Sir Mix-A-Lot Re-Mixed: “Baby Got Back” for the Holidays

"Oh my god, Becky. Look how much you ate over Thanksgiving!"

I'm determined to start a new holiday tradition, celebrating what's either the tackiest rap video ever, or an important cultural touchstone. (VH1 ranked "Baby Got Back" as the sixth-greatest song of the 1990s and one of the 20 best hip hop songs of all time...) Now as an obese America tromps from one holiday eating binge to the next, I've started looking back on this 1992 song as our secret national anthem to gluttony.

And at this special time of year, YouTube has finally supplied the answer to the question: Who else likes big butts — and they can't deny?

It turns out that it isn't just Sir Mix-A-Lot...

1. Jonathan Coulton's Juicy Double

It was 13 years after Sir Mix-a-Lot's song went to #1 on the singles chart and earned its infamous Grammy award for Best Rap Solo Performance. But absolutely no one expected that its next stop was this gentle easy-listening version created by singer-songwriter Jonathan Coulton. "In the proud tradition of many white Americans who came before me," Coulton joked on his blog, "I hereby steal and white-ify this thick and juicy piece of black culture."

The song's massive popularity surprised even Coulton, giving a boost to his young indie song-writing career. He'd never actually met the famous rap artist (though he warned readers that Sir Mix-a-Lot "is not an actual knight.") But five years later, some unholy DJ synched up Coulton's gentle acoustic-guitar and vocals to Sir Mix-a-Lot's original video, creating what is quite possibly the most disturbing music video ever.

2. Richard Cheese Stays and Plays

His band is called "Lounge Against the Machine," and he proudly tells Jimmy Kimmel that he turns popular songs into...crap. But in 2006, Richard Cheese created his own stunning swing version of "Baby Got Back," mimicking the stylings of a big band vocalist — albeit one who's "beggin' for a piece of that bubble."

In this jaw-dropping live performance, he follows it with an equally inappropriate version of Depeche Mode's Personal Jesus.

3. Burger King Says Here's My Scandal

Just when you thought it couldn't get any stupider — or any whiter — the Burger King delivers his own demented butt-related rap, dedicating it to Sponge Bob Squarepants. ("When a sponge walks in, four corners in his pants like he got phone-book implants, the crowd shouts...") It was 2009 when the fast food franchise icon launched this attempt at a viral online video, begging desperately for that "WTF" reaction, but stopping just short of the absolutely perverted.

"I wanna get with ya," the corporate icon raps, " 'cause you're making me richer."

4. The Groom Wants to Get With Ya...

A newly-married couple performs their traditional first dance together — but their wedding planner apparently wasn't satisfied with the song "Unchained Melody". 45 seconds later, their guests were in for a shock, though the couple had apparently been rehearsing for days. And since that fateful night in 2007, their two-minute dance floor extravaganza has been watched more than 13 million times in its various incarnations on YouTube.

"Aw snap that was HOT!" opined one critic on YouTube. "He was all like boom And she was all like pow..."

5. A Word to the Thick Soul Sisters at Walmart

"Attention shoppers, you're in for a special treat..." Somewhere a teenaged wiseguy has cracked into the intercom system at Walmart, and he's using it to announce to all the shoppers that "I like big butts, and I can't deny..."

He gets through about 13 seconds before he's cut off by an irate clerk — but the glorious video shows his utterly pointless attempt to return for a second chorus. And through the miracle of the internet, instead of annoying just a handful of customers at WalMart, he ends up getting watched by nearly 3 million viewers on YouTube.

Of course, they're also watching 90 seconds of his humiliating escort straight to the Walmart parking lot. And for what, asks a passerby? "For likin' big butts."

Yes, there have been many other versions of this song. (In fact, it actually formed the basis for a whole episode of Friends.) One rebellious animator created his own naughty dance video using "American Girl" dolls, and someone's even dreamed up their own Gilbert and Sullivan version.

There's also an anime version, one with violent zombie-killing footage, and there's even a bible version called Baby Got Book. But only the curly-haired prankster from "FatVids" dared to leave the safety of the internet, and to speak Sir Mix-a-lot's magical but forbidden words in public. And in one final conversation with Walmart's security guard, he breaks this song's appeal down into its essence.

"You think it's funny what you did?"


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Transhumanist Salvation or Judgment Day?

We're starting to brush up against real robots, real nanotech, and maybe even the first real artificial intelligence. But will emerging technologies destroy humankind — or will humankind be saved by an emerging transhumanism?

And which answer is more liberating?

If anybody knows, it's R.U. Sirius. The former editor in chief at Mondo 2000 (and a Timothy Leary expert) has teamed up with "Better Humans LLC." They're producing a new transhumanist magazine called h+. (And R.U. is also one of the head monkeys at 10 Zen Monkeys.) But can he answer this ultimate question? Terminator Salvation played with questions about where technology ends and humanity begins.

But what will we do when we're confronting the same questions in real life?

10 Zen Monkeys: Isn't this whole idea of real transhumanism kind of scary?

RU SIRIUS: Everything's scary. Human beings weren't born to be wild so much as we were born to be scared, starting on a savanna in Africa as hunter-gatherers watching out for lions and tigers and bears (oh my... Okay, maybe just lions), subjected to the random cruelties of a Darwinian planet. I would say that the transhumanist project is probably an attempt to use human ingenuity to make living in this situation as not scary as possible, and in some theories, to actually change the situation, to create a post-Darwinian era.

Of course, that — in itself — is scary. Our favorite narratives — our favorite movies and stories and comics tend to involve humans being altered by our own technologies to dramatically bad ends. Most of those stories are silly in the particular, but the broader fear of unintended consequences or the use of advanced technologies by intentionally destructive people isn't silly.

For instance, we explored the very rapid development of robotic technologies for warfare during the web site's Terminator Week. That's viscerally scary. Logically it can also mean less civilian casualties, less harm to soldiers, and so on. And on the other hand, it can also mean less hesitation to use violence against others, or a possibly objectionable system of total control in which revolution is permanently rendered impossible. And on the other hand... I can do the "on the one hand and on the other hand" until the Singularity or at least until the Mayan apocalypse of 2012.

But seriously, what really scares the crap out of me is that we might not make radical technological problem-solving breakthroughs — that we might stop, or that the technologies might fall short of their promises. What scares me is the idea of a 6 billion-strong species finding itself with diminishing hopes, resource scarcities, insoluble deadly pandemics, and global depression based on the delusions of abstract capital flow resulting in increases in violence and suffering and territoriality and xenophobia.

10Z: But how does transhumanism resolve these problems? How does a bunch of rich people living longer solve any of this?

RU: Let's take this one at a time. The technological paradigm that has grown out of transhumanist or radical technological progressive circles that I'm most fond of is NBIC. Nano-Bio-Info-Cogno. The promise of nanotechnology — which has become much more tangible just in the last few months (thanks to developments we recently covered on our site) — is basic control over the structure of matter. This should eventually solve most of our scarcity problems, with the possible exception of physical space. (And there are ways we might deal with that, but I'm trying to keep it short.)

Nanotechnology, of course, has enormous potentials in terms of health as does biotechnology. People can find these details just about anywhere so I won't go into it. Anyway, sickness is perhaps our greatest source of misery and our greatest resource sink... particularly if you contrast sickness not just with the absence of disease but with the possibilities of maintaining a high level of vitality.

Then... information technology allows us to organize the data for distributed problem solving and — to a great degree — democratizes it. (More eyes and more brains on the problem, working with and through more intelligent machines.) IT is at the heart of all the breakthroughs and potential breakthroughs in nano and bio — and all this is leaving aside the further out projections of hyper-intelligent AIs.

You know, getting back to what's scary, I agree with Vernor Vinge that the greatest existential threat is still nuclear warfare. But next in line is the possibility of a major plague... a rapidly spreading pandemic. And already we can see that the tools for dealing with that come down to intelligent systems and biotech. There's biotech medical solutions using intelligent systems married to global mapping and communications and organized distribution. Human behavior has a role too, of course... but not as much as romantics might wish.

Which perhaps brings us to cogno — getting control and better use out of the brain for greater intelligence, greater happiness, less misery... hell, maybe even cheaper thrills! Why not? A lot of our problems are self-created... or they're created by particularly unstable or irrational people. As a veteran of the psychedelic culture, the potentials and problems of cognition are a particular area of fascination for me — and also as a nonconformist who is suspicious of the tendency of society to be hostile towards what we might call creative madness. So I do have some ambiguities, but it's just a huge area of intrigue as far as I'm concerned.

Now, all of this is just the prosaic stuff, without imagining Singularities, or say hyperintelligent humans who aren't needy... happily living on converted urine and nutrient pills while entertaining one and other in ever-complexifying virtual spaces. Lots of energy savings there, Bubb.

10Z: President Obama is reconstituting his bio-ethics panel. Just how high are the stakes, in the here and now, regarding U.S. political policy governing future research?

RU: You know, I think the bioconservatives who dominated Bush's bio-ethics panel and opposed stem cell research were just pissing in the wind... but that stuff can hit you in the face. Really though, I think that the discourse in opposition to embryonic stem cells will some day be seen as every bit as absurd as Monty Python's "every sperm is sacred."

More broadly, I don't think the stakes are very high because I don't think you can get the federal government today to be terribly functional... and I'm not a knee-jerk anti-government guy at the level of economics or investment in research. I just think there's a certain all-American "can't do" thing going on there and there's no effective strategy for changing it.

Sometimes I think that the people who really control America — the corporate oligarchs and finance kleptocrats, the national security apparatus and so forth — realize that the Titanic has already hit the iceberg. And laughing up their sleeves they said, "Quick! Put that charismatic black guy behind the wheel!"

10Z: I'm surprised to hear that you're not a knee-jerk anti-government sort of guy. I read that you were an anarchist.

RU: I've read that too. I have an anarchistic streak, but I can't even begin to believe in it. I do think that being an anarchist is an excellent choice though, because it's never going to be tried by any large group on a highly populated planet with advanced technology. So you never have to witness or experience the consequences of your belief system being enacted. It will remain forever romantic.

On the whole, though... I should try to be diplomatic. Let's just say that anarchists and pure libertarians are the most anti-authoritarian, and I like to be anti-authoritarian. It would be more convenient and more consistent to believe, but I don't think ideologies work in the real world.

10Z: Let's get back to those ambiguities you mentioned. That seems like a rare trait in the community represented by h+ magazine.

RU: Hardly. But I'm probably more richly ambiguous than most other human beings. My only ideology is uncertainty. Although you'll see it if you explore transhumanist-oriented discussion groups and blogs like Michael Anissimov's Accelerating Future or the writings of Nick Bostrom ad infinitum. They're rife with complexity and argumentation, and concern about existential threats, inequalities in the distribution of positive results from scientific achievement, and on and on. The reality is there's a rich and varied discourse within the techno-progressive movement just as there is between the progressives and the bio-conservatives.

10Z: It's hard to see where longevity and immortality fits into your vision of social responsibility.

RU: First of all, I emphasized problem solving to respond to your question about fear. And in essence my answer was I'm more afraid of standing still or going backwards than I am of moving forward. But man... and woman... cannot live by social responsibility alone. (We don't go around now asking people to die so we can spare resources or whatever.)

And I think that our humor columnist Joe Quirk had the best response to people who are against hyper-longevity... holy crap! These people want me to die!

Can we allow people to be the owners and operators of their own experiences and decide for themselves how to answer the Shakespearian question — to be or not to be? I think it's doable. There's a very substantive discussion from Ramez Naam in our first issue about why hyper-longevity should not create big resource problems. It has to do with demographics and the tendencies of educated, comfortable people to make less kids, and a fairly high percentage of inevitable deaths even if we cure aging and most illnesses.

10Z: But won't this exacerbate already extreme class distinctions? Won't we have a wealthy race of immortals and then everybody else?

RU: That's plausible, but very unlikely. And it always surprises me that that's the first thing you usually hear, since a great portion of the human species already has access to universal health care. Even left to the market, the investment that's being made in this should eventually lead to a need to sell to a large consumer market. In our first issue, we have a chart that shows billionaires who are investing in revolutionary science projects... and a few of them are investing in longevity. Well, they're going to want to take their product to market and get a big consumer share. John Sperling isn't going to be sitting in some mountain retreat rubbing his hands together and saying, "Foolish mortals, I shall use this only for myself and my beautiful blonde cyborg bride Britney!" That's the movie version, not the reality.

The reality is actually sort of comical — the wealthy are the early adapters of new technologies, but those new technologies usually don't work very well at first... they tend to fuck up. Now, I think you can imagine that as a potential movie that can satisfy everybody's need for schadenfreude.

10Z: Francis Fukuyama wrote some critiques of the transhumanist vision. In one essay he writes: "Modifying any one of our key characteristics inevitably entails modifying a complex, interlinked package of traits, and we will never be able to anticipate the ultimate outcome." How would you respond?

RU: This gets us to the cover story on so-called designer babies in the current Summer Edition of h+ magazine. There's hugely intriguing and potentially controversial issues about enhancement in this edition. And that's not only around parents pre-selecting traits for their children, but there's also a portrait of Andy Miah in the issue. He's a British professor who — for all intents and purposes — is pro-sports doping.

Before I go into this, I want to take a bit of a detour. When I wake up in the morning and start working on h+, I'm not thinking "How can I spread propaganda for the glories of transhumanism?" or anything like that. I'm thinking: "How can I do a totally cool-ass website and magazine with the transhumanist idea and sensibility at the center of it." That's my charge, and I'm approaching it as a craftsman. So I'm looking at this first as a magazine writer and editor — I want it to be accessible, exciting and fun, and I want it to look great. I want it to ride along the boundary between being a pro-transhumanist magazine and being more of a balanced and very hip generalist geek culture magazine. That, for me, is the sweet spot in this, and I think, along with other contributors, we've pretty much nailed it.

So I'm first of all an editor and writer. And secondly, I'm a curious editor and writer. This isn't necessarily all good or all bad. It's interesting. And that's how I'd hope and expect most readers would approach it.

And there's one more thing coming in a very distant third. In the context of an overarching commitment to my philosophy of uncertainty — or meta-agnosticism — I'm an advocate of the radical technological vision. I've thought long and hard about politics — and about consciousness unassisted by radical technology — and I've concluded that radical technology is the only bet that has a chance of winning not just a sufferable but a generally positive and enjoyable human future. But I'm not a stoical defender of the cause or anything like that.

So what Fukuyama proposes is interesting — that altering a few alleles to create some characteristics could iterate into monstrous or unhappy consequences further down the road. And I think that the general consensus among geneticists is that this is very unlikely with the small kinds of changes that are being discussed now (for example, selections of eye and hair color). Beyond that point, I say... let the arguments rage on! One of the assumptions among advocates is that by the time we're able to make significant incursions into germ line engineering (to affect people's intelligence or make them more or less aggressive or sexier or whatever), we'll have significantly advanced measurement and predictive, a really good understanding of what we're doing.

And there's another argument: we change stuff all the time in the "natural" evolution of human beings — and we reap both positive and negative consequences. But generally we gain more than we lose by proceeding with technological advances. There's this idea called the "proactionary principle" which came from Max More, one of the originators of transhumanism. He basically argues that we measure the potential negative consequences of a technology, but we also need to measure the negative consequences of not developing a technology. What do we lose by its absence?

Anyway, I sort of want to punt — in the specific — on the issue around choosing traits for babies. I prefer to acknowledge that it's a controversial area, but I'm excited to present the articles that are favorable towards these activities and hope they generate lots of interest and discussion.

10Z: Before I let you go, let me ask you about the politics of h+ magazine and the transhumanist movement. Ronald Bailey, who writes for the libertarian magazine Reason, criticized another transhumanist — James Hughes — who apparently advocates democratic socialism. Where do you come down on all this, and what are the politics of h+?

RU: First of all, the magazine has no explicit politics. Having said that, I think we have an implicit politic that both Ron Bailey and James Hughes agree with. It's the idea that human beings have a right to a high degree of autonomy over their minds and bodies, and that the trend towards transhuman technologies makes those rights all the more important and poignant. So human beings would have the right not just to choose their sexual preferences, or to control their birth processes, or as consenting adults to take whatever substances they like, or to eat what they like. We would also have the right to control and change our biologies, to self-enhance, to alter our bodies through surgery and on and on. So let me be oh-so-diplomatic, by emphasizing our points of agreement.

I'll give a bit of my own perspective in terms of the great late second millennium debate that puts an unfettered market at one end of the spectrum and communism at the other end of the spectrum; that puts competition on one end of the spectrum and cooperation at the other end; that puts decentralization at one of the spectrum and centralization on the other end of the spectrum. I'd have to say I'm horribly centrist. I'm dead center. It's not a mainstream centrism, but without going into a long explication, I'm almost embarrassingly moderate.

But while I think these arguments are still lively and vital today — and I have my own cheers and jeers over each day's political issues — from a near-futurist transhumanist perspective, the debate seems really tired. For about a decade I've been arguing that the future I see emerging is witnessed by the open source culture, Wikipedia, and file sharing. And in another decade or two the dominant economic mode will not be the market or socialism or the mixed economy that we actually have pretty much everywhere — it will be voluntary collaboration. And yes, that's kind of an anarchist view... but I'm saying it will become the dominant mode, not the only mode. (The market and the state will continue to be factors.) I hear Kevin Kelly just figured this out. :)... although his use of loaded words like socialism and collectivism are somewhat unfortunate.

People sometimes wonder how wealth will get distributed in a future economy that will likely require close to 0% human participation and that still presumably requires people to hustle themselves up some proof of value. But I think there's a good chance that an advanced "file-sharing" culture hooked up to advanced production nanotechnology will render the question moot.

Free lunch for everybody!

See Also:
Latest issue of h+ magazine
Read the first issue
R.U. Sirius on "Terminator/Robot Week"
"Is the Future Cancelled?" Spring 2009 Edition
HPlus Magazine's main site
R.U. Sirius's editor's blog

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Five Most Violent Super Bowl Ads

Super Bowl ads were always violent, but Sunday's game cracked the mold. Men were exploding, electrocuting, and — in one unaired spot — buying porn at gunpoint. PETA wanted to broadcast sexy models performing near-fellatio with vegetables, but the day belonged to the dudes. Some were big, some were stupid — but they all had one thing in common.


#1. I'm Bad

The meme attains perfection with Pepsi's "I'm good" ad, offering not one but four violent vignettes (culminating with a man hurtled across the sky by a high-voltage shock.) "I'm good," everyone says — since men can take anything except the taste of diet cola.

It's a bit of a stretch, though it's really just an excuse to show four crazy stunts. (Pepsi continues a tradition that dates back at least to Bud Light's infamous slapping ads.) But you know what I can't take?

Pepsi's stupid new logo.

#2. Beer and Porn

"You needed a secret code to see this spot online," warns one YouTube user — before uploading a pirated version of Budweiser's 2009 pitch for Bud Light. It's a two-minute dramedy demonstrating just how bizarre a commercial can get. (At one point, Budweiser actually had to pixelate a vibrator.) "Please drink responsibly," Bud adds at the end.

Since the days of Chaucer, porn has united humankind in a warm round of uncomfortable nervous laughter. But with this ad, Budweiser may have sent the wrong message: bad things happen when you drink Bud Light.

Especially...the crappy taste of Bud Light.

#3. A Grand Slam They Can't Refuse

Denny's turned to the mafia to promote their "free breakfast on Tuesday" promotion. But Denny's first Super Bowl ad ever — "Thugs" — finds their conversation interrupted by a waitress spraying a smiley face onto their pancakes.

It's a slap at IHOP (which dessert-ifies every pancake beyond recognition). But personally, I think the real mafia is behind all those ads for Cash4Gold.

And William Shatner's toupee.

#4. Talk Into the Clown's Mouth

After 40 years, Jack was finally mowed down by a bus — presumably spilling secret Jack sauce all over the street. "No. It's really bad," says a flunky into his cell phone. "I'm just lying to him to cheer him up." But one columnist pointed out that the Jack in the Box site wasn't broadcasting the follow-up ad. "Should we just assume he's dead?"

There's a fake Twitter feed, and racked up nearly 500 comments — possibly from his ad agency. ("LETS ALL EAT MORE JACK IN THE BOX SO THEY CAN PAY THE DOCTOR BILLS!") But most greeted the ghoulish ad campaign with an appropriate dose of internet cynicism
can I have your STUFF???
Your food actually made me sick yesterday!

And one commenter even suggested Jack's biggest problem was with the jerk who produced his Super Bowl ad.

"Maybe the camera man should have yelled something like, 'Look Out!' instead of just standing there recording your death."

#5. The Unaired MacGruber

MacGruber jumped the shark two years ago — after the first of seven appearances on Saturday Night Live. The night before the game, the real MacGyver even appeared in a Saturday Night Live skit in which he confronts "MacGruber" about selling out. (It's right before MacGruber pauses to announce "There's always time for Pepsi" — and then dying in an oil refinery explosion.) In the final SNL segment, the theme song changed its lyrics altogether to just "Pepsi Pepsi Pepsi Pepsi" — and every single word of MacGruber's dialogue became "Pepsi."

At that point, anything that happened on Super Bowl Sunday would be anti-climactic.

And I still wish they'd detonate that logo.

See Also:
7 Things I Learned From Super Bowl Ads
5 Best Videos: Animals Attacking Reporters
Pulp Fiction Parodies on YouTube
5 Sexiest Apple Videos

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Bush’s Last Day: 10 Ways America Celebrated

"For 15 minutes, America turned its gaze from the guy who landed the plane in the river to the guy who landed the country in the ditch," joked Jimmy Kimmel — adding that “White House decorators are busy right now peeling the glow-in-the-dark stars off the ceiling in the presidential bedroom.”

Back in Texas, George Bush told a crowd Tuesday that "when I get home tonight and look in the mirror, I'm not going to regret what I see — except maybe some gray hair." But many Americans reacted differently to the Bush presidency, observing the end of his eight-year term with some anger, some humor — and a lot of all-American creativity.

1. Calls for Arrest

At the President's last appearance, the L.A. Times reported, crowds responded with anger. "Just as demonstrators clogged the barricades to protest his court-mediated victory in the 2000 election, so the disenchanted lined Pennsylvania Avenue on Tuesday to express their dismay..."
On the drive to Capitol Hill, the current and future presidents passed protesters carrying signs reading "Arrest Bush." When Bush entered the grandstand with the band playing "Hail to the Chief" for the last time, the crowd below began singing a different refrain: "Hey, Hey, Good-bye."

