When the government calls you in to ask what was in your mind when you published something, here’s how you respond.


Background and additional vidoes here. To paraphrase the 60s: the Interrogation will be televised.



Happyland. Thank you! Come again!



Imagine if a company with ties to the Bush administration ran a massive pyramid scheme based on powdered insect aphrodisiacs; imagine if the head of the company was sentenced to death when the company collapsed; imagine if they used, say, Larry the Cable Guy in their ads, and he vanished when the company went bankrupt. That’s this story. Since the actual scam occured in China, they used another beloved hick actor, Zhao Benshan. Here’s a trailer for one of his movies. Seems quite Western, no?


































I don’t know how they did it, and I don’t know who they are.  I'd like to blame Danny Ocean and his amusing, low-key band of technologically savvy grifters, but it seems unlikely they would pull off a caper like this for such small returns. I think I would have noticed if Carl Reiner wandered through the house making amusing small talk before he got around to asking where I kept my copy of Dreamweaver, and then Don Cheadle showed up later and stole it under the pretense of checking my internet connection. Because I did keep the disk in the closet and the phone wires do run through the closet. So. It could be them. Could have been ninjas who converted themselves to gas and floated through a crack in the studio windows. Whatever the reason, the main program disk is gone. I can’t find it anywhere.

Note to self and all others in similar situations: do not attempt large-scale paradigm reshifting website redesigns the weekend you attempt to set up a new computer and reinstall all your own programs. But we'll get to that.

For years I’ve been a pound-wise penny-foolish sort; I’d gladly pay a quarter for an identical product at the grocery store if the label had an attractive quality that reinforced and flattered my sense of class identity. But today at Target I had a cart piled so high I could barely push the thing, and I started to quibble. Okay, the Kemps milk has a better label than the Market Pantry brand, which has a dreadful 70s generic look that screams END OF AMERICAN INFLUENCE AND CONFIDENCE, plus Kojak-style urban decay. If you weren’t around during the rise of the generics you might not recall how depressing these products were; yellow cans that said BEER, yellow boxes of gummint cheese, yellow generic cigarettes. You saw a world where retail would consist entirely of a 7-11 store with buzzing fluorescent lights and the stink of incinerated coffee, a fat greasy unshaven clerk looking at you between glances at a yellow-covered magazine whose cover simply said SMUT, shelves and shelves of generic food, CHUDs in the parking lot siphoning gas from your ’77 Pacer – she was twenty years on, and parts were hard to find – while you put a few items in the filthy plastic basket. This was our future in 1975. Little did we know that things would turn around, and in a few years we’d all be spending money on gourmet jelly beans. Morning in America!

Really, it was. Anyway. I don’t like the Market Pantry brand, but I’d spend a few extra dollars on some items I’d been meaning to buy, like flashlights. I don’t have enough. You can never have enough, as far as I’m concerned, and I’m always disappointed that the power doesn’t go out very often around here. I would love to spring into action, yank open a drawer and produce a torch, because I am prepared. Around the house in strategic locales are emergency lights that fit into underutilized sockets – they pop on when the power cuts out. Which it doesn’t. Anyway, the upstairs utility drawer flashlight suffered a leakage of the cheap Chinese batteries with which it arrived – and they were heavy duty, too. Liars! So I bought more flashlights and more batteries and more light bulbs – felt the mild disapproval of the rest of the folks in the bulb aisle, since everyone was looking at compact fluorescents, and I was buying earth-killers. Felt like I should have a cigarette in one hand and a slab of veal in the other. The bulbs had a coupon for 40 cents off. Well, that sealed the deal. Add that to the money I saved on the milk, and I was up three dollars.

And down 200 plus, of course. As the clerk was toting up the items I held up the bulbs: “These have coupons,” I said. He looked at me as though he might, in some moment of leisurely recollection, come up with a possible reason why I felt compelled to point that out. “Sure,” he said.

(G)Nat was impressed by the quantity of items we had secured, especially since there was a deck of Pokemon cards in the mix. She asked how much I thought it would all cost.

“Two hundred and thirty seven dollars,” I said. I like to ballpark these things.

The clerk hit total.

$237.49. Really. Good thing I got the milk with the unattractive label.

“Uh – did you have coupons on the bulbs?” the clerk said. I nodded. “What bag are they in?”

I said I didn’t know, and started pawing through the bags. I brought out the bulbs and handed them over.

“This would go faster if you took them off,” he said.


When I got home I saw a coupon on the flashlight. Checked the receipt. He hadn’t noticed it. It wiped out the savings on the milk and the bulbs.

A grand weekend, all told; finally had a Saturday errand trip with the GiantSwede. It’s been a while. We stopped off at a Burger King, and both of us started laughing the moment we walked in. For two guys who lived in and enjoyed the 80s as much as possible, this was a reminder that the era was not the uninterrupted aesthetic triumph it seemed at the time. (Remember, the 70s were the baseline.) Southwestern colors, pointless neon, Tvs bolted to the wall. (“They’re Magnavox,” the Giant Swede said, chuckling.) You expected Max Headroom ch-ch-chattering from the tubes, but most were dark. One played CNN news. Oh, how modern that must have seemed: video, in a fast-food restaurant! Great; when the Soviets cross the East German border, as we know they surely must, we’ll be able to follow the end of humanity here as we have our Whoppers.

You can see why I hate this redesign, can’t you? It was supposed to be so much more. In fact this was to be the main page of the site, and perhaps that will happen again. We’ll see. In the end I had to throw up something that was only half-finished, because – well, as I said, never try to undertake a massive paradigm-shattering redesign of your website the weekend you set up a new computer. Because that will not work. Part of the joys of a new machine, besides the speed – inevitably described as BLAZING, right? I remember when computers that ran at a speed only slightly faster than an armless man running an abacus with his elbows was described as BLAZING. Anyway – the fun is starting from zero and reassembling what you need, making nice clean installs of all your programs. And here my troubles began. All my program disks are in a nice leather slipcase CD folder. There are three such folders for originals and backups; with the serial codes printed off and nestled next to the disk. To my surprise Dreamweaver is missing. There is no excuse or explanation except for a mysterious, intricate, devilishly clever scam whose details will be obscure until I discover my website has been hijacked and turned over to sell Chinese Powdered-Ant Viritility Supplements.

I'm using a demo copy for this. Thirty days to go to find it, or pay $300. Probably less if there's a coupon.

New Matchbook, of course. Everything's back this week. See you at buzz.mn!