Virtual Screech, Sexual Superstar

Dustin Diamond played the innocuously nerdy "Screech" on the Saturday morning sitcom Saved by the Bell — so everyone's curious how he's handled the transition to adult video star. After reviewing the tape, we can report that Dustin, now 29, wields a video camera at a bachelorette party gone wild. There's a bride, her bridesmaid, lots of champagne, plus Dustin himself — a horny standup comic trying to coax them out of their clothes.

The plot of the tape is at least as unpredictable as an episode of Saved by the Bell. (Will the bride-to-be sober up? Will Dustin convince them to model lingerie?) But the real potency of this mystery is what's Dustin like? After 11 years of playing the luckless high school nerd, originally on the Disney channel, it's jarring to imagine him in a drunken hotel room orgy.

So as a public service, we've replayed the DVD, transcribed Dustin's dialogue and created an appropriate avatar to read it.

To see "Virtual Screech," click on this hyperlink.

(Note: your browser must allow JavaScript popup windows)

See also:
Screech's Sex Tape Follies
Dustin Diamond vs. Sgt. Harvey
Dana Plato, Porn Star

George Bush vs. Spider-Man

Is Spider-Man's next super-villain going to be George Bush?

Spider-Man crashed into a newscast this month to criticize government policy on secret detentions. Granted this took place in a comic book — but it was clearly addressing specific policies of the Bush administration.

American politicians have already launched a preemptive strike on Spider-Man. For years conservatives have been justifying foreign imperialism by invoking the famous words of his kindly uncle Ben — that "with great power comes great responsibility." (Senators currently invoking the wisdom of Spider-Man comic books include Republican Deputy Whip Jim Demint, and Sam Brownback, whose web page still argues that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.) This month someone writing for Marvel Comics had apparently had enough. Specifically, contributing writer J. Michael Straczynski.

Straczynski — also the creator of Babylon 5 — crafted a story where Spider-Man reconsiders similarly controversial government actions in an alternate war on terror. Straczynski has been a frequent critic of the Bush administration, posting to internet newsgroups for years. And Marvel's characters were already bristling in a story about government roundups of anyone deemed too powerful and dangerous. So a showdown was probably inevitable.

In Straczynski's story, Spider-Man lays out a remarkably clear case against the government's secret detention program. The costumed superhero tackles the abstract good of a national identity while speaking simply, in what could easily be considered a plot to turn the youth of our nation against the President. Providing the ultimate "What if..." confrontation, we've taken Spider-Man's speech opposing the policies and given him a super-sized debating opponent — another simple speaker armed with equally powerful speech writers. In the spirit of comic book confrontations, we're pitting Spider-Man's challenging November arguments against a September speech by President Bush.

It's clobbering time! 'Nuff said! And for any politician thinking about politically exploiting the World Trade Center attacks, here's some advice. If you mess with New York City, you mess with Spider-Man.

People of New York, I've — well, I've got a confession to make. I was wrong. I made a mistake. I've seen the very concept of justice destroyed.
We had to wage an unprecedented war against an enemy unlike any we had fought before. I directed our government's senior national security officials to do everything in their power, within our laws, to prevent another attack. But another reason the terrorists have not succeeded is because our government has changed its policies — and given our military, intelligence, and law enforcement personnel the tools they need to fight this enemy.
I've seen heroes and bad guys alike — dangerous guys, no mistake, but still born in this country for the most part — denied due process and imprisoned, potentially for the rest of their lives, without a trial, without evidence.
They live quietly among their victims; they conspire in secret, and then they strike without warning. In this new war, the most important source of information on where the terrorists are hiding and what they are planning is the terrorists, themselves... This is intelligence that cannot be found any other place. And our security depends on getting this kind of information. To win the war on terror, we must be able to detain, question, and, when appropriate, prosecute terrorists captured here in America, and on the battlefields around the world.
They're held in inhumane conditions in a place called the negative zone. The negative zone is... Well, it's a lot like New Jersey. But...with fewer off-ramps.
The International Committee of the Red Cross is being advised of their detention, and will have the opportunity to meet with them... America has no interest in being the world's jailer. But one of the reasons we have not been able to close Guantanamo is that many countries have refused to take back their nationals held at the facility. Other countries have not provided adequate assurances that...they will not return to the battlefield, as more than a dozen people released from Guantanamo already have.
We all want to be safe. We all want to know we can go to bed at night and have a good chance of waking up without somebody in a costume blowing up the building. But there's a point where the end doesn't justify the means, if the means require us to give up not just our identities, but who and what we are as a country.
Like the struggles of the last century, today's war on terror is, above all, a struggle for freedom and liberty. The adversaries are different, but the stakes in this war are the same: We're fighting for our way of life, and our ability to live in freedom. We're fighting for the cause of humanity, against those who seek to impose the darkness of tyranny and terror upon the entire world. And we're fighting for a peaceful future for our children and our grandchildren.
When does the country we're living in stop being the country we were born in? Some people say the most important thing in the world is that we should be safe. But I was brought up to belive that some things are worth dying for. If the cost of the silence is the soul of the country... If the cost of tacit support is that we lose the very things that make this nation the greatest in human history — then the price is too high.
We have a right under the laws of war, and we have an obligation to the American people, to detain these enemies and stop them from rejoining the battle!
I cannot, in good conscience, continue to support this act as it has been created and enforced. I was wrong. And from this day on, I will do everything within my power to oppose the act and anyone attempting to intimidate and arrest those who also oppose the act, in the cause of freedom.
You heard him. Bring him in.

See Also:
Neil Gaiman has lost his clothes
The Ten Worst Spider-Man Tie-Ins
Is It Fascism Yet?

World Sex Laws

Gil Elvgren

Painting by Gil Elvgren

Sex laws around the world are as diverse as indigenous spices — an acceptable Scandinavian method of grinding genitalia together might get you barbarically executed in another region of the globe.

Globetrotting seducers and seductresses should exercise caution when they indulge in international orifices — flesh in one foreign harbor might be contraband in the next. Be sure to memorize local codes before you frolic with the natives.

Take adultery, for example.

The sophisticated French sport of extra-marital mounting hasn't quite been embraced yet in Somalia. Five wives who were convicted of humping and harrumphing the Sixth Commandment were publicly stoned to death in 1993 by cheering villagers in this East African nation. The rock-headed primitiveness was even videotaped.

Age-of-consent is another tricky topic. Roman Polanski — who fled the USA as a fugitive to avoid an "unlawful intercourse with a minor" charge after he nestled a 13-year-old nymphet — would not have been prosecuted in a tri-racial choice of nations: Spain, Nigeria, or Japan (where obsession with schoolgirls is bigger than Sumo.) His lover-girl's vagina would be considered fully adult in these areas. If the Pole contented himself with a 14-year-old romper, his field-of-play would be enormous: Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Colombia, Croatia, Honduras, Hungary, Russia, and Serbia.

Polanski's nastiness was in tangling with a Hollywood teen; California has an ancient age-of-consent: 18. The only nations that are more daughter-cautious than this are Egypt, Pakistan (21), and Saudi Arabia, where the law states simply that all women "must be married."

Nudity laws are also either stripped-down or grossly over-dressed. Le Cap d'Agde in France is an entirely clothing-optional city (population 40,000), thousands of bare buns bake on beaches in Europe, Australia, and Canada, and naturist joggers publicly flap and jiggle in San Francisco's annual Bay-To-Breakers footrace.

But skin is a carnal crime elsewhere: "unveiled" college girls in Algeria have been shot for exposing their lascivious mouths and chins, and have had acid thrown in their tempting faces. In Iran, women are flogged by "morality patrols" if their lovely hair slips wickedly out of their veils.

Needless to say, Islamic locales are generally ill advised for "sex adventurers." Here are some highlights, culled from this page:
1. Most Middle Eastern countries recognize the following Islamic law: "After having sexual relations with a lamb, it is a mortal sin to eat its flesh."

2. In Lebanon, men are legally allowed to have sex with animals, but the animals must be female. Having sexual relations with a male animal is punishable by death.

3. In Bahrain, a male doctor may legally examine a woman's genitals, but is forbidden from looking directly at them during the examination. He may only see their reflection in a mirror.

4. Muslims are banned from looking at the genitals of a corpse. This also applies to undertakers; the sex organs of the deceased must be covered with a brick or piece of wood at all times.

5. The penalty for masturbation in Indonesia is decapitation.

Rape laws ’round the planet are also perplexing — the ugliest legislation exists in Latin American Catholic countries that exempt rapists from prosecution if they marry the victim. (Many raped women are pressured to wed their attackers because they're seen as "shamed" and "unmarriageable" after they've been penetrated.) In 1997, Peru repealed this rape-escape clause, but it smarmily lingers on in the skewed court books of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, The Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, and Paraguay.

On a cheerier note, it's entertaining to observe the silly USA city laws. Newcastle, Wyoming bans sex inside a store's meat freezer, and Tremonton, Utah has outlawed intercourse in ambulances — neither would I pick as a hot spot. In Connorsville, Wisconsin, it's illegal for a man to shoot off his gun when his female partner has an orgasm, and in Willowdale, Oregon, a man can't curse during sex. Both measures curb celebration, in my opinion.

Most repressive, though, is the Alexandria, Minnesota edict that says a man can't make love to his wife if he's got the stench of garlic, onions, or sardines on his breath — if his wife demands it, he is legally forced to brush his teeth first.

Seems anti-Italian, to me!

See Also:
Pregnant Nympho Sex
Adopt an African Hottie's Clitoris
"Kneecaps, Eyeballs and Livers For Sale" — The World Organ Trade

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

Has Michael Crook Harassed You?

Note: The above screen capture is from a 2005 Fox News Channel appearance. The image has been re-inserted on November 15th, 10 business days after filing a counter-notice (PDF) in response to a DMCA takedown notice filed by Michael Crook which forced its removal soon after it was originally published.

Are you a blogger or webmaster who tried to cover the story of DMCA fraudmeister, Michael Crook, only to be served a DMCA takedown notice by him? Maybe you covered the antics he's performed with websites he owns such as forsakethetroops.orginfo,,, or

Did you choose to comply with his DMCA notices in order to avoid the possibility of legal action? If so, then your story could help 10 Zen Monkeys and the Electronic Frontier Foundation in our civil lawsuit against Crook.

Please take some time to tell us your story. It's the best way to help ensure that nefarious griefers like Crook are no longer able to use the DMCA to violate Free Speech and silence critical commentary.

We would also ask that you post a link to this page on your website(s) to help broadcast our call as far as possible. Below is a graphic and HTML that you can put on your site:

Crook vs. the Internet

<a href=""> <img src=""> </a>

For all the latest on the lawsuit and related events, start here.

Please contact us now with the details of your Michael Crook experience!

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

Recommendations for Truly Last Second Gifts

This is one one of those Christmas seasons where The Day falls on Monday, which means the stores are open all weekend. And that means fewer excuses for not gifting all the meaningful, local peeps you know.

And, sure, it's last second, so online buying isn't an option, but that doesn't mean you have to be stupid about it. Following are some recommendations from the editors at 10 Zen Monkeys for select books and movies you can find at your local atom-based shop.

A couple of tips: 1) Avoid lines and buy indie. 2) If you have to go to a chain store, be sure to go online and check that they have your title in stock before you venture out.

RU Sirius Recommends 10 Books

I read a shit-load of books this year in preparation for interviewing guests for The RU Sirius Show and NeoFiles. In nearly every case, whatever book I was reading became my favorite for at least a few days while I was getting excited about the coming interview. I only got one turkey all year — and no, I'm not going to say which one it was.

I'm not going to go through these one-by-one and explain why I picked them out and placed them above other books that are lower on the list or — indeed — excluded from it. For me, putting together lists of favorites becomes finally an act of intuition. I have to put aside any self-conscious desire to show off how smart or cool I am and just see which ones come bubbling up to the surface.

When I got done putting this list together I was shocked — just shocked — to realize that the first four books on my list were written by women! Well, this has certainly never happened to me before! Of course, one of those women may have had some people fooled but I knew he was a she when I read those books.

OK. I do have to single out a few books for commentary or some might not understand why I included them. Although Robert Greenfield missed the point of Timothy Leary's project, he caught something really poignant about the life. The book touched me as much as it beat me — a Leary fellow traveler — up. Lynn Breedlove still hasn't appeared on The RU Sirius Show. That particular one was canceled by a storm. But I had to acknowledge the book. It made me rise out of my seat and pace around, several times.
  1. Sarah: A Novel JT LeRoy
  2. The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things JT LeRoy
  3. Godspeed: A Novel Lynn Breedlove
  4. Frantic Transmissions to and from Los Angeles: An Accidental Memoir Kate Braveman
  5. Timothy Leary: A Biography Robert Greenfield
  6. Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century edited by Alex Steffan
  7. From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism Fred Turner
  8. The Visionary State: A Journey Through California's Spiritual Landscape Erik Davis & Michael Rauner
  9. Sperm Are from Men, Eggs Are from Women: The Real Reason Men And Women Are Different Joe Quirk

Destiny Recommends Altman

Robert Altman died this year after directing some great films that were sadly overlooked.

James Caan and Robert Duvall starred in Altman's forgotten
Countdown, released just one year before the actual moon landing, in 1968. A surprising human fallibility lurks within the astronauts, but Altman had already proven his fondness for putting conventional heroes through wrenchingly dark plots. His forgotten work on TV shows like Combat and Bonanza are now available on DVD.

During his "exile" from Hollywood in the 80s, Altman filmed a shockingly personal monologue by a disgraced president Richard Nixon (played by Philip Baker Hall). Nixon recaps secret bitterness — while getting drunk — and describes a Secret Honor which (in his story) he must hide from the public. Altman revisited the theme in Tanner '88, a political comedy written by Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau — using his camera to capture a personal nobility at odds with both the media and political landscape.

My favorite Altman film is The Long Goodbye, where Elliot Gould captures that moment in time when the stoic code of Raymond Chandler detective Phillip Marlowe meets a radically different 1970s Los Angeles. But Altman also challenged John Grisham's code for Hollywood heroes in The Gingerbread Man, by trapping Kenneth Branagh in a troublingly muddled universe. Can a dime-novel lawyer bring justice to a truly dysfunctional Southern family? Daryl Hannah plays its troubled daughter, and 30 years after Countdown Robert Duvall worked with Altman one last time.