One man waved his shoe.

And finally, when Bush's helicopter lifted off from the east front of the Capitol, cheers rose from the crowd and throng stretching down the National Mall.

The Times noted that while Bush is famous for being thick-skinned, "as the morning wore on, his smile appeared to grow more strained..."

2. Signing Off

Some pranksters went even further. Down a two-mile stretch of San Francisco, they changed all the street signs identifying Bush Street to...Obama Street. "The entire street was covered end to end," one of the pranksters told us — adding that the media mistakenly thought they'd missed a few intersections becuase "locals were actually taking them down the next morning as souvenirs!"

Tuesday's prank reminded one area watcher of an even harsher prank eight years ago. "When Bush was first elected all the BUSH street signs were changed to say PUPPET." But one newspaper noted San Francisco voters had rejected the ultimate prank — a city measure that would've renamed a sewage treatment plant after former President Bush.

3. The Onion Gets It Right

The Onion had run a prophetic headline back in January of 2001, mocking President Bush with a fake quote. "Our long national nightmare of peace and prosperity is finally over." Monday blogger Teresa Hayden collected every Bush-related story from The Onion — nearly 400 of them — arguing that "Other histories of the Bush years will doubtless be more factual, but none will ever be truer."

The Onion kept tweaking the president throughout his eight-year presidency. There's Bush "horrified to learn Presidential salary," and later, "U.S. Takes Out Debt Consolidation Loan." But many of the headlines focus on the war in Iraq.
Bush Won't Stop Asking Cheney If We Can Invade Yet

Bush Thought War Would Be Over By Now

Bush Subconsciously Sizes Up Spain For Invasion

Bush Asks Congress For $30 Billion To Help Fight War On Criticism

Rumsfeld Only One Who Can Change Toner In White House Printer

"[I]n this moment before a changing world overwrites our memories of the era," the blogger writes, "let us pause to salute our constant companion of those years..."

4. Heckling CNN

Oakland's Parkway theatre announced they'd broadcast a feed from CNN on their movie screens Tuesday, including Bush's final departure and Obama's swearing-in. By 7 a.m., nearly 400 people had formed a massive line outside the theatre, and many had to be turned away. Extra chairs were set up in the theatre's aisles, and the huge liberal crowd booed the Republicans as they appeared on the screen — Dick Cheney, Dan Quayle — and later heckled Bush's departure. And as the former president finally stepped onto a helicopter to fly away from the capitol, one heckler suggested an alternate flight plan.

"Send him to Guantanamo!"

Also watching were 5,000 schoolchildren at a community center in Harlem. "It hurt my ears. That's how crazy it got," reported NPR's Robert Smith. But as Bush ceded his presidency to Obama, "Some didn't seem to catch the finer points of presidential transitions," NRP reports. "...about five minutes into Obama's speech, the attention of the younger kids started to drift.

"They threw paper at each other and used their American flags as swords."

5. The Last "Great Moment"

David Letterman assembled a final four-minute montage of Bush's greatest goofs, celebrating the end of a recurring feature on the late-night comedy show: "Great Moments in Presidential Speeches."

"[W]e have to unload what was a tremendous rich heavy-laden vein of comedy for us," Letterman told his audience nostalgically. For over four minutes, the gaffes keep coming, and towards the end, they get even weirder. There's the thrown shoe, the dropped dog — and the infamous moment when Bush's speech was accompanied by a continually-yawning boy in a red baseball cap.

6. Jenna's Last Ride

Jenna Bush and her twin sister Barbara were more famous for partying than for public service — but they observed the transition with a letter left behind for President Obama's daughters. They remembered when their father's father was sworn in — "being seven, we didn't quite understand the gravity of the position our Grandfather was committing to" — but much of their letter seems like it was ghost-written by a Republican spinmeister. ("Our Dad, who read to us our father, not the sketch in a paper or part of a skit on TV.") And instead of writing "Eight years go by so fast," the catty Bush twins wrote to the daughters of Obama that "Four years goes by so fast..."

7. Battle of the Presidential Speeches

The site created a special exhibit including Bush's own inaugural addresses in 2001 and 2005 — along with those of every president that preceded him. "See how often US presidents have said certain words in their inaugural addresses," the site promised — and it ultimately uncovered two forbidden words which Bush and his predecessors had never spoken in any of the 56 pervious inaugural addresses — but which Barack Obama did.

"Non-believers" and "Muslims."

But Bush's first inauguration speech from 2001 is still shouting out from Google's cache, reminding web surfers how Dubya promised to reform social security — and to "confront weapons of mass destruction." And blogger Andrew Sullivan remembered a Saturday Night Live sketch at the same time which presciently predicted that President Bush would eventually tell the American people that "we had that war thing happen." In the skit, Bush hold up a map showing the Atlantic ocean flooding Louisiana (with the flooding continuing all the way up to Minnesota...) Unfortunately, according to the skit's "glimpse of our future," this alternate reality would be even worse because Vice President Dick Cheney is involved in a hunting accident — where he's killed by President Bush.

8. Perverts Say Goodbye

At a rowdy San Francisco Event called "Bye Bye Bush," San Francisco writer Thomas Roche debuted a new 34-page "gonzo sci-fi cryptozoological horror" story involving evil fish, the Bigfoot monster, and the mayor of a small town in Alaska (and her husband Todd). "I was asked repeatedly to write some political smut," Roche explains, "for a Sarah Palin porn site, for an election reading, and finally for an inauguration-themed reading..."

A half dozen local writers read their short fiction as part of the "Perverts Put Out" series, but Roche came up with a "gonzo Lovecraftian science fiction horror story" in which several Alaska tourists and some unsuspecting environmentalists wander into the dark and mysterious backwoods, and confront — no, no, it's too horrible to describe. "Fairly creepy sexual description..." Roche warns at the top of the story. "Not intended for readers under 18."

"I read an extremely abbreviated version of this story in a room full of weird sexual deviants, and people seemed to like it."

9. Free the White House

"Here's a small and nerdy measure of the huge change in the executive branch," wrote blogger Jason Kottke. The White House's web site had more than 2400 restrictions for search engines — preventing web-crawling spiders from accessing entire directories, photo essays, and the text of certain speeches.

Geeks argued about whether this represented a moving break from the past — or simply an artifact of web coding. But one thing's clear — George W. Bush won't be leaving any more policy statements on the site.

In Texas Tuesday, George Bush joked that his wife Laura "was excited about me mowing the lawn and taking out the trash — it's my new domestic agenda."

10. Losing Facebook

In the last year of Bush's presidency, a Facebook group rose to over 1,000,000 members. The name of the group? "I bet I can find 1,000,000 people who dislike George Bush!"

But now many members are commemorating Bush's departure with a final Facebook ritual. Over 190,858 messages appeared on its Facebook "wall," with many now announcing that it's time to move on.
well it was a good run, but its finally over. Later guys...

I still hate George Bush... but he's gone so I don't see the point in having this crowd up my groups now.

"im leaving this group to move on from this era"


But as George W. Bush finally left office, there was a new group was already springing up on Facebook clamoring for the new president to enact a more liberal policy. Its name? "5 million strong to petition Obama to legalize weed."

It currently has just 3409 members.

See Also:
20 Wildest Reactions to Obama's Victory
Site Sparks Political Sexiness War
25 Harshest Reactions to the Wall Street Bailout
Why Sarah's Sex Life Matters
Don't Go There: 20 Taboo Topics For Presidential Candidates
Oakland Celebrates Obama's Victory

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War of the Candidate Music Videos

Is there an emerging YouTube demographic? Politically-themed music videos may be offering an unacknowledged glimpse at the next generation of voters. But judging from these clips, their real message might be that elections are stupid, and what's really important is who's got the funniest music videos.

This summer famously saw debating candidates facing questions from a cartoon-voiced talking snowman, and Barack Obama's inspiring "Yes I Can" speech eventually morphed into a hip music video. But at the same time, though Barack lost Ohio's primary, he won the support of a whopping 75 percent of voters under the age of 24. If America's future will ultimately be determined by YouTube, it's these young video stars who are running the secret campaign.

So what is the new generation trying to tell us?

1. Hillary Boy

Not only is she mandating universal healthcare for millions — but YouTube user DaveDays also has a crush on her.

He admits candidly in the second verse that "I don't have political views," but states that 60-year-old Hillary has still won his support because of "Those thighs, those eyes. Yeah, yeah, yeah..."

Using doctored footage showing Hillary winning a dance contest, he implies that Barack Obama can't win because his own supporters' videos are insufficiently sexy. "Obama Girl you're a skank," sings Days, warning his sexy video rival that she can't ensure an Obama victory "even if you take off all your clothes." Such is the devotion of this Green Day wannabe (with the Republican mom) that he'd even choose to watch Hillary instead of the Teletubbies. Which kind of puts the whole primary in perspective...

Day's real interest is becoming a video star — as he himself acknowledges in the video's description.

"This is a spoof of obama girls vid.." he scribbles.
dont take it too seriously ;-)

Unfortunately, only 900,000 people have watched his video, putting his efforts slightly behind Taryn Southern's own lesbian-themed video about her own crush on the candidate, "Hott 4 Hill." ("I know you're not gay, but I'm hoping for bi-") But together they've created a visual, musical, sexually-charged dialogue — which is entirely free of any actual political issues.

2. The Obama Girl Revolution

In November "Obama Girl" recorded a public service announcement arguing America's political system suffered from one longstanding dysfunction: public servants who can't dance. The video was viewed just 135,659 times, suggesting that 25-year-old model Amber Lee Ettinger had already fallen from her earlier fame.

As the original video figurehead, Barely Political's "Obama Girl" launched the craze for political musical videos back in June of 2007, though there's no evidence it impacted the campaigns. HCD Research later discovered that the responses reported most-frequently for her famous video were "irritated" (48%) and "embarrassed" (35%). There's even something vaguely fascist about her newest music video, released Tuesday, in which she wails to Hillary to surrender because "it's become an Obama nation."

Ironically, all that crushing didn't actually lead her to vote for Obama. According to a February post on a New York Times blog, Obama Girl skipped the New Jersey primary after a weekend of partying at the Super Bowl.

And she didn't vote for anyone.

3. Viva!

There's a positive side to political music videos. The dialogue has been democratized, with every voice claiming a part of the internet for its own message. Miguel Orozco, a Mexican-American Obama supporter born in East L.A., created Amigos de "to fill a void in media outreach to Latinos" according to a message on his site. ("Tu Voto Tiene Swing!" it welcomes visitors...)

The site also displays one of the most sincere music videos, one that actually hopes to persuade voters — in this case, the crucial hispanic demographic — using a mariachi band. "Viva Obama!" the corridos sing...
"Families united and safe and even with a health care plan... His struggle is also our struggle, and today we urgently need a change..."

"Out of many, we are truly one," Barack announced last week in a speech about race — and it seems true even the world of viral music videos. Elsewhere on the web, there's even a video called Barack OBollywood.

4. "Oh my god! No!!!"

In an age of music videos, the worst sin is bad production values. The video Hillary4U&Me became viral simply because it was so bad, and ultimately it even provoked a YouTube counter-meme: the horrified reaction video. ("Oh my god! No! That is horrible! Ah ha ha ha ha ha! Are you serious?!" screams YouTube user CloudIzMe, as his friends gather around laughing in derision.) User "UltimateJosh" attempted to inject some edge by creating a metal "Rock Remix" by replacing the soundtrack with Marilyn Manson's "Better of Two Evils."

"I will step on you on my way up, and I will step on you on my way down...")

The music videos have evolved into post-modern deconstructive "meta" videos. But we still don't know which candidate has the best healthcare proposal.

5. McCain-o-mania

How long until John McCain feels compelled to record his own music video? The answer came in 2002, when the 65-year-old former prisoner of war appeared on Saturday Night Live to sing a medley of Barbara Streisand songs.

"I've been in politics for over 20 years," he tells the audience, "and for over 20 years I've had Barbara Streisand trying to do my job..."

As the tables turned, the young writers at Saturday Night Live thought they were writing a satire. But instead they'd stumbled into a harbinger of the strange future to come, when music and politics would collide into a near-meaningless jumble of amateur glory hounds.

Though it still remains to be seen who they'll vote for.

See Also:
Democratic Cartoon Candidates
YouTube 5 Sorriest Questions for the 2008 Presidential Candidates
5 Best Videos: Animals Attacking Reporters
5 More Nasty Campaign Ads
Pulp Fiction Parodies on YouTube

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Lawrence Welk vs. The Hippies

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

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

1. Sweet Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

2. Sucking on a Ding-dong

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

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

"Wonderful!" Welk declares at the end.

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

3. Stop the Music

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

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

The audience actually gasps...

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

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

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

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

4. Meet the Beatles.

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

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

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

It was nobody's Woodstock.

5. Smoke on the Water?

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

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

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

Even "Smoke on the Water."

100 Years After

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Adam West and Davy Jones Meet Sexina

Sexina starring Adam West

Ladies and Sexina!

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

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

Davy Jones records the theme to Sexina

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Six Secret Lost Videos

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

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

And these videos will put it all in perspective.

1. The 117th episode?

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

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

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

2. Episode 0

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

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

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

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

3. I'll Be Lost For You

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

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

4. Sawyer's acting class

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

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

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

"Son of a bitch"

5. The magic turtle

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

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

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

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

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

6. Hurley's Last Laugh

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

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

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

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

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2007 Re-Mixed

In 2007 the viral video stars spawned their own wave of counter-memes, proving once again that the internet moves in mysterious ways.

Even Barack Obama ultimately acknowledged "the fertile imagination of the internet," as his fan's cranked out homegrown music videos from a mysterious swamp of unseen creativity.

But as 2007 escapes into a haze of champagne, these videos offer a helpful warning to any future YouTube stars. When you make yourself look ridiculous — it's only the beginning.

1. Ottoman-Humping Gigolos

"Pipelayer" and his boyz — Relentless, X2C, Pressure, and Satisfaktion — show the ladies their technique. But it took internet joker Neuracnu to add Benny Hill's Yakkity Sax.

"Despite the video's description and my big-pasty-white-guy user icon," Neuracnu told us today, "I still get private messages like:

that video was funny please make a notherone and
me @my sister and give it to us. we are 18

His parody also provoked an angry email. ("Ok we Gone kill yo ass...... Ha ha Bitch ass nigga u dont know what u got yo self into....") Which, of course, ended up in another YouTube video.

Eventually even Jon Stewart got involved, noting the Department of Defense had banned all YouTube videos and MySpace pages from being viewed by soldiers. "If there's one thing we don't want our fighting boys exposed to, it's guys their age with enough time on their hands to film themselves doing this.

"Ottoman-humping gigolos! You're ruining troop morale!

2. Two Girls, One Frog

Some videos become famous for being awful, like the notorious "Two Girls, One Cup." Its somber music and surprise scat-eating scene spawned its own viral video meme — footage of horrified reactions from people watching it.

Everyone got into the act, including Opie and Anthony, and even a web site called Over two dozen clips appeared on YouTube — someone's mom, four grandmothers, and even two people who appeared to be police officers.

Even after it found its way to Kermit the Frog, that wasn't the end. One follow-up video showed Kermit himself couldn't resist foisting its horrific surprises on his other muppet friends.

3. Snakes on a Chocolate Rain

Tay Zonday's deep voice and pretentious keyboards inspired imaginative re-mixes of his song "Chocolate Rain."

Tay was glad it received attention from John Mayer and Green Day's Tre Cool. But its hard message became hilarious when the singer was replaced by a ventriloquist dummy, Darth Vader, or McGruff the Crime Dog (who, like Tay, also "moves away from the mic to breathe in.")

In November Tay teamed with rapper Mista Johnson and Dr. Pepper for a new video, randomly titled Cherry Chocolate Rain. "This is the web, and it's gonna murder your TV," Tay warns, though he'd just stumbled inadvertently into the next "Snakes on a Plane" — another internet meme that proved impossible to commercialize.

4. Fox News 11 Meet Anonymous

Fox News 11 imagined a "gang" of computer "hackers" who attack "like an internet hate machine" in a sensationalistic story that echoed through countless video parodies. A local L.A. newscaster borrowed half-understood words (like "Epic Lulz") and after one victim used the word "terrorist" in a sentence, even helpfully spliced in a picture of an exploding van.

It took YouTube user "Fluffbrain" to create an appropriately irreverent video celebrating the clip's safety-conscious housewife, who not only bought a security system, but also...a dog. (Then the video segues to cameo appearances by LOL Cats.)

The crimes of "Anonymous" were, at worst, hoax threats, along with minor annoyances like guessing MySpace passwords, crank phone calls, disrupting the children's game Habbo Hotel, and shouting out the end of the new Harry Potter book. (Ironically, when Fox 11 ran a poll on their web site asking visitors if they'd ever been a victim of computer crime, a whopping 97% said "no.")

Eventually Encyclopedia Dramatica unveiled their own equally unsubstantiated act of journalism, arguing that Anonymous "is in fact, a single twelve year-old boy named Tom who has over 9000 fake AIM accounts and single-handedly makes every single post on the 4chan website. No one knows why..." And the parody videos kept coming.

Fox finally received an authoritative rebuttal from "Lord Quadros," another YouTube user who abandoned Fox's melodramatic music altogether, and simply replaced it with footage from the video game Arsenal Gear.

5. "Don't Tase Me, AOL"

The year ended with marketers hungrily eying the success of viral videos, while Hollywood's writers went on strike for a slice of future web revenues. And then AOL News decided to exploit it all.

They rolled parody versions of famous video stars into their own viral web commercial. The world's unluckiest shopkeeper confronts Florida's tased university student, Miss South Carolina, and that emo vlogger who cried "LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE!!!"

If you actually visit AOL News, you'll find the real end-of-the-year headlines are a lot less entertaining. (For example, "Pakistan's Bhutto Assassinated at Rally.")

But maybe that's why people turned to the web.

See Also:
10 Video Moments From 2006
Worst Vlogs of 2006
Web Fight: Wikipedia, YouTube vs. Perverted Justice
YouTube, the 20-Year-Old, and Date Unknown
Five Freakiest Muppet Videos

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10 Best Monster Ads

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

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

1. Frankenstein Hates This Joint

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

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

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

2. Zombie Party

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

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

3. Ryoko the Vampire Slayer

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

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

4. Godzilla, King of Soft Drinks

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

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

5. The Silver Bullet

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

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

6. The Mummy wants Vaseline

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

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

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

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


7. The Creature from Aisle Eight

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

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

Or maybe it's just another cute monster ad.

8. Dracula's Favorite Beer

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

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

9. Sigourney Weaver vs. Aliens

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

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

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

10. Elvira: Mistress of the Vegetarians

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

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

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

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

See Also:
Lost "Horrors" Ending Found on YouTube
Six Freakiest Children's TV Rock Bands
Pulp Fiction Parodies on YouTube

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How Gay Were the Hardy Boys?

The Great Hardy Boys Prank

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"He's drunk!"

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

"What shall we do with him? asked Joe.

Frank groped in his pocket and produced a length of stout cord.

"We'll tie him up first!"

Say, what kind of beach is this, anyways?

The Hardy Boys had apparently identified their sexy smuggler as an escaped criminal who's wanted by the police — and their stars are lining up.
"What if he puts up a fight?"

"He's too drunk."

They throw hat-fuls of water into in his face to revive him — but when he wakes up, they keep throwing more water at him.
"Hey! What's this?" roared the car thief indignantly. He had just discovered that his wrists were bound.

"Just a little joke," said Frank.

Water was streaming down the man's face. He was thoroughly aroused by now.

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

The Hardy Boys prevailed, and eventually turned their captured smuggler over to the police. I don't know if they then lit a cigarette — but I decided I didn't need to read any further. I'd already guessed the secret of the caves.

But one tantalizing mystery about the Hardy Boys remained. How could such a wildly popular detective series be created by a man who was so ambivalent about them? And could he really write a total of 21 Hardy Boys books without leaving behind a hint of his true feelings?

As the years ticked on, Leslie McFarlane dreamed of writing a great epic novel about the Canadian north. But instead, he lived just long enough to see the Hardy Boys turned into a cheery Saturday morning cartoon with their own faux-60s rock band.

McFarlane's creations continued marching through the decades, with the books' texts suffering major revisions to keep up with a changing world. Ben Stiller and Tom Cruise are even reported to be collaborating on a new movie based on the characters called The Hardy Men.

Shortly before his death, a radio interviewer surprised Leslie McFarlane, then in his 70s, with a quiz about his original ending for The Shore Road Mystery. In the book, the Hardy Boys had investigated the baffling disapperances of cars along the old shore road. So who committed the crime?

"I haven't the foggiest idea," the author answered. "And I don't really care."

But last year in an interview with the newspaper of McMaster University, McFarlane's daughter shared a haunting memory. At the end of his life, he'd delivered one last sad and final irony.

"You know, I think people are only going to remember me for those damn books."

Click here to purchase McFarlane's original 1929 text
for The Secret of the Caves

See Also:
When Kurt Vonnegut Met Sammy Davis
Five Lamest Charlie Brown Cartoons
The Cartoon Porn Shop Janitor: Carol Burnett vs. Family Guy
The Druggiest High School Sitcom Scenes
Six Freakiest Children's TV Rock Bands

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Art or Bioterrorism: Who Cares?

Strange Culture film

The Emergency Response Team might have thought they'd stumbled upon an underground bioterrrorist's laboratory.

On May 11, 2004, 911 received a call from SUNY Buffalo University professor and artist Steve Kurtz reporting the death of Kurtz's wife Hope from heart failure. The responders entered the home where Kurtz worked on his projects for Critical Arts Ensemble (CAE) — projects which explore and critique bio-issues like our contemporary use of biotechnology for weapons programs, reproduction, and food. The responders noted a table with scientific equipment and peculiar substances that are an essential part of Kurtz' work.

The FBI detained and questioned Kurtz for 22 hours. His house — and his wife's body — were confiscated. Kurtz' entire street was quarantined while agents from numerous agencies, including Homeland Security and the Department of Defense, descended on his home in hazmat suits. Everything was confiscated – computers, books on bioweaponry, garbage, posters with "suspicious" Arabic lettering on them… everything.

