CNN Exposes Boob Job Giveaway

CNN Exposes Boob Job Giveaway at My Free Implants

Wednesday CNN's Headline News delivered a hard-hitting expose — on a web site offering free boob jobs.

After showing the obligatory footage of the site's models, CNN reporter Erica Hill asked commentator Glenn Beck what he thought of MyFreeImplants.com. (Beck's first comment was a request for another look at the site's photographs.) But Erica Hill remained unimpressed, arguing that if she wanted to pimp her photograph to earn boob job money — she'd just do it herself.

This titillating report overlooked the fact that the site's been in operation since 2005. It was started after a Vegas bachelor party, if you believe the site's history page. My Free Implants hopes to attract registrations from both female and male customers — offering the women a chance to "work their way" to breast implants by instant messaging and chatting with the site's male customers. (Along with sending them customized photos or selling "personal items or gifts".)

"Ladies," it asks. "Have you ever wanted bigger breasts? But couldn't afford the expensive costs of surgery?"

"Gents. Help the girl of your dreams get the body of her dreams..."



"Do I have to pose naked?" is a frequently asked question. (No, a FAQ explains, though some ladies "choose to reward donors with sexy photos," and just how "sexy" the photos get "varies greatly from person to person.") The site graciously informs its female members that they "can upload an unlimited number of pictures of yourself," and brags without irony that it's uniting the women with "benefactors" who "wish to help these women improve their self esteem and confidence..."

If you're skeptical, don't worry. My Free Implants also includes what it says are the women's testimonials about their visits to their plastic surgeons. "Lemme see what ya got here, buddy," one woman reports her surgeon as saying.

I actually laughed out loud, but then I realized he was serious. So I showed him what I got here, buddy... Needless to say, he took one look at my breasts and said, "Holy Mackerel! I've seen 14 year-old boys with larger breasts!" No, he didn't. He just squeezed them. Then he squeezed them some more. Then he pointed to my nipples and said the implants would perk them up....and then squeezed my breast again to show me how my nipple would pop up. I felt a bit like Charmin by the time he was done...


In fact, My Free Implants is very proud of its accomplishments, saying they are "on pace to average" one free breast augmentation surgery every month. Another page boasts that "MyFreeImplants.com is the first website of its kind to harness the global power of the Internet to service the unique needs and desires of its members."

There's a page showing "before and after" pictures, of course — plus what it says are excerpts from the press coverage.
"See that's what makes our country great!"
— Jay Leno

"You're doing the lords work! I want to thank you..."
— Former Loveline host Adam Carolla

"...honestly the government should be funding this site it's so great!" — some deejays from KROQ


Click here to watch a news report about the site.

It proves an age-old truism about the internet — where there's breasts, there's an audience. But apparently their business model has still gone through some changes since 2005. "We used to offer a wide range of free cosmetic surgery procedures," the online FAQ explains, but "we discovered over time...that those that were contributing to fund the surgeries, were really drawn to the site based on the concept of helping to fund free breast implant procedures." (Although this is contradicted by another page on the site which still announces that "we do have relationships with a variety of cosmetic surgeons and often provide our female clientele with other cosmetic surgeries at no cost.")

Women can choose their own surgeon, of course — and in fact, the site appears to be making a hefty income just from banner ads touting various cosmetic surgery centers.


They're also offering the services of the site's official spokesmodel. "She was the very first lady to reach her goal of earning a free boob job," the site explains, and Natasha "now takes time to help other women in similar positions." And, it adds, she's also available for "modeling assignments." She must have taken MyFreeImplants.com's unique philosophy for success to heart:

"You do not need to possess anything but an open mind and an adventurous spirit."

See Also:
The Celebrity Breast Conspiracy
World Sex Laws
They're Dreaming of a Boobs Christmas
Sex Expert Susie Bright Let's It All Out
Libertarian Chick Fights Boobs With Boobs
Downfall of the Seducer

Web Fight: Wikipedia, YouTube vs. Perverted Justice


Von Erck Their name is "Perverted Justice" — and something strange happens when you follow hyperlinks to their site from Wikipedia.

"Hello Wikipedia Visitor!" it announces. "We've listed Wikipedia as a Corporate Sex Offender for quite some time..."

The site's server re-directs any visitors from the online encyclopedia to a page warning that "there's a few facts you should know about Wikipedia as a foundation itself." Then it lays down an inflammatory attack.
Each article on Wikipedia that deals with any issue relating to pedophiles or internet predators has been heavily targeted and edited by the online pedophile activist movement... Our own article on Wikipedia, which you have likely come from, has been edited by known and outed pedophile activists dozens and dozens of times.

NBC's Dateline works with "Perverted Justice" to create an ongoing series of reports exposing pedophiles (called "To Catch a Predator.") But the group has apparently broadened its list of targets. Their site notes that Wikipedia remained ungrateful when Perverted Justice helpfully pointed out which Wikipedia editors they thought were pedophiles. So the group launched an online campaign to raise public awareness...
"With Wikipedia continuing to try to get their project used in classrooms across the world, it's important to note the danger inherent in the public accepting the project as being factual considering their acceptance of even extremist special interests such as pedophile activists as legitimate editors of their 'encyclopedia.'"


Sunday Wikipedia reacted to the announcement — though not without a tremendous debate.

"I've just gone through Perverted-Justice and removed all outbound links to their site..." announced a Wikipedia administrator named Sarah. (After temporarily locking the entry from being edited.) Another editor pointed out that the site was clearly an attack site, and "There's no place for ideological witchhunts on Wikipedia," while a third editor suggested a temporary blacklisting of the site.



But more viewpoints joined the discussion. A fourth editor asked "Is there some reason why we're trying to hide criticism from a legitimate and active organisation?" Noting that Wikipedia does accept pedophiles as editors, they asked "Why are we trying to hide this fact and label the site that respectfully and politely points that out as some kind of vicious attack site?" Another editor shared an interesting detail. One week ago, Perverted Justice founder Xavier Von Erck was blocked indefinitely from any editing of Wikipedia articles

The discussion continued over the next 48 hours...

"Ten thousands people are being slandered because we refuse to acquiesce to his point of view in our articles and policies? Wonderful."

"[T]his is America, and P-J has every right to criticize Wikipedia in general for what they see as failings of the project."

"I just don't see how this can be treated any differently than a rant on some mildly successful blog."


One editor even posted an email about the controversy, saying it came from Xavier Von Erck himself. The email lent a fierce new perspective to the debate.
We're quite pleased with the links being removed from Wikipedia. This will do two things. One, it will reduce the Google relevancy of the Wikipedia article about us, an article rife with error and editors whose sole purpose is to try to use Wikipedia to attack us. Secondly, having the article without links to our organization but links to other organizations that attack us will make the average person, unaware of the problems of Wikipedia, wonder why the hell the article has such a overt bias.

Lastly, the idea that websites cannot "respond" to a Wikipedia article by redirecting is quite curious. The policy itself is nonsensical. It is Wikipedia saying that their editors, no matter who they are, can write whatever they wish about a subject and that subject has no right of response. 'Tis an unjust, silly policy and one we have no interest in cooperating with.

Ultimately, Wikipedia compromised. They kept all of their pointers to the Perverted-Justice site — but not as hyperlinks. This meant Wikipedia's readers would have to cut-and-paste the URLs into their browser to access the Perverted-Justice site — which would pull up the requested page rather than re-directing the users to an anti-Wikipedia announcement.


But Perverted Justice left their announcement online anyways, pointing its readers to another site called "Corporate Sex Offenders .com."

In fact, Wikipedia was the sole reason that Perverted Justice created their "Corporate Sex Offenders" site in February, according to their announcement. The site lists two web companies as "aggressive corporate sex offenders" — YouTube and LiveJournal. While applauding YouTube for removing some "advocates" of pedophilia, their page argues that YouTube "is still rife with pedophiles and predators on their service." (And they add that YouTube has yet to clarify their policies for pedophiles.) LiveJournal's offense is similar, according to the site — they've failed to delete the accounts of pedophiles. "LiveJournal is as welcoming of pedophiles as they are kids, adults and teens."

Their Wikipedia page also alleges that one pro-pedophile activist labelled Wikipedia's pedphilia page an "important platform for us," since it's Google's top search result. (And that Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales once personally banned a pedophile editor.) It concludes with a condemnation of Wikipedia for having a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy about pedophilia.

And then it includes their list of Wikipedia's suspected pedophile editors.

See Also:
Jimmy Wales Will Destroy Google
The Perversions of "Perverted Justice

Deep Throat, Big Brain — Sex Blogger Chelsea Girl


A former stripper who once got nekkid on the Howard Stern Show, Chelsea Girl calls her very smart sex blog "Pretty Dumb Things." And it's been gathering so much attention that she's been asked to write for Yahoo! Personals, the Sappho's Girls blog and Penthouse. In her spare time — or in another life — she's a professor of English literature.

In this conversation, we discussed "viscous porn-starry spit," her scholarly interest in Victorian erotica, and — of course — her blog.
For a free month's subscription to "In Bed With Susie Bright," click here. The full audio version of this interview can be found here: Link

SUSIE BRIGHT: You were a stripper who became known for your erudite sex blogging. Were you even keeping any kind of diary when you were stripping?

CHELSEA GIRL: No. Nothing.

SB: Your blog isn't all about you being a raconteur with stories about your dance days.

CG: Sometimes...

SB: Sometimes you'll bring it up, but the blog is more in the now. I'm interested in what got you started on blogging about your sex life?

CG: Spite. Spite ended up being a really good motivator. I was dating a man who had a blog. And it was the first time I had ever heard about blogging. This was around January, 2005. And he very much seduced me with his blog. He wrote wonderful things about me. And then the relationship came to a crashing halt. He actually broke up with me via email.

SB: Ouch.



CG: Yeah, it was charming. And then he wrote something really Milquetoast about me, and that was the end for me with his blog. At that point I decided: "You know what? I can do this so much better than you — so much more successfully, and I'm going to. And I did.

SB: What was it like being on the Howard Stern Show? I've never been on, and I have mixed feelings about it. Like if he asked me to take off my shirt — I take off my shirt all the time. But here's my dilemma — I don't want somebody else telling me to take off my shirt!

CG: Well, before I became a stripper, I was waitressing in a strip bar. And some people came in from the Howard Stern Show and were looking for girls to appear on the show. So I said I'd do it! This was well before there were even blogs — '93. I'm sort of one of those people who will think, "Sure! It's a good idea. I've never done it. Why not?" And that may sometimes be against my better judgment, later.

Like you, I have mixed feelings about Howard Stern. But, not surprisingly, once you're there, he's incredibly charming.

SB: How does he do that?

CG: You sort of get swept up in the whole thing. Plus, I had to be there for the interview at 6 in the morning. And I'd only had about an hour and a half of sleep, because bars close at 4. So my hair was still all ratted out from my night before — I might've still been wearing the night-before eyeliner. I was in this total daze. But I thought: When am I gonna have the chance again to strip for Howard Stern? And what a good story! So I did it.

SB: I hope I don't make you blush, but I want to quote you. Recently in your blog, you're writing about your beloved, who you call Donny. And you're having a talk where you say you're not happy. And then you say Donny admitted he was happy with your current state of affairs and that he was frightened of change. He says...
"I know you haven't been happy with our sex because it's not raunchy enough. But I think it's raunchy." He paused. "What would make it raunchy for you?"

"Spanking," I said, for one thing. Flogging.

"I have a hard time hurting you because I love you." He said.

"Honey," I said, "flogging is love."

And then you go on to say, "Lots of men have this issue... Lots of guys have a hard time having the rough and raunchy spanking sex with their girlfriends once they fall in love with them."

Would you please talk to us a little bit more about that?

CG: Yeah. I didn't even really realize this was an issue until I wrote a post about it at some point last fall. I think the post was called "The Dance With Me." I wrote about how — when I first started seeing Donny about three years ago, our sex was intensely inventive and often really rough in a nice way. But over time, it becomes sort of this… "You do this to me, 1-2, I do this to you, 3-4" kind of thing. And I got about five comments and a bunch of emails from men who basically said, "Yeah. Once I really fell in love with my girlfriend, I found I couldn't do this to her any more." So that made me realize that this isn't just a problem with my beloved — it's larger.

It's something that I don't think very many people really talk about. So often when we read about sex, it seems to imply that it's the woman's issue — it's the woman's fault, or there's something that we have to do. There are ten more ways to be seductive in bed, according to Cosmo — or whatever. Even in a recent New York magazine cover article by Naomi Wolf where she argues against porn, her implicit thesis is that it's the female's responsibility to sort of keep up the hotness level. But all of these men were sort of admitting to me — privately or in comments — that it was their psychological issue. It's been really interesting to begin to parse that idea out.

SB: Do you think it's because men have a hard time imagining the wife/mother of their children needing a really good whupping to get off? Because that's the bad girl? And the virtuous woman is sitting there in some kind of prairie outfit accepting missionary position.


CG: (Facetiously) Well I know I am!

SB: She wants to be spanked in a prairie outfit!

CG: I have the cowboy boots — several pairs! Yeah, I think that may be part of it. But I also think it's something else. I think that it's more this idea that once you're in love, and once you're committed to trying to put this other person first, the idea of hurting them becomes somewhat anathema.

SB: "Hurting someone?" I mean, when we hurt each other emotionally, it's devastating. And if Mr. Donny doesn't get more involved with you, he is going to inevitably hurt your feelings.

CG: Exactly.

SB: Right. Yeah. But the kind of hurting that you were asking for...

CG: It's the good hurt.

SB: ...it's orgasmic!

CG: Yeah. It's the John Cougar Mellencamp Hurts So Good. Right.

SB: When you get into your bottom space, and you want a lot of sensation, do you like that to go hand-in-hand with roleplay? Where you've been bad...

CG: No. I'm not much into that "Oh yeah, punish me" kind of thing. And humiliation really doesn't work. I wrote a while ago about when my boyfriend called me a stupid slut, and that just ripped me out of the whole moment. I was like, "I am not stupid! You can call me your slut. You can call me your whore. You can call me whatever — but I am not stupid." And he laughed, and he said, "You're right. You're not." And we kissed.

One of the things I like about writing a blog is that it allows me to write about whatever I want. And I learned how to write about sex, I think, relatively successfully. And I'm kind of like — yeah, been there, done that, and wrote about it. Or been there, fucked that, and wrote about it. So I've been writing less and less about sex in terms of specific sex acts. And that's partly because I figured out how to do it; and partly because my readership is so huge; and partly because I don't really want my acquaintances to know.

SB: People don't understand the similarities between blogging about your life and the great fiction writers. All the famous authors you've ever read — particularly ones who have written about sexuality — I don't care if it's Erica Jong, Philip Roth, Norman Mailer, Doris Lessing, John Updike... they're all writing "fiction" about people that they have observed and experienced. Of course they're twisting the facts to their literary whim. But all their friends and family and lovers who read those books recognized themselves.



Privately, I think novelists have always dealt with a lot of anger, and slammed phones, and people saying I'm never speaking to you again. But with bloggers, there's a premium put on the authenticity — "This is my life. This is real." It's more intense.

CG: Well, I never could keep a journal because nobody was reading it. I can't write without an audience.

Until this past spring, I was working on a doctorate in English literature. I was dissertating — that would be the verb form of writing a dissertation — when I realized, nobody's going to read this. And I just could not write it. Meanwhile, I was writing reams and reams of what would be paper for my blog. So I realized, "I don't have a writer's block. I just don't want to write my dissertation!" So I decided to leave the program.

SB: What is your scholarly interest in English literature?

CG: 18th century British literature.

SB: That's a very smutty period.

CG: Terrifically smutty. Absolutely. The 18th century was an intensely messy period because the print world was exploding. It was the first time you had professional female writers. The novel appeared, as a genre. You had memoirs, encyclopedias, and dictionaries. All of these things were more or less new.

So, in a lot of ways, what is happening now with the internet is very analogous to the 18th-century print culture. It was absolute, cacophonous mayhem. Also, people were stealing stuff. People were assuming other people's identities. It wasn't until William Hogarth in 1743 where you had the first sort of copyright laws. Daniel Defoe wrote under seven or eight different identities advocating completely opposing positions on issues, and he was paid from various political affiliates. He was the biggest writing 'ho' in history.

Women, in particular, had a really interesting place in the publishing world. In the earlier part of the century, Eliza Haywood was the biggest-selling author, but you couldn't find her writing until about fifteen years ago. It wasn't until there was a feminist rediscovery of the writers of the time period that her prominence and her texts sort of came to light again.

SB: Did she write about relationships?

CG: Yeah. It was pretty much "one-handed reading."

SB: No way!

CG: Way. Amorous fiction. I mean, you take something like the big work of 18th century pornography — Fanny Hill — and it reads shockingly like a porn movie, with escalating sex acts and the various kinds of configurations of bodies.

And there was a lot of terribly, terribly smutty poetry — people like The Earl of Rochester, John Wilmot — even parts of Pope and Swift. All that was very much expurgated when I first went to college in the 1980s, but when I went back to school and finally finished in the 1990s, this stuff had come to light.

SB: I would be remiss if I didn't ask you to talk about your oral sex discussion.

CG: The "deep throat" post.

SB: I learned so much from that. There are all these people writing "deep throat this" and "deep throat that." And there's even porn how-to films. But it never gets beyond the sort of Linda Lovelace fanfare of deep throat. Until you, no one talked about how you really get things...

CG: Down.

SB: How the nature of your saliva changes once you get in the right... You call it the viscous stuff.

CG: Yeah, the viscous, porn star-y spit.

SB: How did you learn how to give spectacular deep throat sex? Who taught you?

CG: My pediatrician.

SB: Oh, come on! No, stop!

CG: I had strep throat a lot as a kid. And I hated tongue depressors. And every winter I would have my throat swabbed over and over again. And so I learned how to control my gag reflex so that I didn't have to have a tongue depressor in my mouth when they swabbed my throat. That's essentially the same technique I use when I deep throat. I had no idea it would come in handy. But seriously, the first time I gave head, it just went down.


SB: Well, did you realize that the nature of one's saliva and mucus would change and that you'd get more lubrication?

CG: Oh, that came from Jenna Jameson — I was reading Jenna Jameson's book, which was ghostwritten by Neil Strauss, of course. Anyway, Jenna sort of articulated how, once you start, your gag reflex is your friend. And once you start to have the gagging happen, that's when you get that nice thick viscous spit.

SB: Now, are you someone who, when you're giving a blowjob, you can feel your own sexual rush? Can you feel your own clit getting harder, and how exciting it is? Or are you someone who gets a huge ego rush from it?

CG: I don't know that the two are inextricable.

SB: I was gonna say, it could go together. But there are some women, you can just see when they're performing fellatio or cunnilingus, they are getting really hot.

CG: It depends on the person and the moment and how I'm feeling. I remember the first time I ever came — like "Look ma no hands" — while fucking. I had been giving my boyfriend head and I was getting really turned on. I was thinking, "OK, this is really weird, but cool." And then I got on top of him and started riding him, and I came. And I was sort of like, "Wow. This is really weird."

Other times, it's more of the ego thing. Because it is kind of this spectacular show, particularly for guys who've never been deep-throated. The more I really care about my lover, the more exciting it is for me. With my current boyfriend, it's way more exciting than if it were some dude off the street.

SB: You're so romantic. Your blog title — "Pretty Dumb Things" — is intriguing. You told us in an anecdote, that when your boyfriend was talking dirty, and he teasingly called you a stupid slut, you said, "Don't say stupid."

CG: Right. So… why dumb? I had a list of names I like. "Pretty Dumb Things" was my name for an indie rock band. If I were a country-western singer, I'd be Dakota Rage. If I were a drag queen, I'd be Cocoa Rococo. And if I had an all-female trapeze troupe, they'd be the Flying Buttresses. And if I were a performance artist, I'd be Tender DeBris.

In part, it's the irony, because my writing isn't dumb. And I like the ambiguity of the title because dumb can also mean someone who is unable to speak. And when I started to blog, I wrote about many issues that have sort of been buried for a very long time, and that I haven't spoken about, and that I needed to bring into the light.

See also:
Sex Expert Susie Bright Lets It All Out
Sex & Drugs & Susie Bright
The Scientific Laws of Romance
The Prince of Gonzo Porn
Sex Panic: An Interview with Debbie Nathan

Don’t Go There: Top 20 Taboo Topics for Presidential Candidates

Presidential Candidates

They call it retail politics. It's a politic that has to appeal to an awful lot of people, but it doesn't have to appeal to them all that much.

The successful presidential candidate wants to establish just enough passion for their political stances that voters will waddle down to the polling place on the first Tuesday of November and vote for them (or send in the appropriate form). Too much passion could be a dangerous thing, because it probably indicates that the candidate has moved off of the acceptable boilerplate messages of the retail campaign and has introduced ideas and possible political solutions that are both novel and challenging. Winning presidential candidates don't want to be any more challenging than blockbuster movies.



Establishing an adequate but bland affinity with voters around their politics is, of course, not the main job of the blockbuster Prez candidate. The main job is to create a comfort level with the candidate's personality and backstory. They have to live up to a fantasy of mainstream family life. Sure, we've gotten used to Republican divorcees, but if Ronnie had left Jane for Johnny instead of Nancy, he would have ended his career as a fluffer for Joey Stefano.

What's sort of weird about all this is that a lot of people actually seem to agree with the "fringe" candidates – those who confront some of the taboo topics on my list. Ron Paul has had some luck pressing forward with ideas and positions that are considered taboo. He's the breakout "fringe" candidate this year, but fringe nevertheless. And substantial numbers — maybe even a majority — of Democratic primary voters like Dennis Kucinich's positions on the issues better than those of Clinton or Obama. But Kucinich's campaign has never even caught a light breeze.

Obviously, perception trumps content. Voters may agree with nearly everything a fringe candidate says, but when the media echo chamber dismisses that candidate as "fringe," they are drawing a big "L" for Loser across the candidate's face. And while voters will eventually develop some measure of contempt for the actual President, loser candidates are beneath contempt, and can't really be taken seriously.

Of course, some topics or lifestyle choices are truly taboo for presidential candidates because very few potential voters are ready or willing to deal with them. In deciding on this list of taboo topics for Presidential campaigns, I used several criteria. First of all, the issues had to deserve discussion. That would exclude stuff like: "Hitler was awesome!"; "Let’s make seven-years-old the age of consent!"; or "Let's force all blondes to dance naked in public squares every Tuesday at noon!"

There are also some topics, like the loss of civil liberties; the usurious policies of credit card companies; or the undemocratic methods used to prevent "third" political parties from challenging the duopoly, that candidates could popularly confront, but won't. I have not included those either. I am only choosing topics that candidates both won't and can't reason about if they hope to have a chance of being elected President. It's also worth noting that candidates can confront a few of these issues and get elected to lower offices, but they can't go for the big kahuna.

Also, in deciding how to assign different topics their place on this Top 20 List, I had to decide whether to emphasize the issues of importance to the health of the nation or just those with the most totally awesome taboo-ness. I decided to put the most taboo topics at the top, rather than the most important ones. I believe this is an accurate reflection of the triviality of our political culture.

#1: Sexual Non-Conformism (Personal)
Presidential candidates can't be openly gay or transsexual. They can't have open marriages and relationships or practice polyfidelity or polyamory. They can't openly enjoy orgies, consensual gangbangs, or pornography. They can't even be real swingin' bachelors or bachelorettes. During the '90s, we made it to: "I don't care if he got a blow job, as long as he does a good job." Now we need to get to: "I don't care if he's going to move his pet sheep Sweetiecakes into the White House and post videos of their long nights of passion on YouTube. If his policies could save millions of lives, what's more important?"

#2: Sex Positivism (Socio-Political)
No presidential candidate can advocate sex-positive attitudes including open marriages and relationships; they can't be pro-porn, positive about teen sexuality, or generally advocate the sophisticated notion that eroticism is life's greatest gift.

#3: Open Borders
Who are we kidding? They're not going to pay a big fine, touch down in the home country and then come back again. And we'll never round up 12 million people and kick them out of the country or keep out the next few million. For all intents and purposes, we have open borders and it can't be stopped any more than drugs can. But no Presidential candidate can say so.

4: "I Dig Pot and Shrooms"
Many adults know that some mind drugs – particularly marijuana and psychedelics – can be quite kind, enlightening, and creatively stimulating. There has also been a mountain of good news about the therapeutic and medical potentials of these substances over the last several years, thanks to legal testing allowed in the US, Europe, and Israel. But no Presidential candidate could ever say anything positive about the experiences these drugs induce, even though several of them have known better. (Hello, Bill and Al.)

5: No Atheists, Agnostics, or Pagans
Candidates must pay lip service to the prevailing native superstitions and they'd better be able to back it up with some evidence of genuine piety (or at least church attendance).

6: U.S. Militarism
"Americans are a peace-loving people." Not so much, actually. In my lifetime (b.1952), we sent (substantive numbers of) troops into Korea, Vietnam, Dominican Republic, Cambodia, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, Iraq, Haiti, Afghanistan, and Iraq again. We've dropped bombs on Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Libya, Iraq, Iraq again, Sudan, Bosnia, Yemen, and of course more Iraq. (Listing all the conflicts where we've tried to overthrow states through less direct but nevertheless violent means, or that we've been involved in peripherally, or through "client states" could probably fill a book.)

7: Weird With a Beard
Remember when Al Gore grew himself an existential beard after being ripped off for the presidency? Oh my, what a snarkfest! Of course, pretty much all the 19th Century presidents had furry faces, but nobody had to look at them much. If you display any non-conformity in dress or appearance, you're a damned hippie and won't be allowed anywhere near the White House.

8: Daddy, Where Does Money Come From?
Today, money is issued in the form of bank credit. In the past, it was related to "the gold standard." Throughout history, these exchange signals have had different forms and significances. Money isn't a physical commodity; it's a signifier of value. It's the dominant social force in our world and the specifics of how it functions at its root are pretty much completely occult, even in the business world. "Social Security is going to run out of money in thirty years." You can't run out of money, in the way that you can run out of oil, potable water, or spotted owls. Any presidential candidate worth his or her stripes should talk about how money works and ask whether we couldn't make it work better, but he or she would be labeled a "fringe crazy."

9: No Muslims!
Maybe, just maybe, we can elect someone named Barack Obama. But he better not get caught bowing toward Mecca.

10: Stop The Drug War
Most sophisticated commentators admitted a dozen or so years ago that the drug war is unwinnable, unfair and a corrupting influence on American culture, creating the types of criminal gangs and violence that we saw with alcohol prohibition in the 1920s. But no Presidential candidate dares to suggest that this nightmare be ended.



11: Bloated Military Budget
Home of the brave, my ass. What kind of a country needs to spend more money on "defense" than all the other nations on earth combined and is still as collectively paranoid as a cuckolded husband in the throes of an amphetamine psychosis? A huge Military-Industrial complex overcharges taxpayers on a scale that makes the pharmaceutical industry look like Robin Hood. It's the biggest financial scam in human history, but no serious candidate dares to say peep, less he or she be seen as unpatriotic. (In a less trivial time, this would be the #1 taboo issue.)

12: Question Israel's Authority
Dear candidate. You may not seriously question or challenge any of Israel's military policies or actions. My fellow Jews in Israel can, and they do it all the time, but you can't. (Nyah nyah!) I guess it's sort of like with black folks and the "N Word." Except this is kinda like about war and peace in the Middle East and the future survival of humankind and stuff. Mazel Tov! Signed R.U. Sirius, a Jew.

13: Vote for me — I'm smart!
When we give someone an important job that engages a lot of complex problems, we usually want the smartest cookie we can find. But heck, Americans like Presidents that are just like them — simple-minded and borderline literate. Is this you?
Favorite book: A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari.
Favorite film: The Marriage of Maria Braun by Rainer Warner Fassbinder.
Favorite Album: Einstein on the Beach by Philip Glass.
Favorite Job: Definitely not President.

14: Let's Have More Democracy!
Representative democracy was a fine idea back when people were riding around in a horse-and-buggy and we didn't have airplanes, phones, and portable devices connected to the internet – a series of tubes that does magical things! Now I can apparently register a signal about every issue I care about over an encrypted secure line that is more likely to be accurately registered than the vote I make on election day. Maybe we should think about direct democracy, rather than leaving policy to our elected representatives and the elites that gather around them. Now, direct democracy scares the crap out of me unless the power of the people is mitigated by a robust, libertarian system of rights protecting us all from the majority. Still, the tools for giving citizens agency are at hand and we may as well talk about it.

Of course, the only candidate talking about this is way out on the fringes – Mike Gravel. And he's treated like a total lunatic. Oh, wait a second. He is a total lunatic.

15: The Nanny State
How coercive should the Federal government be? And do they have to stick their nose into everything? It's a common discourse among libertarians and it's a valid question. Do we really need the federal government to investigate television, movies, and video games? Should "This is bad for people" automatically translate into government action or even bluster? If you are what you eat, is it your personal right to be a ton of lard? Well, if you're running for President, you've got to pay some lip service to taking on bad choices people make that might best be private.



16: "Think of the Children!"
All candidates must dance to the tune of "family values." Nobody can suggest that remaining childfree could be one way of doing this overburdened planet a service. Should people get special privileges for having kids? And if we love kids so much, why do we let approximately 20% of them live in poverty? In American, the best family values can be found at Costco.

17: The Great Gun Debate? Irrelevant!
It's all a bunch of populist hype. Nobody who is taken seriously is proposing to entirely ban guns or to even make it difficult for most citizens to get them. And nobody who is taken seriously is seriously proposing to completely deregulate guns. It's all a lot of hand waving, so stick 'em up. Unless you're running for President, in which case you better be televised hunting (Hillary?) while also waxing responsible.

18: Are Our Leaders Accountable?
Two administrations got something like 2 million people killed in Viet Nam. Another administration completely scammed all American laws during Iran-Contra and completely got away with it. And those guys in the White House now? Don't get me started. But if you suggest that Henry or Ollie or George, Dick, and Donald should like maybe spend a few more days in jail than Paris Hilton, you will be portrayed as "way outside the mainstream" (unless you can find some sex tapes.)

19: The Prison-Industrial Complex
We're warehousing a greater percentage of our people in iron cages than all the nations in the economically advanced and even semi-advanced world. (We're kicking Russia and China's ass!) It's turning into a substantive form of slave labor with prisoners receiving anywhere from 8 cents to 15 cents per hour. It's also a massive, partly privatized industry that will defend its vested economic interest in human incarceration. The prison industry is central to the economy of several counties in America. But don't talk about it if you want to be elected President. For one thing, it's too depressing.

20: I Shouted Out Who Killed The Kennedys
And they shouted back, "Who cares!" Some conspiracy theories are true and some are false. Congressional hearings in the 1970s concluded that the murders of JFK and Martin Luther King remained unsolved. You'd think that when we celebrate these men's birthdays, we'd like to know who killed them, and if some of those people might still be alive and in positions of power. The majority of Americans believe in pretty much all the conspiracy theories, but they will also believe it when the media repeats over and over again that you're too far outside the mainstream to be President if you bring even the most plausible ones up.

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

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

Democratic Cartoon Candidates


Pundits claim that in 2008, the issues will magically fuse with a Presidential candidate's personality — and reflect the ultimate wishes of the American people. So which hopes and dreams will rise to the surface?

Ask the people who've already imagined the candidates into cartoons. Their "one step from reality" videos reveal a sort of enhanced "hyper truth." Or at least, the truth as seen by six wise guys on the web.

1. Super Size Me



The Democrats' "excitement" over their '08 candidates may just be relief — that George Bush won't be President any more. Capturing this glee is a Saturday morning cartoon showing the Bush administratration as "The Legion of Doom." And they're about to get their asses kicked by a team of Democratic superheroes.



In this dream world, Karl Rove is transformed from an evil prince of political disinformation into The Joker, and Condoleeza Rice becomes Catwoman. They've teamed up with arch villians Bush and Cheney for a "conquest of the universe" — but four Democratic Presidential candidates are flying to the rescue. Hillary Clinton appears as Wonder Woman — of course — and Barack Obama is "Captain United." Former attorney John Edwards gets a special crest on his chest — the scales of Justice. And Al Gore isn't the Green Lantern, he's "The Green Solution".

At the end of the video, there's even a pointer to a web site analyzing their various super powers. Hillary Clinton's weakness?

"A severe aversion to interns."

2. Barack Obama: More than Meets the Eye?



America ignores the primaries until Labor Day, focussing on summer blockbusters instead. But one voter imagines the world-conquering robots from Transformers taking a break from dominating the box office to discuss...Barack Obama.

Sure, he's set fund-raising records, but are we being blinded by his skillful speechmaking? Even "Optimus Prime" can't stop talking about the Obama phenomenon. There's thoughtful questions about his experience — could Obama handle a nuclear Iran? Or maybe the Transformers should be voting for Bill Richardson.

But ultimately this video demonstrate the most powerful truth of all. That most political conversations in America devolve into nothing but personal attacks and defensiveness.

3. Hillary Clinton: Please Don't Hurt Me.



It's not any particular position, just...a weird vibe. Hillary Clinton is the front runner. Hillary Clinton scares people.

To be fair, the former First Lady (and former lawyer) endured eight years of right wing vilification, and it's given her a tough skin. But one Mason-Dixon poll found that more voters reported a negative reaction to Hillary than a positive one. Despite her name recognition, she remains an enigma — everyone thinks they know her, but no one knows why. While inventing her political self, Hillary's moved from "the left" to "the center" and even to "the right." But it's not that. It's just...something.

YouTube user "thefreemind" has created a video he's labeled "My opinion" that captures this disconnect. It offers the electorate one simple message.

Hillary Clinton? Please don't hurt me.

4. John Edwards meets Hanna Barbera



Electability! That's what Democrats crave most.

So while John Edwards babbles on about that war in Iraq and the need for universal health care, there's a secret second message. Just think how many Electoral College votes he could win!

With an earnest, low-key delivery, Edwards packs the charisma of Bill Clinton — the only Democrat who actually won the Presidency in the last 21 years. And it's that charming Southern accent that gives him extra empathy points. Who does he remind you of?



Here's a hint. Southern voters include "yellow dog Democrats" — who are said to be so loyal they'd vote for a yellow dog if it were running as a Democrat. But this video asks a related question. Would they also vote for a blue cartoon dog wearing a bow tie?

There's also a second political truth. While creating this video, user "Meadowfrost" ignored everything Edwards said about warring factions in Iraq — and then spliced in dialogue from a Huckleberry Hound cartoon.

That tells you everything you need to know about the American electorate.

5. The Good, the Bad, and Bill Richardson



When Bill Richardson ran for governor in 2006, his campaign came up with a full-fledged western in 30 seconds. But at least there was a point to mimicking old movie cliches — as governor he claimed credit for "$600 million worth of movie production."

It's a cartoon of sorts — a sugary over-simplification of both the campaign and its candidate. (What will they call the sequel — A Fistful of Bill Richardson?) But political ads always reveal the inner thoughts of hired political consultants, and how they're privately viewing the electorate. In this case, their message seems to be: voters won't listen without a feel-good story.

And sadly, the consultants are probably right.

6. An Inconvenient Al Gore



After years of being called a robot, Al Gore finally appears with one. Al Gore's daughter is a writer for Futurama, and to promote An Inconvenient Truth, Gore appeared in a cartoon with Futurama's robot, Bender.

Our former Vice President says he's not seeking his party's nomination — but no one believes him. Instead, Gore's denials are seen as a brilliant stealth campaign that includes both An Inconvenient Truth and this year's Live Earth campaign. In an age of YouTube debates and viral video, voters have more media options than ever, and if Al Gore enters the race, he may have unwittingly revealed the most inconvenient truth of all.

If you want to be President, you can't be afraid to step into a cartoon.

See also:
Senator Vitter's Suppressed Statement
The 5 Faces of Bush
John Edwards' Virtual Attackers Unmasked
5 Nastiest Campaign Ads So Far
YouTube's 5 Sorriest Questions for the 2008 Presidential Candidates

Monkey v. Dog v. Wikipedia

Battle of the Bulldog and the Monkey

A monkey versus a dog. Who would win in a fight?

Wikipedia has the answer, but sometimes being a source of such answers comes at a price.

As with seemingly every other topic on the site, an anonymous expert sprung from the grass roots to detail the fascinating, hidden history of prizefights between dogs and monkeys. "A quite unusual fight between two animals was staged in Worcester," read his description of one fight, taken from an obscure magazine article from 1799.

The wager stood at three guineas, according to which the dog would kill the monkey in at most six minutes. The dog's owner agreed that the monkey would be allowed to defend itself with a stick about a foot long.

Hundreds of spectators gathered to witness this fight and the odds stood at eight, nine and even ten to one in favour of the dog, which could scarcely be subdued before the fight. The monkey's owner took a stick, about twelve inches long, from his coat pocket, tossed it to the monkey...


There's even an illustration — titled "Battle of the Bulldog and the Monkey" (above) — from 1799.

So who won the fight?

The monkey.

The monkey was amazingly nimble, jumped about three feet high in the air and when it came down landed directly on the dog's back, bit firmly in the dog's neck, grabbed his opponent's left ear with his hand thereby preventing the dog from turning his head to bite him.

In this totally surprising situation the monkey now began to work over the dog's head with his club and he pounded so forcefully and relentlessly on the dog's skull that the poor creature cried out loudly...


Eventually the dog's corpse is carried from the ring. ("Yet, the monkey was only of medium size....") Yes, it's a cruel fight-to-the-death. What's more surprising is that someone in 1799 went to the trouble of carving an engraving to commemorate the event. (Hey, 18th-century dog-fighters — get a life!)



Then again, back here in the 21st century, Wikipedia editors would pick apart a description of the event sentence by sentence in a dog-fight of their own. Reading the article's "History" page ultimately offers its own morbid spectator sport. In a six-part, 1400-word entry, user SirIsaacBrock (according to his user page, a Canadian MBA) first described recreational "monkey baiting" in March of 2006 — and was unaware that his status as a Wikipedia editor would soon come to an end.

"Monkey-baiting is a blood sport involving the baiting of monkeys," his original entry began — linking the words "blood sport," "baiting," and "monkeys." Within two weeks another Wikipedia user had tagged the article with a warning flag.

It is proposed that this article be deleted, because of the following concern:

this seems like nonsense


The user was later reassured by Sir Isaac's involvement in another full-scale WikiProject — documenting various forms of animal baiting — and left an apology on Sir Isaac's own Wikipedia discussion page. (Six days later, another user would also add: "Thanks for the correction in Badger Baiting...") In fact, there's a whole series of Wikipedia articles, on everything from duck baiting to rat baiting and donkey baiting.

"Badger-baiting is a blood sport involving the baiting of badgers."

"Donkey-baiting is a blood sport involving the baiting of donkeys...."

But the monkey-baiting page remained controversial. Sir Isaac presented an 1820 description of a second monkey/dog fight — this time between a dog and Jacco Macacco, "a celebrated monkey gladiator" who could dispatch opponents in 3 minutes.

"What a monster!" said a greasy butcher, who sat there with open mouth, a red nightcap on his head, pointing at Jacco Macacco. "I bet a leg of mutton on the monkey! You could strike me down if I ever saw such a thing before in my life... "


"It is amazing how many owners would send their dogs to almost certain death," Sir Isaac had written.

"This strikes me as unwiki," another editor complained, saying it was not objective fact, and adding, "I personally do not find it 'amazing.'"

Another user complained about the article's "wholy innapropriate origional research [sic]." Of course, research about 18th-century animal fights is hard to find — and a year later, the article remains online, a testament to one user's dedication to his personal topic of interest.

Within four months of creating his page about monkey/dog fights, a warning appeared on his user page saying he'd been identified as "the puppet master of one or more abusive or block/ban-evading sock puppets." (Sock puppets are deceptive online identities.) He has since been banned from Wikipedia.



In a way, it's ironic. SirIsaacBrock was a man who could tell you who'd win in a fight between a hunting dog and a rage-filled monkey — but he couldn't stay online against a handful of Wikipedia editors. Will he be hard to replace? How many amateur historians are available with an interest in monkey-baiting?

We can only hope that his obsessive and self-destructive work will inspire a new generation of Wikipedians to continue to monitor this deserving subject matter. Or, better yet, perhaps there's another sock puppet out there at this very moment, waiting to ambush us with the latest and greatest in monkey-baiting.

See Also:
Jimmy Wales Will Destroy Google
John Edwards' Virtual Attackers Unmasked
Dear Internet, I'm Sorry
10 Video Moments from 2006
Worst Vlogs of 2006
The Cartoon Porn Shop Janitor: Carol Burnett vs. Family Guy

‘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

The Prince of Gonzo Porn

Jamie Gillis

About the author: Susie Bright is the host of the weekly Audible.com podcast, "In Bed With Susie Bright," and is the editor of Best American Erotica, 1993-2008.

For a free month's subscription to "In Bed With Susie Bright," click here. Links to the full audio versions of this interview can be found here: Part 1, Part 2.

Jamie Gillis was the first male superstar of porn.

Gillis graduated from Columbia University in 1970. An aspiring actor, he was working as a cabbie when he answered an ad in the Village Voice and — ka-boom! He found himself making porn loops.

Gillis worked in the most important movies that were ever made in American erotic cinema — titles like The Opening of Misty Beethoven, directed by Radley Metzger; and director Richard Mahler's Midnight Heat.

Twenty years into his career, Gillis originated what came to be called "gonzo porn," simultaneously (and accidentally) pioneering the reality show genre. He hired a girl, a camera, and a car, and cruised San Francisco's North Beach to find fellas who'd be willing to have sex with her on camera, right on the spot. It was called, "On the Prowl."

For our interview, I met Jamie in New York City, his longtime home. When he admitted to our studio staff that he was 64, there was an audible gasp. This youthful man has a timeless sex appeal. Beyond that, he's a great conversationalist.

We started off by talking about the last time we'd seen each other in person. We were at a Christmas party at the Mitchell Brother's theater — owned by the late Jim and Artie Mitchell, who pioneered hardcore (and established intellectual property rights over the same). This was long before Jim shot Art, and the mood was celebratory.

Jamie and I reminisced about a mutual friend who partied with us there — Lisa Thatcher, a formidable (but now long-retired) porn star in New York during Jamie's early days in the business.



Susie Bright: If you remember, when we saw Lisa Thatcher at the Mitchell Brothers' Christmas party, you told me something like, "Not everybody is right for this business. Lisa was." And like myself, Lisa is now middle age. If you saw her on the street going to the grocery store now, you wouldn't say, "Oh my god, it's a porn star." And yet she still has this sort of glimmer in the eye. What did you mean when you said that?

Jamie Gillis: She wasn't just some innocent kid, you know? She knew exactly what she was getting into. She loved all kinds of sex, so she was never, in any sense, a victim of the business. And I think she did well in the business.

