Explanation here.


Make sure you click on everyone.




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?










An ordinary day. Around noon I settled on the idea for the weekly buzz.mn video: the decline of the Time and Temp sign. There was a day when every bank had these things; you didn’t trust them if they didn’t. If they couldn’t afford one, something must be wrong. There’s something reassuring about a bank that knows the time and temp; no doubt in colonial times a fellow in britches and a tri-corner hat emerged from the bank on the hour, rang a bell, declared the airborne humours to be temperate and the hour nigh upon the one, then went inside for a nap. In the days of the great department stores and urban hotels, large clocks were set outside, the standard by which all individual cheap unreliable timepieces were measured. In the train stations great clocks hung, the hours counted by the wise men of Elgin. But time is embedded into every device now; car clocks are accurate, watches converse with Greenwich, and no one has an excuse to be late. In heaven John Cameron Swayze looks down, and he is well pleased.

I had a Twist-o-Flex watch, incidentally. It had a remarkable ability to catch the hairs on your forearm and pull them out by the root. But it was cool, because you could twist it. And flex it. Hence the name.

So I drove off to the first local bank with a time and temp sign. The bank had closed. The sign was gone. Well. I drove to the second location; the bank was gone, but the sign still worked. Hit two more. Realized I had squat, as the technical term has it, and decided to shift to the great icon that preceded the time-and-temp displays: the Weatherball, a giant promotional device used by a bank whose HQ burned in ’82. This meant getting photos from the paper. I ran inside, got the photos, conferred with editors, ran out. I remembered that there was a scale model of the Weatherball in the lobby of the building that replaced the old burned Northwestern Bank, so I headed up the street, found a nice young lady at the desk in the Wells Fargo museum on the mezzanine, and announced my intentions. As you might expect, people had to be called, because you can’t just show up and shoot video in a bank. Everyone’s seen that movie.

Permission came after a while, and I shot what needed to be shot. Headed home to edit; had ten minutes before I had to pick up (G)Nat from the bus stop. Plugged in the camera. It captured six minutes, and then the batteries ran out. Plugged it into the charger, headed downstairs –

Hello. For some peculiar reason, my browser was announcing the availability of the city-owned wireless system. I frickin’ HATE that thing, because it barges in all the time when I’m out and about, no matter how I attempt to block it. I declined, tried to connect to my home network. No luck. Sigh. Went upstairs to check the main machinery –

Hello. For some peculiar reason, everything was off upstairs, No lights blinking on the modem or router. The main computer was off. I realized that the house was silent as well; no furnace. Back downstairs, I discovered that the power was off for the entire house. Remember how I said I wished we had more power outages, so I could use my flashlights? It was three PM. I did not need a flashlight. I needed the lovely crackly ichor of Reddy Kilowatt flowing to all my necessary devices. DAMN.

Picked up the phone – ah, right, it’s one of those new-fanglers that needs juice. Picked up the cell. I got a robot at Xcel who, upon processing my phone number, assured me that the power would be back at 3:55 PM. The specificity of the time made me suspect they’d chopped off the power on purpose to divert it elsewhere. WHAT IS THIS, CUBER? Dang: I couldn’t edit, I couldn’t convert footage. I was behind. Horribly behind.

I went outside and waited for the bus. It came at the appointed hour, and (G)Nat bounded off with a big grin. She was appalled to hear that the power was out: NO TV? Yes. Deal. I made her hot chocolate on the stove – lit it with a Zippo, which caused a nice eyebrow singing WHOOMPH – and wondered what I would do if the power didn’t return.

See, I’d committed to the video, which meant there would be a reefer on the front page of the paper. If I didn’t finish it, I would be heaped in shame.


But the power sprang back at four, and we got back to it. Still: I’d lost an hour. My wife called and said she was heading home with a bad cold, and that meant she wouldn’t be picking (G)Nat up from choir, which meant I’d have to stay there for 90 minutes. Ninety minutes I could use to finish the video. I needed those 90 minutes. So we passed on choir for the week, and I got to work.

Here things got hellish.

For reasons I will never know, a particular clip in the video project got corrupted. It could not be removed without crashing the project. It did not belong in the piece. Left in, it would ruin the movie. Get the picture?  I tried everything to work around it, but no go. Well: let’s step away for a moment, clear the head. I needed to scan in some pictures of the old Weatherball –

Oh, right. New computer. Hadn’t installed the drivers for the scanner. Well, let’s just do that –

Guess what’s incompatible with the new computer.

So now I have no scanner. But the movie needs the pictures. So I put them on the kitchen table and filmed them, trying to keep my hand steady. Put them in the movie. Confronted the problem I’d just forgotten: the video is HOSED in excelsis, because of that damned clip. Solution: Export the movie in portions, avoiding the corrupted clip, and reassemble it in a new project. It’s now 8 PM. I’m usually done by 8 PM. It’s usually uploaded and crunched and translated and I have all the codes to enter into the HTML for buzz.mn. I haven’t even done the voice over yet –

And then I remember that (G)Nat has her homework to do, so it’s downstairs for that.

Then it’s back up to check the progress: the exports are done. They’re imported into a new project, and I sit down to narrate it. Then I realize that I’m used to narrating these movies by looking at the clips in the timeline, pacing myself by the length of the segment and the next visual. This is not an option in this version. Well, let’s go back and narrate over the version that has the fatal clip, then export the audio.

At this point, seriously, I stopped. Stood. Cleaned the room. Poured a glass of wine and put in on the desk. Went outside and had a small portion of a smallish cigar. Went downstairs, got the Oreck, dragged it upstairs and vacuumed the studio rug.

Then everything looked nice and neat. I did the narration. Figured out a workaround for the busted clip – there’s a hiccup in the first pan down the model of the Weatherball. That’s where the insane YOU WON’T TAKE ME ALIVE COPPER clip was trimmed and a recaptured segment was inserted. Jeebus.

Then the usual converting and tweaking and uploading – while everything crunched I read (G)Nat a bedtime story about how authors write books – pretty accurate, except for the alcohol and self-loathing – then this. Now I have to make her lunch for tomorrow and code the buzz.mn pages. A three minute video, and I am appalled to note that it took eleven hours from start to finish.

After I upload buzz.mn I have to write a piece for the Pajamas Media XM radio show, something I just remembered I have to do.

An ordinary day. Sorry to vent like this, but it’s all I have. Have a great day, and enjoy the video!


(Smartflix link fixed.)

(Oh - until I dump this mess of a redesign, I'm reduced to pathetic links like this one: yesterday's bleat.