Rantman’s Notebook Archives

Here’s a list of all the “Rantman’s Notebook” posts I wrote between 2002 and 2006. Links will be activated as the articles are restored to the site.

Halloween is Good for You.
More Super-Simpsons and an Election Note…
The Geekiest Thing Ever!
Marketing: Threat or Menace?
Getting Political
We Get Mail
Muppets R.I.P.
Old Ladies in Red Hats
2005 Geek Movie Guide, Part 2
2005 Geek Movie Guide
Super Bowl 2005
Rant-Man’s Book Club
The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Sky Captain
Totally Obsessed, or Why I Hate the Internet
Unintentionally Funny
Howdy, Duty!
The Scarlet Dragon
Thanksgiving 2003 Movie Review
Oddly Enough
We Get Mail
I Quit!
The Circus Leaves Town…
Scamming the Scammer, Part 3
Got Your Poodle Hat?
AARGH! More Customer Service Horrors.
The Return of Rant-Man.
Dead Pool Update.
The Scamming Continues.
Scamming the Scammer.
Ding Dong, Saddam is Dead…
Fool Me Once…
Quoth the Raven
“Today’s War is brought to you by Doritos.”
Customer Serviced Part 2 and other tales
Customer Serviced
Nature Boy
Vegas in Daylight
Caller Ten, Call Now
So You Think You Know Everything?
Some Friends of Mine.
A Nation of Wimps.
I See Stupid People.
Dead Pool 2003
Forgetfulness, Mr. Blackwell and Dwarf Pitchmen
Happy New Year!
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.
The Smartest Man You Never Heard Of.
Thanksgiving With the Skanks
Geek Bonding
Lamenting the Family Channel; We get mail
Real-Life Superheroes
Gravity is a Harsh Mistress
Attack of the Funsuckers
Clowns and Other Aberrations
Ticking People Off
Hell’s Jukebox
The Good Old Days
How Did You Know THAT?
A Rilly Big Shew
Ya Gotta Laugh
Talkin’ ‘Bout Your G-G-Generation
High School Reunion
Geekfest 2002
I’m Sick.
Feeling Melancholy
America, Home of the Fun
But I Don’t Like Spam!
Father’s Day
Summer Camp for Geeks, and the Dubious Appeal of Julia Roberts
The University of Rude Awakenings
Harry Potter and the Disk of Secrets
Stray Thoughts
Have You Had Your Irony Today?
Everybody Knows…
What Are You Looking For?
Mickey, Chuck, Pee-Wee and Me
It’s Still Rock & Roll to Me
Your Tax Dollars at Work
Torment of Roses
Picking on the Oscars 2002
Word Power
Britney Spears Nude!
I Come By It Honestly
The Glue Wars
Will You Take a Check?
The Bonsai Cow and Other Strange Tales

Marketing: Threat or Menace?

In Douglas Adams’ classic radio-TV-book-comic-stageplay-heiroglyphics series “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, there is an interlude wherein the heroes encounter a “space ark” full of refugees from a planetary disaster. The government of the planet Golgafrincham announced that they were facing a great catastrophe, and the entire population would have to set forth into space to find a new home. They built three giant space arks: into the first would go the rulers, leaders, intellectuals and artists; the second would carry the “middlemen”– Telephone Sanitisers, TV Producers, Insurance Salesmen, Management Consultants, Marketing executives and so on; and the third would carry the remainder of the population, the working people. In truth, there was no Giant Space Goat about to eat the planet. There was no threat at all. The members of the “useless population” were packed into the B-Ark and told that everyone else would follow shortly in the other two. The other two thirds of the population, of course, did not follow and “led full, rich and happy lives until they were all suddenly wiped out by a virulent disease contracted from a dirty telephone”.

