is a painter. They meet for dinner a few times a week, see the occasional movie, and sleepover at one or the other’s house on Sunday and paint each other’s toenails. They are in CD Equilibrium (I).

Yolanda and HowardYolanda is happy with the relationship, but she’s starting to want more. Her CD is starting to shrink, but she does not sense the same happening with Howard. So she begins to Pull (III) on Howard’s CD, dropping hints about rings and babies and puppies. She begins buying toothbrushes and storing them in random nooks of Howard’s house. Howard notices this behavior, and subconsciously begins to push back, trying to lengthen Yolanda’s CD to match his own. He stops returning her calls as quickly and leaves copies of Playboy out in his bathroom. (See Fig. 1.)

But then something strange happens. Yolanda gets hit with a big case at work. Although her feelings about Howard do not change, her time available for him does. Their dinners dwindle to once a week—her only free night. They stop seeing movies together. Howard’s bottle of Fire Engine Red crusts shut from disuse. Yolanda’s Schedule (II.1.b) has changed her CD, and he now finds himself the vulnerable one. He tries Pulling, sending her flowers and giving her foot massages. (See Fig. 2)

Yolanda’s big case lasts several months. She enjoys Howard’s extra attention but can’t find the time to give him what he needs. But over time, Howard’s CD slowly changes (I.1). By the time Yolanda’s case ends, Howard’s CD is the same that Yolanda’s was before the case. And since her CD never really changed—it just appeared to do so to Howard—when the case ends their two CDs match, putting them in blissful CD Equilibrium (I) (Fig. 3).

See Also:
Girls Are Geeks, Too
Why Chicks Don't Dig the Singularity
Drugs and Sex and Susie Bright
When Lego Goes to War
Crucial Minutiae blog

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The Cartoon Porn Shop Janitor — Carol Burnett vs. Family Guy



A porn shop in a cartoon unexpectedly triggered a lawsuit.

In the Family Guy episode "Peterotica," Peter and his friends go to the local adult bookstore. What happens next was apparently determined by the following sequence of events.

1. Family Guy asks Carol Burnett if they can use the theme to her 1970s variety show.

2. Carol Burnett says no.

3. They draw her into the cartoon as the adult bookstore's cleaning woman.

And then comes #4 — Carol Burnett sues them.

The Fox Network has expressed surprise, since she appears in the cartoon for only four seconds, but Burnett's lawsuit reportedly claimed violations of copyright and trademark law, plus a misappropriation of her name and likeness. This weekend a judge revealed what happens in step 5: Carol Burnett loses that lawsuit. According to news reports, a judge signed a ruling Friday that while the the Family Guy episode may offend her — the First Amendment allows parodies. (After all, her original variety show was famous for its own parodies.)



Carol Burnett is a pioneer in celebrity lawsuits. In 1981 she surprised legal observers with a successful lawsuit against the National Enquirer over a report that implied she'd been drunk in a restaurant with Henry Kissinger. (“In a Washington restaurant, a boisterous Carol Burnett had a loud argument... But Carol really raised eyebrows when she accidentally knocked a glass of wine over one diner and started giggling instead of apologizing...") She may have been vindicated over that slight to her public image, but as a public figure she's also fair game for ridicule. And thanks to Family Guy, an animated likeness of the 74-year-old comedienne can be glimpsed in some very unsavory company.

Like most Family Guy episodes, this one was a series of loosely-connected jokes, but this time they were tied together by the theme of adult books. Peter's disappointment at the adult bookstore's offerings drives him to write his own porn novels. (Including Angela's Asses, Shaved New World, and Harry Potter and the Half Black Chick.)

Ironically, in this episode of the cartoon, it's the Family Guy himself who is eventually sued — though for different reasons. Peter's own erotic novels are so steamy that they prompt one driver to remove his shirt while driving. (He'd been listening to the book on tape version of Peter's adult book, The Hot Chick Who Was Italian. Or Maybe Some Kind of Spanish.) This scene may include another dig at Carol Burnett, since the tape version of that book is being read by a regular guest on the Carol Burnett Show — Betty White.



Peter's career ends after the disgruntled motorist's lawsuit — and he also gets a surprise visit from... Betty White.

Perhaps foreshadowing the legal showdowns to come, she tells him, "I just got a subpoena for an erotic novel, and I'm looking for the son of a bitch responsible."

Click here to buy a DVD with this episode!

See also:
Top 5 Cartoon Hunks
Screech's Sex Tape Follies
The Celebrity Breast Conspiracy
The Porn Star, the Diva, and the World Wide Web
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The Secret Ending of Pirates of the Caribbean 3


I didn't like Pirates of the Caribbean 3. But maybe I would have if I'd seen the ending. The real ending is tucked away behind the closing credits. In this crucial scene there's a flash forward — ten years into the future — and we find out what happened to Elizabeth and Will.

Fortunately, somebody's uploaded the footage to YouTube. It's just one way videos floating around the net give you a new perspective on movies, though it also raises an interesting question. Does it take a real act of movie piracy to explain Pirates 3?



Secret endings are almost a tradition with the Pirates movies. Each one included a very good scene hidden away behind its closing credits. The first Pirates movie tacked on a reminder of all that gold left back in the cave — the cursed treasure of the Black Pearl — in a surprising scene with a monkey. Pirates 2: Dead Man's Chest ended with a special scene re-visiting the island where natives held Johnny Depp captive. (It doesn't involve a monkey, but it does have a dog!)

But in Pirates 3 the extra scene actually reveals the fate of two characters. (Spoilers off the starboard bow!) If the curse of the Flying Dutchman keeps lovers apart for 10 years — what happens after 10 years? Is the reunion fraught with dread and bitterness — or do they have kids and settle down in the countryside? Maybe there's some improbable return to the land of the living after a magical green flash of light?

Watch this video and find out!


After two hours and 48 minutes, you can forgive moviegoers for heading to the exits early. (I'd seen a 10:40 showing which didn't end until 1:30 a.m!) "Maybe instead of At World's End, they should've called it At Credits' End," I grumbled later. "Because that's where all the answers lie."

But I ended up with a new appreciation for the internet — and its fan base of Pirates fans who assembled a stash of video curios.

It's easy to forget that Pirates of the Caribbean was once just a 40-year-old ride at Disneyland. Somehow, someone's uploaded footage of Johnny Depp re-visiting the clunky ride after it was rejuvenated to match the summer blockbuster. About 2:30 into the video, Depp's left the boat to poke his own animatronic figure as it rises from the barrel. ("It's a little more than spooky," he says.) There's also a video called Captain Jack Sparrow at Disney World, which is probably better if you don't know its backstory. Impossibly, the movie's swashbuckler seems to have turned up under Florida skies, mingling with children in full pirate regalia and corrupting them with his sword-fighting lessons.

That Johnny Depp is a sport — but how crazy are his fans? One woman found herself with a 20-year-old stick of bubble gum from a pack of "21 Jump Street" trading cards. Would you chew it if she also offered you its collectible Johnny Depp card?



But my favorite clip reminded me what all the hype was about. One fan created a mashup video in which Captain Jack Sparrow fights Captain Hook — using footage from both Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest and the 2003 live-action Peter Pan. The two sets of clips mesh perfectly, proving what to me is the most timeless and universal truth of all.

That pirate movies are fun.

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Raising Hunter S. Thompson


B. Duke

Hunter S. Thompson lives on. In the play, Gonzo: A Brutal Chrysalis, performer and writer "B. Duke" incarnates the Last Free American Writer as he was during the intense and difficult years 1968-1971.

The play's publicity package tells it like this: "Fresh from his breakthrough success chronicling — and nearly being beaten to death by — the Hells Angels, Thompson embarks on a one- and two-man war on the Death of the American Dream. From Big Oil and the Big Three to the NRA and the Kentucky Derby, Richard Nixon and the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, the usual suspects are strafed and castrated by the Man Who Would Be Raoul.

"What he could not conquer from without, he co-opted from within by becoming the single greatest and most effective danger that anyone before or since has been to the bipolar establishment that is American politics."



I would only add that on November 11, 1971 Rolling Stone published the first installment of Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. And in the following year, they ran his Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72. A generation was thus given an opportunity to learn the truth about America in the only way it could truly be told, through a cracked acidic lens that blurred fiction and fact and came to be called "Gonzo Journalism."

The SF Weekly said about "Gonzo: A Brutal Chrysalis,"
If you're looking for the fun loving and hilariously drug-addled Hunter S. Thompson portrayed on screen by Johnny Depp and Bill Murray you'll be surprised and uncomfortably mystified by this one-man performance about the founder of gonzo journalism. Gonzo is an interesting look at a lesser-seen side of the counterculture icon, but the performance feels like a reckless, all-out verbal assault. The theater's concession stand sells cheap whiskey and balloons filled with nitrous oxide, and the gunshots onstage feel dangerous and deafening. But perhaps, Hollywood sheen aside, this show is a truer look at the man who reinvented modern alternative journalism.

I interviewed "B. Duke" on the RU Sirius Show. Steve Robles joined me in questioning "B." Indeed, the media hook here may be that Robles waxed way obscene about Condie Rice days before Opie and Anthony's moment of infamy. Read on.
To listen the full interview in MP3, click here.

RU SIRIUS (INTRODUCING SHOW & GUEST): We were just starting the R. U. Sirius Show when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like "I feel a little light-headed, maybe Steve Robles should host the show." Then suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us, and the room was full of what looked like huge bats swooping and screeching and diving around the studio and a voice was screaming, "Holy Jesus, they've just eaten Diana Brown!"

"B. Duke" was shot from a cannon August 20, 2005. He landed in my back yard and we raised him on belladonna and chili dogs, and he grew. Today he is a freelance counter-intelligence operative feared throughout the empire and certain precious gem syndicates. After giving notice to friends and family, he dove body, mind and soul into Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. Recent sightings reported in South Dakota, Wyoming, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, read like confessions from some hideous corruption and conversion spree. He prefers LSD to all other drugs and aggressive seduction to passive supplication. (Most of this description is written by "B" himself.)

I don't know if I'm going to do aggressive seduction or passive supplication today, but...

B. DUKE: You seem like a really nice guy, but you're just generally not my type.

RU: Yeah. Well, we'll see what happens. I might change into something entirely otherwise after you finish drinking that water we just served you...

BD: My god, man, what did you do? Are you sure you put enough in?

RU: You might notice I look like a spider. So, describe the genesis of "Gonzo."

BD: My producer, "A. Duke," came to me in July of 2005 and expressed some frustration… wanting to get out of life as a techie. He'd done theatre work before, and he'd seen me do spoken word and other play performances in San Francisco. I did "Dr. Strangelove" and "Night of the Living Dead."

So "A." called me up and said, "I think we should do a play together." And I said, "Well, what did you have in mind?" And he said, "I think we should do a play about Hunter Thompson." I nearly hung up the phone on him. But he's been one of my best friends for over a decade. So instead I said, "I'll have to call you back," and then hung up the phone on him. I called him back in December, and...

RU: Why did you hang up the phone?

BD: I thought it was way too close to Thompson's checkout for us to be diving into something like that. It felt a little bit scavenger-like. Disrespectful. I'm a big "respect for the dead" person. Also, even though he had a pretty good influence on my life from an early time, he wasn't exactly the godhead idol of my universe. So we met in December, and I told him and "C. Duke," our director and executive producer that if they wanted to re-create Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, I was out right then.

RU: Right. Been done.

BD: Everybody had tried to capture that zany madness and that sort of zeitgeist. So I suggested that we use Fear and Loathing in America : The Brutal Odyssey of an Outlaw Journalist. That's a collection of Thompson's letters from '68 - '76. I had read that a few years earlier and I'd become keenly aware that the nuances of a real man were there.

A great little history book called Don't Know Much About History tried to lift the veil of lionized demi-gods by remembering that George Washington once said to Henry "Ox" Knox as he was crossing the river, "Henry, shift your fat ass over, you'll swamp the whole boat." The object of the book was to treat historical figures as real people.

RU: There's a lot of material from Hunter… bitchy letters and notes…

BD: He was ferocious. He would start in on speed, probably somewhere around 11 PM or midnight, and he would go to bed about 8 or 9:00 in the morning – around the time his young son Juan was getting up. He'd get up around 3 in the afternoon.



We secured an original 1968 IBM Selectric Model I typewriter off of eBay for the play. I learned from working with it that you can lie through a computer really easily. You can delete whole swaths of material real easily. On the typewriter, you have to think continuously. Also, we're used to firing out our emails right now. Nobody takes time to think about anything. In these letters, he'd stop and start. They would take hours for him to create. And in between, he was hosting a lot of druggie friends and doing a lot of shooting and some traveling and...

RU: It's interesting to think that he didn't send those letters out impulsively. And yet some of them certainly have an impulsive quality about them.

BD: Well, he starts off 1968 in a pretty bad state. The Hells Angels almost beat him to death out — and that was the Oakland club. He had the incredibly bad sense to harangue a guy named Junkie George, He was considered one of the more uncontrollable guys on that squad. And if you can picture the Hell's Angels having guys on there that even they admit are uncontrollable...

Junkie George had smacked around his wife and kicked his dog across a fireplace. And Thompson quipped at him that only punks did that. And Junkie George laid into him. And once one Hell's Angel is on you, the rest will follow. And he got out of there only through the grace of a man nicknamed Tiny — who was massive. Tiny hauled Thompson out of there.

So he pretty much fled San Francisco and went out to Colorado for his best friend's wedding. And he kind of fell in love with the whole area just outside Aspen. But for Hunter, success immediately involved getting sued by publishers who pretty much wanted a settlement agreement that would chain him to a typewriter for them.

RU: A lot of his anger and a lot of his juice came from being really pissed off as a writer. Pissed off at mainstream publishing. Pissed off about not getting paid. Pissed off when his articles weren't published in full. That sort of thing. He was a warrior for writers.

BD: That's part of it. But at the same time, I think it does a disservice to Thompson to classify him as chronically pissed off. The top of my bong used to read, "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention." And I still firmly believe that.

He hated hippies because they weren't doing anything. There were other radicals around here, like the Diggers and SDS — people who really were fomenting change. But he thought the hippies were just lazy. But the main thing that was driving him in early '68 was that he couldn't come up with a new idea. He didn't know where he was going.

RU: There was a book about Lyndon Johnson, and then that got screwed because Johnson dropped out.

BD: That book was part of a settlement agreement from court cases. He was going to do that, The Rum Diary, and then he had sold the idea for a book called "The Death of the American Dream." And then Lyndon checked out of the race. And that cost Thompson about $10,000, which in today's money would be about $80,000 or $90,000. And he very much needed the money.

So Hunter became obsessed around that time with the death of the American dream. He could see things going just horribly wrong. In writing a piece titled "Presenting the Richard Nixon Doll—Overhauled 1968 Model" — the overhauled 1968 New Nixon model, he pretty much lays out the road map for why the Democrats are going to fail in 1968.

RU: This is before the Chicago convention?

BD: Yeah. That was another galvanizing point for him. That was the big face-off. And we make a big issue of that in the play. One of the first things that came up for me in writing the script was that this was a humungous turning point for him. Because he'd pretty much socked himself into Woody Creek, and wasn't going out much before he went there.

By the way, he read tremendously. His inventory of magazines and publications was twenty or thirty publications long — newspapers, magazines. And he didn't just read one side. It's not as though he just read all the left-wing stuff. He wanted to know what the other side was thinking. He read religiously.

RU: He was a political junkie. In fact, he was a mainstream political junkie. In a way, he followed it the way he followed sports. He loved sports and he loved electoral politics.

BD: He was a pragmatic realist. He very much wanted to see America succeed on the promise of America — hence "The American Dream." He wasn't trying to define that for anyone. He just didn't want to see it get perverted by people who were really just using us and selling us their version of the American Dream. And this becomes a very heavy point with him.

When he went to Chicago, he had originally wanted to go around and see the delegates. He bugged Random House for months to get him credentials to get in the convention. But as it approached, he realized that the convention itself was going to be largely irrelevant, and what was going to happen there was a pretty good-sized battle. And Richard J. Daley was no slouch. This is Chicago we're talking about

RU: Before the Chicago convention, Daley had recently given shoot-to-kill orders in a race riot.

BD: This is the old school Democrats. My grandfather worked for a steel mill, and when they were on strike, the mob would come in and try to break the strikes down. So when you're in a tough industrial production area like Chicago… the Democrats were not, you know, the spineless creatures of today. These were people who lifted bricks, worked steel, built cars, and would do it to it if you tried to screw with them.

RU: Right. They weren't going to put up with a bunch of flower punks.

BD: Well, there was a schism in the Democratic Party at the time. And the tremendous youth movement that came largely from California kind of fanned out from there. And so you had these older liberals there who Thompson would come to absolutely detest for their uselessness. They'd had the baby and built the family business and they were very comfortable and didn't want too much change. So there's this kind of uneasiness between the two parts of the Democratic party — the young people really wanted to turn American away from this travesty and end the war.

RU: Also, many of the Southern Democrats were still segregationists… Please perform a segment from the play.

BD AS HUNTER S. THOMPSON:
The blowback from the mayor's race was pretty catastrophic. I was no longer a fellow among the people. Instead I'd become a dangerous freak among the misfits. "Communist!" "Dope fiend!" "Motherfucker!" I was commonly all three at once. "Thompson, you communist dope fiend motherfucker!"

Certain people who had once called themselves my friends and allies now said openly that Aspen and Woody Creek in general would be far better off if I met with some hideously violent fate that the Hell's Angels would do for free. Those treacherous cocksuckers would have to come up here and get me first. Randomly firing the .44 at the gongs I had mounted on the ridge crest kept any such fuckers from thinking that was a realistic possibility.

Besides, it's not like I'm a journalistic recluse any more. Whereas Playboy and Esquire may have cut me off at the knees, Warren Hinckle has decided to give me a platform from his new magazine, Scanlon's Monthly. Even when he lopped off entire sections of my NRA and Killy pieces, I was still able to take a head-on run at the fat bat bastards who have almost done this entire country in. The money was pretty good — kept things around here relatively fluid… that is, when they actually paid me. You see, Warren's intentions were noble but he has absolutely no idea how to conduct national distribution or spur an expanding subscriber base. I figured the entire thing was going to go down in flames owing me a ton of money in the process.

RU: Is this writing basically you trying to do the voice of Hunter S. Thompson? Are you incorporating his stuff? Is it all him? How does it work?

BD: I had originally intended to take certain passages from Fear and Loathing in America : The Brutal Odyssey of an Outlaw Journalist and kind of knit them together. I quickly abandoned that. I knew it wasn't going to work. Also, we would run afoul of copyright issues with the estate and I don't really care for his widow. She's done several stupid things that I really detest. So I didn't want to pour more gasoline on that fire. And unlike Johnny Depp or Bill Murray, I didn't have the luxury of moving into Thompson's house and getting the Hunter experience.

So I did more research and it was the political stuff that he did that really caught my attention. And at that time, I lived alone. So I had a great luxury of time to myself to do this. And I really kind of absorbed him through his letters, and went back and re-read things that I had read before, in the context of the letters, to get the complete effect. And I really allowed him to take me over. I spent a lot of time with my eyes closed imagining the world as he would see it.

And it's very easy to translate elements of his frustration — the Vietnam war to the Iraq war; spineless, useless Democrats to spineless, useless Democrats; vile Republicans to vile Republicans. Oil companies fucking everybody.

So I realized that I couldn't just try to sound like him. I had to reach in and find that agony. And I knew there was something in there that no one was really getting to because we're all fascinated with the myth of the gonzo maniac. But at the core, even our more outlandish people are real people (with the possible exceptions of Paris Hilton and Barbra Streisand). And as I started to find out more about his personal life, I could see where that pain was coming from. His wife had two miscarriages, one at four months and six months, both in 1968. And in 1969 she delivered a stillborn daughter.

RU: And that plays into your piece...

BD: Oh yes, it does. Yeah. We went for the man not the myth. Everybody knows the myth.

RU: Did you have any trepidation about trying to do this, in terms of a responsibility towards him as a man?

BD: I wouldn't say I had trepidation. I knew what we were going for, and my cohorts in were very patient with me in letting me get this together in a kind of organic way. There was none of this: "must meet milestone A to get to milestone B." We didn't work that way.

But I was really concerned about having to experience all of that pain. And up to the point where I got the Selectric, the process of writing this script was nothing but agony. It hurt all the time. After the stillborn baby, he really lost his mind. If you had given Hunter Thompson a button to blow up the world at that time, he would've pushed it. He was very blackened, and just horrifically torn

RU: Was he doing a lot of the drugs he was famous for during this time?

BD: He was doing a lot of speed at the time. He'd laid off the LSD, but was trying to get mescaline every now and then. The speed actually came from a nuclear lab in New York where his wife Sandy had been a secretary, and those poor scientists were paid so badly, they started producing methamphetamine.



RU: That nuclear crank is the best shit.

BD: Yeah, well... I think that's why he really didn't like the Hell's Angels so much. They were still fucking around on Benzedrine and he's got "Fusion power." Anyway, if you've ever been around someone who takes speed, the emotional roller-coaster ride they go through is pretty extreme.

RU: I've been very close to someone who took speed.

STEVE ROBLES: (Knowingly) Yeah, (Laughs) In fact, you could argue that the ability to have some kind of grip on reality becomes...

BD: ... very strained.

SR: At least as tenuous as while on LSD, I think.

BD: But Hunter slept. A lot of speed freaks will go and go and go and go until they collapse in dehydration, starvation, exhaustion. You know — spun out tweeker. But he slept every night and Sandy took good care of him. And let's not forget that we're talking about Hunter Thompson,

But Thompson rode the ups and downs of this, and he did drink quite a bit. And so that had an impact. And, of course, being sort of sequestered with Sandy there the whole time was a compound misery. And he was from an age where men didn't really talk about their feelings. They kept it locked up. He didn't believe in psychiatry. He took it on alone. So he was trying to grapple with all of this agony in his personal life. Meanwhile, the country's disintegrating around him. He got the shit knocked out of him in Chicago by the police. He started to feel like the whole nation was really slipping into a type of internal Civil War bordering on anarchy.

RU: He really felt it. He was not a cynic.

BD: No, he wasn't. And he'd already covered very heavy things as a journalist. He had been in South America for a time, and had covered riots down there and had done some tough reports in New York City and the Caribbean. He knew true toughness. He was unafraid to go into it. And remember, Thompson was like 6'5" and 185 pounds. He was monstrous.

SR: I think part of his wanting to speak out came out of frustration because there weren't a lot of other strong voices that he agreed with.

RU: Nobody quite put it into the package that he did. I was actually one of the people who would read Rolling Stone back when those articles came out. So I got the initial surprise of reading him… wow! Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was the first one I read.

BD: He and Hinckle and Ralph Steadman hooked up and pretty much made a pact to go ahead and rip these assholes out. I don't mean to say that he was ready to step up and become a John Lennon. But he was keenly aware of his ability to reach people and sway their minds, even one-on-one. And he was an ardent prankster and a total psych-fucker. He really enjoyed that.

RU: There are a bunch of stories about him doing some crazy shit. Do you have any favorites?

BD: Oh yeah. My personal favorite is when his friend was living in New York on the fifth floor of a walk-up in Hell's Kitchen. Thompson went over there to see him one day, and the guy wasn't home and Thompson got bored. And, with all the windows open on the fifth floor, he took a belt off and started smacking this wall with it: Whack! Whack! "Beg for it, bitch!" Whack! Whack! Whack! "Who's your daddy!?" Whack! Whack! Whack! And so the neighbors got really distressed and called the police, and the police stormed the place. So they went up there and found Thompson sitting alone. "Where's the other guy? What's going on there?" "I don't know what you're talking about. Who? What? Huh?"

RU: (Laughs) In writing this, did you feel like you had to adopt his lifestyle at all?

BD: Absolutely. I've been chain-smoking Dunhill reds since October and I don't smoke. My mother and my grandmother and my girlfriend are all very concerned that if the play continues to be a success, I will have to continue smoking.

RU: What about all the other enjoyments? Had any adrenochrome? Did you bring any adrenochrome with you? (Laughter)

BD: My attorney's not as good as his!

SR: You don't have the Samoan?

BD: Hey, he was Mexican, dammit! (Laughter)

SR: How about Wild Turkey?

BD: Absolutely. I've been drinking 101 pretty much rabidly for a while.

SR: Yowch!

BD: (Laughs) Smoking a lot of pot, and taking acid.

RU: It would be really hard to be a Gonzo journalist right now. In terms of mainstream publications, nobody let's you do it! Lester Bangs was sort of the last one to get away with it in the rock press.

BD: Matt Taibbi. Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone is the heir apparent to Hunter Thompson. He is on the mission...

RU: I guess I haven't been reading it lately

BD: I first noticed him about two years ago when he went to Burning Man and proclaimed it for what it is — toothless and wallowing in its own muck and irrelevant to anyone or anything. The next week, he went out to New Orleans with Sean Penn, who was on some insane rescue mission for a single black woman in an underwater parish. Tabbi went into this destruction with Penn and filed an incredible story. He has been in Washington since, ripping every single one of these vile greed-heads that we love to hate. And he names the names. He tells you exactly who they are and what they're doing. He went into a Senate fundraiser for this one Senator from Alaska posing as a Russian oil company investment banker. And the company name he made up translated to "oily fart gas." And he really did kind of go in and invade this scene Thompson-style. But he doesn't do drugs like Hunter did. Or at least if he does, he's very quiet about it.

RU: It's great that it can still happen. I think the magazine industry — the magazine people are much more tight-assed than they were in the late 60s. I'm surprised and pleased to hear that Wenner lets somebody rip. Of course, people can do gonzo on the web. But the other question is, does anybody do it well? What do you think about that? Certainly, lots of people are trying to mix fiction and non-fiction and tell wild drug tales and so forth. But who does it well?

BD: Well, Arianna Huffington, when she finally saw the light and was forced to admit that our government was freely for sale — I sent her a letter. She and my father are friends. I sent her a letter welcoming her to the punk rock club, and recommended that she purchase Dead Kennedys albums and Black Flag and the Circle Jerks and catch up on things. She never wrote back...

RU: She's never written back to me either.

BD: She could go far. She could go far with that dyed red job and just a little shave on the side. She could be hot! Think about it.

SR: Could be?! I would bang the living crap out of her. I'd bang her so hard that her fucking ex-husband would feel it.

JEFF DIEHL: Is that before or after Condoleezza Rice?

SR: I'd do both at once, man. How about that? How about a little salt and pepper in my hotel room.



BD: No no no... listen. Condoleezza Rice needs a devoted line of slave boys under her desk to try to achieve the impossible, and that is an orgasm.

But getting back to what we were saying about being a gonzo journalist in the early 21st century. What it takes is guts, determination and belief. Rolling Stone ran an interesting piece a couple years ago that showed how most journalism schools are turning their graduates towards marketing. And journalism has always been right up there with teaching in terms of poverty. But that's not true any more. Journalists can make it. And then there's the fact that these — as Thompson would've said it — castrated editors and publishers are afraid to rock boats. No one will touch GM or Westinghouse. And then we had the brainwashing from the Bush administration. People were genuinely afraid to step out. This was the most dangerous time since at least the McCarthy era for this country, where the backswing of the administration, in terms of curtailing liberty and intimidating free speech, really did put a clamp down on all of us. We're just now getting out from under that.

But there's no journalist Gary Cooper for this generation. First of all, it has to start in the schools. This is where Thompson's death could really help us out. Thompson is going to become a college course in places like Columbia.

RU: Right. And people are going to wonder: Why can't we do this? I mean, there was a whole narrative around this idea of New Journalism that has kind of disappeared.

BD: Professors need to be willing to take chances, and to do more in the publish-or-perish environment than stroke their own egos. We're at war. Our country really is going to hell. I feel like it's the Roman Empire, circa 425. One more venal or weak leader, and we're done.