Those were some pretty raunchy days in New York. But you'd go someplace and there would be a line of guys trying to get to touch her. I'd never seen that big a line. And she loved it! She told me that one of the things that got her excited was the hunger of the guys who got to spend one or two minutes with her. She would relate to that kind of hunger that they felt. And she loved that. It turned her on.

SB: What do you notice about a performer who doesn't belong in the business?

JG: Well, they're not happy. They're doing it for the attention or maybe for affection that they haven't gotten from their families, or whatever. It's a sad story when they're not that interested in the sex — they just want to be noticed. They'll put up with the sex but you can see they're not there. They don't want to be there and they're trying not to be there. They're just saying, "Look at me. Hold me. Love me."

And, you know, you do get attention if you're a porn performer. We're concerned about you, and we'll send a car for you, and all that stuff — you know? So it can feel good, but with disastrous results for people who don't really belong in porn.

THE BUSINESS

SB: You got started in the business in the early '70s, I think.

JG: '71. There wasn't even a business. It was a dirty basement.


SB: I was about to say, it wasn't so much a business. It was a fly-by-night thing happening in a counterculture. So on top of the sex, you had this attitude: "This is our generation doing something different than anybody else would do." Even though it wasn't explicitly political, in the sense that some of the rock and roll was — it was of the time, like smoking pot or dropping acid. It had that vibe: "We hang together because we have some kind of consciousness, and we're also making some bucks and getting our rocks off." But then you had this complete change in technology in the business, and now there's nothing countercultural about the scene — nothing "outlaw" about it.

JG: It's no longer counterculture. The counter is gone. "Hey, ma! We're culture now!"

SB: Did this change depress you at all? You came from this era where you could be a freak or an intellectual, or you could have some cinematic or theatrical background, and you could fit in. Whereas now it's more like, "What do you mean? I'm busy, I have this many minutes to make this many dollars before my next real estate seminar." Was that change hard to cope with?

JG: In a way. It's sort of sad to see sex be a business.

SB: You didn't do it for free before...

JG: No!

SB: ...but there was just something else going on.

JG: But then, we don't want to get too romantic about this. I got into the business just looking for part-time work. I wasn't making any money acting so I was looking for a part-time job to support myself. But it did feel good, and it became a social thing. We were excited about what we were doing. It was kind of fun. (Laughs)

SB: I got interested in doing porn and being a porn critic in a sort of revolutionary spirit. I have zero interest in going to the AVN awards or some business seminar, or making some cookie-cutter movie with people who wouldn't know a filmic moment if it fell on top of them. It pisses me off! I get a little cranky about it.

JG: Well, people are making money and doing what they want. But I did get disgusted with the business around '89. I'd been in it for a long time. That's when I started doing that gonzo stuff, because the scripts were so stupid. So I thought — we'll just take a girl out to the streets…

SB: See what might happen.

JG: ...get her fucked. Yeah.



GONZO PORN

SB: For those people who don't know, what is gonzo? What did you want gonzo to be?

JG: All I wanted to do was just go out into the streets and meet people. Bring a girl out – maybe to a dirty bookstore or something — and just throw her to the wolves.

SB: Your first movie in that style was "On the Prowl." You took a pretty girl out and she said, "I'll fuck whoever wants to if you'll let us tape it." A lot of people will think everyone jumped at the chance. But of course, they didn't! There was a lot of tension. People were afraid of being conned, or that it wasn't real, or that she would cut their balls off in some crazy... There's this tension that they don't know if they can trust you with their nuts.

JG: It's a very unusual offer. Sure!

SB: (Laughing) Yes it is!

JG: I remember I was hanging out with Long Jean Silver and she said, "Let's go find some boys!" She wanted a group of boys to fuck. But we had a hard time finding them! We'd go up and I'd say, "Hey, you guys want to come back to our place?" They'd run! Finally, we found a group of seven. I said, "We're not taking seven. We're taking three. And I told her, "Pick three that you like the most."

There were two sailors that we picked up early on for a film we made. And I got a call from the Navy. One of the guys was in the brig because he did this movie. So I said, "What do you mean, one of the guys is in the brig because they did this movie?" (laughter) And it wasn't even the guy that did the fucking! It was the other guy.

So the guy's lawyer told me, "Well, they want to get rid of him, so they're using this as an excuse." So I said, "You tell the Navy that if they use this as an excuse to get rid of this guy, I'm going to call the press and tell them that he didn't even do anything in this movie, and the Navy's just trying to screw him. Because they're leaving alone the guy who actually did the fucking. So tell the Navy it's going to be on the front page of the Chronicle. So the lawyer said, "OK, thanks." He called me back a half hour later and said, "Thanks a lot. He's out. Everything's fine." That was the only time in my life I had any sense of what real power was.

SB: The classic report from most men about doing porn is that they think they'll have a giant dick on TV, but when the camera is on them, they're just sweating bullets. Did you ever have one of those shy moments back when you were a little lamb?

JG: Never. I was a duck to water. I mean, to me it was like — wow! Even though it wasn't good money back then, it was like — "Thirty bucks to fuck a pretty girl!" I couldn't believe it.

I don't know if it was because I was a sex freak or because of my acting training. I didn't care if anyone was there. I would just concentrate on what I was there to do. It wasn't hard to do that.

HARD ON… RELATIONSHIPS

SB: I've heard that it might be hard for men who were in the business to have relationships. Mike Horner told me that.

JG: Mike is the male version of somebody who shouldn't be in the business. He's too sweet for it. You know what I mean?

SB: Well, I want to hear what you have to say about the dilemma he described. He said, "If I'm fucking somebody all day at work, and I come home, and someone's all needy and saying, "I want you to fuck me now, because I'm your girlfriend and I need you to show that same enthusiasm for me.'" And he said, "It's too much. I can't do that." And I said, "Well, what if you hook up with someone in the sex business? Maybe they'll feel the same way. Maybe they'd also come home from a hard day of being fucked, and they don't need you to turn on, or turn off." But he said, "Oh, I can't win. I've tried a lot of different things." He really wanted to have a girlfriend the way other people have girlfriends.

JG: But this is even true in the "legitimate" Hollywood. If you're a guy, you get on the set and you're working with the most beautiful woman in the world. Maybe your wife or girlfriend at home is just as pretty, but still, this is fresh meat. You know? And they're all over the place — not just the actresses, but there are the extras. But Mike has a point. You can't live with somebody "straight" in the sex business. Of course it doesn't work. How could it?

I've had relationships with girls in the industry, and that seemed to work out OK, because we were both sex nuts. You know? But a "normal" girl? How can somebody even think about that?

SB: Did you ever feel like you wanted a romance or a domesticity that you couldn't have, or was your attitude just, "No thank you"?

JG: At the time when I got into the business, I was with a girl who saw me as this nice Jewish boy. I came out of college. I was acting. I was a mime. I was a good boy. (Laughter)

SB: You still are.

JG: Yeah, I still am. But all of a sudden I started fucking all these strangers. Somebody once said that a man is as faithful as his options. That's how it is.

So all of the sudden, I didn't even have to go out and look for the girls. They were thrown at me. And I was getting paid for it. So it's like, you've got this really wonderful woman at home. But on the other hand, you've got this other great stuff happening too. And if you're in your twenties, that great stuff is gonna win out… or maybe in your thirties and your forties, even. You know?

SB: (Laughs) Okay, well let's go to the fifties.

JG: Fifties? I don't know. (Laughs)

SB: Whenever I read official descriptions of your film career, they'll say, (solemnly) "Jamie Gillis — who never denied his bisexuality!"

JG: Oh… I saw that on Wikipedia.

IS ALL PORN QUEER?

SB: I love that phrase — "who never denies it." (Laughter) And it's not like you've ever been the grand marshal of the bisexual float in the gay parade. But you also haven't had this issue that some guys have where they think their career rests on a certain kind of perception that they're straight. I always think that's such a facade. If you're in the sex business, and you're fucking around other people all day long — the notion that you are some kind of "Kinsey 0" is a joke. You can't be. Because you're dealing with other people's dicks and cunts all day long. You better be comfortable with people's bodies. Anyway, how come you haven't been smeared by it?

JG: Well, I think the entire porn business is just fag-ridden. (Laughter) Including the customers! I mean, it's all about dick! It's all about dick, and watching dick come. Look at the dick squirt. See Dick. See Dick squirt.

I've always had this funny image of myself as a straight guy who just happens to have more fag sex than any fag I know. Because when I was coming up, gays were the only ones that were really sexually crazy. Before there was a Plato's Retreat, there was a place called Continental Baths. It was the exact same location. And I used to go to the Continental Baths, because that's where you could have crazy, wild sex! Nobody else was doing that. And I remember walking around that fucking place thinking, "If only there was a heterosexual place like this. Wouldn't that be amazing?" And I didn't even dream that it would happen — but it did, like about two years later, with Plato's Retreat. It was this straight place with all these hundreds of girls going there.

In my ideal world, if you were walking down the street, there'd be a place where you could just touch people. There would be a grope club.

SB: Did you ever have a moment when you were a teenager where you thought, "Oh my god, why am I so kinky?"

JG: No, not "Oh my god." Maybe "Thank god!"

SB: (Laughs) But you're supposed to feel guilt and despair and compare yourself to everyone else. How come you didn't?

JG: I guess I always sort of liked sex — almost any kind. It was a big treat! There's this Woody Allen line about how bisexuals have it better because they have twice as many opportunities for a date on Saturday night. And I remember thinking the same thing when I was eleven, before Woody Allen said it. I thought that as a kid! It was before I had any kind of sexual contact. It seemed like a reasonable attitude to me.

PROCURING GIRLS FOR PAPA

SB: Has your family been shocked by what you do? Did you have to negotiate this with them?

JG: It was hardly a problem. My family always recognized that I was a little different.

SB: Why do you think that is?

JG: Cause I was always a little different. (Laughs)

Once my mother saw me on television — that sort of legitimized it a little bit for her. And she would read the Daily News or whatever and see my name in advertisements. My older sister told me, "You know, she has clippings."

My father became a pain in the ass because I made the mistake of getting him a girl once. My parents were separated, so I got him a beautiful young girl. I think it was for his birthday or something.

SB: And you had reason to believe your dad had a strong sexual interest in...

JG: Oh, absolutely. He was always interested in women. So I knew this would work out and he'd be very happy. But the problem was — until he died, I could not talk to him without him saying "Do you know any more girls?" So every once in a while, I had to throw him another hunk of meat.

SB: So the lesson is — do not procure for members of your family?

JG: Don't procure for your father. It's a pain in the ass.

SB: Do you have kids? I mean, how do you deal with it...

JG: I have one child who's practically older than I am. I was a virgin when I was seduced by an older woman. And then she got pregnant. It was a plan — she wanted the child. I told her, "If you have that child, I will never see you again." And she said, "Well, I don't expect to see you anyway. I'm going to have the child." So that's how that was. But I must say, I'm now delighted that I had this child, because it sort of takes that edge off of wondering what that's like. There is this human being out there and I'm glad that she's around now. But it took me about nine years before I even acknowledged her. It was only because I didn't want to be a bad father. I wasn't prepared. I didn't want to end up like my own father, who had six children because that's what you did in those days.

SB: I think men in this business know some things about masturbating that a lot of other guys don't.

JG: I don't know. People just have to relax. And people will still ask, "Does it affect or hurt your real sex life?" And I've had women be bashful about using a vibrator when they're having sex. To me, that's crazy. Whatever works! You want me to hit you on the head with a hammer while you're using a vibrator? If that works, I don't care, whatever it is. So I'll say, if you like to use the vibrator, go ahead. As a matter of fact, it would turn me on. Because if somebody's excited, that's exciting for me.

WHEN I'M 64

SB: As you get older, does the sizzle endure?

JG: It never ends. I remember — there used to be an old Jewish dominatrix in New York called Belle du Jour. And she was popular. I would go to her place just to hang out sometimes because it was interesting. Guys would come in.

This old guy who must have been close to ninety comes in, and he goes in the back with her. And she has these black, thigh-high boots on. And he falls onto the floor, and he's lapping at her boots. And I'm thinking, "My god. It never ends." You know, you'd think when you were ninety, you'd have a little dignity. Something would change. But it doesn't! It just goes on.

SB: Do you know more about how to touch people now, than you knew ten or fifteen years ago? Actually, I don't even know how old you are…

JG: I… I… I… I sort of have a spasm whenever I say how old I am. This is the worst possible year, actually, because the Beatles song keeps running through your mind.

SB: Are you 64?

JG: 64. And there's nothing worse than knowing that you heard that song when you were a kid, and you were thinking — what a joke. There are 64-year-old people walking around the street. And then there you are. It's ridiculous.

SB: Well, you're very honest about this, so I'd treasure anything you can tell me about being a sexual man at 64.



JG: (Pause) Well, first of all, I don't feel I have to fuck everybody I meet.

SB: What a relief!

JG: Of course, also, the girls also don't feel they have to fuck me as much. But you're a little more in control, particularly if you've had as many women as I've had. You sort of know what they're like. And you can appreciate them more just for themselves. You can talk to them and have a good time. And you can just sort of look at one of them and have a good idea of what it's like to fuck that one. And you can think about that and not have to go through with it.

Susie Bright blogs at Susiebright.com

See also:
Sex Expert Susie Bright Lets It All Out
Sex & Drugs & Susie Bright
Dana Plato, Porn Star
300 Pound Porn Queen Decimates Oklahoma Town
Violet Blue SHOCKER: I'd Do Bruce Campbell!
Sex Panic: An Interview with Debbie Nathan

Senator Vitter’s Suppressed Statement

Senator David Vitter10 Zen Monkeys received the following document from a friend who works as an aide to Republican Louisiana Senator David Vitter. It is the handwritten draft of the statement Senator Vitter planned to give before the press conference about his involvement in the "D.C. Madam" scandal.

Members of Vitter's staff talked the Senator out of his planned line of discussion and convinced him to go with the more conventional apology combined with partial denial. We are certain of the authenticity of this document, because we slipped it, along with a crisp Jackson, to our friend, Dolores "Bambi" Malone. Bambi has spent several weekends in Ibiza partying with the Senator, and she told us, "Yep. That's David. That sounds exactly like David. Hey! That's his handwriting!"

Here, then, are the notes for the statement Senator Vitter planned to deliver:

Friends, members of the press, fellow citizens. (PAUSE)

If bitches squirted their seeds like dudes do, I'd sure have egg on my face. (PAUSE for a moment so the morons can get the joke) Boo-yah!

But seriously, I stand before you today not to apologize or deny my behavior, but to give you a serious reality check. Remember that scene in A Few Good Men where Jack Nicholson said, "You can't handle the truth"? Well, that's surely the case here in Washington, D.C. and all across America as regards sex.

Now the fact is, I'm a natural born lover's man. From the day I turned 17 and my mama took me out to the shed and taught me the truth about Southern love, I've had a taste for it — if you know what I mean. Nowadays, I like 'em short or tall, fat or skinny, blonde or brunette, young or old. Hell, I've even had me one of them chicks with dicks. Craziest night I ever spent. We did it all, and though I won't get into too much detail, I will say Señor Dirty Sanchez did make an appearance.

The point is — I'm a pretty good looking guy and I've got money and power. I don't have to pay for it. But the nice thing about hookers: you don't have to please 'em. You know what I mean? I mean, it's nice to make a lady cum, but as you get older, you really just want to be serviced by a pro. And Deborah Palfrey had her a full stable of fine mares, if you know what I mean.

Now I'm sure some of you are sitting there feeling sorry for my wife, Wendy. Give me a break! Just check her out in that leopard-skin dress. You think she ain't got a couple of boy toys down in Louisiana? Not only that, but we've shared a few of Debbie's finest together. When Wendy goes down on a muffin, bitch'll be frightenin' the horses for miles around. And besides, every time I turn around, Wendy wants another addition to the house, new clothes, a couple of weeks' vacation alone with one of her boy toys in Rome. (PAUSE. Look sympathetically at Fred Dodds from The Post and wink. And then get all folksy) So don't y'all be feelin' too sorry for Wendy.

Listen. I got into politics because a friend of mine who is a big time corporate attorney thought I'd be good at it. He said I should be a Republican. He explained to me all about crony capitalism and told me I'd make great connections and scads of money. And all I had to do was represent the interests of my friends and donors. They'd tell me what to do.



It was a totally sweet deal. But he didn't tell me about the moralism part — about how you've got to be all about family values, and you've got to be for teen abstinence and against the queers and porn and abortion and Janet Jackson's nipples. And that's because the common Christian folks down in Louisiana don't care that much about whether my financial supporters make butt-loads of money or not. They care about pretending to hate sex — like it tells you to do in The Bible.

Y'all know what a rube is? It comes out of the circus. It's a word for folks who are easily scammed. Or, do you know what a mark is? It's an old term used by petty thiefs for people who are easy pickins. I think, originally, the word was used by pickpockets. Here's how it works. You got yourself a mark, and with your right hand, you're waving around the bible in front of his face and shouting about salvation. Then, with your left hand, you're picking the asshole's pocket. (PAUSE for laughter) Now, the common folks — working folks, poor folks who put me into office — they're marks and rubes, right?

OK. That's about all I have to say. I'm gonna stay in the Senate unless someone kicks me out. And those who paid this piper will continue to call the tune. I signed on to give my financial supporters a sweet deal, and that's what I intend to do. But I can no longer be a hypocrite about sex because… shit, like I said, I'm a natural born lover's man. So I will fight to legalize prostitution and any other kind of sex adults want to have. Gays can get married for all I care, although I can't see why they'd wanna. (PAUSE. Glare at Wendy.) And girls, if you're looking for a nice chunk a change, you know where to find me.

I'll be in the U.S. Senate where I plan to stay until my term runs out.

Any questions?

See Also:
Awesomest Congressional Campaign Ever
My Opponent Pays for Gay Teen Bestiality!
Is It Fascism Yet?
Libertarian Chick Fights Boobs With Boobs
The Future of America Has Been Stolen

Don’t Call It a Conspiracy — the Kennedy Brothers


Kennedy with Cuban exiles

The military and national security establishment of the United States is supposed to be under the control of our democratically elected civilian government. But is it?

An explosive new book by David Talbot, Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years, examines the hostility that existed between the Kennedy brothers and their own military, intelligence and enforcement agencies during the JFK administration in the early 1960s. The book also reveals that Robert Kennedy, who was Attorney General during his brother's presidency, believed that JFK was killed by an insider conspiracy of powerful players who didn't like some of the president's actions.

It underscores a troubling lesson we seem to never learn: that within all power structures, and certainly within Presidential Administrations, there are often struggles for domination, competing agendas, and subterfuge. Policies and military actions can veer in dangerous directions that have little to do with normal democratic processes.



The book is also a fascinating read, illuminating a contentious cast of characters including Jack and Bobby; CIA weirdos like James Jesus Angleton and Howard Hunt; and military madmen like Curtis Lemay and Lyman Lemnitzer.

I interviewed David Talbot, founder and former Editor-In-Chief of Salon.com for The RU Sirius Show. He was also Senior Editor for Mother Jones, and has written for Rolling Stone and many other publications. He recently debated Vincent Bugliosi about the JFK assassination as part of a cover feature in Time magazine.

Jamais Cascio and Jeff Diehl joined me in this interview.

To listen the full interview in MP3, click here.


RU SIRIUS: Your book shows that there was a terrible relationship between JFK and some members of his administration and the entire National Security establishment. It's all of a piece, but I think the situation with Joint Chiefs of Staff and the military really stands out...

DAVID TALBOT: They were his nemesis.

RU: They were very frightening.

DT: Yeah. The Kennedy administration was beleaguered and besieged by its own government. That was a revelation for me. After the Bay of Pigs fiasco, when Kennedy refuses to reinforce the CIA with U.S. troops and the Air Force, the government was pretty much at war with itself. Up to that point, they believed that Kennedy was a weak President – he was in over his head. And they were determined to run the country the way they wanted to.

RU: They suckered Kennedy into letting this invasion happen. Apparently, there was a fairly recent revelation that the CIA knew the Bay of Pigs wasn't going to work and they were sure that Kennedy would be forced to mount an invasion.

DT: That's right. I think they were trying to sandbag him. They knew he was young and inexperienced. According to the CIA's own internal history of the Bay of Pigs, which was released and de-classified in 2005, they knew that it would fail. They knew that their own motley brigade of Cuban exiles weren't sufficient to defeat Castro, and they thought that Kennedy's hand would be forced to send in the Marines and Air Force once these guys were pinned down on the beaches. But he didn't. He was very loath to widen the war. He knew — as the CIA itself later determined in an intelligence estimate — that if we were to do that, it would end up like what we're seeing today in Iraq. U.S. forces would have quickly swept aside Castro's military, they'd have marched on to Havana and then they would've gotten bogged down in a long and bloody occupation.

JAMAIS CASCIO: Did Kennedy suspect that he had been sandbagged?

DT: Yes. And he was furious. Afterwards, he famously threatened to shatter the CIA and scatter it to the winds. And he did fire the top two officials of the CIA — Allen Dulles, who ironically later became the most active member of the Warren Commission (to investigate the assassination of JFK), and Richard Bissell. And he was constantly re-shuffling his Joint Chiefs, because they were some frightening characters as well. The head of the Air Force, Curtis LeMay, actually thought you could fight and win a nuclear war.

RU: LeMay comes across in this book as actually very anxious to just get right into a nuclear war. And there's another character – Lyman Lemnitzer — true psycho maniacs. Talk a little bit about these characters.



DT: Those are two of my favorites! Curtis LeMay was this cigar-chomping World War II hero who had devastated Japan with firebombing assaults during that war. He knew that, in the early '60s, America had massive nuclear superiority over the Soviet Union. And he thought that was our window of opportunity to take the commies out. Do it now. We would, of course, suffer millions of casualties of our own, but he argued with Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara that you could still win the war as long as you had more weapons in the end.

RU: The one who dies with the most bombs wins.

DT: Exactly. LeMay, of course, was the inspiration for General Jack Ripper in Dr. Strangelove.

RU: And he was George Wallace's Vice Presidential candidate in 1968.

DT: Lyman Lemnitzer is another frightening character. Kennedy thought he was a dope — that's what Arthur Schlesinger, the Kennedy historian, told me. This is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

RU: Right. A complete idiot.

DT: Yeah, a complete idiot. And at one point, he came up with a scheme called Operation Northwoods, which he presents to McNamara and Kennedy.

JEFF DIEHL: The 9/11 conspiracy people bring that up all the time.

DT: Yes, because it obviously has some potentially interesting parallels with what happened on 9/11, depending on what you think 9/11 was all about. In any case, this was a plan to provoke a number of terrorist acts on U.S. soil and blame it on Castro as a way of creating a pretext for a war on Cuba. The plan included setting off bombs in Miami and Washington and killing American citizens and blaming it on Fidel.

RU: In Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency, James Bamford reported that one of the ideas was to blow up John Glenn in space, and blame it on the Cubans.

DT: (Laughs) Yes.

RU: You asked McNamara about it, and McNamara didn't even remember it. I get the sense that the Kennedy administration didn't even take it seriously. They just kind of tossed it in the wastebasket.

DT: I found a memo that Lyman and Lemnitzer did bring it up in the meeting with Kennedy, and he dismissed it out of hand. And Kennedy said, "I hope you're prepared for a wider war." In other words, he thought the Soviets would move against West Berlin if we were to move on Cuba.

I think Jack Kennedy was a wise and temperate man who'd learned the horrors of war firsthand as a young Navy officer in World War II. His own brother, who was a Navy pilot in World War II, had been shot down and killed during that war. So he wasn't like the kind of rich kids we see in office today in the White House…

RU: Although he was a rich kid.

DT: That's right. He was a rich kid. But he actually served in the military, and he knew firsthand the horrors of war.

RU: I love this expression that you use to describe how Kennedy operated. "In the end, JFK threaded the needle of Berlin, as he would do repeatedly during his administration, avoiding either an explosive confrontation or embarrassing capitulation in an artful dance, combining tough speech, symbolic military measures, and back channel diplomacy." Threading the needle – he was trying to sneak down the middle.

DT: Right. He was a skillful guy at the game of politics. He knew that if he came out too publicly as a force for peace, he would be pilloried by the far right, which was on the rise in those days – and was strong in the military — and he would be portrayed as a wimp. And, of course, Democrats have been portrayed that way ever since. But Kennedy was artful about avoiding that label. At the same time, behind the scenes, he was clearly trying to thread the needle and get out of these war situations — in Berlin, in Vietnam, in Laos, and in Cuba.

RU: How would you compare the pressures that he had from the right wing military establishment and the CIA — and a public that was prone toward being swayed by labeling someone a wimp — and the situation today. Because in reading the book, it makes me think things were much crazier then than they are now.

DT: Well, the stakes were certainly higher. The world was on the brink of nuclear holocaust throughout the Kennedy years. And there was a very active right wing in this country agitating for war. Within the military, there was a figure named General Edwin Walker. He was actually a very revered figure in the army. He was stationed in West Germany where he distributed far right John Bircher propaganda to his active duty soldiers and advised them how to vote. Of course, he was telling them to vote against the Democrats. Kennedy finally forced him out of the service and he became very active campaigning against Kennedy policies. He even went down to Ole Miss, the University of Mississippi, at the height of some serious disturbances there. A black student, James Meredith, was the first to enroll at the University and it set off white riots. Walker was stirring up those riots.

RU: Talking about how crazy things were then, the Ole Miss story is perhaps one of the most intense moments in your book. We would totally freak out if something like that happened now.

DT: Absolutely. And if a movie were ever made of my book, this would be one of the most intense scenes in it.

RU: Cinematic.

DT: Cinematic. You know, the Kennedys get blamed for being slow to move on Civil Rights. But certainly by 1962, his second year in office, JFK and his Attorney General Bobby Kennedy were moving pretty aggressively on Civil Rights. And when James Meredith, a former Air Force sergeant, becomes the first black student to enroll at this all-white, racist university — the University of Mississippi – all hell broke loose in the South. The governor, Ross Barnett, was riling people up down there and the local Klan was mobilized. And this former military officer, Edwin Walker attempted to rally the entire South to take its final stand on the campus to prevent desegregation. It was called the last battle of the Civil War.

RU: It was almost like civil war.

DT: Yeah, thousands of people from all over the South descended on the university. Some of them had squirrel guns; some had homemade bombs, bricks — anything they could throw at the beleaguered federal marshals who were protecting James Meredith. A thin line of federal officers had been quickly mobilized to protect Meredith, as well as prison guards. They even used drug enforcement people. They had all been sort of mobilized at the last minute under Nicholas Katzenbach, who was an aide to Bobby Kennedy.

So they were outside the administration building all night long as the riot got more and more out of control. They were down to their last tear gas canisters, which is all they have to try to disperse these rioters who were armed to the teeth. Two people were shot and killed and many wounded. Many of the federal marshals were wounded and bleeding. It was a scene of complete bloody chaos.

The military was supposed to reinforce these marshals and drive away the rioters, but they were very slow to move. And there are tapes of conversations inside the White House that night between President Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy, and their aides Ted Sorensen and Kenny O'Donnell. There was an increasing level of hysteria within the White House as they realize that the federal marshals are about to be overwhelmed and Meredith could be lynched by this mob. And they were on the phone to the army, constantly...

RU: One of Kennedy's friends was right there in the thick of it.

DT: The deputy aide, Nicholas Katzenbach, was right there. He was a World War II veteran, but he too was beginning to sound increasingly desperate … "Where is the military?" And Bobby Kennedy was yelling at the military, "Where are you?" In retrospect, it looks like it was probably just a badly run operation, and they weren't prepared to move as quickly as they had to that night. But the feeling within the Kennedy group that night was that it was treasonous. And they talk about the book, Seven Days in May, which was a best seller at the time. It was written by Fletcher Knebel, who was a friend of Kennedy's, about an attempted military coup in Washington. And the Kennedy's were asking themselves, "Is this happening in the United States?"

RU: Kennedy wanted to get that film made.

DT: He wanted that film made — I think — not only as a shot across the bow to the generals but also as a warning to the American people. You know, you think the President's in command of the military at all times, but the Kennedys' felt – that night at least — that the control was slipping out of their hands.

RU: And this seems to be the story of the book. During the '60s and '70s, within underground culture, a lot of people liked to say that the Kennedy assassination was essentially a coup d'etat. This doesn't seem far from the story you tell in your book. Would you embrace that language?

DT: Well, you know, the assassination of JFK is a dark labyrinth. It's possibly the darkest labyrinth in my lifetime, the biggest mystery. Many books have been written about it and I didn't want to go down that same tunnel. But I wanted to follow Bobby's footsteps, because Bobby Kennedy was the Attorney General of the United States and one of the most aggressive investigators in American public life in his day. And he was utterly devoted to his older brother, President Kennedy. So I wanted to know what he really thought.

I thought doing that would shed light on this case. And the truth is, starting from the afternoon of that terrible day in Dallas; Bobby Kennedy believed that his brother's assassination was a conspiracy. He looked immediately at the CIA and its secret war on Castro as the source of the plot.

RU: His public posture was to embrace the Warren Report, but in the meantime he organized his own explorations.

DT: That's right. I believe he rather tepidly endorsed the Warren Report in public because he knew his own power to investigate the crime was quickly fading, as soon as his brother was killed. The new President, Lyndon Johnson, hated his guts. The head of the investigation into the assassination, J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, was also a poisonous enemy of Bobby Kennedy's. So Bobby knew his own power as Attorney General was quickly evaporating. He was determined to get back to the White House as President to re-open the investigation.

RU: Assuming that this assassination was an inside job, and that it was on behalf of the people who wanted to go to war with Cuba — why didn't something happen after Kennedy was gone and then Johnson was in office?

DT: Well, they got their war, but not on Cuba. They got their war in Vietnam. I understand that JFK was determined to withdraw entirely from Vietnam after he was successfully re-elected in '64. He knew he would be facing a strong challenge from Barry Goldwater, and he wasn't about to give Goldwater a weapon by withdrawing from Vietnam before the campaign. But he told his Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara — who I interviewed — and Kenny O'Donnell, and other key aides that he fully intended to withdraw. And, of course, he only had 16,000 troops there at that point. Not the half million that LBJ and Nixon later had. He knew that it was up to the South Vietnamese people to win that war, and the Americans couldn't win it for them. Just like Iraq today.

This is what McNamara told me, and I think it's true. McNamara has no reason to lie about it. In fact, he has every reason to say the opposite because, of course, he was responsible, along with Johnson, for the tragic escalation of that war. He could've pinned it on JFK, but he didn't.

So I believe the military-industrial complex — these forces that work in America, did get their war finally. Kennedy constantly frustrated them, but they got their war. It was in Vietnam.

RU: Some of the theories around the JFK assassination tend to be bizarre. Oliver Stone's movie is maybe a little bit out there. And the New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison became sort of the focal point for theories. What do you think about Garrison, and what did Bobby Kennedy think about Garrison?

DT: Well, I actually think there's a certain heroism to both Garrison and Oliver Stone for standing up — particularly Garrison, who tried to re-open the case. I think he was in over his head. He made some wrong decisions. Ultimately, he set back the cause of the investigation when he lost his case. So I think of them both as flawed heroes. I think many of the things that Stone was looking at in JFK were close to the truth, and close to what Bobby Kennedy suspected. So Oliver Stone wasn't completely off the wall. But he's not a historian or a journalist, and it wasn't a documentary, so he used dramatic license. But he certainly succeeded in re-opening this debate. As a journalist, in 1991, I became interested in all this because of that film. As did many Americans. So he provided a service when the American media and the government had completely failed to get at the truth. It took a filmmaker to re-open the debate.

RU: A shitload of books have come out since that have claimed to prove that it was, in fact, Lee Harvey Oswald and he was a lone gunman. The most recent one by Vincent Bugliosi came out virtually at the same time as yours.

Bugliosi's book is massive. Have you read it?

DT: 1600 pages! No, I couldn't face all 1600 pages. But I have dipped into it. I read sections that pertained to my book. He's a lawyer so he can essentially prove anything, and that's what he's done. He's attempted to pin it on Oswald. There are many flaws in the book. In terms of his material about Bobby Kennedy, for instance, he's all wrong. He thinks Bobby Kennedy accepted the Warren report, both privately and publicly. And that's just not the case.



I think there's such enduring fascination with this because it's still the biggest mystery in American political history. Americans know, in their hearts, that something very dark happened in Dallas, and they haven't been given the full truth. Polls consistently show that upwards of 75-80% of the American people don't believe the Warren report.

But people say, "Oh, we'll never know the truth. There are so many theories out there." But in truth, we know more than we think. And a respectable body of opinion by the best researchers has really coalesced around one theory of this crime, and it happens to be what Bobby Kennedy thought. He believed that the plot against JFK grew out of the CIA's shadowy operation against Fidel Castro. It was an operation that brought together the CIA, the Mafia and militant Cuban exiles. And that, I believe, is where the conspiracy came from.

The House Select Committee on Assassinations, which I think is the best governmental investigation into Dallas, also came to similar conclusions in the late 1970s. Anthony Summer, a very good Irish investigative journalist who worked for the BBC came to similar conclusions in his book, The Kennedy Conspiracy. Jeff Morley of the Washington Post, who I think is the best working journalist on this beat in America, is also looking in the same direction.

RU: We're talking about the Mafia, the CIA, and Cuban exiles. But are there some specific individuals that you feel were very likely to have been involved in this?

DT: Well, one of them, of course, is Howard Hunt. He was the head of the Watergate burglary team and a former CIA agent who was very much a part of the war on Castro. And in January of this year, as he was dying, he made a series of confessions to his son, St. John. And he said that he was invited to a CIA safehouse meeting in 1963 in Miami where the plot to kill President Kennedy was discussed. He named William Harvey and David Morales as other likely suspects. In fact, he says that David Morales, who was another well-known CIA figure, was at that meeting. And he names David Phillips. Those are key CIA names.

RU: What comes across in your book is that Bobby Kennedy, like his brother, played a delicate game in behaving militantly towards Cuba, and even taking small actions, short of invasion and bombing — tepid stuff that really wouldn't do anything.

DT: That's right. And Bobby Kennedy was militantly anti-communist. He was no fan of Fidel Castro. But he was outraged after the fiasco at the Bay of Pigs. He knew this was a humiliation for his brother and he took it personally. He was that kind of guy.

Someone described him to me as being like an Irish cop — he was a young man and he tended to see things in black and white. He was a work in progress at that point. He was 35 when he became Attorney General. But I think he grew quickly while he was in office. And my evidence suggests that by 1962, the Kennedys were doing a two-track strategy with Castro. As you say, they were operating something called Operation Mongoose – a series of pinprick actions directed against Fidel Castro meant to de-stabilize his government. These were not assassination plots. And it looks like they were doing it for political reasons back home because they were under intense pressure from the far right to do something about Castro. It was more or less for show. Meanwhile, in the final months of the administration, JFK opened up a secret peace channel to Castro through an assistant to our U.N. ambassador named William Attwood and an ABC newswoman named Lisa Howard. She also happened to be sleeping with Fidel.

RU: And she was bugged by the CIA.

DT: That's right.

RU: I can sort of understand the right wing's level of paranoia. Here you have John Kennedy going through back channels to Cuba with a woman who's sleeping with Castro. And Bobby Kennedy, at some point, seems to become friends with somebody in the Khrushchev government. He sort of gripes about the right-wingers he has to deal with to this guy. And I can imagine how some rightwinger listening in might think, "What? That's treason!"

DT: Consorting with the enemy. Exactly. I think you could understand the hard-liner's point of view. They believed the Kennedys were young; they were in over their heads, and they were kind of out of control. In fact, they're wiretapping a former CIA wife named Mary Meyer, and they found out that, after her divorce from her husband, Cord Meyer, she was sleeping with President Kennedy. And she was trying to turn him on to LSD.

RU: Half my audience is having an orgasm right now, because they've been waiting for us to bring up the Mary Meyer thing. And my old friend Tim Leary does have a brief cameo role in your book.

DT: Absolutely.

RU: Tell a little bit about that.

DT: Well, Mary Meyer met JFK when they were both in prep school. She started off very much a blueblood from the very prominent Pinchot family. Then she married this CIA official, Cord Meyer. And she divorced him as he became more and more right wing. She was going in the opposite direction, politically. By the early 60s, Mary Meyer was kind of a pre-hippie hippie. She was an artist and a painter living in Georgetown. And she had divorced her husband and she was having an affair with the President. And I think it was quite a serious relationship — it wasn't one of these fiddle-and-faddle kind of flings that Kennedy would have.

He was really deeply into Mary Meyer (in more ways than one). And in this idyllic period in the early '60s, she was taken with the idea that peace, love and drugs could change the world. Specifically, she was out to turn on the world's leaders to the idea that they don't have to be in a constant state of war. So she went to Harvard, where Timothy Leary, of course, was still a respected professor in those days.

RU: Semi-respected.

DT: (Laughs) And she asked his help. She was setting up these acid experiments involving some of the more prominent men in Washington. She was doing this through their mistresses and wives. Apparently, she has some of these sessions, and she thought they were succeeding quite well. But one day she came back to Leary in a panic and told him things had gone terribly awry. One of the women had sort of gone public and exposed what was happening. And Mary was very alarmed about what the consequences would be and even asked if she could hide out at Leary's...

RU: ...at Millbrook. Not a great place to hide out. A big estate, but probably spied upon just as much as the White House!

DT: Leary lost touch with her a while and JFK was assassinated. About a year after the assassination, he looked up Mary Meyer and found out to his horror that she had also died a violent death while walking on a towpath along a canal in Washington. In broad daylight, a man came up to her and killed her, execution style — shot her through the head and the heart. She wasn't sexually violated and nothing was stolen. It was just an execution-style murder that was never solved.

RU: Apparently at some point, James Jesus Angleton mentioned Mary Meyer in the context of LSD.

DT: That's right. He played a strange role in this. Angleton is one of the more spectral and spooky figures in the CIA history

RU: Just an incredibly weird guy.

DT: Very odd man — head of CIA counter-intelligence. He spent his whole life doing these mind games in which he was trying to prevent the Soviet Union from penetrating American intelligence. And some people believe that he ruined the CIA through his paranoia.

In any case, he was obsessed with Mary Meyer. Ben Bradlee, the former editor of the Washington Post, knew both of them because he was Mary Meyer's brother-in-law. He thought Angleton was romantically and sexually obsessed with Mary Meyer. He wiretapped her. And I believe that he knew about the affair between Mary Meyer and Kennedy. So potentially, the CIA knew that Kennedy was doing drugs. One more nail, I think, in JFK's coffin. They believed this young President was out of control.

After Meyer was killed, Angleton showed up at her home, and then at her studio, trying to pick the lock... which he was good at. Ben Bradlee and his wife found him there. Apparently he was looking for her diary. And the diary's a source of much speculation. Eventually the diary was found. And for some reason, Mary's sister (Bradlee's wife) gave it to Angleton to destroy. He didn't do it, and she later asked for it back. She claimed that she disposed of it. In this diary, of course, are entries about her affair with JFK and who knows what else.

RU: We presumably have an elected representative who is Commander-In-Chief of the military and is in control of these other organizations. But we know that both Carter and Clinton had a hard time with the National Security establishments. I guess any time anybody to the left of Attila the Hun gets into power, the question becomes whether they're really in control of the military or whether the military is in control of them.

DT: I think so. Clinton, of course, set them off right away with his policies on gays in the military. And that provoked a sharp reaction.

RU: He couldn't salute properly.

DT: He couldn't salute properly. He hadn't served himself — he wasn't one of them. And I think that any progressive president that takes office now will face a similar kind of response from hardline elements in the government that JFK was forced to confront. That's why these historical lessons are very important for us to understand. It's important to see what any progressive in the White House is going to be up against.

There will always be elements of this military-industrial complex that will be pushing war for power and profit. There will always be that impulse. It takes a formidable leader to stand up to those pressures.

JD: Today, with Iraq, weren't some people in the military advising not to invade?

DT: That's the irony. The real nut cases are in the White House today, and not so much the Pentagon or CIA. The CIA and the Pentagon have been forces for restraint under the crazy Bush-Cheney administration.

JD: Does that bode better, then, for a progressive White House?

RU: I think they might be happy to get a centrist back into the White House.

DT: Maybe, but there are always these lobbies. You know, Rumsfeld and Cheney came out of that kind of thing. They were working for military contractors and lobbying organizations that were always pushing for the next war. We're already hearing about Iran. Bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb Iran, as McCain joked. Not really a funny joke.

RU: Steve Wozniak thought it was funny.

DT: Strange sense of humor, that Steve. In any case, I think whoever's in the White House is going to be facing those pressures. And sometimes you have someone in the White House who's part of that kind of crazy war lobby, like the current administration.

JC: In American culture, we now have a sensitivity to conspiracy. While there were certainly conspiracies and scandals in the era before Kennedy, there wasn't the expectation that the government was going to be corrupt in such a violent way. Today, we're maybe overly conscious of the potential for conspiracy. A perfect example is the willingness of so many people to believe in the most massively bizarre conspiracies around 9/11. So it seems to me that it's much trickier for these conspiracies to be carried off successfully.

DT: I think that's true and it's not true. But I agree with your point that the public is more conspiratorially inclined today than when I was growing up as a kid, before Dallas. On the other hand, the gatekeepers — the opinion elite in this country. The media...

RU: They've had a backlash.

DT: Very much so. They're very suspicious of any conspiracy theories. The reaction to my book in the media world is very interesting.

RU: Are you a wingnut?

DT: It's been very mixed. I was severely chastised in the Boston Globe and the Washington Post for being too conspiracy minded. But that's why I didn't really frame this book as a conspiracy book. And I rooted it in historical fact, and documented it all very carefully. I interviewed over 150 former Kennedy administration officials, friends and colleagues. I went through thousands of documents that are available now. And it's very clear from those documents that the Kennedy administration was at war with itself. And it's clear that Bobby Kennedy suspected a plot. That's historical fact. That's not my speculation. That's the truth.

RU: Have people talked about Bobby Kennedy's suspicions in the past – or is this a breakout news item?

DT: It's the headline from my book. I mean, there have been rumors about it, and little bits about it in a couple of other books like Robert Kennedy and His Times by Schlesinger. But no one has really delved deeply into it.

I believe that these questions about conspiracy are important in a larger sense. The American public's imagination has become so inflamed because they know — on some gut level — that they're being lied to by one administration after another — and particularly by this administration. And they lied about something as important as war — the run-up to the war in Iraq. I think the American people are so fed up with this — they're so skeptical now that, in a way — it's even more difficult for researchers like me to break through and to say, "Look, not everything's a conspiracy, but some things are." American power works like power does around the world. Sometimes we like to think we're exceptional. Dark things happen in Latin American countries. Dark things happen in European countries. But for some reason, some Americans have a certain naiveté – particularly the media. We like to think we're above that kind of thing. But America is capable of dark things. We should know that by now. We have to sort that out. As researchers, journalists and historians, it's our job to sort fact from fiction. Everything isn't a conspiracy — I'm very skeptical of a lot of the 9/11 stuff that I've seen. But on the other hand, I think that what happened in Dallas was clearly very dark and sinister, and we haven't been told the full truth about it.