After about two days, the authorities had tested the biological materials and declared that no toxic material had been found. On May 17, Kurtz was allowed to return to his home.


So did the authorities apologize to the grieving professor before busying themselves with pursuing real crimes and threats? Not on your life!

Despite the Public Health Commissioner's conclusions about the safety of Kurtz's materials, and despite the FBI's own field and laboratory tests showing they weren't harmful to people or the environment, the Justice Department still sought charges under the U.S. Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, as expanded by the USA PATRIOT Act — Prohibitions With Respect to Biological Weapons.

A federal grand jury rejected the charges, but instead handed down indictments with two counts each for "mail fraud" and "wire fraud." According to the CAE, the charges "concern technicalities" about how Kurtz obtained "$256 worth of harmless bacteria for one of CAE's art projects." (Robert Ferrell, former head of the Department of Genetics at the University of Pittsburgh's School of Public Health, and a collaborator on several of CAE’s projects, now facing charges along with Kurtz) In this interview, Kurtz characterizes the charges even more bluntly. "The Department of Justice can drop a major felony on someone for filling out a warranty card incorrectly and mailing it."

To bring more attention to the case, film director Lynn Hershman Leeson (Teknolust, Conceiving Ada) has released a unique new film, Strange Culture. Starring Tilda Swinton, Peter Coyote, Thomas Jay Ryan, and Josh Kornbluth — plus Kurtz himself — the film effectively communicates the story while also reinventing the documentary genre in Leeson's unique style.

Strange Culture was screened in the virtual world of Second Life as part of the 2007 Sundance Festival, a first for the festival. The film has also been screened in Los Angeles, Albequerque, Chicago, Buffalo, Seattle and Minneapolis and is just finishing up showings in San Francisco and San Rafael on September 27. The film has not gone into conventional release, but future showings are planned for New York City.

RU SIRIUS: Describe the project you were working on that caused you to have the materials that caused law enforcement officials to go nuts.

STEVE KURTZ: Three projects seemed to really bother law enforcement. Critical Art Ensemble was working on a biochemical defense kit against Monsanto’s Roundup Ready products for use by organic and traditional farmers. That was all confiscated.

We had a portable molecular biology lab that we were using to test food products labeled “organic” to see if they really were free of GMO contaminant. Or, when in Europe, to see if products not labeled as containing GMOs really had none. We'd finished the initiative in Europe and were about to launch here in the U.S. when the FBI confiscated all our equipment.

Finally, we were a preparing project on germ warfare and the theater of the absurd. We were planning to recreate some of the germ warfare experiments that were done in the '50s (which were so insane that they could only have been paid for with tax dollars). We had two strains of completely harmless bacteria that simulated the behavior of actual infectious diseases — plague and anthrax. To accompany these performances, we were in the middle of a manuscript on the militarization of civilian health agencies in the U.S. by the Bush administration.

Everything described was confiscated. We had to start from scratch on the project and the book. Happily, we did eventually do the experiments, and published the book — Marching Plague: Germ Warfare and Global Public Health.

RU: Would you say that originally, they authentically suspected they had found some sort of bioterror weapon, and once they realized they hadn't, they found other reasons to remain hostile?

SK: What I think they thought was that they had a situation, along with a vulnerable patsy, out of which they could manufacture a terrorism case. After all, the rewards that were heaped on the agents, prosecutors, and institutions that brought home the so-called “Lackawana Six sleeper cell” case — another railroad job — were witnessed by others in these agencies and noted. This made it too lucrative to pass up turning anything they could into “terrorism”.

They also had plenty of other reasons to be — and remain — hostile.

RU: Could you describe the scene of the raid? Did they use a lot of weaponized overkill?

SK: I really don’t know any more than anybody else about that. At the time of the real action, I was at the Yes Men’s compound in Troy, NY. (Due to the initial media circus, I was told by my lawyers to leave town for a few days.) From what I can tell from the news footage and the reports of neighbors, the entire alphabet soup of the federal investigative agencies was launched. Each took a turn entering my home wearing hazmat suits with guns drawn, and proceeded to do their “bioterrorism” exercises.

RU: Oh, I had the impression that the entire situation involving your wife's death, the discovery of the materials, and the raid all happened fairly instantly. Did this scene stretch out over days?

SK: It did stretch out a ways. Even though I was illegally “detained” for 22 hours the day after my wife’s death and they had confiscated my house, the raid didn’t begin. It took a few days for them to assemble all the troops and to obtain a search warrant.

RU: And did they think you were trying to avoid arrest since you were hiding?

SK: No. I was out of town on advice of my attorneys. I had already been in custody and released. They knew they only had to contact my lawyer and I would self-surrender.

RU: This must have all been a tremendous strain, coming as it did coupled with the death of your wife. Can you describe some of the thoughts and emotions you had around all this?

SK: I think all adults know the feelings of intense grief and depression that are brought about by the loss of a loved one. My feelings were in no way unique. But when you spice it with the adrenalin and the hyperanxiety of being attacked by the full weight of federal forces, which in turn causes all your survival instincts to really kick in, you have a bad trip from which you are not going to come down for a long time. In my case, it was six months or so before I started feeling anything approaching normal. This close proximity to mortality stemming from two different extremes (loss and attack) creates a feedback loop that turns your brain into static. Patterns of thought, emotion, and behavior deconstruct and seem to lose any identifiable point of origin. I was a zombie— an animated organic mass with modest brain function.

RU: Have you run into particularly Kafkaesque scenarios given this cases' attachment to The Patriot Act and Homeland Security?

SK: The case has been a hyperreal, bureaucratic grind, but I have yet to wait endlessly in any hallways not knowing why I was there or what I was charged with.

RU: Explain a little bit more about the project you were planning around these materials related to biological warfare and theater of the absurd.

SK: We did the projects. You can see them at our website at We just recreated a couple of the experiments that different militaries did to see if germs were viable candidates for weaponization.

For the British Plague experiments, Critical Art Ensemble went to the Isle of Lewis in Scotland where they had originally been done. The British tests started south of this location and were land-based, but the results were so appallingly bad from a military perspective that they began to believe that the only way infectious disease could possibly be of use militarily was as a tactical ship-to-ship weapon. To test this idea they moved to an even less populated area (the Isle of Lewis). They put a bunch of monkeys and guinea pigs on a pontoon and started shooting germs at them in both powder and wet forms from about a mile away — a very difficult shot in the blustery weather of Northern Scotland.

The infection rates were again poor, and included a fishing vessel that unsuspectingly sailed through the experiment. The British Navy had to follow the vessel to make sure it didn’t land or make physical contact with other ships until they were sure no one on the boat was infected. No one was. The only conclusion reached from this experience was to move the test to the colonies — in this case, the Bahamas.

Critical Art Ensemble did the same thing, only we recreated the harmless simulant tests (not the actual plague tests), and only used guinea pigs overseen by the SSPCA — no monkeys. Our results were just as bad, so it seems as if we reliably replicated the test. CAE went to the end of the world to shoot bacteria at guinea pigs.

Can there be a more absurdist gesture than that? Well yes — one: Bush reinitiating a failed germ warfare program at public expense and at the cost of civilian interests in world and national health policy. The Bush administration is usurping public civilian agencies (such as the CDC and countless universities) and using them to play out the administration’s fantasies of a terrorist germ warfare attack. The resources to study infectious diseases are limited, and it's criminal to use them for a remote “what could be” scenario at the expense of real, ongoing health crises like AIDS, TB, hepatitis, malaria, and other diseases that are killing millions every year.

RU: I never thought of CAE as a really obscure project, since I'd read various manifestos or statements by you and seen stuff about you here and there. And yet, outside the avant-garde art community, very few people know about this bizarre and outrageous case. Do you think this says something about our cluttered and diffuse culture.

SK: I think you have stated the situation as well as I can. Information is ubiquitous and overwhelming. Only so much can be processed in a day. And when you think of how many outrages are occurring each day because of the war and the current U.S. constitutional crisis, who has time to follow one of the many ridiculous court cases brought by the Department of Justice?

One has to be motivated by a very direct interest in the case to take notice, no matter how precedent setting the case might be. In my case, the Department of Justice is attempting to completely implode civil and criminal law, but if you are not in the arts and sciences, there’s too many other events and situations to worry about.

RU: Is there some way we can make it more difficult for arbitrary authority to pick off people who are on the so-called fringes?

SK: I have no idea. The FBI has been a Dr. Jekyll/Mr Hyde type of institution from its inception. While I am happy for its work against organized crime, for example, I have always been completely outraged by its continuous assault on those individuals and sometimes entire communities (as with the current attack on peoples of Islamic faith) who openly express ideological difference. The FBI has worked against socialists and communists from the 20s through the 60s, and against the equal rights movements of the same period.

The COINTELPRO operations of the 60s and 70s are basically back, so exercising our rights is more risky than ever, but it’s for that very reason we must. Rights are won and kept through struggle, and in our struggle to preserve our Constitution, it pains me to say that the FBI is and has always been one of the anti-democratic enemies.

RU: What do you think abour Lynn Hershman's film, Strange Culture?

SK: It’s inspirational and well worth seeing. It has brought awareness about the case to new audiences.

RU: Did you participate in the creative direction at all?

SK: No.

RU: What kind of effect do you expect from it?

SK: Exactly what it’s doing — bringing an awareness of the case to people and communities that otherwise would not hear about it.

RU: According to the CAE defense fund FAQ, you were originally charged under prohibitions on biological weapons, but a grand jury instead handed down indictments related to "wire fraud" and "mail fraud." And then it also states that the terrorism charges could come back to haunt you.

I wonder how your attorneys are coping with all this. Are they simply trying to get across the absurdity of the whole mess, or are their any legal fine points?

SK: What they have been arguing in motion hearings is that the Department of Justice is making an absurd interpretation of the mail fraud law. The DoJ has thrown away its guidelines (which state my case should not be prosecuted) and interpreted the law in a way that is unique for my situation.

My co-defendant Bob Ferrell and I are the first citizens to ever be indicted for mail or wire fraud because we supposedly broke a material transfer agreement. The “defrauded” parties do not believe we did anything to harm them — the crime is a DoJ fantasy that they hope to prove. We’ll see at trial if rationality prevails.

If it doesn’t, the case will set a precedent that will mean that the Justice Department can drop a major felony on someone for filling out a warranty card incorrectly and mailing it. This will be a major tool for them. Talk about being able to pick off people at will!

Lynn Hershman Leeson invites 10 Zen Monkeys readers to sponsor showings of the film. For sales and exhibition information contact: [email protected]

Strange Culture Screenings
Critical Arts Ensemble Defense Fund

See Also:
Homeland Security Follies
Halluncinogenic Weapons: the Other Chemical Warfare
Is It Fascism Yet?
Detention and Torture: Are We Still Free, or Not?

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Five Druggiest High School Sitcom Scenes

They put the "high" in high school.

While drugs are a complicated experience, TV shows are not. So when the characters in a show about high school students tackle the issue of illicit substances — the characters are in for some very funky trips.

And so is the audience...

1. Freaks and Tweaks

Judd Apatow captured the existential moment every stoner faces when Lindsay smoked Nick's stash on a very special episode of Freaks and Geeks. A paranoid Lindsay isn't worried about losing high school innocence, but reality itself.

As acoustic guitars play a come-down tune, there's a beautiful speech about having faith, even from the other side of an altered reality. But ironically, after this episode aired, the entire series was cancelled — and Lindsay's whole universe really did cease to exist.

2. That 70s Bust

They'd already smoked pot for over eight years. In their high school yearbook they even wrote "What a long strange trip it's Eric Foreman's basement."

But in one extra groovy episode of That 70s Show, Eric's hard-assed father Red finally catches the whole gang lighting up. And then the four stoned teenagers endure a histrionic lecture in the kitchen as its wallpaper seems to sway with trippy special effects

"Who taught you how do to this?! Was it those damn Beatles?"

"It's like Amsterdam down there!"

3. Saved by the Caffeine Pills

Saved By The Bell was notorious for its feel-good storylines — about personal responsibility, loyalty among friends, and the soul-crushing dangers of caffeine pill addiction.

In another episode, the cast also turned their backs on a pot-smoking TV star and recorded an explicit anti-drug message with NBC President Brandon Tartikoff. Although not all their fans agreed.

By the time that scene hit the internet, it was looking a little different...

It's all right. In the comments at YouTube, one party-pooper points out that the clip has obviously been edited. ("He originally says, Don't do drugs, then they all say, "There's no hope with dope!") If you watch closely, someone's even tampered with the closing credits, which now urge viewers to phone the NBC pot line — to get a free sample.

And a third commenter just says he couldn't stop marvelling at Screech's tripadelic shirt.

4. Welcome Back, Uppers

Epstein and Barbarino act like "we took some of them pills" in an earnest anti-drug episode of Welcome Back, Kotter. Unbeknownst to them, Horshack has already wolfed down a real handful of uppers, and their pretend stupor is complimented by — well, with Horshack, it's kind of hard to tell.

They'll scare Freddie "Boom Boom" Washington into going straight — especially with 25-year-old high school student John Travolta acting like "one of them druggie people. Real dum-like. 'Gimme drugs. Gimmie drugs...'"

Ultimately their six minutes of play-acting prove that it takes more than good intentions to cure drug addicts. It also takes some bad examples.

5. The Brady Bong

As Mr. Brady pulls the station wagon into the driveway, he discovers his son Greg is acting a little "dopier" than usual. But 17-year-old actor Barry Williams wasn't fooling anyone...
Greg: ...far out!!

In real life, Williams was stoned, as later investigations proved, in an episode of The Brady Bunch which was — ironically — titled "Law and Disorder." (Young Bobby Brady is appointed the school's safety monitor, but misses tell-tale signs of obvious reckless behavior...)

This is where the two worlds come together — the fake TV family, and the actors caught in the middle. Ultimately Barry Williams decided that his legendary drug scene represented just another form of play-acting. In his autobiography, he wrote that "Getting stoned instead left me...feeling as phony as the turf in the Brady's backyard.

"Maybe I should've just smoked that."

See Also:
Six Freakiest Children's TV Rock Bands
Paul McCartney on Drugs
Dustin Diamond vs. Sgt. Harvey
The 5 Sexiest Apple Videos
The Simpsons on Drugs: Six Trippiest Scenes

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Rodney Brooks’ Robots are Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control

On September 8 the world's geekiest geeks gathered at San Francisco's Palace of Fine Arts to talk about what happens if/when we make machines that are smarter than we are. 10ZM.TV was there just in case The Singularity came early, though as far as we could tell, things are more or less the same as they were a few weeks ago. So we think it's still safe to flip off your TV when Geraldo comes on.

We captured several of the guest speakers on video, as well as several esteemed members of the audience, and we'll present them here over the next few weeks. For our first presentation we snared Rodney Brooks, a Professor of Robotics at MIT and co-founder and Chief Technical Officer of iRobot Corporation.

Professor Brooks strolled into the Singularity Summit with a headful of robots. For the last twenty years there's been a squadron of 1,000 one-kilogram robots in his head, capable of doing the work of NASA's two-ton Mars Explorer robots. In the decades that followed his influential paper — "Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control" — he's grappled with a coming robotics revolution — and its implications for humanity.

Will robots be weaponized? Will their personalities adhere to the Geneva Convention? And what about the dangers of nanotechnology machines?

10ZM.TV captured Brooks' thoughts on artificial intelligence, synthetic biology, and the ultimate question — what makes something alive?

See Also:
Rudy Rucker on Computation
"Dear Internet, I'm Sorry"
Why Chicks Don't Dig The Singularity
How the Internet Disorganizes Everything
Give Me Immortality or Give Me Death
Whatever Happened To Virtual Reality?

Read More

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

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‘The Simpsons’ On Drugs: 6 Trippiest Scenes

Homer Simpsons Smokin' Weed

It's no secretThe Simpsons has relied as heavily on drug humor as Diff'rent Strokes did on "Whatchoo talkin' about, Willis." Ranging from binge drinking to marijuana use to LSD-like hallucinations, all the members of the Simpson clan — and a great many other residents of Springfield — have enjoyed a wide variety of drug-induced exploits.

Even The Simpson's Movie included at least one instance of Homer craving something psychotropic, saying, "More, please!" to an Indian chief's flaming brew. So let's re-cap some of the "high" points of what is arguably the world's foremost pop culture institution.

6. Guatemalan Insanity Peppers

Drug blog calls it a highlight of The Simpsons' "nods and winks to the drug-using populace." Exquisitely crafted in theme and form, this segment could be seen as the ultimate tribute to the psychedelic drug experience, complete with self-discovery, adventure and even an animal guide (a coyote with the voice of Johnny Cash).

We imagine The Simpsons writers are especially proud of this 1999 episode. Notice when Homer first swallows the psychotropic pepper, he says, "More, please" — the exact line he's now using in the new movie's trailer. Maybe the writers are sending a secret signal to all Homer's fans in the drug culture:

He's still a druggie after all these years.

5. "Wow, that saxophone would make a great pipe."

Homer gets a prescription for marijuana. Marge is troubled, the kids bemused, but Homer, who indulges as expected, is also conflicted. His remedy: "Do as I say, not as I do."

In other episodes, Homer...
  • Has insomnia and watches a late night TV commercial for "Nappien," which "won't cause foot-fattening or elbow stink."
  • Takes expired medication he finds in a neighbor's trash. When Marge tells him to stop, he says, "But Marge, what if I'm not getting enough ... [glances at label] ... estrogen!"
  • Invents a drink — the Flaming Homer, a.k.a. the Flaming Moe — in which the main ingredient is children's cough syrup.
  • Gets the entire town of Springfield high when he distributes a beverage made from carrots and peyote.
  • Takes another man's medications while visiting his father in the nursing home. Grandpa comments, "The pink ones keep you from screaming."
  • Gets high on cleaning-chemical fumes and hallucinates that he's being attacked by Scrubbing Bubbles, Mr. Clean, and other characters.
  • As he and Ned Flanders drive to Las Vegas, they pass a car driven by a warped and hallucinating Hunter S. Thompson as drawn by Ralph Steadman.
And of course, Homer's fondness for Duff beer is legendary.

4. "What am I smokin'? Oh yeah..."

About as straightforward as possible — even in Spanish — and without any apology. Otto the bus driver is portrayed as smoking pot while driving the kids to school.

In other episodes, Otto...
  • Complains about blatant false advertising as he storms out of a housewares store called "Stoner's Pot Palace."
  • Is told by Mettalica to never listen to their music again, ostensibly for being a druggie.
  • Mistakenly answers this true-or-false question while practicing for his driving test. "Alcohol improves your ability to concentrate."
3. Marge's LSD?

Marge Simpson hallucinates that the walls are melting, and that a roasting turkey is talking to her, after she drinks tainted tap water. (Shown here in an extra-trippy version that was redubbed for foreign markets.)

In other episodes, Marge...
  • Attends the Broadway play Kickin' It, "a musical journey through the Betty Ford Center," with the kids during a trip to New York.
  • Is maliciously portrayed in a political ad as saying "Now it's time to do some coke off the blade of a knife..."
  • Has a false-positive test for crack and PCP after taking a parenting course. Confesses to being high on LSD, "love for my son and daughters."
  • Checks into a rehab clinic herself after excessive drinking with Homer.
2. Naked in the Fermentarium

Lisa has LSD-like hallucinations after drinking the water while on a ride at Duff Gardens. Proclaims, "I can see the music," and "I am the lizard queen!" (Homer had been binging on an enormous sandwich he'd brought home from the company picnic, and sent her to the park with her Aunt Selma.)

In other episodes, Lisa...
  • Becomes addicted to "Trucker's Choice" brand speed, a gift from Bart.
  • Has LSD-like hallucinations featuring The Beatles after receiving nitrous oxide at the dentist's office. Later in the same episode, the entire family gets high when the dentist accidentally leaves the gas on.
  • Comments to Bart that the air at a Hullabalooza music festival "smells like Otto's jacket," a reference to their pot-smoking school bus driver (see below).
  • Comments that the pot smoke emanating from Homer's room "smells like the art teacher's office."
1. "Ow! My Bones Are So Brittle."

Bart Drinks "malk" at school, "now with vitamin R" (a slang term for Ritalin).

In other episodes, Bart...
  • Gets drunk on beer during a St. Patrick's Day parade.
  • Asks Marge to pick up some "Flintstones chewable morphine" when he gets the flu.
And in 1990, federal "drug czar" William Bennett made headlines when he warned patients at a drug treatment center that watching The Simpsons was "not going to help you." (He'd spotted a Bart Simpson poster on the wall that said "Underachiever — and proud of it.") Later when he made a conciliatory offer to sit down and talk to Bart, Matt Groening issued a counter-statement on behalf of Bart.

"If our drug czar thinks he's going to have a conversation with a cartoon character, he must be smoking something."

Do you have a favorite Simpsons drug reference? Tell us which ones we overlooked in the comments.

See also:
The Cartoon Porn Shop Janitor: Carol Burnett vs. Family Guy
Paul McCartney on Drugs
10 Worst Spider-Man Tie-Ins
Hallucinogenic Weapons: The Other Chemical Warfare
The Great Wired Drug Non-Controversy
Pulp Fiction Parodies on YouTube

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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: 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

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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

Read More

Top 5 Cartoon Hunks

Animation has provided us with countless lady hotties, but cute cartoon guys are harder to come by. (Maybe it's because this is traditionally a domain of prepubescent boys and older male nerds.) However, I've had my share of cartoon crushes, and here are the best of them...

5. Silver Surfer

OK, this one is going to seem trendy because of the movie, but I had a Silver Surfer action figure way back in college. His appeal is unquestionable: a big silver hunk of man on a surfboard, a perfect combination of intensity and laid-back surfer chic, kind of like Owen Wilson.

This guy will save your life, then take you for a fish taco on the boardwalk.

4. James Barris

Confession: I have an enormous crush on Robert Downey Jr. So when he showed up in A Scanner Darkly, my crush naturally transferred to his new avatar.

Barris is classic RDJ. Although Downey is a brilliant actor, he never seems so comfortable in a role than when he is playing a druggie. His magic — and I choose to believe this also holds true in real life — is that he can make even the biggest fuck-up irresistibly charming. Even though I'm a longtime member of the Keanu fan club, RDJ stole the scene here, as he always does.