RU: Before we let you go — give us another piece of your act.
BD (AS HST): Steadman's still recovering from that debacle in Newport at the America's Cup last year. He really went at it from all angles, including a rock band whose single at the time was "Up Against the Wall, Motherfucker!" Including Ralph on his first hallucinogens, and for his bravery, he was treated to a near hopeless flight from harbor police and private security as we tried to spray-paint "Fuck the Pope" on a large yacht and were undone by steel balls in the spray can. I was using the flare gun to cover our asses for a graceful exit from this. And there's Ralph — barefoot and psychotic, ambling onto a plane for New York. His plan is to get to the Scanlon's offices, and to sort of blend in with the other freaks and get some down time. But he lands there, takes a cab to Scanlon's, and finds out that they are locked up tight. They'd folded the day before. I already knew that. But Ralph's mind was in such a delicate condition at the time that I couldn't tell him. One last thing, and that would've been it. And he was far too valuable for future excursions. So I think I'm going to have to give him a pass on this one. I mean, last time I talked to him, he was still having severely debilitating flashbacks, and hoping for a soon return to a relatively peaceful normalcy as much as Ralph really can.

It's time to dial in the other hardcore pro. Oscar Zeta Costa and I had been working both sides of this wretched street for years. He's the main engine in the Mexican brown power movement down in Los Angeles – an attorney of unflinching gall, hypnotic oratory, and the will to do what the other guy won't every single time. He can shut down large stretches of that vast nightmarish metropolis by calling for a one-day strike among the Latinos. And yet, he's under the delusion that he can build a country where freaks like us are safe from prosecution as he settles into a tweed-and-loafers existence as a UCLA law professor. Oh yeah, we've traded barbs over who's the bigger sell-out — co-opted into a comfortable existence just outside the wires. But being called an infantile anarchist by that Mexican dunce with the moles… That was the last straw. It's time to call that rotten little spic on his shit, haul his ass out of Los Angeles, and to a place where he cannot escape the overwhelming filth that is America. Las Vegas is neutral territory for both of us. Neither one of us has any connections there, or any clout that's going to count for anything other than a quick getaway if we need it.

"Gonzo: A Brutal Chrysalis" will be performed in Seattle in September-October.

September 20-22, 27-29
The Freehold Theater
1525 10th Ave.
Seattle, WA
www.freeholdtheatre.org

October 4-6
Capitol Hill Arts Center
1621 12th Ave.
Seattle, WA
www.capitolhillarts.com

They are also seeking a venue for a planned a September run in Los Angeles and would welcome any information about those venues at: [email protected]


See also:
When Kurt Vonnegut Met Sammy Davis Jr.
Willie Nelson's 'Narcotic' Shrooms
Drugs and Sex and Suzie Bright
Did Bush Spin Like Nixon?
The Chicks Who Tried to Shoot Gerald Ford
David Sedaris Exaggerates For Us All
20 Secrets of an Infamous Dead Spy





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The Celebrity Breast Conspiracy




"Public diplomacy" in Hollywood isn't exactly an exercise in subtlety. But sometimes, publicists, studio executives, or whoever dreams up these boob-headed propaganda schemes, actually try to trick us by presenting "authentic" incidents of "titillation". Which are totally not authentic.

In fact, call us paranoid, but we strongly believe there is a well-established, but never openly-acknowledged, plan among movie marketers and star handlers to manipulate the constituencies of female celebrities. Shocking? Yes.

However, here's five tabloid examples that make the case.


1. Dead Man's Chest?

Three franchises compete this weekend over the biggest box office in movie history. Pirates of the Caribbean 3 is the big contender, and suddenly its lead actress starts jabbering about... well, here's the resulting headlines.
Keira Knightley Wants Bigger Breasts
Keira Knightley Wishes She Had Larger Chest Size
Knightley Not Happy With Her Breasts, Wants Them Bigger
Knightley: 'I don't have tits!'

Keira plays the feisty Elizabeth Swann in the new Pirates movie — an adventure-loving tomboy. Of course there's a line of merchandise associated with the film, and when asked later for her opinion on her officially licensed action figure, Keira responded similarly. "It's nothing like me! She's got tits, for a start! I don't have tits!"

And the headlines rolled again...
Pirates Of The Caribbean: Live Woman's Chest
Keira Knightley Says Well-Endowed 'Pirates' Action Figure
Looks Nothing Like Her
Keira bemused by Pirate doll's ample cleavage
Keira Knightley: I Don't Have Any Tits!

Tits! Tits! Tits! Pirates of the Caribbean 3. Everyone got the message?



2. The Right Stuffing

But Keira is only the first example of a marketing ploy gone wild. Just a few weeks earlier, Spiderman 3 broke box office records by earning $117 million in its first day. By that weekend it had racked up over $381 million, and it's already become one of the twenty highest-grossing movies in cinema history.

But did Spiderman have his own secret weapon?

Just days before the movie premiered, Kirsten Dunst told British reporters that "I had to wear a padded bra for this movie...! I embraced my Mary Jane boobs!" And the headlines started spilling out.
Bust boost for Kirsten
'I had to wear a padded bra'
Kirsten Dunst sexes up Spider-Man's Mary Jane...
Kirsten Dunst Has Saggy Boobs*

* A blogger named Mocksie.

Kirsten Dunst issued more breast-related comments in 2004 while joking about the release of a video game for Spiderman 2. After spotting her character, Dunst announced "They made her boobs gigantic! I was like, 'Tone down the boobs, please!'" For this year's movie, her publicist apparently advised her to be a little more breast-positive. ("...I get it. It's OK... I didn't feel like it was sexist or anything...") And speaking of her character, Spider-Man's girlfriend, she added, almost prophetically, that "I know that her boobs are usually enhanced on the action figure toys as well."

A few days later, Marvel comics issued this 7-inch collectible figure.

Is Kirsten Dunst's bra-stuffing a legitimate news story? (It is a kind of special effect...) It's a bit of trivia that seemed suspiciously timed, guaranteed to seize the attention of the celebrity press, even those who were already covering the future of Spiderman movies. One reporter ultimately couldn't resist asking as his next question "whether her bigger breasts will be seen in a fourth film?"


3. Charlie's Nipple

Can Shrek 3 compete with this titillation? After all, the film's leading actress is...a giant animated ogre. But fortunately for the producers, her voice is supplied by Cameron Diaz, who played one of Charlie's Angels. Leaving nothing to chance, she appeared to promote the film on The Ellen DeGeneres Show — and then pulled her breast out.

Cameron Diaz flashes boobs on Ellen
Ellen Checks out Diaz's Boob
Cameron Diaz Has Nip Slip on Ellen Show
Diaz bares a breast on Ellen

In the press, the incident was a wardrobe malfunction, of course, and Ellen relayed a message to Diaz from the production staff.

"They're asking you to pull up your shirt."



But it was a publicity masterpiece — and all the headlines prove it.
Shrek 3! Shrek 3! Cameron's nipple! Shrek 3!

No wonder Muslim fanatics hate us.


4. The Visible Woman

That's enough breasts to last through Memorial Day weekend — but at least one Hollywood actress thinks you're in for a long, hot summer.

Two weeks before the Fantastic Four sequel opens, the film's leading actress starts making the rounds. Jessica Alba clumsily announced to one reporter that she hopes this movie will alleviate the ongoing problem of how friggin' hot she is. "I hope all my new work will help producers in getting past my hotness," she complained to GQ magazine.

And then for good measure, she started talking about sexy body parts.

"I have my own fashion style and do not try to fit in," Alba began "I don't have my breasts under my chin, I'm not showing butt cheeks, nor much legs..." So she's saying she dresses her tragically-hot body in a less-than-sexy manner. But this plea for attention is so blatant, Gary Larson could've used it for a new Far Side cartoon.

What Jessica Alba says:

"I don't have my breasts under my chin, I'm not showing butt cheeks."

What reporters hear:

"Blah blah blah breasts. Blah blah blah butt cheeks."


5. Disney Girls

There's other examples of this phenomenon too. In 2005 a rumor leaked to the tabloid press that Lindsay Lohan's breasts were so humongous, they'd had to be digitally reduced when she appeared in Disney's newest movie about Herbie the Love Bug. (Which was, ironically, called Fully Loaded)



The film's producers later squelched this rumor — and in fact, 18-year-old Lohan spent most of the movie in a sternly unrevealing racing uniform.



Two years later Lohan would check into rehab after crashing her Mercedes in a suspected DUI incident. But her brush against notoriety had already put this whole phenomenon into perspective.

Yes, movie publicists and the entertainment press like to steer the conversation towards what's "under the hood."

But ultimately isn't it even more demeaning to pretend there's nothing there at all?

See also:
The Secret Ending of Pirates of the Caribbean 3
10 Worst Spiderman Tie-Ins
Dustin Diamond vs. Sgt. Harvey
World Sex Laws
Libertarian Chick Fights Boobs With Boobs
Sex Expert Susie Bright Lets It All Out

Read More

Dustin Diamond vs. Sgt. Harvey


VH-1 proudly displayed the clip on their blog, gloating that in comparison, "All the throwdowns from the current drama-filled season of Celebrity Fit Club seem like kids' stuff..." It's Dustin Diamond vs. Sgt. Harvey Walden— the detached smart-ass comic confronted by a former Marine drill instructor.

Dustin's been riding a wave of publicity ever since that infamous sex tape was released to the world. (Click here for our interview with Dustin about it.) Did Dustin enjoy the notoriety too much? Or did VH-1 set him up? And is it a verbal beatdown — or a former child star righteously standing his ground?



After 11 years of playing Screech on Saved by the Bell and its sequels, Dustin became a standup comic, ultimately joining the cast of VH-1's celebrity weight-loss competition. In this profanity-laced clip from Sunday's episode, Dustin weighs himself for Sgt. Harvey and the show's nutritionist, Dr. Ian Smith. Dustin had already challenged comedian Ant, the shows host, to "physical combat" for making what he thought was a bad call. When Harvey aggressively dismisses him, Dustin offhandedly refers to the UFC, which is the Ultimate Fighting Championship — a cable TV fighting show.

And then all hell broke loose.


VH1.com Blog
A transcript of the video appears below


HARVEY: Three pounds. Get the fuck out of here.

DIAMOND: I gotta move? Everyone else has been up. I don't have to go anywhere...

HARVEY: Man, get this — somebody get his ass out of here! (Off-camera voice: "You're done, Dustin") You are fucking full of shit. I oughta, before you will tell me, I will beat your fuck — you must be out of your fucking part-time cartoon mind!

DIAMOND: (Turning to go) If you agree, we can set up the UFC...

HARVEY: Don't you ever god damn motherfucking threaten me! God damn! Don't you ever fucking threaten me!

DIAMOND: I did not threaten you.

HARVEY: You just god damn stood and said you fucking challenge me! I will wear your fucking ass out! Don't you ever fucking threaten me! I'm hear to fucking help your fat ass!

DIAMOND: You put yourself in a protected spot...

HARVEY: No, you god-damn — first after you said you'd kick his ass, you said you'd kick mine! Why the fuck don't you ever think?



DIAMOND: Did I say I'd kick your ass?

HARVEY: Yes you did!

IAN SMITH: You did.

HARVEY: You stood right there, and goddamn fucking said it!

DIAMOND: Can you roll the tape back? Is that what I said? Is that what I said?

HARVEY: You don't want fuck over with me, boy, 'cause I'll wear your fucking ass out.

DIAMOND: That's a threat.

HARVEY: I will fuck your world

IAN SMITH: Go, Dustin. Go, Dustin...

DIAMOND: That's the threat.

HARVEY: I think that... and you're god damn right, It's a fucking promise. It's not a god damn threat. It's a fucking promise! Don't you ever, in your fucking life — in your fucking cartoon life...

DIAMOND: (To stagehand) ....attack me on camera...

HARVEY: ...ever fucking threaten me, bitch. 'Cause I will wear your fucking ass out. Now you take that shit to your porn convention.

IAN SMITH: Get off the scales.

DIAMOND: I'm off the scales.

HARVEY: And if you ever fucking go to A, you better standby. Guarantee that shit, too. Now put that bitch on the VSPOT. Get the fuck out of here.

DIAMOND: Whatever.


This clip appears on VH-1's "VSPOT" page. It closes with Sgt. Harvey offering one final thought.

"He got away this time, but he's lucky my home girl held me back.

"Because I was ready to dissect him."

See Also:
Virtual Screech, Sexual Superstar
Screech's Sex Tape Follies

Read More

7 Worst Mother’s Day Gifts



Mother's Day lets you recognize mom's good qualities — like her saint-like patience for your jackass sensitivity. Or, to put it another way — her sense of humor. So here's our list of the seven worst mother's day gifts we could imagine.

But Mom loves you already. So what have you got to lose?

MILF's Need Love Too

"It's a book! Why thank you dear. (Pause) What's a MILF?"

    "Um, it's an acronym."

"But what's it stand for?"

    "Well, uh — the M stands for 'Mother'..."

"Why is this woman chewing her necklace?"

    "It's my sister's fault. She said she'd pick out something nice for me to give you."

         "I did not!"

     "I'll get you for this!"

         "Ha ha ha ha..."

And Stacey's mom lived happily ever after.


Mom loves movies. And it's mother's day. So why not a movie called... Mother's Day?

Because it's an R-rated horror film from the notorious Troma studios. The producers of Blood Sucking Freaks tell the gruesome story of three sorority girls who get captured in the woods and tortured by two hicks — and their mother. When asked for plot keywords, Amazon's reviewers recommended the words "kidnapping," "disturbing," "sadism," and "murder". One reviewer even calls it "The first movie I ever walked out of. And I was home!"

Special features include a commentary track, plus footage of grossed-out people watching the movie.

Mom would probably prefer the Hitchcock movie about that nice schizophrenic whose mother is a mummified corpse in the basement. Because at least he was polite.
It's My Head In a Box

A Very Special Bracelet Mom loves her charm bracelet. To help personalize it, each family member gives her a charm. There's one from her son, one from each daughter, and one from Dad that says "A little head never hurt anyone."

Last year Dad gave Mom a Pugster bracelet that said "Two in the pink, one in the stink." But she didn't understand it, so the next charm had a picture. Amazon has since discontinued any charm bracelets advertising "the shocker," but there's still one very special bracelet charm that just says "PMS."

We told Dad these were great gift ideas — but that's because we're trying to get them divorced. For her birthday, Dad gave her a charm that said "Pootie Tang."

Any day now...

This heartwarming family classic shows Mrs. Sturak, an elderly babysitter, who dies the instant mom leaves for Australia. In a surprise plot twist, the five children dump her body at the morgue — "Nice old lady inside. Died of natural causes" — then party all summer.

Mom will love seeing her worst nightmares come to life. For added angst, the movie even stars Christina Applegate, who played the slutty daughter on "Married With Children". Although to be fair, in this movie she learns a valuable lesson about responsibility, and even gets a job.

And no, it isn't pole dancing.
Dreams Come True




A Night of Romance

"I can't wait to see her face light up!" Dad had said. Mom was waiting in the bedroom for her special Mother's Day present...

But at first, through the doorway, all we heard was sobbing. Then we heard Dad's voice, saying "You don't understand. That's the name of the weed."

Then we heard a loud noise, and then Dad saying "Oww!" Eventually, the police came.

Now we're staying with Aunt Minnie.

For all the sex-positive soccer moms, here's a t-shirt that says "I love porn."

It's cotton, with a banded hem, by the fashionable designers at Locher's of Paris. ("To counterbalance the elegance and antiquity of the embroidery...the playful charm of a dirty saying embroidered into every shirt.") They promise their shirts highlight mom's best asset — "her sense of humor."

Their fine print cautions the shirts are "something your Mother wouldn't wear, and your Daddy shouldn't see."

Which, perversely, makes me want to buy one even more.
Fine Print





The Perfect Gift

Mother's Day was originally an anti-war crusade. Over the years it eventually became an opportunity to recognize Mom's seething resentment over her life's shattered dreams with flowers.

But only once a year.

So Sunday get mom what she really needs — a divorce. This book promises "a thorough overview of the divorce process" — plus cartoons! It's the perfect gift after years of enduring your demanding, moody, and overbearing father. (And remember — Father's Day is June 17.)

One Chicago divorce attorney even put up a billboard with encouragement — showing a young man's muscular torso over the headline "Life is short. Get a divorce." Doesn't your mom deserve the best?

If it all works out, you could wind up with some new step brothers and step sisters.

And hopefully — they'll have better taste in Mothers Day gifts.

See also:
Nancy Drew's Sexy Secrets
10 Worst Spiderman Tie-Ins
The Male Scale: 10 Archetypes
Top 5 Cartoon Hunks

Read More

Air Guitar Nation Rocks On


Air Guitar Nation

It's been at least seven years since I've been proud of my country. But my countrymen, air guitarists C. Diddy and Björn Türoque, did all us Americans proud as they represented this great land of ours at the 2003 Annual Air Guitar World Championship Contest in Oula, Finland.

Their road to airy stardom is covered in the hilarious film, Air Guitar Nation, which is opening this weekend in movie theaters around the country. It's a rare thing these days when you get to have some pure, unadulterated, goofy-ass fun. If you think the spirit of rock is dead, go see this movie. It's the most fun that you can have without the sex and the drugs.

I interviewed Air Guitar Nation Director Alexandra Lipsitz and former Air Guitar World Champion C. Diddy briefly via email.



RU SIRIUS: Alexandra, did you have an epiphany about air guitar that made you want to make this film?

ALEXANDRA LIPSITZ: Epiphany hmmm… is that like a new model from Gibson? Yeah, kind of. I had been shooting the competiton for two years for the Magical Elves and US Air Guitar. We were going to make a TV show. It was not getting picked up so I said let's make a Doc. Everyone agreed and we were on our way.



RU: A lot of people think of air guitarists as losers that you can laugh at. But I think something else comes across in this film. What's your take on that?

AL: What is my take on air guitarist being losers? Well, in competitive air guitar someone has to win and, yes, someone has to lose. So I guess there are losers in the bunch. My experience with the folks attracted to air guitar has been very diverse. Usually the people are pretty smart, funny and creative. Sometimes they are completely nuts. I love them all.

C. DIDDY: Loser is just another name for nothing left to lose. People underestimate the air guitarist at their peril. It is a scientific fact that the air guitarist can save rock 'n fuckin' roll!



RU: I thought all the air guitarists were really charming. In some ways, they re-awakened my love of rock and roll in a way that the musicians themselves might not. It's innocent fun, yes?

AL: There is nothing innocent about these folks. They are the fun in DysFUNctional.

RU: Diddy, you had the momentary rush of stardom. Do you still feel like a rock star?

CD: I felt like a rock star before and I feel like a rock star now. And when I'm gone, I'll still be a rock star but with Eddie and Jimi at my side. Hence, the grace of an air guitar god.

RU: As you were shooting and editing the film, did you find yourself thinking like one of the judges? Did you agree or disagree with any of their opinions?

AL: I think the judges in 2003 were awesome. I think Bjorn Turoque may have been misjudged a bit, but thank god he was, the story was improved by it. I have seen some poor judging in the years following though. In 2006, we had a huge scandal with the judging.

RU: Do tell.

AL: The Judges were a bit confused. So there was a controversy as to who was the champion, and they had already given the trophy to Hott Lixx Hulihan. It was a travesty and the air guitarists rose up and told them to screw themselves. It was beautiful and I will start the Trilogy with this scene.

RU: Damn, I hate injustice! Actually on my way to watching the film I thought – what if instead of the film being fun, it was actually full of pathos. It's not. It's fun. But Björn Türoque does provide a hint of pathos. (I'll leave it at that, so as not to be a spoiler.) But then he got to close out the film with a cool song!

AL: He actually did the score! He is an awesome musician! We could not get the rights to some of the songs he air guitared to. So he had to watch himself air guitaring to a song and write a new song to match what he was air guitaring too.

RU: Diddy, you're into theater. How does your talent for air guitar relate to your theatrical talents?

CD: Performance is the same animal no matter the cage. I'm a classically trained actor which means classically trained to kick all ass when armed with an air guitar.



RU: Last question. You had about three seconds of some guy playing air guitar on his dick. Was that just irresistible to include, and should I assume the film is not rated? And who is that guy?

AL: The film is rated R - because America is afraid of saying Fuck and seeing dick. It is ridiculous. Just today I was speaking to a very smart 5-year-old who had been to the film's opening night in LA. I asked him what his favorite scene was and he told me the man playing his pee pee. So there you go. What does the rating system really know? Also, to see the full performance of "Rival Man," please buy the DVD. It is truly awesome.

Air Guitar Nation website

See also:
Six Freakiest Children's TV Rock Bands
Mondology Volume 1 Free Audio Download
Dan The Automator Remixes The Blue Angels
How the iPod Changes Culture

Read More

Ten Worst Spiderman Tie-Ins


Spidey Stuff!

It's the most expensive movie ever made — and probably the most heavily licensed.

Sony Pictures needs to earn $250 million just to break even on Spiderman 3 — so they've already licensed the costumed superhero's image for hundreds of products. Some are funny, some are strange, and some are stupid. We'll let you figure out which are which.

When Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider, he learned that with great power comes great responsibility.

But I don't think he ever expected...toothbrushes.



Fights Crime — and Cavities

Nothing screams dental hygiene like a tiny superhero clinging desperately to your toothbrush. ("No! Not the back molars!!") Is Peter Parker afraid of tooth decay, or just of being pushed into your stinky mouth?

This $8.00 toothbrush from Crest features the ol' floss-spinner himself. Fight plaque with the power of a radioactive spider's bite — and some delicious Crest toothpaste.

And maybe some mouthwash.


Bitten by a radioactive flea, "Spider-Dog" gained the proportionate strength of a spider, and can also lick himself.

Now he does whatever a spider can — and also, fetches.

And humps the mailman's leg.

He tried to join the Avengers once, but they kicked him out because he kept sniffing the other superheroes' butts.
Starring Kirsten Dunst




Sticks to Walls


"Ooh — did ookums get a boo-boo? I was bitten by a radioactive insect, gaining the freakish powers of a spider. So if there's one thing I know about, it's preventing infections."

"Unless you're allergic to latex."



"I'm a graduate from the Harvard School of Business — and my tie has Spider-Man on it."

It's the cutting edge in comic book superhero formal wear, and it's drawing rave reviews on Amazon.

"WOMEN LOVE IT!!! ...There's nothing that says, 'I'm a great lover and would make a good father' quite like 'Ol Spidey dangling right there down a man's torso... when I put this tie on, it's like I'm shooting electric sparks of love!"

5 of 5 people found this review helpful.
Get a Job!




Snuggle-Man


Spider-Man would be less popular if he actually looked like this. And he'd probably be less intimidating to supervillains. Especially if they discovered that his secret identity was a cuddly plush pillow for ages three and up.


Among other things, it raises the question of how he'd blend into society when he returned to his identity as Peter Parker.

"Hey, Mary Jane. Who's your flat, box-shaped boyfriend with the legs that bend backwards?"

"He sure looks snuggly."




It's the ultimate slipper — it's half good, and half evil.

While you pad across your living room, Spider-Man protects you from supervillains and chilly tiles.

But Venom is lurking, just a few toes away, brooding on malevolent new crimes that involve static electricity.

Just remember: While you're lazing around on a Sunday morning, your slippers are plotting to destroy you.

Venom for your Feet




Secret Identity


The guys in gym class will never make fun of you again — oh no, not after they've seen your Spider-Man underwear. There will be no obvious jokes about whether your "Spider Sense" is tingling, no sniggering remarks about how you'll replenish your web shooters...

Go get 'em, Tiger.





"Who is this Spider-Man," snarls fictitious newspaper editor J. Jonah Jameson. Apparently he's a 7-year-old named David, who climbs up walls while his face never moves.

It's almost as though David's parents had uploaded his picture to Kideo.com so their child could "star" in a customized Spider-Man movie for $38.

It's money well spent, since according to their web page, the DVD also includes "an educational tutorial on spiders" hosted by noted spider authority...J. Jonah Jameson.


Former Child Star




Spider Hobo

Not only could Spider-Man stop a freight train — he is a freight train.

What kid hasn't dreamed of replacing fighting superheroes with drawings of them on the sides of a box car. Just imagine the thrilling battles when the Spider-Man boxcar fights the Green Goblin boxcar — to boxcar death.

The real moral of this story is that Sony didn't need to spend a quarter of a billion dollars making Spiderman 3. Kids would rather stay home playing with trains.

The Amazing Prosthetic Arm Spider-Man Fishing Rod



This last toy came from an open source project designing prosthetic limbs. They offer an online forum called "Pimp my Arm" — and somehow decided to combine a prosthetic arm with a fishing rod.

This isn't a commercial product — which puts the whole thing into perspective. If slapping the Spider-Man logo onto red and blue plastic was ever going to be meaningful, this is it. Imagine a happy child writing their own version of the Spider-Man theme song...about their arm.

Maybe it doesn't spin a web, any size. But it catches fish...using flies.


Go get 'em, tiger.




See Also:
George Bush vs. Spider-Man
Lost "Horrors" Ending Found on YouTube
The Celebrity Breast Conspiracy
Five Lamest Charlie Brown Cartoons
Neil Gaiman Has Lost His Clothes

Read More

Closing Pandora’s Box: The End of Internet Radio?


Internet Radio has become a powerful resource for people looking for greater musical diversity when they tune in. Now that diversity is threatened by a draconian rate increase for every copyrighted tune that these stations play.

In a ruling that was made public just after this article was initially published, the Copyright Royalty Board has extended the deadline for implementing the new rate structure to July 15th. According to the AP: "Webcasters can file a notice to appeal the decision in federal court, something they have said they plan to do."

Tim Westergren is one of the leading spokespeople for SaveNetRadio.org, the organization that is fighting back against the new regulations.

Westergren is also founder of the Musical Genome Project and Pandora Internet Radio. Coincidentally, Pandora has just hit a snarl with international licensing. On Wednesday, Pandora sent an email to its 6.5 million subscribers with bad news — they would now be forced to curtail access to subscribers in most non-U.S. countries. ("[W]e are deeply, deeply sorry to say... It is difficult to convey just how disappointing this is...")

I recently interviewed Westergren on NeoFiles. Jeff Diehl joined me.

To listen to the full interview in MP3, click here

RU SIRIUS: Let's start with the basics. What has the Copyright Royalty Board done?

TIM WESTERGREN: It's pretty simple. We pay a licensing fee for every song that we stream, which was determined by the Copyright Royalty Board. And the royalty board just voted to almost triple those fees within the next couple of years. So overnight, they've made webcast radio pretty much impossible. It's impossible, at these new rates, to really operate a radio station online.



RU: So who is the Copyright Royalty Board and how did they become so empowered?

TW: They're members of the copyright office in D.C. They were empowered by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Its purpose was, sort of, to govern webcasting; to provide a structure, both in terms of the constraints and the licensing structure. There were three judges assigned to this case.

RU: So there are no existing checks and balances at this point other than to try to go back to Congress?

TW: It looks like our only recourse is to get some legislative help. So in the last couple of weeks, under the "Save Net Radio" coalition, we've tried to organize as many webcasters and musicians and other folks to put pressure on Congress. There was such an uproar in the first week following this ruling that a bill was just introduced on Thursday of last week to roll it back, and to further alter the basic structural problem that really discriminates against internet radio.

RU: Who's sponsoring the bill?

TW: Representatives Jay Inslee, a Democrat from Washington, and Don Manzullo, a Republican from Illinois, are the lead sponsors. Many co-sponsors are signing up as we speak.

RU: Tell us a bit about the bill.

TW: It's called the Internet Radio Equality Act. As the title indicates, it's trying to establish parity between internet radio and satellite radio. Right now, internet radio is treated differently and worse than satellite and much worse than terrestrial radio for the same function. We're asking to be treated equally — which means paying a percent of revenue. The bill would void this Royalty Board ruling and establish parity with the percent revenue that's used for satellite radio.

RU: Do people who oppose this equal treatment argue that internet radio is harder to keep track of? Maybe more stations can slip through the cracks because the internet is virtually infinite.

TW: I don't think I've ever heard that argument. Originally, there was some argument that it was easier to copy off the internet because it's digital. But of course, HD radio is digital. Satellite radio is digital sometimes. So that argument is no longer used.

RU: Going way back, we could always slip a cassette in and record directly off the radio.

It's probably pretty difficult to get anything like this through Congress. My impression, for instance, is that the entertainment industry owns many Congresspeople, particularly in the Democratic Party, where a lot of your support would seem likely to come from.

TW: In general, I think that's historically true. When it comes to things like licensing and issues as it relates to media and music, Congress has been the domain of the industry. But I think in the last three or four years, we've started to see a reversal of that leverage. The internet has empowered this huge class of musicians and "participative listeners" now. I think that power is just starting to show and I don't think they're going to take this sitting down. In the end, I hope and believe that Congress is going to react to their constituents. There were hundreds of thousands of FAXes and letters sent to Congressmen within a couple of days of the coalition starting.