RU: As you said, these things do happen, and in some ways, none of this is terribly shocking. And I thought about this as I was reading about Bobby Kennedy's struggles with the Mafia. And there was this interesting contrast in the personalities of the Kennedy brothers — JFK was more of a hedonist and Bobby was a very strict moralist. And Bobby got into this thing with the Mafia while John was still hanging out with Frank Sinatra. Reading this, at some point I almost start to identify with the Mafia guys...

DT: After Bobby's been at them for a while, you have to sympathize with them.

RU: Well, you know, these guys are saying (New York Italian accent) "'ey! I thought we had a deal here!" You know? They did. They thought they had a deal.

DT: Exactly. They had a deal with the old man, Joe Kennedy. I think that was actually the source of Bobby's energy and fervor on the subject. It was a great Oedipal drama. Joe Kennedy, the great family patriarch, built the fortune any way he could. He was a pirate. He built it through Wall Street speculation; through shady Hollywood deals and building a movie empire; and through bootlegging. The bootlegging business and the Hollywood business brought him into contact with the mob, as partners. I believe he brought the mob into the campaign in 1960 when JFK ran for President in 1960 and they helped push JFK over the top, The Kennedys weren't alone in this, of course. That's the way the game was played. Nixon had his own mob contacts and his own vote theft. But Bobby was a devout Catholic and he was aware of this. He loved his father deeply, but I believe he was also ashamed of much of his father's past.

RU: Was there conflict between John and Bobby because they had such different personalities?

DT: I think JFK was bemused by how ardent his younger brother was. As you say, Jack was more like a prince. He was a debonair, sophisticated guy who had no problems hanging out with some shady characters himself, like Frank Sinatra.

Bobby Kennedy was a different animal. But JFK also loved his brother's devotion and his energy and commitment, and respected him enormously. And he kept giving Bobby more and more responsibility in that government. They didn't trust the CIA, the Pentagon, and much of their own administration, like the Secretary of State, Dean Rusk. So their government really became a family affair. He kept giving more and more of the tasks of government to his Attorney General — his brother.

JC: Was the assassination of Bobby Kennedy part of this, or was it just a lone nut.

DT: I didn't focus on that much in my book. But I do raise questions about it. I interviewed a number of people who were there that night in Los Angeles when Bobby Kennedy was gunned down at the Ambassador hotel after winning the California primary. One of them was Frank Burns. He was an aide to Jesse Unruh, speaker of the California Assembly, and a Democratic Party lawyer. He was one of the guys wrestling with the convicted assassin, Sirhan Sirhan, for the gun. He said Sirhan was standing four to five feet in front of Bobby as he's walking through the hotel pantry, but the fatal shot was delivered at point-blank range behind Bobby's ear, right into his skull. Thomas Naguchi, the coroner of Los Angeles County, also said there was no way Sirhan could have fired that fatal shot, given where he was standing. Obviously Sirhan was playing some role that night. He had a gun. He fired at Bobby. But I don't think the fatal bullet came from Sirhan's gun.

RU: Most of the book is not about the assassination. It's about the Kennedy administration. You're basically rehabilitating their progressive reputation and their intentions regarding war and peace.

DT: Yes!

RU: Is there a final take-home lesson for us?

DT: JFK wanted his epitaph to be, "He kept the peace." And he delivered a beautiful speech along these lines at American University in 1963, saying "We all live on the same small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we're all mortal."

He was saying that about America and our enemies — the Soviet Union. I think we need to have this kind of visionary leadership again to make this world a safer, more peaceful place.

See also:
The Chicks Who Tried To Shoot Gerald Ford
Detention and Torture: Are We Still Free or Not?
Anarchy for the USA: A Conversation With Josh Wolf
Homeland Security Follies
The LA Cop Who Became the Leading 9/11 Conspiracy Spokesman

Sex Panic! — An Interview With Debbie Nathan


Woman Screaming


Editor's note: We experienced some hesitation at publishing this piece. We know that people have strong emotions about these topics and, obviously, the sexual abuse of children is no trivial matter.

But given the players, including the New York Times, the Justice Department, the Internet, and Free Speech itself, we feel confident that it will start an important debate on a number of issues that are usually dominated by hysterical, reactionary voices.

About the author: Susie Bright is the host of the weekly Audible.com podcast, "In Bed With Susie Bright," and is the editor of Best American Erotica, 1993-2008.

For a free month's subscription to "In Bed With Susie Bright," click here. Links to the full audio versions of this interview can be found here: Part 1, Part 2.


Debbie Nathan is the expert on sex panics and is perhaps best known for her book, Satan's Silence: Ritual Abuse and the Making of a Modern American Witch Hunt, about some of the widely covered sex panic cases that rocked the U.S. in the '80s and '90s, such as the McMartin preschool case in California. Susie and Debbie share a deep distrust about former New York Times journalist Kurt Eichenwald's much talked about articles on Internet child pornography.

SUSIE BRIGHT: First of all, you uncovered the bizarre so-called "satanic abuse scandals" that were happening in Southern California in the 1980s, and I remember thinking, "How could people re-create the Salem witch trials in this day and age?" And the next time you popped up in my life, I was reading these sensational stories in the New York Times about child pornography, which the reporter described in amazing, titillating detail — and of course he was on a campaign to stop it.

Nevertheless, I put down the newspaper I was reading, and I thought, "How does this guy get to look at anything that is remotely like 'child pornography' when the whole genre is utterly and completely illegal in the United States? What is the deal... Did he do a deal with the Justice Department? And what are they showing him?" And, "How come he doesn't talk about any of this?" (Ed: Former New York Times reporter Kurt Eichenwald has denied ever looking at illegal pornographic images.) The very next day, there's an article in Salon — by you, Debbie Nathan. And it had this provocative title, Why I Need To See Child Porn.

DN: And then the next day, it was gone.

SB: And then the next day, it was gone! Because the reporter who'd written the original piece just blew his stack and threatened Salon with legal action if they didn't take this piece down. Well, I want to get back to your rebuttal — the very first thing you said, which is: If child porn is such an immoral outrage, then why does anyone need to look at it? Why is it anybody's business? Aren't we just supposed to say, "My god, that's aberrant," and turn our heads away?

DN: Well, there are two reasons for that, and I'm not sure which one is more important. But the first one has to do with technology. It has to do with the fact that in this country — not all countries, but in the United States where we respect the First Amendment — the reasoning behind outlawing child pornography is that it is the record of the victimization of a real child.

SB: The photographic record.

DN: The photographic record. Now, we don't outlaw photographic records of other crimes. For example, we didn't outlaw looking at the Abu Ghraib torture pictures...

SB: Boy, I'll say.

DN: ...which were sexual tortures. But we do outlaw looking at photographic records of sexual crimes against children. Now, of course, that brings up a whole other can of worms, which is that a lot of child pornography involves 17-year-olds or 16-year- olds. It used to be that you could make pornography in this country if you were over 16.

SB: How recent was that?

DN: You know, I can't tell you the exact year, but it seems to me that it was changed in the 80s. It might've been the late 70s. But the age of model consent used to be lower than it is now. So then you get into the whole argument and controversy about what is a child? We have statutory definitions, but in the real world, I think we know that there's a huge variation in emotional development.

SB: Let's say it's non-consensual, it's basically rape on camera. You know, there'd be no question that everyone would be horrified.

DN: Let's say an 8-year-old who's being raped. Okay?

SB: Oh, god. Okay... Why does anybody need to scrutinize that, aside from the Department of Justice?

DN: I still haven't even finished my first point. And my first point about the technology is that it might not be a real child. Because we now have morphing. We have ways to take pictures of adults, for example, and fiddle around with pixels in Photoshop. We have ways to make adults look like children. You can actually make a young adult look like an 8-year-old. You can do cartoons.

SB: This is reminding me of when I was a good Catholic, and we discussed venal sin. There, somebody might say, "Okay. So you didn't really do this. But you thought it."

DN: You thought about it! That's right.

SB: "And we should lock you up forever and chop your balls off for even thinking about this!"

DN: Yeah, — well, that's where we're at. Now we've got the technology to produce sexualized representations of children where there's no children. So it's not a record of the exploitation of anyone. It's just a piece of art. You might consider it tasteless and repulsive, but it's just a representation and it's not a representation of reality. Now in this country, that is not illegal. In other countries it is, but not in the United States. So how do we know what's on the internet? This is question #1. The government goes around saying there's a tremendous amount of child pornography on the internet. No one really knows how much of it is photographic records of real crimes against real children and how much of it is morphing imagery. So that's question #1. How much illegal stuff is on the web? We don't know. People need to know. And somebody needs to be able to look at that stuff who's not in the Department of Justice, because they've got their own agenda.

SB: At this point, the Department of Justice's reputation is so bad, I wouldn't give them authority to walk across the street.

DN: The thing is, this is the last frontier of authority for the Justice Department. And that's the second point — not only do we not know how prevalent child pornography really is, the government is claiming that it's a multi-billion dollar industry and it's huge. And they're now using that claim to justify the Patriot Act.

And we all know Gonzales is in big shit right now because of a bunch of things including illegal use of the Patriot Act and the firing of all of these attorneys. So he's trying to divert attention by saying, "Well, I'm not so concerned about all that because I'm still following my agenda, which is to attack this terrible problem of child pornography on the internet."

And when the DOJ puts this stuff out, nobody makes a peep. Because this country, this culture, is so ready to believe anything that the government says about child pornography. And that's why you need people outside of the government to be able to look around on the internet. No one has any idea what's really on the internet except maybe — you know, the FBI. Although I'm not sure what they know either. But they're very quick to make claims. And that's dangerous!

SB: Well, when it comes to how to get at the perpetrators of child abuse, why isn't the law completely focused on the criminal act, as it happened, as opposed to whatever record there is of it?

DN: Well, the DOJ will tell you that it's very hard to go backwards and find the child. I mean, there are a lot of people in the world who like to look at representations of children having sex. And most of them, it turns out, never touch kids. It's just like most of the sort of more far-out pornography — people don't do the stuff that they look at. You know? And that's true, apparently, with people who like looking at child pornography. They never touch kids. So there is a lot of stuff out there that's consumed by people who don't touch kids, and the government claims that they can't go back and they can't find the kids.

But the government also makes this argument, which is completely specious in terms of any research, that child pornography causes or incites people to molest children. There's no evidence for that whatsoever.

SB: Maybe I should get to the big picture question behind a lot of this — the notion of sexually taking advantage of an innocent. Child porn boils down to the ultimate taboo. The ultimate "big picking on little" — sometimes the incestuous thing is brought into it — the notion of somebody who has all the power taking advantage of someone who has nothing. It is a classic, epic taboo. Yet, if it's so taboo, then why do we hear about it all the time as if it was a tuna fish sandwich? I mean, how do those two things reconcile? Something that cannot be spoken — unspeakable, makes people's stomachs turn. And yet, oh — child porn here, child porn there, kiddie porn, massive billions. You know, where is the truth in those two completely opposite pictures?

DN: I think they go together. Censorship goes together with the proliferation of porn and this incredible fascination with porn. But it's even moreso with child porn. And, you know what's interesting, Susie — if you look cross-culturally, and you go way back in history, you'll see that whenever a culture is worried about something, or feeling guilty, it puts kids up as a symbol of the ultimate innocence of the culture. And it also posits kids as the symbol of its future. So if it's worried about the future, and it feels culpable — then people just really zero in on the endangered child. And then you combine that with Western, and particularly modern Western fears, since the last couple hundred years of sexuality — and you get this incredibly potent, overloaded symbol in the sexually abused child. And also, over the last couple of generations, there's the increasing use of sexuality as a consumer god.

SB: My own political roots are as a feminist. And part of the way feminists changed public conversation was to say, "You know what? Next time people start blithering about the plight of women and children..." — and of course, they're always put together. They're infantilized together — "...we're going to take a different tack. We're going to talk about this differently. Not just for women's sake, but also for children's sake." And I was wondering — you're a feminist. What do you think would be a healthy way for anyone to discuss young people's sexuality — whether they are children or teenagers?

DN: I highly recommend a book by one of my good friends, Judith Levine, which is called Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex. It's a wonderful book about the fact that children really do have sexuality. Children are not "innocent" in the way that term is used in our culture. And how do you deal with children's emerging sexuality? Well, I think the first thing you have to do is acknowledge it. The second thing you have to do is teach kids how to own their own sexuality, and I think you start that immediately. Children are conscious human beings from the time that they're born. But of course in this country, we have this complete crisis — this total attack on sex education. So the first thing you have to do is have a national conversation about the fact that children are sexual beings.

That's a Freudian idea that's completely out of style now. And I'm not saying Freud should come back, but the actual baby got thrown out with the bath water when people started critiquing Freud.



SB: That's ironic, isn't it? In some ways, I was part of the rejection of Freud that went on during early feminism. But we had our own version of claiming one's sexuality, as the rhetoric put it, which had a lot to do with masturbation, and the idea that this is your body, it's yours to decide — your virginity does not belong to somebody, it can't be sold to the highest bidder. You know, it's not something that your father is protecting, to hand to another man in marriage. All those kind of ideas were getting the big heave-ho with the notion that you have your own sex stuff. It belongs to you. And I don't see that kind of consciousness being very popular today. It's more like, oh, you're growing up? You're starting to come into your own? Well, how can you look sexual? And then, how can you pitch that look to your advantage? That is what I notice in popular culture now.

DN: That was certainly true when I was a teenager. I think it's gotten exacerbated because every year consumerism becomes more powerful. People express themselves more and more through consumption, through commodity consumption. And sex has been colonized by —

SB: The aliens?

DN: ...by the aliens who make all these commodities! Whether it's clothes or makeup. 15-year-olds who are virgins are now getting Brazillian waxed. It's like, every single part of the body and every form of expression is being colonized by the idea that you've got to buy something. And sex is the way that you convince people to buy things. Because, you know, you terrorize people by thinking that if you don't buy this product, you're not going to be sexy!

SB: When the words "child porn" or "kiddie porn" are referred to as a business or some sort of industry that's in progress — I feel a little suspicious. Because there are millions of kids around the world who are being used as slaves, basically — they're forced to work in a factory, or in someone's home. Or just sweat labor. And they have no out. They have no passport. They have no wages. Nothing. This is monumental. And certainly, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised, considering they have so little power, they might be sexually exploited at many ends of their situation. But it is not a child porn business, per se. It is an "exploiting children" business — it's got a lot tentacles, it goes in every direction. It's not like it's a cut-out. Do you know what I mean?

DN: Absolutely. Anyone who has spent any time in a poor country knows that there's a continuum of exploitation. Everyone is exploited, and kids go to work early. Kids go to work in a country like Mexico, working class kids, when they're 8 or 10 or 12 years old. And they can be working in a factory for $4 a day. They can be out on the street selling pumpkin seeds for $5 a day, or they can be in a red light district for $50 a day. So, for women in the third world, it's more lucrative to do sex work. And I've talked to poor women and to poor children. They don't even consider themselves children any more! You know? They're out working by the time they're ten years old. So in their minds, they're not children. They're contributing to the livelihood of their families. They have "agency" — that's that word that sociologists use. They will sit and talk to you — they're very rationale, in their own 10-year-old, or 12-year-old, or 15-year-old way. They've figured out how to support their families the same way that older women try to figure out how to support their families. And, you know, it's a political/economic problem. It's not, to my mind, a moral problem. Unfortunately, the sad thing is no one cares about girls who work in factories. And no one cares about girls who sell pumpkin seeds. And no one cares about women who work in factories.



I wrote a piece in The Nation a couple years ago suggesting that there was far more slavery in this country involving non-sex work. (Actually, two years or three years after I wrote that piece, the Government Accounting Office has just released a study suggesting that's probably right.) It was a very controversial piece. And the biggest attacks I got were from self-described feminists who want all prostitution to be defined as slavery, even when it's voluntary. So it's very hard to get people excited about people being forced to pick broccoli in a field, but they will get really excited about the idea of sex slaves. It sounds prurient. It gets people excited. It's another one of those S&M fantasies.

SB: You have a new book out called Pornography , and it's part of a learning series for young adults to grapple with issues of the day, but it's a good primer for anyone who might want to look at some of the basic arguments about porn. And what amazes me is, when it comes to the huge majority of porn that is produced and consumed, it is the same banal sucking and fucking over and over and over again that dominates the market.

DN: I think the stories that you hear in the media, the gloom-and-doom, scary stories about the bukkake and the donkeys — that's all coming from the so-called clinical samples. That's coming from the people that are in therapy because they consider themselves to be porn addicts, and they've spent all their time finding the weirder and weirder stuff. That's the story, right? "I lost control of it. I wanted to see weirder and weirder and weirder stuff." And that's the porn consumer in the popular imagination now.

SB: I totally reject the notion that that's the cycle. Most people don't sit around with their porn having to have more and more and more extreme...

DN: No, but that's the clinical tale. That's the tale that the media likes, because it's the scary tale.

SB: Well, it's funny you should call it "clinical." Because it's not even accepted by most of the psychiatric profession. There is no such thing as porn addiction in the DSM manual.

DN: I know. And if you look in my book, you'll see that I debunk that. But that's the story the mass media likes to tell. That's what they hang the problem on — the weirdo stuff.

SB: Explain that, because people hear this all the time. "Are you a porn addict? Are you going to become addicted to porn?" Why is that an inappropriate word to use?

DN: Addiction is a physical thing, like nicotine is an addiction, and alcohol is an addiction, and heroin is an addiction. These are things that your body becomes physically dependent on. And people reject the use of the word "addiction" for things like brushing your teeth, or as Leonore Tiefer puts it, "spending too much time reading the New York Times."

SB: Guilty!

DN: Or spending too much time at work, which is a huge problem. Or spending too much time, in your own estimate, watching sports on TV. Or spending too much time in the garage, playing with your drills and making boats in bottles. And now we have spending too much time watching porn. These are just — as Leonore calls them — "bad habits."

SB: What's the difference between a bad habit, or maybe feeling like, "Gosh, I really wasted too much time doing that," and what would be diagnosed as obsessive-compulsive disorder?

DN: I think that's pretty subjective. I mean, if you look in the DSM, it says most disorders have to do with whether the person feels troubled by the behavior. Even if you look at pedophilia, the definition of pedophilia is that you have an attraction to pre-pubertal kids and it bothers you. If it doesn't bother you, then it's not a disorder.

SB: What if it it bothers everyone else?

DN: Well, they wouldn't know if you didn't go out and act on it. If you go out and act on it, then you're a child molester. But not all child molesters are pedophiles, and not all pedophiles are child molesters. The same thing with porn. Certainly, if you're the president of Vivid, and you have to look at 14 hours of porn a day to make your $300,000 a year, I don't think anyone would call you a porn addict. That would be a useful thing to be doing!

SB: What do you say to people who say, "Debbie, look! I personally feel like I look at porn too much, and it's upsetting to me, and it's upsetting my life."

DN: I'm not a therapist, but the therapist that I talked to for the book said that...

SB: Don't they ask you anyways? They don't care whether you're a therapist or not!

DN: They only call me the evil journalist who doesn't care about kids.

SB: But when you're not an evil journalist, I bet you get treated like a shrink sometimes.

DN: Okay, so here's what the therapists say. They take that very seriously. And what they say is, "We need to look at what the problems are in your life that are causing you to sooth yourself?" They see looking at a lot of porn as a self-soothing activity, in the way that many activities are self-soothing when you're anxious, or you're suffering from anxiety, or from depression. And so they try to get the person to look at the behavior in terms of — "Why did I decide to look at porn on the net instead of read the New York Times all day?" Or "Why did I decide to look at porn on the net instead of watching too much basketball?" And if you really look at the meaning of your habits — because everyone's a complicated individual, with a complicated, intra-psychic past — you can come up with some pretty good stories about yourself, and what your attraction is to this particular self-soothing activity.

The therapists that I've talked to have said, "If the person's depressed, you treat the person for depression. If the person's anxious, you treat 'em for anxiety." And you also work on trying to understand what the behavior is, and what the fantasies are that lead to the behavior. And again, I mean, it's a wonderful thing to explore your fantasies. And not all fantasies have to do with pornography. Some of them do, some of them don't, right? We need to understand all of our fantasies.

SB: I often say "sexual expression" rather than using words like "pornography" or "eroticism." Because I'm so tired of all the baggage those words carry.

DN: Well, Leonore Tiefer has a lot of patients who come in complaining that they're addicted to pornography. And she says, maybe the person started looking at pornography on the web because he came from a very restrictive, strict background, and it's a way of rebelling against an overly-strict authoritarian father. So then the fantasy is not so much sexual as it is rebelling against that father. Now, of course, you get a whole sexual overlay, because the bad habit happens to be porn-viewing. But the real profound thing might be what happened in childhood with the father that has nothing ostensibly to do with sex. People are just very complicated.

SB: Also, porn is typically discussed in terms of whether it's harmful, or it's benign.

DN: Yeah, it's so utterly overloaded with moral stuff. And that makes it even more troubling to people.

SB: I come from a place of saying, "Well, I'm an artist. And I'm interested in including the sexual part of creativity in the work that I publish or produce." And so it's not a matter of me deciding whether something is harmful or benign. But rather, in an artistic work, a creative work — sexuality is going to make all the difference in understanding it — its pathos, or its comedy, or its tragedy. It's hard to imagine a lot of the greatest artistic works that people revere if you took the sexual element out of them. That doesn't seem to get discussed in political debates.

DN: It's really weird that you just made that statement, and juxtaposed it with this sort of really sad conversation we're having about people in deep distress. You know? Because your statement is a very joyful, aesthetic statement, and what we just talked about is people coming in hating themselves, feeling that they're evil and out of control. It's very sad. And porn is just so completely overloaded with moralism that the therapist that I spoke with said, "It's really hard to get people to even think deeply about what their relationship is with it, when they're in therapy and they come in with these complaints. Because they're so ashamed!"

SB: Well, as a fellow professional journalist and a researcher into this sort of thing, you have this tendency — like I do, to just throw yourself into the most volatile situations! And then you say, "What's a nice girl like me doing in this anyway?"

DN: Yeah. It's really true. You've heard me kvetching, haven't you? (Laughs)

SB: Yeah, I have. But I understand it, because I often tell my friends, "I'm so scared." You know, I took on this monster. I've put myself right in the middle of it. And I can't handle it. I can't handle it! And they're like — are you kidding?

DN: You know what it was with me, Susie? The first time I got involved with this — what I call sex politics and sex panics around children — was with the Satanic daycare panic.

SB: And did you know what you were getting into?

DN: No. I had a two-year-old when I first heard about the Satanic daycare centers. I remember hearing about the McMartin case. I was sitting in a rocking chair, giving my kid something or other — like maybe a bottle or a book. And on the radio, they were talking about the little old lady at the McMartin pre-school — the 80-year-old who killed rabbits while she brutalized children sexually. And I believed this! I can remember sitting there saying, "Oh my god! Oh no! I can't send my kid to daycare..."

I can remember this so well. I thought, you know what? People will do anything. They're capable of anything. Well, then Ellen Willis, god bless her, who just died last year, started getting suspicious about this stuff. And she asked me if I looked into McMartin. It's a long story, but there was a case in my own community in El Paso, Texas. The first two women to ever be convicted were in my little city. And I was supposed to spend six weeks — but I spent eight months looking at this case. And I had no idea what it was when I first started. But I was just knowing that there's certain ways that kids act, and that you probably wouldn't be able to put a 14-inch knife up a 2-year- old's rectum...

SB: Oh, god!

DN: ...and then have the kid come back from daycare smiling and telling you that he couldn't wait to get back the next day. You know?

SB: And yet those were the stories.

DN: Now do you need to have a two-year-old child to know that? I don't know. But the thing is, I was a mom, and — you know what? I didn't feel guilty about critiquing the believability of these cases. A lot of the reporters back then were men, or they didn't have kids. And if they would have asked any questions about those cases, people would have said, "You don't care about kids."

SB: Or you're a pervert yourself.

DN: "You're a guy." You know? "You're a man, you're a pervert, you're supporting the molesters..." Fortunately I was a woman and a mom. When I read the interviews of the kids, I could see the way the cases went forward forensically. The adult interviewers, whether they were detectives or social workers or psychologists, brainwashed the kids. They interjected their own fantasies into those kids by asking them leading questions over and over and over and over. I heard some of the tapes of kids who would walk into the room loving their teachers. And they would walk out utter basket cases, thinking that they'd been brutalized by Miss Mickey or somebody that they loved before. And I would cry. I would say — these kids have been brutalized by the investigation and by this whole panic. So were the women that were working in public daycare. That pained me to no end, the fact that public child care was under such assault. And it pained me to see women so guilty about going to work. But the thing that really got to me was the fact that relationships that were really beautiful were destroyed. You could hear it on the tapes. It was horrible to hear those interviews. And then you're like, "Oh my god. I have to tell the world about this."

SB: Well now that you've seen and researched a number of these stories, do you have any conclusions about what the seeds are for a sex panic? Like, can you recognize certain things that are in play before it blows up? Or is it still kind of unexpected when it happpens?

Some people said, after these daycare scandals were exposed, "This is to try to get women to be afraid of using daycare." You know — an anti-child care plot. I thought, well that's interesting, but how would anybody have known that to begin with? What is it about a community where the beginning of a Salem witch trial is just bobbing underneath the surface?

DN: I cannot predict it. In fact, what's happening right now is a panic about kids and the internet. And there is a panic about teenagers having sex with each other. Those two things are working off each other. Did I predict those? No! I didn't predict them. And it seems to be happening since 9/11, actually. I think that the most proximate thing is fear of the internet. There's always a panic over a new technology. There are moral panics all the time. I mean, there was a moral panic over the telephone when it was first introduced.

SB: That's right! Because strangers would call you...

DN: Yeah. Male voices would call up young women in their homes.

SB: And god knows what would happen from there.

DN: There was a panic about comic books. There's always a panic about new technology. We're looking at it in hindsight. We're looking at a panic, and we're looking back and saying, "Oh, the internet."

SB: Oh yeah. Remember when that was such a big fright? And now it seems like nothing. That's what always happens as soon as the technology ages.

DN: But it's not nothing for a lot of people with kids today, you know?

SB: Well, I had another interview on our show with a social scientist named Mike Males. And he has these great papers that say, "Look, your kid statistically is in greater risk being in church or at the shopping mall than they are on their MySpace page." The notion of the actual risk that young people are facing on the internet is completely blown out of proportion.

DN: Right. And are people going to listen to that? I mean, that's not what a panic is about.

SB: They're going to, because I'm going to say it until I'm blue in the face!

DN: That's right. Say it! Yes.

SB: The thing that gave you a little bit of liberty to speak out was the fact that you were a woman and a mom, and people couldn't easily toss you aside and think you had bad motives. But have you ever felt the sting from a different direction — people saying you're unfit to be a mother? How dare you speak about this? You know, "You're crazy, you need to be discredited." How do you cope with attacks from people trying to undermine you?

DN: When I was doing the daycare work, I actually had the cops at my door.

SB: That must've been terrifying.

DN: It was pretty scary. Yeah. Back then I had little kids. Now my kids are big, so nobody can use my kids against me, because they're adults.

SB: Did you ever feel like "Gosh, I'm going to have to join the Daughters of the American Revolution" or the PTA?

DN: I was already in the PTA! I was living in El Paso, Texas. I was a Brownie Scout leader. Come on! I had street cred down there.

SB: This reporter who you called into question at the Times, Mr. Eichenwald. He got your story thrown out of Salon [with] a phone call to the editor.

DN: It wasn't one phone call, believe me.

SB: Well, okay, continuous screaming phone calls and emails. Suddenly, you're put into the limelight as...

DN: The flake?

SB: Well, you were not just described as a flake, but it was — "she's obsessed with looking at pornography. And here this reporter (Eichenwald) is just trying to save the children. Why doesn't she care about saving the children?" What do you do when people get that picture of you as cold and unfeeling and just ready to trample over all these poor sex slaves with your calculated attempts to defend the first amendment. I'm trying to conjure up some of the stuff you might have heard.

DN: You know, I don't mind criticism, when it's honest criticism conducted in a normal, democratic forum — i.e., letters to the editor. Things like that. I mean, somebody threatening to sue you is really beyond the pale. But when people criticize me, there's always a whole bunch of other people — there are never as many as the people who criticize me, but the people who defend my point of view are often quite eloquent. In the Salon piece, for example, there was a very active discussion going on before that piece was pulled. There was dozens of letters that came in, just in the first few hours. I was very gratified by them. And my biggest regret about that piece being pulled, and that there were legal threats made — was that the discussion got shut down. And I'm really looking forward to starting that discussion again.

I think it's a really important discussion. I think child pornography needs to be de-mystified, and all the politics need to be broken down. And all of the First Amendment issues need to be laid out on the table. And the criticism — I don't know. I'm just getting too old to worry about it.

SB: Are you a First Amendment absolutist? Or do you feel like there is a certain place where you want to kick in a certain exception for those under 18?

DN: I don't know. I mean, honestly? This is where people who I have great respect for have taken issue with me, because in the Salon piece I said that there should be a vetting system put in place by the government so that legitimate researchers and journalists should be able to review what's on the web. There were critics who were very sympathetic to my opinion that child porn really needs to be looked at by civil society, who nevertheless said, "That's a terrible idea. To call for the government to put in place a system that decides that some people deserve to do that and other people don't. That's a lousy idea!" But I've also said before that I just don't know. I haven't come to a position about whether everyone should be able to look at child porn — that we should all just be able to look at records of assaults against children.

SB: Well there's a lot of scrutiny going on right now about who are the bodies of people who make decisions about what can be seen, or can't be seen — like the motion picture ratings association. It's always been shrouded in secrecy. Who are these people that decide that something's an "R," and something's an "X"? As it begins to get peeled away, and you look at the actual fallible human beings who are selected to these bodies, you say, "What the hell do they know? And this has nothing to do with democracy.

DN: Yeah. And, you know, really, when you look at the content of child porn, to the limited extent that people in civil society have been able to study child porn, a lot of it is older minors. A lot of it is a 14-year-old standing in a lake with her breasts exposed. Some juries and some judges will say that's not pornography, that's just simple nudity. Other judges and juries will say it's obscene and exploitative. So the definitions are very hard to parse out. But this is my irrational spot. I haven't got this all figured out yet. Because there is really awful stuff, too, of little kids, and there was no consent whatsoever. It's very horrible stuff. Some people talk about civil suits. There should be a way to bring civil suits against people who make this stuff and publicize it, because it's embarrassing, potentially. I just haven't figured it out yet.

See also:
The Perversions of Perverted Justice
Sex Expert Susie Bright Lets It All Out
Sex & Drugs & Susie Bright
World Sex Laws
My Opponent Pays For Gay Teen Bestiality

Steve Wozniak v. Stephen Colbert — and Other Pranks


Steve Wozniak in the Mondo Studio

Steve Wozniak showed up at our San Francisco studio riding in fine style… on a Segway. He had told me via email that he would just park anywhere in the city, and I imagined this multimillionaire going to some exclusive garage where he has a permanent spot and then flagging down a taxi. But since he was the Segway's first customer, I imagine that his riding skills – by now – would allow him to easily beat a Yellow Cab across town, particularly on a day that featured a gay pride parade and a Giants game.

The legendary Apple inventor was much in circulation this winter and spring, promoting his hit autobiography, written with Gina Smith, iWoz: From Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It. When we had Smith on our NeoFiles podcast a few months back to talk about the book, she told us that all Wozniak ever wanted to talk about was the pranks he'd pulled. So we figured we'd give him his big break and invited him to come on the show to talk pranksterism.



We did get to talk a bit about technology as well. But, sorry to say, that other Steve apparently never gave him a free iPhone to play with, and this was prior to his heroic crowd management stint during the iPhone release at the Apple store in Santa Clara, so Wozniak had little to say about the greatest thing since… the Segway? (OK. That was uncalled for. Sorry.)

Futurist Jamais Cascio joined me in conversing with Woz. Cascio helped to start WorldChanging, a site dedicated to Open Source problem-solving that often focuses on solutions to global warming. After the show, they started talking about that situation and it transpired that Wozniak is, in Cascio's words, "a bit of a climate-change denialist." Cascio and Wozniak have agreed, in theory, to a brief email discourse on the topic for 10 Zen (although it seems that we have more enthusiasm for this than they do.) We hope that this will be forthcoming.

To listen the full interview in MP3, click here.


"I Took Him (Colbert) Down!"

RU SIRIUS: You've been touring and appearing on behalf of your bio. You even got to face Colbert…

STEVE WOZNIAK: Not only did I get to face him, I boasted to a San Francisco Chronicle reporter two days before the show that I was going to take him down. I'm usually pretty witty about turning conversations my way. Anyway, she quoted me in her blog. So now I'm heading out to Stephen Colbert's show with a blog on the internet saying I'm going to take him down. Man, I played so many good pranks on him backstage.

And I took him down on the show! I didn't plan it. I figured, I'm going to be a punching bag. This guy is good. But I knew they were going to treat me with kid gloves by the pre-interview they did over the phone. He asked one wrong question. He asked, "Have you pulled any pranks lately?" I said, "Well, I take my steak knife onto airplanes." And that was the line that caught him wavering — "Do I go my way, or do you I go your way?" And he sort of went my way a bit. He said, "I'll get you on a list." I said, "I want to be on the list! Anyone who knows me knows I'd love to be on all the lists there are." And I managed to pull these thin metal credit cards that are thin as a knife out of my pocket. And I do cut steak on airplanes with 'em. And I think he sat there just twiddling his hand without anything to say because he was worried that we had crossed over into homeland security… you know, a crime reported on television!

RU: He definitely looked confounded. And you say you were goofing on him in the green room as well?

SW: Oh my gosh! I was sort of trying to let him know my personality. So you know how at the Presidential Press Corps Dinner, Stephen Colbert was the host and he came on and said, "Oh my god, I got to sit right next to the man! President Bush!" So I walked up to him and I said, "Oh my god! I get to meet and touch the man himself! How nice to meet you, Mr. Stewart." And then I pulled out some two dollar bills that I always carry around...

I have pads of sheets of these bills. They're perforated like green stamps. You can tear 'em off in ones, or twos, or threes or fours. And he grabbed it out of my hand and ran out to the hallway where there was more light. He held it up to the light. He was so concerned! I'm thinking, "Why is he so concerned about something that I just use as a prank here and there?" And he's looking at it for the longest time, feeling the paper and analyzing the different pages. So he tells me that his brother works for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, where they print the money on 14th street in Washington, D.C., which is where I buy these.

Woz Punks the Secret Service

RU: Now this is legitimate money that people assume is...

SW: It meets the specs of the U.S. government, so by law, it is legal tender. The Secret Service has approved it three times. Why would they approve it if it's not legal? I don't even know if it has the right President's face on it. And the serial numbers — there's something very suspicious about them. The bills — you can smell the ink is still fresh so don't get it on your finger. And I'll sell a sheet of four of them — that's $8 — for $5. But not very many people buy them from me. I start saying, "Since they cost me three, you're really buying $12 worth for $5. (ed: we don't understand it either.) Only an idiot would turn that down." And that's about the time they start thinking, maybe I won't buy them. And they won't buy 'em. I give myself a point if they don't buy 'em, because they are legal tender.

The Secret Service read me my Miranda rights once. And when they asked for an ID, I pulled out this ID that I'd used for every airplane flight for five years of my life. It says "Laser Safety Officer, Secretary of Defiance" (instead of Secretary of Defense) on the card, and in the photo I'm wearing an eye patch. (laughter) And the Secret Service didn't catch that it was a phony card! They figured out that the bills were good and legal tender, too. Gina (Smith) didn't put this one in the book! A lot of my good prank stories didn't get in the book. That's the third book that I have planned.

RU: Good lord. The things you can get away with when you're Steve Wozniak.

SW: You know, I think any actor and comedian that can just act like they're in the right can do it — that's mainly what it takes.

RU: Bluffing is the main thing. Bluffing is social engineering, basically.

SW: Yeah. The attitude is, "What I'm doing is right," you know? And then it's real easy. People get real nervous and try to hide stuff when they think what they're doing is wrong.

RU: Gina said some people buy the two dollar bills and don't think that they can use them.

SW: Sometimes they buy them and think they should cash them in a real dark place, so they don't get caught.

RU: Why do you think you wound up being such a prankster?



SW: It's because I was so shy in middle school and high school. I had to kind of have a way to have a presence. Everyone's born with an energy to socialize — to mix with other people. And when you're shy and can't talk to them; and they start to talk weird language that you don't want to be part of; and they're snooty about the people who are "in" and "out"; and you aren't part of that "in" group — it's very intimidating. So one of the ways I communicate is with pranks.

RU: So, if you're at a party, do you do a prank to get attention? Or...

SW: Oh no no...

RU: Or just to get (laughs) vengeance on the snobby people?

SW: No, its not that. But in my school days, I wasn't in the group that would ever get invited to a party. But I was kind of friendly with a lot of druggies back in the late 60s at our school. And they were "out"-ies and techies and all that. But I didn't go to their parties either. The way I thought about it — I looked at church, and I said, "You know what? Everybody goes to church and they're saying those same words together, and they're singing the same songs together. And they're just following the exact same ligature. Everybody's doing the same thing. I don't want to be a follower like that. I've got a brain! I'm going to think out what is right and what's wrong, to do in the world. I don't need to be like everybody else and just follow their lines. Well, I extended that to parties and to that druggy peer group. We always talked about, "Don't conform!" Don't conform to the values of your parents.

RU: Right. But on the other hand, everybody must get stoned.

SW: All the peers in our high school – everybody was going to the parties and doing the same things. And they were drinking because other people were. That's conforming. So I thought, if I'm going to drink, I'm going to drink all alone because I think it's something I want to do. And it kept me kind of clean, because I wouldn't just go out and do something because my group's doing it.

RU: So there's an iconoclasm there.

SW: Yeah!

RU: Back to pranks…

SW: I have these professionally printed stickers that I've had made. They're done with this sort of foil-type stuff in the exact OSHA style and the OSHA colors. And it says, "Danger: Do Not Flush Over Cities." And I put 'em in the bathrooms on airplanes...

RU: (Laughs) I think I've seen that, actually. Do you fly Jet Blue?

SW: Yes, I have done it on Jet Blue.

RU: I remember thinking about it and wondering what that was!

SW: They're red with a black-shadowed airplane picture. The bathroom has a little seat fold-down. I fold that up and there's a sign in the middle of it saying, "Don't throw trash here." And I put my two little stickers behind it, so the stewardesses won't notice it right away. If they notice it right away they might realize that somebody put that there. But after a while, if they slowly get used to it, they'll stay on for years.

I have another sticker that I made in OSHA style and colors. It's a yellow one. I put it in the backstage bathroom at the "Colbert Show." It has a little graphic of a butt with a poof coming out and it says, "Keep our air fresh."

RU: In Robert Anton Wilson's book, The Illuminatus! Trilogy, there's this character, Markoff Cheney, who leaves weird bureaucratic commands in offices and places like that just to sort of boggle people's minds.

SW: That's almost like what I read about in the The Pentagon Papers — the psychological warfare. You kind of put out a message saying one thing, but it implies that something horrible is going to happen just because you're saying that it isn't going to happen. It triggers bad thought in people's mind.

RU: Cognitive dissonance...

SW: Yeah!

RU: ...is a great weapon of war, and also of...

SW: … comedy!

RU: …guerilla pranksterism, and all those things. I guess you're indicating that pranks challenge conventional behavior.

SW: Absolutely. I've always very much wanted to be a rebel, and against authority. Because if we just sort of accept authority, and never question it — we just go through a life without knowing what truth really is — thinking we know it all. Everybody reads the same headlines and sees the same seven-second soundbites on TV. And because they all know the same thing as everyone else, they're all in the right. "We are all intelligent." They're not intelligent. They just saw the same things and repeated it. You know? They're the ones who aren't intelligent. I mean, the definition of intelligence in schools is pretty much being able to know what every other kid in the school that has studied the book would say... and not to have original thought of your own.

When Woz Convinced the Waitress He was "a Pavarotti"

RU: Speaking of getting an education and then getting a shitty job, Gina told me a story about a prank on a waitress.

SW: Yeah... I did a prank on a waitress recently. And I put a lot more energy, time, and even money into my pranks than most people. I don't want all my pranks to be just the normal duds you play every day. You know, every comedian will have one gem of a joke for every ten duds. So I play little dinky pranks all day long.

But in this case, it was based on the fact that I have season tickets to Warriors' games and I had special passes for a special parking lot. So one time, I took a friend in the back seat of my car who didn't know I had the pass. And as I got to the window, I tell the guy there that we have the guy with us who's going to sing the national anthem. And then to embarrass him (the guy in the back seat), I'd say, "Sing a line for him!" and the guy can't sing but they let us in anyway, and...

So I had done this sort of prank a few times. And then I was at a restaurant in San Francisco, and I knew that I had four tickets for Saturday's game but I wouldn't be there. So I asked the waitress, "Hey, you going to the game on Saturday? I'm singing the national anthem!" And she looked at me like I was the most important person she'd ever waited on. I didn't expect that, but now I had to play with it. When someone's mind is thinking something weird, or in a… I call that a creative state. You don't want to inhibit creativity. You want to keep it going. So you always say yes. So I said, "Oh! I could probably get you some tickets from the Warriors staff — you know, if you want..." And then I said, "You want to hear me sing?" And she says, "Yes!" And I go (half-speaking) "Oh say can you see." And that's the best I can sing. Everyone at the table started laughing. So I figured the jig was up. But then I heard from Gina later on that this waitress had come over to Gina, and asked privately, "Does he really sing the national anthem?" And Gina said, "Oh, he's a famous opera singer! He's got the voice of an angel!" (laughter)

So now I had to follow through. I had to take this one further. So I came back to the restaurant one day and left two tickets for the waitress. And I set up a story that my friend Jim would have my other two tickets. And he was supposed to tell her I got food poisoning at the restaurant. I was a Pavarotti, and in the hospital they had mixed me up with somebody else and taken my kidney out. They'd discovered the mistake, switched operating teams and gloves and they'd put my kidney back in. (I always love to throw in the glove line. Like they'd really switch gloves.) And I'm the first person to ever get a kidney transplant [from myself]. Great story.

The Zaltair Prank: Two Pranks in one

RU: You make really elaborate schemes and stories. Talk about some of the pranks that were left out of your book. Maybe go back to the early hacker days, or Apple times?