3. Aladdin

All you have to do is scroll down this list of Disney princes, and see that the role of Mr. Charming was historically lacking in hotness — a bunch of middle-aged looking WASPs who usually arrive in the last few minutes of the film to sing a song and sweep the damsel away on a horse. Well, that all changed with Aladdin. He's a homeless guy with a bangin' bod, a great personality, a hilarious buddy and a cool pet.

I love how his scrappy bravura cracks to show a vulnerable side once he assumes his alter-ego of Prince Ali. Let me tell you, chicks dig this type of thing. We were all there swooning with those ladies as he paraded through town on an elephant, knowing that his confidence was concealing a secret shyness.

2. Rio Pacheco

Rio from Jem and the Holograms is one of those guys you like even though you know that he's kind of an asshole. He started out as a good guy, a volunteer at the foster home and Jerrica's boyfriend. But he developed a crush on Jem (Jerrica's rockstar alter-ego) and the show ended on a cliffhanger with Rio double-timing two girls who are the same person! This is undoubtedly one of the great unsolved endings in television — this whole Sopranos thing pales in comparison!

The truth is, Rio's bad side is what makes him sexy: the lying, the deceit, the secrecy. And yet he can be a real sweetie when he wants to. I mean, if Jerrica really trusted him then wouldn't she tell him her identity? Perhaps with a guy like this you need to have your own secrets.

1. Trent Lane

Absolutely the most crushable cartoon fella out there; even the ever-cynical Daria couldn't help but blush a little when Trent was around. Trent's rock star slacker attitude was peppered by a hint of zen calmness, his soft raspy voice delivering the type of inane truisms that only truly attractive people can get away with.

Finally, his slight slouch suggested a world weariness — a wiseness, dare I say? — that perfectly defines a classic childhood crush: your friend's older brother.

Jacki Lewin is an American living in Madrid, Spain. She blogs at 7 Years Late.

See also:
Lost 'Horrors' Ending Found on YouTube
5 Freaky Muppet Videos
Six Freakiest Children's TV Rock Bands
The Cartoon Porn Shop Janitor: Carol Burnett vs. Family Guy

Read More

YouTube’s 5 Sorriest Questions for the 2008 Presidential Candidates

What if my President was selected by MySpace? It's the nagging concern raised when young video bloggers lob questions at the Presidential candidates. In July when the Democrats gather in Charleston, they'll find CNN has swapped in questions that were uploaded as videos to YouTube.

At least that was the hope when the CNN/YouTube "debate" was announced. Unfortunately, no one cared about the announcement (except the commenter who added "omg the youtube guy is fucking HAWTT!!!"). Nearly a week later, YouTube has managed to assemble just over 120 questions to choose from. And five of them are the dogs below.

Yes, for years we've dreamed of an interactive democracy — a giant techno-village wired into a real, two-way discourse. Why shouldn't our lawmakers get the same crowd-polling technology that's available to contestants on 1 vs. 100? (Answer: because the wisdom of the crowd is matched only by the buffoonery of the individual.)

While it's morbidly amusing to imagine candidates groveling for LonelyGirl15's endorsement, YouTube is slyly attempting to appear democratic without actually accomplishing anything. But maybe that's YouTube's cynical comment on democracy itself. Maybe they're imagining the event's slogan as: "It's participatory! It's YouTube! And it's stupid! Just like voting..."

1. Headzup

This question comes to us from "HeadzUp", who specializes in badly-animated cartoons of jabbering heads — in this case, George W. Bush.

The cartoon President starts a familiar gotcha question — if a dirty nuclear bomb killed millions, and a second bomb risked millions more lives... But never mind. It's a joke.

"you are totally a moron," replied an irate YouTube commenter, "and if youtube had a star rating for the DUMB FUCKS, you would most certainly qualify, hands down LMAO,FOAD."

We've elevated the discourse already.

2. We are not alone

A user named "DickGhostmoon" wants to ask the candidates "a very, very serious question...about aliens." He's titled his video "alien autopsy CNN YOUTUBE Debate," and includes footage of a 2001 press conference seeking the declassification of secret government information about extra-terrestrials.

And there's also some footage of Santa Claus.

Interestingly, the question comes from England, and YouTube also received questions from Spain, Canada, Australia, and Malaysia.

We're guessing these questioners aren't even voting. They're just mocking our hopelessly compromised electoral system while enjoying their universal health care.

3. "88% of Californians..."

Imagine the next President of the United States fielding questions from "The Wine Kone." His YouTube channel identifies him as a Canadian, and promises "video responses and who knows what else (probably lameness)."

His self-described "very important question" concerns Arnold Schwarzenegger, his re-election as governor of California, and... No wait. It's another joke, this one about cyborgs and the plot of Terminator III.

"YouTube didn't put me up to this," adds a superfluous title at the end. (Really? Because it's hard to believe that YouTube would allow something so edgy unless they had an ironical hand in it.)

Maybe one day, with enough help from biting Canadian jokes like this one, Americans will penetrate the haze of our Puritan, bi-polar system and, like Maplestan, finally see how ultra-silly it is to elect actors as politicians.

4. "Hi, Hillary..."

OMG! It's a cartoon animation of Hillary Clinton! Asking a question to Hillary Clinton! My head is about to explode!

The question — read by a speech synthesizer — presents scenarios about access to health care. By the way, did I mention it's read by a Hillary Clinton avatar? "Give us a nice answer," it asks, "so you look good — and I look good!"

Video hides the face of the American asking, but maybe it reveals a deeper truth — that the real appeal of politics is the opportunity to preen and pose. "Please advise me on your future vision for addressing our health care crisis," the video seems to say...

"And also, check out my cool new widget!"

5. "So cool..."

16 people have rated this video. It's average score? One star. YouTube user Netram59 summed up the response. "You say YouTubers have a lot to say but it seems you don't."

But the uploader — "GoodNeighbor" — is actually part of an L.A. based sketch comedy crew. "They all like to draw," reads their YouTube profile, "and make music and movies and stuff!!" Hooray!

Is it better or worse that "GoodNeighbor" skipped the chance to question our next President for a quick laugh? I'm honestly not sure. YouTube may have empowered a generation, but maybe it's a good thing that the giant internet corporation hasn't been able to channel them all into a specific, YouTube-directed activity.

Maybe the revolution was never meant to be televised...

See also:
YouTube, the 20-year-old, and Date Unknown
Should YouTube Hear Me?
John Edwards' Virutal Attackers Unmasked
Iraq Battle Footage
The 5 Sexiest Apple Videos

Read More

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

Read More

A Conversation with Justin Kan of

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, it was just another step along the way to the inevitable – the fully mediated life.

On arrival, 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 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, 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; 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, 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 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.


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: 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!

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, 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 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.


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 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 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!

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The Secret Ending of Pirates of the Caribbean 3

I didn't like Pirates of the Caribbean 3. But maybe I would have if I'd seen the ending. The real ending is tucked away behind the closing credits. In this crucial scene there's a flash forward — ten years into the future — and we find out what happened to Elizabeth and Will.

Fortunately, somebody's uploaded the footage to YouTube. It's just one way videos floating around the net give you a new perspective on movies, though it also raises an interesting question. Does it take a real act of movie piracy to explain Pirates 3?

Secret endings are almost a tradition with the Pirates movies. Each one included a very good scene hidden away behind its closing credits. The first Pirates movie tacked on a reminder of all that gold left back in the cave — the cursed treasure of the Black Pearl — in a surprising scene with a monkey. Pirates 2: Dead Man's Chest ended with a special scene re-visiting the island where natives held Johnny Depp captive. (It doesn't involve a monkey, but it does have a dog!)

But in Pirates 3 the extra scene actually reveals the fate of two characters. (Spoilers off the starboard bow!) If the curse of the Flying Dutchman keeps lovers apart for 10 years — what happens after 10 years? Is the reunion fraught with dread and bitterness — or do they have kids and settle down in the countryside? Maybe there's some improbable return to the land of the living after a magical green flash of light?

Watch this video and find out!

After two hours and 48 minutes, you can forgive moviegoers for heading to the exits early. (I'd seen a 10:40 showing which didn't end until 1:30 a.m!) "Maybe instead of At World's End, they should've called it At Credits' End," I grumbled later. "Because that's where all the answers lie."

But I ended up with a new appreciation for the internet — and its fan base of Pirates fans who assembled a stash of video curios.

It's easy to forget that Pirates of the Caribbean was once just a 40-year-old ride at Disneyland. Somehow, someone's uploaded footage of Johnny Depp re-visiting the clunky ride after it was rejuvenated to match the summer blockbuster. About 2:30 into the video, Depp's left the boat to poke his own animatronic figure as it rises from the barrel. ("It's a little more than spooky," he says.) There's also a video called Captain Jack Sparrow at Disney World, which is probably better if you don't know its backstory. Impossibly, the movie's swashbuckler seems to have turned up under Florida skies, mingling with children in full pirate regalia and corrupting them with his sword-fighting lessons.

That Johnny Depp is a sport — but how crazy are his fans? One woman found herself with a 20-year-old stick of bubble gum from a pack of "21 Jump Street" trading cards. Would you chew it if she also offered you its collectible Johnny Depp card?

But my favorite clip reminded me what all the hype was about. One fan created a mashup video in which Captain Jack Sparrow fights Captain Hook — using footage from both Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest and the 2003 live-action Peter Pan. The two sets of clips mesh perfectly, proving what to me is the most timeless and universal truth of all.

That pirate movies are fun.

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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. 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."

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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

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Pulp Fiction Parodies on YouTube

Pulp Fiction changed cinema — but then the internet changed Pulp Fiction. Web pranksters have kicked down the door for a surprise attack on the 1994 film, re-imagining its dialogue in a series of surprising parodies.

Of course, Quentin Tarantino's own films have always included homages to his favorite movies, so maybe these parodies are just homages to favorite Tarantino scenes, celebrating the excitement of his violent, dialogue-filled originals. Jules and Vincent still roll to a hit while discussing what the French call their quarter pounders.

But after passing through the minds of a million internet wise guys — the scenes look a little different.

1. Muppet Pulp Fiction

Promising "a new film directed post-humously by Jim Henson," this trailer warns that "You won't know the facts until you seen it done with puppets." Kermit, Fozzie, and Beaker fulfill the whims of a muppet crimelord and his sultry temptress girlfriend — who looks less like Uma Thurman than she does Miss Piggy. The trailer promises grandly to explore the themes of loyalty, stuffing, and googly eyes...

But somewhere there's a breakfast diner that's about to be knocked over by Gonzo.

2. English, Motherfucker

The most original video has no characters at all — just an amazing animation of the words used in the scene. One by one they appear — "What ain't no country I ever heard of!" — in a hand-writing font synchronized perfectly to the dialogue.

"English" becomes an angry red-white-and blue British flag, and when you hear Brad start to reply, those nervous ellipses in "What...?" spell trouble.

3. I've Got Rhythm

Honey Bunny is ready — but then the jukebox kicks in.

This amazing music video demonstrates "video scratching" — Pulp Fiction dialogue samples matched perfectly to the music's rhythm. Using a trippy home-brewed version of the soundtrack, its echoey guitars compliment a suggestive series of clips showing a lighter, a spoon, a syringe...and then dancing.

Yes, there's the sound of squealing tires — but they're squealing in rhythm.

The drum beats even sync with Samuel L. Jackson's famous "Ezekiel" speech, as he lays down vengeance...and a righteous rhythm.

4. Royale With Cheese — and Robots

"Okay, tell me again about the hash bars," the scene begins — but it's read entirely by robots.

Samuel L. Jackson is a black metal robot with red flashing eyes and a fierce grill mouth, his fists cocked angrily to his side. But in this video it's a friendly silver robot which explains to him what to do if you get stopped by a cop in Amsterdam. ("Oh man. I'm going. That's all there is to it. I'm fucking going.") As his yellow eyes twinkle with joy, the silver robot's mechanized speech centers share the little differences — just one robot to another.

"You know what they put on French fries in Holland...?"

5. Walt Disney Presents...

John Travolta is a Disney Lion, and Samuel L. Jackson is Pumbaa the warthog. But he's got his hands full with a sleek female lion insisting "My husband your boss told you to take me out and do whatever I wanted," while it's the conniving Disney lion Scar who warns "in the fifth, your ass goes down."

This re-dubbed version of the heart-warming classic The Lion King is called — what else — Pulp Lions.

But I'm guessing Elton John wouldn't get anywhere near its soundtrack...

6. Every Motherfucking Last One Of You

Here's a handy cheat sheet for this video. "Any of you fucking pricks move, and I'll execute every motherfucking last one of ya!" just becomes "motherfucking."

"Do you speak English, motherfucker" just becomes "motherfucker."

And "Whose chopper is this?" isn't even in the movie.

It's the "Fuckin' Short Version" of Pulp Fiction, in which every shot is deleted unless it contains a character saying "fuck." Or "fucking". Or "motherfucker." Or, of course, "fucking motherfuckers."

And it's over two minutes long.

By the end it will seem strange if the characters don't say fuck.

7. What Planet Are You From?

A giant green alien shouts "English, motherfucker, do you speak it?" He's grilling anime charaters from Dragonball Z — who double-crossed the wrong alien.

"What country are you from?" he demands, with glaring alien eyes. "Say 'what' again. I double dare you!" (Though the new movie Grindhouse features Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror, imagine what he could have done with an alien who sounded like Samuel L. Jackson.)

8. The Phantom Marcellus

Samuel L. Jackson counsels his partner to "take care of" the big man's wife — though in this version she's played by Natalie Portman. Thanks to footage from the Star Wars movies, her Pulp Fiction escort becomes Jedi Ewan McGregor, and her husband — the crimelord Marcellus — is actually Jabba the Hutt.

With appearances by Han Solo and Princess Leia, this mashup supplies new footage for classic lines like "You got a corpse in a car minus a head in a garage..." and "Die! You muther—" — all courtesy of unauthorized swipes from LucasArts films.

It also includes the one actor you'd never expect to see in a Tarantino film. Yoda.

9. Brick Fiction

Pulp Fiction passed through the web and came out as Legos. Two different people have attempted the Honey Bunny "execution" speech with Legos.

It's difficult to convey menace with a pistol-waving mini-fig — but that's ultimately the point. Longer versions show Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta 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.

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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

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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



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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 @". 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

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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

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Six Freakiest Children’s TV Rock Bands

Are you ready to freak out? After the 1960s, both cartoons and live-action children's shows began including rock bands. They left a generation baffled by poseurs who said "groovy" alot — but somewhere there were subversives running wild in the programming department, and Saturday morning would never be the same.

These six videos remind us of that forgotten moment in time when the counter-culture came for our children.

1. The Secret Chimpanzee's Other Ball

Yes, it's a band composed entirely of monkeys. One year after Woodstock, and four months after Kent State, the airwaves were seized by a band of radical chimpanzees. ("C'mon baby, let your hair hang low. Let the revolution show you all you got to know...")

Each week after being introduced by a fake Ed Sullivan monkey, the "Evolution Revolution" indoctrinated a room full of pogo-ing monkeys as part of Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp. The camera zooms with rock star excitement, providing an unintentional satire of the entire pop music industry. (Alternate name: "Monkey Vanilli.") Editing can make a rock band out of anybody — including chimpanzees who look agitated, bored, and occassionally itchy.

Of course, in real life, the monkey Lancelot Link wasn't a rock musician. He was a secret agent for the Agency to Prevent Evil. (Or "APE.") But his band rocked the Nixon era for two years, until network TV executives decided it was frightening to both children and adults

2. Yabba Dabba Doobie

In 1971 Pebbles and Bam-Bam grew into trendy teenagers with their own awful rock band. They lasted exactly one season, doomed the moment a studio executive decided the perfect voice for teenaged Pebbles would be Sally Struthers.

Their band played instruments made out of domesticated animals, until "The Bedrock Rockers" were absorbed into the equally short-lived Flintstones Comedy Show. (It's slogan? "We'll have a groovy time.")

The only surviving relic is an unloved DVD and these surreal animated music videos for songs like Sunshine Man, Yabba Dabba Doosie, and one about the Zodiac. But it's better than that commercial Fred Flintstone did for Winston cigarettes.

"Winston is the one-filter cigarette that delivers flavor — twenty times a pack!"

3. The Bugaloo Experience

Flying bug people form a rock band and flee from "Benita Bizarre" and her sidekick, Funky Rat.

The Bugaloos all had hippy names like Joy and Harmony, and lived in a place called "The Tranquility Forest" with their sidekick — "Sparky". They also presuambly had unspeakable crushes on their female singer Joy, who wore a mini-skirt with pink wings, since even their birthday songs to her were creepy. ("Older woman — you're a little prettier today...")

The singing bug people all wore antennas, and continued freaking out Saturday morning viewers until 1972. Their song Fly Away With Us "sounds like the perky pests are trying to lure kids into an LSD trip," writes one web critic, "or some Eastern-inspired cult." After listening to "The Senses of Our World", he added: "This is what Prozac sounds like."

Amazingly, over 5,000 people had auditioned to be in the bug band — including Phil Collins.

4. Krofft Gets Funky

There's no evidence eight year olds dropped acid for The Krofft Super Show, but its theme song promised it "will blow your mind away."

Its hallucinogenic lyrics about "a crazy world...where most of what appears isn't true..." ended up in the hands of Captain Kool and the Kongs, a children's version of KISS with faces decorated in glitter and makeup. The "land of dreams" they introduced were live-action segments from Sid and Marty Krofft — which means they were low-budget and disturbing. There was Wonderbug, Dr. Shrinker, and Electra Woman and Dyna Girl.

Were they disturbing? Let's just say the actor playing Dr. Shrinker had also played Caligula, and served a year in prison for methadone possession.

5. Josie's Groovin' in Outer Space

A stoner reading Heavy Metal magazine decided the cartoon band Josie and the Pussycats would be even better if they lived in outer space with an alien named Gleep. He drew a phallic rocket which quivers on the launch pad, then blasted them eight miles high.

Two years later a competing stoner reading Heavy Metal launched the Partridge Family into space, stranding them in a cartoon continuum 230 years in the future, where they "showed us how it's gonna be." In 1982 the desperate cast of Gilligan's Island tried blasting themselves into outer space, but unfortunately, no one noticed. Soon even Fonzie and the other characters from Happy Days found themselves blasted out of the 1950s and into the future — and outer space.

None of these shows lasted more than a season — except Josie and the Pussycats In Outer Space, which lasted two. But when future generations build moon colonies, maybe they'll draw inspiration from the fact that they were preceded into space by an all-girl band in kitty costumes.

6. Sympathy for the Misfits

Jem and the Holograms were the 80s equivalent of The Pussycats — but with one difference. They had their own Nietszchean doppelgangers trying to destroy them.

Jem's animated rock band competed against a warpaint-wearing rival group with bizarre coked-up "metal" hair and a weirdly negative vibe. The Misfits' videos included giant spiders, lightning surfboards, guitar-shaped motorcycles, and even planet-swallowing darkness.

Alas, Glenn Danzig's punk band — also called The Misfits — was nowhere to be seen, and cheery MTV synth-pop ultimately conquered Saturday morning, bringing with it a line of tie-in toys from Hasbro. The bitter Jem-haters were our last line of resistance against a big media beachhead of beautiful people, and though the Misfits were as vindictive as they were doomed, they did teach impressionable youngsters an important and affirming truth.

That a world without freaks would be even worse.

See also:
Lost "Horrors" Ending Found on YouTube
The Simpsons on Drugs: Six Trippiest Scenes
The Cartoon Porn Shop Janitor: Carol Burnett vs. Family Guy

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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 — 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

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Official Launch: 10ZM.TV

One of the reasons for the "video apology" term in the settlement agreement with Michael Crook is that we were already planning to launch a video property. Having Crook's apology in video seemed an appropriate format, and its wide viewing would help get some visibility for this new effort. We figure he owed us that much. There are a few things we're going to experiment with in the show, called 10ZM.TV, and hosted on the video sharing network. First, we'll be collecting video commentary from web figures on stories and themes we explore on our various other properties, such as this site, The RU Sirius Show, NeoFiles, Destinyland and Pastor Jack. Second, we'll record bits from our own writers and commentators. And finally, we're going to publish hot little bits from the continuous series of mind-blowing interviews conducted by RU Sirius. Rudy Rucker's interview is the first one we videotaped, so you'll see several clips from that in the coming weeks. So stay tuned, subscribe via RSS or iTunes, or watch Rudy Rucker now:
Science fiction writer Rudy Rucker, author of the book, Mathematicians In Love, claims that any natural process can be regarded as a computation, and that computers are not "digital."

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“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 —

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, 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

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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 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
Thomas Hawk versus Rent-a-Cops
Craigslist Sex Troll Gets Sued
Is Yahoo/Flickr DMCA Policy Censorship?

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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

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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...

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The 5 Sexiest Apple Videos

Are Mac users sexier than other people? Or are they just flaunting their computer's superior video editing capabilities? Either way, these videos should bring a smile to your favorite Mac-loving gal or guy. Self-obsessed egotists — or sexy valentine's day surprise? You make the call!

1. Setty Smooth wants to iChat with your four hot friends.

Armed with an iSight camera, a Santa Monica player/wannabe dubbed himself "Setty Smooth," then created an earnest music video about how the Mac enables him to cajole women into stripping online. ("20-inch screens, we can be seen. Live our fantasy, it will feel like a dream....") It's a world of sexy online possibilities, which he demonstrates — five times — culminating with an unforgettable chorus.
The Mac, the Mac. Thanks to the Mac,
We can have fun while we layin' on our back...

There's a whole album of unreleased love ballads, Setty promises. But you can bet that in online chat rooms of Mac enthusiasts, he's already a superstar.

2. Plug it, play it, zip, unzip it (NSFW)

Silhouettes dance with their iPods — then strip, grind, and start screwing each other. Apparently they've been trapped in iPod-silhouette land too long, and they've finally snapped. Gone is the harmless breakdancing from the iPod + iTunes ad — replaced with a variety of sexual positions, pole dancing, and a collar and leash. (For those who think really different.) But at least they're getting it on while wearing their iPods, and the song remains the same.

"Buy it, use it, break it, fix it, trash it, change it, melt, upgrade it..."

3. Japanese iPod bikini dance (NSFW)

Reon Kadena, Japanese model, shares her unique perspective on enjoying an iPod. (Hint: flesh-colored lingerie.) A series of fast cuts show the delight that only an iPod can bring, along with several gratuitous closeups of Reon's young body. (For those special moments when watching an iMac dance just isn't enough.)