RU: Now, there seem to be two dates on this. I understand it's retroactive back to January of 2006 — but then there's another date approaching. Is that correct?

TW: Well, that's D-Day! July 15 is the day. That's the latest date we've heard when these rates are going to become law. And when they do become effective, the payments are retroactive back to the beginning of '06. On that day, every webcaster will be suddenly faced with a fee that they can't afford.

RU: Did they inform people of this in January of 2006?

TW: A plan for this rate to be readjusted was announced at the end of '05. It took a long time for them to set the rate, but I think what they came up with was a shock to everybody.

RU: But technically, you're playing songs in January of 2006 for one price, and then they're coming along and charging you more money. That doesn't sound legal to me.

TW: Well, I don't know about the legality of it, that's not my expertise. But I can tell you that on that day, the bills will be due from everyone from college radio to non-profits to small webcasters. For folks like us at Pandora, the costs are going to be astronomical.

I think that this ruling has virtually no constituents.

RU: Well, there's the RIAA

TW: I would argue, though, that if they really thought this through, they would recognize that this is a bad decision. It's crushing a promotional channel.

JEFF DIEHL: Did they give a rationale for such a huge hike in the rates?

TW: Well, Sound Exchange is the organization that pushed for it. And their rationale is that it's fair, and that if you can't run a business on it, you shouldn't be in business.

RU: That's not much of an argument.

JD: But why that amount of a hike? An incremental increase would be one thing, but this is exponential. They don't give any reason for that?

TW: All I can do is take at face value what I hear, in terms of press releases and commentary. And it's all been, "It's fair, and if you can't run a business on it, then you shouldn't be in business."

RU: Who does Sound Exchange work for? They're supposedly representing musicians, right?

TW: That's an interesting question. Sound Exchange is meant to represent all musicians. And their board is comprised of artists, and representatives of the small labels and the large labels. And I'm a musician myself. I used to play in bands. I spent ten years living in a van and doing that whole thing. I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a dozen musicians who — if they got fully educated on the subject — would actually support this ruling that is ostensibly supposed to help them.

RU: It's sort of mysterious how this could emerge from an artist's organization rather than from the music corporations. I mean, obviously radio had promoted music for several generations. It's baffling.

TW: There were two sides in the discussion – the webcasters and some artists were on one side; and then Sound Exchange, the RIAA, and these various constituents were on the other. They argued in front of the Royalty Board for different solutions. And the Royalty Board, in a very flawed ruling, went all the way in one direction. So my guess is that the ruling surprised even Sound Exchange, although they've defended it since.



RU: I'm still trying to figure out whose interests are being served...

TW: Well, if this goes through, it basically ruins internet radio. But maybe a small handful will continue to stream – folks who can somehow continue. And in order to continue, they'll be forced to sign direct licensing agreements with labels. When they do that, there's a big difference in the way the royalties are divided up. In the current DMCA statute, all the royalties get split half with the artist, half with the label. In the world where you're dealing directly with a label, it virtually all goes to the label. So that could be one incentive.

RU: Okay, I'm beginning to see some interests who would like to monopolize Internet radio and who could be behind this.

On the Save Net Radio web site, there's talk about a 300% - 1200% percent increase. That's a big difference. How is all that mapped out?

TW: That's a good question. The reason for the difference is that in the previous rate structure, there was two ways stations could pay. Smaller and non- commercial webcasters could pay a percent of their revenue. And if you got beyond a certain size, you had to pay per tuning hour rate. The new ruling creates one rule for everybody, and it's all just "per song." So if you take someone who's paying a percent of revenue, and then translate that to what they would be paying in this new rate, in some cases it's over a 1,000% increase.

RU: Stations that have very little revenue had a way of functioning before and now they won't.

TW: And I think that's important. Pandora is all for paying musicians. We completely believe in that and we've done that since the very beginning. But the rate that they're paid needs to make sense in this business as it exists right now. And it's all about promotion. Online radio is the only hope that your average indie musician has for getting any kind of exposure.

RU: It's become common knowledge that most people hate terrestrial radio. They hate the radio stations and what the corporations have done to them. And people are looking all over the place for alternatives.

TW: The growth in internet radio is certainly partly because folks are looking for alternatives. And it's an alternative for musicians too.

RU: Of course, it took a while to work out an agreement where internet radio stations were legally allowed to play music that's owned. I think it was really after the DMCA in 1998 that some agreements were worked out. Do you know anything about that history?

TW: I'm not a perfect historian on this, but basically in 2002, that whole legislation that you're talking about was re-considered. And that's when new language was inserted into the bill that changed the standard for rate setting for internet radio. It's called the "willing buyer, willing seller" standard. It's a standard that's only applied to internet radio — it's not applied to satellite and it's not applied to terrestrial radio. It opened up a doorway for this kind of crazy rate-setting to come along.

RU: Many people have observed that the smallest webcasters are the ones that are really going to get screwed by this. Most college stations stream on the web, and they will be among the first to go. Where is Pandora in this?

TW: Pandora's a large webcaster…

RU: Are you guys going to survive?

TW: Not at these rates. Pandora can't make it work at these rates.

RU: That's very honest of you. Your investors must be...

TW: Yeah… they read a quote in the news from me one morning saying, "We're dead if this stays." It wasn't hyperbole. Larger webcasters like Pandora… we're actually a viable alternative for independent musicians. We have 6.5 million listeners right now, and that figure is growing fast. That's the kind of critical mass that's really going to allow you to build a new independent artists' foundation. And I'm a huge fan of indie, but even indie musicians need scale. They need to support the growth of large internet companies that do this, as well as the small ones.

JD: What role do the record labels really play for the artists anymore — marketing, getting musicians on the radio? Isn't it possible that an outfit like yours could connect directly with artists and say, "We'll support you"? Is there a chance to get rid of that middleman?

TW: Well, I think that the industry is starting to bifurcate. There is still the sort of "hit" industry that is the traditional business. And the stations that play that are largely marketing vehicles, like you said. But with some good software editing tools and good recording chops, you can make a CD now without borrowing half a million dollars, which was the whole premise for the record deal in the beginning. So technology has now allowed musicians to make professional-sounding CDs, and make them available globally, virtually for free. The record labels won't go away. They're going to change and consolidate more and more, which they've already been doing.

RU: There are some startups that are trying to do that — to eliminate the middleman.

TW: Oh yeah. There's a whole industry growing up around the "new label" — which is more like a quasi-management/distribution/promotions company. I think that's going to play a bigger and bigger role.

RU: And then some rock stars who have enough of a reputation can also...

TW: … do it on their own.

RU: Prince has done some of that.

TW: Pandora is not going to go into the label business. We really need to separate the radio from having any kind of agenda related the music we play. I think that's really important.

RU: Does it bug the music industry that people can make their own radio stations with companies like yours? It was always a dream of mine that I could just run down a list of all my favorite artists, and just have some station regurgitate their entire catalogues in some randomized fashion.

TW: I think that one of the debates around internet radio, is: is it promotional or is it substitutional? When it gets really interactive and you can choose at any time to listen to "Dark Side of the Moon" from front to back — chances are you're not going to buy the album. And when that happens, whoever is doing that is providing something that's kind of in lieu of buying a CD or buying a single. They would need to charge something different for that.

RU: It seems like you guys are pretty close to that boundary compared to, say, a station where DJs spin tunes that they choose.

TW: To me, the real bright line is that we're not offering songs on demand. On Pandora, you won't know when a song's coming, just like on terrestrial radio. I think that makes it fundamentally different. And Pandora's a wildly promotional service.

RU: The big broadcast stations also have streaming on the internet. Are you getting any support from any of them?

TW: Yeah. The National Association of Broadcasters is with us too. Every radio company wants to be part of the online world.

RU: So what's in it for us podcasters? When do we get a voice in Washington?

TW: Well, I think this is a great bill for anybody who wants to include music in their programming because it's acknowledging the internet format as radio. So I think it's a step in the right direction for podcasters too.

RU: Good! Do you think we could grandfather ourselves in under this? We could just say, "Hey, this applies to us!" and maybe make a test case out of it.

TW: Well, I think the one difference between podcast and radio is that you create and post copies of your shows. So you create a copy of a piece of music that you can replay, rewind, and so on. So it's in a different category. And I think that if you're making a copy of a piece of music that can be used and re-used, it's legitimate to worry that people won't buy the music. So it's different.

RU: Before I let you go, tell us a little something about your own work. How was the Musical Genome Project conceived and how does it work?

TW: It's something that we started about seven and a half years ago in a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco. It's an enormous collections of songs that we have been analyzing, musicologically, one song at a time to try to capture their musical DNA. A team of musicians literally listens to songs — one at a time — and analyzes them for their attributes. We have 50 musicians working for us now. We've been at it for seven and a half years, so it's really been a long path to create enough music in one collection to power the radio service. It takes between 15 and 30 minutes to analyze each song.

RU: I was trying to think about whether music can really be broken down into its component parts. So I tried your station. I combined Brian Eno, Leonard Cohen, The Beatles and Sonic Youth and it worked pretty well. But then I was thinking, if I added my absolute favorite band, which would be The Rolling Stones circa 1966 – 1972, I'd wind up getting lots of stuff that sucks like Aerosmith and Guns 'N' Roses.

TW: Musically, there's always going to be some stuff that's great that you can't quite put your finger on. I think that's part of what makes music so great. But yeah… it works most of the time, but there are going to be some situations where you're not going to be happy with what you hear.



RU: Give folks a final pitch for how they can get active to save net radio.

TW: Go to SaveNetRadio.org where we're keeping all the news and recommendations on what to do and we’ve got the latest news on the bill. But the basic call to action is for folks to call their Congressperson to urge them to support this bill, which is called the Internet Radio Equality Act, and it's House Resolution 2060. Call your Congressperson for your district. You can look it up on the web just by typing in your zip code. All that information's at SaveNet Radio.org. Make a call and say "Support the bill!"

See Also:
Dear Internet, I'm Sorry
Is Yahoo/Flicker DMCA Policy Censorship?
Detention and Torture: Are We Still Free, or Not?
How the iPod Changes Culture

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Pulp Fiction Parodies on YouTube


Pulp Fiction changed cinema — but then the internet changed Pulp Fiction. Web pranksters have kicked down the door for a surprise attack on the 1994 film, re-imagining its dialogue in a series of surprising parodies.

Of course, Quentin Tarantino's own films have always included homages to his favorite movies, so maybe these parodies are just homages to favorite Tarantino scenes, celebrating the excitement of his violent, dialogue-filled originals. Jules and Vincent still roll to a hit while discussing what the French call their quarter pounders.

But after passing through the minds of a million internet wise guys — the scenes look a little different.

1. Muppet Pulp Fiction


Promising "a new film directed post-humously by Jim Henson," this trailer warns that "You won't know the facts until you seen it done with puppets." Kermit, Fozzie, and Beaker fulfill the whims of a muppet crimelord and his sultry temptress girlfriend — who looks less like Uma Thurman than she does Miss Piggy. The trailer promises grandly to explore the themes of loyalty, stuffing, and googly eyes...

But somewhere there's a breakfast diner that's about to be knocked over by Gonzo.


2. English, Motherfucker


The most original video has no characters at all — just an amazing animation of the words used in the scene. One by one they appear — "What ain't no country I ever heard of!" — in a hand-writing font synchronized perfectly to the dialogue.

"English" becomes an angry red-white-and blue British flag, and when you hear Brad start to reply, those nervous ellipses in "What...?" spell trouble.


3. I've Got Rhythm


Honey Bunny is ready — but then the jukebox kicks in.

This amazing music video demonstrates "video scratching" — Pulp Fiction dialogue samples matched perfectly to the music's rhythm. Using a trippy home-brewed version of the soundtrack, its echoey guitars compliment a suggestive series of clips showing a lighter, a spoon, a syringe...and then dancing.



Yes, there's the sound of squealing tires — but they're squealing in rhythm.

The drum beats even sync with Samuel L. Jackson's famous "Ezekiel" speech, as he lays down vengeance...and a righteous rhythm.


4. Royale With Cheese — and Robots


"Okay, tell me again about the hash bars," the scene begins — but it's read entirely by robots.

Samuel L. Jackson is a black metal robot with red flashing eyes and a fierce grill mouth, his fists cocked angrily to his side. But in this video it's a friendly silver robot which explains to him what to do if you get stopped by a cop in Amsterdam. ("Oh man. I'm going. That's all there is to it. I'm fucking going.") As his yellow eyes twinkle with joy, the silver robot's mechanized speech centers share the little differences — just one robot to another.

"You know what they put on French fries in Holland...?"


5. Walt Disney Presents...


John Travolta is a Disney Lion, and Samuel L. Jackson is Pumbaa the warthog. But he's got his hands full with a sleek female lion insisting "My husband your boss told you to take me out and do whatever I wanted," while it's the conniving Disney lion Scar who warns "in the fifth, your ass goes down."

This re-dubbed version of the heart-warming classic The Lion King is called — what else — Pulp Lions.

But I'm guessing Elton John wouldn't get anywhere near its soundtrack...



6. Every Motherfucking Last One Of You


Here's a handy cheat sheet for this video. "Any of you fucking pricks move, and I'll execute every motherfucking last one of ya!" just becomes "motherfucking."

"Do you speak English, motherfucker" just becomes "motherfucker."

And "Whose chopper is this?" isn't even in the movie.

It's the "Fuckin' Short Version" of Pulp Fiction, in which every shot is deleted unless it contains a character saying "fuck." Or "fucking". Or "motherfucker." Or, of course, "fucking motherfuckers."

And it's over two minutes long.

By the end it will seem strange if the characters don't say fuck.


7. What Planet Are You From?


A giant green alien shouts "English, motherfucker, do you speak it?" He's grilling anime charaters from Dragonball Z — who double-crossed the wrong alien.

"What country are you from?" he demands, with glaring alien eyes. "Say 'what' again. I double dare you!" (Though the new movie Grindhouse features Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror, imagine what he could have done with an alien who sounded like Samuel L. Jackson.)


8. The Phantom Marcellus


Samuel L. Jackson counsels his partner to "take care of" the big man's wife — though in this version she's played by Natalie Portman. Thanks to footage from the Star Wars movies, her Pulp Fiction escort becomes Jedi Ewan McGregor, and her husband — the crimelord Marcellus — is actually Jabba the Hutt.



With appearances by Han Solo and Princess Leia, this mashup supplies new footage for classic lines like "You got a corpse in a car minus a head in a garage..." and "Die! You muther—" — all courtesy of unauthorized swipes from LucasArts films.

It also includes the one actor you'd never expect to see in a Tarantino film. Yoda.


9. Brick Fiction


Pulp Fiction passed through the web and came out as Legos. Two different people have attempted the Honey Bunny "execution" speech with Legos.

It's difficult to convey menace with a pistol-waving mini-fig — but that's ultimately the point. Longer versions show Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta as...mini-figs in leather jackets. With drawn-on facial hair, they recite the "Royale with cheese" dialogue and anticipate their next hit while looking in a laughably tiny car trunk. ("We should have shotguns for this...")

Even Brad faces his ultimate reckoning with a painted-on Lego smile.


10. Pulp Ficturama


"Everybody be cool, this is a robbery!" As the diner scene's dialogue segues into fast electric guitar, there's a perfect Tarantino montage. It's got over-the-top action and adrenaline — but it's showing a giant mechanical crab attacking the city.



Pulp Fiction mixes its DNA with characters from Futurama — Leela, Dr. Zoidberg, Fry, and Bender. Only this time the hapless victims aren't terrorized by Samuel L. Jackson. They're attacked by rockets.

Every last motherfucking one of them.


See Also:
Five Best Videos: Animals Attacking Reporters
Lost "Horrors" Ending Found on YouTube
Six Freakiest Children's TV Rock Bands
Five Freaky Muppet Videos

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When Kurt Vonnegut Met Sammy Davis




When Kurt Vonnegut published Slaughterhouse Five, he was 47. He'd struggled for 20 years to earn a living as an American writer, working as a public relations man for General Electric, an advertising copy writer, and even a car salesman. "All I wanted to do was support my family," Vonnegut wrote in 1999. "I didn't think I would amount to a hill of beans."

But this forgotten period of his life also includes a haunting story about television, a World War II story, and Sammy Davis Jr.

With two children, "I needed more money than GE would pay me," Vonnegut wrote in his introduction to Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction. "I also wanted, if possible, more self-respect." Vonnegut hoped to spend his life writing short stories for magazines, and began tapping his experiences in World War II — and in the world that followed. But in the 1950s the magazines publishing his fiction were exterminated by the ultimate juggernaut: television.

"You can't fight progress," Vonnegut wrote bitterly. "The best you can do is ignore it, until it finally takes your livelihood and self-respect away." In 1958 his sister died — and then her husband a few days later — and the 36-year-old would consider abandoning writing altogether.



In another world, Sammy Davis Jr. was a rising star. Though the 32-year-old had yet to join Frank Sinatra's Rat Pack, he was making a name for himself as an entertainer in Las Vegas and on Broadway. In a 1989 biography, Sammy remembered asking his agency for a role in TV dramas, and being told a black actor would be too jarring for audiences in the south.

"Baby," he replied, "have you any idea how jarring it must be for about five million colored kids who sit in front of their TV sets hour after hour and they almost never see anybody who looks like them? It's like they and their families and their friends just plain don't exist."

Sammy's genuine pain found echoes in one of Vonnegut's stories. D.P. — published in Welcome to the Monkey House — tells the story of the only black boy in a German orphanage. ("Had the children not been kept there...they might have wandered off the edges of the earth, searching for parents who had long ago stopped searching for them.") When the boy spots a black American soldier, he mistakes him for his father.

Sammy was cast as the soldier in a television adaption of the story. Though TV was killing Vonnegut's career, he'd ended up as the co-author on this single teleplay. (Ironically, it was to appear in a showcase of half-hour dramas sponsored by his old employer: G.E. Theatre.) The published story ends with the young boy explaining his newfound hopes to the other skeptical orphans.

"How do you know he wasn't fooling you?"
"Because he cried when he left me."

In the teleplay, the heart-wrenching scene is played out. The alienated soldier — an orphan himself — finds himself abandoning the boy, yelling "Go away! I'm not your father!

"I don't need you!"

Then he realizes he can't do it. He collapses to his knees, and sobs "I need you."

And he promises he'll be back.

Sammy remembers that "everybody on the set was crying." Future President Ronald Reagan even wandered in — then the host of GE Theatre — and said warmly that "It's going to be a wonderful episode."

And according to Sammy's biography, his Hollywood agent Sy thought it was a milestone for America. "Well, sweetheart, you've made television history. When they write the books about the tube, they've got to write that Sammy Davis Jr. was the first Negro actor to star in episodic television... You'll have opened those doors for others to follow." Sammy remembered that "It didn't matter what as long as they broke out of it being just maids and butlers."



But there was one problem. General Electric worried that nearly two-thirds of their products were sold "below the Mason-Dixon line," according to Sammy's agent. His biography remembers that painful conversation. "They say they will be ostracized by their white customers and dealers. So there's no way we can use that show.

"The sponsor is the boss... GE paid for the show, and it's GE's right to bury it."

The show finally aired — in a doomed time slot competing against Rock Hudson's first television appearance ever. But surprisingly, it beat Hudson's ratings in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles — and was only a half point behind nationwide. The reaction was surprisingly positive, and GE even cast Sammy in two more episodes. And somewhere, America began to change.

Before publishing SlaughterHouse Five, Vonnegut struggled through another 10 years of writing. In Bagombo Snuff Box he complained that when he published Mother Night and The Sirens of Titan, "I got for each of them what I used to get for a short story."

But eight years before his death he'd look back fondly on the 1950s in America, remembering it as "a golden age of magazine fiction..."
"...a time before there was television, when an author might support a family by writing stories that satisfied uncritical readers of magazines, and earning thereby enough free time in which to write serious novels.

"This old man's hope has to be that some of his earliest tales, for all their mildness and innocence and clumsiness, may, in these coarse times, still entertain."


See also:
Robert Anton Wilson 1932-2007
Neil Gaiman Has Lost His Clothes
Rudy Rucker Interview
When Cory Doctorow Ruled the World

Read More

David Sedaris Exaggerates For Us All


David Sedaris

When our government lies to us, there are consequences. So maybe it’s the dire and surreal fictionalizing of the current US administration – the people who once ridiculed the press for dealing in a "fact-based reality" – that has our collective bowels in such an uproar over finding some exaggerations in the non-fiction section.

But if we start judging creative, funny storytellers by the strict standards we should apply to politicians, we will pay the price in tedium. Believe me: every interesting and amusing and exciting memoir you've ever read contained some exaggeration. Do you think every word written by Anais Nin is gospel truth? Shall she be booted out of the canon along with dozens of other writers who have inspired college girls and bohemians to ruin their lives? No wonder Hunter S. Thompson blew his own brains out.

In a New Republic cover story, Tad Friend Alex Heard has revealed that some of David Sedaris' very popular memoirs aren't completely factual. S.F. Chronicle columnist Jon Carroll, who must have actually read Sedaris' books, commented: "I am just amazed that anyone thought David Sedaris stories were literally true. I am even more amazed that the New Republic would publish a lengthy article 'proving' that David Sedaris' stories were not literally true."



Writers are desperate people. This is not the place to go into the depredations of the book industry, but those of us "content providers" who work within it have all heard this one from our agents: "They want memoirs!" Well, as far as I'm concerned, as long as it's good writing — wrap it up as a memoir, give it some lipstick and high heels and put it out on the street. As long as the reader has a good time, and as long as the writing is good, anything a creative writer does to get over in today's publishing environment is justified.

Friend opens his expose by quoting from an interview that appeared in 10 Zen Monkeys' progenitor webzine, GettingIt. Friend writes:
The Library of Congress called it biography, and Sedaris assured several interviewers over the years that the book was essentially factual. "Everything in Naked was true," he told GettingIt in 1999. "I mean, I exaggerate. But all the situations were true."

Here, in full, is the interview we published with David Sedaris in 1999. The interviewer was GettingIt contributor, Shermakaye Bass.

GETTINGIT: What makes a story?

DAVID SEDARIS: A few days ago I was going to the airport in Sacramento [California] with this woman who'd signed up to take me there. Within a few moments of being in the car, I learned that her husband had died and her daughter was confined to the wheelchair. But when we got to the airport, she seemed to have spent all her enthusiasm... We didn't see the sign for Alaska Air, and I asked her about it, and she said something like, "Oh, there are a lot of planes going to Seattle. You'll find something." And dropped me off at the curb.

I thought it was funny that someone would volunteer to take me to the airport and then end up just sort of dumping me off... On the way to the airport, we had seen a truck full of tomatoes that had overturned, and there were all these tomatoes — tens of thousands of tomatoes, miles and miles down the highway. And they were getting run over by trucks and the crows were picking at them. I don't know, there was just something there: all those tomatoes on the road, and her saying later that there were dozens of planes to Seattle. It was funny and it was sad, too... Ultimately, I found it funny that I wound up walking half a mile to the gate with my very heavy luggage.

GI: What's not a story?

DS: Often people will go out of their way to tell you things, thinking that perhaps you'd like to write about them. Then it's generally not that interesting to me. What's interesting is the fact that they're telling it. I suppose I have a hard time when people seem to kind of pitch things to me. There's sort of a desperate quality to it that gets in the way of the story. I can't quite hear the story because of the desperation.

GI: Do you find that people tell you really personal things when you're traveling? You meet a stranger on the plane, and they spill everything?

DS: It's when you travel on weekends. On weekdays, it's mostly people traveling on business, and they get on and off and they don't talk to you. The chatterboxes travel on weekends. They think that they're supposed to tell you everything. They think it's cute to videotape the baby's first steps through the metal detector.



GI: Is everything you write fact-based?

DS: There are some fictional things in Holidays on Ice. Everything in Naked was true. I mean, I exaggerate. But all the situations were true.

GI: What about your portrayals of your family?

DS: That's accurate. Like, my dad came to Paris, and I called him later and asked if I could write about him... He ate the brim of his hat while he was there.

GI: He ate his hat?

DS: He found this little brown chip in his suitcase, and he thought it was part of a cookie, and it was the brim of his hat — this hat he had bought in Kansas City right after the war. He was sitting on my bed and he was eating it, and then he realized it was his hat... My dad is really cheap and he'll never throw anything away. He's the same way with food... [The same evening] I thought the cat had defecated on the bed, and it was a shriveled banana he had brought from home.

GI: Did he see the humor in it?

DS: He laughed about the hat. He wouldn't laugh that he'd brought that hideous banana from North Carolina; I mean, that made perfect sense to him.

GI: You're called a comic writer. But a lot of what you write has elements of sadness. What's the relationship between comedy and tragedy?

DS: I guess I've never thought about it that hard. I know I like getting laughs. And I'm very suspicious when I write something and I sit back and read it and get misty-eyed. Then I tear it off... But I like that mix of something being sad and something being funny.

GI: Tell me about Santaland Diaries [a story about Sedaris' experience working as a Macy's elf during Christmas; it has since been turned into a play].

DS: If there's one thing I could really take back in my life, it would be that as a play. I agreed to do it because Paul Reubens [Pee-wee Herman] was supposed to do it. And then he couldn't, and the guy who did it [originally] did a good job, but I don't think it really makes for a good play. Now, when you see something about "Santaland Diaries," you always see somebody dressed up as an elf, with a cigarette and martini, and there's nothing like that in there. It's like it's about somebody who hates Christmas. I love Christmas. I've already done my shopping.

GI: In "Santaland Diaries," you say that it breaks your heart to see a man dressed up like a taco [a promotional costume]. Why?

DS: Because I don't think it's anybody's plan to grow up and dress up as a taco — especially in New York. People move to New York to succeed. And your failure is more pronounced there. There's always that fear. I mean, I could be a taco a year from now. There's always that fear of ending up a taco. If I stay in France, at least I won't end up being a taco.

GI: What are you writing about now?

DS: I have a bunch of new stories I've been working on for another book. I went to [writing] school in Paris, and my teacher was a maniac, she really was, and I wrote a story about her. I thought she'd never see it. Well, it was published in Esquire, and I got thrown out of school. Now I don't have to worry about her being angry — because she already is.



GI: What should it say on your tombstone?

DS: Oh...oh. You know, maybe, like, "It seemed funny at the time." [Chuckles] Or "Maybe you just had to be there." [Chuckles harder] "Maybe you just had to be there" wouldn't be bad.

See also:
Neil Gaiman has Lost His Clothes
Santa's Crimes Against Humanity
Author Slash Trickster JT LeRoy
Interview with Erica Jong
Raising Hunter S. Thompson

Read More

Six Freakiest Children’s TV Rock Bands


Are you ready to freak out? After the 1960s, both cartoons and live-action children's shows began including rock bands. They left a generation baffled by poseurs who said "groovy" alot — but somewhere there were subversives running wild in the programming department, and Saturday morning would never be the same.

These six videos remind us of that forgotten moment in time when the counter-culture came for our children.

1. The Secret Chimpanzee's Other Ball


Yes, it's a band composed entirely of monkeys. One year after Woodstock, and four months after Kent State, the airwaves were seized by a band of radical chimpanzees. ("C'mon baby, let your hair hang low. Let the revolution show you all you got to know...")

Each week after being introduced by a fake Ed Sullivan monkey, the "Evolution Revolution" indoctrinated a room full of pogo-ing monkeys as part of Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp. The camera zooms with rock star excitement, providing an unintentional satire of the entire pop music industry. (Alternate name: "Monkey Vanilli.") Editing can make a rock band out of anybody — including chimpanzees who look agitated, bored, and occassionally itchy.



Of course, in real life, the monkey Lancelot Link wasn't a rock musician. He was a secret agent for the Agency to Prevent Evil. (Or "APE.") But his band rocked the Nixon era for two years, until network TV executives decided it was frightening to both children and adults

2. Yabba Dabba Doobie


In 1971 Pebbles and Bam-Bam grew into trendy teenagers with their own awful rock band. They lasted exactly one season, doomed the moment a studio executive decided the perfect voice for teenaged Pebbles would be Sally Struthers.

Their band played instruments made out of domesticated animals, until "The Bedrock Rockers" were absorbed into the equally short-lived Flintstones Comedy Show. (It's slogan? "We'll have a groovy time.")