SW: Early hacker days? There's the prank that I did when we introduced the Apple II. At this time, all these people were using Z words based on the new Z80 Microprocessor from Zylog. So I had these fake brochures for "the Zaltair" made. It was this two-sided brochure that had all the fakest hype I could think of using, like – "Imagine a car with five wheels!" You know, stupid little things that were inspired by the worst ads I'd ever read. It had comparison charts to things like the Apple and it looked so phony — but it was against the Apple and this and that. It said you could send your own computer in and get a $120 discount. It was really jamming MITS Corporation, but that's another story.

I took thousands of 'em in a box and put it out in front of The Civic Auditorium (in San Francisco). After a while, my friend called me. He said, "Somebody took the box. It was gone!" But MITS — the company that I was making fun of — wasn't there. So who did it? It turns out, they had a rep there. So we went to the hotel and brought another box and set it down. After a while a guy goes up, he spots it and takes the box away. So then, we took tons of them underneath our coats and went around and started shuffling them into packets. Our green ones would go into packets of green handout fliers, and our blue ones would go into packets of blue fliers. We were careful about it but we got thousands of 'em distributed. I mean, all the members of the Homebrew Computer Club were waving copies in the air.

And I'd put a stupid made up quote from Ed Roberts — the President of MITS — at the top. And if you took the first letter in each word in the quote, it spelled P.R.O.C.E.S.S.O.R T.E.C.H.N.O.L.O.G.Y. You always get two pranks for one if you frame someone else.

And sure enough, Gordon French, who was one of the Homebrew club members, came by Apple in the early days, and I asked him, " Did you hear about that Zaltair prank?" And he said, "Oh yeah, it was a hoax. I know who did it! Gerry Egram of Processor Technology!... because he's got a weird sense of humor." I'm laughing my head off at this point. And I pull one out and said, "There was supposed to be a cipher in here." And they started reading the cipher, and everybody read the letters "Processor Technology." Steve Jobs did the final 'Y'. For 12 years, everybody "knew" that this guy at Processor Technology had done the prank.

RU: When did you 'fess up?

SW: Twelve years later. I actually framed a copy and gave it to Steve Jobs as a birthday present. He opened it up in a restaurant and he just started laughing out loud. And that's unusual.

Ethical Pranking

RU: Your most famous prank, which is in the book, was when you called the Pope at 5 am pretending to be Henry Kissinger. What was going through your mind as you were doing that?

SW: I used one of the blue boxes... the blue boxes were an exciting time in my life — around 1971.

RU: Was John Draper with you when you did the call?

SW: No, he wasn't. I read articles about him. He had stimulated my interest. I had quickly tried to whack together a blue box but it didn't work. I finally designed a great little digital box. It worked every single time. And Steve Jobs said, "Let's sell 'em." So we built some and sold them. We gave door-to-door demonstrations in the dorms. Can you imagine doing that and not getting caught?

RU: Right. That was the perfect time for phone phreaking. Everyone was interested.

SW: By the end of that year, I was worried that they had methods to catch 'em, so I never did 'em after that year. And during that year, I was careful that I didn't use the blue box for personal calls. I paid for them. It was partly out of fear, but also I wanted to be honest, as I thought Draper and others were. We only want to explore the system, and fix it, and find its little flaws, and tell other people. That's a great thing to a technical person — to know a few little flaws. It's like finding a few little Easter eggs in a program — little secret surprises. Since I was very shy, it gave me one area of life that I wasn't shy about.

I was the demonstrator. I was the emcee. I would demonstrate the blue box for an hour or two. We sold one every time we did a demonstration!

RU: I'm sure lots of other people just used them to get free phone calls.

SW: Yeah, and ethically, when I look back...

RU: I think that was part of the spirit of the early '70s.

SW: Yeah, but when I look back I have a problem with that.

RU: Well, phone phreaking was associated with The Yippies and a kind of anti-corporate radicalism. You didn't quite get into that...

SW: I wasn't in there. Sure, I admired all those thinkers…

RU: Right. I mean, Abbie Hoffman had that kind of stuff in Steal This Book.

SW: He had a black box schematic in Steal This Book. I bought Steal This Book. I had his black box schematic! Same year! But Ramparts magazine — which was like the Mother Jones of its day — came out with a nice clear, easier-to-follow one that year as well and they kind of got put out of business for a while. I made copies of that and spread 'em around to everyone. So I was helping everyone else do this even when I wasn't selling it. And that was probably wrong. I just sort of wanted to show off that I knew things that most people didn't know. That was my real motivation.

JAMAIS CASCIO: So what do you think are the rules for being an ethical prankster?

SW: Ethical prankster? It's tough. I don't think there's 100% ethical. In theory, you have agreements with society not to do things that are going to be disruptive — to not do things that are gonna be different. And yet, practically, all of us have to do things that are a little bit different. And there's always some weird little laws that are written to catch you just for being different.

Ethical hacking today is largely finding flaws in major computer systems, or possibly the phone systems. And to be ethical, you don't use it to harm anyone. And generally, that means you don't want to keep it secret forever. You want to boast that you're the one who found it. There's a young kid, I forget his name right now – and he would find these flaws and then tell the companies: "Here's the flaw. You have two weeks to fix it, and then I'll make it public." And he wound up in jail. I met him, and he was just so pure that he was going to keep searching no matter what they did to him. He was going to keep on this track of finding the flaws and notifying the people what the flaws were and giving them a certain time to fix it before he made it public.

RU: You didn't mind tweaking the Pope! How far might that have gone?

SW: Yeah. I said we were at the summit in Moscow. Someone said, "Here's the Bishop, who's going to be the translator." And I said, "Yes, I'm calling from a United States number. But you can call me back." He said, "I just spoke to Henry Kissinger." I said, "I am Henry Kissinger. You can phone me back now." And I gave them a United States number to call. And I figured they would think, "Oh, we've got his number!" I figured they knew it was a hacker. But I had given them a loop number, so they dial one number and I dial another and we get connected. There are really no records.

RU: Right. A great phone phreak trick.

SW: Calling the Pope was just a weird idea that was kind of fun.

RU: Did you have a plan, if you actually wound up talking to the pope? Did you have a narrative for the exchange?

SW: No. I should've!

RU: Did you grow up watching "Candid Camera"?

SW: Yeah! I did. Guess what? My son was pranked on by "Candid Camera." He got into an elevator in a hotel and headed down to his car early in the morning. And when the elevator door opens to let him out, instead of finding himself in the garage with cars, he's in a room. And he looks back and the elevator had no button. He played with it for a while, and somebody popped out and said, "You're on Candid Camera." But they didn't put him in the show. He probably wasn't animated enough for them.

RU: He was probably not too easy to surprise, after growing up with you. I hope you go ahead and write this book about pranks.

SW: I have forty years of pranks. That's going to be the third book. I'm thinking that for my second book, I'm going to publish my "manuscript." You've heard about Einstein's manuscript — it sounds really impressive. Well, I'm the only one who ever wrote this much code — I made the Apple II by hand. I couldn't afford what's called a rental system, where you can type it into a computer, and you type in your program, and it will give you back the 1's and 0's. So I figured out the 1's and 0's in my own head, and wrote them down on the piece of paper. Everything for the Apple II was done by hand.

Apple II was Coded by Hand

RU: So you'd publish the code in book format?

SW: I plan to publish the code and the schematics with some explanations of what I was thinking. It would be one of those things that you don't sell very many of.

JC: With a visual machine language editor, you could basically drag and drop 1's and 0's into a window.

SW: (Thinks) Visual machine... oh! Now, that's a good idea. That's a clever idea. Yeah! That would be the modern version of what I did.

The best things I did were because I didn't have money. I couldn't afford the computer system to type my programs into. They were written in machine language — real geeky computer stuff for the microprocessor I used, and I couldn't afford it. But because of that, I got very intimate with the programs that I wrote by hand. Every step of the way, it was easy for me to be a very careful and thorough checker. And I would dream the programs! I would wake up with ideas about how to save one little step by doing something different, or I'd think of something I could get for free. Always believe in that — getting things for free. The next house I'm going to build is going to be built with that in mind.

Building an Energy Efficient House

I was out judging a History Channel invention contest. And David Pogue, who is the technology writer for the New York Times, and the guy who owns the National Inventors Hall of Fame, were also judges. And we all decided we wanted to build this project that was the winner. The designer is a Civics Engineering Professor at Brigham Young — a very credible guy. And basically, he uses Southern Yellow Pine, the most energy-efficient wood that there is. It has a resin inside. And the resins — wood with resins – melts and freezes at 71 degrees. So if there's any impetus in the house for the temperature to get hotter than 71 degrees, it melts a little of the resin, which actually absorbs the heat and cools the house. It serves as your air conditioner. At nighttime, if it starts to freeze, it emits heat, and warms the house up to 71 degrees. And the houses can be built with another structure. They actually take dirt out of the ground... where they're going to build the house. They take the dirt out, they put it in machines, compress it into these tight bricks and then they heat it for about a week. Then they leave it out in the sun for about a week and they have these grooved parts that they slide together. And it's the cheapest, lowest energy, most green way to build a house that's going to last 500 years.

RU: Jamais, that sounds like something you might have heard about at WorldChanging.

JC: Yeah. BASF makes a thermal wax wallboard that does exactly what you described. They found that they could make houses in Germany 90% energy efficient.

On DRM, Open Source, & the iPhone

RU: Before I let you go, I should ask a few contemporary geek questions — to satisfy those in the audience who are going to say, "You had Steve Wozniak on, and all you talked about was pranks!" That was pretty much my intention, but I should ask a few. What do you think about Steve Jobs' decision to embrace DRM-free music in iTunes?

SW: I think it's a step towards the future. I mean, it doesn't make much sense if these things are going to have DRM forever. There's this whole problem that you can't trust everyone, but you can do a good enough job.

Look at newspapers. Nothing stops me from buying a newspaper and passing it around to 20 other people. But, you know, you just kind of get used to what's easy to do. Only six of my purchased music songs so far, though, are from (DRM-free) EMI.

RU: The whole idea of Open Source has been a long running dialogue in computer culture. Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation see it as a crusade. Is it necessary? Or can you have Open Source and proprietary stuff going on at the same time?

SW: A lot of people think that Open Source means "free." It was never intended to mean free and it shouldn't mean free. People should be able to develop software and market it and have control over what they build. But when you sell a product that has a lot of software in it, being Open Source means you publish your source. And if somebody else wants to take your product and make a specialized version of it that does their few special things for their application; or does something a little different; or leaves pieces of it out; they can do that and they don't owe you a license fee. It just means they were able to improve either your mistakes, or the things that you left out that they want.

RU: Sure. But do you consider that a moral necessity, or...

SW: I consider it a moral right-ness. I don't know how to speak for everybody in society about necessities. But I think it's very honorable and it's very good for the customers.

RU: Speaking of Open Source issues, have you ever hung out with Bill Gates?

SW: I haven't. I've only spoken with him briefly a couple of times. I admire him, he admires me. Good lord, I'd never written a computer language when he had written a BASIC in the early days of hobby computers. And I thought, "Oh my gosh — a computer with BASIC finally makes a computer that people can use for things." And so I said, I've got to write a BASIC. My goal was to be the first in the world to have a BASIC for the 6502. And I did it, but it was horrible because, in doing it, I left out one thing that could save a month — floating point...

RU: That's in your book, actually.

SW: And before we wrote our floating point BASIC, Bill Gates popped in the door and he'd done Microsoft. And my attitude was, "Oh, good, it'll save us the time." Of course, when our five-year license on it ran out, the Apple II was pouring gadzooks of money into his company. So they had us under the barrel. I like being the first at things. I had written my first syntax chart with floating point. In the Apple II ROMs, I even stuck in my own floating point routine. It wasn't incorporated into the BASIC, but I just didn't want the world thinking I couldn't write floating point routines.

JC: Jobs actually related that story when he appeared onstage with Bill Gates.

SW: And Jobs got it pretty right. He said it was because I hand-wrote everything. And handwriting it, I couldn't just type an extra part into a program. I had to move addresses around. All my addresses were fixed by hand. And I couldn't expand my syntax table easily to add the floating point back in before we shipped the Apple II. Otherwise I would've.

RU: Do you have a current technology project, outside of building your home?

SW: Yes I do! I have a bunch. My favorite idea right now… they're making flexible display materials now and showing them off. I would love to build a globe that's all a display. Maybe it would use Google Earth. And you could be zooming in on portions of this globe -- you can just look for Africa, for instance. And as you zoom in, the little dots are lit up like those programs that show you where all the volcanoes and all the webcams of the world are. You'd zoom in on blue dots, and zoom and zoom and zoom, and on a blue dot, you'll see a webcam right there in Africa; or right there in Amsterdam, or near the hotel you're gonna stay at in Greece. I would love that.

RU: People would want that.

JC: Yeah. And if you do it with Google Earth, you have all those KML layers so you can throw into it webcams and weather and traffic flows. There's all sorts of things you can do with that.

RU: Last question. What do you think of the iPhone and do you think it will be a success?

SW: I don't know. It will be a big hit off the bat, but after people have the iPhone it will truly be judged and compared. Will word of mouth kill it or make it a hit? Who knows? I can't even give my emotional feelings until I have a production unit for a while.

See also:
Wonderful Wizardry of Woz
Hype Smackdown: iPhone v. Paris Hilton
iPhone Debate: I'm a Mac v. Bill Gates
5 Sexiest Apple Videos
How the iPod Changes Culture
Counterculture and the Tech Revolution

Expect Trouble Activating Your iPhone


While fans with bulging wallets crowd the Apple stores, Apple already knows they're doomed. Apparently, they fully expect iTunes to choke on all the traffic from iPhone activations.

Apple wants to dissipate as quickly as possible the crushing mobs at their retail stores, so they've promoted the first-of-its-kind online activation heavily:

Activating iPhone takes only minutes as iTunes guides the user through simple steps to choose their service plan, authorize their credit and activate their iPhone, Apple said. Once iPhone is activated, users can then easily sync all of their phone numbers and other contact information, calendars, email accounts, web browser bookmarks, music, photos, podcasts, TV shows and movies just like they do when they sync their iPods with iTunes. --AppleInsider.com


The only problem is that all those requests at the same time will put a huge strain on Apple's iTunes servers. But, at least then, they don't have to deal with a lynch mob at the retail level.



10 Zen Monkeys has received an anonymous tip from an Apple Store employee -- and he wasn't afraid to admit he's not happy about the fact he hasn't been with Apple a year and therefore isn't getting a free phone -- outlining a memo that was sent around, informing managers on how to deal with surly iPhone customers who can't connect to iTunes, which is the only way to activate their phones.

In the memo, employees are told to expect some customers to return to stores in person to complain, though it should be a small number.

"We've been told to be courteous, polite, and even apologetic. And then suggest that they go home and try again an a little while. And under no circumstances will they be allowed to activate their phones in-store." So if you're thinking that -- think different.

"Another important little tidbit," said the anonymous Apple employee, "Good luck calling Apple or AT&T to complain. Both companies' customer support lines will probably be massively busy."

The best strategy is to wait until later in the weekend to activate your phone, he said. We say to Apple, "Good luck with that."

See also:
Paris Hilton v. iPhone
I'm a Mac v. Bill Gates
5 Sexiest Apple Videos



This article is satire

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


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"

YouTube, the 20-Year-Old, and Date Unknown



YouTube will share ad revenue with 20-year-old Brandon Fletcher. Thus the stage is set for a flood of copycat bum-rushers who will no doubt lay siege to the YouTube/Googleplex armed with nothing but their media and their Gen-Y audacity.

It's just 46 days after Brandon's YouTube show launched, and he sent me an email this morning. It had a link to the breaking story, and a single emoticon.

;-)


"The deal is basically sharing ad money," Brandon tells me. "They place banners on my video pages and we split the revenue." (Though he adds that he "can't give specifics on the splits.")

"YouTube is going to place ads on the video pages of everyone in the program," he adds. "I didn't even ask about joining, they offered it to me!"

I feel like a chump now. Nine weeks ago I'd been skeptical when Brandon flew from New York City to Silicon Valley just to pitch YouTube his video show. He'd vowed he'd stay in YouTube's lobby until they agreed to put his video on their front page. "How did it go?" I'd asked cynically in April.

"Went really well," he wrote back cheerily, saying that an employee "took me out to eat, gave me some YouTube shirts and told me to come back!" But when he went back to camp in YouTube's lobby, a security guard stopped him at the elevator. Eventually, Brandon flew back to New York City. But he'd made some crucial contacts...

So what was his big idea? I did some sleuthing, and discovered it would be a web reality show. (Couples who met online would have their first real-life date -- and Brandon would film it.) But a few weeks later, my skepticism started to melt, and I fired off an email to our editor.



So that guy who didn't get past YouTube's security released his online dating show anyways. And I have to say -- I think it's really good.


They're both from MySpace -- nice twist! -- and there's genuine, real-life odd moments. (When the guy suggests that when they play pool, it should be "strip pool," his date thinks for a second. Then says, "I'm glad I wore a lot of layers... I think YOU should just strip.")

He just now sent out the press release...


And it was a good press release. "Behind the production, a story of determination and perseverance," announced one section's title. It said Brandon "funded the project on his own, and then filmed, edited, and scored and produced music for every episode..." It even referenced his "gutsy mission" to get YouTube to feature it.

But he hadn't achieved any results yet. The only happy ending I'd found was that Brandon hadn't given up. On his blog he'd written "I will not stop trying until I reach my goal."After the May launch of his secret video project, Brandon had seemed excited. "I feel great right now!" he told me. "I'm just going to keep on working hard, and trying to spread the word about this site as much as I can."

But he added: "I feel like I've created something great here, though."

He told me he hoped a TV network might show interest in the show, "but for now, as long as I'm enjoying this -- I will continue to handle it on my own." And the show continued -- mostly fueled by his raw enthusiasm.

Brandon planned to release a new episode every Monday, with extra videos throughout the week showing outtakes or on-the-street interviews about online dating. But within a week there was good news. "[S]omeone from YouTube placed the first episode on the 'Featured Directors' column, which appears on the right side of the website when you browse videos. It gets around 1 million impressions per day, so we're at about 10,000 views for episode one in less than a week!"

And I had to admit it was entertaining.
"Does it take you a lot to get wasted?" asks the guy in the red t-shirt that says "IDIOT!"

"No," his date answers. "I'm a light weight...."


That first episode was eventually viewed over 20,000 times. The YouTube channel seemed erratic -- episode 2 drew just 6,741 views, and episode 3 just 3,885. But Brandon told me there were more views on the web site, and "a few investors have been contacting me about the project." Three weeks ago he sent me an update -- that he was "Working on a sponsorship / cross-promotion." Eight days ago he told me that the last episode jumped to 25,000 views in one week. Maybe that was because its title was "Pee on me," I thought -- since the next episode racked up only 1,053 views in its first three days on YouTube.

But then today, the big news came.

YouTube had heard him, and YouTube had signed him.

And Brandon's email was both the last word, and maybe also a call to his peers...

;-)


See also:
YouTube’s 5 Sorriest Questions for the 2008 Presidential Candidates
The 5 Sexiest Apple Videos
Should YouTube Hear Me?
The Cartoon Porn Shop Janitor: Carol Burnett vs. Family Guy

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

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

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
5 Sexiest Apple Videos
Dustin Diamond vs. Sgt. Harvey
5 Lamest Charlie Brown Cartoons

A Conversation with Justin Kan of Justin.tv



Photo by Scott Beale

It all started with Andy Warhol. He took a look around at the equipment available during the 1960s – tape recorders, video cameras, 8mm film – and realized that it wasn't necessarily about producing new narratives in the traditions of theater, opera and so forth. In fact, this was the stuff for documenting life right up to the point of tedium and beyond it, and it would be increasingly democratically accessible. This was, in fact, the context for his most famous quote: "In the future, everybody will be famous for 15 minutes."

Warhol was, of course, excoriated by both art traditionalists and committed political artists for presenting every day banality as art. But since he approached it all with such deadpan irony, others viewed his approach as the epitome of cool.



Today, Socrates' famous dictum, "the unexamined life is not worth living" has been surgically altered to read, "the undocumented life is not worth living." By the time Justin Kan clipped a mobile camera onto his cap on March 19, 2007, opening justin.tv, it was just another step along the way to the inevitable – the fully mediated life.

On arrival, justin.tv caught a media buzz. Justin appeared on "Nightline," "The Today Show," and "MTV News," and various blogs, newspapers and magazines covered his occasional travails (pranks, evictions, etc.) Not wanting to miss our chance at some justin.tv camera time, we coaxed him into appearing on The RU Sirius Show.

Justin Kan showed up at our former studio in San Francisco's lower Haight with a small entourage that included his brother (who contributed a funny and cool rap song to the show). He proved to be funny, smart, self-aware, and entirely likeable.

Since we interviewed Kan last month, justin.tv has started to spread its franchise. "Justine," a cute blonde freelance graphic/web designer and video editor from Pittsburg seems to keep the camera pointed mostly at herself, for obvious reasons. And "Parrris Harris," who calls himself a "fashion conductor" has also been added to the roster.

Pretty soon, there may be hundreds of people broadcasting their lives 24/7 via justin.tv; or through some other "channel." Watching them must be somebody's idea of a good time.

Futurist Jamais Cascio and Jeff Diehl joined me for this conversation with Justin Kan.
To listen the full interview in MP3, click here.

RU SIRIUS: You're sort of a walking security camera — the democratization of surveillance. Have you thought about the implications of that?

JUSTIN KAN: I've thought a lot about the implications of where we're moving as a society. We're losing our privacy, whether we like it or not, right now. It's partially voluntary — through blogs and things like justin.tv, or through exposing your life on social networks like Facebook or MySpace. And it's partially involuntarily, through the prevalence of closed-circuit TV cameras everywhere. Camera technology and cameras in cellphones are getting so cheap that they're everywhere, and people are taking pictures of everything.

I guess the question in my mind is: how do we want to move to that? I think the worst thing that could happen is that there's a huge power disparity, with certain people having access to all these video cameras, and the large majority of people not having access.

JAMAIS CASCIO: I've written about "The Participatory Panopticon." David Brin refers to that as "reciprocal accountability."

RU: Brin also says "Privacy is dead, get over it." We are Big Brother!

JAMAIS: Indeed. You don't have Big Brother; you have scores of Little Brothers and Sisters.

JUSTIN: Exactly.

RU: So Justin, you're planning a sort of franchise thing.

JUSTIN: Exactly. I want everyone out there to be broadcasting their lives online!

JAMAIS: It's Justin.NN — The Justin News Network.

JUSTIN: Yes. (Laughs) I don't know if it counts as news.



RU: What's the most interesting thing that's happened to you since you strapped on the camera?

JUSTIN: One of the weirdest and maybe the worst was, right when we started, a couple days in, our viewers called the police on us. They used VoIP to spoof our phone number. The cops burst in, guns drawn, expecting to see this horrible crime going down when actually it was just three guys on laptops. I think they were a little disappointed!

JEFF DIEHL: You can do some horrible crimes on a laptop! Didn't they realize?

JUSTIN: They did not, actually. When we were trying to explain how someone spoofed our number with relay, one of them said, "I don't understand technology. I just shoot people!" (Laughter)

JAMAIS: Since you mentioned the police activity, what immediately strikes me is: you will, at some point, record a crime in progress. Whether it's somebody being mugged on the street, or something like that...

RU: You are such a pessimist! (Laughter)

JAMAIS: It's just the real world! You do this long enough, you will eventually record something that's illegal! And then you're therefore a witness — or more to the point, your archives become a witness to this crime. And the question then becomes: can the recordings be subpoenaed by the police? Have you given any thought to that?

JUSTIN: I expect they'd be able to subpoena our archives, just like the prosecution can subpoena archives of a security camera. They call in the surveillance company — or whoever is responsible for the tapes — as the witness, to testify how the camera was set up. I'd probably be in a similar position.

JAMAIS: Right.

RU: There's so many weird and interesting events going on in San Francisco. You could go to insane performance art stuff where people are putting nails through their organs, or...

JEFF: What?!

RU: I guess that was in the 90s – people like Mustafar were always performing. Or you could go to underground sex clubs and stuff like that. Are you staying away from the really weird stuff? Does it just not appeal to you?

JUSTIN: I kind of go for the weird-but-fun San Francisco stuff. Like there was that Lombard Street Big Wheel race, so I participated in that. You got to see the Big Wheel view of me, tearing down Lombard Street, ramming into people...

RU: Your greatest controversy was when you switched off your gear when you were with a young lady. This is, of course, the thing everybody was waiting to see! And it sparked much debate about whether you sold out on your promise to keep this justin.tv thing going, consistently and constantly. How do you view that?

JUSTIN: Well, the bottom line is, it's my life, and I'll do whatever I want!

RU: (Laughs) Opportunity struck, and...

JUSTIN: Opportunity strikes, and... You know...

JEFF: "What's more important: this camera or getting laid?" If she's not going to do it with it on, then...

RU: But if you look around the net, there's obviously a lot of women who want to show off for the camera. Have you been approached by, uh, you know... women who want to make a reputation?

JUSTIN: I don't know. We're still trying to figure out what we can show and what we can't show. And I think that, right now, the safe play is definitely being family-friendly. We always like to encourage advertisers to approach us. And something like that might be a little over-the-top from a corporate perspective.

JEFF: Can't you just make an immediate fuzz filter, so — you know, the guy on the control just hits a button and it goes fuzzy. But you still see stuff moving around...

JUSTIN: We might be able to do that, actually. We'll have to hire an intern to sit there and move the little bubble around.

JEFF: The naughty bits.

JUSTIN: Yeah.

JEFF: Isn't there going to be a big scandal for your franchise when the first person starts broadcasting themselves naked or having sex or something that's considered obscene? How do you regulate that?

RU: I thought that was the idea! (Laughter)

JEFF: Well, of course it is! But nobody's done it yet! I'm surprised nobody's done it publicly yet. I'm surprised you haven't done it publicly…

JUSTIN: Justin.tv has been R-rated at best, so far.

JEFF: But isn't that going to be a problem? It will probably become some kind of a free speech issue. You'd have to force people through some channel where whatever they're going to be webcasting — it's okay. Because otherwise, anybody can just load up their browser and watch people having sex!

JUSTIN: Well they can already do that. Just not on justin.tv!

JEFF: You're going to make it a lot easier...

RU: So whatever people are going to do with their Justin franchises is OK to you?

JUSTIN: Well honestly, justin.tv shouldn't be a platform for the (sort of) "bad stuff" out there on the internet. Whether it's hate speech or obscenities of whatever. So we'll almost definitely do some censorship. If someone's using their channel to broadcast themselves committing a crime – well, that's not something we want to promote. You know? We would definitely shut that down.



JAMAIS: Have you run into any intellectual property disputes — recording something that someone else claims as their own copyrighted material?

JUSTIN: Not yet. I guess if we were issued a takedown notice from someone who's music I listened to… but we haven't gotten anything.

RU: It seems like the one thing that you need to avoid is watching a lot of other media.

JUSTIN: Well, I don't go to movies. And I think I've watched TV like one time in the past 56 days, and the camera wasn't pointed at the screen. But honestly, the quality from the justin.tv camera (recording other media) is such that you're probably better off BitTorrenting it anyways.

JAMAIS: That doesn't matter.

JUSTIN: I understand that it doesn't matter from a legal perspective. But, for instance, I've been invited by ClearChannel radio stations to come in the station and listen to music. I think they view it more as a promotional tool.

RU: But the music industry might start displaying their hunger for reward as this gets more distributed — just like they're doing with internet radio. A lot of people who use your equipment are going to be listening to music all the time — or else they're going to have to change their lifestyles.

JUSTIN: Right. But I wouldn't be surprised if the music industry realized that this is something more along the lines of radio.

RU: Yeah, but they're attacking internet radio right now!

JEFF: It's the same thing as people using it for sex. As soon as you democratize it and make it available for everyone to use for free — they're going to start going to concerts, and they're going to start going to movies. How do you police that?

JUSTIN: That's something we'll have to figure out as we go along.

JAMAIS: And how do you control it? Right now the camera that you're wearing is maybe the size of a small Mag-Lite. Within the next few years, you'll be able to wear something the size of a lipstick tube. Or maybe even something that's smaller than that.

JUSTIN: You can already do that. There are glasses that have built-in cameras that you could actually use with this. We made the conscious decision to make the camera visible; partly, to promote the celebrity of it, but also to let people know they were on camera. I think that's much more ethical than the alternative.

RU: Have you had anybody become upset about being on camera? I remember when I was walking around in the 1970s with a video camera — one of those ancient Portapacks that you strapped to your back. Some guy got really paranoid and upset that I was randomly videotaping people.

JUSTIN: I got kicked out of the Gap. That was probably the worst response. And some people request… you know, "Oh, I don't want to be on camera." So I kind of turn away and don't talk to them. And that's generally been okay. Most people — I'd say 29 out of 30 — have been really excited or positive about it.

RU: They want to be on camera.

JUSTIN: Yeah.

RU: They think what you're doing is a cool thing. It's interesting.

JUSTIN: Exactly. And I think part of it is my attitude about it. I'm not an investigative reporter! I try to approach people in a way that makes them comfortable. I'm not "in your face" about it.

RU: Do a Mike Wallace trip on people! That would be a sudden turn for Justin!

JEFF: I was just imagining flocks of skaters downtown wearing these things and going around and pulling Mike Wallaces all over the place.

RU: Did you go to that movie that you were advertising?

JUSTIN: Disturbia. Yeah, we went to the movie. We took the camera off and played the trailer while I was in the theatre. So there was another two-hours where you didn't get to see of Justin's life. Mostly I was sitting in the theatre.

JAMAIS: So you say.

JUSTIN: So I say.

RU: I would think that the company that made the movie would've wanted you to sit there and view...

JUSTIN: I don't think they wanted the recording of video out there. I guess they could've turned the camera on me or something. That would've been cool.

JAMAIS: It would've been interesting to have a recording of your reaction to the movie.

JEFF: That's something that you could do during sex, too!

JUSTIN: (Laughs) Just put the camera on myself, like this, I guess...

JEFF: Just her view! Yeah!

RU: Justin's smiling face...

JUSTIN: It'll be like [makes a face]. (Dryly) Yeah, that would be great. I'm sure the viewers would appreciate that...

JEFF: Your "O face," close up.

RU: From what I understand, quite a large majority of your viewers are male. Does that...

JUSTIN: I don't know if that's true. A surprising amount of our viewers are outside the demographic that I thought they would be in — which was 13 to 35-year-old males. They seem to be… everyone. Mothers, fathers, older women, girls in their 20s... It's amazing that we've hit all over the map like that.

RU: What do you think is appealing to them? And do you think it can continue to be appealing over a long period of time?

JUSTIN: Well, I think the appealing thing about something like justin.tv is that you get an inside view into someone's life. It's kind of a low-commitment way of having a real relationship. And you know, people want to talk to other people, and people like watching other people — fundamentally.

JAMAIS: It's very primate.

JUSTIN: Exactly. It's something everyone does, instinctually. So being able to just go to a web site and automatically have video of one guy — day after day — and you can see what he's doing and check up on him – that's something that appeals to a lot of people.

RU: It's like an extra relationship.

JUSTIN: Exactly. What's cool is the way that communities have formed around the video. People log in the chat room, and talk with each other. People with the same faces show up and they recognize each other. It's cool. After the first week, I stopped going to the chat room much. And then when I came back, maybe three weeks later, I was like the outsider. In my own chat room!

RU: Do you monitor what viewers like, what some of their favorite moments are?

JUSTIN: I get viewer updates every fifteen minutes to the cellphone so I can see —"Oh, this caused a spike." I was at the Halo 3 premier, and we plugged the live feed of us playing it into the transmitter. And we instantly got around 80 viewers. Everyone wanted to check out the demo!

RU: There has been some note that your viewership has been going down.

JUSTIN: (Joking) It might be because I'm not attractive enough!



RU: Do you have plans to do some things to bring people back? Or are you just going to let it flow...

JUSTIN: Well, we had this huge spike after we were on Nightline and The Today Show. Now after a huge press wave, we've basically stabilized. So we're working on viral tools to let people share their videos more easily; and to access the archives. We have this huge library of content. But am I going to do some horrible stunt? We'll have to see.

RU: If you get this franchise going, and there are a bunch of people doing this — are you going to want to watch a lot of them? Or are you going to be like me? I never really listen to other podcasts...

JUSTIN: You know, I don't watch justin.tv. For one reason, it's...

RU: (Laughs) Can't watch that damn thing!

JUSTIN: Yeah. (Joking) Everyone on it is irritating!

JAMAIS: It gets a bit recursive.

JEFF: The infinite regress is disconcerting...

JUSTIN: People don't want to see me watching myself. Over and over.... I guess when we do launch a bunch of other channels, I won't watch those very much either. I'll just get feedback from other people — let them tell me who's interesting and who's not.

RU: Rake in the percentages!

JUSTIN: Yeah, something like that.

JEFF: (Joking) Just don't give Josh Wolf your technology. God knows what kind of trouble he'll get into with it.

JUSTIN: He'll be back in jail, two months later!

JEFF: Do you ever want to unplug?

JUSTIN: That's a very common question. It's just like anything. There are times you want to and times you don't.

RU: Do you ever feel deeply depressed, and feel "Oh shit! What did I get myself into?"

JUSTIN: No, that hasn't happened yet. We're saving that for when we need some good drama!


See Also:
Worst Vlogs of 2006
ABCNews Amanda Congdon - Rocketboom = Whuh?
The Secret Life of Jason Fortuny
Virtual Screech, Sexual Superstar
Screech's Sex Tape Follies


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.

See Also:
The Celebrity Breast Conspiracy
10 Worst Spiderman Tie-Ins
Pulp Fiction Parodies on YouTube

Venezuela: Dispatch from a Surrealist Autocracy


Hugo Chavez



Hugo Chavez was once Venezuela's media darling. The love affair has taken increasingly bad turns. Now, he is the media.
A note about the author:
Rodrigo L. Arcaya is a 36-year-old Venezuelan who owns a web development company in Caracas. He is an iconoclastic, anti-authoritarian opponent of excess state power.

As the world now knows, Chavez shut down Venezuela’s respected 53-year-old TV station RCTV, accusing it of "subversive activities." Out in the streets of Caracas, and in many other cities, people have been taking to the street — particularly the high school and college students. This has caused incredible traffic jams here in Caracas, as the most common form of protest is to close the streets, leaving only one lane for the cars. Many of the drivers that have been trapped in these traffic jams show their support for the dissenters by keeping their emergency lights on, shouting slogans against the government and even stopping their own cars on the only open lane.

But why are people here so upset? Because Chavez is clearly making a play to control the national TV media as a mouthpiece for his government. He is doing this using a little-known law that resembles the U.S.'s Emergency Broadcast System.



Some background on the relationship between Chavez and the Venezuelan TV media is needed. In Venezuela, we have four TV channels that have national coverage, and about twelve local ones. Of the four national channels, we have RCTV (whose license was just revoked), Venevision and Televen, which are privately owned, and VTV, which is owned by the government. At the local level, the most important is Globovision (which Chavez is threatening), a 24 hour news channel. It has coverage in all major cities (it's pretty spotty in rural areas). It's also worth mentioning the Asamblea Nacional channel (think C-Span, owned by the government), and TeleSur, a 24 hour news channel that is co-owned by the governments of Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina and other Latin American countries.

We don’t really have many local cable channels. Most cable channels are Spanish language versions of U.S. networks (FOX — the entertainment channel, and MTV. We also get the U.S. versions of Fox News and CNN in English) or channels oriented toward Latin America as a whole.

Venezuela has an odd little law that most international analysts don’t comment on. But the law plays an important role in this narrative. It allows the president to order all TV (including local stations going through cable) and radio station to transmit the same signal that is being transmitted through the government channel. The idea is that the president can have a way to talk to all the country in an emergency. In theory, it is not much different from the U.S. Emergency Broadcast System, but it's centralized through the presidency. We call it a “chain” — as all the signals are chained to one.

However, the idea is not the same as the application, as we will see in a moment.

Hugo Chavez is truly a Media Phenomenon. He entered Venezuela's collective psyche when he led an unsuccessful coup against Carlos Andres Perez in the year ’92, while he was an active officer in the Venezuelan army. After he was captured, some of his army accomplices did not put down arms, so the government put him on camera to prove that they actually had him in custody. He was shoved in front of live news cameras, and he said, “Comrades, I assume all the blame for the failure of our operation. We have been defeated. For now...”

With those words, people fell in love with him. Not only had he assumed responsibility for his failure (an uncommon trait among political leaders everywhere), but even in his defeat, he had the courage to see a future where he would be victorious.

And if the people fell for him, the private TV channels positively swooned. The private TV networks were instrumental in getting the idea out that Chavez and his people were not actually traitors to their oath to protect Venezuela. In fact, they were young idealists who — by following that oath to its last consequence — had to rid Venezuela of its corrupt ruling government. In that climate, Chavez and his co-conspirators were pardoned by then President Caldera. The love affair was not surprising. Since the end of the ’80, most of the private media had turned really critical of the government.

Fueled by this media frenzy, Chavez created his party MVR, and against all prognostics, managed to win the ’99 election.

For the first two years, the relationship between private media and Chavez can only be described as a honeymoon. The happy marriage started to fray when, after having a new constitution approved, Chavez started to demand “legislative powers.” The idea was that the presidency could draft up new laws and get them approved, bypassing congress. Private media was critical of the move, but Chavez had a convenient way to retaliate. Every time he wanted to tell his side of the story, he just ordered a “chain” and started talking through all the TV and radio channels.



Things quickly became quite surreal. One time, I was driving to work and turned on the radio. The only thing I could hear was a “thump-thump-thump” noise. I flipped to the next station, and the next one, and the next one. "Thump-thump-thump." Was my radio broken? Had aliens attacked, jamming all the radio waves? I got to my office, turned on the TV, and found that the president had decided to “chain” a live broadcast about the inauguration of the construction of a tunnel where Chavez worked on a hydraulic hammer for about half an hour. "Thump-thump-thump."

This brings to mind the strangeness of the April 11, 2002 "coup." I’m not even going to try to explain that Gordian knot of surrealism in this dispatch — but let me introduce a few basic facts.

On that morning, quite a few people in Caracas took to the streets (the numbers range from the Government estimate of 20,000 to over a million claimed by the opposition — judge for yourself from this picture or this one.) This throng of dissenters had decided to march to Miraflores (think the White House) to show the President that they were real. (You see, Chavez' government had claimed that there were only a few people at previous protest marches. They claimed that the TV channels were using special effects and most of the protesters were actually “virtual people.”)

The crowd on April 11 got a little out of hand. In fact, it was a bit of a riot, but the demonstrators were essentially unarmed. (Venezuela is a bit like Texas, so we have to assume that some folks may have had guns).

Just as the march was approaching Miraflores, Chavez “chained” the broadcast, and started giving a speech. He told the people that the situation, which people had been watching on their TVs, had been calmed. He appealed to the few "misguided people" that were coming to Miraflores to think twice. At the same time, open warfare had come to the streets of Caracas. People on both sides were dying. A group of Chavez supporters that were “guarding” Miraflores opened fire on the march. The police and some people on the march started firing back. Or, maybe the government narrative was correct and the marchers started shooting the government supporters first. Either way, el Presidente was on live TV saying everything was under control while, less than 6 blocks away, people were firing guns at other people.

At this point, all the TV stations came to a decision: They would respect the spirit of the law, and keep the president’s feed, including the audio. But they split the screen, so that people could see what was actually going on at the same time. This is the main reason the government now says that RCTV was behind the coup. You see, if those images hadn’t been broadcast, people would not have started rioting all over the country.

Of course, RCTV, Venevision, Televen and Globovision all did this. So why did Chavez single out RCTV? This one is a no brainer: over the last two years, there has been talk about the end of the concession to RCTV, Televen and Venevision. And in these last two years, both Televen and Venevision have been letting go of their hard-hitting journalists. They have stopped reporting things that the government doesn't like. This self-censorship hasn't been at all covert. Everybody here knows. It is telling that the ratings of Televen and Venevision have dropped, while RCTV’s ratings climbed to over 40%. It is also telling that cable subscriptions have jumped to 60% in urban areas and is rapidly increasing.

The concessions for Televen and Venevision have been renewed for five years. And, as everyone now knows, RCTV – Venezuaela's first network — stopped broadcasting this Sunday, May 27.

Many naïve, foreign “Chavistas” seem to believe that the government “only” stopped a concession, and that they did not interfere with a private, independent media company. That is false. This is particularly illustrated by what followed.

On Thursday, May 24, a group of “concerned citizens” entered a plea with the Supreme Court. They claimed that shutting down the RCTV signal was unconstitutional, because RCTV was the channel with the greatest coverage in the country. The litigants claimed that if their signal was to disappear, a lot of people were going to be left without TV. The intention of this suit was devious. On Friday (less than 24 hours later — it usually takes a year to get a case before the court) the Supreme Court ruled that, in defense of the citizen’s rights, RCTV had to give, without payment of any kind, all their broadcast equipment to the new government channel that was to operate in their old frequency.

So the government has a brand new channel. This is not about a concession. This is about a Government taking control of a private media company. They claim they're doing this to “increase the free speech in the country.” Here's the logic: before Sunday, we had two strongly critical networks (RCTV and Globovision, which is local), two uncritical but indifferent networks (Televen and Venevision), and one strong Chavez supporter (VTV). With RCTV out of the picture, the number of strong opposition messages are reduced. According to government spokespeople, these voices are somehow replaced by something they call community messages: “Messages produced by The People, for The People”, as they say. Thus, of course, there will be more free speech. (I’m not making this stuff up. These are actual arguments used by government spokespeople.). Of course, when you realize that one of the principal party slogans of the government is “Chavez is The People,” this message turns even more sinister.

As of today, there are still people who refuse to give up. They are willing to keep the protest going for as long as it takes to bring RCTV back. Meanwhile, a YouTube channel, created by the news crew of RCTV, continues to post news content, including footage of protests that no other TV channel here is showing. It has had more than 71,000 views in just two days — an enormous number when you consider that Internet penetration here is below 15%. As of this writing, it is number two on YouTube's "Channels" listing for new subscribers.

It looks like things will get worse. The President is talking about shutting down Globovision for — and I swear that I'm not making this up — "subliminal association." His evidence: during a talk show with the head of RCTV last Friday, every time that they cut to commercials they showed a little clip of the most important news events that have been covered by their news department: the first landing on the moon, the return of democracy to Venezuela in 1958, and so on. During one of these segments they showed the Pope's assassination attempt, while playing Ruben Blades song that says, “Everything comes to an end” as music background. The regime claims that they were subliminally inciting people to kill President Chavez. Yesterday the General Attorney announced that both the General Director of Globovision, and the anchor of the talk show have been summoned to be “interviewed” regarding this “plot”.