The three-minute video of Reon tapping her toes would probably be rated PG-13 — despite the fact that the cameraman apparently lay on the floor trying to see under her bikini. (And at one point, the iPod makes her jeans disappear.) But Apple-loving YouTube viewers were divided in their reactions, with one posting an enthusiastic "marry me please," and another complaining that "we don't see enough of her ipod."

4. Say Hello to the Ibuzz

Its manufacturer says this music-activated sex toy will allow Apple-loving couples to "share the music, share the love," and sure enough, the iBuzz connects your mp3 player to two bullet-shaped vibrators. (So besides scrolling through your playlist, you can also cycle through its collection of vibrating patterns.) And yes, it can also vibrate in time to the music — or, as British TV host Jonathan Ross puts it, "the tempo controls the rhythm of the night.")

But does this mean your libido is subject to copyright law? One grumpy YouTube poster asks if the iBuzz is hobbled with DRM. Meanwhile, another video shows women hand-testing yet another vibrator — called, appropriately, the OhMiBod. And Apple's trademark lawyers have already gone after a Japanese man marketing a similar device called the G-Pod.

5. "You're Beautiful, It's True"

Ultimately using a Mac means you've joined a community, and YouTube user HappySlip celebrates it with an alternate version of James Blunt's song "You're Beautiful." Singing and playing the piano, she sadly mourns the fact she'll never be with the gorgeous 24-inch display she saw at the Apple Store.

From around the web, cute Mac-loving guys were drawn to respond, including a fan in England, Fmanfer in France, and a user named spaghettio (who obsessively remixes her into his 10-second art film trailer).

Whether or not Apple's user-friendly technology will revolutionize our lives, our hearts, and the way we express our passions — at least Mac users know they'll never be alone. In Indiana an Apple enthusiast named Melchiorus was even inspired to lip-synch Weird Al Yankovich's parody version of the song in a response he directed to his Dell laptop.

"You're pitiful, you're pitiful... It just sucks to be you."

See Also:
iPhone Debate: Bill Gates vs. I'm a Mac
Steve Wozniak vs. Stephen Colbert
Girls Are Geeks, Too
Why Chicks Don't Dig the Singularity
Libertarian Chick Fights Boobs With Boobs

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7 Things I Learned from Superbowl Ads

1. People who drink Bud Light are assholes

We knew this already, but during Sunday's Super Bowl, Anheuser-Busch broadcast footage into our living rooms to prove it. Bud Light drinkers are apparently chainsaw-wielding hitch-hikers, rock-throwing psychopaths, and take dating tips from Carlos Mencia. If they show up at your wedding they'll replace the chaplain with an auctioneer. Their unholy beer is coveted by gorillas and worshipped by crabs, in an ongoing attempt to inebriate the entire animal kingdom. Just remember — if Bud Light ruled the world — even dogs would lie.

Fortunately, Anheuser-Busch have also provided a solution. If a Bud Light drinker gives you a compliment, slap him in the face. (Says one iFilm viewer: "Can't wait to get to the office on Monday!")

2. Mechanics share food

Snickers wanted to ensure they had the most talked about ad of 2007. But for added effect they also hired Super Bowl players to watch their ads, so they could broadcast their reactions on their web site.
Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis Colts Wide Receiver
Mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm.

Mushin Muhammad, Chicago Bears Wide Receiver
Oh! (winces) Oh my god! (laughing and wincing) That was funny. When the lips touched — that was funny, right there.

Desmond Clark, Chicago Bears Tight End
Whoa. Whoa. Aw, no. (Laughs)

("They did 50 takes," an off-camera voice tells him.)

AfterThe promises to let viewers choose which of four endings will be broadcast during the Daytona 500. (For example, one mechanic whacks the other with a wrench, or they're joined by a third mechanic who asks "Is there room for three on this Love Boat?")

Ironically, the sexy ads appear above a hyperlink to the privacy policy for Snickers' web site, which promises parents that "We take special care with young children."

3. Coke has an amazing advertising budget

Who knew the inside of a Coke machine was an enchanted cloud kingdom where flying fish ferry your change to an artic wonderland and a celebratory party in a blimp-based ampitheatre? Coke is apparently dispensed from a hole in the sky, and though it no longer contains cocaine, it can give you hallucinations. It also takes a full minute from the time you put your money into the vending machine until the damn bottle comes out.

Another ad tells us that not only is there a fairy tale celebration in every bottle of Coke. It can also rejuvenate old people.

4. Your workplace is doomed

Showing up to work is an exercise in futility. Your new corporate headquarters are located on the moon, your manager implements new jungle-based torture rituals, and your cheating co-workers were just getting their sales leads off a web page anyways. But the ultimate insult is that if you actually manage to get something done, Robert Goulet will just show up and sabotage it.

Yes, it's true. If your blood sugar drops, you're visited by a 73-year-old lounge singer who can only be repelled by the "natural energy" in Emerald Nuts. It's a phenomenon "most decent people couldn't imagine," according to a redundant companion video at the company's web site.

No wonder America is losing ground to the Japanese.

5. Heavy metal stars will sing anything

Come on — "Mapasaurus?!" Grim Reaper's Steve Grimmett recorded the humiliating metal parody behind a cool retro ad in which an ersatz Ultraman takes on his greatest challenge: a map that's hard to fold.
"Evil Mapasaurus, prepare to meet your doom..
Our hero has the power, glove box is your tomb!"

But Grimmett not only recorded the soundtrack. He recorded a full-length music video for the company's web site.

Grimmett takes his place beside a list of other navigation-related super villains — Trafficdactyl, Wirerannosaurus Mess, and Congestodon. The hype-happy site also offers guitar tabs for the song, a Mapasaurus screensaver and a "making of" documentary for the 30-second ad, in which Grimmett acknowledges that satellite navigation systems are important because, as an aging headbanger, his eyesight is failing.

6. Flomax fights prostate problems and decreases your semen count

It always amazes me. A pharmaceutical company spends $2.6 million to buy one minute of Super Bowl air time — and then spends 30 seconds of it describing their drug's miserable side effects. Besides manly biking excursions with your friends and kayaking trips down a river, Flomax can also give you a runny nose, dizziness, or a decrease in semen. If you stand up, your blood pressure may drop suddenly, "rarely resulting in fainting... avoid situations where injury could result." But on the bright side: it does address those male urinary symptoms.

7. People who drink Snapple are stupid

But this goes without saying.

See Also:
10 Best Monster Ads
Five Druggiest High School Sitcom Scenes
The Cartoon Porn Shop Janitor — Carol Burnett vs Family Guy
Dustin Diamond vs. Sgt. Harvey

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The Web 2.0 Guide to Loving Neologisms

Sam Jackson

Have you ever been talking shit with friends and heard someone scream, "I hate that fucking word!" (Probably right after they themselves have just said, "Web 2.0”). Hipsters. That's why I've become a proud neologophile. I hereby challenge the rest of you neologophobes to explore and embrace the rich ecology of made-up words, because otherwise, you're just living in the past. Don't be afraid; we'll go at a nice, leisurely pace...

Let's look first at words that are used to describe the realm of neologisms itself:
  • Protologism — a neologism that is not yet widely-accepted. It could be argued that the word itself is a protologism, which makes for some interesting pretzel-symantics. As compared to a neologism, which enjoys some popularity.

  • Metaneologism — a true protologism, since I could find no use of it on the Web. It is the class of words we are defining right now in this paragraph, so my official definition is: a word that describes the class of newly-coined words. Like protologism, it falls into the class of words it is used to describe, i.e., metaneologism is a metaneologism; so are protologism and neologism.

  • Neologophobophobe — a foreseen smart-ass attempt to mock me by creating a ridiculous protologism, but which I am hereby revealing as the fraud that it is (so don't even try it, or I'll tell everyone you're a neologophobophile).
Before we continue, we should consider an important point. Sometimes rejection of a given neologism is simply the right thing to do, like when marketing dorks start abusing it to sell a product. This makes "Web 2.0” — the most cited Wikipedia entry of 2006 — an interesting case study. The term was coined in 2004 as the title for a series of tech conferences, and such conferences are little more than marketing bonanzas. But just because big business co-opts something doesn't make it invalid, just as some words that business will never co-opt are never considered valid. (Example: Synergism.)

OK, with all that out of the way, we can move on to our vocabulary list of neologisms and protologisms. Study the following thoroughly:
  • Blogosphere — used ironically, except not, since everyone knows exactly what it means.

  • Folksonomy — the spontaneous cooperation of a group of people to organize information into categories; not to be confused with the protologism, folktsunami — the wave of global usage which swamps the language, leading ultimately to a folksonomy.

  • Diary-a — the act of passing off self-indulgent journal-style entries as informational weblog entries.

  • Hyperclink — a URL possessing an obvious mistake.

  • Linkpimping — shamelessly emailing bloggers with "tips" on link-worthy posts you "discovered" (i.e., wrote), to boost your Technorati ranking.

  • Re-coining — the act of adding to or replacing the definition of a neologism whose meaning is, despite its youth, varied and muddy.

  • Netrosexual — I'm re-coining this one out of historical necessity. Its new, protologistic definition is: a person whose corporeal being is so devoid of sexuality that they overcompensate online in horrific and often malicious ways.
  • Tail-o-vision — the long tail of the coming internet video economy, poised to supplant the dominance of television. (Can be shortened to tailvision for aesthetic purposes.)

  • Flickle — the emotional state of a Netflix user who is no longer sure they want to watch the movies they have added to their account, ushering in a frantic session of queue re-ordering.

  • Goothenasia — the phenomenon of Google attempting to perfect the Web, and instead swallowing and digesting it. Can also be called, "Grey Google," after grey goo, the runaway nano-replicator doomsday scenario.
See how fun that can be? Your turn. Use these words in a sentence in the comments, or define some of your own.

Destiny contributed to this article.

See Also:
iPhone Debate: I'm a Mac vs. Bill Gates
Pulp Fiction Parodies on YouTube

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Ten Video Moments from 2006

The past year saw new issues around sex, privacy, media and politics — sometimes, all at the same time. But with TV on the web, and web users on TV, the boundaries melted into a swirl of media — ours, mine, and theirs. Accidental stars discovered they were soaking in it, at the center of a spinning globe that likes to watch.

And everyone else had a lot of fun.

1. Carl Monday is watching you masturbate

A 23-year-old masturbates with the public library's computer — but when he gets outside, there's someone waiting for him. It's Cleveland investigative reporter Carl Monday! "For some, pursuing the porn sites is a favorite past time at local libraries," Monday warned somberly in a news segment broadcast in May. (Monday even follows the "unemployed porn site user" to his parents' home, where he asks for their opinion on their son's public masturbation.) Video of Monday's disturbing ambush interview brought him interent fame, with one entrepreneur selling t-shirts with Monday's dour face (along with the words "Carl Monday is watching you masturbate.") Ultimately even The Daily Show got involved, leading to a surreal encounter in which Carl Monday interviewed Jason Jones interviewing Carl Monday. (Jones turns the tables by asking Monday the same question Monday asked the hapless library masturbator.)

And what happened to the library masturbator? He was sentenced to one year's probation and a promise to avoid all public libraries — and Carl Monday was there in the parking lot to ask for a comment.

Not surprisingly, the comment turned out to be: "Get the hell away from me."

2. "If I were one of those sick-o's..."

"We track library books better than we track pedophiles," Congressman Mark Foley told America's Most Wanted, adding "If I were one of these sick-os I'd be nervous with America's Most Wanted on my trail."

"Maybe this was an overt cry for help," John Walsh later told Larry King.

Shortly after running his last campaign ad (which touted "a record we can be proud of...") it was discovered that the Republican Congressman had been sending cybersex messages to underaged male Congressional pages. When the first hints of scandal surfaced, Foley tried brazening it out. ("Congressman Mark Foley's office says the e-mails were entirely appropriate," reported an ABC News blog, "and that their release is part of a smear campaign by his opponent.") But the flood of evidence was overwhelming, eventually revealing that Foley once even held up a vote on Emergency War Time supplemental appropriations for cybersex with a high school student. (A commenter on the gay South Florida blog
: "Where's Ken Starr, now that he's really needed?") Foley resigned — although his name remained on the ballot for the November elections. (He came within 1% of beating his opponent, though all votes for Foley were transferred to a replacement candidate.) While bloggers wondered whether Foley would ultimately be prosecuted under sex predator laws that he helped pass, the U.S. Attorney's office now appears unlikely to press charges. But the episode still left politicians stunned by the changing rules for privacy in an information-hungry world.

3. The head-butt heard round the world

Zinedine Zidane had already announced his retirement from the French soccer team after completing a five-year, $66 million contract. His last game would be the infamous match against Italy in the final round of the 2006 World Cup tournament. With the score tied after two hours of hard soccer, and the teams headed for a shootout of penalty kicks, Zidane got into an argument with Italian defender Marco Materazzi. From various news accounts their conversation went something like this.
Zidane: "If you're going to grab my shirt, why don't you just take it?"

Materazzi: "I'd rather have your sister."

There followed a fierce headbutt from Zidane — whose position, ironically, was "attacking midfielder". He was thrown from the game (which Italy ultimately won 5-3), achieving a second notoriety for his final-game foul. According to Wikipedia, French President Jacques Chirac congratulated Zidane for being a national hero and a "man of heart and conviction".

And inevitably, footage of Zidane's attack found it's way to the internet, where the career culminating moment was re-mixed again and again and again.

4. The yin and yang of Comedy Central

Virtually every news story of 2006 drew sardonic commentary from both Jon Stewart and his former correspondent Stephen Colbert. But in April they made a rare joint appearance to present the Emmy award for best reality TV.

"It's a pleasure to be here tonight," Stewart says innocuously.
"Good evening, godless sodomites," Colbert offers as a counterpoint.

The event gave a rare glimpse into a comedic yin and yang which challenges the way media outlets cover politics. While both men target the echo chamber of news shows, Stewart simply shares how bewildered he is by foolish politicians and the correspondents who cover them — while Colbert creates a walking caricature of the rabid ideologues he's targeting. (On the Emmys Colbert said he was reading from the teleprompter in his heart.)

In a final irony, both men have been given cable TV shows to attack other cable TV shows. But while their popularity continues to grow, this clip shows that there may be a limit. Colbert and Stewart's final jokes note that The Colbert Report lost earlier in the evening after being nominated as "best performance in a variety or music show". The ultimate winner? Barry Manilow.

5. Special comments

Keith Olbermann was entering his fourth year as an MSNBC prime-time commentator — but in August he discovered large audiences would tune in for his "Special Commentary" segments. Since the first one aired in August, his ratings have nearly doubled, and Olbermann is now reportedly asking MSNBC for a multi-million dollar increase in his contract.

In a memorable segment on September 11, Olbermann remembered working near Ground Zero and seeing fliers for colleagues who had perished in the towers. "All the time, I knew that the very air I breathed contained the remains of thousands of people, including four of my friends..." he said sternly. "For me this was, and is, and always shall be, personal.

"And anyone who claims that I and others like me are soft, or have forgotten the lessons of what happened here, is at best a grasping, opportunistic, dilettante, and at worst, an idiot — whether he is a commentator, or a Vice President, or a President."

6. The legend of Jihad Jerry

Meanwhile Devo shocked the world in March by joining Disney to create a new incarnation of their pioneering geek band using cute pre-teen Disney kids. ("If you're not upset...we haven't done our jobs," Devo's Gerry Casale told The New York Daily News.) But while the children sang and eventually toured as "Devo 2.0," 58-year-old Casale was plotting fresh subversions. Soon a mysterious new band appeared called "Jihad Jerry and the Evildoers" (including all the current members of Devo). The liner notes explain that a young Jerry turned to music when the Ayatollah declared his secular high school "evil" and he was "unwilling to finish his education without girls."

"You have the right to remain naked..." he sings in "Army Girls Gone Wild,"a subversive political commentary in the guise of a music video. "What happens in Abu Ghraib stays in Abu Ghraib."

Casale also surprised the online world in 2006 by paying a visit to two video blogs.

7. Code Monkey

Movie attendance is still lower than it was in 2004, partly because geeks would rather spend time playing massively multi-player games. One glorious moment combined everything into a shiny package — work, games, and music videos. Musician Jonathan Coulton had been writing a new song every week, and hit the jackpot with his ballad about an under-appreciated computer programmer who is also a monkey. When the song was released for a re-mix contest, Adobe employee Mike "Spiff" Booth then envisioned its evolution into a music video created with in-game footage from World of Warcraft. With poignant echoes of a real-world workplace, the gorilla stoicly endures his deskbound manager-goblin Rob, and pines for the company receptionist, a green-haired night-elf who is watching her weight. Besides being one of the best music videos of the year, it's playful proof that the online world is still curiously exploring new possibilities for collaborative creativity. And best of all: "No monkeys were harmed in the making of this film."

8. "This is NOT a joke!"

When you're being filmed in the Web 2.0 era, the worst thing you can do is over-react. Jason Holt, the student body vice president at the University of South Carolina, was the target of a standard-issue college prank. In April he returned from an appearance before Congress to discover his office filled with colorful balloons. His dramatic outburst was surreptitiously videotaped, capturing Holt's furious eyes burning with undergraduate intensity as he yells "It's not a joke! Look at me being serious...! I want to go to bed and you fucked up my office!!" Within two weeks the video had found an audience online at its new home — Look At Me Being And Holt had become a perfect example of how privacy is changing in a technology-enabled world.

The video was eventually broadcast on VH-1, and in a July letter Holt called the aftermath "bitterly painful". Saying he'd received over 100 "negative and demeaning" emails he wrote that he'd learned "humility" and the abiliity to "admit a mistake."

"[M]y actions in the video were rude, arrogant, and inconsiderate," he continued, wondering if his tantrum would cost him a career in public service, and asking for the student body's prayers "as I continue to deal with the consequences."

9. Brokeback Brady

At the Oscars in March, the most-nominated film was Brokeback Mountain — but overall movie receipts had fallen by six percent, with finicky consumers enjoying new entertainment choices which also included new gaming consoles and personal video recorders. This means Americans probably were more likely to discover a sympathetic same-sex relationship when they played back the May episode of That 70s Show where Greg and Peter Brady played a gay couple. Two actors from the 1970s family sitcom The Brady Bunch were transported back to the decade one more time as the new neighbors for hard-nosed Red Forman.

This snapshot of the way we were in 2006 was followed two weeks later with another TV-sized message of acceptance. That 70s Show culminated its eight-year run with a finale showing class-conscious Jackie falling for foreigner Fez.

10. The last joke of Louis Rukeyser

A television legend flashed his last smile — but not before getting the last laugh. In 2002 the producers of Wall Street Week ousted Louis Rukeyser for someone younger. But the wily 69-year-old used his last show to encourage viewers to follow him to a new network. "I'll let the market decide," the Wall Street commentator joked, knowing his audience would stay loyal after 32 years. His new show premiered with CNBC's highest ratings ever, while the old PBS show lost 84% of its audience, and was eventually canceled altogether.

Louis Rukeyser died on May 2 of a rare form of blood cancer at the age of 73. But if he could see how the web continues forcing old media to evolve, I'm sure he'd be smiling.

Just like the rest of us.

See Also:
Worst Vlogs of 2006
2007 Re-Mixed
Lawrence Welk vs. The Hippies
Five Druggiest High School Sitcom Scenes

Read More

Worst Vlogs of 2006

1. Dogs Barking in

Dude, you're not even trying.

Vlogger Kyle MacDonald presents a series of canine captives embodying that existential truth that we're all tragicomic prisoners in the parking lot of life. Either that, or it's just footage of barking dogs. The site's clever tagline — "Dogs + Cars = Barking" — signals its minimalist approach. (Short clips, no commentary.) The dogs are the stars, and the site's reason for existence — whether they're bravely frightening potential intruders or just lunging in impotent fury towards the defrosting grill.

Maybe it's an absurdist parody of the vlogging experience itself, with each entry necessitating prosaic tags like "one dog," "three dogs," or "even barking people". (Who, it turns out, are barking at dogs.) Video titles add their own meaningless epitaphs to the sound and fury. Two girls laughing at a dog becomes "ha ha bark bark"; a cab-ful of huskies becomes "so many dogs. so much barking". And finally completing the circle, an upload page invites viewers to contact "Barkly McBarkalot" to share their own footage of more barking dogs.

Behold the future of multimedia. It's a terrible idea for a video blog — or is it? Just remember that the site's creator is the far-thinking genius who parlayed a paper clip into a house in Saskatchewan.

2. Father doesn't know best

In January, Josh Johnson decided to film his kids talking about Hoodwinked. Then he dubbed them "the Cinekids," and made them do it over and over again.

Young Nick fidgets morosely, his eyes darting in that surreal helplessness every child feels before a parent with a videocamera, while his sister Kayla babbles on.
"Superman is very good excepting when — especially when he caught, he was flying through the, he — this is Superman. (Holds up finger.) He was flying through the air, and caught an airplane. (With fingers) Like, VVVVVVVMmm. And that airplane had a rocket ship! And he was like, VVVVVVVVVMmm to the rocket ship. And they went into outer space. That was probably my favorite part."

And here's Kayla on Santa Clause 3.
"I give it 30 thumbs up because it's so funny and goofy and laugh la-yadda yadda yadda."

15 episodes later, and it's still painful to watch. The children — who look around 8 years old — offer their mangled commentary on movies like RV, Godzilla, and Nacho Libre. The preening father adds a credit for himself at the end of each of "their" shows, apparently hoping to ride the "cute" train to a 6-figure development deal from the Lifetime network. (He's already pressed his kids into a family-friendly short he directed, then included its trailer before one of "their" reviews of Tim Allen's Zoom.)

Unfortunately, exactly one person has subscribed to Dad's YouTube feed, where episode 1 was given three ratings by YouTube viewers — all one star. The clip was favorited 0 times, and commented on twice. ("crap!" 5 months ago and "Shit!" 1 month ago.)

3. Vlogs 4 Peace

Next time someone tells you "I wish all the vloggers would just shut up," send them to Vlog4Peace — a Twilight Zone world where video bloggers say absolutely nothing.

Pete Rahon urged video bloggers around the world to submit one-minute movies of "silence and peace" in an effort to create "a collective sound energy" which would bring transformation and communication to a troubled world. Rahon believed this could ultimately lead to the impeachment of President Bush ("Impeachment is so close to being mispronounced as in-peace-men!") and he called for "a million minutes for peace" — that is, nearly two years of amateur YouTube footage of people meditating.