See Also:
Santa's Crimes Against Humanity
Robert Altman's 7 Secret Wars
David Sedaris Exaggerates For Us All
Author Slash Trickster "JT Leroy"
Why Chicks Don't Dig The Singularity

Thou Shalt Realize the Bible Kicketh Ass


What if The Bible were happening right now? That's the question Douglas Rushkoff has been trying to grapple with in Testament, a series of graphic novels that transpose Biblical stories into contemporary narratives. The series, created in collaboration with artist Liam Sharp flashes back and forth between contemporary and Biblical times, portraying struggles between total control freaks and revolutionaries. Various gods and goddesses form a sort of Greek Chorus — philosophizing and commenting on the action. The "Testament" series is a startling attempt to bring Biblical mythology back to life.

The first five editions of Testament were gathered together in a paperback edition titled Testament: Akedah. [Update: The second paperback edition, Testament Vol. 2: West of Eden was released January, 2007, followed by Testament: Babel - Volume 3 and then Testament Volume 4: Exodus in August of 2008.]

I interviewed Rushkoff by email.

RU SIRIUS: Let's start off talking about the medium itself, the graphic novel. It seems like the graphic novel became a repository for stories with mythic resonances and heroism in the Joseph Campbell sense, since that kind of storytelling was marginalized by the modern and then the post-modern novel. Would you agree? And who in this genre has inspired you?

DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF: I think novels lost a bit of their dimension as readers demanded narrators they could "trust," and perspectives with which they could identify. In some ways, the novel — and most textual narrative — became awfully realistic. The post-modernist experiments were mostly being conducted in other forms, like poetry, and only "kids" novels or series attempted fantasy or mythology in any real way.

The graphic novel and comic book have strong traditions in mythology — or even just in telling stories more on the periphery of consciousness. Superman and other American superheroes were really exploring the unspoken immigrant experience; Japanese manga became a forum to consider the cultural and psychological effects of nuclear war; and, of course, Maus and other contemporary graphic novels became the place to confront the issues and ideas we haven't fully integrated into our conversations or consciousness.

There are very few media that give us the chance to explore and continue the grand myths — the kind that Campbell was looking at. The Bible is now "locked down," so to speak — and there are very few places to engage in open discussion about its mythology. Too many people are depending on the Bible to serve as fact — whether it's for a Middle East land claim or the security of believing in a Creator with a Plan. And too many writers and artists have given up on the mythological tradition — seeing it as the province of fundamentalists or, worse, hopelessly "New Age."

But it's in the early New Age, the pre-New Age, really, that we find the foundations for some of the best comics traditions. For me, it was Jack Kirby and his Eternals. That series was what originally interested me in writing comics. My "master plan," so to speak, was to get asked to bring that series back. But it was DC who noticed my work, and "Eternals" was a Marvel comic. By that point I had spent more time working and thinking about the Bible, anyway, so I figured if I was willing to tackle Kirby's universe of gods, why not the Bible's? Why not start with the richest set of mythologies out there? Richest, at least, for a Western audience, in that these are our foundation stories.

As for other influences and inspirations in the genre, I guess I'm inspired by the obvious ones: Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, Dan Clowes. And I'm enjoying Godland by Joe Casey right now.

RU: As someone who has never read the Bible, and who has found myself bored by every attempt that I've made to do so, let me ask you — why do you think this is such a powerful book?

DR: Well, I think the reason you get stuck is because you're not the original intended hearer. I mean, if you're not from that time and place, it's really hard to get the jokes. Or the sense.

That's why so many religious people are confused. They look at the stories literally, without realizing that each of Jacob's sons is meant more as a satirical embodiment of one of the tribes. Today's readers think of it like these guys are really the patriarchs of each of these tribes, rather than story devices.

Plus, if you don't know all the Egyptian customs, then all the stuff that the Israelites do differently doesn't come through. In one section they build a big arc but don't put a god on the top. To a hearer of that era, they'd know this was radical — because all the Egyptian arcs had gods on top. Or they'd know that slaying a calf in April is a really big deal, because that was the Egyptian New Year's month when the calf was to be revered.

On a deeper level, the Bible works because it's very gently trying to break the bad news: that our relationship to God has changed from that of believing children to that of lonely adults. It's telling the story of how a civilization grows up, and learns (or doesn't learn) to take of itself with no parent telling it what to do. It's about how to stop engaging in child sacrifice; how to develop legal and monetary systems that don't exploit people. And, most of all, it's about how to stay alive and conscious in a society that's trying to make you dead and asleep.

It's really a collection of stories that mean to address the new challenges of the Axial Age — and foretelling some of the dangers of evolving into an agricultural society. The Bible works because it attempts to tackle the underlying dynamic between models of scarcity and models of abundance.

For my purposes, it's interesting because it has become so much more relevant today — as society is again falling under the spell of a reality template as extreme and limited as the mental slavery of Biblical Egypt.

RU: Can we really generalize about such a diffuse, decentralized and dissipated culture and say that it's comparable to the mental slavery of Biblical Egypt?

DR: Unfortunately, we can. Certainly as much as we can generalize about Biblical Egypt. There were Egyptians who saved Jewish babies like Moses, remember — so there are exceptions to every rule.

But I'd argue that we are currently living in something beyond a fascist's wildest dream. And it's not just political. Bush and co. may have done us wrong, but the landscape and environment permitting their misdeeds is more to blame than any "neo-con" ideology. And this is the landscape of corporatism — a game in which non-player characters rule the day.

Our values have been completely penetrated by a market model, sold to us through propaganda since about the time that Ed Bernays turned his back on government and became the first real PR man for corporate America. Everything from World's Fairs to public schools were developed to promote the corporate agenda and ideology. So now we live in a world where we see corporations and currency as pre-existing conditions — laws of nature; a part of creation.

We may feel decentralized, but we still don't know how to create value for one another that doesn't involve central authority. The kids on YouTube still want to get picked up by a TV network. And you can't sell me a DVD without involving the Fed's money.

RU: Let's move directly on to some of the material in the comics. In Chapter One of "West of Eden" (#6 of the series), an invisible narrator is quoted saying, "Each story is only as true as the number and intensity of those who believe." I wonder if this speaks for you, and if you mean this in a literal sense — in a Heisenbergian sense. In other words, do observers create reality; or do observers create reality within certain limits?

DR: Well, it's certainly true in the world of the comic — and I'd think it's at least somewhat true in the world we live in. As far as the comic, I'm kind of giving the whole thing away in that little section. Number 6 (the first chapter of the second collection coming out in January) was an opportunity to start over, and help new readers catch up with the world of the story. Likewise, of course, the creation story in Genesis was written and added to the text much later than the stuff that follows.

Basically, when the Israelites were under attack, they decided that rather than just having the best and most powerful god, they had the only god (what historians call the "one God, alone" cult). So they needed their own creation story. They cobbled together some of the best ones, gave them a decidedly Jewish context (the spoken word itself has creative power) and put it at the front.

I did the same thing, showing the "good" gods writing their creation story while "bad" gods each take individual credit for creation of the world. But the gods do understand that their power — their authority to declare responsibility for creation — is really dependent on the number and faith of their believers. In essence, I'm saying that the gods are really created by people. They exist, but only insofar as people are willing to believe in them. They're emergent phenomena.

As far as real reality, I think there's a whole lot of stuff we accept as given circumstances that are actually social convention — belief systems. Not the sum total of reality — like rocks and planets and physics — but certainly the nature of power, money, relationship. The way we interact is guided as much by our beliefs as our nature. And our perceptions of the world are, as Robert Anton Wilson would say, just reality tunnels.

RU: Why did you choose an artificial life program as a sort of creation myth?

DR: Well, the creation story is largely about the difference between nature and human-made life. When Cain is punished, he is to become a "builder of cities" — meaning artificial colonies rather than natural ones (to put it really briefly). In the comic, it's our modern Adam who takes the dangerous step of launching his AI lifeform out onto the greater networks; and that's my modern allegory for tasting of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He's taken the power of creation into his own hands.

The AI becomes a real character as the story develops, though. It's the operating system for a new kind of global currency. In the Bible, Pharaoh basically loses his free will. God "hardens his heart," which — to me, anyway — has less to do with God wanting a good enemy than it has to do with Pharaoh's addiction to power. The Bible is repeatedly telling the lesson that we have to respect life; disrespect for life pushes a person further from the living. So as our story's antagonists show more allegiance to currency than they do to people, they end up increasingly ruled by an AI.

RU: Talk about the centrality of currency in this story. How does it relate to Biblical mythology and why is it important now?

DR: Well, it was Joseph — one of the Bible's heroes — who is somewhat responsible in the story for giving the Pharaoh the idea to take in all the grain when it was plentiful, and then to create indentured servants out of everyone when they couldn't get any grain during the famine. It could even be argued that they created an artificial scarcity in order to gain power.

Of course, that's the way our economy works today. Our currency is centrally created, as if by fiat. There's no underlying value. And this sort of currency is very biased towards scarcity and central authority.

So many of our greatest challenges as a civilization still hearken back to our inability to operate an economy on a system other than the scarcity model. We could make enough energy or food. It's not a technological problem. It's an economic problem. An economy based on artificial scarcity — on the hoarding of resources and meting out of commodities — doesn't know how to cope with abundance. Or even sustainability. How do you maintain centralized authority if people aren't depending on the central authority for everything?

RU: Do you think open source is coming to the exchange of economic value? Is there anything in Biblical terms that points us that way?

DR: I have to believe that currency is moving towards an open source model. And that's why we're having such awful wars right now. As people come to recognize that money isn't real, the powers that be will have to invent a new method of social control.

Really — money began to replace religion as a means of central control back in the Renaissance. Until then, there were local currencies complementing centralized ones. People in towns could create value for one another without involving the central authority.

For the past several decades, many towns have attempted to develop their own currencies — but the problem has always been one of trust and accountability. Computers and networks really do solve this problem, so the tools to make currency for ourselves — to create alternative moneys that have different biases (not interest bearing; based in a real commodity, etc.) are here. The LETS system really does work, now.

It's a matter of seeing whether or not the spell can be broken, though. Whether people can come to see that the dollar isn't real. It's just one way of monetizing value, but we persist.

It may take someone else — maybe China, or the oil producers — to show us that our money is worthless — it's really just a matter of In God We Trust. But we'll be in for much less of a rude awakening if we can remember what the Bible was really telling us about our money, and take the Bible back from those who have used it to support its only true villain.

RU: In terms of mental slavery, you have this scene of trendy, sexy young people lining up to get "tagged" — which is some sort of digital upgrade implant. Is that how they get us, through the upgrades? Should I ditch my iPod and BlackBerry? And is there a Biblical backstory to this one?

DR: Well, being rich is considered cool, now. I mean, our heroes are "the man."

In the comic, I tried to make it appear that this new RFID-tag currency would give people power. By using what seems to be a totally decentralized, AI currency, people believe they can, like the ads in the comic, "Get Tagged and You're IT!" (Of course, the joke is that you get tagged and you're just an extension I.T., not *it*.) But the motivation is to be one with money, to have the money in you rather than depending on some external source for the money.

The Biblical reference (which will only get paid off later) is Manna. They called the currency Manna, but that hasn't really been explained yet. The idea is that in the Torah story, the Israelites don't trust that Manna will keep coming. So they hoard it. God gets pissed off and turns the stored Manna into worms. They're supposed to trust that new Manna is coming.

Do I think you have to give up your BlackBerry? Not necessarily, but I do think you have to understand its biases. You have to understand what it's doing to you and whether that's a good thing. I don't wear an iPod on the subway — I don't even own one — because I feel alienated and detached enough already. I want every opportunity I have in real and public spaces to engage with other real people.

RU: You've taking on a potentially controversial task — reworking Biblical myth. Say a little bit about any responses that you've had.

DR: So far it's been almost completely positive. The beauty about comics is that people don't take them as "seriously" as they do non-fiction. So while I've been blacklisted by various fundamentalist groups for my non-fiction book on Judaism, I've gotten almost no negative response for this treatment of Biblical myth — which would certainly be much more controversial.

I mean, my non-fiction work was based on history. This comic has a whole lot more conjecture — particularly in the way it draws parallels between, say, child sacrifice in the Bible and sending kids to Iraq today.

But the vast majority of responses — particularly from rabbis — has been positive. They've been looking for someone to tell Torah stories the way they actually appear in Torah — but to do so in a way that gives these horrific and sexy scenes some context. It's one thing for a layperson to blog the Torah on Slate, and it's quite another for a media scholar (if I'm allowed to call myself that) to do it in a fictional work with informed interpretation. That's another reason the rabbis like it, though — it's attempting to carry on the Midrashic tradition of Torah commentary in a contemporary medium, rather than around the table at the house of study.

The other great thing has been the responses from magick types and Crowley fans who really had no idea the Bible was filled with all this sex magick. They're now looking at Torah as source code rather than some enemy's dictates.

See also:
The Satanic Cosmology of Jack Chick
Neil Gaiman Has Lost His Clothes
When Cory Doctorow Ruled The World
Atheist Filmmaker Issues "Blasphemy Challenge"

Atheist Filmmaker Issues ‘Blasphemy Challenge’

The God Who Wasn't There

"The War on Christmas" is an absurd fantasy concocted by the Religious Right. But it doesn't have to be. If Brian Flemming has his way, we'll get a real War on Christmas, complete with atheistic shock troops (called "Rational Responders") confronting believers with the non-logic of their dearest religious beliefs. His "Rational Response Squad" is encouraging young people to take The Blasphemy Challenge — to commit blasphemy and post the results on YouTube.

It's all part of the continuing promotion for Flemming's worthy documentary film, The God Who Wasn't There. The film, in the words of Newsweek, "irreverently lays out the case that Jesus Christ never existed." Uber-athiests Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins appear, helping Flemming make his sacreligious point.

Besides interviewing Flemming on this year's RU Sirius Show Christmas Special, we had him on in April of this year, when he was gunning for Easter. We've combined the two conversations to create this interview. Flemming fielded questions from an extended RU Sirius Show family that included Blag Dhalia from The Dwarves, Steve Robles, Jeff Diehl and Diana Brown.

RU SIRIUS: Tell us what the Blasphemy Challenge is and how we might participate.

BRIAN FLEMMING: It's a challenge to you to commit the Christian unforgivable sin, on video, and upload it to YouTube for all the world to see. And if you do that, you can get a free DVD of The God Who Wasn't There.

STEVE ROBLES: Did you just say the sin? Are you speaking of a particular sin?

BRIAN: Yeah, there's one unforgivable sin. Mark 3:29 says, "Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven." So that is the one sin that, if you commit it, you can never ever be saved. So one benefit of taking the Blasphemy Challenge is that if any Christians come up to you and try to convert you in the future, you can just say, "Oh, no, I'm done. You can't help me any more."

RU: So you could jizz on a picture of the Virgin Mary, but this would be worse.

BRIAN: Right. You can do anything else. You can kill all the people you want; you can rape and murder and whatever; and Jesus will forgive you. But this is the one thing that he won't forgive you for.

