please stop tickling me

In which we laugh and laugh and laugh. And love. And drink.

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Location: Portland, Oregon

Otium cum Dignitatae

Thursday, January 28, 2010


"Keep fuckin' that chicken!"- Ernie Anastos, anchor for Fox channel Five WNYW, New York: my vote for the best quote of 2009

So the AV Club has this little thing up about the lineup at Coachella this year, and we're all talking about it. Fella walks into the discussion and says:

Every band you like sucks, because I like a band even more obscure--and which I will abandon as soon as a wider audience discovers it. I can do this because I am anonymous on the internet, and nobody can see what a weak, pathetice, poorly endowed little twat of a man I am in real life.

Thank you. You may now resume acting like anybody gives a shit about what you say.

and I say:

"You also will get one of those, each n' every post. And the person who wrote it is a hundred per cent certain that he's the first one who thought of it."

and this makes him mad, so he says:

Unlike the followup post from the person who thinks he's terribly witty and original in how he points it out.
Yet he's still doing so anonymously on the internet, so nobody really gives a shit what he has to say.

so I say:

"And no one would give a shit if I posted under my actual name, either. So...Other than 'waaahhh!' what's your fucking point? I do this to have fun. What's your excuse?"

In my experience, after this, the whole thing crawls up its own ass, and will go on forever if you let it. This is one of the ways that we have of ruining this thing we got here called Discourse on the 'net.

Curiously, Cracked Magazine -after years of only existing as Mad Magazine's even less interesting stepchild- has a genuinely funny website. I think maybe that's all they are anymore, unlike Mad, which continues its reign of terror against Those Hollywood Phonies and The Kids Today in print. They've been on a roll lately with lists of the ways we all terrorize each other in increasingly pointless ways while discussing -say- how we feel about 'Avatar'.

There's a fine list here of popular internet argument techniques. Curiously, they have a nice way of describing what Janelle Jeffries was doing in her epic December rant ("The Hotel California Guest"). "She keeps checking out...But she never leaves..."

And I'm sure you know all these folks, most obnoxious internet commenters. "The Great Defender" being my fave. Although I sometimes adopt a version of that pose; that of The Great Compromiser: "no, don't you see? You're all assholes..."

There is something creepily straightforward about this piece of "humor" here: a list of personality disorders caused by the internet. The important observation there being, "The guy on the message board who just called you a shitclown for owning a different video game console than him probably would have been perfectly polite had you met in real life."
I've thought that too. Now, if only I felt any sort of need to put that into practice...

(No, I do. It's just that I hold that internet bandinage to be a different form of communication. Hm. I shall have to craft some sort of theory to back up why that's not just basic anonymity psychosis talking.)

Curiously, they ultimately think the law needs to get involved in ways to stop trolls from killing the internet. It includes the observation, "...for a normal person, the memory of getting called a fucktard in public even one time is striking enough to make them avoid the comments forever, even if it was accompanied by 10 non-fucktard comments."

Well, again I wonder; would you actually care if a crazy stranger you don't actually know or value the opinion of called you a fucktard on the street? If so, why?

Except I still get as mad as anyone else when trolls troll. The announcement of Howard Zinn's death on the AV Club brought out what few conservatives hang out there. Their points were mostly based on false dichotomies that they then went and built larger spurious arguments on top of.

So I sez:

"The level of anger that comes out whenever someone talks about Zinn or other writers like him comes as no surprise, but it's still disappointing.

Somehow we went from a society that understands that it needs to ask questions in order to preserve what's good and to remedy what's bad all the way over to a society where to ask the questions at all puts you somehow in treasonous country. If you want to point out here that Zinn takes a simplistic view himself, I'd be with you, except to point out that even there, at least it doesn't encourage bullshit behavior.

This is a country where pieces of shit like Jack Welch are listened to, and thought to be wise. Welch isn't being called names by me because he's rich, but that he -like soooo many- forgets that no one gets rich without legions of much lesser-paid people working under them. He acts like there'd be such thing as Management without Labor, and that's just stupid.

Hey; this is the same country that gets all mad when, once in a great long while, someone says that religion ain't all that great, either."

But that's what I always say.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Ziggy Circus

I've mentioned this before. Since 'Ziggy' and 'The Family Circus' appear right next to each other on the comics page in my particular paper, it has become the habit of me and many others in this town to see what you get when you give them each others' punchlines.

(I wish that I had the basic computer skills to just switch the punchlines over myself, but at this time, I just don't.)

Sometimes the juxtaposition is just surreal, like this one. The real star here is the waiter, who in his long-term bitterness at his neglectful childhood, has decided that Ziggy is his father, which as we all know, can't be possible.
Furthermore, under the parameters of this game, everyone in Ziggy's universe ends up getting called "Mommy," or "Gramma," or whatever.

And then sometimes the joke only works in one direction, in this case not least because of what a shitty, tired joke the 'Ziggy' panel has. But look how sad Zig looks as he informs his parrot named Jeffy of the death of Twitter.

But then I saw that Tom Wilson, author of 'Ziggy', had also written a book. "Oh good..." I thought.