I have to agree with this assessment of the value of Marketing. The ironic part is that I have worked in marketing or some related area for most of the last three decades. We call this “Selling Your Soul on the Installment Plan.” A little piece at a time. Fortunately for me, the corporate overlords for whom I currently toil are actually fairly decent: they make equipment for musicians, some of whom may create what Harry Chapin called “music to accompany the truth.” So I’m not too badly oppressed, compared to some. For instance: I noticed a while back that it is impossible to tell the difference between the flavors of Powerade sport drink and Speed Stick Deodorant scents. Don’t believe me? Okay, here’s a quiz.


Drink or Deodorant?

Here is a list of some past and present flavors of Powerade, and some Speed Stick scents.
All you have to do is check off which is which, then click the button to see how you did.*



1. Caribbean Cool
a) Drink
b) Deodorant2. Fruity Melon
a) Drink
b) Deodorant3. Arctic Shatter
a) Drink
b) Deodorant

4. Icy Surge

5. Ice Storm

6. Tidal Burst
a) Drink
b) Deodorant7. Aqua Sport
a) Drink
b) Deodorant

8. Mountain Blast
a) Drink
b) Deodorant

9. Fresh Fusion

10. Forest Force

Free JavaScripts provided
by The JavaScript Source

What is the point of that? Well, somebody got paid good money to sit down and come up with trademarkable names for these products that would sound dramatic and exciting… and tell you precisely nothing about the product. What does “Ice Storm” taste or smell like? The only item on the list that gives you any clue at all to what it’s like is “Fruity Melon”. Marketing. Ugh.

See, beyond the essential meaninglessness of most marketing efforts, there’s the fact that they routinely try to sell us things that no rational person would consider a good idea.

Last Monday, The Hollywood Bowl presented a screening of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, complete with on-stage recreation by “Midnight Insanity”. This is wrong. The Hollywood Bowl is a premiere arts institution, a performance venue for symphony orchestras and world-class artists. The Rocky Horror Picture Show, as much as I love it, is the antithesis of that. Respectability kills it. It’s supposed to be a weird little fringe thing that most people are all but oblivious to. But the marketing people saw a chance to make a few bucks and they went and legitimized it, and thereby pushed it another step toward embalming it.

The other day, I saw a billboard promoting the city of Las Vegas. It said “We were _______ the whole time.” Prepare your alibi in advance at lasvegas.com. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m a little sick of Las Vegas’ latest marketing schemes. That whole “what happens in Vegas…” thing kinda creeps me out. Why don’t they just come right out and run ads saying “cheat on your spouse here; we’ll help you get away with it!” instead of tiptoeing around it. Let’s face facts: Las Vegas is eagerly portraying itself as a slimy sleazy cesspool of vice, as if that’s a selling point. And apparently it is.

Last weekend, I went to the King Tut exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. It was marketed as “Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs, but it might as well have been called “Stuff Owned by People Tangentially Related to King Tut.” The marketing guys have had a field day with this one; they really want to recapture some of the success (and revenue) of the last King Tut tour 27 years ago. I missed the exhibit when it came through that time, but the pictures I’ve seen of the stuff that was on that tour were really amazing, so I was primed for this one.

As it turned out, the informational signage was actually more interesting than the actual artifacts. I learned a whole bunch of stuff about Tutankhamun and his relatives, mostly his relatives, since the bulk of the items shown were from Cousin Floyd and Aunt Hortense’s tombs. They did a really good job of that. I didn’t know that Tut’s predecessor (and possibly father), Amenhotep IV, had taken it upon himself to throw out all the Egyptian gods in favor of Aten, the sun disk. He made it illegal to worship the other gods, then changed his own name to Akhenaten (“The One Who is Effective for Aten”), and then announced that he was in fact the physical incarnation of the god Aten. Eventually his ticket got punched, and as soon as young Tutankhaten was old enough, he promptly dropped the “Aten” part and replaced it with “Amun” for Amun-Re” the older traditional sun god, then undid everything the old man did. As we can see by all these name changes, even in ancient Egypt they understood the power of marketing.