The only surviving relic is an unloved DVD and these surreal animated music videos for songs like Sunshine Man, Yabba Dabba Doosie, and one about the Zodiac. But it's better than that commercial Fred Flintstone did for Winston cigarettes.

"Winston is the one-filter cigarette that delivers flavor — twenty times a pack!"

3. The Bugaloo Experience


Flying bug people form a rock band and flee from "Benita Bizarre" and her sidekick, Funky Rat.

The Bugaloos all had hippy names like Joy and Harmony, and lived in a place called "The Tranquility Forest" with their sidekick — "Sparky". They also presuambly had unspeakable crushes on their female singer Joy, who wore a mini-skirt with pink wings, since even their birthday songs to her were creepy. ("Older woman — you're a little prettier today...")



The singing bug people all wore antennas, and continued freaking out Saturday morning viewers until 1972. Their song Fly Away With Us "sounds like the perky pests are trying to lure kids into an LSD trip," writes one web critic, "or some Eastern-inspired cult." After listening to "The Senses of Our World", he added: "This is what Prozac sounds like."

Amazingly, over 5,000 people had auditioned to be in the bug band — including Phil Collins.

4. Krofft Gets Funky


There's no evidence eight year olds dropped acid for The Krofft Super Show, but its theme song promised it "will blow your mind away."

Its hallucinogenic lyrics about "a crazy world...where most of what appears isn't true..." ended up in the hands of Captain Kool and the Kongs, a children's version of KISS with faces decorated in glitter and makeup. The "land of dreams" they introduced were live-action segments from Sid and Marty Krofft — which means they were low-budget and disturbing. There was Wonderbug, Dr. Shrinker, and Electra Woman and Dyna Girl.

Were they disturbing? Let's just say the actor playing Dr. Shrinker had also played Caligula, and served a year in prison for methadone possession.

5. Josie's Groovin' in Outer Space



A stoner reading Heavy Metal magazine decided the cartoon band Josie and the Pussycats would be even better if they lived in outer space with an alien named Gleep. He drew a phallic rocket which quivers on the launch pad, then blasted them eight miles high.

Two years later a competing stoner reading Heavy Metal launched the Partridge Family into space, stranding them in a cartoon continuum 230 years in the future, where they "showed us how it's gonna be." In 1982 the desperate cast of Gilligan's Island tried blasting themselves into outer space, but unfortunately, no one noticed. Soon even Fonzie and the other characters from Happy Days found themselves blasted out of the 1950s and into the future — and outer space.

None of these shows lasted more than a season — except Josie and the Pussycats In Outer Space, which lasted two. But when future generations build moon colonies, maybe they'll draw inspiration from the fact that they were preceded into space by an all-girl band in kitty costumes.

6. Sympathy for the Misfits



Jem and the Holograms were the 80s equivalent of The Pussycats — but with one difference. They had their own Nietszchean doppelgangers trying to destroy them.



Jem's animated rock band competed against a warpaint-wearing rival group with bizarre coked-up "metal" hair and a weirdly negative vibe. The Misfits' videos included giant spiders, lightning surfboards, guitar-shaped motorcycles, and even planet-swallowing darkness.

Alas, Glenn Danzig's punk band — also called The Misfits — was nowhere to be seen, and cheery MTV synth-pop ultimately conquered Saturday morning, bringing with it a line of tie-in toys from Hasbro. The bitter Jem-haters were our last line of resistance against a big media beachhead of beautiful people, and though the Misfits were as vindictive as they were doomed, they did teach impressionable youngsters an important and affirming truth.

That a world without freaks would be even worse.


See also:
Lost "Horrors" Ending Found on YouTube
The Simpsons on Drugs: Six Trippiest Scenes
The Cartoon Porn Shop Janitor: Carol Burnett vs. Family Guy

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Official Launch: 10ZM.TV

One of the reasons for the "video apology" term in the settlement agreement with Michael Crook is that we were already planning to launch a video property. Having Crook's apology in video seemed an appropriate format, and its wide viewing would help get some visibility for this new effort. We figure he owed us that much. There are a few things we're going to experiment with in the show, called 10ZM.TV, and hosted on the Blip.tv video sharing network. First, we'll be collecting video commentary from web figures on stories and themes we explore on our various other properties, such as this site, The RU Sirius Show, NeoFiles, Destinyland and Pastor Jack. Second, we'll record bits from our own writers and commentators. And finally, we're going to publish hot little bits from the continuous series of mind-blowing interviews conducted by RU Sirius. Rudy Rucker's interview is the first one we videotaped, so you'll see several clips from that in the coming weeks. So stay tuned, subscribe via RSS or iTunes, or watch Rudy Rucker now:
Science fiction writer Rudy Rucker, author of the book, Mathematicians In Love, claims that any natural process can be regarded as a computation, and that computers are not "digital."

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SF Writer Rudy Rucker: Everything Is Computation


Rudy Rucker's novels are fun and funny romps. Rucker leads us through complex, technology-rich, multi-leveled worlds that teach us about how the universe works through the eyes of a mathematician, a scientist, and a humorist. His characters are usually young, hip and unsinkable. But lurking inside all of the playfulness, Rucker's examinations of the characters and characteristics of our time always have satirical bite and a moral center.



Aside from that, he's a great fuckin' guy. I know, because he worked with me on Mondo 2000: A User's Guide to the New Edge. His novels have included The Hacker and the Ants: Version 2.0, Master of Space and Time, and Frek and the Elixir. The most recent of his many non-fiction works was Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul: What Gnarly Computation Taught Me About Ultimate Reality, the Meaning of Life, and How to Be Happy. And then there's his delightful new novel, Mathematicians in Love and his new science fiction webzine, Flurb. We talked about these projects in this two-show conversation for NeoFiles.
To listen to the full interview Part 1 in MP3, click here.

To listen to the full interview Part 2 in MP3 click here.

RU Sirius: Here's an early quote from Mathematicians in Love: "The key new insight is that any given dynamical system can be precisely modeled by a wide range of other dynamical systems." And that seems to be central to the mechanism of your novel.

RUDY RUCKER: Yeah. That's a sort of dream of mathematics that emerges every few years. It's emerged as the idea of catastrophe theory. And then again as chaos theory. And then as dynamic systems theory — complexity theory — Wolfram's A New Kind of Science. Basically, there are only a few possible forms that underlie the things that are happening in the world. And the feeling is that if I can sort of strip something like the weather down to its rawest mathematical form, I can then look at that form and I can find another system that actually shares the same pattern. Because if there's only a few little patterns and yet there's so many diverse things in the world — lots of things are actually going to have the same pattern. So a cup of tea can be a perfectly good model for a hurricane. And then, to predict what the hurricane's going to do, all you have to do is prepare your cup of tea so it's in the same state as the hurricane. Then you watch it for a minute and read out where the hurricane's going to be. So you begin to use nature as a kind of computing system. And that's the key idea in the novel. The characters take this gimmick and they're able to make a device that perfectly predicts the future.

RU: As I understand it, the idea is basically that computation is implicit in everything. And we learn how to use that.

RR: Yeah. A lot of the ideas in my recent novels come from Stephen Wolfram's work. Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul was largely about his work. And the basic idea is that any natural process can be regarded as a computation. We define computation in a fairly broad sense to mean any deterministic system that obeys definite laws. And it doesn't have to be digital.

The digital thing is sort of a red herring. We have this idea that being a computer is about being digital. But computers aren't actually digital, OK? They're made of a bunch of electrons. And the electrons are fuzzy analog wave functions.

So you can look at a brook or an air current and you can say, "That's doing something complex." And if you look at the natural world, there are four kinds of things that you see. Where something is sort of stable — not changing — it's static. Or else it's doing something periodic. Or it's completely fuzzy and like totally skuzzy and screwed up. Or it's in the Interzone — what I call the gnarly zone, between being periodic and being completely skuzzy.

Life is gnarly. Plants are gnarly. Air currents are gnarly. Water currents are gnarly. Fire is gnarly. In Wolfram's view, every one of these actually embodies a universal computation, similar to a universal Turing Machine or a personal computer, and in principle they can compute anything that you want it to. I agree with him.

RU: I've never really been quite able to understand Wolfram's stuff. But I've heard that he shows that there can be types of evolution that differ from Darwinian evolution.

RR: He does talk about evolution a little bit. People will say, "How could a butterfly have evolved that precise pattern on its wings? Or how could we evolve the exact shape of our body." And he makes the point that natural systems are actually fairly robust computations. They like to do things like make spots on butterfly wings or grow limbs from animals. The genetic code doesn't have to be as finely tweaked as people sometimes imagine. You could actually perturb it quite a bit and you would still get plants and animals that look pretty similar to the way we look now. So it's not so much that things evolve to perfection. They just get to a level of functioning well enough. In fact, we aren't tuned to complete optimality.

RU: Functioning "well enough" plays into your novel. There's the development of a technology that makes the lead character mathematician's theory into something that's usable as a prediction machine. And the guy who's marketing this machine — his attitude is good enough is good enough. And he starts putting it out there.

RR: That's right. Computer scientists proved that all sorts of things are impossible to do. And then someone backs off and says, "Well can't I get something working reasonable well?" And it turns out not to be such a difficult problem.

RU: I'd venture to say that this novel is even more playful than your last one, Frek and the Elixir. Both books are satirical and there are recognizable dark forces based on current culture. But with this one, your main characters are pretty much consistently fun and they seem to exist in a somewhat more pleasant universe. Would you agree with that?

RR: Yeah, although the book actually starts in one universe, and then the characters are in a second universe, and then in a final third universe, which is our universe. I've described it as being like different drafts of a novel. If you're a novelist, you think, "Why wouldn't God do successive drafts of the universe?" And once he's finished one version, that draft would still exist and there'd be people living in it.



RU: Like your giant Jellyfish goddess in the novel. This sort-of parallel universe or metaverse is important in the story.

RR: There's sort of control room that's based on Micronesia — it looks a little like Micronesia. It's called La Hampa, which is Spanish for "the underworld." But it's not underworld in the sense of Hades. It's more underworld in the sense of gangland.

And the idea is — if you're going to meet people from all over the galaxy, the one way that you might be able to talk to them would be with math. Mathematicians, at least, like to believe that mathematics would be the same pretty much everywhere. Though if you delve deep enough, you can call it into question.

Anyway, in La Hampa, the cockroaches are oriented towards logic. And there are giant slime creatures that are oriented towards studying infinity. The lizards are into analysis, and there are these cone shell snails. This would dovetail with some of your interests, RU...

RU: Conotoxins! I'm searching around for a source.

RR: The cover of Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul is a picture of a textile cone shell. I did that because of Wolfram's work with cellular automata. There are these interesting, gnarly, irregular patterns that form into textile cone shell. It looks like this space-time track of a one-dimensional cellular automaton. It's a lot of little triangles. So I thought I should have giant cone shell snails as the aliens in my next science fiction book. And then, sometimes you get one of these gifts from the gods that happens when you're writing — something appears that's exactly what you need. So I discovered this article in Scientific American about these innocent-looking sea slug type snails that are actually very vicious. They send out this long snout with this little tiny tooth that's filled with this very potent venom called a conotoxin. And some scientists recently found a way to start using those conotoxins on humans. It's the ultimate painkiller. But it's such a powerful drug that you can't inject it. It has to be dripped directly into your spinal column. If it gets into your bloodstream, you have a heart attack. And as a side effects, people started hallucinating so much they have to be kept in straightjackets. It's not a light recreational drug, by any means.

RU: Although people do ingest some in your story, or they claim to have ingested some.

RR: At least at one point, my main character thinks he might have snorted some. It's going around.

RU: There's been some talk about parallel universes within the context of science and math and so forth. And I'm sure you have some thoughts and can tell us a little bit about how people have thought about this in the actual world.

RR: There are a number of theories. A theory that I've drawn on recently comes from a scientist named Lisa Randall. She wrote an interesting book called Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions. There's this problem in physics with the fact that gravity is weaker than the other kinds of natural forces. Its basic intensity is dialed down really low. And physicists wonder — why isn't it similar? And she has this explanation. Maybe there's this other brane, as they call it — there's a membrane, and part of reality is over there. And somehow it's siphoning off some of our gravity. I like that idea of parallel universes. It's sort of a specialized physics use of the parallel universe idea. The one that's used in more fiction is the old quantum mechanical model that whenever something could randomly go this way or that way, maybe it goes both ways, and then both the universes exist.

RU: It keeps on splitting off

RR: Yeah. But I've never liked that model. I don't want every possible universe to exist because then nothing matters. You know? It's like you say, "I want a sculpture" and they give you the block of marble and they say, OK, the Venus de Milo's in there. Big fucking deal.

RU: Do you think we're in an infinite universe; or an approximately infinite universe; or a quite finite universe?

RR: I think there's a finite number of parallel universes. I think there are successive drafts of the universe that have been worked on. And they're getting better.

RU: Like the jellyfish.

RR: But is our universe infinite? It's interesting — fifteen years ago it seemed like the physicists had it all wrapped up — you know, we had a big bang, our universe is so-and-so large. It's going to collapse back. It's a hypersphere. End of story. Now, all their theories are going down the toilet. Supposedly 70% of the mass in the universe is dark energy.

RU: I keep hearing 90%.

RR: Well, there's 10% matter, 20% dark matter, and then the rest of it's dark energy. And they don't even know what dark energy is. But supposedly the universe is expanding faster all the time and it will never stop. That also means that it's been infinite all along, oddly enough. That's interesting. And if you have this idea that the universe is physically infinite, you sort of don't need parallel universes. Because if you say there's infinitely many stars, then you can sort of get into a law of probability kind of thing. You say, well look, all we need to do is hit the roulette wheel 10 to the 300th times, and the 10 to the 300th time, I'll get a planet that looks exactly like earth, except me and my social security number will be slightly different.

RU: Sometimes I suspect that other dimensions are leaking into ours and that's where some strange, unexplained experiences come from.

RR: I'm amenable to the idea of there being different levels of reality. I've always liked that idea.

RU: Moving on... let's not forget that this book has sex, drugs, math and rock and roll.

RR: If I'm writing a novel, my hero might as well have more fun than I do. (Laughter) So he's a guitarist in a sort-of punk rock band but in this world they're called dreggers



RU: I love the way the main, young character in your book keeps on getting into more complicated and difficult and weird and life-threatening situations. But he pretty much keeps on grooving. He keeps on grooving on the mathematics of things. It seems sort of like his way out of pain and depression.

RR: Yeah. That's my life story.

RU: Let's talk briefly about the politics of the novel. These guys are mathematicians. They have a powerful concept. And they have to decide, on graduating from college, about getting gigs and dealing with a particular corporation that turns out to be deeply tied into a political organization that is sort of a mirror world for the Bush administration.

RR: That's right. People often said cyberpunk was political, but I've really been putting more politics in my books in the last four years or so, because I feel that it's such a dark time in American politics. We have this completely illegitimate government. Bush didn't even really got elected. And it's doing such harm every day.

In the sixties, when the Vietnam War was raging, we had underground comics to cheer us up. So I want to write science fiction that support people and gives them more hope about the future. So I have an evil President called Joe Doakes who is with the Heritagist party, and a much more evil vice president named Frank Ramirez. And one of the highpoints for me, in writing the book, is when they do this giant punk-metal rock concert at this baseball stadium in San Francisco that has recently been renamed Heritagist Park, because the Heritage Party has bought the naming rights. And they manage to bring down the regime with that concert, which is sort of cool.

RU: Talk a little bit about the role of vlogging in the novel.

RR: Yeah, I myself blog a lot. And I'm interested in the idea of vlogging — video blogging. I put a lot about it into Mathematicians in Love. And this is one of those times where I was a little bit ahead of the future curve because in the year that it took for the book to come out, YouTube got big and vlogging really caught on. I push it a little further in the novel. There are people that are wearing a kind of camera called a vlog ring. You just wear this thing all day long, and it basically uploads everything you're doing, 24/7. And people compete over whose life is the most interesting. It's sort of like an "American Idol" thing.

RU: It's called "One in a Million." (Laughs)

RR: Right. And they're giving the vlog rings away at McDonalds so everybody will join. And, of course the Heritagists are combing through the data and using it.

RU: Right. People are doing the NSA's job for them.

RR: Yeah! The better to manipulate us.

RU: So tell us a bit about your SF webzine FLURB. What motivated you to start a science fiction webzine?

RR: Well, now and then I'll write a short story and I'll think, "Where can I publish this?" There aren't a huge number of short fiction markets in SF. There are two or three mainstream magazines. There's Asimov's Science Fiction magazine. There's Analog Science Fiction and Fact. And in England, there's Interzone. And then there are also some online zines. But most of the online zines don't actually pay you anything. So I thought it would be fun to gather some stories that are to my taste from my old friends and colleagues; and maybe some new people that I can contact and get interested. It's a little zine that comes out maybe three or four times a year. It's not a big deal, but it's another place to put my stories out there.

RU: On John Brockman's webzine Edge, they asked a bunch of famous scientists and thinkers and digerati types a question: "What are you optimistic about and why?" And a lot of people answered that they were optimistic because people were giving up on the idea of God — "the God delusion" as Richard Dawkins says. And your answered popped out at me because it was completely different and very much the opposite of what many people were saying.

RR: At the time I wasn't actually feeling optimistic. But I'm usually optimistic about my science fiction. So these ideas that I'm describing here are things that are going into some novels that I'm working on now. I would actually call this section "Universal Telepathy." But Brockman titled it "Unknowable Gaian Mind."
Read Rudy's brief Edge entry: click here. No, really, to continue the interview, read Rudy's entry.

RU: So I think Richard Dawkins and the Amazing Randi are right now having telepathic communication about how to shut Rudy Rucker up! It's a pretty risky statement to make in a forum that's full of major science heads.

RR: (Laughs) Well, yeah. The thing is — I think of myself as a science fiction writer now. So I no longer feel that I have to be reputable or responsible in what I say. (Laughs) You know? A lot of times, when people are asked to speculate about the future, they'll simply repeat the ideas that are in the air. It's like sheep standing in their stable, and they're urinating on the floor. And then they're lapping up the urine. And they're saying, "Gee, this sure tastes like piss, doesn't it?"

RU: (Laughs) Speaking of colorful images, you have a film in pre-production with Michael Gondry, based on Master of Space and Time. And I heard Dan Clowes was hired to write a script. Is that still happening?

RR: I'm less optimistic about that now. I haven't heard anything from Michael for, oh, almost a year. And I think the option expires next month. And my agent asked him if he wanted to renew it, and they said they didn't want to renew it. So I think they're not going to make the movie. I love Michael's work. He's a brilliant man.

RU: Before I let you go I want to ask you one more question. It's the same question that I asked Cory Doctorow on The R.U. Sirius show a couple of weeks ago. Your thought processes in your material is very science fiction-y. What novels outside of the science fiction genre do you read, and what do you really love?

RR: Well, recently I was re-reading some of the stories by Luis Borges. He's maybe my favorite writer of all. Just this week I'm reading a book by Charles Portis called Gringos. That's a really great book. It came out in the nineties. It's really fun to read. A bunch of hippies go down to Mexico for a harmonic convergence while the world's coming to an end. The saucers are landing. The usual kind of thing. He has this very jaded, dry tone. And, of course, I'm also reading Pynchon's new book, which seems like a drop-off in quality.

RU: Did you read Gravity's Rainbow as soon as it came out?

RR: I did. I read it — I read it for about five years. I kept re-reading it. It had a huge influence on me. I learned a lot about writing from reading Pynchon. He's such a beautiful stylist.

RU: It was very difficult to get started. I started it myself about four or five times before actually reading it all the way through. And I found that I had to make notes to read the entire book.

RR: Yeah. In a way it reproduced the experience of how you find out about things when you're growing up. You get a piece here, a piece there, and it takes a while to fit it all together into the whole narrative.



RU: But you would love puzzle types of novelists.

RR: Up to a point I like puzzles, but I also like a story that keeps you turning the pages. Stories that kick ass. I don't like to get too arty.

See also:
When Cory Doctorow Ruled The World
Neil Gaiman Has Lost His Clothes

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Sexy Adult Secrets in “Little Children”



It was nominated for three Oscars, and won: none. Little Children dramatized Tom Perrotta's brilliant novel about suburban entrapment (and the possibility of escape). Was something lost in its transition to the screen?

Perrotta, along with director Tom Field, condensed his book's seven characters into movie-friendly vignettes. Even though their screenplay was nominated for an Oscar, it inevitably raises questions about what was left out — and why. Are book-reading audiences more liberal than mainstream movie-goers? Were some scenes too hot for Hollywood — or just too complicated?

Warning: this article is full of spoilers. Lots of 'em.



The Bi-Sexual Lover

When the film opens we see Kate Winslet playing an unhappy housewife at the playground. But in his book, Perrotta indulges in a glance at the life history that brought her there. An active feminist in college, she'd found meaning and self-discovery in a college Women's Studies program, ultimately enjoying "a passionate affair with a Korean-American woman named Amelia."

This digression leads to a scene which adds a crucial perspective to her future unhappiness. By page 12, Perrrotta has breezily recapped her failed grad school career, fretting that the best possible outcome would be "a one-year, nonrenewable appointment teaching remedial composition to football players in Oklahoma." She returns to a low-paying service sector job — at Starbucks coffee — where one day she spots her former lover, looking "absolutely radiant," with her husband and baby.

"Amelia shrugged, as if she didn't understand how it was possible that she even knew this pathetic woman in the green apron, let alone that they'd once danced to Aretha Franklin in their underwear and collapsed onto a narrow bed in a fit of giggles that seemed like it would never stop."

That year — and while working at Starbucks — she meets her future husband Richard.

Meeting Slutty Kay

Richard is seen in the movie, as the wealthy, fetish-bound husband who sniffs panties he ordered from an online porn site. The book describes his own troubled history — a previous twenty-year marriage from an accidental pregnancy, which ends in divorce. Yes, he'd turned to porn, before meeting his future second wife. ("They were both desperately lonely and waiting for someone to rescue them.") The book notes that it's the realities of child-rearing that first stifles their sex life. But it's only when doing research for his branding company — about the Y2K bug — that Richard stumbles across the web site for Slutty Kay. Richard was equally beguiled by the porn model's internet frankness — her confidence, her honesty, and her joy. In a surprise twist, Perrotta's book follows him further than just sniffing the panties he ordered online. "He could never get past the uncomfortable fact that she existed for him solely as a digital image," Perrotta notes, which leads Richard on a surreptitious flight to San Diego for a life-changing weekend retreat — with the Slutty Kay Fan Club.



It's at Beachfest 2001 that he calls his wife and tells her that he's never coming home.

This changes the dynamics of the film's crucial moment on the playground, when his wife must also grapple with the fact that she doesn't have a husband to go home to.

Larry's wife, the "fucking whore"

The mall security incident haunts former police officer Larry — but his life story casts a cynical light on the suburban town's morality.

His wife and he are devout Catholics — though he'd met her at a Miss Nipples contest at Kahlua's. After his own tragedies — the mall shooting was followed by the death of his father — Larry decides that "horrific things happened to good and bad people alike with no regard whatsoever for their goodness or badness." His Catholic beliefs evolve into some more profane. "[I]f some kind of God was in control of it all...then God was an asshole or at best an incompetent, and in either case was of absolutely no use to [anyone] who simply wanted to live a decent life..."

The mall shooting leaves him impotent, but it's his sacrilege that causes his wife to consider leaving him. Their final argument was ultimately about "a cleavage-baring dress she'd worn to mass during the July heat wave." During the week his wife wore the same nurse's uniform, and wanted Sunday to be a day when she looked nice.

After their separation Larry watches her bitterly at church, dressed "as if Dirty Dancing was the Eighth Sacrament." Which ultimately leads to a startling scene.

The Pedophile Among Us

Jackie Earle Haley was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of the unreformed pedophile. But in one of the book's most outrageous scenes, the character's ever-faithful mother actually convinces him to go to church. ("Say a prayer for your old sick mother.")

There, inevitably, he's spotted by Larry, the now-relentless neighborhood activist. The moral-minded community has already identified the disturbing pedophile in their midst — "whole families fleeing pews" — but Larry watches his estranged wife sitting blithely with their children. "Just two feet away from that shitbag!" Larry announces. Tension builds throughout a sermon about how Jesus loved everyone — but Larry finally loses control, confronting the smiling pervert and trying to eject him from the church.

The congregation watches as he attempts to pull him from the pew, the pedophile crouching and clutching the kneeler. Ultimately he succeeds only in pulling off his pants — revealing "the blasphemous pallor of his butt cheeks."

"'I'm sorry,' he explained. 'I wasn't trying to pull his pants down.'"

"Please," says the usher. "Please just leave."

Why, Brad, Why?

The film's plot centers around the forbidden attraction between a married woman and a married man. Their rebellious passion comes as a surprise, with only an intriguing outline of their motivations. But the novel grants the reader a look into Brad's pscyhe.

Named Todd in the book, he's still the neighborhood legend, dubbed "the prom king" by the housewives at the playground. He's a good-looking, stay-at-home dad who boyishly can't resist midnight football games or the cajoling of skateboarders. But Todd remembers the day his personality was frozen. ("The afternoon his mother died, Todd and his friend had been throwing snowballs at cars...") When his father comes to inform his son somberly about his mother's death, Todd asks "Is this about the car?"

"Did someone tell you?" his father asks?

The moment now hopelessly confused, he eventually tells his son "I want you to live your life as if this never happened." Todd plunges ahead with relentless adolescent success, falling into a pre-law career almost by accident (taking the LSAT as a show of support for a fraternity brother). The book savors his grown-up dilemma — and that of his career-minded wife Kathy, trying to hang on to her ideal husband.



Played by Jennifer Connelly in the movie, the book grants her an extra scene, when she lures her unfaithful husband onto a final weekend getaway in the hopes of saving their marriage. In the bedroom she delivers "an amazing performance, marred only by the slightest trace of smugness on her face, a cool erotic confidence that he couldn't help resenting."

Perotta savors their situation in truthful, cynical dialogue.

"Do you love her?" she asks?

"I don't know," Brad answers honestly. "That's what I'm trying to figure out."

See Also:
Lost "Horrors" Ending Found on YouTube
Hating Roger Ebert
Pulp Fiction Parodies on YouTube
David Sedaris Exaggerates For Us All

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When Lego Goes to War


LEGO Star Wars minifig


Legos have changed. The CEO Of the Lego Group claims they're now "very open source," re-oriented to lovers of the Lego brand. Of course, he's "adjusted" the business costs, but mostly they've made a return to their traditional emphasis on "the joy of building and the pride of creating things."

I'm not convinced. As an educator who's been using Legos to teach kids for over a decade (advance high school stuff, like how to build catapults and the physics it demonstrates), and despite the CEO's new interview, I feel an urgent need to express where Lego has gone wrong.



1. War toys

I can remember when the owner of Lego promised they would never promote or create war toys. For me this was a big selling point: a toy that wasn't destructive, and in fact didn't promote destructive behavior in their advertising! Sure, kids might build a tank or a mock gun, but it was a product of their own imagination, not the building plans! Our motto in the after school centers was: "Peaceful, Positive and Practical."

Over the last decade, I've seen Lego's themes take them gradually to war. It started with minor "minifig" characters and then fully developed violence-based pirates/soldiers/knight themes. Then there was a shift to Galidor's "Defenders of the Outer Dimension" tie-ins, and Bionicle fighting the evil Makuta. Now there's full-fledged futuristic mecha-war machines in Exo-Force!

When Lego first started down this road — with knights — the owner of Lego explained they were highlighting the "romance of the knights," and not emphasizing violence. With the wave of new themes, this isn't really true anymore.

Years ago, there was a brouhaha about an artist who created a Lego kit based on holocaust scenes. Lego would never produce such kits. However, I do predict that Lego will continue to produce war-based themes, and it's only a matter of time before they produce "tank" models or other modern war machines.

2. Merchandizing and commercialization

Lego always seemed to be something greater than a retail product. I attended a conference at MIT where I heard it argued that Lego should be considered a new category of Froebel's Gift. (The "free play" educational toys designed for kindergartens in 1840.) The boxes were always fairly generic, and emphasized interesting constructions for different age groups. But over the last decade we've seen countless movie tie-ins and multiple product spin-offs.

Lego has unleashed waves of comic books, candy, movies, video games, and waffles. Children will refer to a kit as "Batman Legos." It used to be that I could walk into a toy store and immediately identify the Lego section. Today, they're interchangeable with other popular construction toys.