Zig Zagging is exactly what you never, ever asked for: the guy who writes 'Ziggy' gives you some advice on life. It's about as good as it sounds, I bet, but even more interesting are the reviews...

"Ziggy cartoonist Tom Wilson didn't see it coming: after losing his beloved young wife to breast cancer, it's up to him to raise two children alone and keep the laughs coming in his cartoons worldwide—even as his own personal orbit is falling apart."
That is the Amazon review, written by someone who works at Amazon. Aside from the weird feeling it gave me when they pointed out how extra sad it is that someone's young wife died, that was pretty straightforward.

"Wilson's leg was crushed in a car accident, his wife died at age 44 of breast cancer, leaving Wilson with their two sons, and his father—both mentor and hero to Wilson—also had a serious illness. Immobilized by depression, Wilson's faith failed him, and he concluded that the mercy of God [was] an apparent fiction...With ideas like imagining Moses as the first Superman, Wilson delights with fresh, well-considered insights..."
That's the Publisher's Weekly review. There is what might very well be some concealed laughter going on around the office, based on some of those passages.

"Tom Wilson is a man who gets it.

"But there is a difference here: Tom IS love. That fact didn't come easily for him, and if anything he fought and resisted in even though he was a part of him the whole time and literally staring him in the face. But he had to go through this amazing journey to learn that. But in the end the result is a ménage a trois between Tom, Ziggy and God; an interesting relationship to say the least
Now that is the work of one Ric Morgan, who is kind enough to provide us with some bibliographical information about himself:

Ric Morgan is the author of a power-packed, life-changing little book called The Keys: The Textbook to a Successful Life, nominated for a 2009 Pulitzer Prize and two Nautilus Book Awards...

(And I imagine that he meant 'God' is love, not 'Tom', but who knows? Furthermore, I know I'm not the only one around here who got a terrible mental image regarding 'a menage a trois between Tom, Ziggy and God'.)

So really, it's just logrolling, his being here. Matter o' fact, let's look at some reviews of Ric's work...Well, aside from 'Sunsphere Lover' of Knoxville, the only other person to review Ric's work is one Elfreda R. Pretorius.

(Sigh) And who's that? Well, Elfreda Pretorius is the best selling author of Stop Struggling, Start Living, of course! Who likes it? "Tony Davies, Business Executive," that's who!

Now, for all I know, this is a totally worthwhile body of work being put forth here by these nice people who I do not know at all, but all I see is the logrolling, in which they all review each others' books, glowingly. If you Google 'Elfreda Pretorius', you'll find very little about her that wasn't written by Elfreda Pretorius. It's possible that the self-help scam is finally drying up, leaving a bunch of vanity press authors alone with each other, in a big, echoey room.

Speaking of a big, echoey room:

That poorly miked video there was Elfreda's co-author Mike O'Hare, "&nbspand I am the owner," he wants you to know.

He also wants you to know that "I want to provide you with the very best information about Internet markeing."

I admire his forthrightness. Here is a man who is one hundred per cent certain of what his spiritual path is. But what do I know? I'm a man who doesn't get it.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Lessons to be Learned from VH1's "High School Reunion"

1. If someone walks up to you after twenty years and says, "I love you from the bottom of my heart, and I always have," the proper response is; Oh no you do not. Because if it were actually true, they would have pointed this out to you nineteen and one-half years ago at the latest.
As opposed to it just meaning; I am insane, and on television.

2. The bitchy women of twenty years ago remain themselves, but in the meanwhile, they have also learned the language of victim culture, so if you tell them what bitches they are, they will respond with endless amounts of counselling speak about how you don't even know them, and they would never judge You...And basically how you still don't have any right to speak either to them or about them. They will even try to appeal to your adult sense of fair play that you've no doubt acquired by saying, "You're judging us, just like we used to judge you!"
So what you need to do is say, "Ironic, isn't it? Ya' leathery fuckin' cunts!" and laugh in their orange-skinned faces.

3. The asshole of the class, i.e. "The Troublemaker" will almost never have taken that next step into being genuinely interesting or entertaining. He will, however, have developed some sort of ideological thing where on the few occasions that anyone challenges him, he'll be all like, "That's just your opinion! If you don't like me, that's not my fault. Move on. MOVE ON!"
In short, he will have evolved into a Libertarian. This means that he is now passionate about individual rights, as long as the rights under discussion are his own. What you need to do is remind him that shit like this is why he will never get laid. That oughta do it.

4. The one who was picked-upon, for whatever reason, will have never gotten over it. Actually, this is not true of life necessarily, but absolutely true of "Reality". When they confront their tormentors, they will do this in such a way as to make you care a great deal less about whatever relative amount of pain they experienced in adolescence.
The rest of the house will help out, though, by browbeating the asshole bully until he apologizes in some really unconvincing way.

5. The Late Bloomer, just like you always thought, while now some simulacrum of Hot, is actually kind of an idiot. This will go unremarked.

6. People who are Not White are basically there as decoration, just like they were in the Eighties.

7. The Nerd is not necessarily more mature, or even smarter than anyone else. Indeed sometimes their deeply-harbored resentments are the worst of all, and since they're no longer teenagers, this is no longer cute.