He apparently abandoned the project 7 weeks later, leaving behind a Yahoo group with exactly two members and an unnoticed post on Blogger titled "Vloggers of the World Unite! Let us Vlog4Peace!" ("0 comments; 0 links to this post.")

It also drew mixed reviews when it was uploaded to YouTube, including commenter ShotgunVinny, who wrote "fucking load of shit!"

Apparently world peace has not yet been achieved.

4. Rocketboom

Rocketboom is like a broken robot that keeps dispensing dispatches from an entirely insulated world. For two weeks in November, every news tip viewers sent was bounced back five days later after their server refused to accept it. But what's even more significant is they didn't notice.

While bad amateur vlogs can at least be endearing, Rocketboom uses an alienating professionalism, dividing the world into talking heads and the rest of us. Their formula is simple (despite the "Web 2.0-speak" in the above interview clip). It's like a newscast, but shorter, with a token wisecrack for each story delivered with artificial sauciness by a 20-something British woman. Day after day Rocketboom plows ahead with preciously pretentious topics, in a slick yet uninspiring crusade to turn the web's grand global conversation into a one-way TV show.

Interactivity is reduced to a few dozen comments left on their web page, many of them one word. ("Hee-larious!" "AWESOME") with no shout-outs to other video bloggers. In a December stunt they displayed URLs for other non-Rocketboom sites which they'd suddenly discovered existed elsewhere on the web — but only for one 24-hour period. Now it's back to business as usual.

There's nothing particularly original or ennobling in filming an attractive young female reading news stories. (Over six years ago another video blog adopted a nearly-identical formula, with an even more commercial twist. It was called The Naked News.) Ultimately it was Ze Frank who summarized the popular reaction to Rocketboom in a series of vlogs which made the argument that they couldn't possibly be as popular as they claim — because they're so horribly, horribly lame.

Besides, everyone knows British accents are just a giant conspiracy to feign superiority over Americans.

5. Rocketboom Lite

Even after two shows, it can only be described as "Like Rocketboom, but with ads. And not as good." Before viewers can even watch the clunky transitions of former Rocketboom newscaster Amanda Congdon, they discover that there's a mandatory commercial from the food and beverage division at Procter & Gamble. (During which her corporate overlords have decreed that pause buttons shall be disabled.) Immediate gratification from fast-paced video stimulation will have to wait until ABC-Disney is through shilling coffee — and even then, they've also decreed that a mandatory second ad shall be displayed at all times. ("Garlic Chicken pizza with punch! Now in your grocer's freezer...")

Also, no rewinding is allowed, ever. I know you can just start the program over from the beginning, but — guess what? That means watching another ad!

It's painful to watch Amanda feign enthusiasm for pre-scripted jokes which aren't funny with a voice that's not resonant, and a personality that's not engaging. Bad acting, a lack of charisma, all under the mistaken belief that she's talented. ("Congratulations! I've arrived! You're welcome!" she seems to say.) It's an infuriating self-satisfaction which violates the web's original promise that online communication is open to everyone, and you don't ascend to a ruling class because you're cute and perky. (This week's crappy episode even appeared over the self-congratulatory and wordy headline "You Want Sexy and Irreverent? You Got It!")

"Try a new stomach-friendly coffee," urges the Folgers ad to the right.

While Amanda retains her trademark spin-to-camera-two move, she's jettisoned Rocketboom's lightning cuts, along with background music, outdoor interviews, and a sense of excitement. Now she's just going through the motions, possibly out of spite (according to some half-understood posts I skimmed on Valleywag). I can't think of anything less exciting than watching Andrew Baron feuding with Amanda Congdon, unless the whole thing took place on a Yahoo group. Maybe next they can argue in a comments thread on MySpace.

But it does offer a nice counterpoint to her show's smug, smirking cadence with its unmistakeble whiff of ha-ha-I'm-on-ABC-and-you're-not. And just as her delivery seems to be picking up some excitement, the show ends, to be immediately followed by yet-another ad! And then ABC News immediately shoves viewers into a non-consensual second video from their back bench of crappy video news stories.

Amanda Congdon's new show is the equivalent of deciding that Lite Beer isn't bland enough, and asking for a LITE lite beer. Is it unfair to compare Amanda Congdon's new video blog to footage of dogs barking in cars? No — because I hate it that much.

I will give her credit for breaking away from the formula, and taking chances in an attempt to find a new voice. I like how she plays video comments from other bloggers on her laptop during her own show. And to her credit, Amanda is acknowledging other weblogs and actively soliciting input from her viewers and the online community.

But as 2006 ends there are just 19 vlogs, according to a badly-researched category on Yahoo. (And one of them is just a Wikipedia page defining the word vlog.) In a weird way this proves the medium is genuinely new, and gives even the worst blogs the honor of being a pioneer. The worse they are, the more they prove that the medium is still wide open, and as Howard Rheingold used to say, what it up to us.

See Also:
10 Video Moments from 2006
ABCNews Amanda Congdon - Rocketboom = Whuh?
2007 Re-Mixed
The Simpsons on Drugs: 6 Trippiest Scenes

Read More

5 Retarded Online Christmas Videos

1. Sam Brown's New York Christmas

Gritty New Yorkers know that dirt doesn't vanish on December 25. Comedian Sam Brown takes a realistic look at the city's holiday sights — panhandlers, domestic disturbances, losers cruising singles bars, and seasonal affective disorder — then sets it all to music. He's teamed up with Frank Santopadre, editor of New York's Jest magazine to create five slickly-produced, if off-key videos with an unsentimental twist.

A peaceful lawn full of Christmas lights turns into an episode of Cops, as the handcuffed man doing the faceplant sings his version of Silent Night. (Which becomes Violent Night.) Christmas Day requires an acknowledgment of the losers trapped in Singles bars, Singles bars, surrounded by other losers hoping to get laid. But the most demented video of all is probably The Worst Noel. It captures the magical Christmas that comes when you discover your girlfriend has been having sex with the entire neighborhood.

Yes, there's a music video, and yes it has Santa — plus an angel, a nun, and a fire-breathing midget.

2. Christmas With Janice Dickinson's Modeling Agency

Also celebrating Christmas is Janice Dickinson, the over-exposed star of The Surreal Life, America's Next Top Model, and a recent Los Angeles traffic accident.

By the first week of December a Christmas video had already turned up, and according to the New York Post, after you've heard it, "You'll be begging to hear the mellifluous sounds of second-graders singing 'Silent Night.'" Dickinson sings the familiar gift-counting song about the 12 Days of Christmas, but when you're a former supermodel who's slept with Mick Jagger and Sylvester Stallone, your taste in gifts runs beyond simple turtle doves. A fast-paced music video shows Janice claiming her Christmas booty, including "five naked man, four Italian suits, three former husbands, two giants breasts..." (Remember, she's also the author of the book Everything About Me Is Fake . . . And I'm Perfect.) In true supermodel fashion, the 12 gifts are received while wearing 12 different fashion ensembles - but the whole she-bang was just created by the Oxygen network as a promotion for her upcoming special and regular series.

If the New York Post is right, and it makes you want to hear the song sung by amateurs, video #3 offers a simple solution.

3. We Are the YouTube

From England, Canada, New York, and Pittsburgh, they answered a call to sing on your virtual doorstep. Transcending geography, "The YouTube Community Choir" celebrates Christmas like it's never been celebrated before.

It starts with Geriatic1927, the 79-year-old British widower who became one of YouTube's most popular users in August. He's followed by a 19-year-old in Utah named Mrspassic, who joined in June, and a 55-year-old named "PositiveSue" from England.

Nearly 30 YouTube users were chosen for the five-minute presentation, and nearly one million more have watched them, making it, amazingly enough, one of the site's most-viewed movies.

It all started with Matt5413, a 22-year-old in Boston who joined the site last July. In November he uploaded his idea for collaborating on the song, and 56-year-old Zipster08 loved the idea, From his home in Pennsylvania he uploaded an enthusiastic response called "THIS IS WHAT YOUTUBE IS ABOUT!" (explaining the video would be edited by together by "this dude from Kansas" named Silent Whistle.) YouTube users magically appeared, uploading their auditions in hopes they'd be edited into the final cut. "Proudyke" even sang a line from a remote island in the South Atlantic.

Not all the responses were positive. "Fungus the Boogeyman" simply uploaded a looping animation over a profanity-filled song by an Australian comic named Kevin Bloody Wilson. ("Ho ho, fucking ho, what a crock of shit..." Current average rating: 5 stars.)

But like a real Christmas card, it gives a glimpse into the YouTube community. Nearly all of the participants joined within the last four months, and many of the same figures turned up in the "OneTube For Orbvious" video — a more serious feel-good project lending moral support to an Australian couple grieving a child custody ruling by "the facist regime currently at work behind the scenes in the Australian illegal system."

"It is the beauty of the internets," joked one viewer, marvelling at how 2006 became the first collaboration-enabled Christmas. Whether you love it or hate it, Matt says he hopes to do another collaborative video soon. Oh, how we love sequels.

4. Revver Strikes Back

In a disturbing parallel universe, Revver users have recorded the song Jingle Bells in an apparent attempt to have each video played at the same time. Each holiday ham brings a twist to their individual recording.

There's one by smiley Rocketboom correspondent Steve Garfield. User "Imanartist" imagines a second verse of alternate lyrics by space alien Zandor. There's the Shatner-esque stylings of MarkDayComedy, and Marquisdejolie re-engineered the song into an echo-y, static-y, slowed-down Satan voice. TraveTV uses hand puppets, and three members of the "Revver Community Department" even wrote a skit which involved bouncing on a couch while throwing paper wads. But while some of the individual videos may be lame, they're all participating in a grand experiment, as the videos are blended together into a single cacophonic chorus of Christmas-y noise. A healthcare marketer and video collector apparently got the idea that all the videos should be hosted on a single web page — his. "We were founded to make money," says Kevin Nalty in a video parodying his site's origins. "Why else would you start a company?" Then he appears again as an another employee saying the site was founded "to make people laugh." Maybe it's both. Or maybe it's neither.

Lockergnome's Chris Pirillo ultimately came up with an even more deconstructive version of online carolling. He made one video, but then uploaded it to nine different video-sharing sites. (YouTube, Revver, iFilm, Soapbox...) "The idea is to press play so that they all stream at the same time," he writes. In the video he sings the first two lines of "Jingle Bells" over and over again while shaking the collars of two admirably-disinterested puppies. As each subsequent video loads, it's either an additional voice for the choir — or a round-like counterpoint.

Or a test of your computer's random access memory, and it's limitations for multiple video playbacks.

5. Herpes for Christmas

Ginger Kearns, who played "Pierced Girl" on The Sopranos, appears in the heart-warming classic from RagTag Productions called Merry Christmas, I Got You Herpes. Though it starts at an innocuous casual Christmas party with cookies, presents, and a Christmas tree, the title gives a strong hint of what the first plot twist will be. ("I didn't have to wrap it.") Two onlooking couples (and the lucky gift recipient) react with varying degrees of extremity. ("Next thing you know he'll be dry humping our furniture with his open sores!") Will it find its way to a happy ending, maybe a reminder that Jesus loves all the little children — even the little children with STDs?

Shake That Fro productions has also joined the fun, creating their own eight-minute film seeking a cathartic release from the purity of the season. After showing the snowfall on a white-bread suburban home, Best Christmas Ever cuts to a young couple innocently swapping gifts on the couch. (Let's just say the music changes when the vocalist sings "night of passion and light"....) Complications include a father who mutters obliviously "You better watch your manners with my daughter, there," but after five minutes of set up, it culminates with one bizarre twist after another.

And what Christmas would be complete without a condom joke?

See Also:
A Christmas Conspiracy
Christmas 2.0: Subverting the Holidays With Re-dubbing
Death at Christmas
They're Dreaming of a Boobs Christmas

Read More

Christmas 2.0: Subverting the Holidays With Re-dubbing


Yes, Christmas traditions pass from generation to generation. But this year finds Santa visiting some very naughty children playing with YouTube, digital editing software, and a wicked imagination. They're dreaming of a Christmas that's web 2.0 — with networked audiences re-interpreting all the classic holiday specials. Or maybe they're just returning the holiday to its pagan roots.

1. A Charlie Brown Christmas — the alternate ending

Charlie Brown is TV Christmas's ultimate icon. Which is probably why he's been targetted for an alternate ending that "they don't want you to see." Though his voice is now different, Charlie Brown still delivers his familiar down-hearted dialogue. ("I guess you were right, Linus. I shouldn't have picked this little tree...isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?") Also like before, Linus calls for lights, and patiently and gently promises to explain.

But the story he tells is not about shepherds. "When we were babies, our parents made a conscious decision to deceive us," Linus announces. "They created a bunch of fairy tales like Santa Claus and baby Jesus to give us kids false hope, and to comfort themselves as they approached death." And Linus is just getting warmed up. "It's all a bunch of bullshit. When we die, our bodies lie rotting in the earth, and worms and bugs eat at our remains, and shit us out into little bits of nothing."

Wait, wait, there's more. Linus is building up to the true true meaning of the holidays. "Christmas isn't about giving love or the birth of a savior. It's about moving merchandise, and false sentiment. It's about dumbass cocksuckers like Charlie Brown running around all night trying to buy a goddamn tree..."

One last time Linus savors the irony that Charlie Brown bought "a dead fucking tree" — and then it's a small step to "God is dead, hail Satan — Charlie Brown must die." The gang builds a pyre in front of Snoopy's house, and performs goddless sacrificial rites while singing "Loo loo loo..."

Like the original Peanuts special, it denounces commercialism. But unlike the original Peanuts special, it will probably never be sponsored by Zingers.

2. A Christmas Story — Ralphie's packin' a Red Ryder

"A disturbed young boy... On the edge of sanity...

Various attempts have been made to re-dub A Christmas Story. In one, as insinuating horror movie music plays, blood-red letters identified forgotten themes in a movie you thought you knew.
"A dangerous obsession... An emotionally empty Santa..."

The troubled boy with glasses raises his blue eyes, and stares at the ceiling, "Until finally the pain, the snowballs, and the soap become too much..."

Oh my god! The camera zooms in on his angry boy eyes, lips quivering angrily, as Ralphie the ticking timebomb explodes! Fists flying in boyhood fury, he bloodies the face of underserving bully Scut Parkus. His parents scream and flail helplessly. HE'S LEVELLING A RED RYDER B.B. GUN!!!

That revision of A Christmas Story was created by a now-defunct web site called "Lifeinthe80s," but they're just one of several groups re-editing favorite family movies into horror film trailers. (See also: Scary Mary.) Someone else had already imagined a movie trailer for the Yule Log DVD. But A Christmas Story, with its 94 minutes of pent-up frustration, cried out for something scarier...

Speaking of dangerous obsessions, the movie itself inspired a 30-year-old in San Diego to sell 7,500 replicas of the movie's famous leg-shaped lamp-with-a-fishnet-stocking. He used the money to buy the Cleveland house where the movie was filmed - then paid an additional $240,000 to re-model it exactly, watching the movie frame by frame.

Maybe he's a ticking timebomb too, just one snowball away from exploding into Christmas mayhem.

"Ralphie's packin' a Red Ryder. The holidays will never by the same."

3. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer — the unrated version

Burl Ives is probably glad he's dead. Someone with time on their hands re-worked the original 42-year-old Claymation story into something entirely different. Like the Rankin-Bass original, it opens when a kindly talking snowman discovers you haven't heard about the year Christmas almost wasn't.

"Well, sit your ass down," he says brusquely, and starts describing how children of the world suddenly lost their interest in toys. ("What the fuck?" Santa asks in a newspaper headline.) Santa leaves the North Pole to spy on the children, and discovers that it's because they're...masturbating.

Santa realizes they've discovered "the one toy better than any Santa can make" — and Christmas is canceled. But the frustrated re-dubbing artists at Liebography cling to their premise for nearly 10 minutes, filling the North pole with an unrelenting snowstorm of dirty dialogue. Santa develops an unwholesome interest in "a cute little deformed buck named Rudolph" who flees Santa's attentions with "another of Santa's special pole polishers" to — what else? — the Island of Misfit Sex Toys. ("How would you like to be a pocket vagina made out of abrasive sandpaper..." "I'm a homophobic strap-on!") Of course it ends with a very merry Christmas, but probably not the one you're expecting.

"C'mon Rudolph!" shouts jolly old Santa. "Let's go get some of those retarded dildos! Moms and dads love them too!"

4. Frosty the raging anarchist

Frosty the Snowman has always been one of the creepiest TV Christmas specials. Three children are stalked by their grade school's hired entertainer, and seek sanctuary with a deep-voiced simpleton who really likes children. A lot. Eventually he dies.

One re-dubber simply stripped out the implausible plot points in between, then also stripped out the innocent dialogue. And then replaced it with death metal.

"I want your soul," the cartoon snowman tells the children.

"I'll eat your soul." They look up in wide-eyed wonder...

With some simple editing, the snowy sentiment becomes salacious. "I want your soul," Frosty sings again, as a leapfrogging boy appears to be lingering over his ass. The blonde girl whispers something to a policeman, then looks down sadly. She's seen grinding against the floor of a refrigerator car — over and over and over — as an attentive Frosty looks on smiling.

The little blonde girl opens her eyes to find he's carrying her, smiling, into a sinister greenhouse. ("Come to Daddy," he sings.) Santa and the rabbit recoil in horror. A sad Frosty looks around guiltily as he's identified by witnesses — the children, the rabbit, and finally the policeman. This re-imagining is a little muddled, but it ends with five very clear words.

"And Frosty was never convicted."

But then again, there was always an easy target in the girl-snowman relationship. Elsewhere, nine minutes of the cartoon have been re-dubbed with the voice of "Danny the Tourettes Guy". (Frosty's first words are "Bitch, I love you.") Someone else has imagined him as a belligerent man in a costume heckling the credulous children. ("These kids are so fucking gullible. God damn it, I'm a fucking snow man.")

But it's worth remembering that even without any web-enabled commentary, the original cartoon made one blogger's list of the "Things About Christmas That Are Supposed to be Touching But Pretty Much Just Make Me Want to Lay Down and Die." The melting snowman had traumatized her as a child. "What's the lesson here? That someday everyone we love will die...?

"I still can't hear 'Frosty the Snowman knew the sun was hot that day...' without being overwhelmed with dread."

5. The Nightmare Before Christmas — Burton's little helpers

Tim Burton saw Christmas as the backdrop for another fable about a magical outsider. But just as his king of Halloweentown was re-imagining Christmas, Burton's fans dreamed up new ways of seeing his movie.

As Sally stares at her Christmas tree catching fire, Jack Skellington sang the histrionic song "Iris" by the Goo Goo Dolls. In another video the same scene showed the star-crossed Christmas outsiders with an alterna-goth soundtrack by Evanescence. One video even re-dubbed the movie's opening song, so its chorus of "This is Halloween" becomes the Tool song "Stinkfist" (from their album Aenima).
Something has to change,
undeniable dilemma.
Boredom's not a burden anyone should bear...

Burton's visual extravaganza lends an intensity to nearly anything, and musical synchronicity does the rest — creating the perfect gothic Christmas. They're not the only ones celebrating it. If you visit Disneyland's Haunted Mansion in December, the whole attraction has been converted into a special Christmas party for Jack Skellington, and one Youtube video even shows Marilyn Manson's new cover of "This is Halloween" synched with the scene where it occurs in The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Ultimately Christmas is what you make it — a jumble of gifts, memories, mandatory family gatherings and religion. But while there may or may not be something sacred in the holiday, there's an online audience that won't extend that reverence to Christmas's commercial counterparts. Maybe they're creating a new ritual, gathering together around a warm monitor and sharing catcalls instead of Christmas carols.

Maybe we've just seen the ghost of Christmas future.

See Also:
5 Retarded Online Christmas Videos
Death at Christmas
A Christmas Conspiracy
They're Dreaming of a Boobs Christmas

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Is Iraq really THAT bad?

This roundup of YouTube clips is meant to give a small sense of what it's like for the people who are killing and getting killed in Iraq — a view that, limited as it is, one can't possibly get from the mainstream newsmedia.

1. Insurgents Shoot U.S. Soldier

According to the slate at the opening of this footage, it takes place on the 4th of July, 2005, so the fact it's from the perspective of a couple of insurgent snipers makes it all the more poignant. There are at least two males stalking the lone soldier, who is standing next to a Humvee on the far side of an automobile thoroughfare. They mutter to one another, perhaps discussing the optimal time to fire. We hear a sudden metallic clunk and then the soldier falls straight to the ground.

On a pro-Marines website also hosting the video, text reads, "Thank God for Body Armor!" and as the hit infantryman gets onto his feet, we see that he's unhurt. He quickly scuttles to the opposite side of the Humvee as the insurgents mutter praise to Allah. Their praise does not sound celebratory, but rather, fearful. Perhaps they expect an inevitable and massive retaliation.

2. Apache Gun Kill

This one has been around a while; it's from December 2003. But this extended near-4-minute footage gives an interesting glimpse into the thought process of people on the triggers of some of the biggest guns in the world. Note the very calm, clinical voices trying to discern what the two targets are doing, what they're carrying and, ultimately, when to "smoke ’em." The men seem to be aware that they're being watched, but it's unclear they know exactly what awaits. (The Apache has the ability to monitor and track targets even when concealed.) Adding to the detachment is the Terminator-like view through the Target Acquisition and Designation System. When the guns finally go, the destruction to the human bodies is sickeningly complete and obvious, even through the infrared scopes.

3. Mortar Attack on U.S. Troops

Here, a small group of troops are outside a military compound in a vehicle when mortars start to rain down. The footage is from a soldier's camcorder, and we hear them saying, "Damn!" as the explosions go off near by. We hear the whistling of incoming mortars, and the shock & awe of the guys when mortars go off inside the compound (“Ohh, right inside the fuckin' base!"). They rush to pack up and go into the compound to help with emergency aid. In the distance inside the compound, we can hear the chaos of urgent voices and we can see plumes of smoke rising. (“We obviously pissed somebody off in the last few days.") The clip has footage of a roadside explosion spliced onto the end; U.S. troops are jovial as they pass 3 apparently civilian cars, smile and wave, and then get hit.