As well as the museum folks did at presenting the information, they did an even better job of building up the expectation along the way. The whole show is structured to lead you deeper and deeper into what you think will be the big show-stopper, possibly one of the large gold busts of Tut, or one of the four gold sarcophagi that held his remains. Something dramatic and powerful. There’s this sense of drama that builds room by room as you feel led to, well, whatever it is you’re being led to. Finally, just outside the last room, there’s a computer animated sequence showing the nine layers of golden shrines and sarcophagi in which young Tut was encased. Then you step into the hushed room and find….. a platform meant to represent the body’s resting place, surrounded by brass inlays on the floor showing where all that other stuff should have been if they’d brought it. And on the platform, you find…. a video projection that cycles through the layers of his entombment, highlighting the random sampling of items they actually brought to show- jewelry and knick-knacks mostly. These are mounted in displays scattered higgledy-piggledy about the room. All in all, a bit of a letdown. But the marketing people by god did their jobs.

Prepare the B Ark!

* I’ve been informed that some people keep their system’s Javascript disabled and therefore can’t get the results of the quiz. If you’re one of them, here are the answers: 1. Caribbean Cool: Deodorant; 2. Fruity Melon: Deodorant; 3. Arctic Shatter: Drink; 4. Icy Surge: Deodorant; 5. Ice Storm: Drink; 6. Tidal Burst: Drink; 7. Aqua Sport: Deodorant; 8. Mountain Blast: Drink; 9. Fresh Fusion: Deodorant; 10. Forest Force: Drink.

Old Ladies in Red Hats

Have you heard of the Red Hat Society? I’ve been aware of them for a long time, and it finally became clear to me why I don’t like them. Or more accurately, why I don’t like their organization. The Red Hat Society is a towering monument to Missing The Point.

What am I talking about? Well, see, back in 1967 or so, this lady named Jenny Joseph wrote a poem called “Warning” in which she explained that when she became an old woman, she was going to wear purple “and a red hat that doesn’t go and doesn’t suit me,” and generally behave badly in a lot of different ways, thumb her nose at polite society and celebrate her independence and joi d’vivre. It’s really a wonderful poem, which copyright laws (and Ms. Joseph’s diligent enforcement of them) prevent me from reproducing here. Others, less easily cowed, have posted it in varying forms all over the place under a bunch of different titles, including “When I Am an Old Woman,” “Purple,” “I Shall Wear Purple,” and the actual title, “Warning.” Go google it if you must; I can’t do everything for you.

So anyway, I happened to be out at a theremin concert (oh, go look it up) with some friends, whom I shall here refer to by the names “John” and “Mary” because that is what everybody else calls them, even though those are obviously pseudonyms; I suspect that “John” and “Mary” are actually unrepentant soviet spies waiting for the eventual collapse of capitalism and resumption of the Cold War so they can get back to their life’s work. But I digress. After the concert, we were wandering the streets of Sierra Madre (site of the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but again I digress), and we passed a shop with a front window full of tea acoutrements, along with an assortment of red hats adorned with purple.

“Mary” made mention of having seen gaggles of old women in red hats and purple dresses at various events and destinations, and I then remembered having read about them. The Red Hat Society is a bunch of women over 50 (if you’re under 50 you have to wear a pink hat, since you’re not ready for red, but we’ll get to that), who follow the famous poem’s instructions as far as wardrobe and not one step further. A quick look at their official website reveals the flaw in their whole setup…..

A quote from Sue Ellen Cooper, the “Queen Mother” (gag ack barf, as Bill the Cat would say):
“The Red Hat Society began as a result of a few women deciding to greet middle age with verve, humor and elan. We believe silliness is the comedy relief of life, and since we are all in it together, we might as well join red-gloved hands and go for the gusto together. Underneath the frivolity, we share a bond of affection, forged by common life experiences and a genuine enthusiasm for wherever life takes us next.”

Isn’t that nice?