8. The Big Secret will come as no kind of surprise to anyone who has been paying attention.

9. Even knowing what you know, it will be difficult to believe that these people graduated from high school.

10. Jacuzzis are gross.

(Note: photos do not necessarily correspond to actual identity. As always.)


A Gathering of Eagles

Oh dear...

Along with giving Gallagher something to do other than harangue interviewers, we seem to be including Ingrid Michaelson, who is one of those terrible results of major labels noting a growing market for Twee. And what is Aimee Mann doing there?

Well, and it's pretty clear that Lewis Black kinda got cornered on that one, and has a distinct look of 'who the fuck are you, and where's my money?' And then...Well, Daniel Baldwin. Let's just leave his name there, and think of what most quickly springs to mind.

Who would be bringing this cavalcade of...Stars-that-include-that-guy-in-the-hat to you?
This guy! Craig Marquado, who you may recall has done this before, is back as the premier entertainment...Guy who is around here in the local area!

There's not a lot to be found simply by Googling this one. Just something from Craig's magazine, and more opportunities to watch that fantastic commercial.

There's some pretty awful video there...I'm not bothering linking to it, actually. (If you go look for it, make sure to include the phrase "Jay Horton" in your search.) So really, there's very little to be learned from the Internet in this case, and what little you will learn seems to be in-house coverage.

There's still no real clear picture of what exactly Craig Marquardo does. As I've said before, the niche his magazine fills is also filled by every other monthly, weekly and daily around here. I don't believe that we were crying out for a local awards show either, but here we are. There's something compulsory-feeling about this fun I'm being asked to have here.

There is also a YouTube channel (put together by someone named 'Brett's Aunt') that features longer versions of the clips you see in the initial commercial, wherein the potential presenters attempt to come up with reasons why they should be there.
They reside somewhere on the border of funny, without actually crossing over. Nonetheless, you should at least go watch the Daniel Baldwin one.


Friday, January 15, 2010

(Little) Lars Larson wants Cheap airfare and Is dating A Punk tonight

I have an ongoing experiment. A while ago, in these very pages, I made use of the phrase "Lars Larson is a cheap little punk." Because he is.
For a minute or two, that meant that if one happened to Google that phrase, my use of it was the only entry there. Then I went on Blogtown PDX and mentioned how proud I was of this. So then there were two entries.

Now there's five. Four of them are me, and then there's a page put together by some faceless spam engine somewhere.
Lars Larson is a cheap little punk is a page of shopping options for those who dislike Lars Larson, I guess you could say. Or more accurately, for those who want cheap airfare while dating Punks, and have no idea how to use a search engine. I can only wonder where this will go next.

And as to the site itself, it really seems to have nobody home. Follow it all the way to the bottom, and what you'll get is a place that dispenses free sub-domains. Fascinating stuff, sort of.
It also kind of makes me wonder if other things I've written are -completely to my surprise- being marshalled to the cause of helping people find cheap airline tickets. Is this a security issue for me and mine, or is it just what happens when you Google-bomb a phrase, in the immediate vicinity of the word "Google"?

Oddly enough, the one person I know who could answer this question is someone I haven't talked to in a couple of years.
Also, I like to go that one step further and juxtapose Lars' name with an embarrassing picture.


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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Aggressively Wrong-Headed

"Everyone's such a tryhard in this business. God help 'em, they just won't rest until they've outdone themselves in bringin' you some quality entertainment." -something I said this morning on the 'AV Club'.

So true. Let us pour out a 40 for Jay Reatard, who was a pretty damn talented musician, who happened to give himself a deeply stupid name. Of all the people in the neo-Garage scene, he truly was a person who stood out, musically. Also, he decided to call himself 'Jay Reatard'.

This led to a scene in which someone among those who called him a friend actually had to deliver the line, "It is with great sadness that we report the passing of our good friend Jay Reatard."

Hardly the dumbest thing I've seen in my life, though. As you can tell, I've been a little obsessed lately with the different varieties of stupidity.
Like that last post? I wanted to go somewhere completely different with that. I was going to remind congressional majorities exactly how one goes about exercising power. More on that later.

Letters To Phillipa (1937), by Dorothea Brande, is one of the books I found in a bag on the sidewalk. They were all books that had recently been withdrawn from the library at Marylhurst, a local Catholic college.
In it, an older conservative woman writes to her Goddaughter about those things to avoid in life, and that which to seek out. It is telling that most of the really great literature of the day is sternly thrown onto the Avoid pile. There is this ongoing flintiness and overwhelming sense of someone being Put In Their Place that makes the book a hilarious read.

But although I am fond of making fun of it in my finest Awful Old Lady voice: "It is a wicked book, and you must not read it. You must do as I say," actually it differs from similar screeds of the present day in that Brande actually makes an intellectual case for her dislikes. I may not agree with her, but she felt the need to make her case well, in case someone was paying attention.
In short, learning was not shunned as being inherently evil, even among those whose husbands proudly described themselves as "fascist". Now, you need to go a long ways to find someone who will try to make their case at all.

