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?










I had occasion to call Australia today. I was not expecting to do so, but I did. I got the wrong number. Actually I got the right number, but the wrong extension. Perhaps I should try again, but hold on: what was this costing, anyway? I checked with the operator, and apparently I had spent 14 dollars. Reasonable. The cost of maintaining those lines, plus the wear and tear from the friction of all those voices scraping against the inside of the wires, as well as the yearly realignment of the satellites (they’re knocked a few millimeters out of orbit by the barrage of signals coming from earth; it’s worse if the majority of callers are yelling, because that accelerates the effect) – it costs a lot to maintain a global telecommunications infrastructure. I noted that I’d gotten a wrong number, and the charge was whisked off my bill. Nice. Did I want to upgrade to an international calling plan? Yes

Turns out I have been with MCI all these years. I was surprised to find they were still around. Perhaps I’m their only customer.

I was sent off to Qwest, and got a salesperson whose spoke very LOUDLY with lots of EAR-PIERCING TREBLE; listening to her was like chewing aluminum foil. She asked for my phone number. You know, if there’s one company I don’t expect to ask for my phone number, it’s the phone company. I told her I wanted to get on the International Plan.

Of course sir we'll get right to that, but if I don't upsell I am struck with electric batons in the breakroom.

I understand. But please. I have to make one call, only one, and it’s cheaper this way. I’ll cancel the plan after I’m done.

So you think, sir, but we anticipate that your forgetfulness and inclination to avoid small, relatively unimportant tasks will result in at least a year’s worth of charges. Remember the audible.com account you activated to buy the Ricky Gervais podcasts? The sucky ones? You had that for two years.

You’re right. Well, you certainly have my number.

Yes we do. Now could I have your number again, please?

Well, that's not how it happened, but that would have been honest. The first order of business was examining my account to see if she could save me money with any bundles or improvements. I told her I did not want to do this. I just wanted the International Plan. Hence my use of the words “I’d like to join the International Plan” when I began, not “I’d like to rethink my entire phone pricing structure on a fargin’ whim, if you don’t mind, and if could tell me what you're wearing it would really seal the deal.” I just said I wanted the International Plan. Call me Dag-Boutrous Woodrow McLenin, if it helps. In-ter-na-tional-plan.

She said she understood and that would be fine although she did note that I had call-waiting and caller ID, and for one dollar more I could have another residential phone service upgrade.

Like what?

That would depend, she said.

Oh for the LOVE OF GOD, give me the International Plan, I wanted to say, but I said I’d think about it, and in the meantime, let’s just do the International Plan. 

Yes of course. If we could just begin by updating your contact information. What is your phone number?


I ended up switching everything off MCI – quick, sell your stock – and got the International Plan. So tomorrow I’ll make the call. It’s been a while since I talked to the cleverest fellow in the antipodes, and I need to ask him why his switchboard, upon hearing a request for his extension, sent me to a fellow named Tim Blue. The fellow I was calling is this guy. It's bad news and I look forward to better news. All available fingers are crossed and I am compiling a list of every deity to which anyone ever burnt a ram, just in case.

Around 11:30 I headed off to the radio station – the place where I almost sort of worked, once. They moved to the new studios as I was heading out of the business, and I never warmed to the new studios. They’re nice enough, but they have high chairs on the FM side. I don’t understand that. You can fall backwards. Don’t say you can’t; in the old studio, there was a permanent dent in the wall from some legendarily fat fellow who’d fallen backwards in a low chair and planted his brainpan in the metal wainscoting. It would only be worse if you fell from a great height. I always feel like a little kid clambering up into the grown-up’s barber chair when I’m there. I was a guest on the Colleen Kruse show, with Monday co-host Neil Justin, my Strib colleague.

Today in the Comics section! Four pages of NIGHT NURSE

It was great fun; I’d do it daily again if I had a co-host. All by myself, the weight is enormous – not because of what the thing itself actually requires, but because of what I put myself through preparing for it. I could never quite quell the rumbling mocking voice in the back of my head, the one that used to say “who cares? Shutup.”

It’s a bad thing to hear, and my favorite shows were the ones in which I kicked him out of the room the moment I cracked the mike. I’d do it from home, though. That’s different. Give me an ISDN line and a good mike and I’d do a weekend show in the dim wee hours, and you’d have to crowbar me away from the thing. Driving the studio, driving home – the psychological build-up, the emotional deflation (even if the show went great) – they’re exhausting.

How I miss it.

Tonight I played Wii MySims with (G)Nat. The object of the game seems to be exploitation and altruism. You are expected to revive a dying town by performing tasks – the mayor wants you build her a podium so she can make a speech, the flowershop owner wants you build her a stand so she can display her wares, and the Italian Chef who wandered off a train actually asks you to build a restaurant for him. In return you get blueprints for additional items you will be expected to build.

The construction of these items is frustrating; manipulating items precisely with a Wii controller is like trying to thread a needle with boxing gloves. But it’s possible. So we made the desired items, painted them, distributed the goods amongst the poorly-motivated citizens of the town, built the Italian restaurant – only to discover that the Chef couldn’t cook anything, and wanted to sleep. So we turned on the jukebox and danced in his restaurant for a while, then crashed on the couch. So we have a transient chef sleeping in one room and a nice little girl sleeping in the restaurant while the jukebox blares.

I’m off to write the first bit of Tuesday’s buzz.mn, then watch some “Wire.” New Comics up – check the graphic above or the link on the left for details. See you at buzz.mn!

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