The problem is, that’s all it is. Nice. Go read the poem. It’s not nice. There’s nothing in there about being silly, nothing about verve, humor or elan, not a word about joining hands (red-gloved or otherwise), and not even the slightest hint of comedy relief. “Warning” is one lady’s version of the howling protest poems of the day, a tribute to individuality and defiance of societal expectations. There is nothing defiant or individual about dressing in purple with a red hat if you’re in a mob of identically-clad compadres. These ladies, who I am quite sure are delightful people in all the ways that matter, have completely missed the point. They have raised point-missing to the level of an Olympic event. They are the Grand Masters of Point-Missing. They have taken a poem that challenged them to defy the rules, and turned it into a codified society of conformity. They have rules! Women under 50 are forbidden to wear the red hats, they have to wear pink until they reach the magic number. If that isn’t a screaming rebuke to Ms. Joseph, I don’t know what is.

If they want to celebrate the life that Ms. Joseph spoke of, they wouldn’t be wearing purple dresses and red hats. They would be wearing whatever the hell they felt like putting on, whether that be a leopard-print jumpsuit, English riding pants, a pink feather boa or a Boy Scout uniform, if that’s what floats their boat.

And what do they DO while wearing their official Red Hat Lady uniforms and marching in lockstep? They drink tea. In TV terms, they took Lorelei Gilmore’s philosophy of life and neutered it, making it safe for Emily. It’s a paint-by-number copy of a Picasso. They are pretending to be bold individualists while behaving like fad-following sheep. Go read the poem. There’s no mention of tea. Here’s what it says to do:

I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

A true follower of Ms. Joseph’s philosophy would be appalled at the notion of joining the Red Hat Society. She would be too busy doing what she wanted to do, in her own way, with her own style, and I’ll bet good money she’d be wearing anything but purple, and her hat is quite likely to be a sequined lime green baseball cap, or maybe a raspberry beret or a fluorescent yellow fez. Or maybe bunny ears. Anything but red, because red has been ruined by posers.

Listen up, ladies. If you want to go out with a group of ladies and drink tea, that’s great. Enjoy. If you want to be distinctive about it and all wear purple with red hats, go for it, rock on. Just please don’t delude yourself that you are in any way shape, or form living up to the life of self-expression that Ms. Joseph wrote about. You’re not. Not even close. Sorry.

Totally Obsessed, or Why I Hate the Internet

A while back, we created a fake web page called Get Happy! It’s a parody of a “tribute” band site; if you’ve never heard of a tribute band, that’s the nice name for one of those bands that pretends to be a famous one, like all those “tributes” to the Beatles or Led Zepplin or the Doors or whoever. Ours is a tribute to the Partridge Family. We thought it was so over-the-top that nobody could ever believe it was real.

Boy, were we wrong. About a year or so back, I got an e-mail from VH-1. They’re doing a new show about pop culture fans, and they want to come out and take pictures of our van. Being an honest guy, I e-mail them back and tell them that the page is a gag, even quoting the lengthy (and mildly witty) disclaimer at the bottom (go on back and read it, I’ll wait). I forwarded the e-mail to my friend Scott Shaw!, owner of the most mind-boggling collection of Flintstones memorabilia I’ve ever seen, in case he wants to show it off to VH-1.

They turned him down. Apparently he wasn’t obsessed enough for them.

Well, now I know why they turned him down. Have you seen “Totally Obsessed”? The name is wildly inaccurate; it should be called “Let’s Drag the Freakin’ Loons out into the Daylight So We Can Mock Them.” These people are nuts, okay? Barking, howling mad, the lot of them. The guy who is having himself surgically altered into a tiger? Nuts. The woman who takes her cardboard cutouts of “Lord of the Rings” characters out to dinner, and makes the waitress stand there for ten minutes while Gollum and Smeagol argue over whether to have chicken or fish? A full-goose lunatic. The lady who eats 17,000 calories of the most disgusting junk-food on earth in a determined effort to get her weight up over 600 pounds? Mad as a hatter. They’re all nuts, okay? Nutty as the floor of the Snickers factory.

Here’s why I hate the internet: The headcases can find each other and feed their lunacy.