Another example of gloriously well-researched and relatively reasonably stated lunacy resides in the works of John Lilly, M.D. I read The Center of the Cyclone (1972) a long time ago, when I was reading everything I could get my hands on about psychedelics. In the years that followed, I apparently also bought Programming and Metaprogramming in the Human Biocomputer and Simulations of God, and forgot about them.
Go long enough in this world, and you will find a lot more people than you expected that literally believe in angels. Even odder than that though: there's a pretty large subset of them that will tell you with absolute certainty what colors and fragrances are pleasing to angels, and what their houses look like.

Now Lilly didn't do that. But he made a mistake I've seen lots of people make: your experience will be exactly like mine. This is a huge problem with those who write about spiritual and/or psychedelic experiences (Carlos Castaneda is notorious for it), because your trip ain't like mine, and the wise will already know that.
So where Castaneda will do the whole "now after you take the jimson weed, you will be flying. You will see a house. When you go inside, you will see a green woman..." John Lilly was more interested in formulating a large scientific framework with which to understand the oft-confusing and contradictory nature of what he was exploring.

And his central premise -that the human brain is basically like a computer, in that it all depends on what input it receives- is pretty sound. Almost immediately afterward, he falls off. Using words like "adultly", and phrases like "goodness of fit with the real universe", he goes further into the idea's natural next step: so if "mind" is computer, then one may install new programs/realities. And while this is -within limits- true, once it turns into a belief system, you have problems.
Before long, it turns into a mishmash of what is clearly just what he got out of it. What things became clear to him due to the filters through which he viewed them. Like any good scientist, he tried to make a workable formula out of it. Like most people, he set aside a place within his cosmology for a god.

What it ended up looking like (in excerpt) was this:
C*, [+]*, [-]*, L*, Z*, the five energies, the five sources.

Plus star, [+]*, pure positive energy seeking, always seeking, the positive, the orgiastic, the orgasm, the fucking of the universe fucking itself, always doing the fucking.

(Have I, at times, tried to do my own version of Unified Field Theory? Of course I have. And Lilly is still to be admired for his work with dolphins.)

Check this out:

The great thing about Robert Gibbs in this clip is that out of all the things he could have said (all the way from "unfortunate" to "evil"), he picked "stupid," which is exactly the right word. Robertson says shit like this all the time (about 9/11, about Hurricane Katrina), and is only ever briefly made to feel like shit about it.
No doubt that it will be Gibbs who is made to apologize. And he will, since he is a press secretary, and not some rich bastard who lies to stupid people for a living*.

The point I didn't make last time was that there are people still alive now who remember how to push through highly unpopular legislation, from the perspective of the party in power.

One: go ahead and let a shitty version of your bill pass. I think something along these lines is already happening with the health care bill. Once you've got the legislative framework in place, and it gets a budget, and staffers, you have created something that will never go away, for better and for worse. The flawed product opens to door to the improved product replacing it later.
Case in point? The Civil Rights Act went through several much lesser permutations -that all failed- before finally becoming law in 1964.

Two: act like a majority while you have one. So, all those senators and representatives in 1964 who didn't want to pass the Civil Rights Act? You know; most of them? So what got them to change their vote? Withholding federal subsidies on wheat, cotton, and tobacco until it passed.
I mean, some horse-trading was done, but this was the kind of thing where the gentlemanly art of politics had been largely thrown aside, in favor of the bloody artlessness of ancestral hatred. Strom Thurmond tried to strangle Ralph Yarborough, to prevent him from voting 'yes'.
So yeah, the Dems played dirty. And rightfully so.

Three: be okay without those people you could do without. And when the '64 bill passed, Lyndon Johnson signed it, saying that his party had lost the South, for a generation at least, if not forever. Yep, and at times that has really hurt the Democrats.
I have said that the Democrats need to stop thinking that they're ever going to get the evangelical vote in this country, and far more importantly need to stop degrading themselves in trying to get it? Well, I hold it to be true, and at times it will bring pain, but shit: be reasonable. Not only will you not get them, you don't really want them, so be okay without them.

You know, unless you want to be the Unreasonable Jeebus Party. But that's just it: there already is one, and you, my friend, are not it. Not yet.

*(the author is unclear on whether or not he was being ironic there)

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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Bargain

"We’re not smart as a nation. We don’t learn from the past, and we don’t plan for the future. "

Wow, Bob Herbert. Really? Course, David Brooks made pretty much the same point, same day:

"Personally, I’m not a fan of this movement..." Yeah, I suspect he isn't. The more Teabaggy our public discourse becomes, the even less room there is for what passes for a thoughtful conservative.
But Bob, Dave; maybe you personally didn't do this, but your industry did. "You let them in, and now they're everywhere..."

I know what it is, too: you wanted to seem less elitist. It scared you when they called you that. You wanted to seem like you paid attention to the good common folks, so you might make some money selling them things. Like all journalists, you feel that in order to truly explain something well, you need to dumb it down to embarrassing levels. To reach all people and let no one feel bad, you need to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

So now the Loud and Stupid are everywhere on the march, because you continue to give them coverage. They could have marginalized themselves in peace, but no; you liked the numbers. To ridicule someone's gramma moaning, "I'm skeeered of OH-Bah-ma!" would open you up to criticism, something you apparently can no longer take at all.
But the ridiculous deserve ridicule. And to act like they are to be taken seriously just because they are loud is to steal from us all.