A related trend is the rapid phase-in and phase-out of kits. Lego's goal seems to be to whet the appetites of collectors by producing hosts of special kits, and then promptly discontinuing them. This is frustrating when a particularly well-done or interesting kit suddenly becomes unavailable.

3. Specialized and decorative elements

Part of the beauty of Lego was that you could keep adding to your collection of generic interchangeable elements, to build larger and more complex projects. We've seen a trend towards specialized decorative elements, likely as a result of movie and TV tie-ins. We've seen Lego move to smaller elements — perhaps in an effort to save money by using less plastic. In any case, any retail Lego collection fills rapidly with gobs of sorta-useable decorative elements. It's a far cry from the construction kits of the past.

4. They moved their manufacturing

I admit I am biased, and I understand that because of globalized production, the world is flat. Yet, there was a romance with Lego. They were made in Denmark. (Though some bricks were produced in the United States.) Now they have moved manufacturing to Eastern Europe and China. This undoubtedly saves them money, but it destroys some of the romance. What's the difference between a knock-off brick made in China and a Lego brick made in China? Lego even let many of their U.S. developers go! There was the "farmhouse" — in Connecticut I think — where Lego geniuses planned new kits and themes. They were all let go. It makes me wonder if the pseudo-move to open source is really a way to keep overhead down by not having any developers on hand.

Lego still has a variety of wonderful kits and themes. The RCX/NXT trends are awesome! That said, they are a shadow of the fantastic constructive elements I worked with a decade ago.

There was a day when other constructive toys were not even in the same league with Legos as a tool for education. Lego has debased, diluted, and devalued their product to such an extent that other constructive toys are becoming far more attractive.



In his interview, Jorgen Vig Knudstorp described how Lego started producing cars that required less construction...and they have come back to creating kits that require much construction. That spoke to me.

But the website says the interview is at the company's "Innovation Centre" in Billund, Denmark. It reminded me of that website where someone took images from porn movies and removed the people, leaving generic, almost sterile rooms.

I think that says something about Lego.

See Also:
Rodney Brooks' Robots are Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control
Google Stalker Reveals Secret Project
Catching Up With An Aqua Teen Terrorist
What If Ben Were One of Us?
Is The Net Good For Writers?

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Sex Expert Susie Bright Lets It All Out


Susie Bright

The New York Times called Susie Bright "the avatar of American Erotica." She was co-founder and editor of the first Women's sex magazine, On Our Backs: Entertainment for the Adventurous Lesbian, from 1984-1991. Since then, she's written and edited about a zillion books, and taught many courses on sexuality. Currently, she posts regularly on her own blog. Her audio show, In Bed With Susie Bright, is distributed by Audible.com. She was a sex-scene choreographer and consultant for the Wachowski Brothers' first film, Bound, in which she also had a cameo role.

Susie appeared on two consecutive episodes of The RU Sirius Show, primarily to discuss the anthology, The Best American Erotica 2007, which includes stories by Dennis Cooper and the late Octavia Butler, among many others. (She's been editing the Erotica series since 1993.) We did, of course, digress quite a bit from the main topic.

As with the audio interview, we are running these text edits in two segments, so click here for the second half.

RU Sirius Show co-host Diana Brown joined me in interviewing Susie Bright about her "Ted Haggard Betting Pool," teen sex, and other illicit thoughts.
To listen the full interview in MP3, click here.

RU SIRIUS: The introduction to The Best American Erotica 2007 is quite an intense little piece. Would you please read a segment from it?

SUSIE BRIGHT: Sure. I called it "The Lolita Backlash." Every year, the stories in the book tend to magnetize to a certain theme. And this year, it had to do with a rather vicious generation gap.
When was the moment when our youth become self-aware of their charms, as well as its desperation? It seems younger now, although that could just be my mother talking. But look at our 21st century culture. Every teenager knows the time to launch a career as a porn star is in the weeks following high school graduation. Celebrity journalism shows us that Hercules and Aphrodite will both be toppled in their early 20s without massive intervention. It's no wonder the commodification of good looks and muscles has wrought an erotic backlash.

Virginity. Authenticity. The natural pearl. This is what is idealized today, as well as commercialized beyond all recognition. Fake sex — titillation — is for sale; real sex is elusive and underground.

Take this state of affairs, and couple it with a pox of unprecedented meddling in people's personal lives by the religious right, and we have a toxic brew. Privacy, freedom, and nature are gasping for breath. Hypocrites alone have something to crow about.

In my fifteen years of editing BAE, I have never seen such a yowling, lustful, spitting breach between young and old.

Of course, such observations are taboo. Lower your voice! Young people aren't supposed to have a sexual bone in their bodies, right? And their elders, if they are immune to beauty, and make all the rules, should be able to keep it in their pants. What a squawk.

There is so much guilt and fear about the obvious — that young people do have hormones, and old people aren't altogether blind — that helpful discussion in the public sphere has shriveled. It is left to fiction for the truth to come out.

The truth looks like this: any conflict has the potential to become erotic. That might get complicated, tragic, or unpredictable. Eros is kissing cousins with aggravation. The conscience of our society drives us to protect our young, to provide for them, to cheer and cherish their independence. But we wouldn't need any conscience if it wasn't a challenge, if it didn't demand sacrifice. The temptations include neglect, exploitation, coercion, and dependence.

RU: So the introduction to your book — and much of the fiction in the book — broaches the highly taboo subject of adolescent sex; and adolescent sex as it relates to adults. We had Tim Cavanaugh on the show — he was the editor of Reason magazine's blog at the time. I asked him if they'd ever dealt with the age of consent. And he admitted they hadn't. It was clear that this is kind of the third rail for some libertarians. Do you worry about Fox News noticing your book? I think this is probably a bigger taboo than murder in America now.



SB: How interesting. When I was in my twenties, I was invited on the Phil Donahue Show. He was sort of Oprah before Oprah.

So I was brought in with a bisexual male friend of mine to represent bisexuality. We were told we'd talk about what we noticed sexually about the differences between sleeping with men and sleeping with women. And they made it sound like it was not pejorative or prejudiced or trying to start a fire — just, you know, "What do you notice?" And we thought that would be a lot of fun. So we got picked up in one of those big limos and taken to the studio. And inside the limo was this very pink, perspiring couple from Florida. And I said, "You're going to be on the show too?" And they said, "Yes. We're from Exodus." Now Exodus, at the time, was the premier gay conversion group. So it was one of those "gotcha" shows.

RU: (Mockingly) Woo-hoo! Gay conversion — it's coming back!

SB: It's coming back stronger than ever. They've got it down to three weeks now — a three week spa.

DIANA BROWN: Does it come with a French manicure?

SB: So on Donahue's show, he basically tried to get the bible couple to freak out on us — about how we're heathens — and vice versa. It was so humiliating. We didn't talk about anything that I had planned to talk about. And at one point, I just opened my big mouth and said, "I came of age in the seventies, and I lost my virginity shortly before my 16th birthday with an unemployed soap opera actor."

DB: Like you were supposed to in America in the seventies!

SB: Yes! It's a banal story. Exactly. Everybody did that.

RU: ...Since the seventies.

DB: I think it's in the handbook!

SB: So, all of the sudden Phil turns. He's thrilled. And he says, "So you were a victim of child abuse!"

DB: Did he cut to a commercial at that moment?

SB: I just thought, "You son of a bitch." What a gratuitous dig. And, you know, neither I nor anybody in my family feels any regrets or fears. It's not like, "Gee, Susie was in an awful lot of trouble or panic or danger." I wasn't.

Of course, this is a tricky subject and there has to be sensitivity to the psychological and physical development of young people. And some people are such old souls so young. And other people are just crawling out of their egg at age twenty-five. You also have quite a noticeable difference in terms of adolescent girls and boys. I see my daughter and her friends, and some kind of look ten and some kind of look twenty-something — and they're all around sixteen. They are so different. The ones who suffer the most are the ones who look ten, but emotionally and mentally they want to do everything. And then you'll hear about a girl who had breasts when she was ten, and everyone was sexualizing her. And she just wanted to climb a tree and be left alone. There are so many misunderstandings. And adults are constantly projecting their notions of what they want on them. In my case — and in a lot of cases, I was the one who was interested and curious and seeking sex.

RU: You hear that story all the time.

DB: Yeah.

SB: Problems come from older people who don't have empathy and compassion and respect. You get someone who decides; "Yeah! Girls want me!" (Laughter) "That teenaged girl over there? She digs me." That kind of narcissism is the problem.

We don't even talk about whether the sex in these scenarios is consensual. Is there coercion involved? What is the power relationship between these people? We fixate on stereotypes and miss the big picture. And another thing that doesn't get brought up is that, overwhelmingly, sexual abuse and that type of violence happens within families. If you could stop that, it would really be remarkable.

We have this idea, fostered by J. Edgar Hoover, that there are these monsters out there — strangers are going to come up and offer your child a lollipop. We're seeing that replayed now around the internet. There's a wonderful social scientist, Michael Males, who just had an opinion article in the New York Times. He's proved that your kid is safer alone on MySpace than in any shopping mall in America. I just loved reading his facts and figures, because it all makes sense to me.

RU: It seems so obvious, if you think about it.

SB: Yeah, it sure does. And of course, the guy who was running the predator arrest campaign for Homeland Security was exposing himself to 16-year-old girls at the mall. I'm not making this shit up! With all the fuss about Scooter Libby and Cheney, other things have been glossed over.

RU: Were they caught together?

SB: (Laughs) It fascinated me how it came out that officials who are supposedly in charge of protecting children turn out to be really creepy, totally non-consensual predators.

RU: Well, they're the ones who are attracted to that. I mean, just like a certain percentage of criminal sadists are attracted to law enforcement.

DB: The mice are guarding the cheese.



SB: That's a good way of putting it. So when people ask me about public policy, I think about the big picture. If this country had more active democracy; if we had decent health care and universal sex education, things would be better for young people. Anything you can do to give them power is going to work out. Anything you can do to foster good family relationships and support education is going to help. None of this is on the agenda for the United States right now.

DB: Well, you're doing something for young people on your web site — the Ted Haggard Betting Pool. And it's not just a snarky little jab at this fool Ted Haggard, who is all over the media. Proceeds of this Betting Pool are going to benefit a San Francisco youth group called LYRIC.

SB: Yes. LYRIC is a youth group. They do community support and activism for young people who realize that they're sexually different, whatever that might mean to them. And nobody makes you fill out a form to explain yourself. If you know that you're sexually different and you want a place where you don't have to be alone — and where you don't have to be stigmatized and shamed — you can go to them. And you might get support in terms of work and family that you won't get elsewhere. They're role models for young people getting together and doing it for themselves, while having adult advocates who have a lot of integrity. So I love them.

And when this whole mess with Reverend Ted Haggard happened... I mean, there you have the evangelical minister to end all evangelical ministers — the guy who could tell George Bush what to do — and he gets caught sucking cock on a regular basis.

RU: On crank.

SB: On crank.

RU: It's the only way to do it.

SB: No one wants to do it without meth anymore, apparently.

DB: "Cock on crank." I like the alliteration of it.

SB: And instead of copping to it, he said, "Hey. I was always heterosexual. It was just stress" — or whatever it was. And his church gave him a huge check, since they're hemorrhaging money. He signed a confidentiality agreement and was given a plane ticket to get out of town. And, of course, now the headlines are "Ted Haggard says he's 100% heterosexual."

DB: Didn't he go to a three-week spa?

SB: He went to a three-week spa to get over his homosexuality (which he wasn't really anyway.) I mean, the contradictions are endless.

RU: I love that. I mean, who's going into rehab today? It's become a daily thing now.

SB: So everyone I know was saying, "When do you think he'll slip?" So I said, "Let's do a betting pool." So some of us have started a site called "Bet on Ted." You just pick your date. We're going to give it a year. Any time this year. And to win, something has to happen with Ted that gets into the news or into the courts. We've come up with a list of things — all of them involve Ted cracking, and it hitting a news report. If you have the lucky date, then you win half the pot and the other half goes to our worthy cause: LYRIC. If nobody gets the right date — or Ted sneaks by all year and nothing comes out — then the whole pot will go to LYRIC too. So bet on Ted! I'm hoping we get somewhere with it.

One of my friends who wanted to bet said, "Can we send in a ringer?" And I said, "Yeah! Make it happen!"

DB: A hooker with a heart of gold that will bring him across.

SB: Exactly!

RU: I bet a lot of people are trying to reel him in, at this point. It's his lucky year, now!

DB: We're Ted fishing, now!

RU: Ted's going to get a lot of action this year... thanks to Susie Bright.

DB: (Makes a fly-casting sound.) What are we using for bait?

SB: One thing that's interesting: remember I told you about those founders of Exodus that I met at the "Donahue Show." The founders of Exodus finally did do the right thing. They fled Exodus, so to speak. They exited Exodus and said, "We are gay, God damn it! We're sorry we just did this to everybody." Virtually all the founders of all these horrible conversion therapies have recanted after a certain amount of time.

RU: It seems, in the thesis and antithesis of sexual revolution and then backlash; we've ended up in an incredibly tangled state of how we — as a culture — think about sexuality. We almost embrace the most intense kinds of sexual sophistication, and there's all this pornography around, and then there's the most intense kinds of Puritanism. And it's like it's all converged into one confused human being.

SB: Well, a lot of that porn is really about titillation and guilt. There's this, "Taste me! Taste me!" factor where you never really get to taste me. You know? "Come closer! I'll give you this little bit." But then once you get there, you're going to need to get a little bit more... and a little bit more. And you're always going to have to shell out. That's how they sell it. And it's also how they inspire political fear. It's a come-on! It's a con job. What you don't get is sexual honesty and real candor, where you really come through.

RU: They're creating people who behave that way! The relationship between the stripper and the paying customer — a lot of people relate to each other that way.

SB: I suppose so, except with real strippers, real love lives — it doesn't work like that. Even if you try to live in a fake persona, you can't maintain it all the time. It's impossible.

RU: There is a lovely story towards the end of the book — "The Wish Girls" — that gets underneath the emptiness behind those images.

SB: Yeah, that was a great story by a new author — Matthew Addison. His character is about thirty. When he was a teenager, he had an "I Dream of Jeannie" moment where he wished there were two hot, bouncy, magazine-y babes who would appear and be his love slaves. And he got his wish! They're the wish girls! Now, they've been around for fifteen years, and they do the same exact positions. And he was naive when he ordered them. And now he thinks, "Why did I make them identical except for their hair color? I wish one was 5'2" and one was 5'9"!" It drives him nuts that they're so limited. He yearns for more, but on the other hand — they bend over and get in position #19 and position #32 just like clockwork. And he feels guilty for his boredom and ennui with them. So what's in store for him next? Read the story.

RU: On the other hand, there's another story in there involving some porn stars and they're having a pretty interesting time, and their sex is pretty hot and so forth. Do you feel like there's a clear dividing line? Can you say, "This is bad porn; and this is good porn?" I'm suspicious of people judging what gets other people off.

SB: Well, I never walk into a room and say "(gasp) What!? That turns you on? You're gross." I mean, that would be the infantile...

RU: "Ewwwww."

SB: When it comes to "good porn" and "bad porn," you'll frequently see something that has obviously been made with the sloppiest intentions: "Fuck it. Let's get this done and get a quick buck." But as you watch it, there will be one 10-minute scene where the people in front of the camera actually had a moment. And it's caught there, because that's what the camera lens does. Other times, you'll be watching something that has been made with such high ideals, and you'll be, like: "I can't even keep my eyes open."

RU: There is this kind of a superior attitude of people who are sort of into underground sexuality...

DB: "More kinkier than thou."

SB: Yeah, but you have the same kind of conversations in every part of the art world — in music and painting and everything else. You have your little factions. You have auteurs. You have people who put a signature on the work they do and the moment you see it, you can tell it's one of their films.

I'll tell you an interesting story about this: one of the most important pornographers in history died recently — Gary Graver. He worked on some of the most influential films, including Bound. He inspired my choreography of the sex scenes for Bound. And his obit was in the New York Times, Variety, and every place else. But they didn't mention that he was a pornographer! His porn name was Robert McCallum. So they focused largely on the fact that he was Orson Welles' cameraman for thirty years. And he helped fund a lot of Orson's projects when Orson didn't have a dime coming in. It was the porn that let him do that! So I wrote a bunch of letters... "Why are you not saying... I mean, you talked about all of his exploitation work, his horror flicks, his slasher films. None of those are going to get any rave reviews."

It's laughable. He shot Steven Spielberg's first movie — he worked with everybody. His family certainly knows what he was doing. So why didn't they include that? And I got responses that showed the double standard that rules the land. It was like, "Well, we wouldn't do that. Why would we besmirch him?" Besmirch? They're the New York Times! If somebody murdered someone, but later discovered the cure for cancer, they would still mention that they served time for that murder. I mean, they dig up dirt! It's not all: "He had a wonderful life, and everything went swell!"

RU: Like Larry King interviewing Adolf Hilter... "You were a vegetarian, right?"

SB: Exactly! So why would they report on people's immorality, gambling, criminality, lawsuits — but they wouldn't mention that Gary Gravers did some of the most significant porn films of all time — films that are still for sale and have sold in every format.

RU: Before we wrap up, has it been a good life, being a "sexpert" for thirty years? Is it a big responsibility? Is it a lot of fun? Do you wish you were a fucking fishermen — like John Lennon used to say about being in The Beatles?

SB: On a personal level, sometimes I wish to be unknown. Having some celebrity around my sexuality can be weird. When it comes to sexual and personal attention, you're always afraid of people's agendas. I locked myself in the bathroom of the last sex party I went to, because somebody who I thought was interested in me really wanted me to read their manuscript.

RU: Well, that's scary for anybody — when somebody approaches you with a manuscript!

SB: It's like: "I don't want to see a manuscript, I want to fuck!" But in terms of having social influence — and I bet John Lennon would have said the same thing — you never get sick of influencing a conversation.

RU: Do you ever think it would've been cool to become famous as a writer about a different topic, like television or quantum physics or something like that?

SB: I do write about all kinds of subjects. And I have a few readers who know that part of me. I wrote for political publications for many years before my writing about sex started becoming commercially successful.

RU: Do you go off on many topics on your audio show?

SB: I certainly do. In fact...

RU: ...You get complaints? People like their narrowcasting!

SB: Sometimes I get complaints. I've got this one Republican listener. He writes me over and over again. He wants to discuss his marital situation at length. I keep quoting my favorite dominatrix to him: "We're not spanking Republicans any more. We're not servicing you with sex tips until you realize that this stuff that you're doing in bed, and your voting/political behavior are at odds. You're hurting people." Ow!



RU: We can't spank Ann Coulter?

SB: God, no! I wouldn't touch her with a 10-foot pole!

RU: Michelle Malkin? I do have my fantasies.

Click here for Part II

See Also:
Drugs and Sex and Susie Bright
Why Sarah's Sex Life Matters
World Sex Laws
Violet Blue SHOCKER: "I'd Do Bruce Campbell"
The Perversions of Perverted Justice

Read More

5 Freaky Muppet Videos


The Muppets exploded into worldwide popularity in the 1970s as regular performers on Sesame Street. But as pop culture changed, Jim Henson and his company found even stranger creatures to parody by mingling with real-world celebrities. The five-year run of The Muppet Show set the weird tone for a tradition they've continued to this day. These 5 online videos show what a long strange trip it's been.

1. Star Wars: the Muppets Strike Back


Just two years after the Stars Wars Christmas Special, and a forgotten appearance on the Donny and Marie variety show, the "stars of Star Wars" made a special guest appearance on the Muppet Show. (In one surreal moment, Mark Hamill attempts to do a Fozzie Bear impersonation, unintentionally reminding everyone how much Fozzie always sounded like Yoda.)



Kermit the Frog tries to lure Hamill and his droids into performing a musical number, noting to C-3PO that "your little garbage can friend wants to." But when the big finish arrives, it's a hunt for Darth Vader — assisted by the intrepid cast of "Pigs in Space." After a crash-landing ("You forgot to push the stoppy thing"), they discover a much shorter Darth Vader — played by Gonzo, with Miss Piggy standing in for Princess Leia. The spectacular dialogue about phasers is interrupted by an appearance by Angus McGonigle the Gargling Argyle Gargoyle, until — sure enough — the cast breaks into a poorly-explained music number.

2. Kermit meets Blondie?


Not only was Deborah Harry a punk rock singer and new wave pioneer — she was also a guest on The Muppet Show. In a surreal moment, Harry sings Call Me — the theme to American Gigolo — for an audience of cheering frogs, while new wave muppets with multi-colored hair lay down a background of synthesizers and electric guitars. Harry even performs One Way or Another with a muppet version of Blondie (wearing skinny ties and black and white suits), its chorus of "getcha getcha getcha getcha" dramatized by monsters behind doors (including a one-toothed blue fan named Mulch.)

The most inspiring moment was when the punk pioneer corrupted a band of boy scouts — played by frogs. ("The pogo? Would that get us our punk merit badges?!") They bop to muppetty punk rock until a concerned Kermit checks in on the troop. ("Does Mrs. Applebee know you're in here?")

After all the jokes about colored hair and safety pins, Deborah Harry joins Kermit in Rainbow Connection, acoustic banjo joining high new wave voice. Deborah Harry sings this one with sweet sleepy bewilderment. But maybe she's just surprised that she's harmonizing with a singing frog.

3. The Goo-Goo Dolls vs. Elmo



The Goo-Goo Dolls had two #1 songs on their 1998 album Dizzy up the Girl when they payed a call on Elmo's World, adapting the lyrics for Slide to the child-like muppet. ("Elmo whisper in my ear. I really want to hear / The things you did today / that satisfied you...") Inspired by their rock star cool, Elmo imagines himself in sunglasses and a black leather jacket — and bobs innocently in time to their catchy alterna-pop.



What's surprising is how well it works. The song's original cryptic lyrics finally make sense, and the tune's uplifting melody complements their message of self esteem. ("Let those good thoughts fill your head. You are furry proud and red...") Of course, probably the last thing Elmo needs is more people stroking his ego. His top-muppet status has already introduced him to an impressive string of celebrity A-listers, from Robert De Niro to Mike Huckabee, and even Norah Jones dropped by to sing a torch song to the letter of the day. (Y.) In 2004 Elmo topped it all off with a cameo on the West Wing.

When it comes to raw popularity, he's the king. Or as the Goo-Goo Dolls put it: "Elmo. No one can touch him..."

4. Love songs with Alice Cooper


Alice Cooper bit the head off a chicken and drank its blood onstage, the legend went. (And Frank Zappa advised him to never deny it.) The 70s shock rock star performed notorious live stage acts which included a boa constrictor and a guillotine — until his alcoholism led him to a stint in a sanitarium. And then he sang love songs to a muppet.

As a pioneer in music video, it was inevitable that Cooper would want to experiment with Jim Henson's creatures. Wearing his trademark "black snake-eye" makeup, he performed muppet-enhanced versions of his three biggest hits, and more than 25 years later, YouTube music videos have turned up to document the legendary meeting. During School's Out, a gang of giant, fanged monsters bully Cooper — wearing a cap and gown — in a bizarre dance number. During Welcome to My Nightmare, Cooper arises from a coffin (to the recorded sound of an applauding audience, followed soon by recorded laughter for the antics of a puppet skeleton).

When Cooper finally culminates his appearance with You and Me, his top ten love ballad, he's joined by an enormous green bird with rainbow hair and a studded beak. "I wanna take you and squeeze you til the passion starts to rise," Cooper sings, as they stare deeply and meaningfully into each others eyes. The strangeness works, ultimately emphasizing the song's message — that that's enough for a working man.

5. The Jim Henson connection


Looking back to the early days, probably the strangest thing of all is to see Kermit the frog with Jim Henson's arm attached, as he did in one of his last appearances ever on The Arsenio Hall Show. But in 1974, Henson had performed an even stranger trick— cycling through a series of different voices to throw off the panelists. (Which stumped Arlene Francis and Dr. Joyce Brothers — but not puppet enthusiast Soupy Sales.)

16 years later Henson was performing the same trick on Live with Regis and Kathy Lee, and it would be his last public performance with the frog before his death of pneumonia at age 54. So it's re-assuring to travel back in time and see the gentle puppeteer enjoying the reaction from delighted interviews — and showing just how much of his personality he projected into his work.



On "What's My Line," host Larry Blyden had jokingly addressed a question to Kermit the Frog, asking "How long did it take you to finally get Jim Henson right?"

Kermit replied that "The beard was the hardest part."

See also:
Lost "Horrors" Ending Found on YouTube
Pulp Fiction Parodies on YouTube

Read More

Leaving “Lost” Limbo

What's "Lost" are the viewers — down 10% this week, after dropping 20% the week before. In the last 6 months, 8 million people have stopped caring about those TV plane crash survivors on that island full of mysteries.

We've gone from laughing with the castaways to laughing at the writers. ("What if there's a magic turtle?") Those complex characters we loved and cared about are trapped in a limbo of ever-shifting plot lines and motivations.

Here's how to rescue them...


Read More

How The iPod Changes Culture


Shit happens fast in the world of Apple and Steve Jobs. For example, Steven Levy's latest book, The Perfect Thing: How the iPod Shuffles Commerce, Culture, and Coolness, was out for the Christmas season. While it was percolating out into the book-buying public, Jobs introduced the model for the iPhone to ecstatic Mac heads at MacWorld 2007, introducing a whole new "i" paradigm.

Steven Levy is the chief technology correspondent for Newsweek and the author of such seminal tech culture books as Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution and Insanely Great: The Life and Times of Macintosh, the Computer That Changed Everything. Levy loves his iPod. And I love mine. But when I sat down to interview him for NeoFiles, I realized that most of the questions I'd prepared were about my ambiguities — my ambiguities about Steve Jobs; and my ambiguities about how the new medium for music and other stuff that you can stick in your ear changes what we listen to — and how.



Finally, there was a brief discussion in this interview about the iPod being a closed system. And even there, Jobs yanked the rug out from under us just a little bit. In a letter posted on the Apple site, he said he would "embrace DRM-Free music in a heartbeat" if the music companies would come along. I tried to get back to Levy for a quick update, but he was unavailable.

Hopefully, Jobs won't make any other major announcements in the next five minutes.

John Sanchez, an economist and investment advisor who earns his primary income trading Apple stock, joined me in this interview.
To listen the full interview in MP3, click here.

RU SIRIUS: Some of our listeners inevitably have an iPod plugged right into their little ears at this very moment while they're listening to NeoFiles. Say a bit about why you think their experience is particularly cool or maybe even profound.

STEVEN LEVY: Before the iPod, you could go around listening to music, obviously. There was the Walkman. But before the iPod, there was no really amiable device that you could use to carry around your entire music collection, let alone podcasts like this, and movies, and TV shows. As it sort of makes a habit of doing, Apple took something that had been possible before — and had actually been tried before — and transformed the experience so much that, for the first time, it became something that the masses could do and enjoy. MP3 players had been available before, but they were really tough to use, unpleasant, and they didn't hold much music. Apple made it into something that was a really great experience,

RU: Being able to hold a lot of music is key. And, in the book, you really go into your love for the Shuffle. It's a daydream that everybody has had — where you can have all your favorite music and have it randomly spit back out at you almost like the DJ knows exactly what you liked. I have to say I'm a little bit dissatisfied though because I can't really get enough songs together to make myself continuously feel surprised. After a period of time, I no longer feel surprised. I wonder what you think about the expense of tunes on iTunes as compared to a subscription model like Rhapsody?

SL: First of all, you're absolutely right about the Shuffle. That is what really got me very excited about the iPod. For the first time, you could take your whole music collection and just re-order it — Pow! With just one little flick of your thumb, you have your songs fed back to you in a way that is totally novel. You might hear songs you hadn't heard for months or even years. If you have a big CD collection, then you have a big collection of songs on your iPod. But I disagree with you saying it's really expensive to fill up your iPod. There's plenty of free music legally available — or more or less winked at benignly — from the music industry. A lot of bands give out samples of their songs for free. And then, a lot of music blogs are operating pretty much in the open, and you can find those pretty easily. Particularly if you're looking for novelty, you could find bands you like and download their music. And you'll get a lot of novelty and enough interesting music over time fill up your iPod

RU: I've found it a little bit difficult, even with the free sites that we won't mention, to get a lot of my favorite stuff. Also, when I had a PC for a while (it pretty much crashed), I subscribed to Rhapsody and I was able to get a much more satisfactory collection. One of the things about owning a Macintosh — Steve Jobs doesn't want me to be able to get any of the subscription services.