Hugo Chavez is a world-class authoritarian. Those of us who are anti-authoritarian and who have seen it up close, tend to know more than those beyond our borders, about what he has done and how he has done it in his almost 8 years of government. It seems that there is a sort of racism underlying some of the sympathies and excuses made by American and European dissidents (who should know better) for the Chavez regime. They imagine that Latin American people are backwards and need an authoritarian government. In fact, most educated Latin Americans are quite accustomed to free speech and basic human rights. We don't really need the paternalism… but thanks anyway.

Of course, this regime is no ordinary Autocracy. If it were, probably most of the people in Venezuela (and in the rest of the world) would have wised up and recognized it as one. What we are living now down here can only be described as a Surreal Autocracy.

Frankly, I've kind of enjoyed this government. Its comedic moves have provided daily amusements. If I wasn’t aware of the really terrible consequences of continuing down this road, I’d be trying to prop up this regime and find it an agent in the entertainment industry. If people outside the country really knew what is going on here, they could make an astounding reality show and sell it on pay-per-view. We have members of the Congress who claim they have discovered that the DirectTV set-top boxes have bi-directional communication capabilities and that they had cameras and microphones that transmit, by satellite, to the central headquarters of the CIA. (Actually, I guess some American conspiracy freaks wouldn't find this claim the least bit nutty.) Then there was the very serious announcement from Chavez about how the government managed to stop a plot to kill the president. You see, they found this bazooka in an empty lot that lies kind of near the flight path of Venezuela's biggest commercial airport. And — ohmygod! — it's the very same airport that the presidential plane uses. They also found a picture of Chavez. Aha! This was a plan to hit the presidential plane — the picture of the president was for “obvious identification purposes." No one was ever arrested for this clever and devious plot.

These sorts of things happen here at least on a weekly basis. Indeed, I've developed a morbid obsession with the entertainment value of this government. But now, I think it's time for a new show.

See Also:
Closing Pandora's Box: The End of Internet Radio
Homeland Security Follies
Is It Fascism Yet?
Detention and Torture: Are We Free Or Not?
EFF and 10 Zen Monkeys vs. Michael Crook and DMCA
The Crooks of the World Hurt Copyright, Free Speech

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





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

The Future of America Has Been Stolen


Monica Goodling from the Washington Post

Investigative reporter Greg Palast says 4.5 million votes will be shoplifted in 2008, thanks largely to the "Rove-bots" that have been placed in the Justice Department following the U.S. Attorney firings. Being the guy who uncovered the voter "purge lists" of 2000 that disenfranchised black voters, he's worth listening to, even if the mainstream press chooses not to.

This time around, he claims to have 500 emails that the House subpoenaed and Karl Rove claims were deleted forever. They prove definitively, says Palast, that the Justice Department is infested with operatives taking orders from Rove to steal upcoming elections for Republicans and permanently alter the Department.



The "clownocracy" of Bush and Rove is criminal and even evil in its attempts to steal past and future elections, according to Palast, and can only be stopped if "Democrats...find their souls and find their balls."

In an updated new version of his best-selling book, Armed Madhouse, Palast lays out the case for the future theft of the presidency, along with lots of other Executive malfeasance. I chatted with him about the role of the Justice Department in this scheme, and what it means for the viability of our "democracy."


PUBLISHER'S UPDATE: Here are some of the 500 emails. —JD

JEFF DIEHL: First off, the "lost" emails. I guess you're confident those 500 emails aren't themselves a hoax? Considering the source? [John Wooden, the man behind the spoof site, whitehouse.org, forwarded them on to Palast after someone accidentally sent them to Wooden's georgewbush.org domain.]


GREG PALAST: Oddly, the GOP verified their authenticity to BBC. I almost fell over dead when they did that.

JD: How did they do that exactly?

GP: We asked them on camera. They did not deny they were the party's internal emails — just disagreed what the "caging" lists were. Saying, for example, they were "donor" lists. Men in homeless shelters?

Remember, there's no First Amendment in England. I'm wrong, I'm sued, I'm broke, I'm toast.

JD: Let's move on to former Justice Department counsel (and Regent University graduate) Monica Goodling's recent testimony in front of the House Judiciary Committee, since it's so fresh...

GP: The blondeling underling of the Police State. The lady was trying to tell us something important, but the dim bulbs of the U.S. press and the committee dolts wouldn't listen. She began by accusing her bosses of perjury. The issue was her allegation that they knew all about "caging." And no one asked her one damn question about it. Like what is "caging" and why would they commit perjury to cover it up?

JD: Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) asked, and Goodling said, "It has to do with direct mail."

GP: And that was it. D'oh! It's not about "direct mail." Direct mail has to do with Victoria's Secret and stuff like that. This was all about stealing the 2004 — and 2008 — elections. That's why she wanted immunity. She was afraid it would all unravel, the caging game...but she had nothing to fear.

JD: Well, it is a direct mail term, but it's also a voter supression term. Do no senators know that, not even Committee Chair John Conyers?

GP: Conyers knows — and he knows me. He's keeping his powder dry. The others are clueless.



Caging works like this. Hundreds of thousands of Black and Hispanic voters were sent letters — do not forward. Letters returned as undeliverable ("caged") were used as evidence the voter didn't live at their registered address. The GOP goons challenged these voters' right to cast ballots — and their votes were lost.

But whose letters were caged? Here's where the game turns to deep evil. They targeted Black students on vacation, homeless men — and you'll love this — Black soldiers sent overseas. They weren't living at their home voting address because they were shivering under a Humvee in Falluja.

JD: As you put it in regard to election rigging, 2000 was about "purge lists," 2004 was about "caging," and 2008 will be about "verification." Can you briefly explain the difference between these?

GP: Sure. In 2000, I cracked the computer disks (CD-ROMs then) from Katherine Harris' office showing 56,000 names of voters "purged" from voter rolls as felons who aren't allowed to vote. In fact, every one — every one — was an innocent voter, though most were guilty of VWB — Voting While Black. That was the 2000 "purge."

In 2004, it was nearly identical. Except, instead of calling voters "felons," they called them "suspect" voters, fraudulently using a false voting address. The effect was the same: the voter would lose their registration; or their vote on election day when they showed to vote; or, in the case of soldiers, their absentee ballot would be challenged and tossed.

JD: You claim the reason for Democrat inaction in election scandals is because of racism, that the white caucus is bigger than the black caucus. But don't Democrats gain by making sure black people are enfranchised?

GP: Which Democrats? The huge purge and block of voters in Georgia [were done by] reptiles like Zell Miller in control of the Georgia Democratic Party. There's an awful lot of Democrats who would not win primaries if dark-skinned citizens could just vote any time they pleased.

JD: My mind goes back to Conyers. What did you mean earlier by "keeping his powder dry?"

GP: We talk. 'Nuff said.

JD: Fair enough. So you're working also with former U.S. Attorney for New Mexico, David Iglesias, yes?

GP: Claro que si.

JD: I was watching Chris Matthews' TV show — "Softball," as you've called it — and he asked Iglesias what his long term plans were — if he was writing a book. Iglesias indicated that he was, and also, that he wanted a TV show similar to Matthews' at some point, and seemed to be totally serious. Given that Iglesias has been willing to go "along with the game" in the past, are you concerned that his recent turn might be motivated by opportunism?

GP: I don't care if he's motivated by a love of Barbie dolls. He's been pushed by the Rove-bots to expose the game. I'll take it anyway I can get it — the facts, ma'am.

JD: Do you have a wide-angle view of the current Administration's strategy with the Justice Department, and if so, give us the summary. Is it about election theft, or is it mostly about stocking the lake for future conservative judge appointments?

GP: Yes. First, it's elections. They don't want the voters making any foolish choices. Specifically, while the attention's been focused 100% on the firings, no one is talking about the hirings. That's what Goodling was trying to get across.

The key: at the "Pearl Harbor Day Massacre," they replaced the prosecutors with Rove-bots, a sleeper cell of anti-Constitutional saboteurs who will explode in 2008, led by the new prosecutor for Arkansas, Tim Griffin.

JD: Talk a little bit about the relevance of Tim Griffin — the perp who became prosecutor — and Arkansas in 2008.

GP: It was Griffin who directed the "caging" ops for the GOP. Caging, by the way, is illegal. Law Professor Bobby Kennedy pointed out it violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — and I'd add, as a former racketeering investigator, mail fraud statutes. So Griffin's a felon — now U.S. Attorney.

JD: Is Kennedy still actively publicizing this?

GP: Yes. The incriminating email is reproduced right in Armed Madhouse. That's why Griffin and Goodling were high-fiving over the fact that no one's picked up the investigations of that "British reporter" Palast.

The key thing is, Griffin is not just "involved," he is directing the scheme. His denial was confidential — had to be subpoenaed. Remember, as Goodling testified, the line of the Bushies is that Griffin had nothing to do with caging.



JD: So is Congress eventually going to get to all this? Is that the end game with the Justice Department investigation?

GP: No, Congress won't do squat. Did anyone do anything about the felon purge? It went backwards: Bush signed the Help America Vote Act. God forbid.

Explore more of Greg Palast's reporting on his website.

See also:
Homeland Security Follies
John Edwards' Virtual Attackers Unmasked
Iraq Battle Videos
Did Bush Spin Like Nixon?
The Chicks Who Tried to Shoot Gerald Ford
World Sex Laws
Is It Fascism Yet?
Detention and Torture
Awesomest Congressional Campaign Ever

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

Give Me Immortality Or Give Me Death!

Give Me Immortality or Give Me Death!

According to transhumanist Michael Anissimov, there's an even chance that we're looking at immortality or existential destruction in the next 20-40 years. Anissimov is only 23-years-old but he's already become an important figure in the transhumanist movement. While still in high school, he became founder and director of the Immortality Institute. He's been active with the World Transhumanist Association (WTA), and he is currently Fundraising Director, North America for the Lifeboat Foundation.

Lifeboat Foundation describe themselves as "a nonprofit organization dedicated to encouraging scientific advancements while helping humanity survive existential risks and possible misuse of increasingly powerful technologies, including genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and robotics/AI as we move toward a technological singularity."

Anissimov also blogs regularly at Accelerating Future.

I interviewed him for my NeoFiles Show. Jeff Diehl joined me.

To listen the full interview in MP3, click here.


RU SIRIUS: Let's start off talking about immortality. And let's talk about it personally. Do you want to live forever?

MICHAEL ANISSIMOV: Oh, absolutely! For sure!

RU: Why?

MA: Because I have at least a thousand years of plans already. And in those thousand years, I'll probably make another thousand years of plans, and I don't see any end to that cycle.



RU: Do you see the quality of life improving for yourself and for most human beings?

MA: Yes, I do.

RU: Because I don't know if I want to live forever under Darwinian conditions. It gets tiring.

MA: I agree. It does. We need to take control of our own evolution before this would be a planet really worth living on. I don't think that thousands of years of war would be good for anyone. So things do need to improve.

RU: Yeah. Even having to pay… who can afford a thousand years?

MA: (Laughs) Well, you'll work for a thousand years...

RU: It's very expensive!

MA: Yeah, people are dying to retire. So it would help out if we had the robots doing a little bit more of the work.

JEFF DIEHL: So what's your itinerary for the next thousand years?

MA: I want to go spelunking in every major cave. I want to climb the highest peak on every continent. I want to write, like maybe at least ten nonfiction books and ten fiction books. Mmmm…

RU: Some people have done that in a lifetime.

MA: I know!

JD: Yeah, you're not very ambitious, man — come on!

MA: (Laughs) Think of ten possible lives you could live, and then think that you don't necessarily need to choose between them. You could live them back to back.

RU: On the other hand, you could pop your consciousness into several bodies and have them all living simultaneously for only a hundred years. Would that be the equivalent of living a thousand years?

MA: I don't think so. I think that would just be like having kids. Copying yourself would give rise to multiple independent strains of consciousness.

RU: Maybe there could be some kind of central person who could be taking in all of the experiences.

MA: There could be some information exchange, but...

RU: Aubrey de Grey, of course, is the hacker-biologist who has become very well known for saying that this is quite plausible in the near future. Is there any progress that he's pointed to, or that you can point to, since he really proclaimed the plausibility of immortality some time around the beginning of this century?

MA: Yeah. Recently Peter Thiel, former CEO of Paypal, offered three million dollars in matching funds for projects related to this. And they've started coming up with ways to actually use over a million dollars, I believe. They have the MitoSENS project and the LysoSENS projects.

RU: What are these projects about?

MA: Well, with LysoSENS — lysomal junk is this stuff that builds up between cells. And our natural metabolism doesn't currently have any way of breaking it down. So researchers are trying to exploit the law of microbial infallibility — the notion that no matter what organic material you're talking about, you're going to be able to find a microbe that can eat it. So they're searching for microbes that are capable of breaking down this junk. And they've been looking in places like... next to a Burger King, because people throw burgers on the ground and stuff like that. So there are special bacteria there that learn how to break down these organic compounds. And some of these researchers have even gotten permission to get soil samples from the people that run graveyards because that's where you'd expect to find the bugs. Basically, they're looking for specialized microbes that can dissolve that lysomal junk.

RU: IBM recently announced a naotechnology breakthrough. They said that "the breakthrough marks the first time chips have been made with a self-assembling nano-technology using the same process that forms seashells or snowflakes." This sounds like a really big deal.

MA: Yeah, it is! It's not the same thing though as molecular manufacturing, where you basically have a molecular assembly line that places each atom, one by one. It's not quite as intelligently controlled or productive, but it is a large breakthrough.

RU: Yeah, the word jumps out at me — "self-assembling." That sounds... you're not too excited?

MA: (Skeptically) Ehhh. I mean, it's pretty exciting but people have been playing around with this stuff for a while

RU: OK. Let's move on to your current work — The Lifeboat Foundation This foundation is focused on existential risk, which is a board game, I think: Camus v. Sartre.

MA: (Laughs) Not exactly!

RU: I don't know how you win. It's probably like Waiting for Godot: A Tragicomedy in Two Acts — the board game never arrives.

Anyway, in the discourse currently going around among people who are part of the transhumanist schemata and transhumanist world — there seems to be a turn from optimism towards a dialogue that's sort of apocalyptic. And the Lifeboat website seems to reflect that. Do you think that's true?

MA: I think it is true to a small extent. I think it's actually reflective of the maturing of the transhumanist movement. Because it's easy to say…

RU: "It's gonna be great!"

MA: Particularly when the dotcom boom was happening, everyone was, like, "Oh, the future's gonna be great. No problems." You know... "We're making shitloads of cash. Everything's going to go well."

Now, we've had seven years of George Bush. We've been involved in two wars. We understand that reality isn't always peachy keen and we're going to have to deal with the consequences.

RU: So are people in the transhumanist world as worried as they sound, or is it partly political – trying to be responsible and ease concerns among people who are perhaps more paranoid than technophiles like yourself?

MA: No, it's very genuine. The more you understand about powerful technologies, the more you understand that they really do have the potential to hose us all, in a way that nuclear war can't.

RU: Give me your top two existential risks.

MA: Well, as Dr. Alan Goldstein pointed out on your show a couple of weeks ago, Synthetic Life is a huge risk because life is inherently designed to replicate in the wild. So life based on different chemical reactions could replicate much more rapidly than what we're accustomed to, like some sort of super-fungus. I think that's one of the primary risks. And the second risk would be artificial intelligence — human-surpassing artificial intelligence.

RU: So you're concerned about the "robot wars" scenario — artificial intelligence that won't care that much for us? Do you have any particular scenarios that you're following?

MA: Well, I'd like to caution people to be careful what they see in the movies. Because this is one of those areas where people have been speculating about it for quite a few decades, and so much fictional material has been built around it...

RU: Actually, I believe everything in .

MA: (Laughs) If you really look through those shows in a critical way, you see that they're full of blatant holes all over the place. Like, they can send a guy through time, but they can't send his clothes with him through time? (Laughs) In reality, I think that artificial intelligence is potentially most dangerous because it might not necessarily need to have a robotic body before it becomes a threat. An artificial intelligence that's made purely out of information could manipulate a wide variety of things on the internet. So it would have more power than we might guess.



RU: You've written a bit about the idea of Friendly AI. (We had
Eliezer Yudkowsky on the show quite a while back, talking about this.) Do you see steps that can be taken to ensure that A.I. is friendly?

MA: Yeah! I'm totally in support of Eliezer and the Singularity Institute. I think that they're one of the few organizations that has a clue. And they're growing. I think that you've got to put a lot of mathematical eggheads working together on the problem. You can't just look at it from an intuitive point of view. You can actually understand intelligence on a mathematical level. It's a lot to ask. I think that friendly A.I. will be a tremendous challenge because there's just a lot of complexity in what constitutes a good person. And there's a lot of complexity in what constitutes what we consider common sense.

RU: Do you think the breakthrough might come through reverse engineering the human brain?

MA: It's possible but probably not.

RU: Good, because I don't think human beings are that friendly. I think the friendly A.I. has to be friendlier than human beings.

MA: It definitely does. And one way we could do that is by creating an A.I. that doesn't have a self-centered goal system. All creatures built by Darwinian evolution inherently have a self-centered goal system. I mean, before we became altruistic, we were extremely selfish. A reptile has eggs, and then the eggs hatch and he just walks off. He doesn't care about his kids. So this altruism thing is relatively recent in the history of evolution, and our psychology is still fundamentally self-centered.

JD: Isn't trying to plan for the nature of these future AI's kind of absurd because of the exponential superiority of their reasoning... if they even have what we would call reasoning? Can we really plan for this? It seems like once you hit a certain threshold, the Singularity, by definition is incomprehensible to us.

MA: I initially had the same issue. It seems impossible. But ask yourself, if you could choose, would you rather have an A.I. modeled after Hitler or would you rather have an A.I. modeled after Mother Teresa?

Regardless of how intelligent the A.I. becomes, it starts off from a distinct initial state. It starts off from a seed. So whatever it becomes will be the consequence of that seed making iterative changes on itself.

JD: But maybe in the first nano-second, it completely expunges anything that resembles human reasoning and logic because that's just a problem to them that doesn't need to be solved any more. And then beyond that — we have no fucking clue what they're going to move onto.

MA: It's true, but whatever it does will be based on the motivations it has.

JD: Maybe. But not if it re-wires itself completely…

MA: But if it rewired itself, then it would do so based on the motivations it originally had. I mean, I'm not saying it's going to stay the same, but I'm saying there is some informational similarity — there's some continuity. Even though it could be a low-level continuity, there's some continuity for an A.I. Also, you could ask the same question of yourself. What happens if a human being gains control over its own mind state.

RU: How we understand our motivations might be distinct from how we would understand our motivations if we had a more advanced intelligence.

MA: That's true.

RU: I'm going to move on to something that was on the Lifeboat web site that confounded me. It's labeled a News Flash. It says, "Robert A. Freitas Jr. has found preliminary evidence that diamond mechanosynthesis may not be reliable enough in ambient temperatures to sustain an existential risk from microscopic ecophagic replicators."

JD: (Joking) I had a feeling that was the case. (Laughter)

RU: What the hell does that mean?!

MA: Robert's a bit of a wordy guy, but maybe I can explain it. You have an STM (Scanning Tunneling Microscope.) It's like a little needle that's able to scan a surface by measuring the quantum difference between the two surfaces. Diamond mechanosynthesis would just be the the ability to have a tiny needle-like robotic arm that places a single or perhaps two carbon atoms onto a pre-programmed place. So, in life, we are all based on proteins. Carbon isn't slotted in like in a covalent sense, which is the way that people that are working on nanotechnology are thinking of working. They're thinking of putting together pieces of carbon, atom by atom, to make a covalently bonding carbon. Robert's saying that it might be that the ambient temperature of the environment is too hot for that needle to work. So you'd need to have it in a vacuum or super-cooled environment for it to work.

RU: You did a good job of explaining that. Moving on, there's some talk on your site of the idea of relinquishment, which is deciding not to develop technologies. Is that even possible?

MA: Instead of relinquishment, I like to talk about selective development. You can't really relinquish technology too easily. But you can develop safeguards before technologies reach their maturity. And you can develop regulations that anticipate future consequences instead of always taking a knee-jerk reaction and saying: "Oh, this disaster happened; therefore we will now regulate."

RU: Of course, it's not really possible to regulate what everybody everywhere on the planet is doing.

MA: No, it's not.

RU: Are you familiar with Max More's Proactionary Principle?


MA: (Skeptically) Mmmm I'm...

RU: Too obvious?

MA: No, I don't fully agree with it. I do think that the Precautionary Principle has a point.

RU: Maybe I should say what it is. Basically, the Precautionary Principle says that with any technology we're developing, we should look ahead and see what the consequences are. And if the consequences look at all dire, then we should relinquish the technology. And Max More argues that we should also look at the possible consequences of not developing the technology. For instance, if we don't develop nanotechnology, everybody dies.

MA: Well, I don't think that would happen.

RU: I mean, eventually… just as they have for millennia.

MA: Oh — everyone will age to death!

RU: Right

MA: No, I agree that the balanced view looks at both sides of the equation. The Precautionary Principle's kind of been tarnished because there are people that are super-paranoid; and people who use it as an excuse to rule out things that they find ethically objectionable like therapeutic cloning.

RU: Well, you could take anything as an example. Look at automobiles. If we had looked ahead at automobiles — we could debate for hours whether they were a good idea. There would probably be less humans on the planet and there would probably be less distribution of medicine and food and all those things. On the other hand, we might not be facing global warming. It might be nice that there are less humans on the planet.

MA: Yeah, but in practice, if some invention is appealing and has large economic returns, then people are going to develop it no matter what.

RU: On the Lifeboat site, you have a list of existential risks. And people can sort of mark which existential risk they want to participate in or work on. I'd like to get your comments on a few of the risks that are listed. But before I go down a few of these things on the list, what do you think is up with the bees?

MA: The bees?

RU: The honeybees are dying off. Einstein said we wouldn't survive if...

JD: … there's some contention about whether he actually said that. I heard that somebody tried to find that quote, and they weren't able to find it.

MA: What does this have to do with the bees?

RU: Einstein said that if all the honeybees died off, we'd all be dead in four years, or something like that.

JD: Yeah, because of the natural cycles that they support. Somebody else debunked that.

RU: Well, he was no Einstein. You better look into the bees because that could be an existential risk.

So here's one of the risks – or the risk aversion possibilities — listed on the site: Asteroid Shield.

MA: Well, someone once said that we're in a cosmic shooting gallery and it's only a matter of time before we get nailed. I wouldn't consider this to be a high priority, but in the interest of comprehensiveness, it would be a good idea if we had a way to deflect asteroids. Serious scientists have been looking at this issue and they decided that knocking it out with a nuclear bomb wasn't really going to work so well. It's too expensive and too unpredictable. So they're talking about attaching small rockets to slowly pull an asteroid off course.



JD: I recently read one idea — collect a lot of space junk and create one big object to alter the gravitational...

MA: Or you can put a little electro-magnetic rail gun on the surface and progressively fire off chunks of the asteroid, which will also alter its course. Even if you altered the trajectory of an incoming asteroid by a tiny amount, it would probably miss because earth is just kind of like a tiny dot in space. But right now, we don't have the capability. So if an asteroid were coming next year, we would be screwed.

RU: Right. And people have started talking about it. I mean, there has been sort of an advance in the level of paranoia about asteroids that come anywhere near us in recent years.

MA: One asteroid came about half of the way between us and the moon a while ago.

JD: Was it big enough to kill us?

MA: No. It was a hundred feet across, though — not bad.

RU: So how much chaos would that cause? I guess that would depend on where it landed.

MA: Measured in megatons, I think it would be about one Hiroshima.

JD: Oh, okay. We can handle that… as long as it doesn't land in San Francisco.

MA: (Laughs) Exactly! So I don't think the asteroids are an immediate concern. But it helps people comprehend the notion of extinction risks.

RU: The former NASA astronaut Rusty Schweickart has become involved in fighting off the asteroids. He used to be part of the L5 Society. I think Ronald Reagan would say it's a way of uniting all the people of earth to fight against an enemy.

MA: Yeah!

RU: I think he talked about that in terms of aliens, not in terms of asteroids.

MA: Well, I think all existential risks, including the more plausible ones, do serve a function in uniting humanity, and I think that's a nice side effect.

RU: The particle accelerator shield — what's that about?

MA: Some people think — as we engage in increasingly high-powered particle accelerator experiments — something bad could happen. One standard idea is a strangelet, which is similar to an atom but much more compact. If a strangelet could absorb conventional matter into itself, and do so continuously, it could absorb the entire planet.

RU: Sort of like a black hole.

MA: Yes, very much like a black hole. It's another one of those situations where we want to instill a sense of caution in the minds of scientists. We don't want them to just dismiss these possibilities out of hand because it potentially threatens their funding. We want them to actually give it a little bit of thought.

RU: OK, what about "seed preserver."

MA: Oh, yeah! Well that's actually being done right now! The Norwegian government built a seed bank on some far north Arctic island. They're shoving some seeds in there, so I guess when the nanobots come, or the nuclear war comes and 99% of humanity is all gone, then we'll be able to go there, withdraw the seeds, and create life anew.

RU: You seem to be a believer in the Singularity. For me – maybe yes, maybe no. But I find it amusing that Vernor Vinge could give a talk titled "What if the Singularity Does NOT Happen", the implication being that the idea that it might not happen is a real stretch. Do you ever feel like you're in a cult — that people who believe in this share a peculiar reality?

MA: The word Singularity has become a briefcase word. People kind of want to put their pet ideas into it, so the actual idea has become kind of unclear in the minds of many people. To me, the Singularity is just the notion of an intelligence that's smarter than us. So if you say that you don't believe in the Singularity, it means that you believe that human beings are the smartest possible intelligence that this universe can hold.

RU: I guess what I don't believe is that it necessarily becomes a complete disjunction in history.

MA: But don't you think that homo sapiens are a quite complete disjunction from, say, homo erectus or chimps? We share 98% of the same DNA. So what if you actually used technology to surpass the human mind? I think you'd have something substantially more different from homo sapiens than homo sapiens was from their predecessors.

RU: Do you think it's more likely that we'll develop machines that are more intelligent than us and keep them exterior to us; or will we find some way of incorporating them into us? It seems to me, if you look at the passion that people have for being on the net, and being able to call up and get and link to all the information and all the intelligence on the planet, people are going to want this inside themselves. They're going to want to be able to have as much information and as much intelligence as everybody else. They'll want to unite with it.

MA: I think that would be a great thing, as long as people don't go using their intelligence for negative ends.

JD: Do you think this would happen gradually. Or do you think there would be this point in time where lots of people make choices like whether or not to merge? And then, maybe, the people who are afraid of that will want to stop people from doing it, and conflict...

MA: I think it could actually be somewhat abrupt, because once you have a superior intelligence, it can create better intelligence enhancement techniques for itself. So it could be somewhat abrupt. But I think that these smart entities could also find a way of keeping humanity on the same page and not making it like: "Oh, you have to choose… If your brother or your sister is not going into the great computer, then..."

RU: I think if it happens soon enough, it will be viewed as just another way of going online. You know, to young people, it will be just… "Yeah, this is how everybody's going online now."

MA: But if you had implants in your brain, it would be permanent.

RU: Do you think chaos is built into life? As the Artificial Life people have been saying, life happens on the boundary between order and chaos. If chaos is an element of life, can machines include chaos?

MA: Well, uh — hmm. I think that people overestimate the power of chaos.

RU: As a Patti Smith fan, I have to disagree.



MA: (Laughs) Well, it's such an appealing idea — chaos. But if you take a look at human blood and compare it to some random bit of muck you find in the ground, you'll see that it's highly regulated, and there are huge complements of homeostatic mechanisms in bodies that are constantly ordering things. Relative to the entropy in the air array outside; inside my body is a very orderly place, Life forms are very well organized pieces of matter.

RU: Right, but if you achieve complete homeostasis, then nothing happens.

MA: That's true. Life does have to be on that boundary so it is challenging

RU: Here's a quote from an interview with you: "The idea of the Singularity is to transcend limitations by reengineering brains or creating new brains from scratch, brains that think faster with more precision, greater capabilities, better insights, ability to communicate and so on." OK. That sounds good, but what about pleasure, play, creativity, eroticism… and whatever it is you get from magic mushrooms? Where does all that go?

MA: (Laughs) I think all that's very important. I think about all those things.

RU: So you think that can be built that into the singularity?

MA: Yeah. Oh, for sure…

RU: David Pierce is the one person who really sort of deals with those ideas.

MA: Well, it's not really too PC to talk about it. But when you take a psychedelic, you've changed your brain chemistry. With mushrooms, you flood your brain with this one psilocybin chemical. With technologies that let you actively change your own mind, it would be less of a shot in the dark. More precision modifications would be possible. And you could turn it on and off like a light switch, too. You could have much more control over it.

RU: Looking forward to it!

See Also:
Create an Alien, Win A-Prize
Why Chicks Don't Dig The Singularity
Death? No, Thank You
Prescription Ecstasy and Other Pipe Dreams

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

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

Keith Henson Back in Jail – Space Elevator Will Have To Wait

Keith Henson

On April 26, 2001, Keith Henson was convicted of interfering with a religion — a misdemeanor under California law — for picketing outside Scientology's heavily armed, razor wire-enforced base, outside Hemet California. He split for Canada, becoming the world's first "Scientology fugitive," and he's back in the U.S. dealing with a variety of court cases related to Scientology.

Henson was just thrown back in jail. As best as I can make out from the limited information currently available, Henson and his lawyers were scheduled for a hearing at 1:30 pm on Tuesday, May 8th. They were apparently unaware that warrants had recently been signed by the Governors of California and Arizona, and after the hearing, Henson was handed over to the Yavapai County Sheriff Department for incarceration until a hearing on Wednesday May 9th at 9 a.m. (A note received this afternoon — May 9th — from Henson's wife, Arel Lucas, says that he will remain in the lockup at least until Monday, May 13th. She invites people to write to him at: Yavapai County Sheriff's Office, Howard Keith Henson, 255 E. Gurley St. Prescott, AZ 86301. She also reminds you that the prison authorities read the letters before passing them on.)



Henson's travails in his ongoing battle with Scientology and the law have been amply covered here.

I heard about Henson's renewed captivity as I was editing this interview I did with him for The RU Sirius Show on March 29th. While we talked about scientology a bit, the main focus was on another one of Henson's interests. Just before he was originally arrested in his conflict with the Scientologists, he was scheduled to talk at a European Space Agency conference on how Space Elevators could completely solve the carbon and energy problems.

Keith Henson has been a space buff since he was eight years old. Back in 1975, he and others — including nanotech guru K. Eric Drexler — founded the L5 Society. They promoted space colonies and solar power satellites built out of metals extracted from moon rock. The L5 Society eventually became the National Space Society.

Jeff Diehl joined me in interviewing Keith Henson on the show.
To listen the full interview in MP3, click here.

RU SIRIUS: So what's your favorite Tom Cruise movie?

KEITH HENSON: (Laughs) None of them. My dislike for the cult has spilled over into everything that's associated with it. But I do have to admit Tom has been very effective at taking Scientology down. He certainly did more damage to their image in a year than I did in ten. And he and Katie aren't done yet, I betcha.

RU: He played a creepy head-fucker quite effectively in the film Magnolia. It's worth seeing if you decide to break your Cruise fast.

It's been said that you fear the Scientologists will get to you in jail. Some people who are otherwise sympathetic have expressed skepticism about this. Do you have any evidence, any reason to fear the thuggery of Scientologists in the tank?

KH: I sure do. I have evidence that I accidentally acquired a few weeks ago that the Riverside courts themselves were engaged in outright criminal acts — that is, using the power of the courts to entrap me into a crime.

RU: That's a pretty heavy charge. Can you substantiate it?

KH: You can find a letter I wrote about this back in 2001 on my website. I just never imagined I would get paper evidence pulled out of the county's court files. Well, recently, I was handed a paper out of the Riverside court files that had never been listed as part of the files. Obviously somebody went looking for a warrant to send over to Arizona and pulled it out without looking at the date. I know now, of course, that Riverside Court illegally keeps secret documents that are not listed in the docket. So I accidentally found out that it's the very warrant that would've been used to arrest me at that deposition. It's dated September 15, 2000, and sure enough, they listed the charge of "Failure to Appear" on it. And that's just not a crime that happened on September 15. So the arrest warrant could not possible have been filled out that day. It was most likely filled out weeks before the date on it. And by issuing a warrant for a crime that never happened — the court itself was complicit in a serious criminal act. If a person were convicted of this, they could spend many years in prison.

RU: Well, obviously the Scientologists are very well-connected. But you've received a lot of public support. Does that make you safer?

KH: Yes it does. I was treated fairly roughly until hundreds of phone calls came into the jail. And then they realized that this was not a person they could just shove down a hole and forget.

RU: Have any establishment figures come to your side?

KH: Mostly, no. It's amazing how some people who are considered really brave heroes get terrified by the Scientology cult. I hesitate to say which one of them panicked when I asked him to make a phone call for me to keep me in Canada. But if you think about it, you could probably figure it out.



RU: Well, I'm sure it's not Jerry Brown, who used to be an L5-er and is now the Attorney General of California. Did you ever have any interactions with him?

KH: Not directly. I've got an email from his office that says that I should essentially file a complaint against the District Attorney and the courts.

RU: Did you have any interactions with him back when you were in L5?

KH: I'd never met Jerry back in those days. I met other people in his administration like Rusty Schweickart, who was a good buddy with Jerry Brown.

RU: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about your upcoming case.

KH: (Laughs) Which one? I've got three of them open at the moment. There's a motion to correct an injunction the Riverside court was not permitted to issue; a bankruptcy case that has got tangled up recently with O.J. Simpson's; and this extradition business in Arizona. That last one requires the California governor to sign an extradition warrant, and there's been enough complaints to him about it that I don't think he's going to do it. (ed: He did, on May 1)

RU: It's weird to hear O.J. Simpson's name come up. I don't suppose you can talk any more about your connection with OJ. There could be a book contract in there for you — the book industry loves OJ!

KH: Well, I can give you a quick thing. It turns out that that the lawyer for the other side in a bankruptcy case involving my bank worked against OJ Simpson – I think it was for the Goldbergs. So he asked for a delay in my case.

RU: We will contemplate all aspects of your possible connections with the OJ case over the coming weeks and months and maybe get back to it. "If the e-Meter doesn't fit, you must acquit" or something.

You've been working on ideas for power satellites recently. What is that, and how old is the idea, and how did you wind up back in the space engineering area again?

KH: Well, it's actually connected to the Scientology cult. I couldn't be employed while I was trying to hide out from them. They have agents inside the IRS, so when you use your social security number, they just pull it and come and get you. So I spent a lot of the time in the past year working on a post-Singularity novel. I didn't want to write about wars and violence, which is in the cards if we don't solve the energy crisis. So I had to make the people in the novel able to solve that. There are only a few ways to get the amount of power needed to replace the fossil fuel sources that we've been using up — and power satellites are one of them. Power satellites are a way to put solar power collectors where the sun shines more of the time, and no clouds are in the way. They're just giant solar collectors in orbit with microwave transmitters and gigantic receivers on earth. They're an old idea. It's been 38 years since Peter Glazer invented them. I revived the idea to cope with energy and global warming for this novel. It's one of the few ways you can deal with both.

RU: So, just to be really clear: how does it resolve energy and global warming problems?

KH: Well, there are a few approaches that are big enough to replace the energy that we get from oil and coal. Power satellites are one of them, and if you have the capacity to build power satellites, you can build planetary-scale sun shades as well.

RU: Aren't there terrestrial energy alternatives to this?

KH: The only ones I know about are fusion and fission plants — a lot of fission power, huge fusion plants. But they both suffer from a really nasty problem. It's just too easy to divert neutrons toward making high-quality plutonium — like 99% plutonium 239. And with that, it becomes very easy to make terrorist nukes. I wrote about it.

RU: OK. So apparently these things could be a threat. Let's get back to the power satellites. Tell us more about those.

KH: Okay. There are three parts to the power sat. Making the energy out of sunlight in space — there can be enormous structures — lightweight structures in geosynchronous orbit. And you would probably use solar cells on the thing, but you could even use steam turbines. And then you have a big transmitter to turn the power into a microwave beam of huge size. And then you need a gigantic antenna on the ground that converts the microwaves back to electricity.

RU: How big would it be?

KH: Well, if you could fit one in an area of forty square miles — that's the size of a medium city — the ground antenna would be about 50 miles. That sounds like a lot of land, but the receiving antenna is just light mesh. It doesn't block the sunlight, so you can put it over farmland and still farm underneath it. Terrestrial solar power takes a lot more land.

RU: Might this not kill off all the bees or something? Might not living under this antenna do something else strange to people?

KH: Well, yeah...

RU: I mean, for instance, people are talking about cell phones killing off all the bees.

KH: Well actually, that's ridiculous. Cell phones were around a long time before the bees started disappearing.

RU: That's too bad, because I'm putting, like, a dozen cell phones on my front porch...



KH: (Laughs) But I'll tell you this — the power level that you get in a power satellite, out in the middle of the thing, isn't any more power than you get to your head when you've got a cell phone running. It's pretty low.

JEFF DIEHL: So could you fly through this beam?

KH: Well, yeah. I propose that we use much higher-powered beams, and then we just have a restaurant on wheels, where you put the thing in a duck flyway. And you just move the restaurant around to the north side in the spring and the south side in the fall, and the ducks just fall out of the air completely cooked. (Laughter.)

RU: So you and a number of people have been talking about this for a long time. Why haven't we moved in this direction?

KH: Well, the big holdup is the transport cost to orbit. Rockets are just terrible, efficiency-wise. I mean, you see this enormous blast of … well, you've seen the launches of the Apollos. It's just terribly wasteful. But using nanotubes, we can build a space elevator.

JD: Getting the stuff up there is just a one-time expense, right?

KH: It is, sort of… and it isn't, sort of. You have to power these things because there's no free lunch. But you can probably haul up a couple of hundred tons of material at a time. You have to push it clear out to geo-synch, and then you have to unreel it in both directions. Anyway, once you've built one of these things, it only costs you to run it. Now, for a long time, people working on a related idea have been hung up on a pathway that was just plain wrong. They've been trying to use, design, figure out how to use climbers that use beamed power — mostly lasers — to beam the materials up there. The idea there is to have electric driving wheels on the things, powered by lasers. That's better than rockets, which are around maybe 1% efficient. But the best estimates I've gotten from the people that are working on it are that they would be around 7%, which is still just terrible.

So working on this novel, I came up with a moving cable design, because — if you're going to try to solve the energy problem, the traffic you need going into space is enormous. It's a couple of thousand tons a day.

Anyway, the idea is an elevator that runs on a bunch of pulleys up into space and you just power the thing from the bottom.

RU: So how fast is this baby gonna take me up into space?

KH: I'm not sure. The faster you go, the more throughput you get. I think you can run it maybe as high as a thousand miles an hour. At that speed, it's 22,000 miles out there, so at that speed it would take you 22 hours to get to geo. You've got to bring your lunch and dinner… and I guess even breakfast.

Of course, we're not transporting people, and I think you'd actually want to run faster than that. But remember, I'm driving this thing as an endless loop from the ground. So that means the lowest part of the thing is in the atmosphere. And running up through the atmosphere at a thousand miles per hour is all sorts of supersonic shock waves and everything else like that.

RU: Now you have to use nanotube cable to do this, right? So is this cable technically plausible at this point?

KH: They've actually measured the strength of nanotube cable, and it's strong enough to do the job. If you can get it up to 63 gigapascals, you can just run it over a pulley at geosynch. But if you can't do that, there's a way that you can run intermediate stepped pulleys in the thing where you can get a constant diameter cable, and a stepped number of strands in parallel on it. It has to be nanotube. Steel isn't anywhere near good enough. With nanotubes — they've measured it as handling almost 6 million pounds per square inch. And it's only 30% denser than water, so it's strong enough and light enough — but it's a bit expensive.

RU: How expensive is it?

KH: (Laughs) Carbon nanotubes, if you buy them at $75 million a ton...

RU: So you can actually buy these now?

KH: Oh yeah.

RU: I could… wait a second, what if I just wanted one nanotube.

KH: (Laughs) Well, one nanotube, you'd blow away with your breath. In fact, you'd blow away an entire pound of the things. Anyway, the elevator takes about a hundred thousand tons, so unless the price comes down, that's $7.5 trillion worth of elevator cable. But my guess is that the stuff will come down to cents per kilogram. There's a neat method that's not really been sufficiently investigated. If you can figure out how to get metal solvent to precipitate nanotubes...you're in business!

RU: How long would it take the power satellite to pay back the energy that it takes to get itself into orbit?

KH: It takes roughly a gigawatt of power to drive the motors that drag all this stuff up into orbit. You wind up with a five gigawatt power satellite. It takes one day for this thing to re-pay the energy. When it comes online, it's generating 5 gigawatts every day.

After you account for everything on it — all the energy to refine the metals and make the solar cells, or whatever else you're using — it may well take something like a hundred days. But you get 24-hour sunlight, unfiltered by clouds, and no night. And you can really use much lighter structures for it.

The idea is that the cable would bring up enough materials to build one. So if you're talking about building 60 or 70 power satellites in a year's time, that would displace all the existing coal plants in the U.S. And if you keep doing it, in a few years you displace all of them in the entire world.

RU: Is there anything you can imagine that might go wrong with these solar panels?

KH: Oh, tons of things can go wrong with it. One of the nasty problems is you've got to clean all the stuff out of lower orbits.

RU: Space junk.

KH: Yeah, you've got to clean up the space junk. So part of the project is 50 or 100 ion tugs that are capable of running around and gathering up all this stuff.

RU: Sounds like Pac-Man.

If I remember correctly, you're talking about 50 square miles, the size of a medium-sized city? And where might we try locating this thing, on the ground?

KH: You gotta put it on the equator, or really close. There's only one place that the U.S. owns that's on the Equator — it's called Baker Island. It's right smack out in the middle of the Pacific. It's 13 miles north of the equator, but if you put a ship anchored 12 miles south of there, it'd still be in U.S. territorial waters. And guess what we use for a ship?

RU: Yeah?

KH: The Enterprise.

RU: Well, that belongs to the Navy. So you get the Navy's cooperation? Is that in the plan?

KH: I think so.

RU: The US government is going to give up a perfectly good island that they could put prisoners on?

KH: (Laughs) The point is to put it under U.S. law, maybe. That's the trick. I don't know whether you want to do that or not, but if you do — that's the place you can do it. You actually need the Enterprise, because you need the initial power to get the thing up there. The Enterprise puts out about two-tenths to the gigawatt. So you can bootstrap this thing. The Enterprise is due to be decommissioned in seven years. So we've got seven years to put the business plan together.

JD: It's nuclear-powered, right?