STEVE: Actually, you won't be forgiven for suicide, either.

BRIAN: Oh, that's true.

JEFF DIEHL: Do we get a free DVD if we commit that blasphemy?

BRIAN: If you were to deny the Holy Spirit, and then kill yourself, you'd definitely be guaranteed to meet Satan for it.

STEVE: It gets into some tricky Catholic dogma because you have to blaspheme specifically against the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit being a part of the Holy Trinity. That means that if you blaspheme against Jesus or god, you're okay.

BRIAN: Yeah. In fact, Jesus says that specifically in another passage. He says, "Whoever speaks against the Son of Man can be forgiven" — but if you speak against the Holy Spirit, you can't be forgiven.

RU: You particularly want young people to participate. You advertised in Boy Scout Trail and Tiger Beat.

BRIAN: Yeah. We chose a bunch of sites online that specifically appeal to young people to advertising on. In fact, many of the people that are uploading videos to YouTube are in their teens.

RU: So are you trying to exacerbate right-wing paranoia?

BRIAN: My goal is definitely to provoke conversation. We rarely discuss religion on the same terms as we discuss any other aspect of our culture such as science or math or politics — any subject at all. People are allowed to make religious claims, and there's a taboo in our culture against actually questioning those claims the way we would anything else. The Blasphemy Challenge is designed to examine that. "Okay, Christianity makes this claim. Let's talk about it. Let's talk about whether there's any support for it at all." And Christians are welcome to demonstrate that hell exists and demonstrate that the Holy Spirit exists and demonstrate that insulting the Holy Spirit will send you to this place called hell.

RU: You claim to have a 21,000-member activist group. What are you guys planning? Should we be frightened of atheist fanatics?

BRIAN: We've done some interesting things. We hid copies of the movie in Christian churches and in other items. One thing we did during Easter — we put fliers with cartoons into plastic eggs at egg hunts for Christian children. They read, "Here's a fun game. Ask your Mom and Dad, 'Is the Easter Bunny real?' Now ask them, 'Is Santa Claus real?' Now ask them, 'Is Jesus real?' And remember this for the rest of your life. The answer to these three questions will always be the same."

RU: So you're hiding these mind-fucks in Easter eggs. Do you feel that up to this point, you've been preaching to the unheavenly choir, and now you have to reach people who are believers and get them to think? Do you have any evidence that people have been affected by your message?

BRIAN: I get emails all the time. The movie has not worked alone but has worked in concert with other things, like Sam Harris's book The End of Faith. I know my film has been principally involved in the de-conversion of many Christians including one Baptist minister. It definitely is possible to reach Christians. It's astonishing what they don't know. And when you tell them, their jaws just drop. When I see Christians after a screening of The God Who Wasn't There, I can see the looks on their faces. I can tell they've just never been exposed to this stuff

RU: Do you anticipate any rumbles with Jack Chick's guys?

BRIAN: I'm sure.

BLAG DHALIA: Look, it doesn't bother me that you're trying to debunk Jesus, and it doesn't bother me that you hate the Easter Bunny. But I'm not going to sit here and listen to you talk about Santa! I'm just fuming about Santa. I think you're really pushing it.

BRIAN: Well, I'm hoping to reach out and have a dialogue with the Santa believers. Maybe we can come to some understanding.

RU: Is there evidence that Santa wasn't really born?

BRIAN: Actually, the thing is that Santa is more real than Jesus. Santa was an actual saint. In fact, I saw statues of him when I recently visited Amsterdam. He's the patron saint of Amsterdam. That's where the myth originated. So Santa is actually far more real than Jesus. A real human became the Santa legend.

BLAG: Santa is a scary fuck. He wears an animal skin that's bloody. That's where the whole red Santa suit came from — this guy with an inside-out animal skin that was still bleeding on his back. But a jolly, jolly man anyways.

RU: Tell us a bit about your film, The God Who Wasn't There.

BRIAN: It's a documentary that makes the case that Jesus Christ never existed. I interview some people who rarely get their theories aired in the mainstream media. They're very credible people who have looked at the early evidence for Jesus and found that it was sorely lacking. And then the film goes on to examine how Jesus is used in our culture and the effect that this dogma that Jesus existed and is our savior has had in our culture.

RU: How did you research the film? Did you start with your conclusion?

BRIAN: I started out thinking the theory that Jesus never lived must've been a crackpot theory. I'm into crackpot theories and into crackpots. I like to look into what makes them tick.

STEVE: That's why you're talking to us.

BRIAN: I started looking into it. And I came to realize that the evidence did stack up and the real crackpots were people who could look at early Christianity and determined that the early Christians believed in a human Jesus. When I realized how few people knew about this, I decided it was a good focus for a documentary.

JEFF: In college, I was challenged by a piece of writing called Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches by Marvin Harris. He claims that there were a lot of self-proclaimed Messiahs back in Jesus's day. And a lot of them were crucified, and they were basically terrorists. They were trying to overthrow the Roman government. In many cases they were assassins. They carried daggers in their robes. And there's a good chance that Jesus himself was a dagger-carrying assassin.

BRIAN: I have heard that theory. With Jesus stories — you can speculate anything that you want about Jesus, because there is no writing whatsoever about him from the time. All we have is this sort of invented history of Jesus that was improvised over the decades immediately following the apostle Paul, who never claimed to have met Jesus. So there's no direct evidence, at all, that Jesus ever existed. And there's a lot of evidence indicating that he was just kind of improvised into existence, first as a mythical savior and then later on, historical details were added.

RU: You used to be a fundamentalist Christian. Why did you stray from the flock?

BRIAN: I went to a fundamentalist school called Village Christian School in Sun Valley, California. That's where I got the doctrine pounded into my head. I was a fundamentalist Christian then. Once I got out of that school, I began to think for myself a little bit more and learn about science. Going to college kind of opened my eyes to the absolutely false things that I believed were true. I gradually became an atheist. I just deduced and learned my way to atheism.

RU: Did you preach in neighborhoods?

BRIAN: No, I didn't. I never had the nerve to witness. I practiced it. They would take us out on the playground and we would practice-witness to each other. And then we were supposed to do what we practiced with people in our lives, particularly Jews. I had Jewish friends, and every time I visited them at their house I was just wracked with guilt because I wasn't witnessing to them. But I just couldn't bring myself to do it. Something felt wrong about telling them that Jews were going to hell.

RU: You left us to rot in hell! So your film makes the case that Jesus never existed. What's the evidence? How do you prove a negative?

BRIAN: There's a more positive case to be made. The early Christians, the very first Christians, did not believe in a human Jesus. It took decades before they started adding history into their writings. They created this Jesus who wasn't just this mythical god like most gods at that time were — but in fact a man who walked around on earth.

If you look at the beginning of Christianity, for at least forty years there was no human Christ. Nobody was mentioning Bethlehem or Jerusalem as the place where he was crucified. Basically, nothing that you and I would call the story of Jesus was told then. He was a savior who lived up in another realm. He had died and had risen back up to be with his father. All of this took place in an upper realm, not down on earth. Bit by bit, they added historical details.

RU: This story had been told many times before, right? There were various versions that were nearly exactly the same.

BRIAN: Yeah, there were versions of the story both before the time that Christianity started and particularly right around the time that Christianity started. The dying and rising savior is probably the oldest story in the world. But there were specifically other gods who were remarkably like Jesus in the time preceding the invention of Jesus. There was the Attis cult and the Mithras cult. They had saviors who died, stayed dead three days, and then rose up to sit with their fathers as the eternal judge on mankind. It's pretty clear that's where the Jesus story came from.

DIANA BROWN: You're calling for an atheist activist movement. Do you believe it could make a difference if enough people got on board?

BRIAN: Oh, definitely. I think there is an atheist activist movement. I'm trying to contribute to it as much as I can. I think there's a gradual realization among atheists that just sitting at home, not believing, and watching the world go to hell isn't really a very viable strategy.

DIANA: People are being kind of politically correct — not wanting to talk to people about their religion because it's polite.

BRIAN: Exactly. Religious tolerance really has to go, if religious tolerance means we let people talk baby talk in public and elect them as politicians who control our policy. If that's religious tolerance, then we can't really be tolerant because it's just too dangerous.

DIANA: What would you say to an agnostic?

BRIAN: I think an agnostic is really just an atheist who hasn't thought about it enough.

RU: The reason I'm an agnostic — I just don't assume that as a human being I have the equipment, the nervous system and the brain to be quite certain about everything that is going on. To me, atheism is a belief system just like faith is.

BRIAN: I would disagree with that. I don't think that atheism is a belief system. It's simply, as Sam Harris puts it, "The inability to be unreasonable." Basically, everyone is an atheist. It's just that religious people are atheists about every other god except their own. So even a Christian is just one god away from me. I don't believe in Zeus. I don't believe in Poseidon. The Christian is also an atheist in regard to Zeus and Poseidon. The Christian has just selected one of those books of mythology, pulled it down off the shelf and said, "This one is real." As an atheist, all I've done is to not do that.

STEVE: But this still leaves at least the possibility that you might discover something. The problem with atheism is that it doesn't allow for anything beyond what we perceive now to be our physical reality.

BRIAN: I admit that there's a possibility. I take a scientific approach.

DIANA: Ha! So you're an agnostic.

STEVE: Outed!

BRIAN: It's a misconception that you can only be an atheist if you declare absolutely that you have the answers and that you know there's no god. An atheist has just looked at all the gods available and determined: no — none of these could exist, so probably there is no god. That's not agnosticism. That's really atheism.

BLAG: Mr. Fleming, I gotta be on your team with this. If you don't believe in slavery, you can either sit at home and say, "I don't believe in slavery," or you can be an abolitionist and say, "Wait a minute. We have this thing and I am going to actively be against it." So let's kill god. We're atheists. Fuck 'im.

DIANA: If we can kill him, we can prove something... You think knowledge is the enemy of faith, so you're basically encouraging people to seek knowledge. Correct?

BRIAN: Exactly. Doubt is the enemy of certainty. What I want to do with the War on Christmas is have Christians come across information that they're not getting, because only one version is told. No one's allowed to present another view. If you really start examining what most faiths are based on, you can't deduce your way into believing in it, so you eventually have to let it go.

STEVE: Don't humans need to believe in myths? Even if Jesus never really existed, don't people need to believe?

BRIAN: Humans need to band together in groups that have an identity. They like to get together and experience stories and some of them go too far and love the story to the point that they believe it. That's all true. Certainly there is something about humans that caused religions to develop. There has to be something in us that makes us want that. But I see no reason that anyone's ever articulated that we should have it today. Two thousand years ago, I kind of get why they thought the way they did. They didn't have science. They were answering questions that we've answered since then. They thought that demons caused disease.

RU: They don't?

STEVE: You've never had shingles.

JEFF: There was a study recently that showed that belief in god or religion makes people happier. Assuming they can actually measure something called happiness, might there not be a benefit to believing, just to be happy?

BRIAN: Yeah. I would say it has the same benefits as heroin.

BLAG: Now you're talking my language!

JEFF: You're killing your case here, Brian. (Laughter)

BRIAN: There's a cost to being rational. There's a cost in looking at the world in a sensible way and not falling prey to fantasy stories that make you feel better. It's not easier — I'll admit that. It certainly takes more courage. So people who are afraid and want to trick their minds into being happy should turn to religion and drugs, because you do have to be strong to deal with the world as it is.

JEFF: It's kind of like that brain-in-a-vat story, though. If you could climb into a chamber and never experience reality and just be told that this is reality, would you do it? What's the difference? If you've convinced yourself that you're happy, you're happy.

RU: The blue pill or the red pill?

BRIAN: Maybe before we die, we'll have that. We'll be able to jack into the matrix. I think part of the reason we haven't done it already is because religion has held back science so much. Literally for centuries, it has prevented progress. So, ironically, religion has kept us from having eternal life.

RU: There's some talk about a cluster of neurons in the brain that tap people into their feeling of belief in god; or their sense of god. Have you looked at that at all?

BRIAN: No, but Sam Harris, who's in my movie, is devoting his PhD thesis to exactly that. He's studying the brain basis of belief with an FMRI — Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging technology. He hasn't published yet, but I know he's discovered some things. I can't wait to find out what they are.

RU: Do you think we're headed into a theocracy? Kevin Phillips, the Republican who hates the Bush family, wrote a book about how America is becoming a theocracy. How close do you think we are? And do you think we'll go the rest of the way?

BRIAN: I think that we will go the rest of the way if we don't take action to stop it. That's going to require people to go out on a limb. The time to act is now, before we reach a point of no return.

RU: Today, most everyone is screaming about the Koran and Islam. How would you compare the memetic nastiness of Islam to the memetic nastiness of Christianity?

BRIAN: The Koran is certainly more vicious; more clear about the killing that has to be done. It is, in general, a more dangerous book. It's got all sorts of stuff about what you must do to infidels; how they must be treated — cut them into pieces and throw them into a fire. The Bible has some of that stuff, but it also has Jesus making all this happy talk. The Koran is just really clear. If you believe in Islam, you believe the place of the infidels in the world is either to be subjugated or killed. So I do think Islam is potentially more dangerous than Christianity. But any religion — particularly any monotheistic religion, if it gains enough power — they all could be extremely dangerous.

See also:
The Satanic cosmology of Jack Chick
Thou Shalt Realize the Bible Kicketh Ass (Rushkoff interview)
Death at Christmas
They're Dreaming of a Boobs Christmas

The Satanic Cosmology of Jack Chick

Chick comic

Did you know that Christmas is actually a Satanic holiday based on Baal worship from ancient Babylon? That Halloween is a Druidic ritual of human sacrifice... to Satan? That the Pope is the Antichrist?

If the answer is yes, chances are your sorry-assed soul has been saved by Jack Chick, comic book evangelist.

Although the spewers of fire 'n' brimstone are not exactly rare nowadays — from Mel Gibson and Bill O'Reilly, to the Left Behind series of novels and video games — they focus only on small corners of a sprawling theological castle historically tended by Lord Chick.

His innovative method of spreading the Gospel through comics, his spiraling conspiracy theories, and his recurrent cast of characters make him a sort of Walt Disney of fundamentalism. Chick's universe, like Disneyland in reverse, is one of hermetic paranoia — the tendrils of Satan's influence on humanity reach from the highest seats of power to the most mundane suburban activities — describing a tightly knit web of evil design percolating just below the surface of everything. Chick's brand of Christianity is anti-sectarian, "born again," New Testament literalism. His mail-order congregation consists of what he calls "true Bible-believing Christians," to whom he preaches DIY salvation and soul-winning.