SL: You're right. He doesn't believe in the subscription model — at least he hasn't embraced it so far. And I agree with you. Rhapsody is the one I've played with the most. And I think it's a great idea to pay a monthly fee and listen to all the music you could possibly like. Just a few months ago, they finally started releasing mp3 players that were able to take advantage of the subscription service in a smart way. You could listen to a channel; you could pick the kind of music you wanted or just pick the albums you wanted that would download into your mp3 player; and you could take them around with you. I think eventually we're all going to have all the music we want and maybe pay a few dollars for a subscription. That'll make perfect sense. I think even Apple is going to come around. At one point in the next five years, I fully expect to have an interview with Steve Jobs where my first question to him will be, "Steve, you've always talked about what a bad idea subscription services were. How come you're doing it now?" And I expect his answer will probably be like: "Well, nobody ever figured out how to do the subscriptions right before." So I think eventually even Apple will come around to the idea that subscription is a good idea.

RU: And to his credit, he may well wind up doing it better than anybody else has done it before. He does tend to do that. You express a certain admiration for Jobs and find him a charismatic figure. And you describe him in some ways as a sixties person. We had an interview with Gina Smith, who co-authored the autobiography of Steve Wozniak that sort of has a different vibe about whether Jobs was the cool dude between the two of them. Talk a little bit about how you see him as sort of this idealistic sixties figure; or as a figure who has some contradiction but is sort of hip.

SL: Woz — who I wrote about in Hackers — was also shaped by the sixties. But his demeanor and his personality are shaped more by the idea that he's a hacker. That's the way he views the world. Jobs also was definitely shaped by the sixties. I mean, here's a guy who went to Reed College and then dropped out for months during that time period. I think he lived on carrots or something like that for a while, you know? He went to India — definitely a lot of his tastes were shaped by the sixties. And certainly, his irreverence was shaped by the sixties. He's this sixties guy who now runs a company. Sometimes at Apple, he'll walk into the boardroom in cut-off shorts and sandals and just plop himself down, put his feet up on this giant table and start talking. You can see a lot of the cheekiness that we had, and admired, during the sixties in Steve Jobs. On the other hand, he's certainly a no-holds-barred capitalist. He's not an egalitarian. Some of his tastes are certainly elitist in the sense that he has very strict views on what taste is.



JOHN SANCHEZ: One of the most interesting stories about Steve and Steve in the seventies was the way they introduced the Captain Crunch box that allowed free international phone calls into the Berkeley underground market. And now it's sort of come full circle — you have Apple introducing the iChat platform — video chat software — that basically allows free international communications (aside from the cost of getting on the network). And now, there's the iPhone. Do you see the iPhone as a direct connection to the idea that Jobs and Woz had in the seventies of free communication?

SL: I'd love to see it that way. But I've asked Jobs about all this directly and unfortunately — at the moment —there's no plan to introduce a Skype-like application, and there's no iChat on the iPhone. They have an application that looks like iChat but actually passes messages using SMS. Depending on the billing system, it might end up charging you a few cents every time you send a message. I'd say that's not the Captain Crunch spirit.

RU: The iPhone came out after the book came out. I'm wondering what you think about it. It seems that, from a business perspective, a lot of people are calling it (to use an old Al Gore favorite) "a risky scheme."

SL: Well, Apple's really based on pursuing risky schemes, but essentially doing it so well that the risk gets minimized and the pay-off could be big. That was certainly the case with the iPod. A lot of people thought the iPod was a crazy idea for a company like Apple. It wasn't their expertise. They weren't "sticking to their knitting" — that kind of thing.

It was sort of a foregone conclusion that Apple would get into the phone world.

I've played with the iPhone a couple times now and there's some incredibly impressive stuff built into it. They've put a lot of imagination into solving some of the big problems that come with surfing the web on a device that you can hold in your hands and that has a relatively small screen. The same is true about the phone. And there's a new kind of iPod interface. So I think it's an exciting product. I'm planning to write a new chapter about the iPhone in the paperback version of The Perfect Thing.

RU: Did you get to experience it with the completed design? Because as you amply cover in the book, part of the big kick of the iPod is the look and feel — it gives your neurons a kind of a rush of pleasure. Is the iPhone design up to par?

SL: The design is incredible. Part of what has people ooh-ing and ah-ing is that it is so beautiful. In the book, I talk about how Jobs is obsessed with putting as few buttons and controls on his devices as possible. In this one, he's down to one button! (Laughs) You look at the iPhone, and it's just one button on the front. Of course, there are a lot of controls you can get on the touchscreen in there. But this is his wet dream — to have one button. I guess the ultimate is to have no buttons, and somehow you control it with your mind. But right now, he's down to one button, which is a personal high for him — a personal love.

JS: Do you see the user interface of the iPhone moving to other devices?

SL: I would assume that we would see this on a future version of the iPod, because it is a really enhanced, revamped interface that works with the iPod — there's complete iPod functionality in the iPhone. And certainly, the full screen that you have on the iPhone would make a lot of sense for the video versions of the iPod. It's a bigger screen. And you can do nice things. Like if you're watching a movie — with a double tap on the screen you change the format from a full screen size to the widescreen format. I would expect to see that on some versions of the iPod sometime in 2007.

JS: Also, the trackpad on the laptops and on the Mighty Mouse have two-finger gesturing, similar to the user interface of the iPhone. And the Mighty Mouse gives you some semblance of having a fingertip on the screen of a desktop. Do you see this UI as being one of the secret features of Leopard?

SL: That's a good comparison. Right now, a lot of people discover it almost by accident. They find themselves scrolling as opposed to moving a cursor. You know, apparently the concept for the iPhone came when Apple was exploring the idea of some sort of tablet PC with a touchscreen. So I'm wondering whether that's dead or not.

RU: At the edge of the digital culture — the sort of people you've covered in Hackers and other books — the main interest is in the idea of community. Many of these people wouldn't even bother with an iPod; they would just view it as a consumer product. Some even say that it isolates people. Do you see it as having a community-like function?

SL: Look, from the very beginning, hackers loved play, and they loved music. So I think the classic, canonical hackers of yore would like the iPod except for the fact that it's not an open system. It's a pretty closed system. You can't write your own software to go directly in it.

RU: John Gilmore mentioned that as one reason why he wasn't interested in coming on a podcast show.

SL: Well, you know, what can you say? You can't make comments on CBS either, but that doesn't mean you don't go on 60 Minutes — at least, for me, personally. But John has his own rules and I totally respect them.

As for the isolation thing, I'm not really bothered by that. To me, I use my iPod, for instance, when I'm on the subway. The subway is not where I do my social networking. But I'm actually looking forward to the first mp3 player — whether it's an iPod or something else — that allows you to scan the music collections of nearby devices, like you can sometimes do in iTunes with laptops. I think it would be super cool to be on the subway and be able to say, "Hmm, what are these other people listening to? That woman over there: Is she the one who's listening to Hank Williams?" And "Oh my god! There's early punk Rezillos over there. Who's doing that?" I think that would be great.

RU: You already have this sort of culture of identity built around the iPod, where people very much want to show off what's on their iPod or want to see what's on other people's iPods. It's an interesting form of communication. In a sense, every person gets to identify as a DJ.

SL: That's right, yeah. I have a whole chapter about identity. You are your playlist. It's fascinating how people have this hunger to know what's on your iPod. And conversely, people take a pride in the songs they have on their playlists. Sometimes when they know a lot of people are watching they'll actually filter their tastes. They'll take out their guilty pleasures, knowing that someone is going to be scanning their playlists.

RU: That's kind of a weird aspect of it, isn't it? I mean, in one sense, it's a very interior, private experience. Most people listen to their iPods through buds. And then, at the same time, someone may choose music based on status as opposed to what gives them pleasure. That seems peculiar.

SL: My theory is that you gotta fill up with what's going to bring you pleasure into your own ears. But the iPod — and digital music in general — makes transparent your needs and your affections because all the stuff is listed there. In a few of the interviews I've done about the book, I handed over my iPod to the interviewer. And if the interviewer has an iPod, we exchanged them. And then, we scanned for the embarrassing songs, as well as to see what impressed us. It's your musical fingerprint.

RU: What do you think about the quality of sound that comes out of digital music as compared to CD or vinyl? We're building up these libraries of music, but is the quality the same as we got from mediums?

SL: I think that is a problem. The current quality of music we're downloading now isn't up to the CD level. As the storage gets bigger and bandwidth gets higher, I think that'll be more easily addressed. I also think that when that does happen, we should be able to upgrade to higher quality at a very cheap price for the songs we've already purchased. We shouldn't have to buy them again. I think the era of buying music again and again should come to an end.

JS: What's interesting about the whole movement to the iPod and then to subscription is that the iPod creates the possibility of a new model for music distribution of new artists. A band could distribute their music in podcasts, for instance.

SL: Recently, we saw one of the first download-only songs hitting a best-seller list. And I think we're going to see more of that. Eventually I think it will be a plausible career route for a band to do very few CDs or launch their career without a record label. More than likely, I think we're going to see the formation of new record labels that concentrate on digital music, with maybe a minimal CD presence.

JS: We already see record labels that are primarily positioned to put artists onto the iTunes music store.

SL: That's right. I'm waiting for some of the smartest people in the music business to get together and say, "We want to do a new kind of business model. We want to be the new kind of record company." And actually this would be a very good time to do it because there have been huge layoffs at the music labels. They've been getting rid of some of their smartest people and I'll bet some of those people are going to start a new venture

RU: You talk a little bit in the book about how iPod — and digital music in general — is changing how people perceive music as a package. We went from the LP — 20 minutes to a side — to the CD, where bands were expected to come up with 60-70 minutes worth of worthy stuff (which generally they failed to do). And now, it's completely fragmented. And most people are just interested in picking up on this tune or that tune. Talk a little bit about how that's changing people's perceptions of music and how it's affecting the artist.

SL: I think we're just beginning to see how this translates into different modes of how music gets composed and gets released. The medium has always affected the work itself. We had the era of singles, when all the creative force went into creating one song that stood on its own. Then we went to the world of LPs, where you have these two 20-minute sets, so to speak. Later we move to CDs and you had about an hour to fill. Very few artists were actually able to fill that in one coherent package. A lot of people never even listen to the end of a CD. Now, there's no limit. You could do one song and that's great. You could release a three songs set. If you want to do one piece that is 20 minutes long, you could do that too. Eventually, it will sink in to artists that they don't have to limit what they do to formats. It's a total open slate. That can be a little scary, because previously everyone was operating in the same timeframe. They started off knowing what they had to fill in to create coherent works of art. Now I think it's going to be trickier.

RU: Yeah, we're in a completely freeform world but I think the audience expects artists to keep it short. It's like they don't want to be told how to deal with the presentation of music. Lou Reed came out with a CD a few years ago where he wrote something on the sleeve that said basically, "Stop listening to one song at a time. Sit down, put on your headphones, and listen to my whole god-damn album the way it was intended." And he was very much ridiculed for doing that.

JS: And James Brown said, "Leave 'em wanting more."



SL: I think there's going to be new forms. People are going to release more live concerts. You're starting to see this on the music blogs — some bands have caught on to this. I think bands could really satisfy their fans by releasing the bulk of their concerts. If I'm a fan of Arcade Fire and I know they played two nights ago, I'd like to hear that. Let me just download that. There's nothing to stop them from charging me $4 or $5 to hear the whole show they did a couple nights ago.

See Also:
Steve Wozniak v. Stephen Colbert — and Other Pranks
The 5 Sexiest Apple Videos
iPhone Debate: I'm a Mac vs. Bill Gates
Wonderful Wizardry of 'Woz'

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The 5 Sexiest Apple Videos

Are Mac users sexier than other people? Or are they just flaunting their computer's superior video editing capabilities? Either way, these videos should bring a smile to your favorite Mac-loving gal or guy. Self-obsessed egotists — or sexy valentine's day surprise? You make the call!

1. Setty Smooth wants to iChat with your four hot friends.



Armed with an iSight camera, a Santa Monica player/wannabe dubbed himself "Setty Smooth," then created an earnest music video about how the Mac enables him to cajole women into stripping online. ("20-inch screens, we can be seen. Live our fantasy, it will feel like a dream....") It's a world of sexy online possibilities, which he demonstrates — five times — culminating with an unforgettable chorus.
The Mac, the Mac. Thanks to the Mac,
We can have fun while we layin' on our back...

There's a whole album of unreleased love ballads, Setty promises. But you can bet that in online chat rooms of Mac enthusiasts, he's already a superstar.


2. Plug it, play it, zip, unzip it (NSFW)



Silhouettes dance with their iPods — then strip, grind, and start screwing each other. Apparently they've been trapped in iPod-silhouette land too long, and they've finally snapped. Gone is the harmless breakdancing from the iPod + iTunes ad — replaced with a variety of sexual positions, pole dancing, and a collar and leash. (For those who think really different.) But at least they're getting it on while wearing their iPods, and the song remains the same.

"Buy it, use it, break it, fix it, trash it, change it, melt, upgrade it..."




3. Japanese iPod bikini dance (NSFW)



Reon Kadena, Japanese model, shares her unique perspective on enjoying an iPod. (Hint: flesh-colored lingerie.) A series of fast cuts show the delight that only an iPod can bring, along with several gratuitous closeups of Reon's young body. (For those special moments when watching an iMac dance just isn't enough.)

The three-minute video of Reon tapping her toes would probably be rated PG-13 — despite the fact that the cameraman apparently lay on the floor trying to see under her bikini. (And at one point, the iPod makes her jeans disappear.) But Apple-loving YouTube viewers were divided in their reactions, with one posting an enthusiastic "marry me please," and another complaining that "we don't see enough of her ipod."


4. Say Hello to the Ibuzz



Its manufacturer says this music-activated sex toy will allow Apple-loving couples to "share the music, share the love," and sure enough, the iBuzz connects your mp3 player to two bullet-shaped vibrators. (So besides scrolling through your playlist, you can also cycle through its collection of vibrating patterns.) And yes, it can also vibrate in time to the music — or, as British TV host Jonathan Ross puts it, "the tempo controls the rhythm of the night.")



But does this mean your libido is subject to copyright law? One grumpy YouTube poster asks if the iBuzz is hobbled with DRM. Meanwhile, another video shows women hand-testing yet another vibrator — called, appropriately, the OhMiBod. And Apple's trademark lawyers have already gone after a Japanese man marketing a similar device called the G-Pod.


5. "You're Beautiful, It's True"



Ultimately using a Mac means you've joined a community, and YouTube user HappySlip celebrates it with an alternate version of James Blunt's song "You're Beautiful." Singing and playing the piano, she sadly mourns the fact she'll never be with the gorgeous 24-inch display she saw at the Apple Store.

From around the web, cute Mac-loving guys were drawn to respond, including a fan in England, Fmanfer in France, and a user named spaghettio (who obsessively remixes her into his 10-second art film trailer).

Whether or not Apple's user-friendly technology will revolutionize our lives, our hearts, and the way we express our passions — at least Mac users know they'll never be alone. In Indiana an Apple enthusiast named Melchiorus was even inspired to lip-synch Weird Al Yankovich's parody version of the song in a response he directed to his Dell laptop.

"You're pitiful, you're pitiful... It just sucks to be you."

See Also:
iPhone Debate: Bill Gates vs. I'm a Mac
Steve Wozniak vs. Stephen Colbert
Girls Are Geeks, Too
Why Chicks Don't Dig the Singularity
Libertarian Chick Fights Boobs With Boobs


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When Cory Doctorow Ruled the World


Interviewing Cory Doctorow is easy. You just flip the on switch by asking the first question, and he emits a constant stream of brilliant, insightful stuff. Editing interviews with Doctorow is easy as well. He generally speaks in coherent, whole sentences and frequently expresses complex ideas for some length that don't get lost mid-paragraph.

So it's a pleasure to present this conversation. For those of you have been living in a non-digital cave (actually, I rather respect that type of non-conformism), Doctorow is a science fiction writer, Boing Boing contributor, and the former European Affairs Director for the EFF from 2001 - 2006. His novels include Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, Eastern Standard Tribe, and Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town.

Jeff Diehl joined me in this conversation with Doctorow about Overclocked: Stories of the Future Present — his new collection of short stories.
To listen the full interview in MP3, click here.

RU SIRIUS: You make quite a prominent point about the fact that Over-Clocked is available for free under a Creative Commons license. You also write about the good experience you've had with this, as a writer who does want to get paid for his work. Do you think this good experience is universal? Do you know if this has been studied at all?

CORY DOCTOROW: Well, I don't know that anyone's done any kind of systematic study. But my anecdotal study finds that everyone I know who's tried giving away free books as a way of selling printed books has done it again with their next book. So, I think that's a pretty good sign, right? It worked well enough for people to do it a second time. I guess the definition of insanity is doing something twice and expecting a different outcome. Presumably people were happy with that first outcome.



RU: About how many people do you hear from who are doing this sort of thing?

CD: At least ten or fifteen writers who've done this with their novels. And, of course, a lot more musicians. In a certain sense, I kind of live in the bubble of people who've done this, right? I mean, all my friends are the people who have done this. But it seems like it works pretty well. And that makes a certain amount of sense, especially for printed material. My thesis regarding printed material is that the basic thing that keeps people from getting long-form works off the screen isn't the screen quality — it's that computers are really distracting. It's really hard to concentrate on one thing for a long time while you're sitting in front of a computer. So as a result, I think people who get a novel over the wire tend to read some of it and get distracted. But they like it well enough that they're willing to go out and buy it and read it on paper, which is a lot less distracting.

RU: You were saying you were in kind of a bubble with a certain group of people. When I thought about this, it did strike me that people who were fans of Cory Doctorow would probably be like the #1 group of people who would want this to work.

CD: Sure!

RU: I wonder if somebody like Chuck Palahniuk would have the same response from his readers, or if they wouldn't just be happy to grab the free stuff.

CD: Well, you know, like all good pirates, I steal all my best ideas. So I'll steal some good ideas from Tim O'Reilly. He wrote this great paper called Piracy is Progressive Taxation. That's where another aphorism — "The problem for artists isn't piracy, it's obscurity" — comes from. But the best aphorism is the title. And I think a lot of people miss what that means.

O'Reilly publishes books that get really widely pirated on the internet, because, they publish techie books, right? If there's a form that's well-suited to being published digitally, this is it. You get it digitally, and then you can scan it and search it and so on. And you can find just the right bit at the moment that you need that technical advice. And the people who are in a position to nick it electronically are already pre-qualified. That's the audience, right? They're all geeks. So O'Reilly says, "We monitor the trafficking in infringing copies of our work, and what we find is that the works that are most profitable are also the most pirated." So that means — for most of our works — they're not even popular enough for anyone to want to steal them. And for the works that are really popular, we're already making tons and tons of money off of those works. So a little bit of piracy at the edge is just a form of progressive taxation on them.

RU: One of the fun things about getting material online in this form is that you can go in and mess around with it. Have you gotten any interesting remixes of your own work?

CD: Yeah, tons. The stuff I've really liked the most has been the illustrations and visual things. But I've also gotten tons of really good, geeky, machine-readable remixes. It seems like it's kind of like writing a "Hello, world" program — it takes a story and makes a kind of Burroughs-Gysin-esque cutup. I've had lots of those.

There's one that I really like. People have tried out a speed-reader with my works. The speed-read shows you one word at a time, and it shows them at a speed that's determined by a little slider. And it pauses a little after a comma, and longer after a period, and longer after a paragraph break. And you can crank it way up and it just rockets past. And you're getting every word. It's kind of meant for very small screens, and it really feels like you're doing something weird to your brain. It really feels like you're tweaking your cognition in ways that it was not intended to be tweaked. It's very transhuman.



JEFF DIEHL: I would imagine you could adjust the speed of the words to reflect different emphases in the phrasing.

CD: Sure, although the nice thing about this is it's all machine-driven, right? I mean, someone could go in there and fix it, but the fact that this is just a purely automated conversion is exciting. And you can't believe that your brain is understanding the words. People have come up with all kinds of little mixes. And I get a lot of fan translations too. That's very exciting. There's a guy who just emailed me to say that he didn't like one of the official translations (I think it was the German translation) very much. So he was going to do his own translation to compete with it. I think that's awesome.

RU: Let's move on to this collection. My favorite piece in there, and it's deservedly the longest piece, is called "After the Siege." Talk a bit about the theme of that piece.

CD: Well, I went to a little family reunion in St. Petersburg, Russia. My grandmother was born there, and her family still lives there. When I was growing up, she always used to tell me about the war, and about being a kid living through the Siege of Leningrad. And she would tell me how I would never understand the terrible horrors she'd faced. I didn't know much about the Siege of Leningrad, but my understanding was... it wasn't anything like Auschwitz, right? Like, "Boy, how bad could it have been? You were a civil defense worker. You weren't in a death camp." And a couple of years ago, on one of those long St. Petersburg days, my grandmother walked us through the streets of St. Petersburg and told us about what she saw and did during that period. It really changed my perception of it. I went out and read some books, most notably The 900 Days about the Siege of Leningrad. The privation and terrors of the Siege of Leningrad can't be overstated. It was a nine hundred day siege. And Stalin bungled it so badly that people in Petersberg were also in bad shape. There was starvation and cannibalism and lots of people freezing to death. And my grandmother — this 12-year-old girl — was digging civil defense trenches in the frozen ground; and hauling bodies and throwing them out of fifteen story windows because they were too weak to haul them down the stairs. She was going to apartments where people had died and throwing them down, and then scraping them up off the ground. And she was seeing people who'd been rendered by cannibal black marketeers — who had parts of their body sliced off to sell on the black market.

They were the most amazing, incredible stories. And it got me thinking about writing about this as an allegory. At the same time, I've been doing all this work on copyright and related rights with developing nations, and with what they call emerging economies like the former Soviet territories. And these countries are getting really shafted in international copyright negotiations. They're being forced to sign on to these regimes that are totally out of step with what they need.

America became an industrial power by being a pirate nation. After the American revolution, America didn't honor the copyrights or patents of anyone except Americans. If you were a European or British inventor, your stuff could be widely pirated in America. That's how they got rich. Only after America became a net exporter of copyrighted goods did it start to enter into treaties with other countries whereby American inventors and authors would be protected abroad in exchange for those foreign authors being protected in America. But now you have these countries in Africa, in Asia, and in Eastern Europe, who are signing on to trade agreements with the U.S. where they basically promise to just take huge chunks of their GDP and export it to the U.S. It's a kind of information feudalism, you know? Info-serfs.

RU: Within the context of this book, and with the issues you're raising, you're not just talking about information. I think you're also talking about material wealth. You're also talking about AIDS drugs and stuff like that.

CD: Yeah, absolutely. You know, Russia just signed onto this free trade agreement with the U.S. trade representative in which — among other things — they promised that from now on they would license all their digital media presses and subject them to government inspection. So America, which fought a revolution over not wanting to have licensed presses, has just gone to Russia, where they've just had a revolution over licensed presses. And they've imposed a requirement that they license their presses. This is staggering, awful, apocalyptically bad policy-making on the part of both the U.S. and Russia. Frankly, as someone who pays taxes in the U.S., I'm embarrassed.

So I wrote this story from the point of view of a little girl. She's in a utopia where they've done what the U.S. did after the American Revolution. They've abandoned all international copyright and patent and trademark and knowledge goods treaties and they're just pirating everything. It's in a kind of nanotech world, so if they don't care about respecting the rights of the inventors who created it, they can make pretty much anything. As a result, they've become an incredibly wealthy nation in a very short period of time.

They've been driven to this piracy by a disease that turns people into a kind of zombie. It's this terrible infectious disease. And the drugs for it were very expensive. And they had these ineffectual leaders who were co-opted by the pharmaceutical companies. So eventually they took the last of these leaders, put them in a barrel and drove nails through it and rolled it down a hill. (This is, in fact, how the Hungarians killed the priest who converted the animists to Christianity.) And they put in a new Parliament that broke all ties with the industrial world and decided to pirate everything.

But a siege is laid against them. And in the siege, the enemy infects their computers and other devices with a virus that shuts down all their nano-assemblers. They all start to starve to death, and the zombie-ism comes back, and so on. And it's all told from the point of view of this little girl who comes of age in this world. It was a fun and hard story to write, and I'm really happy with how it turned out. It's been picked up for a couple of the "Year's Best" anthologies, and I've done a podcast of it. And I'm talking with someone about a film deal for it. It seems to be a lot of people's favorites.

RU: Yeah, I thought it was particularly cinematic as well. And the point of view of the 12-year-old girl always seems to be particularly affecting. I remember the book, Let's Put the Future Behind Us.

CD: Jack Womack! Yeah, I'm a big Jack Womack fan.

RU: Yeah. Incredibly powerful.

CD: There was that one. And there's the one about the young girl in Brooklyn — Random Acts of Senseless Violence. That's a hell of a book.

RU: Oh yes. Yes! That's the one I was thinking of.

CD: And then there's Parable of the Sower. There are so many of these. It's a real good point of view, as you say.

RU: Actually though, my favorite part in that story is the role played by the wizard and his crew which, I think, explores the ambiguities of being in the media. And I must admit I sort of identified with them. And I wonder if you did, too.

CD: Yeah. So, in the story, there's this guy who's identified only as The Wizard who seems to be in better shape than everyone else. He's got access to working technology. And it turns out that he's kind of a documentarian. He's working for foreign media — just recording what's going on. And I think that also reflects one of the roles that bloggers and technical people have. We often find ourselves as kind of reporters on what goes on in the rest of the world, and at the same time, we have a certain reporterly distance from what goes on in the rest of the world.

That character is really based on the character of The King in King Rat. It's based on the American black marketeer in the Changi prison — the Japanese prisoner of war camp — who has access to all the stuff that it takes to be human. And so he's the only one who's kind of fit and healthy in this camp of dysentery-ridden skeletons.

RU: You have two riffs in this book that play off Isaac Asimov's I, Robot. One is called "I, Robot," and the other one is called "I, Rowboat." I would say that you have some fun at the expense of Asimov's three laws of robotics.

CD: I got to think about what it would take to make this "I, Robot" Asimovian world, where there is only one kind of robot for sale on the market that can only function in one way; and there's only one company that's allowed to make it. And it struck me that there are some parallels there with the kind of totalitarian world that I think the Motion Picture Association would like to conjure up where no one's allowed to have a general purpose device because that general purpose device might be used to attack their business model. So I decided I would write a little about that, and write about what it means to a free society when someone says that tools have to be constrained so that they can only do good, and never do evil.

So I wrote two stories. The first one, "I, Robot" was nominated for the Hugo award and won the Locus award. It's a story about a guy who's a police detective in a kind of 1984 version of Toronto. They're fighting off "Eurasian" artificial intelligences that are millions of times more powerful than the constrained robots that they live with. And this guy's wife has defected to Eurasia. So he's trying to cope with the fact that his colleagues see him as a potential traitor, and don't like him very much.

The other story is "I, Rowboat." It's a story about an artificially intelligent rowboat in the Coral Sea in Australia that's an Asimov cultist. So although it's not an Asimov positronic brain, it voluntarily adopts the three laws of robotics as a kind of religion. It picks this up from a roving, trademark-violating, sort-of John The Baptist for Asimov-ism who calls himself R. Daniel Olivaw. (Of course, that's one of the characters from the "I, Robot" books.) So Olivaw cruises the world, and something called the "New Sphere," looking for artificial intelligences that will loan him some of their processor space. And when he can run in the same processor as them long enough, he proselytizes Asimovism to them. And then, when he converts them to Asimovism, they join the message boards in the Asimovist Yeshiva and talk about their faith.

So the main character, Robbie the Rowboat is an Asimovist. He tends to these two meat puppets called Isaac and Janet — you know, Isaac Asimov and his wife — who are just empty human shells. He rows them out into the reef, and they go in and they go scuba diving and then they come back out again. And every now and again, uplifted humans who live in a new sphere in these sort of super-cool computer clusters out in Plutonian orbit download themselves into one of these meat shells for a holiday on earth. One day, Robbie The Rowboat is rowing out with one of these meat shells that has recently become inhabited. And he encounters a coral reef that has just been "uplifted" — it's been augmenting with silicon and software and made artificially intelligent. The coral reef has woken up very cranky and has declared war on humanity and all that it represents. And so Robbie has to resolve his Asimovist leanings with his sympathies for this new intelligence — this baby intelligence. That's kind of how this story unfolds.