And Mr. Obama himself is the worst offender in this area. He wants to spread the blame around for his failures, and made certain to set out in every way possible to fail. Rather than take a solid majority and use it to govern or something, he felt it necessary to let people who don't think- and only yell- get their two cents in. Then they ruined everything, as stupid people usually do.

It would take a strong person in this particular climate to say it, but someone must: Hey Stupid! Shut the fuck up! The grown-ups 'r talkin'! Now would be exactly that moment when somebody needs to remind them: you're only here because the rest of us take care of you. Be stupid all you want, on your own time, but just because you feel bad about it, don't expect me to feel sorry.
Furthermore, that means the responsibility falls to the rest of us to lead, and not turn back just because Stupid there feels his awful bullshit is being ignored.

Americans, as I often say, are a nation of people terrified of the idea that someone somewhere might think they are better than them. It informs much of their belief system. Queers? Educated n' rich 'cuz they don't hafta git pregnint! Besides, The Bauble says...Giving a shit about the planet we're on? Dey tek yer jerbs! Not bombing the living fuck out of everything and everyone all the time? Why do you hate Our Troops? Ghettoes? Gangs? Poverty? Those colored people are just lazy!

I've lived in the United States my entire life, and I'm pretty sure that I can safely make some generalizations about it. Wanna know about stupid people? Lemme tell ya' about stupid people!

Stupid people beat and scream at their children, sure they're doing the right thing, because that's what their parents did to them. They believe in God, but it doesn't make them happy. It makes them feel somewhat better that here, finally at the end of life, is the possibility of Revenge on all those Smarty Pants who made them feel so small. It doesn't make them nice people: it makes them want to kill their neighbor. The fact that Wrath is one of the Seven Deadly Sins always eludes them; they weren't specifically told the words This Means You. They think they're the only ones who know anything, but people who know too much are dangerous. They cry all day long when they don't get theirs, but feel that no one else is entitled to anything. Torture's funny when it happens to somebody Brown, but if it happened to them or one of their Babies, it would be the biggest fucking tragedy in human history.
And they feel that the only pure form of expression is yelling. At this point, why would they feel any different? People keep pointing cameras at them!

So yeah; it's not like this is a new thing, or an uncommon thing. The stupid are with us always, and always have been. They comprise the majority of most crowds. But now, since being smart is no clear ticket to immediately clearing up the shitty decision making of previous stupid office-holders, it's somehow those int'lecshuls fault.
And it gets reported as if it is news. Hey; stupid people are incoherently angry! Imagine that!

But hey; you're right. The smart people have failed us, too. Not due to a surfeit of intelligence, though...more like that problem Bob mentioned earlier: they never learn. They will keep on trying things the same awful way we always do, fooling ourselves that the chiefs of industry who long ago abandoned American society will somehow come back and save us.
The whole while, there will be much milksoppy talk about listening to the other side's point of view...Let's find out what Shouty there thinks; no, no...Let the man ta-aalk...
As if they'd ever do that for you.

So real quick: two things we should do while there's still a Democratic majority...
Make campaign contributions taxable. Tired of watching you drunks get sloppier.
Penalize U.S. corporations that move offshore. Tariffs, taxes, whatever. Fuck them. They are the problem.
...Oh hell, while we're at it, tax the churches too. They never kept their side of the Bargain anyway...

And it's time the Democrats finally admitted to themselves that they will never, ever get the evangelical vote. Never. So stop degrading yourself trying to get it.

All the way back in a magical time called the Nineteen Eighties (the Reagan Years!), a band called Shriekback did a song called "Hammerheads," and it is oddly prescient:

our time has come
age of the hothead
this is our mission
to be the darlings of god
too late for silence
too late for anything
it's all too much for me
it's roots go down too deep for me

all-punishing fire
an animal frenzy
these hammerhead people
they know what danger is for
you let them in
and now they're everywhere
if it's vegetable or mineral
it's back a little up a little

Shout, push, hammerheads!
bold and resolute
marching, balancing
in too far to go back
Yes, yes, hammerheads!
swimming, kissing
we are big and clever
and we don't know anything

Onward, hammerheads!
bright and dangerous
jumping, running
in the fields and factories
God save hammerheads!
keeping going
we are sleek and special
and we're sure of Something

And just to see if we can Google-bomb this one again:
Lars Larson is a cheap little punk.


Friday, January 01, 2010

Best Internet Meltdown Ever

"LIL TONY HAS A VAGINA" -sign on telephone pole, Columbia Blvd. (Also my vote for best random-shit-nailed-to-a-telephone-pole of '09.)

Internet arguments got it goin' on. I have 'em all the time. I'm having one right now. The best thing about them is how they're so public; they are happening on the legal equivalent of a street corner with a camera trained on it that is continuously uploading to the entire world.
And this means that when you go crazy there, people do not ignore you, the way they probably would if they were passing you on the street.