Since his own Damascus in 1948 (while listening to "Charles Fuller's Old Fashioned Revival Hour" on the radio), Chick claims to have won hundreds of thousands of souls for Christ worldwide through the dissemination of his mini-comics, known as "Chick Tracts." His distinctly modern, technologically mediated conversion — alone, outside of church, through radio and now the internet — is significant, illustrating his present contempt for organized religions and his choice of alternative media to flog the Gospel. More significant, however, is Chick's proud admission that he appropriated the concept of spreading the Gospel through comics from Mao Tse Tung's use of propaganda comics in Communist China. While placing Chick in an ideological double bind (he maintains that Communism was a creation of the super-evil Vatican), this revelation is remarkably resonant, considering Chick's zealous ideological imperative, and his savvy propagandist tactics.

Chick's themes and strategies vary little from tract to tract, but, as a master propagandist, he tailors many of the tracts for soul-winning target markets, particularly intransigent meanies like bikers, criminals, and rockers. Consider these blurbs from the Chick Publications catalog, advertising specific tracts: "Duke thought Jesus was a sissy. But he learned that Jesus had more guts than anyone who ever lived. Great for truckers and bikers!" ("The Sissy"), "Bob was mean and rotten. He didn't need God, until a fire in the jail nearly killed him. Great for bikers!" ("Bad Bob"), "They started as a 'Christian' rock group, and soon became slaves to rock. But Tom found that Jesus could change all that... and set him free!" ("Angels?").

Chick writes the majority of the tracts himself, and he draws the most visually amusing of the lot in his primitive, sub-Peanuts style. The bulk of them, however, feature competent, anatomically correct, if boring, ghost artists. Chick designs the tracts to instill fear and guilt in the unsaved reader. To this end, he menaces us with detailed descriptions of hell, Satan himself (or a few silly, Stooge-like demons), and outrageous, "deviant" behavior. Witchcraft is magically revealed behind hopelessly banal activities, in an effort to win casual paranoiacs to the fold. Chick also far outrushes Limbaugh in his violation of PC tolerance — homosexuals ("Doom Town: The Story of Sodom"), women (demons use a pretty women as "tactic #28" to distract a teenage boy from being "saved" in "A Demon's Nightmare"), civil rights activists, liberals, and other races (and their religions) all get pilloried as tools of Satan.

Witchcraft and the occult are always at work in Chick's suburban universe, often behind seemingly harmless teen activities. The alarmist "Dark Dungeons" exposes Dungeons & Dragons as an occult apprenticeship to witchcraft and Satanism. Innocent Debbie shows such promise in D&D as "Elfstar" that her Dungeonmaster, an older woman, initiates her into a witch's coven. When a former D&D partner hangs herself because her own character dies, Debbie comes to her senses and is "saved" by a friend. That night, she attends a prayer meeting where a reformed warlock commands the audience to "gather up all your occult paraphernalia... rock music, occult books, charms, Dungeons & Dragons material... don't throw them away, BURN THEM!"

In "The Poor Little Witch," Mandy, an uncoordinated, unpopular girl is seduced by her teacher, Mrs. White (Chick is not known for his subtlety) into asking a demon, "Bruth," for special powers. Bruth answers her call, and Mandy is overjoyed with her newfound grace. Later, however, when taken to a ritual infant sacrifice by Mrs. White, she balks, and wants out of Satanism. Unfortunately for Mandy, the whole town is crawling with Satanists: the pastor, the chief of police, her teachers — all witches. As in many tracts involving witchcraft, Mandy's Leave it to Beaver community is a vertiginous Parallax View of Satanic conspiracy. A sympathetic ex-witch "saves" Mandy, just in time to be murdered for her betrayal. It's a classic Chick "happy ending," for, although Mandy's DOA, she's on a highway to heaven.

High school is not the only haven for witchcraft in Chick's world. Established religious organizations are also revealed as dens of the occult. In "The Curse of Baphomet," Chick exposes Freemasonry as a Satanic cult worshiping Baphomet, a demon goat god of Babylon. Masonic iconography is broken down: the Eastern Star is the upside-down Satanic pentagram, the "all seeing eye" (on our dollar bill) is the eye of Osiris (the Egyptian sun god, based on the Babylonian Baal), the obelisk (the Washington monument) is a phallic symbol of Baal worship ("and God hates it"), the Sphinx is from Egypt, a nefarious Satanic hotbed, the red fez is a shrine to Allah, representing the blood of Christians butchered by Muslims, who dipped their caps in their victims' blood, the apron worn by high level Masons is "packed with occult symbols," and its promised righteousness at the Great Throne of Judgment is a cruel lie ("righteousness comes from Jesus Christ, never from an apron").

Mormonism receives a similar raking over the coals in "The Visitors," in which two Mormon door-to-door elders try to convert a Christian lady, but are shot down by her righteous Chickie niece. After blasting the hapless visitors on such heinous, ungodly practices as polygamy, blood atonement, and belief in false prophecy, plucky Janice accuses Mormon founder Joseph Smith of occult practices such as crystal ball gazing, carrying a talisman of Jupiter (another name for Baal, of course), being a "sublime degree" Mason, incorporating Satanic rituals into Temple ritual (secret handshakes, blood oaths, secret names, etc.), and claiming that Satan and Jesus were brothers. Needless to say, the visitors leave in a huff, and Janice's aunt is saved.


Any kook fundagelical worth his pillar of salt is obliged to riff on rock 'n' roll as "the devil's music." Chick far outstrips the competition in his rock genealogy, however, proving that Spinal Tap weren't merely being silly when they performed "Stonehenge" in Druidic chic. Though the Tap maintained that "nobody knew who they were, or... what they were doing," Chick has done his research. It's true. Modern rock was spawned by the Druids. In "Spellbound" (one of The Crusaders series of full-sized color Chick comics), Penny, a teenage rock fan, reluctantly gets saved by a visiting preacher, who is coincidentally a former Druid high priest, as well as being a former member of the dreaded Illuminati. According to Lance, our hero, the Druids were "the most evil people living in the horrible darkness" of pre-Christian Europe. They were "so filled with demons that some had strange frightening powers." (One can only assume that the others just wore silly robes and mumbled arcane phrases.) After describing their penchant for human sacrifice (on which Halloween is based; I'll get to that), Lance goes straight for the jugular — the Satanic Druid "beat" that accompanied all their ritual sacrifices.

The Druids apparently jammed on flutes, tambourines, and drums covered with human hide. (It's a shame that Chick seems unaware of Jethro Tull, who make his argument for him rather effectively). "The drumbeat was the key to addict the listener... a form of hypnotism... the same beat the Druids used is in the rock music of today... both hard and soft rock... the beat is still there!" According to Lance, the British Invasion of the 60s had a hidden agenda beyond chicks and cash. The Beatles "opened up a Pandora's Box when they hit the U.S. with their Druid/rock beat." As their popularity grew (due to the hypnotizing, addictive "beat"), "they were able to turn our young people on to the eastern religions... the floodgates to witchcraft were opened... the U.S. will never recover... it was well planned." Lance knows what he's talking about. While a Druid, Lance had a "cover job" managing "Z Productions," one of the "largest manufacturers of rock music." Apparently, the Frankfurt Schoolers' conception of the "culture industry" was far too forgiving. Lance reveals how rock music is really made...

Witches have their own language, like truck drivers use on CB radios. Only the occult language is more carefully guarded. When we produced a rock song, it contained coded spells or incantations that the listener wasn't aware of. A witch would write the words and we'd dig up an old Druid manuscript containing the melody for the song. Top flight musicians were hired to record the music. The master tape would be set aside for six months. It wasn't ready for production until it had been blessed. On a full moon some of the most powerful witches in the country would arrive to put the finishing touches on the song. The high priestess summons Regé, Satan's top demon over the occult.

When Regé materialized from the center of the pentagram, Lance recalls, the high priestess said, "We bid thee to bless and fulfill the spells of our brothers' and sisters' music." To which Regé replied, "I shall command my servants (the demons) to follow each relic produced from our magic music." Poof! A top ten single is born. Lance concludes: "every recording that has been cursed has a visitor (a demon) with it... that's why your homes are so messed up... you cast the spell on yourself!" As the sermon builds to a frothing pitch, Lance commands the congregation to burn it all. Country music ("about sleeping with other men's wives"), and corset-busting romance novels ("those ungodly love stories... the bestsellers with the filthy language") get torched too. Moved by Lance's fervid testifying, Penny repents, agrees to burn her rock albums, and is saved.

But what about "Christian rock"? It's a demon in disguise as well, as shown in "Angels?," perhaps the most hilarious tract in all God's creation. In this clumsy, Chick-drawn tract, a hard luck Christian group meets a "manager" while on the chapel circuit named Lew Siffer (!!!), who promises them booze, chicks, and limos if they sign on the dotted line... in blood! After the boys sign with Lewie, he outlines the structure of his musical conglomerate — a worldwide organization known as "Killer Rock." Pointing to a hierarchical flow chart, he traces the evolution of rock, from Soft (1950s—60s), through Hard (1961-71), to Heavy (1971-?), claiming responsibility for it all. "From the 70s on, I gave the world Kiss, Black Sabbath, Mötley Crüe, etc." (I suppose we have Mr. Siffer to thank for "all Pearl Jam, all the time" radio shows as well.)

Predictably, the Green Angels rocket to mega-stardom overnight with their mesmerizing songs ("We're gonna rock, rock, rock/Rock with the ROCK!"), only to topple, one by one, to AIDS, drugs, and [gasp]... vampirism. Luckily, a devoted Chickie plants a tract ("The Contract") in guitarist Tom's pocket before their final gig. He reads it later, and is saved. Mr. Siffer tries to collect his "royalties," but Tom, using the Force ("The Lord rebuke thee Satan! Get thee hence!!!") zaps (literally) the debonair Lew, revealing his dorky demonic self, horns and all, in an embarrassing shade of red.

We owe more than the existence of Mötorhead to those seminal Druids — we have them to thank for Halloween as well. Two tracts, "Boo!" and "The Trick" ("great for kids!"), trace trick or treating to the Druids ("those guys were really spooky!"). Apparently, October 31st was a special holiday for Samhain (Satan, the god of the dead). Druids sacrificed humans as a matter of protocol, but Halloween was a sacrificial block party. They would go from house to house, demanding a child for sacrifice from each — the victim was the Druids' "treat." They would then leave a lit Jack-O-Lantern outside the house to protect the rest of the family from demons for the rest of the night. If the household could not provide a sacrificial rugrat, or refused, the nasty Druids painted a Satanic pentagram on their front door. Later that night, in a cruel reversal of Passover, Samhain or one of his demons would come and kill a member of the family, usually from fright. This was the "trick" from "trick or treat." Of course, Druids and witches are still active today, explaining the ol' "razor blade in the apple" phenomenon. This is not the work of demented old ladies, says Chick, but of witches performing covert ritual sacrifices to Satan. Satan also uses the scary costume tradition of Halloween to lure kids into his club every year, accounting for the fact that "witchcraft is exploding among teens today!"

As needlessly alarmist as Chick Tracts are, they are strictly Mickey Mouse in comparison to The Crusaders series of full-sized color comics. Chick authored The Crusaders series from the mid-70s to the early 80s, and it shows. The two Crusaders themselves constitute a fundamentalist Christian Mod Squad — two muscular young men, one black, one white, both square-jaw handsome — who travel the world in polyester leisure suits helping good Christians and "saving" those who have run astray. Tim Clark, the Steve Canyon white guy, is a former Green Beret, while "Big" Jim Carter, complete with afro and Superfly duds, is a former drug-dealing badass who was saved by a neighborhood minister. Unlike the primitive tracts, with their goofy, overweight demons and HAW! HAW! panels, The Crusaders comics are bulging with paranoiac text and posable action figure artwork. The plotlines are incidental, as The Crusaders series is primarily a vehicle for Chick's deeply paranoid and hate-mongering conspiracy theories concerning the Roman Catholic church. In each "adventure," the two heroes either run into or accompany a pedagogical character who functions as a mouthpiece for Chick's spiraling conspiracies.

In the final six volumes of The Crusaders, Chick allows a real live former Jesuit, Dr. Alberto Rivera, to take the stand and expose the spidery depths of the Satanic Vatican world conspiracy. In these issues, the two Crusaders are merely in the room as Alberto outlines the Vatican's devilish plot to bring about the One World Religion and Government which will herald beginning of the Great Tribulation. Alberto spins an all-encompassing, impossibly web-like conspiracy theory, an unfortunate conflation of Pynchon and Hitler. Under the guidance of Satan, according to Alberto, the Roman Catholic church is responsible for nearly every evil event in world history. The Alberto series renders 9/11, UFO, and JFK conspiracy theories positively comforting. Even the dreaded Illuminati, usually the shadowy umbrella organization behind all conspiracies, is merely a side project of the Jesuit order, and subordinate to the Vatican.

With heady and convoluted intricacies that would make Dan Brown jealous, no one should be surprised to see continual efforts by ever-emboldened fundamentalist Christian crusaders to exploit ideas originally championed by Jack Chick.

See Also:
Death at Christmas
Christmas 2.0: Subverting the Holidays With Redubbing
Christmas with Hitler
They're Dreaming of a Boobs Christmas

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

Author Slash Trickster “JT LeRoy”

Laura Albert, aka, JT LeRoy

Of course, we can't assert anything positively about Monsieur Derrida's recent failure to exist; we can't even state that he ever did exist, since he may have been a mere metaphysical projection of our own prejudices against absolutes. However, in as much as we may categorically claim anything — Mr. Derrida will not likely be showing up for work tomorrow. Although, who is to say?
— Jacques Chirac, President de la Republique Francais, 2004

First of all, they're great fuckin' books. Some books are a cool read. They grab you. But then they let you go. The JT LeRoy books, The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things, Sarah, and Harold's End gnaw on your bones. They stay with you, if you let them. (I just caught the last fifteen minutes of the film version of The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things on IFC and it brought it all back.) But then again, maybe you just kicked them out of your head because the writer turned out to be a woman in her thirties and not a boy in his teens. Your loss.

The story of the "literary hoax" has been told elsewhere, and I don't think Laura Albert particularly wants me to add my version to the cacophony. And so I'm going to respect those wishes. For those of you geeks who only pay attention to science fiction, Google "JT LeRoy" and feast on the mediated pathos. Meanwhile, Laura Albert had other kinds of food on her mind when she joined me on the RU Sirius Show just before Thanksgiving. Indeed, you might say that Laura Albert, AKA JT LeRoy, is a riddle wrapped in an enigma, then wrapped again in dough brushed with eggs and sprinkled with sesame seeds, and baked at 375 degrees for about 12 minutes.