In the olden days, when VCRs were the size of card-tables, nutbars had to be nutbars in isolation. If you had, say, an unhealthy fixation on Erik Estrada or Erin Gray or the Lost in Space robot, you were the town weirdo, and you were all alone. As a result, the town weirdo usually tried to keep a lid on it, at least a little bit. Nowadays, all they have to do is put up a website and the e-mails roll in, and before you know it a whole bunch of them have banded together to encourage each other in their monomania. They create names for themselves (Clay Aiken’s stalkers call themselves “Claymates;” Michael Flatley’s are called “Flatheads”), and hold conventions to celebrate their lack of anything resembling a life.

And believe it or not, any celebrity you can name has a group of followers who blast e-mails back and forth to keep each other up-to-date on the minutia of their hero’s life. Don’t believe me? The little girl who played Vicki on “Small Wonder” has no less than three fansites out there. We put up a fake page devoted to Felix Silla (the actor who played Cousin Itt on “The Addams Family” and Twiki on “Buck Rogers”), and people thought it was real. At least once a month I get e-mail from people who have found our “Have You Seen Me?” page, helpfully informing me as to the current whereabouts of Tina Yothers, Gil Gerard and MC Hammer. They know because they are intensely interested in these faded stars. No matter how nutso we try to be with our prank pages, people believe them, because we can’t be as nutso as the actual nuts out there.

Okay, fine. You win.

Look, I’m as much a fan as the next guy. I love cartoons, movies, genre fiction, toys, all of it. Maybe it’s because I love all of it; if I only loved one thing, I could be as obsessive as these people, but I can’t. I can’t limit myself to just “Legion of Super-Heroes” OR the Muppets OR Pinky & The Brain OR Simonson & Goodwin’s Manhunter OR Marvin the Martian OR Harry Chapin; I gotta have ’em all. Having them all keeps me from being nuts. These people need to get out more.

So I’m watching this exercise in schadenfreude (oh, look it up already) with my kids, and we’re all horrified by the couple raising geese as their family, by the girl who wants to be a ninja turtle, by the lot of them. We’re amused by the spouses (THESE PEOPLE ARE MARRIED!??!!) and their varying degrees of annoyance and/or tolerance for their pet wacko’s compulsions. And finally I lay down the law to the kids….

1) No body modification. If you get a tattoo before age 18, I’ll kick you out of the house; get one after that, and I’ll kick you out of the will. I hate tattoos, and piercings, and plastic surgery. They give me the heebie-jeebies. Be who you are, not who you think you need to be. Okay, I’ve loosened up on this one over the last 10 years or so. I think a tattoo ought to be meaningful to the wearer, or at least not something one is going to deeply regret in later years. I follow Penn & Teller’s NPD Rule: No Permanent Damage. Choose wisely. In any case, having plastic surgery to turn yourself into a tiger, lizard, human Barbie doll or whatever is just plain stupid.  

2) If you ever refer to any animal or inanimate object as your “child” I will disown you. This is not negotiable. Your dog is your dog, not your child. Your child is your child, and your child comes before your geese, bunnies, Cabbage Patch Kids, and whatever random detritus of television you decide to build your life around. Suck it up and deal with it.

To my friends who may be reading this: if you secretly dress up as Gilligan (or worse) in your spare time, do me a favor…. keep it to yourself, okay? For God’s sake, don’t go on TV and show off your dementia to the whole wide world. Nobody’s impressed that you’re on TV; we’re horrified at what you’re willing to admit to God and everybody. Stop it. Just stop it.

Sky Captain and Star Wars

Sky Captain and Star Wars

Relax, I’m not going to write a review. But I happened to see Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow last weekend, and it got a lot of thoughts percolating. A lot of them came together, ironically enough, while listening to some people who are in a dither over the movie that Sky Captain most reminds me of, Star Wars.