KH: Yes, it's the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

RU: In seven years, the carbon nanotubes can perhaps come down in price a little bit. I imagine that once they start being used more, the price on those should come down quite a bit. Is there stuff being made out of this now? What are likely to be some of the first products that will be made from these before we build a space elevator?

KH: There are a few things that are being made out of them now. They're used for the scanning probes on scanning/tunneling microscopes, for instance. But they're going to be useful for all kinds of things. A quarter-inch cable made from carbon nanotubes can pick up a 150-ton locomotive up with these things.

JD: When can I hold a carbon nanotube in my hand… something made out of carbon nanotubes?

KH: If it was a really fine tube stretched really tight — like, say a thousandth of an inch in diameter — and you ran your hand through the thing, you'd have two pieces of hand.

RU: Let's go back to your origins. You've been interested in space for a really long time. Three decades ago we had the L5 Society. I've heard that the guy who now runs NASA Ames is sort of into the Gerard O'Neill concept of space colonies, so maybe that will come back. What do you think has happened with the movement towards space, and do you see some hope in the civilian programs? What do you think about human beings moving up there?

KH: I don't think it's going to happen.

RU: Never?

KH: No. Not to any serious extent. And the reason is… Second Life.

JD: Virtual reality?

KH: By the time we have the ability to get into space cheaply, it's going to be late 2030s or early 2040's. We may well be so far into the Singularity time that there won't be hardly any population left.

RU: Really?! So that's your analysis. You think that human beings will have been replaced? Or we'll have a Singularitarian disaster of some sort?

KH: I don't know. Even a singularity that isn't a disaster could easily wind up removing people's desire to go into space. Space was an adventure.

RU: There's also the idea that humans need a frontier. You think that disappears into cyberspace?

KH: It could easily happen. I was amazed by the fact that there are 300,000 people in Second Life, a year after it started.

RU: Yeah, I actually suspect that this is the Second Life, and that's the Third Life. And each version of it seems a little worse than the previous one.

Returning to our creepy friends in Scientology, there's a religion written by a science fiction writer. Rumor is, that L. Ron Hubbard started the religion to prove that he could. But it's sort of a science fictional religion. And certainly the areas that you've dealt with in your life have sort of a science fictional aspect also. So it's like some science fictional battle. There seems to be a great novel in there somewhere.



KH: Yeah, it's kind of interesting. My own connection with it started clear back when I was in 7th grade, and my mother read me Farmer in the Sky.

RU: Which is not by Hubbard, it's by Robert Heinlein.

KH: Heinlein. Hubbard was, at best, a third-rate science fiction writer. But he did manage to latch on to a technology that indeed works — it parts people with their money. By the way, if you want to find my theory paper on why this occurs, just Google sex drugs and cults.



See also:
"Scientology Fugitive" Arrested
Great Moments in the War Against the DMCA
California Cults
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Keith Henson on Memetics, Scientology and Evolutionary Psychology

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

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

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

Pregnant Nympho Sex

Pregnant Nymphos


Pregnant sex is hot.

My bulbous-bellied, hormonally-horny spouse is pursuing me around the house, ramming her enormous nipples into my mouth, ravaging my genitalia ten times a week.

She's usually a laid-back, bored type of lover, but lately, she can't get enough meat in her oven.

Nobody told me pregnancy entailed passionate, crazy, kinky boinking like this — truth is, I feared my wife would just get fat, bossy, fetid, weepy, and frigid. I even stockpiled porn, bunkering up for nine months of wanking that I'm now too drained to even consider.

"Blood is marching to my groin and mammary glands," moans my wife. "My pussy's always sopping wet because I'm in a constant state of desire."

I suspect she's just a heated freak, imagining things — but physicians back up her frothy analysis. In The Pregnancy Book: Month-by-Month, Everything You Need to Know From America's Baby Experts, authors William Sears, M.D. and Martha Sears, R.N. state that "some women become aroused more easily and climax more quickly, pleasurably, and frequently ... during the middle months of pregnancy, than at any other time in their lives."

Titillating promises also exist in the guidebook's "For Men" section: "Some women experience new cravings, stunning their mates with sudden and unexpected voracity. Don't be surprised if your pregnant partner turns tiger." Yabba-dabba-do!



Last Saturday, at our Prenatal Yoga class, I queried several other mothers-to-be about their maternal libidos: "My boobs are ripe and juicy, and my vagina is hungry," confesses Stephanie, in her seventh month. "I walk down the street thinking about sex with every man that passes by, because they smell musty like animals — when I get home, I immediately want it doggiestyle, because it's so comfortable."

"She's quicker!" grins her husband Darryl. "No half hour of grinding required, unless she wants multiple orgasms. Suddenly, I'm a stud!"

My wife is panting uncontrollably, her kundalini inflamed by the class's contortionist postures. Impatiently, she pulls on my belt, to hurry me home for some humping.

Ten minutes later, I'm getting naked-nookie-slurped again — this time, on the stairs. Used to be, her only erotic time-space was under the sheets when TV programs weren't promising, but now, every second and centimeter of the planet has copulatory potential.

What about my lust, you're wondering — does the wide-waisted waddler turn me on? YES! Why?
  1. It's Perverted. Mounting a pregger-lady is like screwing your Mom. Naughty. Incestuous. My cock stiffens now when I see nine-monthers struggling down the street.

  2. New Flesh. My wife's figure has bloomed so big, it feels like I'm cheating on her with a zaftig mistress — quite pleasurable, after the decade of skinny monogamy that I've suffered.

  3. Checking On Junior. This Daddy likes poking his head down the hallway, knocking on the cervix door to say "Hi!" to his son.

  4. Stress Reduction. If I wasn't romping wild with my wife, I'd just be worrying about college tuition, and my spawn metamorphosing into a Littleton monster.


My final advice to future fathers is this: Encourage your womb-mate to dabble in midwife quackery.

For example: My wife's never allowed me to enter her sphincter — but yesterday, she read in a midwifery text that her "perineum" needs softening, to help it expand elastically when our child is crowning. The perineum is a chunk of gristle lying nastily between rectum and vagina.

"You'll massage it for me, putting a finger in each hole, and squeezing hard," explains my wife.

"Goodie!" I agree.

"Eventually," she blushes, "something ... wider ... needs to stretch the tight cavity — my perineum needs pounding, like abalone..."

"This Dad will do his duty!" I promise. Finally, anal sex has family value!

See also:
Screech's Sex Tape Follies
World Sex Laws
Why Sarah Palin's Sex Life Matters
Japanese Nose Abuse

Create an Alien, Win A-Prize!


We won't discover the first alien lifeforms out amongst the stars, says Dr. Alan Goldstein. We will create them in our own laboratories.

Goldstein is a professor of bio-materials at Alfred University (currently on leave). He writes about nanotechnology and biotechnology for Salon and other publications. Goldstein recently conceived of The A-Prize, which is “awarded to the person or organization responsible for creating an Animat/Artificial lifeform with an emphasis on the safety of the researchers, public, and environment OR the person or organization who shows that an Animat/Artificial life form has been created." Goldstein's concept has been brought to life under the sponsorship of The Lifeboat Foundation.

So if you know about any Artificial Life forms, you can now win $26,300. (Or you may want to hold out until the cash winnings increase.)

I interviewed Dr. Goldstein over two episodes of NeoFiles
To listen the full interviews in MP3, click here and here.

See video here.

RU SIRIUS: You've convinced the Lifeboat Foundation to offer an A-prize for creating an "Animat" — or as I read it — for noticing that one exists. So what's an Animat and why are you offering a prize for making one?

ALAN GOLDSTEIN: Well, The X Prize was offered to induce people to achieve space flight. The capitalist concept is that private enterprise can do it better and more cheaply than the government. But there was another purpose – to make people consider the possibility that going into space wasn't actually that hard. Private people and private companies could get it together and make a vehicle and get into space.

So we designed the A-Prize to make people aware that creating synthetic lifeforms is not that hard either. Many people in many labs are working on it right now, and it will probably occur in the near future. So the A-Prize is broken up into two parts. You can win the A-Prize by being the first person or scientific group to invent a synthetic lifeform, or you can win the A-Prize by blowing the whistle on a person or group that has invented a synthetic lifeform. Many researches are afraid to be associated with the creation of a synthetic lifeform. So they might be making it, but they're not going to tell you. It could go unnoticed, and it probably will go unnoticed.

RU: And by your definition, an Animat is an artificial organism.

AG: In the article "I, Nanobot", I define lifeforms. And the central idea there is that a lifeform is any entity capable of executing a sequence of chemical or physical activities that result in the perpetuation or propagation of itself.

Why bother to define the difference between a biological lifeform and an artificial lifeform? So we will know one when we see one. It's like SETI, right? We're scanning outer space for signs of intelligent life, but who's scanning inner space? Who's watching for the invention of the first self-replicating, non-biological molecule? The answer is: no one. So the person who invents it might report it and they might not report it. If it's invented inside of a bio-defense laboratory, they probably won't report it.

RU: There are two things — there's secrecy, and there's also the possibility that somebody might not even think of it in those terms, and you think it's important enough to...

AG: Exactly! They're not looking for it. So it's really very simple. If you can accomplish everything you need to accomplish to go through your life cycle and the information for all of your activities can be stored in DNA and/or RNA, you are biological. In other words, if all of the code for your life processes can be stored in DNA — our genetic material – or RNA, the genetic material for some viruses and other organisms... you're biological. If you use any other form of chemistry to get through your life cycle, even one step of your life cycle, then you're something that has not been on earth for four billion years.

You know, most people think that DNA is the basis of life. In my opinion, that's not the correct way to look at it. DNA is the chemical programming language that evolution selected, so it's a chemical programming language that biological life forms use to replicate. But there's nothing special about DNA. It just won that particular evolutionary race.

RU: In the A-Prize statement, you write, "Considerable advancement in synthetic biology has been made recently." Can you point at anything particularly?

AG: In Berkeley last year, there was a synthetic biology meeting. It was called Synthetic Biology 2.0. Now, Synthetic Biology is supposed to be where we build biological life forms from the ground up. So we make the DNA. We make the genome, essentially — one base at a time. It's synthetic because we build it one molecule at a time, but in the end, we have a biological lifeform that works the way biological lifeforms (like us) do. But if you go to the website for Synthetic Biology, you will see that their logo is a single bacteria cell full of lasers and nano-wires and all kinds of synthetic, non-biological materials. So they've already violated their own definition in their logo. These people are so confused that they don't even know what they're talking about now!



RU: Let's back up a bit. The first discussions of Artificial Life that I was aware of popped up in the late 1980s. And at that time, people were really talking about stuff that was happening digitally on computers. They were talking about digital stuff that could imitate the way life evolves.

AG: That's the key to the problem! Nearly all the people interested in artificial and synthetic life come out of systems engineering and AI research. They don't understand that it's about the chemistry. Again, biological life is not based on DNA. DNA is just a particular chemical programming language that we happen to use. So when other chemical programming languages become available for replication, we will have non-biological lifeforms. And a non-biological lifeform, as I define it, is an artificial lifeform. Or an alien lifeform – we're actually talking about creating an alien lifeform. So the first alien lifeform will not come from the stars, right? It will come from ourselves. We will make it!

Imagine that I create a self-replicating silicon molecule that is a clot buster. It works just like some of the blood thinners that people take, but it is self-catalytic. When it binds to a biomolecule, it assumes a replicative form and makes a copy of itself. So it can be only one molecule — 45 atoms. But because it is self-replicating, it's a silicon-based life form. So if you're only interested in systems, in things that are complex enough to be AI, the fact that a self-replicating molecular entity that is not biological is a lifeform would slip right by you! You wouldn't even notice it. Why would you? You're not looking for it.

RU: The people behind the X Prize offered the prize because they actually want people to build vehicles that will go into space. Is the A-Prize really about raising public awareness or are you actually interested in seeing somebody create an Animat?

AG: It's inexorable. Artificial life forms will be generated. People are working on them right now. So the question is, should they be generated in secret? Should they be generated randomly? Should they be generated by whoever has enough money to generate them? Or should we formulate an organized, coherent set of definitions and guidelines, and work within those, just like we did with recombinant DNA? I'm not against this research — I do this research. But it needs to be regulated. And right now, it is completely unregulated.

RU: Well, why do you do the research? What can be accomplished by Animats?

AG: Well, it's just another form of chemistry, right? Until it begins to self-replicate, it's just an interesting way to build things. Molecular manufacturing and molecular self-assembly are the manufacturing systems of the future. There is a new industrial revolution coming – the molecular manufacturing revolution. And if we don't get on board, someone else will do it. It's not going to go away because America doesn't participate or because Alan Goldstein doesn't participate.

RU: So you're basically talking about the same sorts of promises and dangers that people have been talking about in terms of nanotechnology.

AG: Nanotechnology has become a completely meaningless term. What is really happening now is molecular engineering.

RU: Well, that's what Eric Drexler meant by nanotechnology.

AG: I advise calling it what it is: molecular engineering. And if you start mixing molecules from living organisms with molecules from non-living organisms, you create molecular hybrid entities. And if these things have the ability to self-replicate, what have you made? And if we don't have a set of definition, what do we even call it?

RU: One prize is for creating a safe Animat. How can you tell?

AG: The purpose of the A-Prize Is to draw attention to this question and then develop coherent guidelines under which to proceed. I was on the National Research Council Committee that reviewed the National Nanotechnology Initiative. It was a Congressionally mandated review of our government's nanotech program. We published the report on December 8. It became public property and sank without a trace. And one of the reasons why it sank is that it was completely sanitized. If you look at the section called "Responsible Development," it's just a bunch of fluff. There's nothing in there. All of the hard recommendations that I made essentially got lost in the editing process.

The bottom line is that molecular engineering is viewed by many as the next industrial revolution. So to certain people in government and in industry, responsible development of nanotechnology means we can't afford to lose the nanotechnology war. We can't let China beat us to the next industrial revolution. We can't let Korea beat us to the next industrial revolution. If we get beaten, we're irresponsible. We've lost our leadership. That's what responsible development means to these people. They're not worried about safety. In their minds, chemical safety plus biotechnology safety equals nanotechnology safety. But that's not true.

RU: So why is this development a threat to life?

AG: Because the behavior of an entity that is capable of using non-biological mechanisms of replication can't be predicted. We have experience with biohazards, which are biological organisms that are dangerous. And we have experience with chemical hazards. But we have no experience with Animats. So it's the apex of hubris for us to sit here and say, "Well, we know how this thing's going to behave." Because we have no bloody idea how this thing's going to behave.

RU: Do you have a vision of how things could go awry? There seem to be many science fictional possibilities.

AG: No, no — it can be very simple. For example, the most probable scenario is a viral nano-biotech weapon that goes out of control. Imagine a viral weapon that has added to it the capability to coat itself with diatom-like silica structures that would make it highly aerosolizable, and then to disperse it. And then, make it also highly resistant to chemical corrosion – to digestive acids. We've never seen a virus that can coat itself in spiky glass nano-particles. And no matter what anybody says inside the government or in industry, we don't know how to deal with that. And yet, that could be made — right here, right now. A large enough facility – a major pharmaceutical company or DARPA or the DOD could make it right now if they wanted to.

RU: Say I get an animat — what advantages might I wind up having?

AG: These synthetic forms of chemistry — the products of nanotechnology, if you want — will start off as therapies that let you live longer and healthier. But once these forms of chemistry are in your body, they can talk to your body in the language of chemistry. And they can learn. I mean, with genetically modified crops, people fear that the DNA we put in is going to learn a new trick. And the people that make GMOs say, "No, we taught this gene. This gene is only like a gene that's in the second grade." Or, "This gene has been intentionally blinded."

The bottom line is that DNA is a smart molecule. It's a smart material. It is capable of talking to the rest of the DNA, and talking to protein and other molecules in the cell, and maybe learning new things. With DNA we call that a mutation.

RU: So aside from getting rid of blood clots, suppose I wanted to make something really strange and amazing happen inside my body. Is there any potential there that you can think of? Can I grow a third arm?

AG: You know, I talked to a guy from UCSF that's doing what's called deep brain stimulation. They put electrodes deep inside your brain. And he's a wonderful person who is helping people that are in a lot of pain. But if they put electrical stimulation in the wrong place, then you can get other effects. Maybe you can induce depression or make someone hyperactive. Maybe if they put it in the right place, you could have a perpetual orgasm.



Once we learn where these connections are, we won't want to do anything as crude as putting electrodes in there. We will want to go in and bridge these circuits with carbon nanotubes or something like that. Right now you can tailor carbon nano-tubes to specifically block certain types of ion channels in the cell.

RU: How do you get that into the brain?

AG: You can have people breath it. Or you put in genes that will encode the bio-synthesis of carbon nano-tubes, which I'm sure will be happening in the near future.

Now, think about a bio-weapon that's a combination of nano/bio material. It gets into your body and the first thing it does is it runs a quick PCR assay on your DNA. It checks out genotype — finds out your ethnicity. If you have one of its targeted ethnicities, it releases carbon nano-tubes that block the neurotransmitter ion channels in the pacemaker cells of your heart. Bang. Instant heart attack. And our body doesn't know what to do with carbon nano-tubes. We have no natural defense against it. They're too big to be taken up by macrophages. If you haven't seen them before, you won't have antibodies against them.

RU: So this could be put into an aerosol spray….

AG: Right. Then you put the silicon coating on the surface...

RU: Then it just gets all the white people or all the Arabs or whatever…

AG: Yeah. Exactly. How about a bio-nanotech weapon that just makes your enemy so suicidally depressed they kill themselves?

RU: I think it's called "American Idol."

AG: Given the enormous potential for controlling the chemistry of biology with non-biological chemistry, it's inconceivable that people will not build these things.

RU: I thought it was kind of funny that Stewart Brand's Long Now Foundation sponsored a lecture by Vernor Vinge titled "What if the Singularity Doesn't Happen?" And 99% of the American people probably don't know what the fuck the singularity is and then a substantial segment of the scientific community thinks its bullshit. But for this one group, it's like a total stretch to imagine that it might not happen.

AG: The only Singularity that matters is the carbon barrier. Do you know what Ray Kurzweil's biggest problem is?

RU: That he blinks his eyes when he speaks…

AG: He still can't get outside the box enough to stop thinking like a human. And his Singularity is based on the idea that, even though we are no longer human beings, we will still want human things. That's a mistake. As we become more integrated with our technology, our psychology is going to change. So the idea that humans as we know them are going to hang around long enough for his type of Singularity to occur is specious. The real Singularity is breaking the carbon barrier. The day that we create a life form that requires a non-biological form of chemistry to propagate is the day that biological evolution changes forever.

RU: It would be pretty hard to develop a fiction narrative with nothing anthropomorphic about it. Can you think of anybody who's done that?

AG: Yes. James Tiptree Jr. wrote a beautiful story called "Love is the Plan, the Plan is Death," where she inhabited an insect mind, I think, very well. Read that story. I think she does a great job.

RU: So do you have any thoughts about what the Animat might want? Or about what we — in combination with the Animat — might desire?

AG: What if I was able to put a small form of self-replicating chemistry into you that homed to your epidermal cells and started generating photovoltaic energy for you; feeding it to your cells so that you could in effect harness the energy of the sun so you would feel better. You'd have more energy. You'd be a more high-powered individual.



Not only is that going to change the way your body metabolizes energy; it's going to change the way you feel. It's going to change the way you think. And if you start adding all of these non-biological enhancements over time, they will have a cumulative effect. This is something like a mutation. You don't see a biological mutation immediately. It has to be selected for. I use heat resistance as an example. Say some organism at the top of the Sierras gets a mutation in a crucial enzyme that allows it to operate in the Mojave. It doesn't say "Whee! I've got a great mutation! I'm going to run down to the Mojave and start propagating!" Over a few generations, it spreads down the side of the mountain and ends up in the Mojave. You don't see it until it gets there. You say, "Oh, there's a heat-tolerant version!" But you've got to backtrack to the original mutation to know when that actually happened.

So if we're not looking for molecular events — the implantation of synthetic chemistry into biological organisms — we're not going to know it when it happens.

See Also:
SF Writer Rudy Rucker: Everything Is Computation
Why Chicks Don't Dig The Singularity
Death No Thank You
There Won't Be Blood
The Mormon Bigfoot Genesis Theory


New Tool for Bloggers: Technorati Incoming Links Visualizer

Finally, a way to visualize a web page's new referrers. What's your "Incoming Link Rate?" Try it!

Technorati provides a nearly real-time tracking of incoming links — but the one thing they've always lacked is a way to visualize it. Now entering a URL below will generate a bar graph representing a site's last 100 incoming links. (Don't forget to include http://www )

It's possible the date of an incoming link could be in a different time zone (since that web page's server may be far away).

This means Technorati appears to see mysterious incoming links arriving from the future.

Other caveats: I limited the display to links from the current year. (And not all web sites are tracked by Technorati - so there's a chance they may not have a record of your web site, or other sites which linked to it.)
But the patterns offer strong visual clues about a site's popularity...

Many sites are so popular that displaying only 100 incoming links won't even cover a single day.

Their bar graph is one vertical line that could just as easily be labelled "part of today."

Other sites show a reassuring consistency. Suck.com, which stopped publishing in 2001, lives in the memory of enough web surfers to draw an ongoing trickle of new incoming links.

Most popular sites fall somewhere in between.
                         

Though some older sites have nearly been forgotten...


Technorati likes to say they reflect the "live" web -- an "always-updating" sample of the most recent links. They describe the value of their database as "Who's saying what. Right now." But if so, these graphs reflect the pace of that conversation -- or how loudly the crowd is whispering.



Technorati now tracks 74.7 million blogs, but most bloggers are only interested in one statistic: how many of them are linking to me? I like to think these visual graphs provide a fun answer, in the form of a digital pH strip.

When your site is popular, it turns black!

See Also:
Jimmy Wales Will Destroy Google
When Lego Goes to War
Sex For Meme's Sake

Should YouTube Hear Me?


Brandon Fletcher





Last week YouTube got a visit from a 19-year-old New Yorker who wanted his video on their front page. Brandon Fletcher says he tried emailing YouTube, but when that failed, he bought an airplane ticket to Silicon Valley. "If you believe in something — do whatever it takes to make your dream come to reality," Brandon announced grandiosely on his MySpace page. But he's also keeping a video blog of the journey — which of course puts additional pressure on YouTube.

Is this the latest craze — storming a corporation's headquarters and demanding that they listen to you?



Brandon says he was inspired by Aaron Stanton, a 25-year-old developer who pushed and shoved his way into a meeting with YouTube's owners last month. Aaron chronicled his surprise visit in a video blog called Can Google Hear Me?, and ultimately the company invited him in to hear his big idea. It was only a matter of time before someone else tried the same trick. One of Aaron's newly-recruited programmers even emailed Brandon to offer him encouragement.

But not everyone condones the tactic. After wishing him luck, Rocketboom's Joanne Colan added cynically (but ever-so-sweetly) "Try not to freak them out or anything." And one reporter even asked Brandon, "Why should you get special treatment?" (Brandon responded that his video has "a substantial amount" of subscribers, "so I'm basically getting to the bottom of it to see why it hasn't been featured yet.")

Does Brandon have "a substantial amount" of subscribers? He refused to identify his special video for ZDNet, acknowledging only that it's a reality show. But searching on the name of Brandon's enterprise pulls up a casting call for an online dating show, an ad for that dating show on CraigsList, and a page for the dating show on YouTube. (Which someone named Brandon has submitted to Digg.) And more importantly: that show has just 71 subscribers.

Nevertheless, Brandon appears undeterred. After touching down at the San Francisco airport, Brandon's first order of business was hiring a videographer to make sure his march on YouTube was documented. "I'm staying with a friend from high school," he told us at the time, and he spent over a week in the Bay Area before he was finally ready to make his move. "I woke up to a barrage of negative e-mails and comments full of criticism," Brandon wrote on his blog, "which only fueled my desire to succeed even more." Last Thursday the glorious moment came, and he posted the results in his video blog.

"'Security' doesn't let us off the elevator."

Brandon writes that "people from the YouTube office recognized me, and let me know that EVERYONE knew about the site and were waiting on my arrival..." He talked to two employees who gave him some t-shirts, some advice, and some free bottled water. But they both refused to be filmed.

Brandon says he showed them his idea, and they loved it. But he still hasn't made YouTube's front page. Which means he'll have to decide his next move for promoting the show: either creating another campaign — or pestering YouTube some more.



It's surprising that there's been such tolerance of what is now a de facto open-door policy for anyone who wants to use guerrilla tactics to tap into the rock star-making power of GooTube. Sure, Brandon was met by security and there's no indication that his gambit is gonna get his video on the home page of YouTube, but nonetheless, to anyone who hears or sees his story, it can only be encouraging that he got as far as he did without being man-handled by surly armed guards.

In his video blog he announces that "the mission isn't complete yet. I guess the journey never ends."

Good luck, Brandon.

But try not to freak them out, or anything.



See Also:
YouTube, the 20-Year-Old, and Date Unknown
Google Heard Me, Now What?
Worst Video Blogs of 2006
How the iPod Changes Culture
Jimmie Wales Will Destroy Google

Before...

After...

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

Homeland Security Follies

Bruce Schneier
According to the sleeve of his latest book, Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly About Security, "in an Uncertain World, Bruce Schneier is the go-to security expert for business leaders and policy makers." If only the policy makers would listen, we'd be safer, happier and still free.

Other books include Applied Cryptography, described by Wired as "the book the NSA wanted never to be published."

Beyond Fear deals with security issues ranging from personal safety to national security and terrorism. Schneier is also a frequent contributor to Wired magazine, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and many other fine periodicals. He also writes a monthly newsletter, Cryptogram.

I interviewed him on The RU Sirius Show.

RU SIRIUS: First of all, why did you become a security expert? Were you a secure child? Did anybody steal your lunchbox at school?

BRUCE SCHNEIER: I don't think I had any defining security episodes in my life, but I think you're right that security is something you're born with. It's a mentality. I remember as a kid walking into stores and figuring out how to shoplift — looking where the cameras were. You're born with a mindset where you look at security in terms of a system and figure out how to get around it. It's a hacker mentality. So doing security just was natural for me.



RU: I want to get right into the political area of security against terrorism. You wrote that security works better if it's centrally coordinated but implemented in a distributed manner. Tell us a little bit about that and maybe say a bit about how that might work.

BS: In security — especially something as broad as national security – it's important that there be a lot of central coordination. You can't have people in one area doing one thing, and people in another area doing another thing, and then not have them talking to each other. So sharing information across jurisdictions and up and down the line of command is important. When things happen, you need a lot of coordination and you can see coordination failures again and again. In the aftermath of 9/11, Hurricane Katrina there was a lot of replication of effort. A lot of things that were obvious… everyone thought someone else was doing. But the other half of that is distributed implementation. You can't be so rigid that your people in the field can't make decisions. In security today, we see smart people being replaced by rules. A great example is the Transportation Security Administration. They will blindly follow the stupidest rule rather than using common sense. Security works much better when the individuals at the point of security — the guards, the policemen, the customs agents — are well-trained and have the ability to follow their instincts. Think about how September 11 could have been prevented. A field agent in Minnesota was really first to put her finger on the plot, but she couldn't get her voice heard. And she didn't have the power to do anything herself. When you look at the real successes against terrorism at the borders, it's not custom agents following rules, but noticing something suspicious, and then following their instincts. So security works best when it's centrally coordinated, but distributedly implemented. A great example is the Marine Corps. That's their model. There's a lot of coordination, but individual marines in the field have a lot of autonomy. They're trained well, and they're trusted. And because of that, it's a good fighting force.

RU: You're talking about de-centralization, basically — the organizations making decisions on the local level.

BS: Right. Another analogy is the human body. There's a lot of coordination, but it's a very distributed organism. The pieces of our body do things autonomously, without waiting for approval. There's a lot of communication back and forth, a lot of coordination, but different pieces have their job, and they're empowered to do it. And it's robust and reliable because of that.

RU: What about radically democratized security, like Open Source kinds of efforts involving citizens?

BS: It's good and bad depending on how it works. I like Open Source intelligence. I like Open Source information gathering and dissemination. There's a lot of value in that. The downside of that is something like Total Information Awareness — TIA — where you have citizens basically spying on each other. And there you get pretty much nothing but false alarms. People will turn each other in because their food smells funny or they don't pray at the right time. Done right, a radically democratized, distributed security model works. Done wrong, you get East Germany where everyone spies on their friends.

RU: They were trying to get the postmen to spy on us for a while.

BS: Right. They were going to have postmen and the meter readers. That will work well if the postmen are properly trained. Where that will fail: if you tell a bunch of postmen, "Report anything suspicious." Because honestly, they don't know what "suspicious" looks like in this context. So the question is: given all the police resources we have, what should they be doing? I don't want the government chasing all the false alarms from the postmen and meter readers when they could be doing something more useful. So that's a bad use. If you train them properly, you'll have something better. But then you don't have a postman any more. You have a security officer.

Think of a customs agent. They're going to watch people, and they're going to look for something suspicious. But they're trained in how to do it. So they're less likely to be overtly racist or a fool for dumb profiles. They're more likely to look for things that are actually suspicious. So it's a matter of training. And that's pretty much true of Open Source security models. Think of Open Source software. Having a bunch of random people look at the code to tell you if it's secure won't work. If you have well-trained people who look at the code, that will work! Open Source just means you can see it, it doesn't guarantee that the right people will see it.

RU: Even with trained security people, it seems like they make an awful lot of errors. It seems like America, over the past few years, really has that "Can't Do" spirit. Is there anything you can tell us about trained security people, and how they could improve their efforts.

BS: Well, they're always going to make errors. Fundamentally, that's a problem in the mathematics called the base rate fallacy. There are simply so few terrorists out there that even a highly accurate test, whether automatic or human-based, will almost always bring false alarms. That's just the way the math works. The trick is to minimize the false alarms.

You've got to look at the false alarms versus the real alarms versus the real attacks missed — look at all the numbers together. But terrorist attacks are rare. They almost never happen. No matter how good you are, if you stop someone in airport security, it's going to be a false alarm, overwhelmingly. Once every few years, it'll be a real planned attack… maybe not even that frequently.

With training, you're less likely to stop someone based on a dumb reason. When airport security stops a grandma with a pocketknife, that's a false alarm. That's not a success. That's a failure. It's, of course, ridiculous. So the trick is to alarm on things that are actually suspicious so you'd spend your time wisely. But the fact that almost everybody will still end up being a false alarm — that's just the nature of the problem.

RU: Most of us experience the so-called "War on Terror" in one place, and that's at the airport. What are they doing right, and what are they doing wrong at the airports? Are they doing anything right?

BS: (Laughs) Since September 11, exactly two things have made us safer. The first one is reinforcing the cockpit door. That should have been done decades ago. The second one is that passengers are convinced they have to fight back, which happened automatically. You can argue that sky marshals are also effective. I'm not convinced. And actually, if you pretend you have sky marshals, you don't even actually have to have them. The benefit of sky marshals is in the belief in them, not in the execution.

Everything else is window dressing — security theater. It's all been a waste of money and time. Heightened airport security at the passenger point of screening has been a waste of time. It's caught exactly nobody; it's just inconvenienced lots of people. The No Fly List has been a complete waste of time. It's caught exactly nobody. The color-coded threat alerts – I see no value there.



RU: A recent BoingBoing headline read "TSA missed 90% of bombs at Denver airport." (Obviously they weren't talking about real bombs, but a test.)

BS: And the real news there is it wasn't even surprising. This is consistent in TSA tests both before and after 9/11. We haven't gotten any better. We're spending a lot more money, we're pissing off a lot more fliers, and we're not doing any better.

There's a game we're playing, right? Think about airport security. We take away guns and bombs, so the terrorists use box cutters. So we take away box cutters and small knives, and they put explosives in their shoes. So we screen shoes and they use liquids. Now we take away liquids; they're going to do something else. This is a game we can't win. I'm sick of playing it. I'd rather play a game we can win.

RU: The reactive thing is terribly absurd. The whole shoe-bomber thing — my ongoing joke is that if he were an ass bomber, taxpayers would now be buying a lot of Vaseline.

What do you think about John Gilmore's court fight — that he shouldn't have to present an ID to fly inside the country. Do you think that's a legitimate goal?

BS: I don't know the legal and constitutional issues. I know they're very complex and he unfortunately lost his case on constitutional grounds. For security purposes, there's absolutely no point in having people show a photo ID. If you think about it, everybody has a photo ID. All the 9/11 terrorists had a photo ID. The Unabomber had one. Timothy McVeigh had one. The D.C. snipers had one; you have one; I have one. We pretend there's this big master list of bad guys and if we look you up against the list, we'll know if you're a bad guy and we won't let you on the plane. It's completely absurd. We have no such list. The no-fly list we have is full of innocent people. It catches nobody who's guilty and everybody's who's innocent. Even if your name is Osama bin Laden, you can easily fly under someone else's name. This isn't even hard. So there is absolutely no value to the photo ID check. I applaud Gilmore based on the fact that this is a complete waste of security money.

RU: So if you were in charge of airport security, are there any things that you would implement?

BS: I think we should ratchet passenger screening down to pre-9/11 levels. I like seeing positive bag matching. That's something that was done in Europe for decades. The U.S. airlines screamed and screamed and refused to do it, and now they are.

Really, I would take all the extra money for airport security and have well-trained guards, both uniformed and plainclothes, walking through the airports looking for suspicious people. That's what I would do. And I would just give back the rest of the money. If we secure our airport and the terrorists go bomb shopping malls, we've wasted our money. I dislike security measures that require us to guess the plot correctly because if you guess wrong, it's a waste of money. And it's not even a fair game. It's not like we pick our security, they pick their plot, we see who wins. The game is we pick our security, they look at our security, and then they pick their plot. The way to spend money on security – airport security, and security in general — is intelligence investigation and emergency response. These are the things that will be effective regardless of what the terrorists are planning.

RU: You emphasize intelligence. Is there any truth to the claims made by various agencies that intelligence people couldn't do things that they should have been able to do to protect us because of the Church Committee rules in the mid-1970s?

BS: I think that's overstated. The controls that the Church Committee put in place made a lot of sense. The purpose was to stop very serious abuses by law enforcement — by the police, the NSA, and the CIA. If you look at the failures of 9/11, they weren't based on the Church Commission restrictions. So I think we're making a mistake by dismantling those protections. In effect, those are also security measures that protect us from government abuses. Unfortunately, those abuses are far more common than terrorist attacks.

RU: Do you ever watch the TV show Numb3rs?

BS: I don't. People tell me I should, and I do see plot summaries occasionally — but no, I'm not a big TV person.

RU: It's pretty amusing. But it makes it look like if you combined data mining with some complexity theory, you could predict everything anybody will do, and exactly when and where they'll show up.

BS: If that was true, there'd be a lot more people making money on Wall Street, wouldn't there?

RU: Right. What are the limitations of data-mining? You find data mining pretty much useless in the case of terrorism, but you find it useful in other areas.

BS: Data mining is a really interesting and valuable area of mathematics and science, and it has phenomenal value. The data mining success story is in credit cards. The credit card companies use data mining to constantly look at the stream of credit card transactions, and find credit cards that have been stolen. It works because credit card thieves are relatively numerous. There's some percentage of credit cards that are stolen every year and credit card thieves tend to follow standard profiles. When mine was stolen, the fraudster bought gas first (you do that to test that the card is valid), and then went to a large department store — they went to Canadian tire — and bought a bunch of things that were easily fence-able. So my credit card company caught that immediately. So there are a lot of thieves with a well-defined profile and then also the cost for false alarms isn't that great. Most of the time, the company calls us to check, and we're happy to receive the call. Or in extreme cases, they cut off the card, and you have to call and get it reinstated

It doesn't work well looking for terrorists. The number of terrorists, with respect to the general population, is infinitesimally smaller than the number of credit card fraudsters to the number of credit cards. Also, there is no well-defined profile. You know, you hear all sorts of things that are supposed to profile terrorists — people who move suddenly — one-fifth of the population does that. Or who you talk to and communicate with. Lots of people have weird friends. In a lot of ways, a surprise birthday party looks like a terrorist attack. The only difference is how it's executed. So you don't have this large database of existing events that you can data-mine for a profile.

The other problem is that false alarms are expensive! For a credit card, they're cheap — a phone call, or you turn off the card, and they have to reinstate it. In looking for a terrorist plot, a false alarm costs maybe three weeks work from a handful of FBI agents? It's an enormous amount of money and an enormous amount of effort. So when you apply the math to looking for terrorist attacks, you have no good profile; there are so many false alarms you'll never find a real attack; and the false alarms are so expensive that they divert resources from what could be actually useful anti-terrorist activities. So I don't think it's ever going to work. The numbers are just not on your side.

It is far more valuable to do traditional police investigative work. Think of what caught the London liquid bombers. It wasn't data mining. It wasn't profiling at the airports. It wasn't any of these new-fangled ideas. It was old-fashioned detective work — following the lead. It was smart investigators investigating. It's not sexy, but it's effective. Before diverting resources from that, you better have something really good. And data mining isn't.

RU: I guess the idea of Total Information Awareness would seem sexy to some portion of the geek population. That's where it came from!

BS: We're so desperate to find ways to harness technology to solve the problem. We're used to that working in other areas of society — just apply more computing power, you get better results.

This is fundamentally a human problem. It's not a data problem. It's a problem of human intelligence connecting the dots. If I'm looking for a needle in a haystack, throwing more hay on the pile isn't going to solve my problem.

I need a better way to methodically follow the lead into the haystack to the needle. Another lesson of the liquid plot is that if they got to the airport, it would've gotten through. It would've gotten through all the enhanced screening; it would've gotten through all the enhanced profiling. The reason it failed had nothing to do with airport security.

RU: Moving on from terrorism, but still thinking about haystacks — you have a bit in "Beyond Fear" about learning about security from insects, which I found really fascinating. What can we learn from insects?

BS: There's a lot to be learned from security from the natural world in general. All species have evolved as security beings — we need to survive enough to reproduce. We need to be able to protect our offspring so they can survive. We need to protect our food supply. We attack other creatures to kill them and eat them. There's so much security interplay in the natural world. And it's a great source of strategies and anecdotes. I find insects particularly valuable, because they evolve so quickly. You see so many interesting strategies in the insect world, because of the wacky evolutionary turns they take. Evolution doesn't give you the optimal security measure. Evolution tries security measures at random, and stops at the first one that just barely works. So you tend to get really weird security in the insect world. You do get some real neat examples of distributed security measures. Think of the way ants protect their colony. There are ant species that just wander around randomly, and if they hit a predator or a threat, they run right back to their colony to alert everybody. Individual ants are very cheap and very expendable, so if you have cheap resources, you just sort of do random things.

The lima bean plant is interesting. Effectively, when a certain mite attacks it, it calls an air strike. It releases a chemical that attracts a predator mite that will eat the mite that's attacking it. Very clever.

RU: We are moving into a society very much like the ones that have been written about in various cyberpunk novels in the early 90s. We can imagine people running around with suitcase nukes and bioterror or nanoterror weapons that are extraordinary. This kind of destructive power is moving from the government to the small group to the individual. Does that imply a need for a Total Surveillance society — basically, we need to watch everything everybody is doing, all the time?

BS: I don't think it implies that. It does imply we need some kind of different security. I think society is inherently good. Most people are inherently honest. Society would fall apart if that weren't true. In a sense, crime and terrorism is a tax on the honest. I mean, all of security is a tax. It taxes us honest people to protect against the dishonest people. The dishonest people are noise in the smooth running of society. The attacker gets a lot more leverage when the noise becomes greater – so in a complex society, a single person can do a lot more disrupting. But I don't believe that surveiling everybody will solve the problem. We have to start thinking about different ways to cope with these problems. But I sort of discount massive surveilance as ineffective. I don't even need to say: "I don't want to live in a society that has that."



RU: So let's say President Obama asks you to be the Homeland Security director. If you accepted, what would you do with it?

BS: If I was in charge of Homeland Security, I would spend money on intelligence investigation and emergency response. That's where I'll get the best value. And I think there is security inherent in civil liberties, in privacy and freedom. So I wouldn't be messing with that.

RU: Before I let you go, what are you exploring now?

BS: In the past, I've done a lot of work in the economics of security. Now I'm researching the human side of security — the psychology of security. I'm looking into how people make security decisions, how they react to security. Why is it that we're getting security wrong? Why is it that people fall for security theater instead of doing what makes sense? And it turns out there's a lot of very interesting things about how the brain works, how we process security trade-offs. I'm researching that. There's an enormous body of research that hasn't really been applied to the technological community. I'm really new to this research, but there's a lot there to look at.

See also:
Is Iraq Really THAT Bad?
Catching Up with an Aqua Teen Terrorist
20 Secrets of an Infamous Dead Spy
Detention and Torture: Are We Still Free Or Not?

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

5 Best Videos: Animals Attacking Reporters

It’s cruel to even want to watch these videos. You do know that, right? Not just because people are attacked by animals. The added cruelty is you'll be enjoying an animal attack on a human who only wanted to enlighten you.

At least that’s what they’d have us believe. Reporters doing animal reports stand there delivering information like some objective beacons of knowledge, when we all know the level of vanity required to presume you belong on camera — especially with animals. We all know this because, on some level, we all desire it.

Leave it to non-humans to rip aside this facade — and leave nothing but gashes and bruises for the world to see.


1. Jeff Corwin and the Elephant



Coming to you from an "elephant rescue center" in Cambodia, Animal Planet's Jeff Corwin (rhymes with "Steve Erwin" in Australia) stands between CNN's Anderson Cooper and a bathing pachyderm.



This clip aired as part of CNN's own segment, "most popular video @ CNN.com". It's presented by a cute blonde who, safe back at the studios, "reports" on the horrific details everyone is ROTFLing about in front of their PCs. Hear the other anchor chuckle and say "gosh..." as Corwin, voted one of People Magazine's "most beautiful people" in 2002, screams in pain with the elephant's trunk constricting around his arm and thrashing him underwater. "We understand he was hurt," says the blonde. "Watch it one more time..."

Then one of the elephant handlers zaps the animal with a cattle prod as iron man Anderson Cooper, with seemingly no regard for his own well-being, calmly helps Corwin out of the water. There were claims on the internet that the elephant was euthanized afterwards, but that claim is disputed by Corwin. Corwin also claims to be related to Dracula.


2. "This Little Guy's Havin' Fun"



In yet another case of TV news cannibalism, a local Fox channel in Cleveland delivers a report on a reporter's report (because of popular demand, of course) — in which she gets attacked by a cat. This time it's the cute blonde reporter, Kathleen Cochrane, who gets the business end of a pair of sharp claws.

"No, no, no," insists Cochrane in a post-interview, "I was not crying. I was instantly laughing." Decide for yourself if, after the cat releases her face from its claws, she doesn't give a bit of a whimper.