In other words, she's a simple gal who likes food, good friends and the odd, occasional, scandalously-complex, literative meta-performance; apparently in that order. "We only did it for the fame," snarled Johnny Rotten, frontin' for prankster/hypster Malcolm McLaren's Great Rock ’n' Roll Swindle. "I only did it for the food," Albert would explain about two decades later.

Necessity may be the mother of re-invention, but nothin' says lovin' like something from the oven.

My tuneful co-host Diana Brown joined in this conversation.
To listen to the entire interview in MP3, click here.

RU SIRIUS: Thanks for inviting us to several parties including one for the cover interview with you in Paris Review. It was nice to see you surrounded by people who love you and care about you — perhaps a different image than some people might have from a distance. Tell us about being included in the Paris Review — an excellent interview.

LAURA ALBERT: I've heard such good feedback from the people who have read it; I just had the feeling that the proper medium would come. I turned down Rolling Stone. I turned down Vanity Fair. I was honored, but I just felt like when Paris Review came it was — they're a literary magazine and I'm a writer. And at the end of the day, what I'm interested in is people who take problems of the spirit, problems of the soul, and transform them into problems of craft. We weren't hanging out with Paris Hilton. I don't know her.

RU: [Ironically] Hell of a writer, though.

LA: That's why you don't see pictures of us hanging with Paris. It's all those novels she wrote, you know? You know, when you do an interview with someone and then they write it up, you're reading somebody's interpretation. They put their projections onto you. It's going to be, "She sits there and she is reflecting on boogers and"... whatever the hell — it's their take. And with Paris Review, it's just a Q&A. And it was the senior editor who came out. He was wonderful. My friends became friends with his friends. It was like family, and I think it was because the whole articulation was just so different being around people who know me. Nobody who knows me has said anything about it all. They don't need their three minutes of fame to say, "Oh, this is who she is or who she isn't."

RU: It's funny that you mention turning down Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair. Because in the literary world, Paris Review is it. It's a huge thing.

LA: I always felt like I would never be in Paris Review. I remember my friend was talking to me, this wonderful writer who's a real mentor to me, and she felt kind of snubbed by Plimpton when he was around. And I remember just thinking, "Man, if they're doing this to you, they will never mention my name! Forget it!" And to be on the cover was just, like — it's pretty amazing.

RU: It's a sign of a respect for your work.

LA: What's really funny is: you can have these people talking smack about it, you know, "She's this and that." But the fact is, it's the Paris Review. If there wasn't some value to my work, which, you know, that's the thing that has been questioned...

RU: Right. That's true. And If you get the cover of Vanity Fair, that's questionable. It could be about the gossip.

LA: Well, it means you've got nice tits. Wait a minute, no — I have nice tits, I could do that.

RU: It seems like we ought to live in a culture where people can try on different personas pretty easily. Wasn't that the point of virtual reality?

LA: Yeah, I'm amazed at how [sighs] — everyone asks the question, "Why? Why did you do it?" A friend of mine says, "You know, people have said you did it for the celebrity. You did it for the money." What money? But he said, "I know why you did it." He said, "You did it for the food." I said, "Yes! Yes!" That's true. I did it for the fucking food.

RU: So what kind of food did you wind up bumping into? Does JT LeRoy get different food than Laura?

LA: [Singing] "Is it worth the waiting for, if we live till 84 all we'll ever get is gruel (ah) Every day we say a prayer, will we change the bill of fare, still we get the same old gruel (ah!). There's not a crust, not a crumb can we find can we beg can we borrow or cadge. But there's nothing to stop us from getting a thrill — wait — when we all close our eyes and ima-gine Food! Glorious foo-ood [Co-host Diana Brown joins in] Hot sausage and mustard! Ma, we're in the moo-ood. Cold jelly and custard."

DIANA BROWN: [Giggles] Yes! You sing far better than I! I do love that phenomenal segment from "Oliver." But food, let's go back to fo-o-od.

LA: Yeah, that was it for me. When we were going around the world and everything, it's like, there's that celebrity, but I'm like, "Where's the hors d'oeuvres?" Because I was a ward of the state. I was in a group home where we would get these Type 10 cans, where they come in with the peanut butter.

DB: Like the #10 S.E. Rykoff Industrial size...

LA: Yeah! That's it! That's it! I'm always amazed when you go to these events... I used to write for 7x7 and...

RU: Wine and cheese.

LEROY: Well, these women don't eat! It's the iced tea and a salad kind of scene.

DB: Right. The "society x-rays" in the front row of the fashion shows.

LA: We were at this one party, I can't remember the hotel, and we situated ourselves with a shopping bag by the kitchen. [Laughs] And the wait-people were running from us. They were running! And it was like, "Come on back here, baby!"

DB: [Laughs] You're all seducing the wait staff to get the canapes.

LA: If it came to that...Celebrities? No, I want the waiter!

RU: But did Savannah get some food that should've gone to you? (Maybe we should tell people about Savannah.)

LA: They can read some tea leaves and they can make it up. [Laughs]

RU: Google JT LeRoy and then make up a new story.

DB: [Laughs] They seem to already.

RU: But do tell, what did Savannah get to enjoy? Some fine foods?

LA: That was the thing, we both really enjoyed eating. I was grateful it wasn't just me, because now when it's me, and I make an appearance, it's not the same.

RU: You brought some music with you and we're going to play it.

LA: When I was in New York and I was a punk, I loved The Avengers. There were very few female singers. In the punk world, if you were a girl, it was OK if you were the girlfriend or if you "made yourself useful."

DB: Sewed costumes for the band.

LA: Yeah, sewed costumes. It was replicating what mainstream rock and roll was. And it was supposed to be the promise of the difference. So the fact that she (Penelope Houston) opened for the Sex Pistols' and there were these two songs that were just amazing to me. I sang them all the time. So to be able to record them — I recorded them with Jerry Harrison.

RU: Formerly of the Talking Heads.

LA: Yeah, that was really amazing. I'll tell you one funny story. We were there with one of the producers who had worked on it. And we were there at this table at this really nice restaurant in Sausalito. And they complimented me about my voice, which was really nice. We had recorded some original stuff too, and then they complimented me about some lyrics I had added. And I said, "Well, I actually wrote all the lyrics. And also I wrote all the JT stuff and everything." And there was this moment of silence and then everybody just burst out laughing. I realized, no one was ever going to believe me. I always told people, "I wrote the books." And the reaction was always like this "Prince and the Pauper" thing. People would call up "JT" and say, "You gotta watch your back, because that speedy chick is just megalomaniacal — trying to to take credit for your work!"

RU: The role of women in the hardcore punk scene was real weird actually. Hardcore punk had this macho thing going on, I guess.

LA: There was this whole straight-edge thing going on. I spoke to Steve Blush about this. And the whole straight-edge thing was — you don't drink; you don't smoke; you don't fuck. And I really loved that idea, because really all the drugs going on in the hardcore scene, the punk scene, were really sad. Most everyone came from a really horrible background and it just wasn't making anything better. So here came this movement that made it cool to not use. But the backstory was that it was very misogynistic. There really was rage at women. And I met a guy who told me that he was this other guy's lover. And the guy was not out. It was closeted. There were all these DC kids where, if they fucked — if they engaged with a woman, they would have their heads shaved as punishment. It was this boy's club, and I couldn't figure it out. Once again, it was just like, "Shit!" You know, here's something where you think, well, it's an opportunity to be a participant and an equal, and the doors are shut. "You don't got the genitals fer it! Nope, I'm sorry!"

RU: I don't think I have the genitals for it, actually. I was in what I thought was a hardcore band in Rochester, New York in the early 80s, and if I'd known...

LA: The problem was Rochester. That was the problem. I don't know if it was your lack of rocks, or your preponderance of rocks. I don't know if I want to know.

RU: If I'd known what was going on in hardcore in some of these other cities, I would've turned into a folk singer immediately.

LA: I could picture you kind of like doing sort of an Ali G sort of "Kumbaya" thing, you know, with a banjo going. My mom used to took me — [laughs] "took me." My momma took me! Yeah, that was the start of all my problems. No — I used to go to Pete Seeger when I was a kid. It was the protest stuff. It was definitely early punk.

So let's talk about food!

RU: All right.

LA: My birthday! You were there.

RU: I started asking you about Savannah and whether she got your food.

DB: Yeah, did she get the coconut shrimp and you had to do the Levage rolls, how did that snack hierarchy break down?

RU: Talk about food and friendship.

LA: We're both ladies who munch. But the funny thing is — very often, someone would ask her, "Do you want this? Are you thirsty?" And in the group home, if someone offered you something, maybe you don't want it, but somebody else does.

DB: You always accept.

LA: Right. Maybe I don't want it, but maybe someone else does. You never say no. You're always open. Because everything is of use and you've got a big family that you've got to provide for. You know. It was just a little bit of a mindset...

RU: So the idea of sharing food..

LA: No, no, no, I'm not talking about food. I would probably bite it out of somebody's hand. I probably have. Actually, even my first oral sex experience was with whipped cream. I mean, I wasn't going to put that thing in my mouth without a healthy dosing of whipped cream. It's scary, you know?

RU: It looks better in whipped cream also, I think. With a cherry on top.

LA: Do you find that? You can take little cotton balls and just kind of approximate it too.

RU: I don't think cotton balls, no. It's not really the thing.

LA: You might not get a girl. You might get a dental hygienist who might get turned on by that.

RU: Don't even talk to me about dental hygenists. (The right side of RU's mouth was all messed up thanks to dental surgery that week.)

LA: Well I'm trying to make positive associations. I'm doing it for you.

RU: You're re-framing my negative experiences.

LA: Next time you see them coming at you with the cotton balls, you won't think Novocaine shot or Marathon Man. You'll think, oral sex! See? I've opened your horizons.

RU: On this show we're only allowed to think about anal sex, I think we established that with a previous guest. "Yay, Anal!" was a theme in an earlier program.

DB: It was a theme. It just kept coming up.

LA: So to speak

DB: Ooo.

RU: Do we have a tight-ass culture, do you think?

DB: Speaking of anal sex.

LA: I don't know. I'm from New York. I did do phone sex. I mean, I spoke to so many people who would get deoderant bottles stuck up inside them.

RU: Sure, yeah. The hospitals always have people with light bulbs up there and so forth.

LA: Yeah, hot light bulbs. They put them in; they grease them up; they're warm. But for me, it's not edible, so I'm really not that interested.

Well, you guys came to my birthday! Did you try the vegan cake?

RU: Umm... we got there sort of late. I had something very sweet, actually.

LA: I went to Deadwood, South Dakota, because I work on the HBO show Deadwood, and my son's on the show. And I spent all last year there, and it was pretty amazing... And some of the cast-members were there and they have fans in town and they have this "Wild Bill Hickok Day." And it really brought back how graced we are in San Francisco with food. The quality of the food there — it was all Cisco food products straight off the van. And no matter what they tried to do, they were working with the same product. And you can just scrape off the pesticides with a knife. And, I mean — the level of obesity there — it's the idea of quantity over quality. There was one place called the Corn Exchange in Rapid City that didn't have massive mounds of food, and people were upset. It's just filler! It's like the casino culture.

RU: On the other hand, I've been to some restaurants that are very upscale and they give you so little food and the cost is...

LA: And as a Jew, doesn't that just kill you? I mean, as a New York Jew, it's just like, "What?! Hello!"

DB: I do murder mysteries, and one of the lessons is: Never take an actor's food. One of my friends was joining the company and she came to watch the rehearsal. And she started taking the other actor's food: "Are you going to eat that?" You just don't take an actor's or a musician's food.

LA: My book Sarah — it's just all about the food. I mean, there's transgendered stuff and sex and all that other kinds of stuff in there too but it's like an ideal world. I mean, an actual, transgendered truck stop — it wouldn't exist. Especially borderline South, it just wouldn't be allowed. So, you know — I created a place — this magical world where people can exist and this magic could exist — the food, the people of different genders and different sexuality. And instead of being murdered, they were actually aspired to.

DB: In the Paris Review interview, they asked about stories and their protagonists, and you mentioned Peter Pan. Talking about food makes me think of the scene where the Lost Boys envision any food that they want to eat and it can just magically appear before them. Do you think that might have been some influence?

LA: One thing — we got exposed to such a rich culture. It was a very different world from the group home. I was always amazed when we'd go into the houses of people who were fabulously wealthy and their refrigerator was just like Sam's Club.

I mean, one thing I did early on was I found that writing is like barter. I know so many people who barter in the city for all kinds of goods.

RU: You wrote for Web magazine many years back, like me. What name did you use?

LA: Laura Victoria. I did the sex column.

RU: And did they pay you in food?

LA: No, but I found a way to parlay that into...

RU: You get invited to a lot of stuff.

LA: Yeah, I'm not really a party kind of — You know, it's like, if you've seen one pregnant slut sucking off an elephant, you've seen them all. [Stunned silence] Don't you find that to be true, RU?

RU: You know, I'm going to have to dream about that. I'm going to meditate on that.

LA: You're still on the cotton balls?

RU: I believe I've seem some dog action on film, but...

LA: "I don't know if I can handle this."

RU: It could be rough. Before we let you go, let's bring it back to writing just for a minute.

LA: I want to talk about my birthday — what I did on my birthday. So what would you like to ask me about my birthday?

RU: Happy birthday? So how old are you?

LA: I'm a 41-year-old soccer mom. I think some articles kind of referred to me like that. Nothing against soccer moms. My son doesn't play soccer, but...

RU: He'd be allowed to, though, if he did.

LA: [Laughs] Yeah, I think so. He runs fast. He kicks balls pretty hard.

RU: I'll bet he does. You taught him well.

LA: The apple doesn't fall far from the gosh-darn tree.

RU: All right, speaking of kicking balls....

See Also:
Neil Gaiman Has Lost His Clothes
Beyond the 'Zipless Fuck' With Erica Jong
An Interview with Douglas Rushkoff
Is The Net Good For Writers?

ABCNews + Amanda Congdon – Rocketboom = Whuh?

Her first story: "Only Folgers has the aroma-sealed cannister."

Wait, what? Oh. It's an ad. Before the video blog. (I'm sorry Amanda, but I'll have to deduct a point for that.) At least the ad refreshes every time you watch her show. The second time it was plugging a Chase Bank credit card. The Rolling Stones sold one of their earliest songs to the monolithic financial institution. (Ironically, they sing "I'm free to do what I want, any old time.") Everyone has their price, I'm thinking — just as ABC's official four-note news jingle introduced their newly acquired video blogger.

"Hello and welcome!" she coos — and the historic moment has arrived. "I'm Amanda Congdon, videoblogging for ABC News! Each week, take a little break, a little trip with me."

Each week? Whoa. I guess any breaking news on Thursday will have to wait until next Wednesday. That's very Web 1.0. I really think they should've hired kidnapped, tortured, and "re-educated" Ze Frank, and given the show to him.