Before we get to that, let me make a couple of points along the way. First off, as far as I’m concerned, the first one is called Star Wars, and it’s the first one. I’m not going to call it Episode IV or A New Hope or anything else. Second, I’m not going to ever use the words “mythology” or “canon” in reference to any of the Star Wars industry. It’s a movie, not Holy Scripture. No, I’m not being snobby. When George Lucas made Star Wars, it was obvious his intent was to capture the flavor of the old Republic serials. The fact is, if you went to the movies on a Saturday morning in 1941 and saw, say, Tom Tyler in The Adventures of Captain Marvel, nobody ever referred to the individual episodes by their titles. Episode 6 is never called “Lens of Death,” except by the same kind of annoying OCD types who worry about how the cartoons fit together with the comic books. Feh.

Getting back to the topic at hand, Sky Captain is very much like Star Wars; where Star Wars was a love letter to Flash Gordon, Captain Blood and Jack Kirby’s entire career, Sky Captain harkens back to the older Buck Rogers, Blackhawk, the Fleischer Superman cartoons, and a big serving of Steranko’s “Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” with passing references to King Kong and the Land That Time Forgot.

Both films were primarily intended to entertain. They’re fun, exciting romps. You know all that noise Lucas made about having plotted out the whole epic before they ever started filming the first movie? Hogwash. It’s obvious from the films that came later that he’s making it up as he goes along. He never intended for Star Wars to become this lumbering beast. Princess Leia is a classic fairytale princess in distress. That’s what she was intended to be, and that’s what she was. Then the Star Wars “universe” began to be constructed by obsessive fans and avaricious marketing weasels. Once that happened, and Lucas was charged with the care and feeding of this licensing machine, he started having second thoughts; a princess means a monarchy, and monarchies are bad. Being stuck with the fairytale princess and wanting to be “responsible” in the material he’s cranking out, Lucas was forced to come up with a concept that baffles the mind and offends the logic: a democratically-elected princess who rules an entire planet at the age of 14. Nonsense. If Lucas had plotted out the entire story before he made Star Wars, Leia wouldn’t be a princess, C-3PO would have recognized Uncle Owen (or at least the planet he was built on), and George Lucas would not be constantly putting out new “Special Editions” with corrected footage to plug the logic holes he keeps making. He shoulda quit while he was ahead.

Over at CBR, one of the regulars, Noah Johnson, recently explained his theory about the more recent Star Wars films. With his permission, I quote (note, some sensitive souls may take issue with his use of language; take it up with him):

No, you want to know why Star Wars is going to hell? Because we finally pushed Lucas too far, that’s why. Think about it. You’re George Lucas; you’re this crazy kid who wants to make movies. So you do a couple, and they do okay. AMERICAN GRAFFITI makes a mint, which buys you the credibility to go ahead with this wacky idea like if Kurosawa shot a Flash Gordon serial about WWII, and hey, it actually comes off.

And then your life is over. Your life as George Lucas, filmmaker, has ended. Your job title is now Official Bitch of Star Wars. You think Doyle was sick of Holmes? You think Sting is sick of “Roxanne”? Nothing. They are NOTHING compared to how sick of Star Wars Lucas was by the mid-90s. No matter what he does, no matter where he goes for two damn decades, there’s some malodorous fanboy in his face going “George, whenya gonna do the first trilogy, George? Huh George? Is it gonna be cool, George? Will it have Han Solo? Will it, George? Han’s my favorite!”

Finally, one storm-ripped night a decade ago, watching Skywalker Ranch security drag off a 350-pound man in a T-shirt reading BOBA FETT LIVES, Lucas made his mind up. “You little bastards want the first trilogy? You little soul-sucking, life-destroying geek parasites want the first fucking trilogy? I’ll give you the first trilogy. Oh yes, I’ll give it to you.”

Lucas’s mission in life is now to ruin Star Wars for all its fans, because he hates it and he hates us. Thus, first we get the Special Edition, in which tiny changes make the world unbelievable, the pacing and structure weak, and all the characters colossal pussies. Then Episode I is released, and Operation I Hate You All hits high gear.