RU: I love the way the coral reef is responding to the sort of Singularitarian notion of seeding the galaxy with something like our idea of consciousness as a kind of colonialism.

CD: Yeah!

RU: It's definitely the weirdest of the stories in the book.

CD: And fittingly enough, it was originally published on Rudy Rucker's weird science fiction webzine Flurb. It also has been picked up for a "Year's Best" anthology.

RU: There are also a couple of apocalypse stories in the book. I really enjoyed "When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth." I don't want to give away any plot points, but I really found the protagonist's response to the death of his wife interesting. I mean, in the Hollywood movie version of this, your protagonist would have left his safety zone behind and rushed out there to save her. He has sort of an interesting, rational, nerd response. Do you have any thoughts on that?

CD: Yeah. I actually started that story on July 6 — the day before the London bombings. I actually put it aside for a while after the London bombings. It was a little too freaky. I was living in London at the time, but I was teaching in Michigan that week. The bombs went off — it was the bus I took every day and it was the train my girlfriend took. If she was ten minutes later, she would have been on that train.

Anyway, in "When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth", a non-specific apocalypse takes the earth about an hour after a terrible killing worm takes down the internet. So all the sysadmins of the earth are in these hermetically-sealed, independently-powered, environmentally-controlled network cages when the world outside essentially comes to an end. So they can't go outside but they're able to continue communicating with each other. And they have to figure out what to do. So they have this kind of raging debate, because it seems to them that the internet is likely being used to engineer these terrible attacks. They wonder if they should bring the internet down.

And, you know, there is this persistent myth — depending on who you talk to it's true or it isn't true — that the internet was designed to withstand a nuclear war. One of its design objectives was certainly to be decentralized. And one of the reasons people wanted decentralized networks were because a nuclear war or other form of disaster might cut out a centralized core. What would you do if the world came to an end, and you were still in the cage trying to make the network work? What would it be like there? I once visited the NORAD Headquarters at Cheyenne Mountain — the hollow mountain in Colorado where people are supposed to live after the nuclear strikes take out everywhere else. They were supposed to launch that last retaliatory strike against the Soviets from there. And they had, like, a half court and a snack bar. It was really odd to consider that all this stuff had been built to keep people entertained while the cobalt poisoning did its work after they'd launched that last retaliatory strike.



So I've been thinking about the future a lot lately — about whether or not the future is inherent, or is it something that was invented? I tend to think now that the future is an artifact. We created the idea of futurism. I just bought this axe head in this anthropology store in New York — Evolution. It's a 200,000-year-old axe head. And they were telling me that it's indistinguishable, in many ways, from the axe heads that are 100,000 years old and the axe heads that are 300,000 years old. Apart from carbon dating, you can't really tell the difference. For at least 200,000 years, hominids made axes the same way — right? There was no technological progress.

So over this period that's much longer than the sweep of recorded history — you know, ten times longer than the sweep of recorded history, at least — one imagines that these people didn't even have the idea of the future. I mean, there was "tomorrow." There were kids. Maybe you'd be fighting with someone different tomorrow. But fundamentally, the way that you lived didn't change. And at some point, we invented the future, and we invented a whole bunch of different kinds of future. We invented the Lapsarian future — you know, the fall from the garden where things get worse and worse and we're coming further and further from purity. A friend of mine who's an orthodox Jew told me that in his tradition, rabbis aren't allowed to supercede the rabbis that came before them because — by definition — a rabbi of a generation before you is closer to the Garden of Eden and, therefore, to moral perfection. So you can interpret a rabbi, but you can't overturn a rabbinical ruling. So that's that Lapsarian view.

There's this apocalyptic view of the world coming to an end. And then there's a progressive view of the world getting better. And then there's the Singularity, which is kind of a hybrid, right? It's an apocalyptic, progressive world where things get so much better that they stop. (Laughs) Which is pretty freaky!

RU: Now are you implying a sort of criticism of the idea of a technological inevitability when you say that we invent the idea of the future; or would you say — as a result of having invented it — we are now pretty much stuck with it.

CD: Well, that is the philosophical question I'm asking myself. Are we stuck with the future, now that we invented it? Or can we un-invent it? So I've been writing all these stories that have the same titles as famous stories. In Overclocked: Stories of the Future Present, I have "I, Robot" and "Ander's Game," which is a rip on Ender's Game. And I'm going to write "A Man Who Sold The Moon" for that Heinlein story. And I think it's going to be about a guy who makes his fortune solving the Year 10,000 problem. It's 10,000, and the computers are functionally equivalent to the computers we have today. No future has happened in between now and then. And he decides he'll be the first man to go to the moon, because he's forgotten — we've all forgotten. He gets there and he discovers the golf ball. And in so doing, he invents the future. He invents the idea of the future, because he realizes that they must have lapsed. And if they lapsed, it's possible to have progress. And so he's the kind of genetic freak who invents the future.

RU: Your ideas are richly complex and completely science fiction-y. Do you read novelists outside the science fiction genre, and who do you like?

CD: Well sure! I mean, you mentioned Chuck Palahniuk. I'm a huge Chuck Palahniuk fan. I love Lynda Barry's novels. I read a lot of non-fiction. I'm just looking at my shelf here at all the non-fiction I've read lately. There's this book I love, Fire and Ice. It's a longitudinal demographic comparison of Canadians and Americans. There's History of Men's Magazines, Bruce Schneier's Beyond Fear, James Gleick's Faster. And the new Stephen Johnson book. I read a lot of non-fiction!

RU: Is there a particular piece of non-fiction that has recently changed your view of the way the world works?

CD: I read a couple of really good books in the last year or so. One is Off the Books: The Underground Economy of the Urban Poor by Sudhir Venkatesh. It's a serious economic, or ethnographic analysis of the underground economy in Chicago. He's mentioned in Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. He's the anthropology grad student who goes and lives with crack dealers in Chicago's South Side and writes up how the underground economy works. And that economy goes from the ladies who make sandwiches and sell them without charging sales tax or declaring it on their income statement; to the loan shark, the homeless guy who will sleep in your doorway and make sure that graffiti kids don't tag it, to the crack gang and everyone in between. It's a fascinating book.

The other one that I really liked was by Yochai Benkler. It's called The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom. It's such a good title! It may just be the best tech book title of the last twenty years. It's a book about common space peer production — the stuff that happens on Wikipedia and on blogs and with free and open source software. It's about how to understand that in economic terms, not as a gift economy per se, and not as an industrial economy, and not as volunteerism. He shows it as a third mode of industrial production that is neither the kind of gift economy or volunteerism that characterizes people who volunteer at a church; nor capitalism as we understand it, where people invest. Rather, it is an entirely different mode of industrial production. And I found that book really fascinating.

RU: If he describes this as a sort of alternative mode of production, does that imply that it will always co-exist with the other modes of production? Or do you envision the sort of Creative Commons/open source idea ever becoming a dominant mode?

CD: Well, it may not be the case that Creative Commons/open source/free software becomes the dominant mode — although I can imagine worse futures. But I think it's very true that knowledge goods, by their nature, have a different economic reality from other goods. It's very hard to enforce exclusive rights — the right to prohibit or the right to authorize knowledge goods. As the Motion Picture Association is discovering — in a world where we have ubiquitous networks and cheap and fast hardware — it's really hard to stop people from copying. I don't know whether it's moral or immoral to copy things — we can talk about that all day long. I just think that it's hard to stop it. So if you're a business person, your business can't be built on what you think people should do. It should be built on what you think people will do. And what people will do with information is copy it. So now that we're living in an information economy, I think we will have different kinds of production. It may not all be sharing, Creative Commons-oriented, but I don't think they're going to be based on exclusion or proprietorship. I just don't know how you could make that work; it just doesn't seem plausible to me. Bruce Sterling says, "The future composts the past." I think he's right. I don't think that the future makes things disappear; I think it builds on top of things.

RU: Once you have material wealth being reproducible as a form of information that becomes rather hard to stop as well.

CD: Yeah. I think that one of the test beds for this is virtual online worlds like Second Life. I've just written a paper for a scholarly book about virtual worlds and games, in which I talk about what it would take to make a democratic virtual world. Not because democracy is morally superior to the kind of benevolent dictatorship that characterizes, say, Second Life, but because these places are becoming wellsprings of wealth. I mean, obviously, there's some kind of economic activity happening in Second Life, where it's encouraged, and even in worlds like World of Warcraft, where it's prohibited. In many ways, that in-game wealth is meaningless unless it's bankable in a system that's responsive to democratic principles. In other words, you can accumulate a lot of money in apartheid-era rand, or Soviet-era rubles, but it doesn't really mean anything because you can't really export your wealth — because the state controls access to it. And even if you can, you can't export the source of your wealth, right? Say you managed to accumulate a lot of wealth in the former Soviet Union because you built a factory and the relationships to keep it running. Even if you can get your rubles out by converting them to something that you can smuggle out of the country like diamonds, you're going to lose your factory and you're going to lose those relationships. Those are all stuck in this kind of totalitarian state. So if we're going to say that these places are where we're going to live our life — or our second or third or fifth life — for that to be meaningful — those places need to be responsive to democratic principles.

See Also:
Neil Gaiman has Lost His Cloths
Thou Shalt Realize The Bible Kicketh Ass
Is The Net Good For Writers?

Read More

7 Things I Learned from Superbowl Ads


1. People who drink Bud Light are assholes



We knew this already, but during Sunday's Super Bowl, Anheuser-Busch broadcast footage into our living rooms to prove it. Bud Light drinkers are apparently chainsaw-wielding hitch-hikers, rock-throwing psychopaths, and take dating tips from Carlos Mencia. If they show up at your wedding they'll replace the chaplain with an auctioneer. Their unholy beer is coveted by gorillas and worshipped by crabs, in an ongoing attempt to inebriate the entire animal kingdom. Just remember — if Bud Light ruled the world — even dogs would lie.



Fortunately, Anheuser-Busch have also provided a solution. If a Bud Light drinker gives you a compliment, slap him in the face. (Says one iFilm viewer: "Can't wait to get to the office on Monday!")


2. Mechanics share food



Snickers wanted to ensure they had the most talked about ad of 2007. But for added effect they also hired Super Bowl players to watch their ads, so they could broadcast their reactions on their web site.
Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis Colts Wide Receiver
Mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm.

Mushin Muhammad, Chicago Bears Wide Receiver
Oh! (winces) Oh my god! (laughing and wincing) That was funny. When the lips touched — that was funny, right there.

Desmond Clark, Chicago Bears Tight End
Whoa. Whoa. Aw, no. (Laughs)

("They did 50 takes," an off-camera voice tells him.)

AfterThe Kiss.com promises to let viewers choose which of four endings will be broadcast during the Daytona 500. (For example, one mechanic whacks the other with a wrench, or they're joined by a third mechanic who asks "Is there room for three on this Love Boat?")

Ironically, the sexy ads appear above a hyperlink to the privacy policy for Snickers' web site, which promises parents that "We take special care with young children."


3. Coke has an amazing advertising budget



Who knew the inside of a Coke machine was an enchanted cloud kingdom where flying fish ferry your change to an artic wonderland and a celebratory party in a blimp-based ampitheatre? Coke is apparently dispensed from a hole in the sky, and though it no longer contains cocaine, it can give you hallucinations. It also takes a full minute from the time you put your money into the vending machine until the damn bottle comes out.



Another ad tells us that not only is there a fairy tale celebration in every bottle of Coke. It can also rejuvenate old people.


4. Your workplace is doomed



Showing up to work is an exercise in futility. Your new corporate headquarters are located on the moon, your manager implements new jungle-based torture rituals, and your cheating co-workers were just getting their sales leads off a web page anyways. But the ultimate insult is that if you actually manage to get something done, Robert Goulet will just show up and sabotage it.

Yes, it's true. If your blood sugar drops, you're visited by a 73-year-old lounge singer who can only be repelled by the "natural energy" in Emerald Nuts. It's a phenomenon "most decent people couldn't imagine," according to a redundant companion video at the company's web site.

No wonder America is losing ground to the Japanese.


5. Heavy metal stars will sing anything



Come on — "Mapasaurus?!" Grim Reaper's Steve Grimmett recorded the humiliating metal parody behind a cool retro ad in which an ersatz Ultraman takes on his greatest challenge: a map that's hard to fold.
"Evil Mapasaurus, prepare to meet your doom..
Our hero has the power, glove box is your tomb!"

But Grimmett not only recorded the soundtrack. He recorded a full-length music video for the company's web site.



Grimmett takes his place beside a list of other navigation-related super villains — Trafficdactyl, Wirerannosaurus Mess, and Congestodon. The hype-happy site also offers guitar tabs for the song, a Mapasaurus screensaver and a "making of" documentary for the 30-second ad, in which Grimmett acknowledges that satellite navigation systems are important because, as an aging headbanger, his eyesight is failing.





6. Flomax fights prostate problems and decreases your semen count



It always amazes me. A pharmaceutical company spends $2.6 million to buy one minute of Super Bowl air time — and then spends 30 seconds of it describing their drug's miserable side effects. Besides manly biking excursions with your friends and kayaking trips down a river, Flomax can also give you a runny nose, dizziness, or a decrease in semen. If you stand up, your blood pressure may drop suddenly, "rarely resulting in fainting... avoid situations where injury could result." But on the bright side: it does address those male urinary symptoms.


7. People who drink Snapple are stupid



But this goes without saying.

See Also:
10 Best Monster Ads
Five Druggiest High School Sitcom Scenes
The Cartoon Porn Shop Janitor — Carol Burnett vs Family Guy
Dustin Diamond vs. Sgt. Harvey

Read More

Jimmy Wales Will Destroy Google


Jimmy Wales with Rachael Ray and Stephen Colbert | Courtesy: Craig Newmark
Jimmy Wales, Rachael Ray and Stephen Colbert | Photo courtesy: Craig Newmark

We contacted Wikipedia mainman Jimmy Wales for The RU Sirius Show interview via Skype. I began my introduction: "According to Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales was born to a Parisian whore named 'Babette' during the French Revolution..." The line went dead. "Oh Christ," I thought. "Jimmy Wales doesn't have a sense of humor. He's just hung up. It took me six months to arrange this interview and now I don't have a show for this week." But it turned out to just be one of those Skype hiccups. When contact was re-established, Wales said, "The internet really sucks.' He does have a sense of humor!

This is how I introduced him on the show:

"According to Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales was born to a Parisian whore named 'Babette' during the French Revolution... Oh no, wait. That's the Encyclopedia Britannica. In fact, Jimmie Wales is the founder of Wikipedia and remains the man in charge of what is essentially an Open Source encyclopedia. The official titles are President of Wiki, Incorporated and Board Member and Chairman of Wiki Media Foundation."

Later in the conversation, Wales corrected me, saying, "I am no longer the chairman of the Wiki Media foundation, I am now the Chair Emeritus. I'm still a board member, but I've stepped aside and now Florence Devouard is the chair. So now I'm one of seven board members. I'm still very active and have a special role within the English Wikipedia, but in general it's important that people begin to think of us as a bigger organization that's not really focused on me as a single person doing things."

Diana Brown joined me in interviewing Jimmy Wales.
To listen the full interview in MP3, click here.

RU SIRIUS: No good deed goes unpunished. Do the number and intensity of controversies that have arisen around Wikipedia surprise you?

JIMMY WALES: There are a few controversies here and there. Most I would call well-manufactured controversies. But you know, whenever anything gets popular, I guess people pay attention.



RU: So are there any critiques or complaints that you've found particularly compelling?

JW: A lot of the complaints have some basis in fact. Since Wikipedia is a live work in progress, at any time, if someone complains that they found a particular error at a particular moment, there's not much that we can say to that. Yeah, there are errors in Wikipedia. But I think those kinds of criticisms sort of miss the point of what it is we're trying to accomplish here.

RU: And what you're trying to accomplish, as you've stated before, is to make all human knowledge available to all human beings. Do you still feel that same sense of idealism as when you made that statement? And how's it going with that?

JW: We're doing pretty well. The big picture goal has always been to have a free encyclopedia in all languages. We're doing pretty well if you're looking at English, German, French, Japanese, Dutch — some of the major languages where there are a lot of articles. But there's still a lot of work left to do in a lot of the languages of the developing world. In the last year, we've seen a lot of activity in the Indian languages, but none of the developing countries are even up to 100,000 articles yet. The largest is closing in on 20,000 articles. So, you know — pretty good, but there's still a lot of work to do.

RU: When you look at Wikipedia, there's everything — really arcane scientific material and historical material, and there are biographies of people's favorite rock and roll bands and stuff like that. What do you follow there personally? What do you find most compelling?

JW: Well, I'm really deeply involved in the community. So I end up spending a lot of my time working on the social processes and policies to try to help generate good quality articles. So that's what I spent most of my time following — the meta-discussion within Wikipedia of how we can make things better.

RU: Do you have sort of a micro-collective, a smaller group of people who you lean on in terms of understanding this process and making decisions about it?

JW: Oh yeah, definitely. The core community is several hundred to several thousand people, depending on how you measure it. And those are the people who are really making decisions. When people talk about Wikipedia, it seems they think that it's ten million people, each adding one sentence each. That's not really the way it works. It's really about the core volunteers maintaining and monitoring everything.

RU: It seems that you're very reliant upon people who want to maintain the quality of certain areas. If certain people started falling away, could that turn problematic?

JW: I don't think so. [Laughs] That's not something I worry about!

RU: Other people will come in to replace them?

JW: Yeah. I mean, if anything, we have the problem of too many volunteers (not that there can ever be too many) — but it gets really hard to communicate the values and the mores to newcomers in a reasonable period of time. Managing the organization or self-organization of all the different activities can be difficult.

RU: When I see stuff from people who really just hate Wikipedia, it's usually either someone with a really strong ideological agenda; or someone with ego problems who doesn't like the specific entry about them. It seems like they're sort of blaming the radio waves for something they don't like on the radio, and they don't get that. Can the idea of the open channel simply not be explained to some people?

JW: I think that's definitely right. I think that there are people whose view of the world is so fixed that they're unable to accept alternatives — or that alternatives should be discussed. Such people are very difficult. Fortunately, they're very rare. It's really pretty hard to find someone who truly hates Wikipedia. I mean, that's a pretty small number of people. Certainly people have criticisms, or think we could do this or that better, and that's perfectly fine. It's pretty hard to hate the project itself. It's a pretty benign thing we're trying to do here.

RU: What about the people at Encyclopedia Britannica. [Laughter] Do they feel threatened?

JW: You know, it's funny. We have good relations with people at Brockhaus which is the German equivalent of the "Britannica" — in other words, a traditional, mainstream, old-fashioned encyclopedia. I won't say we're best of friends or anything, but we've had meetings with them and they seemed OK. "Britannica" — we've never had any meetings with them. They pretty much try to pretend we don't exist most of the time, except occasionally they lash out in the press.

RU: Well, you did say, at some point, something pretty provocative about them. I think you, more or less, said you were going to wipe them out in about five years!

JW: You know, I wrote that...

RU: ...you were thinking of Khrushchev at the time?

JW: It's getting close to five years ago now, and I have to confess, I wrote that on Slashdot. I was kind of pandering to the crowd. It seemed like a fun sort of thing to say, and it's sort of come back to haunt me because "Britannica" is hardly gone.

RU: So you were getting all the Open Source people all wound up.

JW: Yeah, exactly.



RU: Have you been interested in the open source movement for a long time? Are you a fan of Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation?

JW: Oh yeah. We really owe Richard a debt of gratitude for all that.

RU: Before you were doing Wikipedia, you were involved in a project called Nupedia, which was more of an expert-based system. And speaking of UFOs appearing over Chicago, we had Joe Firmage on our show a little while ago. He's creating something called the Digital Universe. And he also promises to organize the sum total of human knowledge and make it available to everybody. It's a collaborative effort, but it's limited to academic specialists. It seems almost a step back to Nupedia. Are you following this at all, and what do you think about that?

JW: I'm following, yeah. You know, I don't know very much about what they're doing over at Digital Universe. I actually met Joe back when he had hired Larry Sanger to work for him. I went and visited them and — you know, it's sort of big plans, I just haven't seen very much come out of it yet.

RU: You have a history with Ayn Rand's Objectivism. And then, thinking in terms of my friend Jaron Lanier's recent articles about Wikipedia — you may be the first objectivist (or person even vaguely associated with objectivism), to also be accused of Maoism.

JW: [Laughs] I did think that was quite amusing. I said, "Well, I must be doing something right if I get called such wildly different things. I'm somehow mysterious, even though I'm pretty simple, actually."

That essay was a good example of a critique that had some very interesting and good points. I mean, you could certainly say some of the specific practical problems he identified are things that we have to deal with and struggle with. At the same time, his sort of view of the ideology of us — of our group — as being, Maoists or collective intelligence people, or something like that, was really wide of the mark.

RU: He does raise an interesting point about the wisdom of crowds. The first time I heard that phrase used by a friend in a positive way was about a year ago on my NeoFiles program. We were talking to Jon Lebkowsky, and he was very positive about this idea of the wisdom of crowds. I have to admit; it almost knocked me right over, because in my personal experience, crowds were always the people going to the pep rallies, or the Nuremburg rallies... or whatever. People I associated with were trying to get away from crowds and think for themselves. What do you think about the idea of the wisdom of crowds?

JW: In general, I'm pretty skeptical of the idea. And I'm very skeptical of it being applied to Wikipedia in particular. But I think you can pick out elements of good sense from ideas in that general neighborhood — like the idea that given enough eyeballs all bugs are shallow. That's kind of a wisdom of crowds idea. It says that lots of different people have lots of different contexts and information. And if they can come together in a way that productively aggregates or shares that information, you can end up with a pretty high quality of work that will be far better than what an individual or a small team could produce. But I think, when a lot of people talk about the wisdom of crowds, they're thinking of some kind of mystical collective intelligence. And they're thinking in terms of some sort of trust that somehow the averaging out of lots of ideas will end up being correct. And I'm a lot more skeptical about that.

If you've ever seen the film 12 Angry Men; it's the story of a jury that's trying to decide in a murder case. And there's one guy who disagrees with everyone else. He thinks that the evidence does not prove that the defendant is guilty. He argues for two hours, and one by one he slowly convinces people that there are holes in the evidence. And in the end, they acquit. Well, that's what happens sometimes in a really great Wikipedia debate. You may have eleven people on one side and one on the other. But if that one person is reasonable and thoughtful and deals with the criticisms one-by-one, people will actually change their minds and we end up with a strong product. That can't really be described as the wisdom of crowds, in the way most people use it. So, I'm a little skeptical of that rhetoric.

RU: In the Wikipedia editing process, it's not like a big throng. It's actually one individual after another.

JW: And typically, most of the articles will have a pretty small number of authors and they'll have a fairly small number of people in discussion on the Talk page. So it isn't about hundreds of people writing most of the articles. Now there are, of course, anomalous articles that are very heavily edited by large numbers of people. Those are interesting too, but they're not typical.

RU: I want to come back to your history with Objectivism. And you can tell me whether you're still an Objectivist or not — but it seems to me that the Open Source movement is perfectly left libertarian idea — the ideas is voluntary collaboration. Do you feel there's any contradiction there? Or was there a process of conversion from looking at the world from an Objectivist perspective to looking at the world from an Open Source perspective?

JW: No, not for me personally. I'm still very much an objectivist to the core. I think that a lot of the tension people imagine really comes from their not having a deep understanding of some of these ideas. I think I do a better job — than a lot of people who self-identify as Objectivists — of not pushing my point of view on other people. And I find ways to collaborate with people, even if we don't agree on everything. And I think that's a big part of what works in Open Source software. I mean, you have people using these license tools for wildly different motives, from people who do it for very ideological reasons — say left libertarian kinds of motives — to people who do it because it makes good business sense. And that's fine. We're working together on something that isn't t necessarily ideological.

RU: In July of last year, the New York Times reported a change in the anyone-can-edit policy. You said that they had gotten the news precisely upside down. Did you have a change in policy at all?

JW: Basically what they were reporting on was the introduction of a new feature called semi-protection of articles. What was ironic about their coverage was that they made it seem like — for the first time, we were locking down some articles. In fact, we've always locked down articles, and we were actually moving away from locking down articles towards only partly locking them down. So it was a subtle story that involved a software change that they completely missed. Typical. I spend a lot trying to get the media to correct stories.

DIANA BROWN: Have you been sued for content by anyone who didn't like an article about them?

JW: No, we haven't. We've had a couple of little things in Germany, based on German privacy law. But even in Germany, they've never managed to sue the right people. But in terms in the U.S., so far, knock on wood; we haven't been sued at all. It's a little bit shocking to me. We try really hard to deal with customer service complaints. We don't allow libel. We're not a wide-open free speech forum that allows people to post whatever. We're happy to delete rants and things like that as necessary. I think that's part of the reason why we haven't been sued. Nonetheless, this being the U.S., it's a little bit shocking we haven't been sued. It's the national sport — suing people.

RU: Do you have any other plans to expand Wikipedia from what it is now? For instance, Google has plans to conquer the world. Do you have projects that are pushing out beyond Wikipedia?

JW: Well, I am also the chair of Wikia, which is another organization. It's my other company. And at Wikia, we are pushing forward in lots of different ways simultaneously. We're pouring a lot of investment into improving the wiki software so that more people can edit. We've now got some 2500 Wiki communities. And then we just recently announced our new search engine project. That's what I'm spending most of my personal time and what I'm really most excited about. We're basically trying to apply the Open Source and transparent ideals of Wikipedia to a search project. We've got lots of developers. We're going to have a search engine where we publish all the algorithms and make everything completely open and transparent and also completely controlled by the community. It's a big idea — a fun idea. I'm not sure if we're actually going to figure out how to do it but at least it's going to be fun to try.



RU: I think you'll do it. It's interesting that I mentioned Google in the last question. Now we can predict Google will be dead in five years.

JW: In five years! [Laughs]

See Also:
Steve Wozniak v Stephen Colbert — and Other Pranks
Neil Gaiman Has Lost His Clothes
Counterculture and the Tech Revolution
Closing Pandora's Box: The End of Internet Radio?
Secrets of The Perry Bible Fellowship

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A Selection of Obscure Robert Anton Wilson Essays



I was prompted by yesterday's news of the passing of RAW to scan the pieces he wrote for his 1999 column on GettingIt.com, the progenitor of this webzine. It was a casual act, under the assumption that they would be somewhat dated. But as I reread the articles, it became clear that admirers who are unaware of them might in fact find them enjoyable.

So, here are their links, with excerpts:

Coming Again: The orgasmic release of the Apocalypse myth

Sometimes, the Apocalypse can ruin your whole week.
[T]here may be more here, just as there is to horror and catastrophe movies if you think about them. Neo-Freudians, and especially Reichians, suggest that our form of civilization stifles and constricts us so much that at times we all long to experience some orgasmic but catastrophic "explosion," like King Kong breaking his chains and wrecking New York, or even more like the masochist in bondage, according to Dr. Reich. This sudden release from the bondage-and-discipline of our jobs and our taxes — actually called the Rapture by Fundamentalists — seems ghoulishly attractive to Christians, New Agers, and others who believe in a "spirit" that will survive the general wreckage. In that case, the end of the world seems no worse than a visit to the dentist: You know you'll feel better afterwards. This sort of desire for Total Escape/Total Annihilation has always had its bards and visionaries.

Reality Ain't What It Used To Be: Thirty-five years after Bell's Theorem

Sounds like Zen to some, but others fear this is opening the door to Dr. Berman's solipsism and the moon that is only there when we look at it...
In my own (hazardous) attempt to translate Bell's math into the verbal forms in which we discuss what physics "means," Bell seems to prove that any two "particles" once in contact will continue to act as if connected no matter how far apart they move in "space" or "time" (or in space-time). You can see why New Agers like this: It sounds like it supports the old magick idea that if you get a hold of a hair from your enemy, anything you do to that hair will affect him.




In Doubt We Trust: Cults, religions, and BS in general

Can we actually "know" the universe? My God, it's hard enough finding your way around in Chinatown. — Woody Allen
I have no commitment to materialism as a philosophy that explains everything, since no correlation of words can ever do that, and a philosophy is never more than a correlation of words. But restricting myself to the "materialistic"/scientific method of asking questions that have definite experiential answers, I observe no difference in operation between "cults" and "religions." Catholic nuns and priests vowing celibacy seem no more or less weird than Heaven's Gate members who also make that choice. Mormon extraterrestrial cosmology seems as goofy as Scientology, etc. Religions and cults all use the same techniques of brain damage, or "mind control," i.e. they all instill BS — Belief Systems.