Because angry animals + television cameras = irony, this had to be a sympathy piece as well. The storyline: Becky the cat, who we later see playfully and oh-so-sweetly leaping around an empty studio desk, is up for adoption. Poor Becky the cat had been shot by a BB gun, broke her front leg, and had her tail torn off. Reporter Cochrane was only trying to help.

As the male anchor in the studio puts it: "Becky is a very 'special' cat, who just needs a good home."


3. The Calmest Member of the Farm



The reporter in this short and sweet piece is foreign, and the clip is narrated by an English speaker. She introduces the bear, Manya, "the calmest member of the farm," to emphasize just how ruthless bears can be. Right before the dreadful moment, the reporter is laughing, and we see just how badly humans are at reading animals. She is giggling, interpreting the bear's nose nudges and tongue-flaps as playful, or even affectionate.

I think you know what happens next.


4. Pinky the Loving Cat



This is a classic, and always worth another look. Kathleen Cochrane should have watched it before doing her piece, because it's also an attempt to find a home for an orphaned cat.

"Son of a bitch," says Pinky's male human benefactor, after the attack. "Excuse my language."

After what you just went through? You are excused! Seriously. There isn't a cartoon by Chuck Jones that portrays an animal more outlandishly animated than what we see in this video. If cats can be possessed by demons, then I'd swear at least half a dozen came into Pinky's body at once — half a dozen demons starving for human testicles.



"He's a very loving cat," says the man right before the banshees arrive and Pinky starts pinwheeling on the end of his leash.

"We got a wildcat on our hands," the man jokes unsuspectingly. "Someone get a catch pole cuz I'm not picking him up." Pinky tangles himself in the leash around the man's upper leg, then strikes with his teeth and claws, bearing down on fleshy human groin meat.

The next time you hear someone utter sarcastically, "Yeah, and Pinky's a very loving cat," you'll know they're calling bullshit on something.


5. Leaping Lizard



This one is pretty light-hearted. In fact, except for the utter panic of the reporter, it doesn't qualify as an "attack." The lizard probably thought the dude was a tree or something.

Right from the start, double-entendre sets the mood. "Let's see how long it is, let's hold it out," says the anchorman regarding a snake that his animal handling guest is showcasing. But one of the lizards waiting off to the side gets, well, jumpy.

It might as well have been a ravenous land barracuda that hurled itself onto the reporter's jacket, because that's the only thing warranting the girlie reaction that results. Almost as amusing is watching him then try to deal with his own embarrassment.


Bonus: When People Attack



This is the fiercest confrontation of all, and it shows that animals aren't the only ones who will attack reporters. It's so bad, Matt Lauer asks the reporter later why the cameraman didn't stop taping to help. (It's not like he was in the Sudan or something — this was San Diego!)



Investigative reporter John Mattes is ambushed by "suspects" in his real estate scam piece. The buildup is raw and intense, starting with water thrown on the camera and ending with Middle Easterners being arrested at gunpoint. In between there are strikes to the face, punches to the face, tackling, kicking — and blood.

As the anchor puts it: "Mattes told CNN he suffered cracked ribs and human bite marks, along with the obvious damage to his face..."

We humans are so evolved...


See also:
Iraq YouTube Battle Footage
10 Video Moments from 2006
2007 Re-Mixed
The Simpsons on Drugs: 6 Trippiest Scenes

Prescription Ecstasy and Other Pipe Dreams

Ecstacy pills

Are psychedelic drugs medicinal? Can you picture yourself walking into the neighborhood pharmacy with prescriptions for ecstasy (MDMA) and psilocybin?

If MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies) has its way, the days of prescription psychedelics may not be too far away. For those who know the history of psychedelic research, this eventuality has been a long time coming. But others — who may only be familiar with the intense emotions and activities around the "War On Drugs" over the past several decades — may be surprised to learn how much progress MAPS has made.



Jag Davies is the Director of Communications for MAPS, a non-profit research and education organization that assists scientists to design, obtain approval for, fund, conduct and report on research into the healing and spiritual potentials of psychedelics and marijuana. He joined Steve Robles, Jeff Diehl and myself on The RU Sirius Show.

Let it be said that Mr. Davies has the patience of a saint (and a sense of humor). Despite the fact that we were unable to resist the urge to crack drug jokes throughout, Jag managed to convey vast quantities of important information about psychedelic research.

DRUG I: MARIJUANA

RU SIRIUS: We should all drink a toast! You have some good news about marijuana research. Why don't you share some of that stuff with us?

JAG DAVIES: Sure. We just found out on February 12 that a DEA administrative law judge ruled in favor of MAPS in our lawsuit against the DEA.

MAPS would like to design and fund and do the FDA clinical trials necessary to get marijuana approved as a prescription medicine. It's never been put through the FDA clinical trials to see if it meet the standards for safety and efficacy of any other drug under certain conditions.

The reason that hasn't happened is because the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has a monopoly on the supply of research-grade marijuana. It's the only Schedule 1 controlled substance where the federal government has a monopoly on the production.

So what MAPS has been trying to do for the past six years is start an independent medical marijuana production facility. We're working with professor Lyle Craker, who's the director of the medicinal plant program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He had no history of working with marijuana, but he's a very well rounded botanist. In 2001, we sent NIDA an application, and first they took a year to tell us they had lost it. Their primary strategy is delay. (Laughs) And then they took another three years to reject it. And when they reject an application, there is a formal process where you can request a hearing with a DEA Administrative Law Judge. But the DEA's power is so unchecked that even once the ruling is decided in your favor, they can reject it. So there was this two-year hearing. We were represented by the ACLU and some Washington D.C. law firms. And the case took about two years for the judge to rule on our side. But now the DEA can still decide whether to accept or reject the recommendation. So there's still a lot more work to be done. But it was an 87-page recommendation. The judge rebuked all of the DEA's arguments and explained why NIDA needs to stop obstructing legitimate scientific research. So it's very exciting.

RU: The DEA is famous for ignoring their administrative judges. I remember their Administrative Judge made a strong ruling against making Ecstasy Schedule One in the '80s. And they proceeded to completely ignore it. The DEA is the Politburo of America.

It sounds like you guys are trying to unhook a little Catch 22 there. You can have marijuana experiments, but you can't have the marijuana to do the experiments.

JAG: Yeah. Well, you can't do FDA-approved research without the legal supply, and the only legal supply for research would come from NIDA. So once you get a study approved by the FDA, then you have to go through an entirely separate review process, through NIDA and PHS (Public Health Service),which is part of Health and Human Services. They have three to six months to respond. By contrast, the FDA has thirty days to respond. And there's no formal appeals process. So they basically can arbitrarily decide what they want to do.

JEFF DIEHL: Is it MAPS policy that marijuana should only be available through a prescription?

JAG: Not in the long-term. Our long-term goal is to regulate all drugs for different uses, because we don't think drug prohibition works. It's not sound public policy. But our strategy for the foreseeable future—at least for the next five to ten years—is working only on these medical cases, because that's what the public is most comfortable with. It's really a strategic decision. But we don't think marijuana should be illegal for recreational purposes either.



STEVE ROBLES: But the problem is—going through agencies like NIDA is kind of like being in Germany in 1939 and asking Hitler for Passover off. I mean, they're beyond resistant — they're hostile.

JAG: But Congress does control their funding. So if there was a major political push from Congress… if they felt that there was really going to be a political backlash... In 1989, DEA Administrative Law Judge Francis Young recommended that marijuana be re-scheduled to Schedule 3. And they didn'tdo it. But that would have been much more drastic measure than what we're trying to do. We're just trying to get them to allow for a research supply. What we're asking for is so conservative, really.

JEFF: Are these DEA judges appointed? How do they get in their positions?

JAG:: They're appointed by the Department of Justice. The DEA is part of the Department of Justice.

RU: There doesn't seem to be much percentage in being reasonable about pot for a politician. Even though a lot of people smoke marijuana, there doesn't seem to be a lot of people who feel strongly about it as an issue at the national level.

SR: I always say it needs to be "Datelined" to appeal to the public. Say somebody like Bob Dole is begging for medical marijuana while he's rotting away from cancer.

RU: You guys got support in this recent case from the Senators from Massachusetts—Ted Kennedy and John Kerry. And we all know about John Kerry. (OK, we don't. But I've heard rumors that Kerry still tokes.)

SR: Which explains how he fucked up in the last election. I love pot, but…

JEFF: "Whatever, man. It'll all work itself out." (Laughter)

SR: "I'm not gonna let him kill my buzz." (Laughter)

JAG: We got 38 representatives to sign on to a letter of support before the judge made the ruling. We're headed for a bigger sign-on support letter in the Senate and we've got a few months to formulate a political response. In the '80s when Francis Young made his recommendations, there was hardly any political support. The only organization doing any work was NORML, and they were small and had some issues. There's much more of an infrastructure now behind all of these different drug policy organizations that are going to help us. And there are already 160 congresspeople that voted in favor of the Hinchey Medical Marijuana Amendment. And there's a former conservative Republican representative that is going to be lobbying in support of this case. I can't say who it is. We can't announce it for about a month.

RU: Bob Barr!

JAG: (Laughs) I can't say anything.

RU: Bingo! (Laughter)

JEFF: We got it first! Isn't it the case that everybody is taking all these high-grade mood-altering pharmaceuticals now—all the anti-depressants—stuff that really has a strong effect on your daily functioning. So it seems like it's a little bit more difficult to be against even the study of marijuana as a possible prescription substance.

JAG: Yeah, it's like people are used to the concept.

JEFF:: … of "dosing," basically.

RU: As a culture, we're pretty conscious of chemical mind alteration.

DRUG II: ECSTASY (MDMA)

RU: Let's move on to ecstasy. We're going to do one drug at a time.

JEFF: Should've done that first! It takes too long to kick in, man.



RU: So a while back, MAPS got approval for a study in MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. Where are we at with that?

JAG: It's almost over. They've treated 15 out of 20 patients. It's very slow. There are lots of pre-conditions for the study because it's such a controversial substance. But the results are ridiculous. Their CAPS score—(CAPS is the Clinician Administered PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] Scale) is about five times higher than in treating chronic treatment-resistant patients with Zoloft. It's very likely that we're going to be able to go on to do our next set up studies—Phase III studies. And there are a whole other slew of studies that are sort of copying this one that we're doing in a bunch of other places like Switzerland, and Israel, just to be sure.

JEFF: So does it look like MDMA is going to become something that's used pharmaceutically?

JAG: After careful analysis, we decided that MDMA is probably the most likely of any psychedelic drug to get approved. First of all, it has a very gentle sort of pharmacological profile.

But the other reason is sort of interesting. People ask us, "Why don't you try MDE or MDA, drugs without the same cultural connotation." It would be easier politically. But because it was so demonized by the government in the 1980s and 1990s, there has been hundreds of millions of dollars of research done into its risks. So they've done all the work for us!

RU: You mentioned a comparison to Zoloft, the implication being that MDMA could be an effective anti-depressant.

JAG: The difference is that MDMA is not used on a daily basis. That's why there's not a profit incentive.

RU: But what would the prescription be — once a month? Or ten sessions?

JEFF: They didn't dose them daily in the study?

JAG: No, not at all. They do about 15 regular psychotherapy sessions. And then with two or three of them, depending on the study, there are sessions where the person takes either a placebo or the MDMA. It's very methodologically rigorous. It's double-blind and you don't know if you got the placebo or not.

With something like Ritalin, you have to keep taking it every day or every week or whatever. With MDMA, or a psychedelic drug that you use in conjunction with therapy, which is how we're trying to get it approved, you would only use it maybe five times at the most. So the incentive to make money isn't there.

JEFF: What kind of dosage did they use? Was it comparable to a street hit?

JAG: Actually, it's a bit larger than a street hit. It's 125 milligrams pure. And then we actually got approval about halfway through the study to make a couple of changes. One of them was to take a booster dose, basically, although we call it a "supplemental" dose. They take another 60 milligrams about an hour and half into it.

JEFF: You're not calling it "a bump"? (Laughter)

RU: It's been easier to do studies in Europe for a while, hasn't it? I seem to remember that stuff was happening in one of the Scandinavian countries in the early '90s.

JAG: There's been work in Switzerland, although not with psychotherapy. And we just got a study that's already ongoing in Switzerland with MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for post-traumatic stress disorder. And then there's another study that's about to get approved this year for LSD-assisted psychotherapy for end-of-life anxiety. And that would be the first LSD psychotherapy study, or the first real study looking at LSD's benefits at all, anywhere in the world.

RU: Most of the countries in Europe don't have a drug war at the level of intensity that we have here. There have been some experiments allowed, and there have been various levels of drug decriminalization in a lot of countries. In Amsterdam and London, you can buy mushrooms quasi-legally. So why aren't we hearing about how their societies have been changed by the relative freedom to experiment with psychedelic drugs? Why aren't we hearing, "Wow. Look at what's happening here. Everybody's so enlightened!"

JAG: Well, things are better. At least as far as drug prohibition-related harm goes, it's a lot better. Their prison populations are incredibly lower. But I think more people use marijuana and psychedelics in the U.S. than in those countries. Just because they're legal, that doesn't mean more people are using them.

RU: A few days ago, I saw an item in the newspaper which said that people are now abusing more prescription drugs than illegal drugs in America. That's a result of the war on drugs.

JAG: Yeah, vastly many more people die every year from prescription drugs in America than from illegal drugs, even despite the harm that's caused by all the misinformation about illegal drugs.

SR: I've heard that Spain was doing some Ecstasy research.

JAG: The first MDMA-assisted psychotherapy study in the world was sponsored by MAPS and approved in 2001 in Madrid. It started but was shut down by the Madrid anti-drug authorities after there were positive reports in the press.

RU: There's nothing worse than good news to the medical establishment.

JAG: We've been trying to start a study up there again. In the mean time, we've got studies approved in Charleston, South Carolina, at Harvard, in Switzerland, and in Israel. So we think it's a bit more politically feasible now. Spain might be able to swallow it… so to speak.

RU: I interviewed (MAPS President) Rick Doblin about a decade ago about the relationship between MAPS and the FDA. And there was a loosening up about psychedelic research within the FDA that hadn't occurred since the 1960s. It started actually under Bush I in the '80s and continued under the Clinton administration. Has the relationship with the FDA changed?

JAG: The FDA continues to be very supportive. Since 1990, the FDA has been supportive of our protocols. The problems have really come more from the DEA and NIDA. In order to do any study, you need approval from the DEA to have a schedule 1 license to actually possess the drug for the study. It's usually been the DEA that has held everything up, because the FDA is more based around science, and the DEA is based more around criminal justice and law enforcement.

RU: Very few people know that in the middle of all the drug hysteria, the FDA had started to allow these kinds of experiments to begin. It's kind of amazing.

When I skim the MAPS site, I see all this stuff about approved protocols and activities that are going to lead up to tests, and then maybe an occasional test. But has there been any results?

JAG: Well, yeah, there have been some results. We finished the Phase I MDMA studies. There's three phases to FDA approval. The Phase I studies are the safety studies, and those took quite a long time. The Phase II studies aren't finished yet, though. And we did studies with vaporizers and marijuana. For example, we found that water pipes are worse for your lungs than smoking a joint.



SR: When that news came out I just about cried.

JAG: We've done all sorts of background research too. We did survey studies about LSD and cluster headaches and about what happens when you hook people on Ayahuasca up to EEGs.

The background research sort of assembles the literature needed to get these drugs approved as prescription medicines. That's really our main focus — getting the drugs approved rather than just doing basic science.

DRUG III: PSILOCYBIN

RU: The big news item last year was about results from psilocybin experiments conducted at John Hopkins. A New York Times headline read: "Mushroom Drugs Produce Mystical Experiences." Next they'll be telling us that bears shit in the woods.



SR: "Beans cause gas in humans."

RU: You guys weren't directly involved in this one, right?

JAG: No, we didn't sponsor that study. That study was amazing. This team of researchers has a different approach than MAPS. They kept their entire protocol secret and kept it totally hidden from the media right until the day of publication. This was sort of basic background science research on mystical experiences. And they actually used grant money from NIDA for the study. NIDA disavowed the study afterwards. The former director of NIDA, Bob Schuster, wrote one of the commentaries for it. He said it was great. He loved it, but of course the current director of NIDA couldn't go along with that. So they sort of issued a rebuke saying, "Don't listen to this."

RU: Do you hear about this a lot? Has this changed the culture around moving this work forward? It was all over the media.

JAG: Yeah, I think it definitely helped legitimize psychedelic research.

RU: They were basically doing one of Timothy Leary's studies from the early 1960s over again.

JAG: It was the follow-up on a study that was done in the 1960s called "The Good Friday Experiment" where they gave psilocybin to divinity students at a chapel somewhere in Boston. And they had them fill out all these questionnaires and asked them about whether or not they had any mystical experiences. They found that most of them had the most mystical experience of their lives. So the John Hopkins Study actually sort of repeated that same methodology with a new group of subjects who weren't familiar with the drug.

RU: But they weren't divinity students were they?

JAG: No, I think they were a more general population.

DRUG IV: IBOGAINE

RU: On this show a few weeks ago, we were talking about Ibogaine as a cure for heroin addiction. What data do we have now about Ibogaine?

JAG: We have a study approved that's just starting right now. It has full government approval in Vancouver. Ibogaine is illegal in the U.S., but it's legal in Canada and Mexico. So we're sponsoring an observational case study of patients treated at the Iboga Therapy House in Vancouver. No one's actually done the long-term follow-up research to see whether – six months or two years later — people relapse into using opiates or not, and whether they relapse in a way that's dangerous. All we have at this point are various anecdotal reports. We're doing a similar study at a clinic in Mexico.

It lasts, like, 24 to 36 hours. The last 12 hours people report feeling sort of physically paralyzed. It's a very intense experience so you have to really want to do it to do it.

RU: If you think Ayahuasca is not fun...

JAG: The government hasn't really had to fight it off because it hasn't spread recreationally.

JEFF: I heard a story on "This American Life" about a guy who was administering Ibogaine treatments to junkies that he knew, because he himself had been a junkie. And it was underground. He wasn't a doctor. He didn't have any medical training. He just started a program and tried to develop it but somebody died under his treatment. And he kind of went off the deep end because he felt so guilty about encouraging this guy to take Ibogaine who died.

Is Ibogaine dangerous?

JAG: Compared to other psychedelics, it does interact badly with certain dangerous pre-conditions because it lasts for so long. People with heart problems shouldn't take it — people with really high blood pressure. But there are tons of people like that all around the country – these sort of underground therapists who have been practicing with Ibogaine. A lot of the people support MAPS. They want to be able to use it above ground as part of their practice.

JEFF: Unfortunately, this guy wasn't even a therapist or anything. He was just kind of an ex-junkie who'd gone straight and wanted to…

RU: ...help his friends. How many of those people would have died from heroin overdoses?

DRUG V: KETAMINE

RU: Speaking of dangerous drugs, I was watching cable news one day when one of those screen crawls went by, and it said something like "Research finds low doses of ketamine effective for depression." Do you know anything about this?

JAG: Yeah. A study that was funded by the National Institute on Mental Health showed very promising results for ketamine as an anti-depressant. I think the media portrayal was a bit over-optimistic because Ketamine has its drawbacks – some people see drawbacks in daily dosing because it can cause dependence. But then again, so do the psychiatric drugs that are being approved today. And ketamine was showing much better results than those.

RU: Do you know what the dosage level was on those experiments?

JAG: I know it was very low. They were functioning doses, not K-Hole doses.

DRUG VI: LSD

JAG: Most other psychedelics we study don't have... like, no one's ever died from an LSD overdose.

SR: And believe me.... (Laughs)

JAG: I'm sure some people have tried!

RU: Do you ever watch the TV show "House"? This doctor is always taking all kinds of drugs. He's a vicodin addict for one thing. On one episode, he gives himself a cluster headache and then injects acid to cure it. The show is actually very smart about drugs. Anyway, what's up with LSD and psilocybin as a cure for cluster headaches?

JAG: I'll give you a bit of background. Cluster headaches are a type of migraine that lasts for weeks at a time. They're really difficult to treat. I've read that up to a fifth of people with cluster headaches end up committing suicide because it's so difficult to treat and so painful.

A few years ago, people started noticing that taking threshold doses of psilocybin and LSD at regular intervals would break their cluster headache cycle. And it was the only thing that would do it. So we did a survey study that's finished and now there's a study that's been approved at Harvard. So all these people who wouldn't use psychedelics otherwise have been using the drug to treat their cluster headaches.



JEFF: Do they feel any psychedelic effect?

JAG: Yeah, some people do it in slightly sub-psychedelic doses but it can still have the effect.

RU: Do they start believing in UFOs?

JAG: (Laughs)

See Also:
The Great Wired Drug Non-Controversy
Hallucinogenic Weapons
Paul McCartney On Drugs

EFF Attorney Jason Schultz vs. Stephen Colbert

Starting with a whiteboard and a teacher’s instincts, Jason Schultz makes the Michael Crook free speech case as clear as a flowchart. He also explains why the EFF made a video apology part of the settlement.

Please note that this video was posted to Blip days before Stephen Colbert ripped Jason Schultz off, using a whiteboard to diagram the problems of the EFF’s case against Viacom to John Perry Barlow!

Colbert and Barlow

To watch the Schultz video, click here.
To watch the Colbert video, click here.

See Also:
Crook Apologizes
In the Company of Jerkoffs
The Case Against Crook
Steve Wozniak v. Stephen Colbert — and Other Pranks

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

Google Heard Me, Now What?


Can Google Hear Me?

Aaron Stanton rose to online fame after vowing in a video that he'd fly to California and pitch an idea to Google. After they refused to let him camp in their lobby, he hovered nervously at a friend's house, recording anxious video updates at a web site — CanGoogleHearMe.com. On Valentine's Day, the story took a thrilling turn when he received a late-night email.
We can hear you : )

But what happened next? After his meeting with Google, 25-year-old Aaron returned mysteriously to his home in Boise and started rounding up programmers.

"It's related to the idea that I originally took down to Google," he told 10 Zen Monkeys. Does that mean Google rejected him? "That's a very premature assumption."

In fact, he notes that no one ever clearly identified his original expectations. "No one — to this day — has ever asked me what I wanted Google to do with my idea." Now the bright-eyed dreamer has entered the realm of hush-hush corporate prototype development. Or has he? "It's possible I wanted to partner with them, or see if I could negotiate some sort of access to their resources." Whatever it is, Aaron says that between July and August, "I hope to be through beta testing and be able to return to Silicon Valley — for a variety of reasons."

"I am very pleased with the outcome of the trip, and it falls very much in line with one of the hoped for outcomes before I started."



And when he returns, it doesn't look like he'll be waiting for a late-night invite again. "The return has fewer question marks about it than the original quest did," Aaron tells us. "I'll be going knowing what to expect, this time." But when it comes to the most important question, he's still maintaining the mystery. Where do things stand with Google?
Sorry, I can't really talk about Google's reaction at all. : )

One thing he will talk about is what a great experience it's been. "Independently of the actual project, I've had so many interesting opportunities that have opened up as a result of the adventure..." he tells us. When you ask him what the best part was, he says without hesitation: "The people I've met..."

And his email now ends with a grateful signature line.

"Sometimes when you say, 'Hello, World,' the world says hello back."

Aaron is filming more video updates as he puts together his team. Inspired by the story of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, he looked for programmers at a computer science club at Boise State University. Saying it went "Different than I expected," Aaron described the experience in another video. "They spent 1.5 hours teaching me how to play Magic: The Gathering." Calling it "a positive meeting," Aaron ultimately teamed up instead with Brandon Zehm, a self-taught programmer who'd sent him an email. In the video he introduces the new programmer, who he adds can also play keyboards and make his own chain mail.

"And then there were two," the video concludes.

Aaron won't say what his big idea is, but one Digg poster speculates it was tied to an old venture of Aaron's called the Novel Project
By analyzing published novels and breaking them down into detailed statistics, then graphing those statistics scene-by-scene, we allow authors to better understand their craft in a way never before possible. You already know to start your book with a high interest scene, but do you know what to do with the scenes after that?

Another Digg poster claimed that "I e-mailed him, and he sent back a note saying that it was related, but much more than that, that it had actually branched from that into separate projects."

In February Aaron himself joined the discussion, posting on another site. "The idea was actually developed (in a simple form) in 2003 and then grew and branched, but it didn't become an obvious match for Google for a while after that."

The mystery may be agonizing, but "The problem is that the Internet is a fast medium," Aaron writes, "and it's covering what can sometimes be a slow medium, which is life. Life sometimes takes time."



But even if it doesn't work out, Aaron has a reponse to people who ask: what if Google hadn't agreed to hear you out? The bright side, he said, would've been all the encouragement he received — which would give him the strength to keep trying again later. In fact, he's already collected all the encouraging emails into a keepsake book that he's titled "We Can Hear You :)"

The homemade cover identifies its author as "Aaron Stanton and 2000 friends."

See Also:
Google Stalker Reveals Secret Project
Should YouTube Hear Me?
Google is Trying To Get Into Your Pants
Lost "Horrors" Ending Found on YouTube
YouTube, the 20-Year-Old, and Date Unknown

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."

Twittering the Twitter Revolution

The new messaging service for status "microblogging" was recognized as this year's best blogging tool at the SXSW festival. But all the excitement provoked a surprisingly sudden backlash, and now Twitter is the application people love to hate.

I had to know. Is Twitter the next big thing? Or the answer to a question that no one asked. Knowing there's only one way to find out, I sought to brave the unknown phenomenon, create an account on the service, and describe the results.

In Twitter-speak.

Using Twitter...


Creating a Twitter account!

Noticing Twitter won't let me edit my past updates without an add-on program.

Deciding to write an article called "Five Things I Hate About Twitter."





Realizing Twitter will let me delete past updates if I click on its trash can icon.

Thinking they should have tool tips explaining what their stupid icons do.

Noticing that Twitter doesn't recognize linebreaks in updates.

Adding it to the list.
Thinking "That's it?"

Thinking this reminds me of IRC in the 90s.

       /away getting more beer
       /away so what are you wearing?


Deciding to give Twitter a second chance.
Reading the public Twitter timeline.

Noticing "mrjonnypantz" has typed 11 hours!!!!!!!

Deciding these updates are boring at best, illiterate at worst.

Wondering if Twitter will really send these messages directly to my pager.

Wondering how incredibly annoying that would be.

Thinking Twitter is one step above MySpace status icons.

What I'm Doing: Playing Music.
Current Mood: Depressed.
Changing my "Friends" icon.
Still depressed.


Reading the Twitter FAQ.

Not finding anything cool.

Leaving.



Coming back.

Deciding I must have missed something.





Noticing Stephen Colbert has a Twitter feed.

"Anthrax (my goldfish) isn't feeling well. He's resting at the surface of his tank"



Noticing John Edwards has a feed too.

About to make remarks at the Int'l Assoc. of Firefighters. Then remarks at the Boilermakers conference.

Deciding a campaign feed would be excruciatingly boring.


Noticing Robert Scoble is heckling John Edwards.

"how are you going to get your campaign carbon neutral when you have to fly jets around the country so much?"


Noticing the Edwards campaign was goaded into replying.

"will fund alternative energy production that will offset the carbon generated from campaign travel."

Wondering if John Edwards is cheating.

Reading blog coverage of Twitter-mania.

"To me it's just something that has got some SHORT-term popularity and will eventually fade back into a neat tool people don't really use anymore."

"if I were a Scoble fanboy, I would love that he posts every event in his busy life to his Twitter channel"


Snorting derisively.
Envisioning the rise of Twitter consultants creating fake updates for Hollywood clientele.

Imagining Paris Hilton junkies loving Twitter. Because of the illusion that they're stalking her.

Wondering if Twitter is like that scene in Scary Movie where the heavy-breathing stalker taunts his victims with updates. "I'm in your house, watching you undressing."

Thinking Twitter probably isn't like that.
Wondering if you can hack someone else's Twitter feed?

"I'm in your kitchen, lying about your updates."

Thinking Twitter users have already heard that joke.



Reading that Robert Scoble thinks Twitter is the new black.

Realizing what he actually said -- that hating Twitter is the new black.

Thinking Twitter should let users publish these entries on MySpace and LiveJournal.

Realizing they're doing that already.

Wondering if it's a generational thing.
Predicting Arianna Huffington's ego will compel her to join Twitter.

Predicting Norman Mailer will be too technophobic.

Wondering if there will be promotional feeds for TV characters.

Dwight Schrute is scanning the Office ventilation system for vampire bats.

Thinking that would be lame.
Speculating about the future.

Will all TV shows be forced to adopt real-time microblogging to reach the emerging Twitter demographic?

Noticing Robert Scoble has 1380 followers. And 1041 friends.

Realizing I don't know the difference between a "friend" and a "follower."

Noticing one of Scoble's friends is Irina Slutsky.

Noticing she responded to BloatedLesbian.

Reading the Bloated Lesbian feed.

waiting for the shower to stop smelling like George Bush so I can shower then goto my conference

CC is having a vagina for lunch?????

lying to someone with a big dick



Noticing that for "Bio:" she just wrote "fat."

Being intrigued that she linked to The Karen Carpenter Story, told entirely with Barbie dolls.

Watching The Karen Carpenter Story.

Realizing it's 44 minutes long.

Being glad I'm unemployed.






Reading the Twitter blog. Noticing they have a Twitter shirt. It says "Wearing my Twitter Shirt."

Laughing at the comments. ("so I finally understand the business model....")
Reading Scoble's blog.

"I'm fascinated that so many people hate the service... They contribute more to the hype than anything else."


Reading web coverage about Twitter web coverage.

"Is Twitter the RSS for people with not much to say?"

Realizing I've wasted an hour playing with Twitter...

...when I'd meant to write about how uncompelling it is.

See Also:
iPhone Debate: I'm a Mac vs. Bill Gates
Steve Wozniak v. Stephen Colbert — and Other Pranks
John Edwards' Virtual Attackers Unmasked
10 Worst Spiderman Tie-Ins

Drugs and Sex and Susie Bright


Susie Bright

It's everybody's favorite topic: Drugs, sex and chicks. As promised a few weeks ago, we now present part two of our interview with "sexpert" Susie Bright.
Read Part 1

To listen the full interview in MP3, click here.

RU SIRIUS: Tell us a bit about your psychedelic sex workshop.

SUSIE BRIGHT: OK. About a year ago. I got invited to this conference in San Jose called "Sacred Elixirs."



I wouldn't have paid any attention to that name because I'm an atheist. When people say sacred, I'm always snoozing... I don't pay attention. But then, I found out that it was a reunion of the heaviest, coolest, smartest people in psychedelics. Oh! That sacred? I'm there! Oh my god, it was so fabulous. There were so many fantastic people there. And Sasha Shulgin delivered a chemistry lesson that made me realize that if I'd had him as a science teacher, everything could have turned out differently. For him, it's like a musician talking about music. It's a language.

RU: Plus he speaks in this rapid high pitch. It's like getting a download of information from some kind of alien.

SB: I just couldn't wait to go home and write about all the things people talked about. But while I was there, some of us women noticed that virtually every presenter was a guy; all the poetry was read by fellows — it was almost quaint. We didn't, like, have a hissy fit about it, it was just sort of dumb. There were so many interesting women there. Every woman I met there, I wanted to spend hours talking to. Everyone was so interesting and intelligent. So some of us started brainstorming about what would be fun to talk about at a woman-oriented conference. And I said, "Well, so many things. I mean: sex. And not just the erotics of sex, the pleasures of sex, but sex in terms of one's sexual life cycle. A lot of us here have our memories of what it was like when we discovered psychedelics as young people. But then, what happens when you become a mother? What happens as you age? How does your relationship to your sexual life cycle and your drug of choice change over time? I don't know. No one talks about this! Wouldn't it be great if we did?"

So we got a group of women together at this crazy sort of "Peacock retreat" in Sonoma run by a woman who's really into Egyptology. She has a lot of gorgeous peacocks wandering around, which kind of added a little atmosphere. It was so much fun. It was like fifty people. You got to know everybody on a first-name basis.

The untold story — which I didn't get until I was there — was the generation gap. We had a lot of good talks about it. There were these young people who were in MAPS and Erowid — they're like these new groups that are trying to decriminalize drugs and raise drug consciousness in a very contemporary fashion.

RU: They're very organized and intelligent and digital.

SB: Yeah. They're very geeky.

STEVE ROBLES: Drug nerds.

SB: They're drug nerds! Thank you. They aren't drug hippies. And they said very politely — we don't want to just sit around listening to how great your acid trip was in 1969. And they were right. They want to hear about stuff that's happening now, and in their future. At one point this amazing young woman who everybody seemed to revere stood up. She looked like the all-American girl. She was like Gidget on acid.

RU: I think Gidget was on acid

SB: She asked, "How many people here are acid babies, or had an acid baby?" And I hadn't heard that expression in a long time — the notion that someone would trip and conceive, or that someone might be the child of such a conception... I just haven't been keeping up! And several people in the room raised their hands and told their story. It was so great to have that kind of honesty. Because the way the media played it — it was all about how you're going to take acid and you're going to screw up your baby's chromosomes. They're going to be wandering around going "Blll bllll bbbb bbbb bbbb" for the rest of their life.

RU: But that "Bbbb bbbb blbbb bbbb bbbb was going to be very cosmically meaningful! (Laughter)

SB: But of course, it was just like real life. Some people were fine — brilliant, went to Harvard, had lovely lives, grew beautiful gardens. Other people...

SR: ...did go "bbbb bbbb bbbb bbbb!"

SB: ...didn't fare so well.

RU: LSD is so non-toxic in the amount that you have to take to get high that it shouldn't really...

SB: Yeah, whether their parents took it had nothing to do with what happened in anyone's future.

And then, a number of the older women started talking about their parents being in hospice or dying. We talked a lot about cancer and what it was like to give your elders a final trip before they die. It was so moving.

I came to my sex workshop with little slips of paper and pencils. And I said, "We're all experts here. I would just like to get some honest reaction to some questions in terms of what you've noticed about your drug experiences. What's your favorite drug? What didn't you like? Why do you use? Why don't you use? What makes sex special?" One of the touchier subjects was about those times when you've had really great, insightful, memorable sex with somebody when you were both tripping; but you knew deep inside that if you weren't tripping, you probably wouldn't have done it with them. And so, should you not have done that? You know, "Am I bad?" or "How embarrassing." It's that notion that without chemistry there would've been no chemistry. But maybe it's like saying you really loved going to Paris with someone, but you don't want to live with them here in San Francisco. I mean, there are certain things you're going to do with certain people within certain boundaries. Outside of those boundaries, it wouldn't work.

RU: Did anybody complain about getting married one week after taking Ecstasy with somebody?

SB: No, not at all!



RU: Were there patterns that emerged? You were talking earlier about people having experiences when they were younger, and then maybe different ones after they were mothers and so forth. Were there discernible patterns or similarities?

SB: Well, I have all these index cards that I compile on my blog. If you go to my blog, you can check this sort of thing out — just find the drug section, or search for women and psychedelics. It was interesting how some old standards really went throughout the whole crowd. Somebody wrote down just one thing on her card: "Pot and caffeine." And everyone said, "Yeah!!"

SR: It's a beautiful, beautiful thing.

SB: It was so simple! It was like somebody holding up a perfect lettuce.

SR: Kind of the reasonable person's version of a speedball. It's not going to send you to the grave.

One topic that's come up on this show a couple of times is where sex positivity and drug culture collide in a bad way. There's one vital element of the sex positivity movement that has this idea that sex and drugs — and sex and alcohol — don't mix because you're capable of bad judgment. This fits with what you were talking about earlier — people who have sex inspired by psychedelics when they may not have had sex without them.

SB: Last week, we were criticizing and laughed about the preacher who enjoyed his sex on meth — you know, he liked speed and sex together. And from a purely drug enthusiast point of view, it's like, well... yes! I mean, if you haven't tried it...

RU: Intense orgasms... very localized.

SB: In terms of sheer sensation, why shouldn't people be able to see, "Well, this is what it feels like?" And another person could say, "Well, Vicodin! Why not some sort of morphine derivative?" Any kind of connection of orgasm to anything seems like a legitimate topic. I remember somebody told me that after they went through menopause, they loved having an orgasm and a hot flash simultaneously. And I said, "Really? I had no idea there was something to look forward to!" That stimulated my imagination.

We all enjoy the notion of sensation. The problem is addiction really, isn't it? You can become dependent and not even get off any more because of your tolerance. And the other thing Steve mentioned — this sense of losing your "safety belt." "Oh, you didn't use the condom. Oh, you jumped off the bridge" — that sense that you couldn't take care of yourself as well as you needed to because that sense of self-protection was gone. And our society really hasn't figured out how to handle this very well. Our only answer to all of that is clamp down, criminalize — lock people up. It's not like I've sat down and figured out how I would run my little SIMS game if I was in charge, but it would involve tremendous education. I started home schooling my daughter, and one reason was that they started doing drug programs in lieu of science in my daughter's elementary school. I hit the roof! I said. "You're not going to go through this." And I combed the bookshelves. I thought — there's got to be a book for young people that talks about drugs as plants, as medicine, as consciousness.

RU: There is Andrew Weil's book, From Chocolate to Morphine: Everything You Need to Know About Mind-Altering Drugs.

SB: See? You and I are on the same wavelength. Andrew Weil's book From Chocolate to Morphine is written more towards a smart high school/early college level, but I got it for my kid a lot earlier. I couldn't find anything else. That's it!

But it's pathetic that there's only one book that tries to address drugs from a wholistic point of view.

RU: And it's dated, also.

SB: There needs to be a lot more. Most of the people at the conference I went to are in families. They have kids, or they're kids living with parents. And I met lots of people who could talk to their family members about this. It's a two-way street.

RU: That's new.

SR: There are two levels of the discussion. One is obviously in the public policy level, which is a complete disaster. I was just reading today in the news that nobody takes abstinence seriously in the generation that is having it thrust down their throat by this administration

RU: Nice metaphor!

SR: At the same time, they don't know what the hell to do because there's a vacuum. They're not teaching safe sex. That's a complete disaster.

RU: It's the worst possible combination.

SR: Exactly! But there's also a simplistic viewpoint within the sex positive community in terms of drugs and in terms of safe sex. There's this real binary thing like: "Well, you always have safe sex, and you never have sex on drugs! Or drunk!" And it's really naive to think that people will resonate with that and always follow it in the actual world. It may be just as simplistic as the Bush thing.

SB: I've been to the Clean and Sober session in the sex community. Fine, I can go with that. But on the other hand, I like to have this bohemian sense of indulging this and indulging that. Anyway, somebody just told me last night that there's this hallucinogen that that just cures you of heroin addiction in one snap. Of course, it's illegal in America.

RU: Ibogaine. Although it's not exactly a snap. I's a very intense, difficult experience. It's quick, though. It's fast.

SR: It's a snap compared to the old-fashioned way of kicking smack, which was just to lock yourself in a goddamn asylum for...

RU: You sit down and have a really intense and unforgiving review of your entire inner psychology for about 24 hours. You might be happier going through withdrawal.

SB: I am impatient.

RU: This Ibogaine could be a tremendous thing. There's a great book about it. The theory in the book is that you don't kick heroin, you kick consumerism.

SB: Wow! Light me up! You mean my shoe problem would go away?

SR: Does it also get rid of chronic gas?

RU: We were talking before about sex positivism. I've thought a lot about the whole 1960s sexual revolution idea that was expressed by Xavier Hollander in The Happy Hooker: My Own Story. She said, "Sex is the nicest thing two people can do for one another." And that was very hippie — "nice, nice, nice." And actually, in the mid-70s people sort of realized that hippies weren't very sexy — and people who are naked all the time aren't very sexy. And everybody started going back to night clubs. And it seems to me that really good sex exists on the boundary between total liberation and taboo. And I think that shows up in a lot of the stories in your own book as well. If there isn't some friction or some tension, then it becomes less interesting.

SB: Well, it certainly becomes less interesting in literature. I tell people in my erotic writing workshops, "You may want to talk about a lovely day at the beach, culminated by a warm cuddle in the missionary position and that may have happened and been great. I believe it. But for literature, you're going to need a conflict or else no one will keep reading it, so get hit by a tidal wave somewhere halfway through your story." But that's different from sexuality. I mean, I confess to you — I'm a hippie. So I like nudity, and I like hippie sex, and I think hot tubs are fun.

RU: I guess I'm like an early 1970s person. I just didn't start getting off until people put their clothes back on.

SB: Do you have to go to either of these extremes?

RU: Well, that's my point. It's somewhere on the boundary between this idea of total liberation and a sense that there's something a little bit naughty or whatever — there's some tension there. Even the act itself, there's a certain tension and release. It could be a guy thing.

SB: No, not at all.

RU: Actually, speaking of gender differences, I want to read from a piece in your book by Daniel Duane. He writes: "For men, the fundamental wrong is an active infringement on the rights of another. By punching me, you violate my right not to be punched. For women, torts have more to do with the failure to fulfill responsibility." On my other show — NeoFiles - we've had some discussion about gender distinctions and the question of to what degree are gender distinctions innate. And here, this guy is putting right up at the front of his story that there are innate gender distinctions. In terms of erotic literature, my idea is that guys like to watch it on TV and women like to read it. Do you find more women in your audience? And what do you think in general about the discussion about gender distinctions in terms of sex?

SB: Well, everyone would love to get to the bottom of that question — is one group of people more visual than another, is another group of people more aroused by writing than another? We don't have any serious study or research.

JEFF DIEHL: There was a government study. It was part of a controversial congressional campaign involving Vernon Robinson. There was an NIH study where they showed women pornography. They connected probes to their genitalia and measured the arousal level as they watched various images like people having sex and animals having sex. I don't know what the results were, but there was a study.

RU: No people having sex with animals, though.

Actually, I think that study showed that women enjoyed looking at pornography.

SB: What a shock.

RU: Stop the presses!



SB: I've noticed from my raw empirical studies that a lot of women respond to visual stimuli. I think it's obvious. Look at how fashion magazines are sold. If women didn't like to watch, they wouldn't be so visually sensitive to the many things they do enjoy. Also, I always have a survey in the back of my book where I ask people what they like and so forth, and I ask about their gender. And it's remained around 50% the whole time. I meet a lot of men who say, "I want a story." Who doesn't like a story? So the sexist description of one being one way and one another... I don't buy it. Women certainly tend to realize their sexual fantasies much later than men. It takes them longer to feel confident about expressing them, searching for them, asking for them, and creating them. I mean, there's not a little boy on earth who doesn't know where his penis is, but a lot of women don't know where their clit is until they're much older. Can you imagine? Just ask a man, "What if you didn't know where your cock was and had no idea how to get off? And then, by some bizarre accident, you found out. And then you were afraid that if anyone knew, you would be expelled from your family and no one would ever want you — that you could never be a spouse or a parent.