It’s not just that Episode I is bad, though good lord it’s bad. It is quite deliberately designed to infect the head and make it impossible to enjoy the original movies any more. Deliberate, massive continuity gaffes keyed to powerful scenes in Episode IV sap the emotional intensity of watching it again. The legendary Jedi, whose myth is so key to the power of the original trilogy, are revealed as frauds, their mystical connection to the universe reduced to a few point-and-click superpowers, and those don’t even work right half the time. The vast, sweeping universe introduced in STAR WARS is revealed to be about the size of your average suburb.

Episode II is designed primarily to destroy Lucas’s most memorable creation: Darth Vader. Nobody anywhere disputes that Vader is one of the finest cinematic villains in the history of the medium. His first entrance still stands as a seminal moment in American film. But now we learn that Darth Vader is really a smarmy, whiny little jerkoff with a rattail, who is possibly the worst lover since the invention of sex. Now when we summon to mind Vader’s terrifying visage, we hear in the back of our minds Anakin whine “I want to know if you’re suffering as much as I am” and oh god, we are, we are.

Expect Lucas’s dramatic and public suicide right before the release of STAR WARS EPISODE III: FROM HELL’S HEART I STAB AT THEE, in which we’ll learn that Yoda is a child molester, Luke is actually a random orphan passed off to Anakin as his son, and Han Solo spent his early adolescence being rented out to sailors by his pimp, Chewbacca.

Because Lucas hates them, and he hates us. And he has the power to act on that hate on a scale we can only dream of.

Which brings me to Sky Captain. I fervently hope and pray that the creators of this film have heeded the lesson of Star Wars. They don’t need to go back and tell us the origins of all these things, they don’t have to make a sequel that takes us through the next decade. If they have a brain in their heads, they will leave well enough alone. It’s a fun movie; it doesn’t need to become a religion. Make a sequel if you must. Heck, make two. But whatever you do, don’t ever start referring to your wacky little alternate history as a “mythology.” That way lies madness.

So why do I care about this? Because I like the movie. Like Star Wars before it, this is a movie that intellectuals and artistic poseurs are going to flat-out hate. Those guys live for deconstruction. They want a movie they can dissect, full of subtext and hidden meanings. It also helps if the movie is deliberately obtuse, ironic, fatalistic, and maybe a little preachy. It should stop dead so a character can lecture on environmental issues or the oppression of women or the Evils of Capitalism. It should also contain a few snide cracks at the people too stupid to get it, i.e. the ordinary normal person. Ideally, it should have some shock value, or “challenge the societal conventions,” in other words be deliberately offensive so as to provide an excuse for the contempt heaped upon those yokels who are offended by the stuff that was added specifically to offend them. (Yeah, that’s a rigged game; so what? Welcome to pseudo-intellectual posturing 101.)

Sky Captain will disappoint those people. But anyone with a bit of joy, fun, wide-eyed wonder and optimism left will enjoy this movie. It has no sermon to deliver, no message to impart. Its goal is simply to entertain you for a while, and at that it succeeds admirably, if you’re the type of person who can be entertained by giant robots, laser guns, dinosaurs, a plucky reporter, or the occasional amphibious airplane. There’s nothing to deconstruct here. The late Lawrence Olivier appears here because it’s a nifty idea, not because somebody’s got some point to make. What I like about it is, there isn’t one single moment where the filmmakers smirk and wink and remind you how silly and childish all this is. They don’t apologize for the outlandish notions they toss out like popcorn. Rather, they embrace the nutty ideas and celebrate them, hauling ideas out and shouting “isn’t this COOL?” and making you want to shout a big “yes” in response. It is cool. It’s optimistic and fun, and I hope somebody has the good sense to not suck all that fun out for the sake of turning it into a safe and politically-fashionable cog in the marketing machinery.

If anybody starts talking to you about the Sky Captain Mythology, do me (and yourself) a favor and punch them in the head. A lot. Thanks.