The origins of the longest comment thread ever on the Mercury really take us back to October 19th of last year, if you ask me. The original story was how a bunch of teabaggers went down to the offices of The Oregonian, stood there in front of the doors and sort of half-assedly protested that they weren't receiving enough media coverage.

A Mercury staffer was there, interviewed folks and brought us this picture. I said something about how I liked "the look on the face of that weasel-lady" down right. But; "I'm sure she's very nice, though. Realistic, too."
This, of course, brought out every person with half a point to make saying some variety of, wull, I guess you libruls aren't so tolerant as you say you are, huh?

They would later go bother the folks at KGW Pioneer Square, and have their asses handed to them. Turns out that they've received plenty of coverage, and in fact received plenty that day. The fact that they ended up looking stupid on television was The Media's fault. So they remained a group with something to be pointlessly angry about.

Better yet, the next day, the weasel-faced lady herself had something to say about it. Her email read:

Hi, Matt. I attended the rally Friday (Operation: Can You Hear Us Now?), and appear in the top photo of the online article. Would it be possible for you to change the photo to one that does not include me? At least so prominently? Thank you.

To which Matt Davis added:
Is it just me who's noticing the irony, here?

So someone who had been part of a public protest -not just someone who was walking down the street- that had sought more coverage for their movement found that sometimes being identified with something opens one up for unkind things being said.
We all yelled at each other for a while, coming up to a collected one hundred-seven comments between the two posts. I'm pretty sure that's where the record stood until...

On December Eighth, someone named Mary Volm announced that she was running for city council. She had been spokeswoman for the (city) Transportation Dept., and had been part of the (failed) effort to recall Mayor Sam Adams.
Thing was, at first the announcement only came in the form of a Facebook page organized by her fans, and this was the photo they chose to best represent their candidate:

Mmhm. Yup, that's the one. So, again we have kind of an unflattering picture here, and call it ad hominem if you want, but again most of the comments ended up being about the picture.
I would like to know the original context of the photo. I get the feeling it wasn't necessarily meant for public distribution.

But all that to one side, when the comments weren't about the picture, it was about who Mary Volm is or is not.
Her personal Facebook page is loaded down with friends in the Democratic party, both state-wide and federal. Also, lots of media figures. The Facebook page her supporters put together, on the other hand, had lots and lots of people that sort of pass for what you got in the way of any sort of conservative movement in Oregon, one of whom listed the webpage "Being Conservative" as something they were a 'fan' of.

So already there were a few cranks in the pile. After a bit of chatter about who this actually was, someone calling themselves 'Aqua Blue Studio' came in and said, "Mary Volm is an amazing artist and profound intellect with city issues."

To which I responded, "Although ya' gotta admit, o Studio: if she wishes to be taken seriously, that is one rotten photo."

Aaand we're off! Immediately after this, someone named Janelle came in and said, "Mary's photo is perfect. She's the "Cat woman" that's going to save Gotham City (AKA Portland, OR)." This was a double-post.
It was pointed out to Janelle right after this that Catwoman was actually a villain in the Batman mythos.

This was the problem from the beginning: Not only was Mary Volm good as a candidate, she was good in every possible way a person could be good, according to her supporters. This being a person I'd never heard of, I found it odd.
Or, as I put it, "I'm still unclear on whether or not this person I've never heard of is actually running for something. And her supporters are incoherent, to put it politely as possible."

So here, somewhere around comment # 25, Janelle starts to go down the road she never should have gone down. Her age, her astrological sign, her ending GPA (and the college where she earned it) were proffered by her at this point in the discussion, for no clear reason. This was shortly after she referred to herself as a "dumb blonde" (in quotes!) again.

Graham, who I believe is a Mercury staffer, chimed in with, "@ABS & Janelle: If the two of you represent the level of support and intellectual rigor that can be expected from Ms. Volm's supporters... well... I feel sorry for whomever her campaign manager turns out to be. It's tough when the most vocal people on your side come off sounding like insecure defensive wack-jobs."

True enough. But...
@ Graham (blogger profile showing him drinking at the bar) AKA “Graham cracker” and @ two squatting women (AKA oppressive profile name), I’m not sure how you both manage to type on this blog. You both obviously type just to make yourselves feel good and may not be all the way coherent.

(This is not the first time I have inadvertently taught someone a new word I shouldn't have taught them.)

Now, at the same time, other people were battling out leftover issues from the Sam Adams recall. This was still a very fresh issue at the time, with the failed recall then being taken up anew by a passel of rich Republicans with nothing better to do. Somehow, this weird press release that wasn't really a press release with the soft-core porn photo (that was taken down almost immediately after this debate began) had coalesced pretty much everybody who wanted to argue politics and personality in one place.

If you wanted to donate to Mary's campaign, by the way, you needed to go to a biker bar out in Southeast hell called the Queen of Hearts, whose logo appears here:

So I'd say they just had image-control problems, that campaign.

This too: Janelle (by her own words) was no kind of official spokesperson for Mary Volm. But like it or not, she was now the public face of the campaign.