RU: (Ironically) That's exactly what happened to me! (Laughter)

SR: And you weren't even Catholic!

SB: I talk to women who say, "You know, I just don't know about erotica. I'd rather not get close to that." And as I start exploring their sensual life, I start to find out that they have lots of things that give them visual pleasure; or they think that romances are really hot. And other women who have come into their own sexually will tell you point-blank: I want Rocco Siffredi. And I want him pulling my hair. And I want it right now. They don't make any bones about it.

A lot of us have been being frank about what we want from sex. It's not just because we're exhibitionists. We want to make it more common for women to speak as if they're sexual, just like any other animal in the kingdom.

See also:
Susie Bright Lets It All Out
World Sex Laws
Why Sarah's Sex Life Matters
Is It Legal Porn or Illegal Porn


“Dear Internet, I’m Sorry”


Crook on Fox News

Even while delivering a video apology "to all bloggers, webmasters and other individuals" as part of a settlement agreement with 10 Zen Monkeys, he somehow seems determined to be the most hated man on the internet — if he could just get people to stop ignoring him. (You'll find that video further down on the page.)

But, let's back up a bit first...
I'm writing a new story for 10zen tonight.

Dana Plato?

Nah, the piece is about that Michael Crook guy.

That's how it started last September. We'd already written about a Seattle prankster named Jason Fortuny, who'd pretended to be a woman on Craig's List and then published horny male respondents' private info on the internet. In the fateful 27th comment on that story, a new site popped onto our radar.
He's inspired a website that exposes people nationwide — craigslist-perverts.org

That web site was registered to Michael Crook, and to this day I'm convinced Crook himself left the comment, hoping to skim off some of the attention. Sure enough, the site showed that Crook had duplicated Fortuny's stunt; he'd posted a fake ad on Craig's List pretending to be a young woman seeking sex in Syracuse, New York. But no one even noticed; according to Crook's own blog, he only got a few dozen responses. He tried posting more fake ads in more cities — Las Vegas, Dayton, South Jersey, Kansas City, and Anchorage — and created a web site with the results.



We noticed, but we weren't impressed. The original title for our article about Crook was "wannabe asshole," although we later changed it to In the Company of Jerkoffs, calling Crook "another sad member of the 'griefer community'... not only pathetic, but a pathetic copycat."
As an after-thought, I'd sent Jeff Diehl, our editor, a screenshot from Crook's appearance on Fox News to accompany the story. ("I think the bad hair and stiff tie and collar say a lot about the guy...")

We knew Crook wouldn't like it — but that's life on the internet. (I'm sure the men who answered his fake Craig's List ad didn't like it when he called them at work, either.) Life continued at our up and coming webzine — our next story questioned the press coverage about Willie Nelson's September arrest for possession of mushrooms. And then something weird happened...

Our internet service provider got a nasty email from Michael Crook. Crook wanted the embarrassing picture taken down, and to make that happen, he was pretending he had a copyright over the screenshot from Fox News, citing the "Digital Millenium Copyright Act" (or DMCA). I suggested a new headline for Jeff. "Syracuse jerk uses heavy-handed DMCA mumbo-jumbo to try to intimidate web pages he doesn't like."

We were clear that Crook had no legal claim. But his amateurish legalese spooked our spineless (pre-Laughing Squid) ISP, who asked Jeff to remove the image anyways. Jeff knew there was something wrong. In the world we live in, internet services can absolve themselves from future legal liability — if they quickly remove the suspect material. This means if someone wants an embarrassing picture taken down, simply masquerading as its copyright holder can be enough. So Michael Crook was pretending he owned a copyright on someone else's picture of his face.



Crook's legal interpretation was as laughable as the Batman comic book where the Joker claimed a copyright on a fish that looked like him.

But deep within the DMCA law is a counter-provision — 512(f), which states that misrepresenting yourself as a copyright owner has consequences. Any damage caused by harmful misrepresentation must be reimbursed. In 2004 the Electronic Frontier Foundation won a six-figure award from Diebold Election Systems, who had claimed a "copyright" on embarrassing internal memos which were published online. So not only was Jeff Diehl legally free to publish Crook's picture; Crook was in violation of the law for pretending he owned a copyright.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation now agreed to represent us. Crook hadn't just issued a copyright notice to 10 Zen Monkeys; he'd sent them to other web sites, again pretending to own the copyright on Fox News' image, to trick the sites into taking his picture down. (There were even cases where he served DMCA notices to websites that published Fair Use quotes from his blog.) Crook was a serial abuser of the copyright law — and so far his misuse of it had been rewarded every time. Some webmasters and bloggers obeyed the takedown notices without considering the counter-claim process, to avoid having to give Crook their identifying information — which he'd publicly demonstrated he enjoyed using maliciously.



But it was a mistake to try his stunt anywhere near Silicon Valley, where people closely follow how technology is evolving, and care deeply about protecting free speech online. Local web stars cheered on the lawsuit at sites like BoingBoing and Valleywag (where Nick Douglas wrote, "This Emo Kid is Getting Sued," and later begged Crook for a DMCA takedown notice of his own — which he got and displayed proudly). Someone had finally noticed Michael Crook — but for all the wrong reasons. Web sites were now re-posting even more copies of the picture he hated.

Crook tried hiding from the delivery of the legal documents — then later blustered on his web site that he'd successfully re-structured his business holdings to make it hard to collect. In a futile go-for-broke strategy, he then sent even more bogus DMCA notices — to other web sites which were reporting on his original bogus copyright notice. "I wonder if this is another one of his stunts for 'bad attention,'" I asked Jeff. "Everyone online hates the DMCA; maybe he's deliberately abusing it, the way Andy Kaufman used to bait professional wrestling fans."



For a brief moment it was Michael Crook versus the internet — until Michael Crook lost in a blow-out. Ignoring Crook's amateurish legal posturing, Fark.com users created over 50 versions of the supposedly-forbidden photo, photoshopping Crook's face into even more embarrassing poses. Someone tracked down Crook's high school yearbook photos (which, ironically, ended up being mocked in the blog of the original Craigs List prankster, Jason Fortuny.) Someone even uploaded the photo into the virtual gaming world Second Life. (Crook then tried unsuccessfully to issue a DMCA notice against a photo of that photo.) The ongoing mockery became a kind of online seminar, reminding web surfers to stand up to copyright law abusers, and to never pay attention to the Michael Crooks of the world.

In November, web writer Tucker Max called out Crook for an online debate. Crook accepted — though he only made three short posts, apparently caught off guard when Max refused to take Crook's weird positions seriously and instead attacked Crook himself. "You are desperate for attention," Max wrote, "and the ability to feel something, anything, you are willing to be the most ridiculed, hated person on the internet. Look at yourself dude. Look at your life." Max even claims he used his contacts as a law school graduate to guarantee that Crook, who says he wants to one day be a lawyer, will never pass the bar.

But abusing copyright law was only Crook's latest attempt at provoking attention. He'd previously claimed to hate the military, Jews, gays, immigrants, non-whites and children. Max noted that Crook tried to join the army, and had been rejected; and that Child Protective Services had taken his children away. Were Crook's attacks just a misguided lashing out over his own bitter failures?

The online world was faced with the griefer paradox: that griefers want bad attention, and the only real answer is ignoring them. Behind the scenes, the EFF was working to establish the only true point of the case — that web sites didn't have to buckle in the face of bogus copyright threats, and that abusing the DMCA would bring consequences.



Because Crook proved himself to be legally indigent, and was representing himself in an incompetent way that would likely have lessened the impact of an official judgment, it was decided that a settlement agreement could accomplish just as much, possibly more. Crook eventually signed such an agreement. It requires him to 1) take a course on copyright law basics; 2) never again file any cease and desist notices concerning the image of him on Fox News; 3) withdraw each and every DMCA notice he served regarding the image; 4) refrain from filing any DMCA notices for 5 years unless the material in question is personally authored, photographed or originated by him; 5) include in any DMCA notice during that 5 year period, URLs pointing to the EFF's web page summarizing this case; 6) turn over ownership of any domain names to Jeff Diehl and 10 Zen Monkeys if he is caught violating any of the terms of the agreement.

And, finally, he had to formally apologize to those he harassed. In video. Here now, is that video:




Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.


Subscribe now to MondoGlobo's new video show, 10ZM.TV!

In the San Francisco Bay Area? Celebrate free speech and the EFF: Free Speech Ain't Free!

See also:
EFF's Jason Schultz Explains the Crook Case
EFF's Diehl v. Crook page
Settlement Agreement
In the Company of Jerkoffs
The Case Against Crook
Crooks of the World Hurt Copyright, Free Speech
Craigslist Sex Troll Gets Sued

Whatever Happened to Virtual Reality?


Max Headroom

If you weren't there, you probably wouldn't believe it. But way back at the start of the 90s, people at the edge of the emerging digital culture talked about Virtual Reality (VR) — the idea that we would soon interact in shared 3D worlds — as much as, if not more than, they talked about the internet. (Of course, we were talking about it on the internet, so I guess sometimes you just don't notice your immediate surroundings.)

These 3D worlds would be accessed through head-mounted displays. The idea was to put the user literally inside computer-created worlds, where she could move around and see and hear the goings on in a fully dimensional alternative reality and have the sensation of being in another world. The eyes were the primary organs of entrance into these other worlds, although touch, motion and sound were all also involved.

(Second Life is a timid sampling of what was then envisioned.)



There were dozens of conferences about VR and lots of national media coverage in every major outlet. There were movies and TV shows that revolved around VR and there was even one arcade game. But VR quickly disappeared from public consciousness.

Virtual Reality developer Jaron Lanier was generally accepted as the public face of VR during this heady period that lasted from about 1989-91. This interview was performed in 2002 and I have selected it as an excerpt from my new book, True Mutations: Conversations on the Edge of Technology, Science and Consciousness.


Imagine Jaron Lanier

I first met Jaron Lanier in the mid-1980s. His work in Virtual Reality was just getting noticed and it was clear to those who knew him that this bright and gentle young man was destined to do great things.

In the late 1980s Lanier's team at VPL (Virtual Programming Language) developed the first implementation of multi-person virtual worlds using head mounted displays. The work was applied to surgery and television production, among other things. He also led the team that developed the first widely used software platform architecture for immersive virtual reality applications. During the late 90s, Lanier served as the Lead Scientist of the National Tele-immersion Initiative, a coalition of research universities studying advanced applications for Internet 2. The Initiative demonstrated the first prototypes of tele-immersion in 2000 after a three year development period.

Lanier is also a musician. He has a remarkable collection of eclectic instruments from all over the world and has worked with Philip Glass, Ornette Coleman, Vernon Reid, George Clinton, and Sean Lennon among others. Additionally, his paintings and drawings have been exhibited in museums and galleries in the United States and Europe.

While most computer programmers and tech engineers display some degree of interest in art and aesthetics, Lanier is really an artist who happens to work in technology some of the time.

"Videobrain" and I sat with Lanier at a Mexican cafe in Marin and had a fragmented conversation that was frequently interrupted by waiters who wanted to please us, and Lanier's own incessantly ringing cell phone. Nevertheless, the conversation proved to be largely coherent.

RU SIRIUS: There was an extraordinary level of hype and excitement about Virtual Reality (VR) back in the late eighties and early nineties but it failed to live up to the expectations, presumably for technical reasons. I saw your The Top Eleven Reasons VR has not yet become commonplace. But why would you say there was that excited response to VR? What were people hoping for from it? What desires were raised?

JARON LANIER: Well, first of all, I personally think that a lot more could have happened with Virtual Reality than has happened. I feel that what went wrong with VR was that decent software standard platform didn't happen. The ones that were most in the forefront like VRML just didn't work well enough. So to get back to your question: what were people looking for? I still believe that what people really want from VR is to be able to touch upon the feeling of being able to share a dream with someone else — to take a little step away from the sense of isolation that people feel today. I think this is a universal and very healthy desire. (VR isn't the only way to address it obviously.)

But in VR, at some point, you would be able to be inside this place with other people where you were making it up as you went along. What people really wanted was a kind of intimacy where you're making up a dream together with other people. You're all experiencing it. I was calling it post-symbolic communication. The basic idea is that people thought that with VR they would be able to experience a kind of intense contact with imagination, some sort of fusion of the kind of extremes of aesthetics and emotional experience you might have when you open up the constraints of reality.



You can divide the requirements of the technology that will give you that into two pieces. You can call one piece the production quality or production standards — how detailed is the resolution? How realistic do surfaces look? That boils down to fast computers, high quality sensors and displays: the tech underpinnings of it all. But then there's this other side; the software side, which involves how you can get a virtual world to do things. My feeling is that even a low-res virtual world can get people the kind of experience that I was just describing. And I think we did have some great moments and great experiences in the '80s, even with very low-res systems that were available then. I think that the failure since then is that the software that's been developed is very rigid.

There are a couple of reasons for this. One was that there was a bizarre alliance between people doing military simulation and people doing recreational gaming. There are a lot of different kinds of games, so I don't want to put them all under one critical tent here. I think a lot of them are OK. But one of the dominant ideas is that a person who is playing is capable of being in the location, moving, shooting, or dying [laughs]. That's pretty much it. You might pick up an amulet or something, but it doesn't give you a lot to do.

RU: But in fairness, don't those kinds of simple applications come up because they're easier to code — so that they're steps along the way?

JL: Yeah, well it's precisely right that it's easier to code, especially when you get into a networked thing, but who said coding was supposed to be easy!? This brings up a little rant. I love to support the free software movement... I totally do. But just doing a piece of software in some political or economic context that's progressive like the Linux movement isn't enough. The software itself also has to be good [laughs]. That's sort of stating the obvious, but there are very large numbers of programmers in this newest, youngest generation of programmers who seem to feel that writing something that has existed for 20 or 30 years is somehow cool if you do it as part of a free software movement. And there is something to that, I don't want to say it's nothing but come on. So I think we have an epidemic of almost tautological coding. It's the same old stuff. There's no surprise. It's like ham radio or something. And that's been the worst problem for VR, because VR really needs a different attitude. Even today, you see people starting up a VR program and after some months they'll have a cube rotating or maybe a videogame where you're moving through a space and shooting at things. It's been done for decades! Do these people not know the meaning of boredom? How can people bear that?

RU: Well, you have the same thing in publishing. But the difference is that you can write something really dull or you can write something really amazing and it requires the same bandwidth. The tools are already available. But to do something really original in Virtual Reality — the steps are not so obvious. Do you visualize a huge project with lots of people working in parallel or how should it work?

JL: The case I want to make — and I can't prove it; it's speculation but my belief — is that even a really low-res system that's sort of manageable by a small group of people could be done that would be much more exciting and bring out more of this feeling of transcendence than what we're seeing now. Of course, anybody could ask me; "So, Mr. Snooty Oldtimer, if you feel that this can be done why don't you just go ahead and do it?" It's a reasonable question and I always think about it. I'm in this sort of bizarre quandary. The code that I really like the best for creativity is my old VPL code. I still use it for my own creative work but I'm not allowed to really work on it because it ended up being owned by Sun Microsystems. That would be a good resource for developing the open source treatment. And occasionally, when I give a talk at some university there will be some students who want to take it on as an open source challenge and make a new generation of something like that. Maybe it'll happen. It's definitely getting harder to use that code because it's old. There are a few things that we now know about how visible systems work that aren't really doable on it. It's hard to keep it running on the new generations of machines; it's really quite a challenge. How do you keep a twenty-year-old piece of software running without re-compiling?

RU: In your opinion, have there been fundamental changes in computer hardware that could make VR software more optimal in the intervening years?

JL: Not much. Just speed. More polygons.

RU The slowness in moving towards more creative forms of VR is a commercial problem also. If there was an obvious immediate market for it, a company with money would be working on it. You'd be working on it.

JL: Capitalism has proven really wonderful and optimal in encouraging certain kinds of improvements in technology but it seems to have these blind spots where it just hasn't been able to give support to other ones which are — at least by my value system — just as important. So for instance, the Moore's Law effect of processor speed going up — capitalism has been really good at that. It probably would not have happened under a command economy. So that's worked out pretty well. But with tools, if there's already an established market, like video editing or sound editing then you have production suites and there's a market. But if it's for something new and the market doesn't already exist, you get caught up in a sort of chicken-and-egg situation even though one can see that if all the pieces were in place there would be an incredible market. Capitalism can't serve as its own starter in a lot of places.

RU: Well, it seems that the contravening force to capitalism in the digital world is the gift economies of open source enthusiasts, which has the added charm of being non-coercive.

JL: Yeah. Well if I can find the personal focus for it I might try to start an open source movement for making VR tools. I should probably do that. It would be courageous.

RU: You've always seen VR in terms of play and sharing visions and so forth. What about the utilitarian aspect?

JL: Virtual Reality is already a success as an industrial technology. It just hasn't hit yet as a communications technology. But it's become absolutely essential. One of the stories I tell is the story of the oil supply. If we go back twenty or thirty years, most people thought that the oil would be running out about now. And the reason it's not is because computers allowed people to find and extract oil more efficiently...and from old fields. Ultimately, there's an illusion — created because of computers — that the oil supply is expanding instead of running out. The underlying reality is that the oil supply is running out, so, in a way, this is a dangerous situation. At any rate, VR was used to visualize oil fields and to visualize machinery to extract oil more efficiently from old fields. Similar things happened in medicine. We understand more about large molecules, we understand more about how the body heals from surgery through VR simulations.

RU: Is there a utilitarian aspect to the visionary ideal of VR?

JL: Whether one sees meaning as having utilitarian value is a matter of personal taste. I think the most important things can't be expressed in utilitarian terms because to be utilitarian you have to have a frame to refer to, and the most important things are the frames. You can't say that your values are utilitarian; you have to have smaller things that are utilitarian within your values. (Of course, some of our values are tautologically unavoidable like survival.)

One way of arguing that there is a utilitarian value is that people who are tinkerers ought to be able to find a fascination in tinkering with such things as aesthetics and communications, which are the most intense things to tinker with, after all. Because if we tinker with anything else, we'll destroy ourselves. My notion is that people are somewhat dangerous to their own survival because we're too creative. The metaphor I sometimes use is that people on planet earth are like a bunch of really technically bright teenagers without any supervision hanging out all summer in a chemistry lab [laughter].



I like to think of VR as an alternative way of thinking about a ramp of technological progress in the future where instead of making bigger and faster things, you make more intense experiences and more interesting forms of human connection. And if you think of that ramp, which is more of a McLuhanesque ramp than an Edward Teller ramp, that alternative ramp is the one that we can survive with. So in that sense, all this business about aesthetics and communications is a survival strategy. I really think it's the only imaginable future.

RU: You just said, "If we tinker with anything else we destroy ourselves." That's a pretty extreme statement! Aren't at least some kinds of tinkering convivial? In fact, don't we need to keep tinkering in order to evolve some of our current technologies into a more convivial state?

JL: I spoke poorly. I'm not against tinkering but against the idea of tinkering for the purpose of increasing human power as opposed to the purpose of increasing human connection and experience. If your only value is increasing technological power according to some extra-human definition, you will eventually hurt yourself. If that was the only possible form of tinkering I would have to be anti-tinkering, but I think I've articulated and practiced a different kind. I'm not even anti-power-oriented tinkering — it's fantastic for improving our lives; medicine and all that. I only become opposed to it when it is the only guiding value, which it ultimately is for a the totalists, as well as the goodness-of-the-immanent-singularity folks.

RU: The closest thing we have to shared dreaming right now is when people gather together in the movie theater.

JL: The movie theater is Stalin's version of a dream because somebody dictates a dream.

RU: You have a pretty strong critique of the transhumanist.

JL: Well, for instance, little nanomachines, little molecular machines can absolutely transform the world. We've seen that happen once. It's life on earth and it took billions of years. So the real question isn't whether there is the possibility that there could be another family of molecular machines in billions of years, the question is whether there is some alternate family of molecular machines that can do something interesting in a much shorter period of time that's relevant to any planning horizon for us. So in order for them to go faster than evolution did the first time, there has to be some other ingredient that evolution didn't have. And my illustrious colleagues, the "totalists" would say that evolution didn't have the benefits of their genius, and evolution is going to happen really fast this time.

RU: But you can make a distinction between say Ray Kurzweil's claim that somewhere in the foreseeable future we're going to infuse the lifeless parts of our universe with intelligence, and saying that we can build molecular machines adequately to particular purposes that can, for instance, go into the human body and maintain health, or can produce enough wealth to end material scarcity.

JL: This issue really comes down to the complexity ceiling problem. And that comes down to how well we can model really complicated things like the interactions of molecules so that we can design something. That's one of the big scientific unknowns right now. It may be that there is this complexity ceiling beyond which you cannot go, so that no matter how fast your computer is designed at the nano level, the level of complexity you need to calculate how to make that machine do certain things really does take billions of years to calculate, and evolution on earth was already optimized. Or it might turn out that we really can do something smart and come up with a way to do it in maybe 10 or 40 years because it turns out that evolution wasn't optimized and evolution wasted a lot of time on — oh, I don't know — snails [laughs]. So the single greatest question might be; how optimized was evolution from the point of view of wanting to design complicated things really quickly?

RU: We have this fairly ubiquitous view now that all the important systems in life come from basically very simple programs that iterate and accumulate complexity. We have currently the theory that the universe is just that; and then we have genes and memes. This works for me, but I also suspect that there's something else going on. I don't have the scientific language or knowledge to say what that is; it may be related to dimensionality; quantum physics... I'm not sure, but I do have that suspicion.

JL: It's tricky. I think there's something else too. This is a subtle difficult question. And there are alternative theories. There are a lot of different kinds of propagating programs we could be talking about like the Wolfram programs that are supposed to propagate a reality that is very different from the Darwinian set of programs. I have a feeling that the sense in which we find these theories to be true reaches a final point where they're tautological and therefore useless. Yes, of course you can conceive of it that way. But I think the question is whether this way of thinking about the world as a bunch of competing programs really gets you anywhere. Is it of any use? Does it make it easier and faster to think about anything? It's an open question but I'm a little skeptical. I think a lot of the meme-gene people are really drunk on their little metaphor but it's pretty short on substance. You end up with the "just so" problem. There wasn't any falsification potential, so all the stories were equally good.

The problem I worry about, which I expressed in my essay "One Half a Manifesto" is that you have this sort of trickle down effect. You have this big metaphor that starts to influence the way you think about little things. You start to think that things are made out of simpler algorithms than they really are and you sort of dumb yourself down. You start thinking of yourself and other people as simpler than they really are because you want it to fit nicely, potentially into a computer.

RU: Do you think big theories that try to explain everything are a waste of time?

JL: No, I don't reject explanation. I just think it's really hard to do.

This was an excerpt from True Mutations: Conversations on the Edge of Technology, Science and Consciousness by RU Sirius. The book includes interviews with Cory Doctorow, Robert Anton Wilson, DJ Spooky, John Markoff, David Pescovitz, Howard Rheingold, Steven Johnson, David Duncan, Genesis P. Orridge, Danel Pinchbeck, Howard Bloom and many others.

See also:
John Edward's Second Life Attackers Unmasked
Who Are Second Life's "Patriotic Nigras"?
Jimmy Wales Will Destroy Google
Neil Gaiman Has Lost His Clothes

Who are Second Life’s “Patriotic Nigras”?



They're brash, articulate and unapologetic; and they have a message for America. Mudkips Acronym is co-founder of "the Patriotic Nigras," the group who attacked John Edwards' virtual headquarters in Second Life, and Wednesday he agreed to an email interview.

Talking about Second Life and the blogosphere, Mudkips explains how his group operates and their pranksterish motivations, and insists that... no, they're aren't Republicans.

LOU CABRON: Why did your attacking avatars wear "Bush '08" buttons?

MUDKIPS ACRONYM: Everything we do is for laughs, and we thought "Bush '08" would be interpreted as humor — as I'm sure you know, Bush obviously can't be re-elected in '08.



However, the resulting aftershock from the "blogosphere", particularly on the left, has been enormous, when they thought the raiders were Republicans. This was completely unexpected, and frankly hilarious. I'm a bit disillusioned with my own party after this event, actually, as someone who did read blogs like the Daily Kos and expected some honest and truthful journalism. However, it seems as if everyone played a giant game of telephone, taking the Republican assumption and adding on more and more anger and hostility as it went on.

While I felt Kerry was a bit wishy-washy, I voted for him in 2004. I'm sort of conservative on economics but very, very liberal on anything else. I'm all for Bush impeachment over the Iraq war and all that jazz. I'm currently rooting for Obama, but that doesn't mean we won't raid him or anything. We'll hit anyone if it's funny, and if the guy I want to be president in 2008's campaign provides the lulz, we'll certainly not cross him off our list.

I'm not going to deny Patriotic Nigras is a troll group. We exist primarily to make people mad. Unlike most trolls, however, the attention is not the biggest concern. However, the reaction to this whole mess has been a troll's DREAM. An "attack," placed in an unofficial spot on an unofficial blog, has been a large story if only because the political persecution factor was tacked on to it.

While a few of us might be racist or something (who knows with this group), that's completely irrelevant to our cause. N3X15, our webhoster guy and acting Second Life leader, is a Republican. I probably disagree with him on a lot of things. But we're willing to overlook that in the fact that we all are allied to the same goal. I think laughs transcend party lines.

I think this whole incident is telling of where our priorities lie (and by "our" I mean America, if you happen to be outside the U.S.). But let's not make this too much of what it isn't.

Returning to the Bush thing, my answer would be "for the lulz". Claiming to be from the Republicans, we thought, would just add some irony to the whole thing. We didn't know that it would become the centerpiece of the event.

LC: Can you tell me about your group? How many people are in it?

MA: We have around 70 members on the forums. Of those, maybe 35 are active and confirmed.

The first attack was somewhere in December or January. I don't remember exactly when, but it was around Christmas-time. Like it says in the Encyclopedia Dramatica article, though, the first attacks were somewhat sparse. Me and a couple other guys, doing random crap.

As for hating John Edwards himself...nah. He (actually, the camp seems to be unofficial, so rather whoever set it up and posted the news on the blog) was simply a high-profile target exploitable for maybe a day or two of chuckles, maybe more, at least we thought at first.

It was only when we'd become able to get to a critical-mass of sorts of members that the "attacks" become organized and large-scale. I'd put that around the time of the third Fort Longcat, the middle of January. Once we got that set up, we were able to organize efficiently and had a place to retreat and regroup when things didn't go right.

The planning for the Edwards attack was actually fairly minimal. We have experience doing this sort of thing with the furry and gorean sims. However, and without trying to be too dramatic, we did have "spies" in and around the physical Edwards campaign HQ.

Our original plan was to arrive in a bunch of Black Hawk helicopters and have sniper areas. We had it planned out for a while, but a couple people from the organization decided to go in prematurely. Like I've said, it would have caused much more of a hubbub had the original plan went through!

LC: What do you tell people who say your group is racist?

MA: As an organization, we have no racist, sexist, or political bias, except in the case of when it serves our interests. The "nigra" thing could be seen as a racist remark at first glance, but Encyclopedia Dramatica explains it well

"Since the Internets is largely Anonymous and because the term was invented by a /b/tard (a cyber being of indeterminate and irrelevant sex/age/heritage) in the virtual, 'colourblind' environment of Habbo Hotel as a way to say 'nigga' without alerting their dirty word Department of Habboland Security feds, any suggestion that the word 'nigra' is racist is not only completely without merit, it's racist against the inhabitants of Internets."

LC: So how are you able to operate in Second Life?

MA: Even though Fort Longcat was deleted by the landowner, we're still setting up small scale forts to organize. Since our forts are usually deleted within the week by landowners, we're constantly on the move, and the fact we have permanent forums (no ProBoards free stuff that can be taken out from under us) now has helped keep us together. Our webmaster has engineered a half-working separate Second Life server/sim as well, where we can meet up independent of the main grid.

As to who we are, all I can say is that we're big-A Anonymous.

LC: So what kind of people are in the group? Are you high school students, middle-aged geeks...?

MA:The stereotype of us being high school geeks with acne is funny. Most of our members are well in their twenties and even thirties. The site where we originated from from has an active no-under-18 policy.

As for the site's identity, I have to clarify two things:

1. We're not from Something Awful.

2. Ebaumsworld is a cover, and we're not from there. Rule one in our book is "do not mention the site we come from." Anyone caring to analyze the content (signs, things we say, the "nigras" part of our name) of our raids, however, should be able to figure it out with a little Googling. However, while we originated from that board, we're a separate entity and do not organize there.

LC: Is your group worried about getting busted?

MA: Nah. As far as bans go, IPs can be changed, we can spoof MACs, we can change or send gibberish HD IDs. Thanks to our resident programmers, and Linden Labs' generous open-sourcing of the client package, we have tools that can do most of that already.

As for getting in trouble in general - no. First off, cases involving prosecution on Internet sites require tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars, are often dragged out for years, have little evidence to support their claims, and so forth. Add that with the fact that everything being done is according to the game world's own mechanics, and I'm not too worried about anything serious going on.

I think if someone were to be sued (even in a civil court) for putting giant phalluses on somebody's Internet lawn, they'd be laughed out of court. If anything, Linden Labs is attracting more attention to Second Life thanks to this incident. Nevertheless, you're still going to have people like intLib threatening us with obscure felonies to try to dissuade us. At that point, the best way to deal with them is to ignore them.

LC: You sound very libertarian.

MA: I don't support all libertarian causes, but I am of the opinion that people should be able to do what they wish unless it negatively impacts someone else. I'm anti-drug but completely for the legalization of marijuana (though I don't use it), as well as completely against the Patriot Act and things that I feel invade American liberties.



LC: So what happens next? What do you think the Edwards camp should do?

MA: Good question. I'll assume you mean the campaign and/or the people supporting it, not the physical location itself.

The fact is, Second Life is not a credible or effective way to make a campaign statement. Whether or not the headquarters was officially sanctioned by the Edwards campaign, having something like this is a waste of time. Second Life's actual membership numbers are vastly inflated, as is the more literal artificially inflated Second Life economy. The bubble will burst eventually.

Anyways, if the Edwards campaign wants to try to get more public support, they need to take less time trying to be edgy and Web 2.0 and more time focusing on issues and traditional publicity. It's nice when someone takes the trouble to make a video on YouTube explaining their campaign goals, but half the time they're recycled or just plain corny. If anyone in the campaign wants to bring the young demographic in, they need to actually care about their potential constituents, not just put out a video of old campaign meets with cheesy background music, set up a fort in Second Life, and be done with it.

LC: What are your plans for the future?

MA: Well, we'll keep bombing the furry sims, but other than that, who knows?

If I say anything else, there might be some lockdowns, but other candidates in Second Life are a possibility. Anything high-profile is fair game.

See also:
John Edwards' Virtual Attackers Unmasked
Craiglist Sex Troll Gets Sued
20 Wildest Reactions To Obama's Victory
The 5 Faces of Bush

John Edwards’ Virtual Attackers Unmasked



The attackers have been identified — and they're alive and gloating.

"Guess what: we're not Republicans. In fact, I'm one of the most hard-core liberals I know."

A post on the John Edwards blog claimed credit for an attack on his campaign HQ in Second Life — saying that "We simply did it for the lulz... The fact you were so bent out of shape to make a blog post on the OFFICIAL JOHN EDWARDS BLOG about how some people placed a bunch of shittingdicknipples on your lawn is mighty telling."



The post was deleted from Edwards blog. (Its last line was "Enjoy your AIDS!") But the poster used the name Mudkips Acronym, which also turns up in a January entry on Encyclopedia Dramatica, identifying him as a member of a longstanding Second Life "invasion group." Its name is given as "Patriotic Nigras: e-terrorists at large," and Saturday the entry was updated to claim credit for the Edwards attack.

This would make the Edwards attack just the latest installment in a longer history of random assaults. The page describes the group's first attacks as griefing pranks on Second Life's "Gay Yiffy" virtual nightclub — blocking the exit doors on a disco's private rooms, and filling its dance floor with an annoyingly large box. They returned to build a wall with a swastika of American flags, and eventually acquired a "Doomsday" weapon that creates endlessly replicating cubes.

The group also claims weapons like "the Dong Popgun" (which fires a barrage of penises), and the "Cosby Block" (a profilerating posters of the Jell-o pudding pops spokesman). One Second Life blogger accused the group of distributing the infamous Goatse picture, a tactic confirmed by a Second Life newspaper. And the group's ultimate weapon — the "Mario mosh pit" — even floods an area with images of Nintendo's Mario character.

YouTube footage apparently captures the attacks, set to musical soundtracks like "America: Fuck Yeah", or the soundtrack to Star Wars. A climactic January attack targeted another night club in Second Life, according to their Wiki page — followed by a permanent ban of the group's members. (They believe Second Life had successfully identified their computer hardware, according to the web page.) It claims the group is now armed with an "unbanning" tool, and having grown to at least 15 members, now hides in a secret base somewhere in Second Life's virtual sky.

On the Edwards blog, Mudkips Acronym also posted that "we had something much bigger planned, and the actions of a few in the organization sort of spoiled it." Even then, he was amused by the online coverage and wrote that "If this sort of hilarity is getting out after something rather routine, we can only dream of what would happen later."

John Edwards had been running a flawless online campaign, with a web site promising Edwards will "ensure America's greatness in the 21st century." The candidate assembled an impressive online outreach effort, with pages on all the major social networking sites. (Although his LiveJournal site still sports embarrassing ads for cheap flights to Las Vegas because the campaign didn't pay the $2.00 a month for an ad-free account.) Last month an Edwards volunteer decided to create a campaign headquarters in Second Life — prompting mixed reactions. ("Edwards To Pin Down Crucial Techno-Savvy Shut-In Vote," joked Wonkette.) But other Edwards volunteers were clearly excited. "Excuse me, your netroots are showing!" gushed a poster on the Edwards site. "The Edwards campaign once again proves its Web 2.0 credentials..."

It was barely more than two weeks before the attackers struck — setting off an interesting discussion about the state of the online world.

"This is the modern-day equivalent of hippies freaking out the squares," wrote a blogger at Wired. "You see countless news stories about this, over and over again: the gray humorless drones of political parties or corporations rushing to establish a presence in Second Life because it's the thing to do, only to find themselves staring directly into the collective Goatse.cx of the Internet's soul."

One of the attackers struck the pose of a manifesto writer. "[T]he truth is, there is something terribly wrong with Second Life, isn't there...? [W]here once you had the freedom to object, think, and speak as you saw fit, you now have IP bans and hypocritical labelers coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission."

But their real motivation seems to be the thrill of griefing. "You don't have to have furries to be a target," notes another comment, "all you have to be is so full of yourself that you freak out over an attack. Freak out once and they'll come back because the more you struggle and complain, the funnier it is."

And one poster goes even further. "The thing is... griefing is pretty much the only way to make Second Life fun if you aren't a furry or a pedophile or something."

Second Life's creators, Linden Labs, were compelled by the incident to issue a middle-of-the-road response ("At Linden Lab we do the utmost to ensure the protection of creative expression, within certain bounds. Ultimately, instances in which residents engage in vandalism will have to be taken on a case by case basis according to our terms of service.") And Second Life boosters had already been sharing their tips for dealing with griefers. But perhaps the best summation came from a comment at the Game Politics site.

"Why does everyone think that this was political? This is what happens in Second Life."

According to the Second Life Herald, the Edwards virtual HQ had already been targeted by a pesky next door neighbor who insisted on touting the presidential candidacy of John Edward — the psychic host of TV's "Crossing Over."

Q: Will Edward be making a visit to SL?
A: He's already here. He's inside all hour hearts and minds. Because he can read them.
Q: how can he concentrate?
A: I imagine he just squints his eyes really hard

In an unpredictible online environment, political campaigns will face situations that are new and unexpected. (The Huffington Post went to the trouble of pointing out that while Edwards had a virtual headquarters, there were "scantily clad vixens nearby.") One observer even found their way to Edwards' blog and posted "John, welcome to the internet. If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen, but if you are willing to laugh at the insanity you'll find many friends there."



As a kind of confirmation, the online pranksters themselves updated their Encyclopedia entry with a link to an apparently-related web page. Accessing the page plays the dramatic finale to Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture while showing a picture of a giggling anime girl — and a five dollar bill with John Edwards' face.

"Sorry we broke your intertube campaign, Mr. Edwards," it says.

"So here's 5 bux."

See also:
Who Are Second Life's "Patriotic Nigras"
Steve Wozniak v. Stephen Colbert — and Other Pranks
Craigslist Sex Troll Gets Sued
Is Yahoo/Flickr DMCA Policy Censorship?

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

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

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?

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

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

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...


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'

Is Yahoo/Flickr DMCA Policy Censorship?


Mashup of Michael Crook by Thomas Hawk

Reflections about the Michael Crook affair will surely be all over the web soon. People will look back in anger, although the prevailing sense of outrage may be tempered by many notes of caution — it's not all fun, being hassled by a griefer. I probably leaned more towards that sense of outrage in this recent conversation with Thomas Hawk, popular community photographer, prominent blogger and all-around evangelist for the digital revolution.

Jeff Diehl: So I guess the first thing is to offer you a chance to disclose some stuff.

Thomas Hawk: I'm CEO of Zooomr. We would be considered a competitor to Yahoo's Flickr photo sharing site. I've been very active on Flickr both before and after joining Zooomr.

JD: Explain precisely what happened when Crook DMCAed you.

TH: I posted a photo of Michael Crook on Flickr. I've got a reasonably popular Flickr photostream and so I posted an image of him there using a mashup that I made with the image of Crook. After posting these images of Crook I received DMCA take down notices from Crook for the images on Zooomr and thomashawk.com. Flickr also received a DMCA notice and used it to take down my mash up of Crook.



I don't so much have an issue with Yahoo taking down the image (at least temporarily until the legitimacy of the claim could be investigated) but I do have a problem with Yahoo taking down all of the conversation and meta data around the image and permanently deleting it. There was a long conversation on the image by many different people about Crook and this case. Public discourse, opinion, ideas, etc. that was just wiped out by Yahoo without telling me first.

After they took it down they sent me a threatening email. I responded back to Yahoo staff about it and pointed them to a Boing Boing link where Fox News in fact had given Boing Boing, and anyone else, permission to use the images, but that email went unanswered. They never did put my stuff back up and now an important discourse is permanently lost.

JD: Do you feel the discourse is especially "important" because it's about free speech? Or does that just make it ironic?

TH: This is most certainly about free speech in my opinion. It sucks that all anyone has to do to kill a conversation at Flickr is to claim a DMCA violation. Irrespective of the fact that Yahoo should have done a better job actually investigating the claim before deleting the image, there was no reason to delete the words and comments associated with the image.

I'm a strong advocate of free speech. Especially on a community based photo sharing site. Especially one like Flickr where people frequently use their photostreams to express opinions, thoughts and ideas.

JD: It seems that Yahoo has an extreme policy regarding DMCA takedown notices; even beyond what the law stipulates.

TH: I don't know how many photos of Crook Yahoo wiped out but there was no need to wipe out the metadata, comments, descriptions, posts, etc. And there was no need to permanently delete this stuff. Yahoo went way beyond what the DMCA requires and I don't like that anyone can just send in a bogus DMCA notice on my Flickrstream and have hundreds and thousands of lines of text deleted that might be associated with an image.

Yahoo needs to change their policy on this.

JD: Do you know of any other community sties (other than Zooomr!) that have a different, more reasonable approach?

TH: Unfortunately I'm not as familiar with other sites so I'm not sure how they would handle all this. Eventually Yahoo sent me a notice after Crook rescinded his bogus DMCA notice. But when this happened they didn't put my old photo and all of the commentary and dialog that went along with it back up, they merely said I could reupload it if I wanted because he rescinded. He held the power. Not me, not Yahoo. And he largely succeeded at least there because he wiped out tons of negative personal criticism about him and his behavior. This is censorship to me.

JD: I know my host, Laughing Squid, handled it brilliantly, but it's a small company; it's more complicated with a behemoth like Yahoo, isn't it?

TH: Well yeah, Scott Beale handled it really well. But Yahoo's being big and corporate and all that shouldn't be an excuse. I pay them money for Flickr. Lots and lots of people pay them money for Flickr. If they need to hire a few more people to better review DMCA takedown notices I'm not going to lose any sleep over it. They are a billion dollar company and certainly have the resources to do the right thing here. In any case, irrespective of investigating the bogus claim there is simply no — zero — reason to kill the text that accompanies an image. Ideas are important and ought to be protected.

JD: You say in your comments: "My biggest problem is that they destroyed *my* metadata associated with the image." That's a powerful way of putting it.

TH: Well some of it was mine. The post that accompanied the image for instance. And lots of comments that I made in a public discussion about this. The metadata also belongs to others at Flickr as well though. In fact anyone that commented on the photo and expressed their thoughts and opinions had their metadata destroyed.

The biggest distinction between my vs. Yahoo's, though, is that I consider the stuff I post on the site to belong to me. They are profiting from my data no doubt, but all of the images, text, comments, thoughts, ideas expressed on Flickr don't belong to Yahoo, they belong to the users and the users should be treated with more respect than I was when I just had my stuff unceremoniously deleted.

JD: I'm not sure when exactly the take down and safe harbor provisions of the DMCA were drafted, but it seems possible that sites like Flickr, where original images are intertwined thematically with original words, weren't on anyone's radar.

TH: Maybe not, and I certainly understand that Yahoo can find itself in a dilemma and feel that they don't have much choice about it. But they still shouldn't allow just anyone to kill speech attached to an image. I've posted many many images on Flickr that are political. Images where I've run into harassment from security guards while shooting out in SF. Images associated with what I've considered child abuse. Images of a sleazy camera retailer that almost ripped me off, etc. In these cases, like the Michael Crook case, the commentary that accompanies the image is super important and should be protected. There is no way that Yahoo could be held liable for free discussion. They take things too far by deleting all of the commentary with the image.

I'm not concerned with any kind of retribution on this. I'd just like to see Yahoo apologize, admit the mistake, put my old photo and the commentary back up if they can (if they still have backups, hopefully). And I'd like to see them change how they handle DMCA stuff in the future by only taking down the image (not the commentary, metadata, etc.) and doing it temporarily so that someone could dispute it.



JD: Did you have any final thoughts?

TH: No, but just want to say thanks to you for really being a catalyst around this entire issue as it relates to Crook and his behavior. You played an important role in bringing up a very important issue, DMCA abuse. The conversations around this are important ones and have important implications for both free speech and democracy.

Details of a settlement will be announced on this site soon. Also, there will be a party and fundraiser for EFF in San Francisco on March 22nd.

See Also:
"Dear Internet, I'm Sorry"
The EFF's Diehl v. Crook page
The Case Against Crook
Craigslist Sex Troll Gets Sued
Thomas Hawk versus Rent-a-Cops

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


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 do