4. Counter-ambush Operation

This dash-mounted video is straight out of Hollywood, and it makes you wonder whether war movies tell us about reality, or help shape it, or both. After an ambush, retaliation is called for. "Shoot those motherfuckers! Get some! Get some!" shouts one soldier as we zip down tight residential roads after an unseen enemy. "Get yer Sixteen up there!!!" Gunfire. "You stupid motherfuckers!" It's chaos, and adrenaline, and of course, death in the streets.

5. Apache Voyeur

It's not all artillery and death, though. The last two clips are glimpses of the lighter side of war. Here, the troops catch another sort of hot Iraqi action. "That's a chick." A dark figure in a convertible car with a ponytail is visible. "What's she doin'?" "She's bouncin' up and down. On him!" A burst of laughter. "I swear to god, man, this chick is going crazy on this guy, it's incredible." Indeed, with the night-vision we see it clearly. The clip is over 7 minutes long, but who knows how much time and fuel was wasted on this "operation." The woman switches positions. "Stop moving," says someone to the helicopter pilot. An official voice says, "We got activity out here but I don't think we really need to report it...appears to be fornication in the convertible." "Do a target/store and I'll be there in a second." "Oh, we're tapin' it."

6. Night Vision Donkey Sex

No commentary needed for this one.

Not all of the above items are new, but as a series, we find them powerful. We decided to exclude montages set to music. (It is possible to find these from Coalition and insurgent perspectives.)

Know of better clips? Leave links in the comments, but please do not embed them.

See Also:

Hallucinogenic Weapons: The Other Chemical Warfare
Catching up with an Aqua Teen Terrorist
Lost "Horrors" Ending Found on YouTube
Homeland Security Follies
5 Best Videos: Animals Attacking Reporters

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Robert Altman’s 7 Secret Wars

Robert Altman's career started with corporate training films in Missouri. The experience landed him Hollywood work filming TV shows in the 1960s — but his personality rebelled against creating false fables of comfort. Before M*A*S*H and The Player, Altman had forced his fierce honesty onto unsuspecting television characters. It marked the beginning of a forgotten march through America's cherished archetypes, challenging one beloved hero after another.

For example, when network executives handed him the characters from Bonanza, his first impulse was to torture them.

1. Bonanza (1961)

Hoss, Adam and Little Joe were a happy all-male family on a Nevada ranch in that magical TV west. Altman opens his episode Silent Thunder with rednecks sexually harassing a deaf mute female (played by Stella Stevens). Good son Little Joe intervenes, and later teaches her how to read, but then she falls in love with him. In a series of painful scenes, Little Joe struggles to convey rejection to someone who doesn't understand, can't communicate, and is full of the rawest emotion.

Altman directed eight episodes of Bonanza, all but one in the show's second season — and they're some of the darkest in its 14-year run. In The Rival, gentle Hoss loves a woman, but she loves a fugitive. In a typical Bonanza plot, a showdown seems inevitable, but Hoss agonizes over the ambiguity. Is he hunting his rival because of his crimes — or to vindictively avenge his scorned heart? There's no easy answers as a lynch mob starts forming, and even before any triggers are pulled, a devastated Hoss knows that the woman he loves will never, ever be his. Altman heightens the episode's tension with evocative lighting tricks. In one scene, a gun emerges from the shadows for several agonizing seconds before the triggerman is revealed — Hoss himself.

2. Combat (1962)

Altman's dark style was better suited for the gritty war stories in the series Combat. In one episode the survival of the entire unit rests on a single captured prisoner not giving away their position. Pinned down in a chateau, the soldiers can escape by swimming down a river at night — but they can't haul their prisoner underwater. The commander faces an impossible choice. He can kill the young Nazi conscript before escaping — or risk all their lives on the soldier's pleas and promises of secrecy. Again — there's no easy answers. Altman used the chateau to good effect, including long shots to show the soldiers on its upper level with the lone Nazi below.

Altman's TV career would be short-lived. It was reportedly hobbled by his clashes with TV executives, but there were other controversies. Wikipedia notes that Congressional hearings were held over an episode of a forgotten TV show called Bus Stop which showed a murderer successfully escaping both capture and punishment — a favorite Altman theme.

3. Countdown (1968)

Even before M*A*S*H the maverick director took a special delight in confronting the media's traditional heroes with muddier dilemmas that exposed their all-too-human weakness, whether it was soldiers, cowboys — or astronauts.

In Countdown James Caan and Robert Duvall played astronauts challenging everything but outer space. There's jealous co-workers, organizational indecision, and the all-too-real friends who don't understand. If the astronaut makes it to space — alone, in his space capsule — will this din of endured opposition ultimately cloud his judgment? The final press conference is chaired by Ted Knight, who later played the vacuous newscaster Ted Baxter on the Mary Tyler Moore Show. In a friendly, empty TV voice, he's the one who delivers unsettling news about the mission's status. Would the astronaut successfully launch and reach the safety of a moon base? Or would Altman strand him alone on the moon, ending the film within maddening proximity to what could have been a happy ending.

This is considered Altman's first major feature film. A string of successes followed — including M*A*S*H and the critically-acclaimed Nashville. But after the disappointing box office for Popeye in 1980 (along with rumors of libertine excesses on the set), Altman was effectively exiled from major Hollywood productions.

4. Secret Honor (1984)

During these "wilderness years," Altman filmed a remarkable one-man show in which a lonely, drunken and suicidal Richard Nixon looks back over a secret plan he'd orchestrated to provoke his own impeachment and escape his war-mongering corporate handlers. ("Secret honor...public shame.")

As Nixon descends into drunken bitterness, he has trouble working the tape recorder, and rambles through an alternate history of his political career. As Nixon prowls the room, so does Altman's camera, and in one of the most disturbing moments, the screenplay revisits a famous story about young Nixon writing his mother a letter in the voice of Richard's pet dog (signing it, "Your faithful dog, Richard.") As he addresses his enemies, real and imagined, the disgraced and tortured ex-President roars out, "I'm not your dog, Mother!" Altman ultimately magnifies the image of a raging Nixon across multiplying TV screens responding to a nation he feels is urging him to suicide with a heroic, "Fuck ’em! Fuck ’em! Fuck ’em!"

5. Tanner '88 (1988)

Would Altman ever acknowledge a true act of goodness? He teamed with Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau to create a counter-candidate in the 1988 presidential race. In half-hour episodes on HBO, Jack Tanner interacted with real political figures like Bob Dole (during the New Hampshire primaries) and Kitty Dukakis (at the nominating convention) — but only to make the point that the primary process buries any meaningful passions with political consultants and sound bites. Tanner's true fervor is only visible when he privately addresses his campaign staff. In a rare happy twist, Tanner's private thoughts about what the 1960s had meant are surreptitiously taped, making him a viable candidate and bypassing the political consultants altogether.

But Altman still plagues Tanner with a bewildering array of opposing and arbitrary forces — both political and media — which come between Tanner and his friends, his wife, and his daughter. And like the characters in Nashville, Tanner's campaign strategist remains haunted by the ultimate arbitrary political event — the assassination of Robert Kennedy.

Future Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon plays Tanner's daughter (she was 22) — and the show ultimately received an Emmy.

6. The Gingerbread Man (1998)

When handed an unpublished John Grisham story, Altman gave the studios exactly what they didn't want. Robert Duvall's portrayal of a mentally challenged stalker fits Altman's unsettling world view too well. Though the womanizing lawyer (Kenneth Brannagh) tries to do the right thing, in an Altman world there's nothing but chaos — so the script's final redeeming fight on a rainy night becomes just one more turmoil of emotions. Dissatisfied studio executives tried to re-edit the film, but when test audiences didn't respond any better, they apparently decided to under-promote it.

The move was so little-known that when Internet Movie database listed the film, they mistook its title for a series of children's stories, and included this picture:

7. The Long Goodbye (1973)

When remembering Altman in his heyday, people point to his early 70s triumphs like McCabe and Mrs. Miller or M*A*S*H. (Someone once even uploaded the entirety of Altman's remarkable 1970 film Brewster McCloud onto YouTube in ten-minute installments.) But often overlooked is Altman's bold 1973 re-imagining of the ultimate American archetype — the lonely detective.

Philip Marlowe clings to a personal code of honor in a world that has gone wild — but Altman transplants the character into the 1970s, so his world includes protesters, feel-good health clinics, and topless neighbors sun-bathing. The detective becomes everyman Elliott Gould, who moves through a Raymond Chandler underworld still filled with cops and petty crooks, but ultimately reaching a dark irony in its dime store message about loyalty. The noir-ish jazz in its title theme works on many levels, seeming to acknowledge that people everywhere were changing and, like Altman himself, moving further and further away from the simple answers of the 1950s. It could almost be an epitaph.

"There's a long goodbye, and it happens every day..."

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5 Lamest Charlie Brown Cartoons

I love Charlie Brown — but be honest. Cartoon producers led his Peanuts gang through some truly disturbing stories. As the cartoonist's manic-depressive imagination focussed on his newspaper comic strip, studio executives fumbled for new ways to fill the 40 years after A Charlie Brown Christmas. Now, even though Charles M. Schulz is dead — the cartoons keep coming.

If there's one thing Peanuts specials have taught us, it's that Charlie Brown was still loveable, even when he failed. So let's give that same appreciation to his five worst cartoons....

1. It's Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown

Disco had been dead for years, but in 1984 Snoopy suddenly discovered the joys of boogie fever. He slapped on a headband, sweats, and a bad case of 80s attitude, then did his best Stayin' Alive strut towards the discotheque, where he met Franklin — the cartoon's only black character — breakdancing on the sidewalk. In the creepiest scene of all, the discotheque is filled with adult-sized Peanuts spinning in narcissistic oblivion.

"All Flashbeagle really consists of is a foursome of thinly strung-together music videos," wrote one viewer, "with very little of the beloved Charles Schulz dialogue filling in between." And forget the familiar jazz soundtrack; this special is mostly dance loops and synthesizers.

This felt old the day it was released — but don't tell Charlie Brown's sister. After Snoopy spontaneously ignites her first grade classroom into a disco inferno, she insists Charlie Brown give his dog some credit. "That's the first time I've ever got an A in Show And Tell."

2. Linus's Towering Inferno

My uncle, the baron, hates strangers, and he will be very upset eef — ooh la la! He is back! He mustn't find you here!

We always knew Linus was a chick magnet, but his dalliance with a stereotypical French girl ends badly, as an overturned candle traps him in a burning Chateau.

Charles M. Schulz had served in World War II — his unit was behind the tanks that liberated Dachau — and he'd wanted to include his unit's village in a Charlie Brown cartoon. To reach this improbable moment, the entire Peanuts gang procures passports, then travels through Europe with Snoopy as their chauffeur. Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown is an artificially sweet travelogue that ends with a melodramatic fire sequence which consists mostly of Linus shouting "Help! Help! Help, Charlie Brown!" over and over again.

The baseball-challenged blockhead successfully rousts the villagers — including one token French Peanut — and as Snoopy wheels out a fire hose, Linus repels away from the flames using his blanket. After a particularly wooden reading of the line "Use my blanket! To catch us!" they all successfully escape a grisly death from smoke inhalation.

The only thing more depressing is the infamous Peanuts Memorial Day special in which Linus again visits World World II battlefields, then recites the poem "In Flanders Fields. " ("We are the Dead. Short days ago we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow...") He then turns to Charlie Brown and asks accusingly: "What have we learned?"

3. Why, Charlie Brown, Why?

Charlie Brown endorsed everything from Zingers to sandwich bread. In fact, the newspaper comic strip accounted for less than a fifth of all Charlie Brown-related revenue, most of which came from merchandising. (Case in point: the commercial in which an exhausted Charlie Brown suddenly perks up after eating "tasty low-sugar Cheerios" before facing certain doom in the boxing ring...)

But sometime in the 70s, Charles M. Schulz took a break from creating children's programming altogether, and began illustrating life insurance brochures. Those weird TV commercials in which Snoopy played a lawyer were only the beginning. The online version showed Charlie Brown illustrating the proper procedure for mourning the death of a family member. ("Immediate care of the body," it read, next to a picture of a very depressed Charlie Brown. "If the deceased has made provisions to donate his or her organs...")

Elsewhere Lucy proudly brandished her discharge papers in an essay about leaving the military, while Schroeder continued his Navy tour of duty and Snoopy continued his career as a Marine. (Complete with buzz cut). Two cute yellow birds were shown getting married, followed by a brochure illustrating the logistics of divorce. One page even showed Woodstock imprisoned for failure to pay child support. But no one really wanted to know why Lucy was carefully scrutinizing her health insurance's pre-natal coverage, and eventually it was replaced by a picture of Woodstock clipping out the phone numbers for an OB/GYN

Only after reading these disturbing brochures were you ready to watch Peanuts: Why Charlie Brown Why — the angstiest cartoon ever, in which a little girl fights leukemia. This 1990 special was nominated for an Emmy, but it's never been clear why Charles M. Schulz wanted to tackle the subject. (Although Charlie Brown was named after a boyhood friend who later died of cancer, a disease which also claimed Schulz's mother.) At one point the hymn "Farther Along" is sung gently in the background of this cartoon. "When death has come and taken our loved ones, It leaves our home so lonely and drear..."

In its tear-jerking conclusion, the little girl's baseball cap flies off her head, revealing that all her hair grew back after her chemotherapy.

4. Snoopy, Come Home

Umberto Eco once wrote about how Snoopy failed to bring Charlie Brown the tenderness he needed. "His solitude becomes an abyss," the deconstructive Italian novelist wrote. "...he proceeds always on the brink of suicide, or at least of nervous breakdown..."

That's the feeling you get watching Snoopy abandon Charlie Brown in Snoopy, Come Home. Charlie Brown stands alone, sad circles around his eyes, not just depressed but actually crying. He returns alone to his joyless room, as a 4-minute ballad chronicles his uncontrollable descent into depression with histrionic violins.

Someone named "TickleMeCthulhu" has uploaded the video to YouTube, along with another clip from the same movie — although it's not particularly cheery either. In the 1972 film the beagle's original owner, now confined to her sick bed, writes him a letter wondering if she's been forgotten. She cries, looking longingly out her window, then sends the letter to Snoopy.

"What could possibly be sadder," one commenter posted, "than a little girl in the hospital missing her dog?!"

5. Bring Me the Head of Charlie Brown

Family Guy isn't funny — except when it is — but you've got to acknowledge the audacity in their mean-spirited parody. A miserable grown-up Charlie Brown crashed a reunion of his old gang — sporting tattoos and piercings — then blusters, "What are you looking at? Yeah, it's me, your old punching bag, Charlie Brown. Everybody wish Snoopy and Woodstock were here? Well they're dead!"

The sweetness of Peanuts presents a too-obvious target, and even Simpsons director Jim Reardon took a whack at it. Back when he was an art student in 1986, he created "Bring me the head of Charlie Brown" — an underground three-minute short with the Great Pumpkin offering a bounty for the death of his arch nemesis. The bounty sends Lucy, Schroeder, Linus, and Snoopy on a hunt for Charlie Brown, so when watching the ultra-violent climax you'll probably want your security blanket.

If you search YouTube today for Charlie Brown, you'll find the top matches are amateurish re-dubs of the holiday specials into race-baiting parodies like A Charlie Brown Kwanzaa, or simply, Suck My Black Ass, Charlie Brown.

These parodies are useful only to demonstrate how the Peanuts cartoons would look if you threw away everything that made them so endearing — their gentleness, artfulness, and philosophical humor. Even at their worst, the real Charlie Brown cartoons always had a simple, bittersweet honesty. They didn't always end happily — but maybe that was the point.

The world is full of kite-eating trees.

See Also:

Six Freakiest Children's TV Rock Bands
The Cartoon Porn Shop Janitor: Carol Burnett vs. Family Guy
Five Freaky Muppet Videos
The Simpsons on Drugs: Six Trippiest Scenes

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5 More Nasty Campaigns

The war for control of the House and Senate continues to escalate. "You can't say I want to win the war but not be willing to fight the war," Karl Rove told the Washington Post Sunday.

But that's only half the story. A 2002 overhaul of campaign law shifted ad-financing contributions to independent groups — and these groups are more likely to air negative campaign ads. In this new landscape, nearly $60 million has been spent on a massive stockpile of television artillery. The pageant of grotesqueries is entertaining eyeballs all over the InterTubes, as with the ones in this round-up of nasty Senate ads. Below are four even-nastier ads for tight House races — plus an update on the nastiest Senate race of all.

1. "Hi, sexy!"

A silhouette of a stripper appears next to footage of a smirking district attorney — Michael Arcuri, the Democratic House candidate for New York's 24th Congressional district.

"The phone number to an adult fantasy hotline appeared on Michael Arcuri's New York City hotel room bill," the announcer warns, "while he was there on official business... Who calls a fantasy hotline and then bills taxpayers?"

"Bad call!" the stripper moans.

What the ad doesn't say is the call lasted less than a minute, and was apparently a wrong number. While attending a 2004 conference for district attorneys, the director of New York's Prosecutor Training Institute had used Acuri's phone to dial the state's Department of Criminal Justice Services, which coincidentally had the same number, but with a 1-800 area code. Immediately realizing his mistake, he'd dialed the correct number, Arcuri told the L.A. Times — producing phone records to back up his claim. The cost of the mis-dialed phone call? $1.25.

The ad cites as its source conservative web site, though the story was published the same day the National Republican Campaign Committee distributed the information. (Ironically, the story's 26-year-old author, Robert B Bluey, is analumnus of Cybercast News Service, which also employed suspected male prostitute Jeff Gannon.)

Because of the ad's misleading nature, New York television stations are refusing to broadcast it, and in the Times' article even Arcuri's Republican opponent Ray Meier characterized the attack as "way over the line." In fact, both men told the Associated Press they were friends, and regretted the nasty tone of ads funded by their parties' national committees. But the National Republican Congressional Committeeinsisted the ad's claim that the call appeared on a taxpayer-funded phone bill is "totally true, and we stand by it."

In another NRCC ad, their announcer tells voters that "A man charged with raping a 13-year-old girl was let out of jail after Michael Arcuri's office didn't indict him in time."

2. "Harold? Call me!"

For the other side of Capitol Hill, the National Republican Senate Committee has created a sexy ad of their own. It's a montage of bizarro-world voters, each giving a ridiculously unappealing reason for supporting Tennessee Senate candidate Harold Ford.

"Terrorists need their privacy."

"When I die, Harold Ford will let me pay taxes again!"

"Ford's right. I do have too many guns!"

"So he took money from porn movie producers. Who hasn't?"

The format gives the ad's producers an opportunity to include a woman wearing nothing but a necklace, squeaking in a bimbo voice that she met Harold at the Playboy party. It's an allusion to a 2005 Super Bowl party Ford attended, which the Republicans have been using since last March, to attack Ford's appeal to values voters. ("What kind of man parties with Playboy playmates in lingerie, and then films political ads from a church pew?") But even Ford's opponent, Republican Bob Corker, thinks the national committee's latest ad "has no place in this, or any other campaign," according to his campaign manager. (Who added that the ad was "tacky, over the top and...not reflective of the kind of campaign we are running.")

The ad closes with the warning that the candidate is "just not right" - followed by one last shot of the mock Playboy bunny, whispering into the camera. "Harold? Call me!"

3. "An absolute idiot."

Idaho Republican Bill Sali finds himself in a surprisingly competive race for a district which encompasses half the state. Now he's facing TV attacks with a barrage of damning quotes about his candidacy — from Republicans. "He was incompetent in the legislature," goes the quote attributed to State Senator Sheila Sorensen. "In the campaign he proved himself dishonest and deceitful and he'd be an embarrassment to Idaho."

"He's an obstinate opportunist," according to Representative Dolores Crow.

"An absolute idiot," says another quote from Speaker Bruce Newcomb. "He doesn't have one ounce of empathy in his whole fricking body, and you can put that in the paper."

Sali is a far-right conservative who squeaked onto the ballot after winning 18,965 votes in a six-way primary. A social and fiscal conservative, Sali entered the race with a $400,000 war-chest, prompting Idaho's largest newspaper to dub him "a wholly-owned subsidiary of a big out-of-state benefactor, the anti-tax Club for Growth." His confrontational 16-year career in the state legislature has apparently created lingering bad feelings among other Republicans. (When Dick Cheney came to Idaho to campaign for Sali, all of Idaho's Republican congressmen reportedly skipped the event.) This created an opening for Idaho Democrat Larry Grant.

The announcer in his ad doesn't identify his party affiliation. It just reminds voters that "If you're a Republican or independent and you want to vote for Larry Grant — you're in good company."

4. "Help me!"

Majority Action is a 527 group which includes seven former members of Congress and the national field director for Al Gore's 2000 campaign. They've assembled a series of hard-hitting ads about stem cell research, an issue some believe could become a liberal wedge issue splitting voters off from traditionally Republican blocs.

Missouri Senate candidate Claire McCaskill has already tapped the issue for her tight race against Republican Jim Talent. (Michael J. Fox reminds viewers he cares deeply about stem cell research, and tells Missouri voters the election's results matter to millions of Americans — "Americans like me.") But a new ad by Majority Action tries to personalize the stakes even more. "This ad, in very powerful terms, lays out what is at stake in the stem cell debate," says the group's Executive Director.

One shows three people matter-of-factly describing the medical problems waiting in their future. A boy says he'll be paralyzed for the rest of his life; a woman saying she'll have Alzheimer's disease; a little girl says she'll be diagnosed with diabetes. Staring at the camera, they indict the Congressmen who voted against federal funding for stem cell research, saying it could save their lives, and maybe the lives of the viewer's family. "Help me!" the boy says. "Help me!" the little girl says...

Majority Action is running the same ad against four Republican House candidates — Don Sherwood, Jim Walsh, Chris Chocola, and Thelma Drake.

5. "Stay the course."

Thelma Drake gets a second dose of negativity from Majority Action in another ad saying she "won't stand up to the Bush/Cheney White House."

The ad is a straightforward attempt to link the Virginia Congresswoman to the failures of the Bush administration.

An image of George Bush, doubling into two, and then four images, repeats "We must stay the course. We must stay the course. We must stay the course..."

"It was the right thing to do," Dick Cheney says nonchalantly about the war in Iraq, "and if we had it to do over again, we'd do exactly the same thing. A closeup then appears of George Washington's sad eye on the dollar bill, next to the words "Exactly the same? Cost: Over $300 billion. Billions missing and insider deals...."