Amanda is the show's co-producer, which raises the question of whether her show will get too self-indulgent. The first impression wasn't promising. "One of my favorite things to do is explore, online and off," she begins, "so that's just what we're going to do!" She then stops the show to acknowledge co-producer Jason, adds that he doesn't want to come on camera, and teases him for being "such a big baby." My first thought was that she doesn't have the stage presence to carry off this kind of empty banter without the fast edits they'd augmented her with at Rocketboom (and even then...).

But I was grateful that the tone turned quirky and peremptory. "As I was driving to work today [footage of Amanda driving to work], I thought about just how much JavaScript sucks."

Hooray! I'm thinking. Something geeky, and esoteric!

"Yeah! Let's go with JavaScript for my new show at ABC," she says. Later I'd ask myself why the vlog's script specifically included this segment? I can only guess they're trying to show us one of two things.

1. Amanda dreams up her own ideas, spontaneously.
2. They're teasing mainstream viewers by pretending it's going to be very geeky — before abandoning the premise altogether.

"ABC," Amanda continues, arriving at work. "An appropriate place to start the day." Okay, now you've said "ABC" twice. Don't make me deduct another point for flagrant corporate fellating.

"After scanning the headlines I followed an advertiser link to, where I found—"

Bzzt! Okay, that's it. Apparently this show is just a way to pimp paid sponsors on the web site of Amanda's new broadcast network overlords.

She swings that rubbery neck in her signature style (what a move!) and summarizes the New York Times' story about spam, makes a single wise-crack, and then moves on to another story she found on their site — people surfing in Cleveland.

She included a video question from her "discovery," vlogger William Hung — a kid in serious need of a brisk slap to the side of the head for that affected non-accent.

"I want you to be seen and be heard," she says later. "Every week I release a new episode and I think it would be so much more fun to do it together. Let's re-invent the host viewer relationship and truly make this a two-way street." That's very "Web-me-too point oh" of her. Let's see if she can pull it off.

Out of all the amazingly cool videos on the web, the one she found was a woman using her Wii and doing some karate-like dance moves. Maybe the message here is that Amanda really is open to showing your home movies. If she truly opened her doors to a flood of user-submitted videos — that could be interesting. Maybe.

There are times where her enthusiastic cadence actually does add something to the story, but mostly she has to artificially synchronize it with the words in her script — like the one for virtual snowflakes. ("It's so cool," she reads, "how you can drag your cursor across them, and read and comment...") If Robert Altman were directing this, he'd have her bantering spontaneously about the sites with her co-producers, then edit together moments of genuine spontaneous enthusiasm. (Both this vlog and Amanda's work at Rocketboom were the polar opposite of spontaneous.)

Rocketboom's stories were always mildly interesting, but maddeningly lacking in real drama or excitement. Now at ABC, Amanda's story choices were reasonably interesting — the new blood substitute she covered had been overlooked by nearly every other news site. It was nice to see footage of Tori Spelling's infamous garage sale, along with some appropriately cynical commentary about how "it blurs the lines between reality and fiction." Her detachment can work against her efforts to welcome user submissions, but it does position her to offer a counter-commentary. (Or as the New York Times puts it, "The news, it seems, kind of grosses her out.") But I was disappointed that the show wasn't geekier. ("In case you're wondering, we are working on the whole JavaScript thing," Amanda says at the end.) I'm guessing she doesn't really know much about technology. She's no Gina Smith — who successfully made the transition from technology journalist to ABC on-air talent before becoming a technology CEO.

The show doesn't really end. There's an ad, and then another clip of Amanda, and then another ad, and then another clip of Amanda. ABC hits you with everything in their multimedia vault, like a malfunctioning jukebox. Although I appreciate that Amanda recorded two separate pleas for user-submitted content.

Then she included a special report by Kenny Munich, who doesn't shine until he's had his Folgers. Then he bakes muffins.

Oh wait. That's another ad....

See also:
Worst Video Blogs of 2006
Interview With Valleywag Nick Douglas
Where in the World is Nick Douglas?
Don't Go There: 20 Taboo Topics for Presidential Candidates
Is Iraq really THAT bad?

A Christmas Conspiracy

I was hanging out with my friend Gigi last week when the subject of TV Christmas specials came up.

Now, Gigi is one of the few people left in my peer group who, when presented with the name "Jesus," still thinks of our Lord and Savior, and not of a purple-clad pederast bowler, so you can imagine my shock at her choice of words regarding these perennial chestnuts of network broadcasting.

"I fucking hate those goddamned things," she spat. "All those Rankin/Bass cartoons and claymation things — I hate them."

I was flummoxed. Okay, well, for whatever reason I'm pretty corny about Christmas, and I watch "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" every year, but at the same time always thought "Frosty the Snowman" was gay as hell. So I cut her a little slack.

But certainly she must have had a soft spot for "A Charlie Brown Christmas"! Even the most godless of hellbound heathens at least gets a kick out of the sexual tension betwixt Schroeder and Lucy van Pelt.

"Oh god, I hate Charlie Brown worst of all. He's a total pussy, and Lucy is a little bitch who needs to get slapped."

I took a strong quaff of my holiday porter and struggled to get my bearings. My whole universe had been upended. But her reasoning was rather compelling — she pointed out that each and every one of these specials was fucked up in its own way, and depressing as hell.

Let's take a look at the most high-profile suspects, shall we?

» A Charlie Brown Christmas — Charlie is not only subject to constant derision by the ruthless hussies of the neighborhood, but also is practically (and literally, in the version found here) crucified like The Big J himself for bringing back a tree not to their liking. It takes Linus' fire-and-brimstone preaching to scare the cunts back to humanity.

» Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer — Boy, where do we start with THIS gem? Well, first, there's the total douchebag fascist of a Santa, grumpily employing an army of midgets with an iron fist. Then there's Rudolph's drunken, abusive prick of a dad, who's so bad that Rudolph has to run away. A little bit more realism and Rudolph would have ended up a gay street hustler on Santa Monica Blvd. And don't get me started on the eugenics experiment known as the Island of Misfit Toys.

» Frosty the Snowman — As previously mentioned, I was never a big fan of this one, but it's worthy of note simply because they manage to snuff out the main character. Of a Christmas special. Ouch.

» The Year Without a Santa Claus — Everyone loves Heat Miser and Snow Miser, but one of the reasons they stick out so much in this special is that even Santa himself is so depressed that he's about to go out like Goering at Nuremberg.

Strangely enough, in all my years of watching these Christmas specials, I hadn't really noticed The Pattern — not a single one of these shows presented a cheery vision of the yuletide season. But now I had swallowed the blue pill and could see it all for what it was — clearly a conspiracy (by the Masons? Jews??) to thin the population by driving the most emotionally vulnerable of us to blow out our brain stems when the Heat Miser shows up.

What easier way to deal with a global population that's spiraling out of control? Certainly there's little other incentive for ABC and CBS to keep trotting these dinosaurs out; each year brings diminishing returns in the ratings department, as the specials are hardly even promoted, and parents who give a shit have already bought "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" from the DVD bargain bin.

Maybe the most diabolical aspect of the conspiracy is how it's managed to identify the weakest of our race, like the wounded wildebeests they are. Yes, I'm talking about the few poor bastards out there at the mercy of a pair of rabbit ears and coked-up TV execs, forced to subsist on the meager crumbs of network TV.

I can remember one dark Christmas season when I was one of them, the huddled masses of immigrants, white trash, buggerers and thieves. I'm pretty sure the only channel I could get on my aluminum foil-enabled coat-hanger antenna was ABC, and "A Charlie Brown Christmas" was on. So I watched it.

I was doing pretty well at first. As sad as Vince Guaraldi's music is, I am sometimes actually comforted by melancholy music, so that was okay. It was only after Charlie Brown got that fuckin' sad-sack tree that my psyche became unhinged. By the time Linus started quoting scripture, I was busy writing my last note in Crayon with my head stuck in the oven.

Luckily, just as I was drifting into blissful unconsciousness, I remembered that the first Victoria's Secret Fashion Show was due to air that next week, and the prospect of rubbing one out to free TV (quite a rarity) reinvigorated my soul. In the interim between that first live-action lingerie catalog and this year, we've seen the rise of, among other things, affordable HDTV. Rabbit ears are a thing of the past, and angel wings —in their digital sexiness — are the future.

If the theme of the old Christmas specials was in fact that the holidays are red in tooth and claw, then that suggests evolution — analog begets digital, dour animation begets barely-clad boner bait. So maybe it isn't such a lamentable plot after all. I might even venture to say, "It's a Wonderful Conspiracy!"

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

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

The Crooks of the World Hurt Copyright, Free Speech

Note: The above screen capture is from a 2005 Fox News Channel appearance. The image has been re-inserted on November 15th, 10 business days after filing a counter-notice (PDF) in response to a DMCA takedown notice filed by Michael Crook which forced its removal soon after it was originally published.

Michael Crook claims to be a "friend" of copyright law, but he takes his twisted notion of friendship to a dangerous extreme. On his "Facts vs. Fiction" page, he says that, while he supports free expression, "copyright holders have stronger rights than the idiots whining about 'free speech.'"

However, his recent abuse of the DMCA has not only jeopardized free speech rights, but also the rights of copyright holders on the Web. In addition to being a blatant attack on the free expression of critical commentary, Crook's false DMCA filings may make it harder for Webmasters with legitimate copyright issues to resolve them efficiently and effectively.

Crook's antics, in the long run, may even lead to new legislation that will make it more difficult to fight scraping, content theft and plagiarism.

Safe Harbor Abuse: A Brief History

The safe harbor provisions of the DMCA, when compared to the anti-circumvention provisions, have largely escaped controversy. However, abuses of the provisions via the notice and takedown procedure Crook is so fond of, did not begin with Crook.

The most famous case of DMCA abuse involved the Church of Scientology (COS) who, in 2002, filed a DMCA notice with Google to get many of their critics delisted from the search engine. Though the content was re-listed following counter-notices, the issue drew a great deal of attention to the potential for abuse that came with the safe harbor provisions.

Sadly, the Church of Scientology's abuse of the DMCA has continued since then. At least one site was the recipient of a DMCA notice in September 2005 and the Church has sent so many that they have been nicknamed “Avagrams” after Ava Paquette, the COS attorney that signs most of them. There is even a song spoofing Avagrams.

The potential for safe harbor abuse was brought to light again in November of 2005 when the University of Southern California released a study (PDF) that claimed 30% percent of all DMCA notices “presented an obvious question for a court (a clear fair use argument, complaints about uncopyrightable material, and the like).”

Though the study had several flaws in it, especially in regards to its sample, it raised several questions about the viability of the safe harbor provisions and was widely circulated in copyright circles.

When put in this context, it appears that the Michael Crook notices are just another in a long string of DMCA abuses. However, as the EFF lawsuit shows, this is no ordinary case of safe harbor abuse — it is something much larger and much more dangerous.

Extreme Abuse

The Michael Crook notices are not a simple matter of a copyright dispute that should be settled by a court. He didn't just omit information on the DMCA notice or make an honest mistake in the complicated world of copyright law. There are with Crook no intricate fair use debates, or nuanced questions about complicated copyright issues. It's about as cut and dry as copyright law gets.

Michael Crook does not own the copyright to the image in question. It is that simple. With photographs and videos, copyright law protects the photographer, not the model. It even says so on the United States Copyright Office Web site in plain English. Despite his claims of holding a “copyright interest” in the work, its copyright belongs squarely to Fox News, who has given clearance to use it.

However, even if Michael Crook did own said copyright, the use is almost certainly fair. Transformative uses, uses which are for a different purpose than the original, are almost always protected as fair use, especially if they are for commentary/criticism and do not impact the potential market for the original work. It's almost impossible to imagine any judge deeming this use to be infringing.

The problem with such a flagrant abuse is that it creates a backlash that, while understandable, often goes too far. While there is certainly a need to change the DMCA to add protections against false notices and hosts should be more intelligent about how they handle DMCA notices, there is still a need for hosts and copyright holders to work together to fight cases of infringement that go beyond what is generally considered acceptable on the Web.

Without cooperation, the Web becomes even more ripe for spam blogs, massive content theft, plagiarism and other abuses of the liberal ideas about sharing that have become the norm on the Web. However, the Michael Crooks of the world only breed mistrust, making hosts more hostile, instead of merely skeptical, about copyright infringement claims. This can prompt them to reject potentially valid complaints, leading to both headaches for Webmasters and legal troubles for the host.

It can also prompt both hosts and users to move their servers to countries with weak copyright laws, even if they have no plans on engaging in copyright infringement. Though the EU, Canada and Australia all have some form of safe harbor legislation, many other nations do not and if false DMCA notices become a problem major hosting operations might shift to or start up in those countries, meaning that no recourse will be possible for those with legitimate concerns.

This could recreate the lawlessness that was common when the Internet first started, making the Web not just easier for those that wish to infringe copyright, but also for those that want to peddle scams and generally pollute the Web.

However, the greatest problems with these false notices might start at home.

The Voters Are Restless

Free speech is probably the most valued right in the United States. Though both free speech and copyright are protected by the U.S. Constitution, it's the first amendment that most, including myself, hold the closest to their hearts.

When free speech rights are attacked, people respond. If false DMCA notices become enough of a problem, it is only a matter of time before voters take notice. If that happens, then politicians will take notice and the law will likely be rewritten.

However, the United States safe harbor provisions already provide a great deal of protection against false notices, especially when compared to the EU system (PDF). If hosts were wiser about how they handled notices rather than simply rubber stamping them as they crossed their desk, false notices would be much less of an issue.

Still, some changes to the DMCA would be welcome. However, there is always a risk that Congress will make things many times worse on the second try. If they slip up either way, throwing up too many roadblocks or offering too little protection, the effect on the Web could be catastrophic.

Copyright is a delicate balance and it is a balance generally best set not by lawmakers, but by public consensus and market forces. Those with smarter copyright policies will go farther than those with bad ones.

However, dramatic shifts in the law might make it impossible to find such an equilibrium. The current system isn't perfect by any stretch, but individuals and organizations have done a great job expanding on it to find a more realistic balance.

For that kind of building to continue, copyright law cooperation and consistency, both in law and practice, will be key.


The best possible outcome for this case would be a swift victory by the EFF and Diehl. Hopefully that will deter future abuses of the safe harbor provisions and encourage hosts to develop more intelligent processes for handling DMCA complaints.

Fortunately, that outcome seems all but certain. The copyright issues are about as clear cut as they can be and Crook seems to be doing very little to further his case.

In the end, Michael Crook himself is not much of a threat to free speech or copyright. However, the Michael Crooks of the world, are.