And her tone was familiar. The tendency to over-share, the latching-on to some issue or person then idealizing them, and quickly heading to feelings of persecution. All of this reminds me of the many, many people with mental issues I've been around in my life.
People who've done a few too many hallucinogens, people with PTSD, people with organic brain dysfunction and just folks who got bonked on the head one too many times, I've talked to them all, and she sure as hell sounded like One Of Those.

In response to another poster, she said, "Matthew, I never made any comments to you and you are extremely disrespectful as is all the morons voting for any white, middle-class male idiot. I will not vote for whoever is a white, male, middle-class person who does the same stupid politics over and over again. As long as there are options, I prefer anyone but a white male; I will vote for someone who cares about the marginalized."

And I thought that to be a marvelous piece of random word generation. I reminded her of 1994, the supposed "Year of the Woman," in politics. That year, more women were elected to congress than at any previous time. They were almost all conservative Republicans, too. So just electing women isn't really the point, and...

This was described by Janelle as "a white-middle class male shenanigan. All you white-middle class males can not hide your oppressiveness, women-hating ideology."
I, for my part, was having the worst sort of deja vu. It's like it was the 90's, and I was back in Olympia again.

"@rich bachelor: You know, I'm sorry you can't read very well. Try Hooked on Phonics.
Here's taking some of my energy to tell you who I am: I come from a single-parent family raised by a mother and two other siblings. I have two-African American half-sisters (we have the same white mother, different father's)and my uncle is a homosexual in a longterm relationship. I'm a Libertarian and I'm not voting for whoever you vote for. Voting for members in the city of Portland is nonpartisan, anyways.

So again with the over-share. This would seem odd in light of later statements. To say nothing of irrelevant.

She was losing it at people left and right, most of her comments being nine paragraphs long (and again, they were long paragraphs) or so. Despite how this looks, she wasn't only talking to me.
But the reason I'm talking about this at all is because this thread finally reached eight hundred and one comments (I believe we passed six hundred on the evening of my birthday), which blows away all previous records on the Merc.

At some point this had been made to be more about Janelle than it was about Mary. Not least of all by Janelle. So someone did a simple Google search and found lots of stuff, actually, including this picture.
Who knows if it's her? Doesn't matter, really. This was the picture on her Facebook page (which has since ceased to be), in any case.

She just went merrily on, calling anyone who disagreed with her a misogynist (which was better than what she called them later, to be sure). Not a one of us had raised the issue of gender (except Janelle, of course).

So I threw out there, "So let's lay it out: I don't have a problem with either gender as a whole, actually; only a zealot does. I do have a problem with assholes, though. And I'm not as patient with the clinically insane as I once was, but that's my problem, really," in the context of a much longer comment.

Even before we reached 500 comments, she had gone from calling everybody a woman-hater-bourgeoisie to crying loudly about how her character was being assassinated. She also said that she felt that maybe her safety had been compromised by so much being said about her on the Internet.
But she just kept on going, and people kept on commenting on it. Somewhere in here, she starts throwing the word 'libel' around, and usually pairing it with 'slander', as if they were the same thing. She also has trouble with the difference between 'libel' and 'liable', often in the same sentence.

Sometime in the low 300's, she begins talk of filing a 'deformation suit', and several people come right back with "do it!" There is a fair amount of chat about what actually constitutes libel or defamation.
At this point, people also begin suggesting that maybe it would be in her best interest to stop.

Eventually, the litany of complaints that Janelle throws out include that people are using her entire name -Janelle C. Jeffries- and that anyone who is not there to talk about Mary Volm is "off topic," and should have their comments deleted. It is pointed out to her that the greatest offender in this regard is Janelle herself.
Janelle responds with several more posts of vague legal threats, reposts of other people's comments, etc. etc.

People are joking right back. They keep saying, "why do you hate freedom?", and "why are you bigoted against men?" This eventually leads to the ante being raised.
" There's freedom of speech, not freedom to defame. You obviously don't care about protecting women's privacy. You obviously don't care about women and their safety. I never provided my full name at this place--it was dug out, forced out and is a rape of my privacy. I provide my full name where I freely choose. Have you ever been a victim of Identity Theft? I have. Does it feel good to rape my privacy?"

There we have the first appearance of that deal-breaking word. Plenty of people -including me, including Bee, everyone, eventually- pointing out that when you start throwing the word 'rape' around too casually, you begin treading on seriously sensitive ground.
Of course, it wouldn't be long before she amends this to actual rape. And typing in all caps.

So then it becomes, "I am a survivor of rape," and therefore all who disagree with/dislike her (or just find her schtick hilarious) are not just raping someone's privacy, but also making a rape victim feel bad. Ante: raised!

She says, "It is apparent that you hate me, a woman," and I respond with, "No, we don't hate you, a woman. We dislike and distrust you, an asshole. We also note with a mixture of pity and disgust that you've now gone and undermined the value of the word 'rape'." At this point, I'm really not amused anymore.
Beyond here, she doesn't post another thing without the inclusion of the word 'rape'.

Everything after this is "...blah blah blah libel...gonna sue alla you..." plus lots and lots of unasked-for and immaterial shit from the internet about privacy on said internet for several hundred more comments. For a long while, she descends into ALL CAPS, all the time. Eventually it settles into the same very long post posted over and over.
And as time goes by, every cycle sees the addition of yet further crimes perpetrated against her.