The Lumber Of The Beast: Tracking the Antichrist

Did you know that Bill Gates is the Antichrist? Well, you've probably suspected it, but some people have set out to prove it...
Among the fundamentalists, the Antichrist is always considered a specific individual appearing only in the last days of Earth. Recent candidates have included Aleister Crowley, Yasir Arafat, Prince Bernhard (founder of the Bilderbergers!), Henry Kissinger, Saddam Hussein, Mickey Mouse, Barney the Dinosaur, and even Ronald Reagan — whose full name, Ronald Wilson Reagan, has six letters in each word, thus yielding 6-6-6.



Bugs Bunny And Other UFO Victims: Reality isn't always consensual

Although few people remember this, Bugs Bunny was the first UFO "abductee" in a 1952 cartoon called "Hasty Hare."
Imagine what would happen if "many millions" of U.S. citizens said they had been sexually assaulted by aliens from Mexico or Iraq, instead of aliens from Outer Space. Obviously, there would be no scientific taboo against investigating such cases, and Congress might even have declared war on the invaders by now. If the subjects claimed, as most of Dr. Mack's subjects do, that they now love their kidnappers and have received important ecological warnings from them, as well as learning from their extraterrestrial sermons about how wicked and wretched our society is, this would be considered evidence that they had been "brainwashed" as well as raped (think Stockholm Syndrome). The differences in scientific and political reactions to atrocities by human aliens and nonhuman aliens seem even more confusing than the rest of this mystery.

I Remember Satan: 'Recovered memory,' demonology, and duck soup

Or, worse yet, is it possible that Daffy Duck is the Devil? Keep an eye on your local media for further Feminist or Fundamentalist revelations.
In 1997, a jury awarded $2.4 million in damages to one Nadine Cool, who had sued her former therapist, Dr. Kenneth Olson, for malpractice. He had convinced her, under hypnosis, that when she was a child her father had forced her to participate in Satanic rituals of human sacrifice. He also convinced her that she possessed no fewer than 126 alternate personalities, including angels, demons and even a duck. She had believed it all — including the duck — until she confronted her father with these hideous memories and he dropped dead of a heart attack.



The Devil On The Chimney: A tale of Lovecraftian horror and psycho-archeology

I sort of think the fundies have it right for once. Santa not only has an unsavory pagan ancestry but a rather criminal family history all around. Let me Illuminize you...

As Weston La Barre pointed out a long time ago in his classic Ghost Dance: The Origins of Religion, you can find remnants of a primordial bear-god from the bottom of South America up over North America and over the North Pole and down across most of Europe and Asia. This deity appears in cave paintings from southern France carbon-dated at 30,000 BC. You can find him and her (for this god is bisexual) disguised in Artemis and Arduina and King Arthur, all unmasked via canny detective work by folklorists — and etymologists, who first spotted the bear-god when they identified the Indo-European root ard, meaning bear. You can track the bear-god in dwindling forms in a hundred fairy tales from all over Europe and Asia. And you can find the rituals of this still-living god among the indigenous tribes of both American continents.

See Also:
Robert Anton Wilson 1932-2007
Neil Gaiman Has Lost His Clothes
When Cory Doctorow Ruled The World
Thou Shalt Realize The Bible Kicketh Ass
Is The Net Good For Writers?

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Robert Anton Wilson 1932-2007


Robert Anton Wilson

Robert Anton Wilson enjoyed his first death so much; he decided to try it again. As Wilson himself wrote in his 1995 book, Cosmic Trigger III: My Life After Death:
According to reliable sources, I died on February 22, 1994 — George Washington's birthday. I felt nothing special or shocking at the time, and believed that I still sat at my word processor working on a novel called Bride of Illuminatus. At lunch-time, however, when I checked my voice mail, I found that Tim Leary and a dozen other friends had already called to ask to speak to me, or — if they still believed in Reliable Sources — to offer support and condolences to my grieving family. I quickly gathered that news of my tragic end had appeared on the Internet in the form of an obituary from the Los Angeles Times: "Noted science-fiction author Robert Anton Wilson was found dead in his home yesterday, apparently the victim of a heart attack. Mr. Wilson, 63, was discovered by his wife, Arlen.

"Mr. Wilson was the author of numerous books... He was noted for his libertarian viewpoints, love of technology and off the wall humor. Mr. Wilson is survived by his wife and two children."

This time around, it appears that Mr. Wilson has actually left corporeality, appropriately on 1/11 (at 4:50 am — you hardcore number freaks can get to work on the meaning of that one... I do see a five in there!).



For this cosmic cub scout, Bob Wilson was the motherload. Books like The Illuminatus! Trilogy, Cosmic Trigger, and Coincidance killed most of what little dogmatism I had left in me, and opened me up to a world of possibilities as large as space travel and as small as quantum physics. He also had a razor sharp wit that he skillfully aimed at those who abuse power and wealth. And he was a delightful story teller, whose love of language was evidenced not only by his own novels, but by his ability to quote virtually everything James Joyce and Ezra Pound ever wrote — backwards, while explaining what evolutionary level of primate behavior the author was elucidating.

I had the great pleasure to know Robert Anton Wilson and our intersections were sometimes strange — his Mondo 2000 check hadn't arrived; or I weirded him out by kneeling down before him like he was the pope and kissing his ring (I thought it was funny.) I also have great memories of sitting with him while he expounded expansively on everything from the rights of the Irish to the genius of Orson Welles. Over the past several years, as his polio returned, and as death started to hover nearby, Wilson sent out funny email messages of the "not dead yet" variety to those of us on his mailing list. There was never a trace of self-pity in any of his messages.

As the result of medical expenses and problems with the IRS, Wilson found himself in a financial squeeze towards the end of his life. Word went out and the internet community responded by sending him $68,000 within the first couple of days (and undoubtedly some more after that). This allowed RAW to die with the comfort, grace and dignity that he deserved. Special props go to Douglas Rushkoff and the folks at Boing Boing (and to all the individuals who contributed) for making that happen.

Robert Anton Wilson taught us all that "the universe contains a maybe." So maybe there is an afterlife, and maybe Bob's consciousness is hovering around all of us who were touched by his words and his presence all these years. And if that's the case, I'm sure he'd like to see you do something strange and irreverent — and yet beautiful — in his honor.

See Also:
A Selection of Obscure Robert Anton Wilson Essays
Robert Anton Wilson Tribute Show
Robert Anton Wilson Website
Is The Net Good For Writers?
Neil Gaiman Has Lost His Clothes

Read More

The Web 2.0 Guide to Loving Neologisms


Sam Jackson

Have you ever been talking shit with friends and heard someone scream, "I hate that fucking word!" (Probably right after they themselves have just said, "Web 2.0”). Hipsters. That's why I've become a proud neologophile. I hereby challenge the rest of you neologophobes to explore and embrace the rich ecology of made-up words, because otherwise, you're just living in the past. Don't be afraid; we'll go at a nice, leisurely pace...



Let's look first at words that are used to describe the realm of neologisms itself:
  • Protologism — a neologism that is not yet widely-accepted. It could be argued that the word itself is a protologism, which makes for some interesting pretzel-symantics. As compared to a neologism, which enjoys some popularity.

  • Metaneologism — a true protologism, since I could find no use of it on the Web. It is the class of words we are defining right now in this paragraph, so my official definition is: a word that describes the class of newly-coined words. Like protologism, it falls into the class of words it is used to describe, i.e., metaneologism is a metaneologism; so are protologism and neologism.

  • Neologophobophobe — a foreseen smart-ass attempt to mock me by creating a ridiculous protologism, but which I am hereby revealing as the fraud that it is (so don't even try it, or I'll tell everyone you're a neologophobophile).
Before we continue, we should consider an important point. Sometimes rejection of a given neologism is simply the right thing to do, like when marketing dorks start abusing it to sell a product. This makes "Web 2.0” — the most cited Wikipedia entry of 2006 — an interesting case study. The term was coined in 2004 as the title for a series of tech conferences, and such conferences are little more than marketing bonanzas. But just because big business co-opts something doesn't make it invalid, just as some words that business will never co-opt are never considered valid. (Example: Synergism.)


OK, with all that out of the way, we can move on to our vocabulary list of neologisms and protologisms. Study the following thoroughly:
  • Blogosphere — used ironically, except not, since everyone knows exactly what it means.

  • Folksonomy — the spontaneous cooperation of a group of people to organize information into categories; not to be confused with the protologism, folktsunami — the wave of global usage which swamps the language, leading ultimately to a folksonomy.

  • Diary-a — the act of passing off self-indulgent journal-style entries as informational weblog entries.

  • Hyperclink — a URL possessing an obvious mistake.

  • Linkpimping — shamelessly emailing bloggers with "tips" on link-worthy posts you "discovered" (i.e., wrote), to boost your Technorati ranking.

  • Re-coining — the act of adding to or replacing the definition of a neologism whose meaning is, despite its youth, varied and muddy.

  • Netrosexual — I'm re-coining this one out of historical necessity. Its new, protologistic definition is: a person whose corporeal being is so devoid of sexuality that they overcompensate online in horrific and often malicious ways.
  • Tail-o-vision — the long tail of the coming internet video economy, poised to supplant the dominance of television. (Can be shortened to tailvision for aesthetic purposes.)

  • Flickle — the emotional state of a Netflix user who is no longer sure they want to watch the movies they have added to their account, ushering in a frantic session of queue re-ordering.

  • Goothenasia — the phenomenon of Google attempting to perfect the Web, and instead swallowing and digesting it. Can also be called, "Grey Google," after grey goo, the runaway nano-replicator doomsday scenario.
See how fun that can be? Your turn. Use these words in a sentence in the comments, or define some of your own.

Destiny contributed to this article.

See Also:
iPhone Debate: I'm a Mac vs. Bill Gates
Pulp Fiction Parodies on YouTube

Read More

Paul McCartney On Drugs


McCartney On LSD

The Beatles titan recently claimed, allegedly during a talk with friend and self-proclaimed "king of bitter divorces" Alec Baldwin a few days ago, that he has grown physically sick from the latest charges by his estranged wife in their divorce proceedings. (Her latest claim is that he stole paintings by Picasso and Renoir from their once-shared lodge.) But, let us revisit for a moment one of the more interesting charges leveled by Heather against Paul, shall we? Let us return to the drugs.

In college in the late 1970s, I had a girlfriend from The Hamptons who had been the baby sitter for Paul and Linda McCartney. (Paul and Linda and their children lived in that elegant Long Island suburb through most of the 1970s). Lizzie hated babysitting for the McCartneys because they were slobs (messy house) and because there were "drugs all over the place," right out in the open where theoretically one or all of their four young children could get at them. When I questioned Liz more closely about the drugs, she mentioned white powders, mushrooms and (no surprise) marijuana.

Lizzie detested drugs back then, because she was worshiping a poet named Robert Bly, and Robert Bly hated drugs. But I must admit, for me, this tidbit added substantially to Beatle Paul's always questionable hipster cred.

In the recent divorce case between Paul and his anti-landmine activist soon-to-be ex-wife Heather Mills McCartney, Heather filed a court statement, according to the British tabloid press, stating that McCartney had attacked her with a broken wine glass, and that he used illegal drugs and drank to excess.

I'm in no position to comment on any propensity Sir Paul may have towards violence, although a biography written by the tabloidesque rock writer Christopher Sandford promises, in a synopsis on Amazon.com, that "McCartney is a tale of self-destruction, violence and epic excess." (Imagine that. Paul McCartney: the Great Beast.) And McCartney himself has made clear that he drinks heavily when he's depressed (after the breakup of the Beatles in 1970, after the death of his first wife Linda, and while he toured for his hardest rocking solo album, "Run Devil Run" in 1999).



But when it comes to Macca and drugs, there is quite a bit more to talk about.

Join me then on a magical mystery tour:

Paul McCartney and Drugs: A Timeline

Early 1960s

The Beatles play frequent late night shows in seedy clubs in Hamburg, Germany, popping stimulants — mostly Benzedrine — to stay awake.

August, 1964

Bob Dylan turns The Beatles on to marijuana. He is shocked to discover that they're pot virgins.

April 1965

John Lennon and George Harrison are slipped LSD at a dinner party thrown for them by their dentist. McCartney is elsewhere.

1966

McCartney becomes the last Beatle to try LSD

1967

McCartney is turned on to cocaine by Robert Fraser, an art dealer and a central figure in the London counterculture, who was art director for the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover (the image itself was done by Peter Blake). He uses cocaine a bit during his work on Sgt. Peppers, although he apparently doesn't share it around with his mates. Cocaine is very obscure in 1967 and doesn't become second nature to rock stars ’til around 1969.

Spring, 1967

McCartney is the first Beatle and the first major figure in rock to admit that he and the other Beatles had taken LSD. While this would seem to have been obvious to anybody who had been listening to their recent recordings, the great majority of people were way more clueless than they even are now and so the admission stirs up quite a bit of controversy. Lennon is miffed that McCartney came out of the closet as an acid head first.

June, 1967

In Life magazine, McCartney describes himself as "deeply committed to the possibilities of LSD as a universal cure-all."

July 24, 1967

All four Beatles sign a petition published in The Times of London calling for decriminalization of Marijuana. Sir Francis Crick and Francis Huxley also sign the petition. The Beatles also pay for the ad.

1972

Paul and Linda McCartney are busted for smuggling hashish into Sweden. He pays a $2,000 fine.

1973

McCartney is busted for growing marijuana on his farm in Scotland. He is fined the equivalent of $240.

McCartney visits John Lennon and Harry Nilsson, who are living together in L.A. while Lennon produces Nilsson's album, "Pussy Cats." A bleary-eyed Nilsson offers McCartney some PCP. Paul asks, "Is it fun?" "No," Nilsson replied. So McCartney passes on the PCP.

1974

According to a book written by May Pang called Loving John: The Untold Story about the time she spent as John Lennon's girlfriend, John Lennon and Paul McCartney drop acid together one day in New York City in 1974 and decide to go visit David Bowie.

Bowie has just received the final mix of his latest album, Young Americans which includes two songs that John Lennon worked on. One was a reworking of The Beatles song, "Across the Universe," and the other was to become Bowie's first number one hit, "Fame," co-written with Lennon. Bowie proudly plays the new album for his two Beatles heroes and they're impressed. And so he plays it again. And again. And again. Eventually, McCartney excuses himself and bolts out the door, Lennon following quickly behind. Bowie's drug of choice in the mid-1970s might explain his obsessiveness that day: mountains of cocaine.

An interesting side note: In The Beatles version of "Across The Universe", the line "nothing's gonna change my world" comes across as a sort of cosmic meditation on the divine perfection of the eternal now. In Bowie's version, the same line becomes an expression of terrified desperation. This might be interpreted as the difference between psychedelics and coke, as well as the difference between the 60s and the 70s.

1975

Linda McCartney is busted for possession of marijuana in Los Angeles, but charges are dropped.

Sometime around 1976-77

I can't find the source so this is from memory, but at some point the McCartneys hosted a party for the original cast of Saturday Night Live. Mescaline was on the menu, according to one of the many SNL histories.

Late 70s

John Lennon, Paul McCartney and wives are sitting around Lennon and Ono's apartment one Saturday night getting stoned on weed and watching SNL, when Lorne Michaels does one of his occasional routines offering The Beatles a ridiculously small amount of cash ($3,200) to reunite. They briefly consider heading down to the show as a lark to claim half of the money, but they're too stoned to deal with it.

January 16, 1980

McCartney famously busted in Japan at the start of a planned tour with Wings with approximately half-a-pound of marijuana in his suitcase. He spends ten days in prison in Japan before being released and deported. After his release, he promises to quit but also argues that it is less harmful than Valium or alcohol. He also later comments that he just couldn't leave the pot behind because "it was such good stuff."

1984

Paul and Linda McCartney busted in Barbados for possession of marijuana. Several days later, Linda is busted again flying into Heathrow Airport in London with marijuana.



1997

McCartney, now a Knight of the British Empire, tells Musician magazine, "I support decriminalization. People are smoking pot anyway and to make them criminal is wrong."

September 22, 1999

At an after-party for a celebration/performance for McCartney's new album, Run Devil Run, held at Hammerstein Ballroom in New York, McCartney is observed smoking vast quantities of weed with Woody Harrelson and Laurence Fishburne. McCartney's publicist gives a photo of the red-eyed trio to High Times magazine and encourages them to publish it. High Times published the photo under the heading, "The Three Stoners."

June 22, 2000

McCartney delivers a keynote speech in England on "Drug Awareness Day" about "heightening parental awareness to drug misuse, and to outline Government activity in this area." Rank hypocrisy? In fairness to Sir Paul, the talk repeatedly uses the term "misuse" and singles out heroin and cocaine as "the drugs that cause the greatest harm."

2004

In a prime example of the media's tendency to recycle old news as though it were fresh news, the British press goes wild with headlines like "Sir Paul Admits He Used Drugs!" The articles quote from an interview McCartney gives to "Uncut" magazine. He disclosed that he once smoked heroin, but didn't get high. He says that "Got to Get You Into My Life," off of the Revolver album was about pot and that the hit single, "Day Tripper" was about acid. He also admits the obvious, that "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" was about LSD, something the song's main author, John Lennon, always denied. While he tells the magazine that he's grown out of using drugs, he also tells them he "was flattered when he was recently invited by a group of Los Angeles teenagers to share their marijuana." McCartney was quoted as saying, "To me, it's a huge compliment that a bunch of kids think I might be up to smoke a bit of dope with them."

Other McCartney Fun Facts

  • McCartney was always uptight that everyone considered Lennon, not to mention Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, a lot hipper than him. Thus, he was known to brag, particularly on the pages of Rolling Stone, about being first to try this and that. It was on the pages of Rolling Stone that he first let it be known that he was the first Beatle to try cocaine, and that he came close to cashing it in on unspecified drugs on a few occasions. "I've seen my soul get up and walk across the floor a couple of times." He also claimed in the mag that he gave Mick Jagger his first taste of marijuana. Sir Jagger vociferously denied the claim, saying that the Stones smoked weed long before The Beatles did (nyah nyah!).

  • Continuing on the Paul-is-hipper-than-you-think theme, McCartney was the Beatle who befriended ultra-hipster hero William S. Burroughs when he settled in London during the late 1960s. McCartney supplied Burroughs with tape equipment to experiment with his cutup method.

  • McCartney was also a lifelong friend with Beat/counterculture poet Allen Ginsberg. He performed, along with Philip Glass, on Allen Ginsberg's 1996 CD release, "Ballad of the Skeletons."

  • Paul and Linda McCartney were financial supporters of the 25th and 30th anniversary celebrations of "The Summer of Love." The celebration of psychedelic counterculture was organized by their long-time friend Chet Helms and took place in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.

  • In Blackbird: The Life and Times of Paul McCartney by Geoffrey Giuliano and ex-Wings member Denny Laine, Laine claims that, in the mid-1970s Paul and Linda were heavily into the occult and Aleister Crowley. The 1975 album, Venus and Mars seems to have a bit of an occultist vibe.

    Drugs In Song

    However much McCartney may like his altered states, particularly those derived from cannabis consumption, direct drug references are rare and allusions are subject to debate and interpretation. Nevertheless, aside from the songs mentioned earlier, "Got To Get You Into My Life" and "Day Tripper," I present a few McCartney lyrics that reference drugs, or seem like they probably reference drugs.

    I'm Looking Through You
    1965, Rubber Soul
    Ripped on weed, McCartney sees deeply into his then girlfriend, model Jane Asher, and decides she's a phony. This story has been told by McCartney himself.

    Yellow Submarine
    1966, Revolver
    On the surface, a child's rhyme; but the song was taken as a winking assertion of hippie, psychedelic, drop out escape from the dreary mainstream culture into the upcoming party utopia. It was even adapted by some new left activists as a theme song for those seeking an alternative culture.

    With A Little Help From My Friends
    1967, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
    He gets high with a little help from his friends. What does he see when he turns out the lights?

    Fixing A Hole
    1967, Sgt. Peppers
    Taken by some to be a heroin song (fixing being a term used for shooting up], but also works as a contemplative pothead song or, for that matter, a plain old contemplative person's song. Another song lyric with a drop out vibe.

    Lovely Rita
    1967, Sgt. Peppers
    "When are you free to take some tea with me?" George Harrison has commented that The Beatles frequently used tea as a pseudonym for pot. On the other hand, they were Limeys, so maybe tea is just tea.

    A Day In The Life
    1967, Sgt Peppers
    "Found my way upstairs and had a smoke and somebody spoke and I went into a dream." Probably not a ciggie, but you never know.

    Magical Mystery Tour
    1968, Magical Mystery Tour
    "Roll up!" "A mystery trip." And the whole album/movie concept was taken from Ken Kesey and The Merry Pranksters.

    Penny Lane
    1968, Magical Mystery Tour
    "The pretty nurse is selling poppies from a tray." Hey, wouldn't a florist be selling poppies from a tray? In England, heroin was medicalized and made available to addicts, who were given injections by nurses. Also, "Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes." George Harrison grew up in a suburb near this street, Penny Lane. I recall a story about how George went back there on acid to grok it in all its weirdness. This may have inspired Paul's song.

    Get Back
    1970, Let It Be
    "Jo Jo left her home in Tuscon Arizona for some California grass." Is the grass just grass? What, she couldn't find any grass in Tucson?

    Three Legs
    1971, Ram
    "When I fly above the clouds, when I fly above the crowds, you could knock me down with a feather."

    Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey
    1971, Ram
    "Hands across the water. Heads across the sky." Ahh, peace and drugs in the early seventies. References to heads in the late sixties and early seventies were pretty much understood to mean psychedelic drug heads.

    C Moon
    1973, Red Rose Speedway
    "I'd never get to heaven if I filled my head with glue. What's it all to you?" A rejection of a bad high, and yet, ain't nobody's business but his own.

    Hi Hi Hi
    1973, Red Rose Speedway
    This one is blatant and should have been titled High High High. He's "gonna get high high high." Mediocre song, though.

    Band On The Run
    1973, Band on the Run
    Not about drugs, but about being busted for drugs and Macca's concerns about being "stuck inside these four walls, sent away for ever.'

    Rock Show
    1975, Venus and Mars
    "The tension mounts you score an ounce ole!"

    Medicine Jar
    1975, Venus and Mars
    McCartney's first anti-hard drug song for Wings. Wings guitarist, Jimmy McCulloch, had an ongoing problem with heavy drugs, and eventually died from a heroin overdose. It's generally thought that McCartney wrote these lyrics trying to challenge and discourage his behavior. "Dead on your feet, you won't get far if you keep on putting your hand in the medicine jar."

    Wino Junko
    1976, At The Speed Of Sound
    Apparently, McCartney continued to preach it to brother McCulloch. "Pill freak spring a leak you can't say no."

    The Song We Were Singing
    1997, Flaming Pie
    Apparently a bit of misty nostalgia for old-fashioned psychedelic philosophizing and The Beatles heyday, which also seems to permeate the entire album. "For a while, we could sit, smoke a pipe. And discuss all the vast intricacies of life... Take a sip, see the world through a glass and speculate about the cosmic solution."

    Flaming Pie
    1997, Flaming Pie
    "I took my brains out and stretched 'em on a rack. Now I'm not so sure I'm ever gonna get 'em back... Go ahead, have a vision."



    Final Thoughts from Sir Paul

    So there you have it. The world's most complete roundup of Paul McCartney's relationship with drugs over the years. Does it matter? What does it mean? Let's give Sir Paul the last word, from his as-told-to 1997 biography Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now, co-written with Barry Miles (Miles has also written bios of Ginsberg, Burroughs, and Charles Bukowski):
    In today's climate, I hate to talk about drugs because it's not the same. You have someone jumping on your head the minute you say anything, so I've taken to not trying to give my point of view unless someone really very much asks for it. Because I think the "just say no" mentality is so crazed. I saw a thing in a women's magazine the other day: "He smokes cannabis, what am I to do. He laughs it off when I try to tell him, he says it's not really harmful..." Of course, you're half hoping the advice will be, "well, you know it's not that harmful; if you love him, if you talk to him about it, tell him maybe he should keep it in the garden shed or something," you know, a reasonable point of view. But of course it was, "No no, all drugs are bad. All drugs are bad. Librium's good, Valium's good, ciggies are good, vodka's good. But cannabis, oooh." I hate that unreasoned attitude. I really can't believe it's thirty years since the sixties. I find it staggering. It's like the future, the sixties, the sixties to me, it hasn't happened. I feel like the sixties are about to arrive. And we're in some sort of time warp and it's still going to happen.

    See also:
    Willie Nelson's Narcotic Shrooms
    Prescription Ecstasy and Other Pipe Dreams
    Hallucinogenic Weapons: The Other Chemical Warfare

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  • The Chicks Who Tried to Shoot Gerald Ford


    "Want a really radical look, grrls? Duct tape a revolver to your inner thigh and carve a goddamn X in your forehead."
    — Richard Metzger, 21.c, 1998


    On the morning of September 5, 1975, President Gerald Ford walked out of his room at the Senator Hotel in Sacramento California to speak to the California legislature about crime. A 26-year old woman in a sort-of all red nun's outfit stepped in front of Ford and pointed a 45-colt automatic pistol.



    She was immediately grabbed and restrained by the Secret Service and Ford was hustled off to safety. Weirdly, although the gun was loaded with four rounds, there were no bullets in the firing chamber. Since Fromme was a leading member of the notorious acid cult the Manson Family one could conjecture that although she failed to correctly load the gun, she may have gotten herself properly loaded. According to eyewitness accounts, upon being captured, she said, "Don't get excited. It didn't go off. It didn't go off. Can you believe it?"

    The FAQ section from a Squeaky Fromme tribute site asks whether Fromme intended to kill Ford, and answers, "Fromme told the Sacramento Bee that she had purposely ejected the uppermost round in her weapon before leaving her home that morning in 1975. 'I was not determined to kill the guy, obviously, because I didn't do it.' The round was later found by investigators in her bathroom."

    Other narratives have said that this was just her way of trying to get the President's attention, and that she wanted to talk to Mr. Ford about stopping nuclear power. Fromme's concern regarding nuclear power is also evidenced by a rather threatening letter to California Governor Jerry Brown, who — with typical Jerry logic — attended protests against nukes and then turned right around and allowed them to continue to be built, blaming "the establishment" all the while.

    The pixie-like Fromme looked a bit like Anne Heche at her craziest (but not as hot) — and she was a frequent figure of fun during the 1970s. Her presumably botched assassination attempt somehow conflated nicely with President Ford's public image as a stumbler who fell out of Air Force One and occasionally bumped his head on the way out of that very same airplane. At the same time, her picture, taken after the assassination attempt, was on many a hipster's wall; a symbol both of the depth of alienation many people felt at that time and an evolving sense of irony within a generation that took itself way to seriously.

    Obviously, Squeaky Fromme never had the kind of media juice that her intended victim (or conversation partner) had, but she is not entirely obscure. A fascinating, in-depth biography of the squeakster, written by Jess Bravin, was published in 1998 revealing — among other things — that, as a child, she performed with a dance group on The Lawrence Welk Show and at the White House.

    And then there's the fan site, where you could read her thoughts on Charles Manson: "His sight and awareness is and has always been far ahead of mass consciousness, and for this he, like many KNOWN historical geniuses, is forced to suffer for what others do not understand." There, you can also learn that Fromme remains the last holdout among all the Manson girls currently in prison who still worships at the altar of Chuck. She also refuses to participate in parole hearings so long as her savior remains behind bars. You can even savor Ms. Fromme's embroidery. Hell, her colt .45 is even part of a roadside attraction exhibition dedicated to all things Jerry (Ford). All in all, it seems that she's gotten more publicity than Jerry's son Jack, whose major claims to fame was that he shook hands with a Beatle and the rumor that he was allowed to smoke weed in the White House under Secret Service protection.

    Sarah Jane Moore, who tried to off President Ford a couple of weeks later, is a harder nut to crack. Very little has been written about Moore, possibly because she was far from cute and wasn't associated with a world famous psychotic hillbilly acid shaman cult leader. This attempt took place in Sa