Other 10 Zen Monkeys articles on Michael Crook

Jonathan Bailey is the author of the Plagiarism Today blog.

Wonderful Wizardry of ‘Woz’

Woz and David Lee Roth

It is decidedly a nerd biography. iWoz: From Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It by Steve Wozniak (the true creator of the original Apple) and Gina Smith, shows how Woz thinks, eats and breathes like an engineer. Most of the high points in his personal narrative revolve around moments when he figures out how stuff works, gets stuff to work, or executes some offbeat prank.

Co-author Gina Smith joined Will Block and myself on the NeoFiles Show to chat about all things Steve. Smith herself has a great history in tech reportage, including ten years writing "Inside Silicon Valley," a column for the San Francisco Chronicle, and six years as the technology correspondent for "World News Tonight with Peter Jennings."

The wonderful wizard, Woz himself, has said he would come in for a follow up show, and we intend to hold his feet to the fire. Literally. But in keeping with Woznakian ethics, we'll remove his feet long before a harmless prank crosses over into the realm of cruelty.
To listen to the entire interview in MP3, click here.

RU SIRIUS: "iWoz" is not a conventional biography where you might expect some pathos, some childhood trauma, or whatever. It's totally an engineer's biography. The major scenes are the ones where he figures out how something works.

GINA SMITH: One of the first things he told me in our interviews was that he had never understood what his dad did for a living. Around the house, it was this big secret. And what dad did was — he was designing the Polaris missile. It was super high-tech, top-secret stuff that he couldn't talk about at home. In a way, that's what drove Steve to be an engineer. He wanted to understand the stuff that his father couldn't talk about. In his childhood, he became fascinated with this world of transistors and resistors and diodes and putting together little projects. He was this little 200 IQ geek in 1960 California.

RU: And his father really encouraged him.

GS: His dad was sort of a teacher for him. He would use a blackboard. And while his dad couldn't really get into it with him about what he did for a living, he was happy to say, "OK, here's how electricity works. Here's what a vacuum is. Here's an electron. Here's what happens when an electron goes through a wire. Here's what happens when it doesn't. This is a one and this is a zero." He's showing Steve how an AND gate and an OR gate works — the basic fundamentals of electronics. He explained all of that to Steve before he was even out of fifth grade.

RU: And he explained it all it in a way that helped him become an engineer. He started at the bottom of the process.

GS: That's how Steve explained it. He'd ask something like, "Well, how does a computer work?" And his dad wouldn't say, "Well, here's how a computer works." He would say, "Well, do you understand how electricity works? Because without electrons, there's no computing. Do you understand what an atom is? Let's look at the positive charge and the negative charge and how these things flow." And from that bottom, he would go all the way up until Steve truly understood, from the basics, how computers at that time worked.

WILL BLOCK: What comes across in the bio is an incredible purity, innocence and delight in learning how the world works.

GS: That's what the tapes of my interviews with Steve sound like. It's all, "Wow! And then I was able to develop the Apple I, and... Wow! Then I was able to add color, and... Wow!" He hasn't lost that innocence. He hasn't lost that sense of enthusiasm. When he looks back, you can see that youthful kind of vigor in his face.

RU: He won a sixth grade science project by doing something kind of amazing.

GS: He essentially built a giant calculator in the 6th grade. This was before handheld calculators. It added or subtracted numbers. And basically, that's all a computer needs to do in order to do everything else — it has to add and subtract. The judges took one look at this thing and he was awarded a ride on a jet. He was always known as the science and math whiz, since he was five-years-old. What my editors at Norton wanted answered in the book was, "Why Steve?" Why did he get to be the one who invented the personal computer and not a myriad of other people? And that's what we tried to answer. Well, Steve was always miles ahead of his peers in terms of understanding electronics.

WB: Timing has a lot to do with computers and seems like a good metaphor for why it was him. He came into a unique environment with a lot of enthusiasm.

GS: Now we have to include Steve Jobs in this discussion. Steve Jobs looked at this little invention that Steve Wozniak has come up with. It was essentially a board that allowed you to input data using a typewriter keyboard and output it using an RCA TV screen — it had to be the RCA. Steve Jobs looked at this and said, "Hey! I bet we could make fifty of these! And sell 'em!"

RU: The sound of ka-ching is heard by Steve Jobs.

GS: He was only 21 years old, and Steve Wozniak was 26. Steve Wozniak's dad thought this was all very funny.

RU: What was it like working with Woz? Was it hard to get him to tell his story? Did you have to do a lot of coaxing?

GS: It was a lot of coaxing. I met him through a friend of mine who had met him at a Grateful Dead concert. I said, "I'd love his email address." Because when I started covering technology in 1988, Steve Wozniak was already gone. He was out of technology, so I never had a reason to interview him.

So I asked Steve, "Have you ever thought about doing an autobiography?" And he said he tried it a few times, but had always sent the money back because he had never been
able to get a writer to do his voice.

So once we had our deal; in my mind, I was scared to death we were going to have to send the money back. This is how I make my money — writing books! Maybe Steve can send back a big advance, but I'd have to sell the house! So I was very very careful, in working with him, to always go over the chapters and make sure that he was always aware that I was trying to make it sound exactly like he speaks. That has gotten us a little criticism because people read it and say, "Hey, it sounds like somebody's talking!"

RU: It has an "As Told To" flavor. But that's who he is.

GS: That's what it is!

RU: Did you ever want more "blood on the tracks" from him? More heaviness?

GS: Yes. We met two or three times a week for a year, and we either met at a coffee place called Pearls in the West Portal district of San Francisco, or we met at the Hickory Pit, which is a barbecue place in Sunnyvale. I'm a vegetarian, and I spent the whole year smelling meat and talking to Steve Wozniak. I thought we'd get all this kind of dirt, politics, Steve Jobs... what was going on in the early days of Apple. And what I quickly discovered was Steve Wozniak wasn't privy to that. Steve Wozniak was an engineer whose head was in a breadboard. He wasn't paying attention to what was going on. They put him in a building all by himself and said, "Complete the floppy drive." So in terms of the down and dirty politicking happening, there's not a lot of new stuff.

RU: I like the story about how they named the company Apple. Most people assumed that it was the influence of The Beatles. But there's a great story about Wozniak picking up Jobs at the airport.

GS: Talk about coaxing; it took me probably eight months to get Steve Wozniak to tell me how the word "apple" came up. He was resistant to talking about it. And finally, the story came out. He had picked Steve Jobs up from the airport. And Steve Jobs had been living in a commune up in Oregon that was an apple orchard. So that was just the name that popped into his head, coming out of the commune — apple. And they both loved it. And think about how fresh that name was in 1975. They had the immediate concern — what about Apple records?

RU: ...which only recently became a problem.

GS: Steve Jobs said "No, that's music. This is computers. How could that possibly be a problem?"

RU: More than anything else, it seems Woz loves being a prankster

GS: If you look through history, a lot of geniuses and people of this ilk have also been pranksters. I couldn't get Steve to stop telling me about pranks. In fact, most of the time, I wanted to get all this Apple stuff, and he wanted to talk about the time that he pretended he was Henry Kissinger and called the Pope. And I'm like, "This is funny, but I want the Apple stuff in the book." He could do a whole book of pranks.

RU: He did his first prank when he was very young.

GS: The first one was when Richard Nixon was running for governor in California. It was really his mom's idea. He got this pranksterism I think, in part, from his mom. I've met her and she's a real card. When he was 10 or 11, she had him walk up to Nixon at a campaign rally with a placard that said that the ham radio operators of our little town back Nixon. And Nixon signed the placard, and someone took a picture and it was on the front page of the San Jose Mercury News. In fact, there was no ham radio group and Steve Wozniak was probably the only ham radio operator anywhere near California at that time — certainly the youngest

RU: He evolved and developed a taste for pranks after that.

GS: I think it's a way of dealing with his shyness, too, He talks a lot, and he talks rapidly, but he's very shy. These pranks are a way to get people laughing, get people comfortable.

We used to spend the beginning of almost every interview with, "Pick a card, any card." I'd be doing card tricks with him. And I'd be like, "O—kay. When are we going to get to the interview?" And he'd be, like, "Look at my lasers and how I can put them through my ears!" And I'd be, like, "O—kay! When are we going to get to the interview here?!"

WB: A prank is a form of creativity, and it continues on and on since you get to tell people about it again and again, so you revivify it. That's the kind of spark of creative genius that some need as a trigger.

GS: One of my favorite pranks that he talks about in the book took place right around the time of the Altair. That was a kit computer that made Bill Gates a bit famous — writing a version of BASIC for that. So there was a big computer conference and Wozniak went through all this trouble to create these fake fliers for a computer called the Zaltair, because there was an operating system at the time that started with a Z. So it had all these Z jokes in it, but if you looked at the very first letter of every word in the topic sentence, it spelled out a competitor — P.r.o.c.e.s.s.o.r T.e.c.h.n.o.l.o.g.y. And he tricked Steve Jobs with this. It was fifteen years before he handed a copy of the flyer to Steve Jobs and said, "I was the one who did this." He's a prankster. I had a lot of salt in my coffee, a lot of red pepper in my eggs. And I was not going to show him that it bothered me, so I drank salty coffee and ate peppery eggs for a solid year without even blinking.

There are so many prank stories. I mean, they're absolutely endless. Steve carries around books of two dollar bills. He actually goes to the mint — I guess if you have enough money, and you pay them enough money, they'll give you your own sheets of money. And they're funny, because they're perforated. And so every time you go out with him,
instead of paying like a normal person and giving them the cash; he holds out these long rolls of perforated two dollar bills and says, "How much is it? Okay, let's count down" 2, 4, 6, 8... Okay, I'll tear right here!" And at this point, the woman or the man behind the register always says, "That's not real money. We can't accept that." And of course, it is real money, it's just how he presents it.

We were at our mutual friend's wedding and he was selling two dollar bills off in the corner. And he was making a profit. He was selling these two dollar bills for three dollars to people, and telling them that the two dollar bills weren't real. That's part of the trick. People walk away with these wads of money that they'll never spend. But I spent my two dollar bills on a lot of Starbucks. I needed coffee that didn't have salt in it, so after I left him, I'd go to Starbucks.

RU: There's a connection that lots of people in this culture would make between the spirit of pranking and the whole thing with phone phreaking. And it's widely known that the development of Apple was tied in with blue boxes.

GS: Steve Wozniak was really one of the first phone phreaks ever. When people hear that word, phone phreaks, who do they imagine? Maybe someone who has done prison time. But back in those days, very few people knew the secrets of the phone company, and how to make a free call. All phones were rotary back then. He was able to develop a little box that you could attach to a payphone that would get the operator; open up a line, and then he could call anywhere.

Steve was really into ethics. So he felt he didn't want to do this as a way to save money. He wanted to do it to have fun. Like he tried to call the Vatican, and tried to get a call in to the Pope, saying he was Henry Kissinger. You know, "Tal-king vith theees ac-cents," saying "Hel-lo, this is Henry Kissinger..."

RU: It was 5 a.m. in Italy when he called.

GS: Yeah. And he and Steve Jobs made a little business of this thing. They were kids. Steve Jobs was maybe 17 at the time and Steve Wozniak was four or five years older. They were selling these blue boxes. You can bet that the people who were buying the blue boxes weren't quite as ethical.

RU: Now we're into the "outlaw roots" of Apple. Whatever Woz thought, the Phone Phreaking ethic was pretty much a Yippie thing. For a lot of them, it was about intentionally ripping off corporations. It was an anti-authoritarian thing. Woz was sort of half-in and half-out on that sort of thing. He was in the middle.

GS: He talks about his ethic. He says the Phone Phreaks weren't about ripping people off, they were about exposing flaws in the phone system. And then he's into the Homebrew Computer Club. They had this ethic that big companies shouldn't be the only ones with computers. The idea was, "We're taking the spare chips from the warehouses of the companies where we work, and building computers for ourselves." So you're right, they were kind of walking a line between ethics.

RU: He really admired Captain Crunch — John Draper — the great phone phreak.

GS: Certainly. Captain Crunch, the legendary phone phreak, really became famous through an article in "Esquire" before the two Steves began phone phreaking. before the two Steves began phone phreaking, John Draper spent time in jail...

RU: ... where he hurt his back. Now you have to jump on his back if you want to talk to him. [laughter]

GS: He actually wrote the first word processor for the Apple computers from his cell in prison. And then, in the '70s, he ran several pirate radio stations from his van. This was very cutting-edge crime.

RU: In a way, there's a hint of that sixties radicalism in Woz, but in a very moderate form.

GS: He walks the line, You really see that throughout the book. Like, he put all that salt in my coffee. Finally at the end, I said, "Look, you know. How much salt have you put in my coffee?" And he said, "No, I haven't." And I said, "What is this ethic you have about not lying? You should be honest, because I know salty coffee, I've been drinking it for a year." And he said, "A prank is different than honesty. If it's a joke, you don't have to tell the truth." And that's walking the line.

In the book, Steve talks about when he was at Berkeley and Captain Crunch was coming to meet him. He's a kid and he idolizes Captain Crunch, and he expects this really dashing, suave character to come in because that was the impression he'd gotten from the stories he'd read. And then Draper comes in and he's missing most of his teeth, his hair is all greasy, he's smelly. The lawyers at Norton books asked, "Are you sure we can say all this stuff about John Draper? Couldn't he sue us for saying he smells and he has no teeth?" And Steve said, "Well he does smell and he does have no teeth." And we checked it all with Draper, and it was okay. "Yes, this is how I was in 1974."

RU: We should talk a bit about Apple's success and Wozniak's disillusionment with some of Jobs' actions. That's a theme — the relationship between Wozniak and Jobs.

GS: I really had to coax these stories out of Steve. I did a lot of research before I actually started interviewing Steve, and I'd read this story in some book about Steve Jobs allegedly ripping Steve Wozniak off on a version of Pong called Breakout that they were doing for Atari. Jobs told Wozniak that they were getting paid one amount, but really they were getting paid much more. And so I asked Steve about that and he said, "No, no. I don't want to put that in the book. I don't want to hurt Steve." And I said, "Look, the story's out! It's been published. It's in a book." I had to keep coming back to him for stories like that.

They had repeated arguments about things like opening up the Apple II. Steve Jobs didn't think you should have slots — didn't think you should be able to open up the system. And Steve Wozniak felt very certainly that — "I don't know what these slots will be used for, but I bet you we'll find a use for them." And, in fact, that's how the Apple II really took off. All these guys started coming up with adapter cards and expansion boards to put into the Apple II.

They're just two guys with two different mind-sets. From a marketing standpoint, you could see why you'd want to close up the system. From a technical standpoint, you'd be nuts to close it up.