And I said, "See, this is why I haven't talked yet about that bar we all drink at. Because soon she'll be making death threats, and will actually wander into the realm of legally actionable behavior. We may very well have driven a borderline personality right the fuck over said line. I'm not sure how to feel about this."
Why I felt the need to continue this is anybody's guess. I think we were in the middle of my birthday weekend at this point, which is to say that the thread had been going for SEVEN DAYS.

At some point or another, all of us asked Mary Volm what her thoughts on all this was. She never responded.
Janelle's posts eventually include as many as twenty-four paragraphs. Someone points out to her that cutting and pasting an entire article without the author's permission might actually be illegal, so perhaps she should stop doing it:

"Congratulations, zzzzzzz a.k.a. Janelle C. Jeffries, you have just lifted a copyrighted article and reposted it here. Unlike any of the other people here, who under the terms of the very article you just pilfered are NOT liable for anything, YOU may very well have just violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, unless you can show how reposting an entire article, rather than merely excerpting and linking, constitutes 'fair use' in this instance."

(That was by Bob R., by the way, who then went into a very long piece of slash fiction about Yogi Bear and Boo Boo, for some reason.)

"This is my protest for the raping of my privacy my last name and web link posted which included an obituary of my Grand Aunt listing all my family members: Portland Mercury is Yellow Journalism. Portland Mercury is Yellow Journalism. Portland Mercury is Yellow Journalism. Portland Mercury is Yellow Journalism. Portland Mercury is Yellow Journalism. Portland Mercury is Yellow Journalism. Portland Mercury is Yellow Journalism. Portland Mercury is Yellow Journalism. Portland Mercury is Yellow Journalism. Portland Mercury is Yellow Journalism. Portland Mercury is Yellow Journalism. Portland Mercury is Yellow Journalism. Portland Mercury is Yellow Journalism. Portland Mercury is Yellow Journalism.
Portland Mercury is Yellow Journalism. Portland Mercury is Yellow Journalism. Pass it on.

She posts this, then reposts it again two minutes later. Then two minutes after that. And so on again, twenty more times until -I imagine- she fell asleep at the keyboard.
Around 1:30 the next afternoon, she starts up again, with a muuuch longer version of this spam, which she reposts two times, shortly before the 500 comment mark.

I had just pointed out that the whole affair reminded me of the teabag controversy of a couple months before:

"...And after some not-especially-nice discussion of her facial features (which I'm gonna take responsibility for), she quickly decided that she didn't want her face a) in the papers and/or b) linked to the teabaggers.
This led to a very similar discussion ala the one we're sort of having here: i.e. being in public means a de facto agreement to not use any Right To Privacy arguments if things don't go the way you wanted them to.

For instance, the lady in the photo could very easily have hopped on the blog here and said, 'Actually I was just walking down the street. I'm honestly not a teabagger, and I really hope that the photo doesn't give that impression.' Or: 'Hey fuck you Rich Bachelor for calling me 'pig faced' on the internet. Here's hoping you get cancerfireaids, y'shitmonger.'
But she didn't. She acted like it's everybody else's job to do exactly what she wants when things get a little too...Honest? Not sure what the right word there is. Plenty of us noted the paradoxical nature of a protest staged by people who wanted more media exposure who then got it, and found themselves looking like idiots, which they then blamed on the biased nature of the media."

(I had forgotten that I'd called her "weasel faced".)

Janelle threw out a blistering sixteen posts of the updated spam message, each clocking in at eleven (very long) paragraphs -and one broken hyperlink- on December Twelfth alone, saying the last one would be her last.

It wasn't. At 3:50 the next afternoon, she was back with an even longer one. As we rolled toward the 600 mark, I had devolved into a Jerry Lewis impression.
Around Eleven A.M. on the Fourteenth, she also made it clear that she'd never vote for anyone who was for abortion. This became the new first paragraph on the spam screed.

Later, as the 15th rolled on, she spent most of her posts uploading music videos, and saying repeatedly that she'd see us all in court. Somewhere in here, she said that specifically she'd be asking for December 28 as a court date.
And then she contacted an Officer Dunick of the PPB to make an incident report about this "Internet Bullying". (Incident# PP0912150865)

She kept on posting the same thing over and over, suggesting that every two-to-five minutes something just kept hitting 'enter', but often there were just enough minor differences to make it seem that she was consciously doing this.
Eventually, someone came to her defense, it seemed. Several people had, but not for long, and never doing that good of a job. This one was named Concerned Readers Allow Zero Yellow Journalism (or, "Crazy J").

At 800 comments, Steven Humphrey shut it down, finally. He said in passing that they were closing up shop "in hopes you all will have a peaceful holiday season."
Of the 801 comments, 169 were Janelle's. The whole thing took nine days.

And like that, it was over (although there was also a Questionland thread about it, which you may read here). It was almost sad: we'd all had this place to go for that period of time, and just as abruptly, it was gone.

(That took forever, and I know it. Truth be told, I needed to get this one off my chest, and it still wasn't as long as actually reading the entire comment thread, which you could still do if you felt like it.)