"It was the right thing to do," Dick Cheney says again, "and if we had it to do over again we'd do exactly the same thing."

"Insufficient forces. No weapons of mass destruction. Dubai ports sales scandal. Our ports and borders: unsecured."

The ad's stark take is matched by its striking melodramatic music - a disembodied chorus rising over discordant violins which would be more at home on the soundtrack of a scary movie.

"U.S. Intelligence Report: Iraq war breeding more terrorists. Five 'F's' from 9/11 Commission. bin Laden still at large. Exactly the same?"

The same ad is also being run agaisnt House candidates Dave Reichert, Deborha Pryce, and Jim Walsh.

To condemn each of these lawmaker's support of President Bush, the ads close by (badly) inserting Dick Cheney's lips into pictures of the candidates, so it looks like they're speaking Cheney's words. The ad-makers are hoping to swing the election towards the Democrats, and they're staking it on the idea that voters will find something unforgiveable in the Vice President's staunch refusal to concede mistakes.

"It was the right thing to do," they lip sync, "and if we had it to do over again we'd do exactly the same thing."

See Also:
5 Nastiest Campaign Ads So Far
Awesomest Congressional Campaign Ad Ever
My Opponent Pays for Gay Teen Bestiality

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5 Nastiest Campaign Ads So Far

Will Republicans or Democrats control the Senate? It all hangs on five tight Senate races — which means negative ads, and lots of them. Mis-leading, meaningful, desperate, or despicable — they're on your TV, messing with your mind.

To get a glimpse at those states where the battle is being fought the hardest, we scoured the party campaign sites (and sometimes YouTube), compiling this list of the five nastiest Senate campaign ads of 2006 — so far.

1. "It was unbelievably demoralizing to be painted as a pampered slut!"

This according to retired Navy commander Jennifer Brooks. Retired Commander Kathleen Murray adds that, "The unnecessary abuse and hazing received by me and my fellow women midshipmen" were contributed to by the demeaning philosophy of Democrat Senate candidate Jim Webb.

They're citing an article he wrote a whopping 27 years ago (page 277 of "Washingtonian Magazine") saying a military dorm with 4,000 males and 300 females "is a horny woman's dream." (Oh, and 14 years ago, he also called a midshipman "thunder thighs," according to the attack site Webb against women.) Of course, in the 70s the public debated whether the all-male military should be open to women at all, and "I don't think it was wrong to participate in the debate at that time," Webb tells Meet the Press. Or tries to. In the Republican Senate Committee's ad, he only gets to say, "I don't think it was wrong..." before the ad switches to different footage — of Tim Russert incredulously repeating the idea that "being in a naval academy is a horny woman's dream."

Webb ultimately countered with some tough ads of own, showing support from a (female) retired Brigadier General, a (female) Coast Guard officer and a (female) 1984 Naval academy student who says "Jim Webb broke down barriers. He changed things as Naval Secretary."

2. "My opponent parties with lingerie-clad Playboy bunnies! And then goes to church!"

That's the implicit message in a political ad which attacked Tennessee Senate candidate Harold Ford. (It has since been removed from YouTube.) In a tight (and crucial) Senate race, Democrat challenger Ford had run an effective ad emphasizing his connection to "values" voters by walking down the aisle of a church. "Here I learned the difference between right and wrong," he states earnestly. "And now Mr. Corker [his Republican opponent] is doing wrong." Corker's sins include spending millions "telling untruths" about his Republican opponents in the primary, "both of them good men," says Ford sympathetically. "And now me!"

"What kind of man parties with Playboy playmates in lingerie," counters the latest NSRC product, "and then films political ads from a church pew?" It's an allusion to Playboy's 2005 Super Bowl party, which Ford attended. The National Republican Senate Committee first seized on the party eight months ago, and Ford recently struck back with an ad mocking Republican Corker's wealth in a Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous parody. It cites Corker's 30-room mansion, 6 SUVs, and $200 million net worth, finally arguing that he'd accepted three pay raises for himself, "yet nothing for police and firefighters!"

The race is neck-and-neck, according to recent polls, which means ad consultants will continue scrambling for the hottest buttons they can push.

3. "Depends on your area code!"

Oh sure, Missouri Senate candidate Claire McCaskill says she's tough on methamphetamines. But everything she says "depends on your area code... She just tells you what you want to hear."

So does this mean she's in favor of methamphetamines? Well, no. The ad doesn't cite her position on the illegal drug. But she lived in a city that had illegal drugs — lots of 'em! (Kansas City was "the meth capital of America," according to a four-year-old Kansas City Star article cited by the ad.) And at that time, Claire McCaskille was a prosecutor for the county! See?!

That charge has since been removed from the online version of the Republican National Senate Committee's ad. Its other two supposed McCaskill flip-flops were 1.) gun control, which she was either for or against, and 2.) she missed paying her property taxes, yet had the gall to talk about things like "integrity" in her campaign.

The logic can be a little strained — but we're sure Republican Jim Talent appreciates the effort.

4. "A piss-poor job!"

Emotional music lauds the 9/11 firefighters who fought Montana's forest fires. Except, they were doing "a piss-poor job" according to evil Republican Senator Conrad Burns. While pointing at one, he said, "he hasn't done a god-damned thing," according to the ad. Burns' dirty words were re-broadcast into Montana homes, after a Democrat Senate Campaign Committee disclaimer that: "The following contains language by Conrad Burns, unsuitable for Montana."

Using his own words against him, Burns' opponent, newcomer John Tester, seems to have gotten the upper-hand with Montana's conservative voters. But it's not like the Republican candidate didn't try. "Feller comes in fer a trim on his flat-top," says a barber in one of Burns' ads, "because he's running fer U.S. Senate. Guess he doesn't want anyone to know he opposes a gay marriage ban, thinks flag burning is all right, and supports higher taxes!"

Apparently, the ad-makers thought all Montanans are rural hicks who only trust their barber. But ultimately no amount of barber-speak could keep Tester from opening a lead on the incumbent that will likely cost him his Senate seat. "Here's a tip," ran the counter-ad. "The man attacking Jon Tester is an actor. A fake, sent by Senator Burns' Washington friends..." Tester later pointed out to the L.A. Times that he doesn't support gay marriage or flag-burning, but opposes addressing the issues with constitutional amendments. Finally an op-ed in the New York Times even tracked down Mr. Tester's real barber, who said the ads were phony cheap shots. Then added, "I thought there was a war going on in Iraq, for crying out loud."

5. "...The happier we'll be!"

Mike DeWine is the incumbent Republican Senator in Ohio. (He's also incredibly short.) And he used the innocuous phrase "we all have to work together: Democrats, Republicans," in his ads. Suddenly the picture freezes, in a new ad from the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee.

"Senator DeWine HAS worked together," it tells us, "voting 92% of the time with President Bush."

"The more we work together, the happier we'll be," a chorus of children sings, as subtitles flash over a picture of smiling Michael DeWine with his arm around President Bush.
Increasing the National Debt to $9 trillion
Tax breaks for the oil companies
Tax breaks for companies that move jobs overseas
Mike DeWine likes working together with George Bush.

With President Bush's popularity ratings stuck in the high 30s, this may ultimately be the most negative campaign ad of all.

Think you know of better ones? Leave them in the comments!

See also:
Awesomest Campaign Ad Ever
5 More Nasty Campaigns
My Opponent Pays for Gay Teen Bestiality.

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Awesomest Congressional Campaign Ever — Vernon Robinson, N.C.

Helms & Robinson

"Brad Miller even spent your tax dollars to pay teenage girls to watch pornographic movies with probes connected to their genitalia."

That's from a TV campaign ad by Vernon Robinson, who's trying to unseat incumbent Democrat Miller for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 13th District of North Carolina. In the process, he's created some of the most amusing campaign messages in recent memory.

Here's another, from the same ad:

"Brad Miller spent your money to study the masturbation habits of old men."

Robinson is an African-American and a rabid conservative Republican. In 2004, he lost a bid for the 5th District, but not before providing the locals with some high-concept political cabaret. He's so far to the right that the Winston-Salem Journal declared in an editorial about Robinson, "Jesse Helms is back! And this time, he's black." Robinson's campaign then adopted it as a slogan. A radio campaign ad was so controversial and borderline illegal that local station WSJS felt it had to pull all ads for the 5th District Primary.

His current campaign is wonderfully absurd and offensive, which makes it a joyful slapstick take on national politics. One radio ad uses a Mariachi soundtrack while claiming, "If Miller had his way, America would be nothing but one big fiesta for illegal aliens and homosexuals." And another, with banjo music in the background: "Hey all you illegals, put your shoes on. Go home. Don't come back now, y'hear?"

Beyond ads, Robinson pulled an old trick of his and suggested that since Miller is middle-aged and childless, he must be homosexual. Miller then felt he had to explain that his wife is unable to bear children due to the fact she had a hysterectomy and suffers from endometriosis.

Robinson's media savvy is matched only by his massive set of huevos. But the meanness is almost enough to feel sorry for Miller. Certainly, if they weren't both public figures, Robinson would be giving the keynote address at the yet-to-be-announced First Annual Griefer's Convention.

See also:
5 Nastiest Campaign Ads So Far
5 More Nasty Campaigns
My Opponent Pays for Gay Teen Bestiality.

Read More

Jason Fortuny Speaks

Jason Fortuny

He's not sorry, he'd do it again, and he's buying a gun.

Jason Fortuny became notorious after posting nearly 150 explicit photos he'd received for a fake sex ad on Craig's List. Three weeks later he discusses the aftermath in a 29-minute online interview.

But is he really as cocky as he pretends to be? A close look at the footage reveals that behind the bravado is genuine fear. Although he remains unapologetic and bemused, his internet infamy has left him worrying about an unseen army of invisible enemies.

At one point they even have to stop the filming, because they'd inadvertently said someone's name.

"If you don't know who's stalking you," says Fortuny, "you don't know who's going to come after you in the middle of the night and, uh, kill you."


"The internet is serious business," the cameraman jokes, noting later that the web page received over one million visits in two and a half weeks.

When reminded that there's a new Jet Li movie called Fearless," Fortuny admits it's "something that I am not."

"How many people told you to kill yourself?"

"I lost count after, like, 20."

A friend even asked an FBI contact about Jason's situation. "What's my recourse here, if I am being stalked, if I am being harassed. What can we proactively do to protect me?" He says their answer was that he could call 911.

"So when are you getting your gun?"

"Probably this weekend."

Fortuny concedes he's never taken a gun class, "but I had a Nintendo for a while so I got pretty good... I need everyone who's going to come kill me to please dress up as an 8-bit duck."

Some people genuinely wondered if he had a deathwish, "because some people are under the impression that if you piss off the BDSM crowd, they'll kill you." Instead he jokes that the BDSM crowd is probably more about consensual pain — then playfully slaps the thigh of the woman next to him.


"So how many pizzas did you get delivered to your home?"

"I wasn't at home when it happened," he answers, although he does an impression of a pizza deliveryman's voicemail, then promises more updates on his web page. "Eventually I'll get all the hate mail up that I've received."

He claims he also got a few women offering him tail, "and I got lots of people who told me I would be getting some after going to jail. Which — how am I going to go to jail over this?"

The cameraman offers to film Fortuny turning himself in at the police station. But the truth is, no one has gone after him.

"I'm still waiting for a cease and desist letter to arrive — or an actual lawsuit!"

He remembers a blustery comment on his LiveJournal page claiming to have hired a lawyer. But so far all it's generated is a prank by another poster, who described leaving a taunting sign on that lawyer's office which read "ON UR CREGZLST POSTIN UR N00DZ!!!" under a drawing of the LiveJournal icon. (The poster added that while delivering the sign, "I spotted at least three Mexican transsexual prostitutes!")

Fortuny also laughs at the 20 "internet lawyers" who aren't actual lawyers, but "play them on the internets."

"If you're out there and you're making the whole 'illegal' judgment thing, just cite some law. I know some of you out there have gone after the whole privacy and 'intentional infliction of emotional distress', but even that's a little murky."

At one point he even seems to bait the online audience. When jokingly asked if he could swap some of the naked pictures he received, he stares starkly at the camera and replies "Considering that it's my property now, what the hell!"

But later he concedes that "If some good privacy law came from this, I'd actually be really pleased."


The woman next to him adds an interesting observation from a Seattle blog. "Despite all the publicity about your ad, there were still all sorts of people posting all sorts of no-strings-attached sex ads with sometimes personal information and pictures right in the ad... So I don't think even you can stop people from trying to get their rocks off."

When asked about future experiments, he smiles. "I think it's only fair we go after women — and I should get what, two replies?"

He discusses the idea of posting an equally too-good-to-be-true ad aimed at women — maybe one pretending to be a sugar daddy. But Fortuny doubts it would have the same impact.

"Women don't reply to ads. What would be very telling would be to get replies from women to an ad like that and watch that none of them put up personally identifiable information or any of their photos or anything like that. Or if they do put up a photo, it's something that's going to be hard to identify."

But even he was surprised by the copycat prankster who lures victims into additional online conversations and researches their lives before publishing all their embarrasing details.

"I didn't even verify that the information is real," Fortuny notes.

"For all I know it could be the joke of the universe on me."

Also surprising were some of the positive reactions he received. "There's a feminist out there who went absolutely nuts, thinks I'm some kind of hero, exposing all these perverts who want to beat up women."

"Did you invite her over for a spanking?" his female companion jokes. "You should have."

Earlier this week syndicated columnist Dan Savage argued that the only villain was Fortuny himself. The men who responded "were doing the decent, responsible thing" - assuring a woman who was seeking a connection based on a trust, Savage writes. "They shouldn't be punished for doing the right and honorable thing."

Fortuny also had some responses that were just plain awkward. His parents laughed, he says, but he also had to explain his notoriety to the men he'd identified in a search for his biological father. What would he have done if a paternity test candidate had answered the ad? "Oh god," he groans. "See? I have my limits."


The interview takes place during a rambly conversationally while eating noodles at a Pho restaurant in Seattle's university district. But all conversations ultimately lead back to Jason's stunt of September 4.

"Why do my noodles hate me?" the woman next to him asks.

"Because you're not treating them nicely. You're stringing them along and teasing them. Which is what you and all women do... Which fully justifies me posting as a woman... I strung them along. Teased them."

"So basically you gave them the same experience they would've gotten anyways."

"Yeah, pretty much. I teased their cocks."

He deep throats his spring roll. The camera zooms in, as he mock-viciously bites off the end. He points at the viewer, then the roll, and then makes a "think about it" gesture. Then continues eating.

"We'll put this on a DVD, mail it as a free consolation gift to everyone who participated."

By the end of the interview, he's taunting his online viewers. "I'm still alive... No one's killed me, no one's tried to kill me.

"If pizzas are the best you can do," he jokes, "oh my, this is sad. I got on the BBC, and the best you can do is pizzas?!"

See Also:
Craigslist Sex Troll Gets Sued
Dear Internet, I'm Sorry
The Secret Life of Jason Fortuny
In The Company of Jerkoffs

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The Secret Life of Jason Fortuny

Jason Fortuny

Jason Fortuny has become famous as an online menace/hero after posting the photos and come-ons he received from nearly 150 men responding to a fake sex ad he placed on Craig's List. He's started an intense debate about the nature of online privacy and dating.

But beyond the practical effects of the experiment, what kind of man would commit such a dastardly prank?

Researching that question, I stumbled across Jason Fortuny's Amazon reviews. He read and reviewed exactly one book over five years -- and two soundtracks for Star Trek movies. ("Reviews written: 4." Helpful votes: 0.) He also awards 5 stars to National Lampoon's Van Wilder ("Reviewer Matthew K. Minerd totally needs to get laid. Dude, relax! It's just a movie.")

He's also been sexually molested by his grandfather.

"I haven't talked to my parents or the rest of the family in 11 years," he wrote in a post on his LiveJournal account in May. It's one of many suprisingly frank glimpses into the 30-year-old's life. "[I]f you had a family where four different members molested you, your mother tended to the prime molestor instead of you, and your stepfather utterly failed to provide for a future, you'd be pretty pissed, too."

Later he posts that two of the perpetrators are dead, and two were under 18.

While there's no guarantee that his LiveJournal posts are true, they offer intriguing glimpses into the personality behind the prank. When someone suggested in May that he keep his current contact information from his family, he answered, "it's too late for the contact information. It's all available out there. Part of my online persona is to hide nothing. Let the psychos come to my door -- I have a pellet gun and a baseball bat and occasional bad breath." He jokes in a later comment that "I miss the days when it was just trolling and making fun of fat people. Life was so easy back then!"

Another poster advises, "just make sure you have someone you trust who you can rant and freak out to if you need to."

"LiveJournal?" he answers.

Eight weeks ago he split with his fiancee. Seven weeks ago he posted about his difficulties with his thyroid and testosterone levels. ("If it works, one of the first things I should notice is the return of my energy, followed by the return of sexual function, followed by weight gain, followed by increased body hair.") He hints at biochemical depression. In July he began selling his Star Trek trading cards to cover $2600 in debt. "Looks like its time to eBay my stunning collection of original Star Wars and Transformers toys and action figures...," he writes. "There are some heartbreakingly awesome Transformers and Star Wars toys in there. I am profoundly sad..."

He also describes a history of malicious pranks. He apparently once claimed to have put pictures of someone's children on a child rape site. In January of 2005 he'd faked a sudden conversion to born-again Christianity, in a post which received 448 comments. ("I was sitting there, New Year's Eve, drinking alcohol by myself, in my underclothes, abusing my body to images of Rod Serling on the TV... And then, without warning, the flood of emotion I had tried so hard to block forced it's way into my consciousness...") This June he'd tried a Livejournal "whoring" project, "friending everyone".

But on May 8 he posts that a friend commented "I no longer have that annoying 'must be the center of attention' drive anymore." Then adds his own self-analysis about his past motivations. " ability to keep a crowd entertained and charmed was a major pillar of my self-esteem. If nothing else, I could rock a party. I certainly didn't believe in my professional abilities then like I do now. And, I didn't want to admit that it was annoying. All I cared was that I got my boost when I did my thing - friends be damned."

Fortuny's LiveJournal entries detail everything from his search for his biological father to his recent STD test. There's the checklist for the perfect woman, and the poem he'd written for his fiance in December. He even jokes about falling for someone else's prank -- pretending to be fired over a LiveJournal post. He posts downloadable copies of Star Wars, Fight Club, Blade Runner and Batman Begins, and in April he was attacked by a mailbox-flooding bot.

While it doesn't resolve the question of what motivated his sex-ad prank, it at least demonstrates an online persona that can be abrasive and negative. He complains that "friends' private entries have been read by psycho womenz. Psycho womenz that I went out on a date with once and reeled in horror when she bared her five year old and her smoking teeth..." He mockingly rants against the Girl Scouts, adding "I swear to god the only reason I don't shout at every last one of them is that I know all little catholic girls are uninhibited sluts, just waiting to be liberated from oppressive and neglectful fathers and gods, into the arms of a bustling, accepting, healthy porn industry."

But behind it all are the hints of something much darker. He writes of zombie nightmares -- and family nightmares. "While my nightmares of my parents have not returned," he wrote in June, "I have others that bring up similar feelings of righteous anger. We'll see."

See also:
Craigslist Troll Gets Sued
Good Griefers: Fortuny vs. Crook
Jason Fortuny Speaks
In the Company of Jerkoffs

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The Cellphone Murders

Phone BashersThey're cathartic, anti-social, and absurdeach capturing a moment in time which ends with someone chasing two giant cellphones down a street. "Run!" a giant cellphone shouts. "Keep running!" These strange, exhiliarating film clips are rather disturbing if you don't know the back story. But the context shifts tremendously when you do.

Cellphones were a strange and alien technology in 1999, with an adoption rate of less than 45%. Talking loudly on your mysterio-techno device provoked annoyance, distrust, and hostility — or a Top 20 hit single.

Ian Aitch reported that weird development for in 1999. The British acid house movement spawned a band called KLF whose rogue provacateur Jimmy Cauty later sampled the ubiquitous ring-tone with a British comedian/musician (and sometime Pink Floyd contributor) named Guy Pratt. They morphed the cellphone jangle into a disturbingly catchy dance track — though according to Wikipedia BBC 1 radio then refused to play it. It was that annoying.

The British are insane, of course - or, they recognize that pop music is essentially a disposable glitz that should be dismissed, de-constructed, re-constructed, and mocked. (The sample-happy track competed with a rival song sampling the Hamster Dance called — what else? — Cognoscenti vs. Intelligentsia.) But then pumped up cellphone bashers decided it wasn't just a song; it was a movement.

"We have been looking for a fiendish project to get our teeth into for the past six months," they confided maliciously on their web site. It tells the tale of stealing two human-sized cellphone costumes from the filming of the song's music video. "After an evening of heavy drinking a plan was hatched and all concerned decided that this was a cause worth fighting for."

In guerilla movies that are reactionary, subversive, and gloriously futile, we see our heroes — dressed in giant cellphone costumes — surprising British cellphone users by snatching their phones out of their hands. Then stomping the cellphones to bits on the sidewalk. And then running.

And what did the record company think, when their music video's costumes turned up in online cellphone-smashing videos? "They have not recognised our existence," the tribal pranksters at complain. But — graciously — they added that "We have decided to link to them even though they don't explain the true meaning of the song. Not one mention of how shit mobile phones are." This hastily-constructed knock-off web page included a link to the song's official site run by some combination of Virgin Records/EMI. "Very corporate," the cellphone-bashers chide. "All bells and whistles."

But before you cheer, you might want to check the registration for the cellphone-basher's own web site. Its administrative contact is EMI limited, and the site is administered by This site knocking the corporate suits at Virgin Records is in fact owned, run, and incorporated by Virgin Records.

This lends an aura of calculation to the enterprise — but it can't be fully assessed without witnessing one last spectacle. Described as the site's "mission statement" (on a web page named kill.html), it shows an unidentified spokesman for this unique moment in time trying frantically to convey human debasement - theirs, ours, or society's at large. Whether it was underground pranksters, a desperate record company, or just the magical spirit of cellphone-bashers past — they've captured their rage in a powerful five-second clip.

A manic man in a cell phone costume and white ski mask shouts "KILL MOBILE PHONES! KILL MOBILE PHONES!"

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