RU: What other myths are there about Apple, where Woz knows better?

GS: When I first started interviewing Steve, I said to him, "What should this book say?" And he'd say, "I hate reading anything about Apple. It's all wrong. It's all wrong!" And I'd ask what was wrong, and he'd just kind of brush his hand and say, "It's all wrong! Everything ever written about me is wrong." So I did a lot of research and I'd bring him stories and articles from throughout the years — "Is this wrong? Is that wrong?" And, in fact, a lot of the stuff out there that had been written about him was wrong. One common myth is that he was kicked out of the University of Colorado. He wasn't kicked out. He'd run up so many fees from computer usage that he was afraid to tell his dad. So he chose not to go back the next semester and instead went to De Anza community college" With his 200 IQ and the perfect college board scores...

Another misconception that bothered him was the idea that he and Steve Jobs had designed the Apple I and the Apple II together. The sole designer of both those computers was Steve Wozniak. The sole designer. And that's not to say that Steve Jobs isn't an engineer in his own right; he may be. But he had nothing to do with the design of those two computers. He was the business guy there.

RU: And then there's the myth that it was developed in a garage.

GS: It wasn't done in a garage — that was HP. HP was started in a garage several decades earlier but not Apple! Steve Jobs worked in his bedroom of his parents' house and Steve Wozniak was on the kitchen table.

RU: I guess some final tweaks were done in a garage.

GS: I think at the very end, when they have their first order of a hundred some units; they were actually just popping chips into sockets — some of that was done with Steve Jobs' sister, and Dan Kottke, an early friend. Dan Kottke is a good example of one of the early employees who had everything to do with the success of these first computers — the Apple II, the first personal computer with color and sound.

RU: Steve Jobs treated these early employees very poorly.

GS: They weren't rewarded. Now, you think if you're at a startup and it does great — Larry Ellison's personal assistant was a billionaire because she was there from the beginning. But back then, employees weren't routinely rewarded like that. So while Steve Jobs and the board of directors all got stock options when Apple was the biggest IPO in a long time — I think since Ford — people like Dan Kottke and the people who really were instrumental in the early designs got nothing.

RU: The story I heard is that Wozniak told Jobs that "however much stock you want to give to Kottke, I'll match it." And Jobs said, "Zero."

GS: Steve didn't tell me that for the book, but that sounds about right. So Steve Wozniak came up with the Woz plan. He gave 2000 shares of stock to all the employees that he felt weren't...

RU: ... his own stock.

GS: Right. And those people, and I'm assuming including Dan Kottke, all came out OK. They were certainly millionaires.

WB: That's the happiest part of this story, the ethical aspect of who Woz is. When Jobs smashes the Cloud 9 controller against the wall, he doesn't choose to go there. Despite the fact that he doesn't seem to spend a lot of time thinking about social issues; he chooses not to travel into the world of social competition.

GS: Steve Wozniak invented the Cloud 9 controller, and it was the first universal remote. This was in the 80s, before everybody had nine things and needed a remote to control. And it was designed also by Frog, another company. And Steve Jobs, I suppose, was furious that Wozniak had used Frog and he smashed it up against the wall. And Steve Wozniak's attitude, always, is... "Whatever. I'm not engaging in this." He is always ethical. And he was very concerned about how Steve Jobs would appear in the book. He didn't want to hurt people. That's Steve Wozniak. He's very kind. There's a kind of innocence there you don't see often among billionaires and millionaires.

See Also:
How the iPod Changes Culture
Steve Wozniak v. Stephen Colbert — and Other Pranks
How the iPod Changes Culture
iPhone Debate: I'm a Mac vs. Bill Gates

The 5 Faces of Bush

The media tells secret stories, according to blogger Josh Marshall.

"When the story is bad for the president, you find a picture of him caught off guard, embarrassed, looking stupid," he writes. The picture may or may not correspond to the actual news, but editors don't care. "You just need one that shows the guy expressing the emotion the editors think he must be experiencing because of the story they're publishing."

It's not a right-wing/left-wing thing. In the Clinton days "they had a stock 'sad' Clinton picture," Marshall says, "with a sort of 'man, am I bummin' look on his face." Is the media now branding Bush with a "dazed and confused" storyline?

Bush image
Dismissive Bush
(Associated Press)

"Yes, yes, I have the report, right here in front of me, as you can plainly see. No, I haven't opened it yet. Thought I'd take a look at the back cover first. Now shoo."

That's the message in this AP photograph — but there's something else. Bush has always had a breezy Texas disdain for the press corps he considers negative and biased — Washington's nattering naybobs of buzzkill. Here he's looking up awkwardly, tired eyes averted, gesturing them away, but weakly. It's like he's going through the motions of disdain without really feeling it.

The Democrats' takeover of Congress was called an electoral rejection of Bush's policy in Iraq, and news editors may see that as their cue. ("Now what, Mr. President" asks a (Newsweek) headline.) Wednesday's release of the critical Iraq Study Group report fits that emerging narrative perfectly. ("Panel: Bush's Iraq policies have failed," read one AP headline paired with this photo.) Maybe this picture was chosen for reinforcing that message with subtle visual suggestions of "chastised hesitation."

Or maybe that's Bush's actual reaction, and the news editors are simply providing coverage of the moment — and all its dimensions. Minutes after we spotted this picture in an AP News story, Yahoo had swapped in a different picture. "Iraqis react outside the Yarmouk hospital following an attack in Baghdad."

Worried Bush

This picture — on the CNN site's front page — shows Bush deep in thought, his forehead lined, his usual confidence momentarily stunned.

And what message is the "worried Bush" image trying to convey?

"Hours after the Iraq Study Group urged a radically different approach to the war, the chief White House spokesman told CNN that President Bush may be able to 'announce a new way forward' in Iraq by the end of the year." Looks like he's got some serious thinking ahead, and he's already getting started.

But if you look closely, CNN has just cropped the "Dismissive Bush" photo into a closeup of Bush's eyes. Gone are the helplessly-outstretched hand and the overturned book. Just a man deep in thought.

Maybe they're seeing a different reality — that the President is recognizing the current strategy's weaknesses, or at least registering the public's desire for words of hope. "Baker said he and Hamilton had been 'pleasantly surprised,'" CNN writes, "by President Bush's reaction when they presented the report to him at the White House Wednesday morning."

Nervous Bush
From deep in thought to deeply disturbed, the President's face turns away — clutching his fingers apprehensively. A cameraman catches him by surprise in a look of distracted dejction.

This picture echoes the pessimism that's evident from Reuters' lead. "The U.S. should begin to withdraw forces from combat and launch a diplomatic prevent 'a slide toward chaos' in Iraq, an elite panel recommended on Wednesday." And the photo utilizes a common visual theme: a wider shot showing Bush stared at by older (and often more serious) men. While this accurately conveys who was in the room, it can also be interpreted as a message from the news editors. It's either a positive message — an example of seasoned White House advisors offering counsel to a pragmatic President — or, a negative message, as the young MBA is called to task for an under-considered foreign policy. ("I said I was gonna read it! You don't hafta keep glaring at me!")

Can you really read history in a man's face — or only project it?

Not-Nervous Bush
The book is overturned, face down, while Bush looks away. Maybe he hasn't decided whether he'll read it yet. This photo looks like he's still considering the back cover's blurbs. ("Spell-binding! A tour de force! — Ebony")

This photo proves one thing. Bush's face passed from worried to smiley during the press appearance — but most photo editors chose shots conveying a specific tone. Was Reuters trying to show the President as disengaged? Or just displaying admirable objectivity by refusing to match their photo's tone to the news story's theme? Or maybe they just bought into the ongoing storyline of Bush as a Texas homeboy who retained his charm while rising to the responsibilities of the Presidency. It's certainly a popular perception. If you search the web for pages with the word Bush and the phrase "Aw Shucks," you'll get 98,400 matches.

Ultimately the problem with media criticism is it devolves into empty speculation about the motives of an unseen editor — and to their credit, Reuters' caption is completely neutral. "Bush speaks to the press after receiving the official report of the Iraq Study Group."

Although to me the picture screams, "No, I still haven't read it."

Secret-Smile Bush
(Getty Images)
This picture offers an interesting contrast. It's Dick Cheney (to Bush's right) who has the real secret grin — a quiet, almost smug, Mona Lisa smile that may contain the story of his career. (A scowling Donald Rumsfeld appears in the larger picture.) But President Bush looks like he's catching Cheney's sparkle too — eyebrows arching, eyes lighting with private joy.

This picture is from six months ago, and USA Today chose this picture to accompany a story with a headline nearly the opposite of today's. ("Bush rejects calls for pullout from Iraq.") Neither Bush nor Rumsfeld look particularly concerned, and if you look closer you'll see Bush has fewer grey hairs.

What a difference six months makes.

Josh Marshall remains cynical about the Iraq Study Group's report. On his blog he writes that "[A]ll this report really does is state the obvious (that Iraq's a disaster and we can't stay there forever) in a quasi-public forum." But that acknowledgment is the first step towards an official policy change.

And maybe news editors just want to see another acknowledgment in the President's face.

See Also:
20 Wildest Reactions to Obama's Victory
25 Harshest Reactions to the Wall Street Bailout
The Future of America Has Been Stolen
Here Comes the Judge's Porn
Is It Fascism Yet?

They’re Dreaming of a Boobs Christmas

Santa Boobs It's "The Breast Christmas Ever," promises California radio station KLLY. Whichever lucky listener wins their holiday-themed contest will receive a special prize — breast enlargement surgery.

Surprisingly, it's happening in other states too. Monday, Florida's "MJ Morning Show" announced that "Santa Claus is bringing a big bag of boobs to your town this Holiday Season" for their "Holiday Hooters" contest. The show — which is rebroadcast on two other Clear Channel stations — has been giving away breast jobs in tacky contests since November, with the prizes awarded to the listener (in this case, "Borat's sister") who submitted the most compelling story. ("In my country, you no see big boob on women because hard to find doctor to do nice boob surgery.") Now that it's Christmas time, radio stations have apparently just adapted their contest plans to the holidays of the season. KLLY announces their contest with green and red letters, above a promotion for their Toys for Tots telethon.

The contests drew criticism from the National Organization for Women, who said the Clear Channel stations were "promoting potentially dangerous plastic surgery and marketing unrealistic and unhealthy images of women." They urged their members to take action, saying that "When a radio station in your area degrades women in any way, look up their phone number and call to complain." A Google search finds these remarks in a NOW Action Alert — issued in 2004. Apparently it failed to stop the contests.

They weren't the only ones complaining. CBS's Dick Meyer called it "profitable entertainment that preys on female insecurity, male boorishness and coed voyeurism." And feminist Germaine Greer famously compared breast augmentation surgery to Africa's female genital mutilation. But as the winning essays go online, they form a weird snapshot of the way the contest-entering women view their breasts, their bodies, and the world around them. "Every year my husband will say, 'What do you want for Christmas/Birthday/Anniversary?'" wrote one winning entrant. "Every year I tell him — new boobs."

Another winner even composed a long rant comparing her potential new boobs to a video game console.
My husband wanted a Playstation 2 when it first came out so bad, more than anything. In fact it was one of our wedding presents! Now that he has one, guess where it's at? Collecting dust under the entertainment stand, coaster marks on it and everything. With your boob give away, they would gets lots of use for years and years after."

It's all about getting attention — though in some cases it's simply the attention of the contest's male judges. Some entrants wrote themselves into silly stories in the hopes of being selected. ("These Holiday Hooters are the way for me to score the love of my life: Kevin Federline! Now that he's left that piece of trash, Britney, my life will be complete.") The contest's first winner had actually acknowledged the real-world issues that surround unwanted male attention. Evelyn Mora submitted a sardonic essay citing the notoriety surrounding a local tax collector who had recently apologized for "inappropriate conduct" in a bar in Tampa. In her essay she wrote, "Imagine my embarrassment when even Doug Belden won't sexually harass me because of my small chest."

"We understand it to have been an ill-advised joke," said a grumpy attorney for the scandal-plagued local tax collector in a follow-up news article. Ironically, the winning essay-writer works for the city's Circuit Court, prompting the court spokesman to issue a statement of his own about the breast surgery contest. ("As of this time, all of our information leads me to believe that she did not utilize the office in any way to participate in this contest.")

Controversy apparently clings to anything breast-related — and behind the scenes lawyers are scrambling to close any legal loopholes. "Winner must be in good medical condition to undergo surgery," read the rules for the California station's version of the contest. "Clearance from a physician may be required prior to any procedure performed." (And remember: "All prizes are non-transferable.") KLLY also notes that "In the event that a winner is under the age of 18 and travel is required, the winner must be accompanied by a parent or guardian." (Though presumably that's just their boilerplate verbiage from another contest.)

The Florida contest has similar rules. "If, for any reason, the providing physician deems a winner not a viable candidate for surgery, the winner will be disqualified and the prize becomes invalid." They also hint at another problem in their offer to "help offset" the cost of additional fees — operating room charges, anesthesia charges and lab work. The FDA recently approved silicone implants with recommendations of additional MRI scans every two years for the remainder of the patient's life — which won't necessarily be covered by health insurance. Breast augmentation surgery requires several hours of anesthesia, an often uncomfortable post-surgical recovery period, and in many cases follow-up surgery to replace the original implants. "Any additional costs incurred pre and post surgery are the sole responsibility of the winners," warns the radio station. (Adding "Prizes are not redeemable for cash.") And remember: only one winner per household.

Winners of the California contest will have their breast augmentation surgery performed by Dr. Kerendian of Beverly Hills, whose web site notes he has a "life long passion" for cosmetic surgery. (For even greater gender differentiation, he also offers male breast reduction surgery.) A concern for the human form is apparently a common trait in his family. His brother placed an ad in New York's Village Voice saying, "Stop being fat and start doing something about it."

It's a case where the media spreads its message far and wide. In Florida the slick Clear Channel radio personalities launch a successful stunt for listeners. News of their success reaches radio programmers in the agriculture communities in California's Central Valley. There's already an extra focus on body image coming from their local gymnasium, and a cosmetic surgeon two hours away in Beverly Hills.

So they take that fateful first step. Above their contest for tickets to Disney's "High School Musical" they add a second contest for bigger boobies. Since Christmas time is rolling around, they casually add it in among the messages of love and family and the birth of the son of God.

And when the holiday arrives, maybe their listener's thoughts will turn to the world they described. They'll be snug in their beds, with warm thoughts filling their heads, but instead of sugar plums, it's visions of surgically augmented melons.

See also:
CNN Exposes Boob Job Giveaway
The Celebrity Breast Conspiracy
Adopt an African Hottie's Clitoris
Libertarian Chick Fights Boobs With Boobs