Rant-Man’s Notebook: Scamming the Scammer, Part 3

Today Mark Evanier featured my little Scamming the Scammer page on his News From Me site. Woo Hoo! This is the kind of publicity that makes superstars!! We’re on our way to the big time now!

Except for one piddling detail. I never told the Rest of the Story. What happened next? Did Dr. Mike ever respond?

Let’s find out… But first, my apologies. I’ve had a whole mess of things crash into my life like a drunken party guest, and I’m only now digging out of it. I can’t tell you a lot of what went on, but it involved me suddenly not being employed by the company I’ve been at for about 15 years, off and on. You’ll hear about it eventually.

When we left off, I had sent Dr. Steve the “news account” of Homer’s murder. Next morning…

Thu, 24 Apr 2003 9:32 AM


Dear Friend,

Your message has been received and the contents were well noted. I am astonished for the news now and I am totally confused. Please, let me know what happens with the problem because the matter must have affected our arrangement.

I wait for your further instruction.


Dr Steve.

Well. I guess business is business. So let’s move on…

Thu, 24 Apr 2003 10:51 AM

Dr. Steve,

Thank you for your concern. I ‘m afraid that I may be called as a witness. It depends on how much aunt Earlene tells the police. If she says anything about the money, they could search her computer and find her e-mail, and then they’ll know that I’m involved and may come to question me. They’ll also find out about you, and may that could bring this money to the attention of the government. That means we have to move quickly.

We’re going to try the abused spouse defense, like in that Farrah Fawcett movie, The Burning Bed. He beat her up a lot and she was afraid for her life, so it was self-defense.

I’ve probably said more than I should about this, so I’m going to delete these e-mails from my system in case my computer is taken as evidence.

You haven’t yet sent me your photo or any other documentation that you said you would send. I’m just waiting to receive it before I make the funds transfer. Can you get that done, please? The sooner I get the $14 million that’s my share, the sooner I can hire a good attorney and help Earlene get out of this mess.

Please send your documents quickly, and I’ll make the wire transfer as soon as I get them.


It takes a couple of hours, but here comes Mikey…

Thu, 24 Apr 2003 12:23 PM

Dear Jim,

This is my internaional passport.

I will still send you email as soon as possible today because i m’ so busy ok.

Here I run into trouble. I’m a Photoshop pro. I’ve created a lot of fake photos in my time. I know what looks real, and this ain’t it. Frankly, I’m insulted. So I let Steve know about it…

Thu, 24 Apr 2003 2:13 PM


What are you trying to pull?

Let me give you a little background on myself. Part of my job involves preparing pictures for printing and use on websites. I’ve spent the last 13 years editing and retouching pictures in Photoshop. I’m an expert at it. I can show you pictures I’ve done where I added 200 pounds to a woman, and others where I have completely removed people or changed their clothing. I’m VERY hard to fool with retouched pictures.

Your passport is the worst fake I have ever seen.

The type is floating above the background; it does not look like it is actually printed on the paper.

The photo has been clipped out around the man’s silhouette and placed into the passport and the word “Nigeria” has been pasted on top of it. None of this looks real. The Nigeria lettering is in a green that is far too bright to actually be printed on the paper, and it’s knocking out the picture behind it. This is impossible.

Who is that in the photo, and why are you sending me a phony passport? I’ve been straight with you, now you be straight with me.

I’m having second thoughts about this deal.


Dr. Steve is starting to bore me. I mean I laughed out loud at his attempt at photo retouching, but I think I’ve gone about as far as I can with him. And yet he persists.

Thu, 25 Apr 2003 12:44 AM


Dear Jim,
I am in receipt of your message of 24th April 2003 and the contents were well understood. I am surprise to hear from you that the international passport copy I sent to you through E-mail attachment is a funny one, it means that you are not familiar with Nigerian Passport. This is my first time of sending my passport out to somebody by Scanning and I have cross-checked it, there was no where I saw any mistake and I have shown it an expert here, he confirms it to be alright, so why are you condemning my work, does it mean that you know my passport more than me?.
If you are not interested in this business, you should forget it about instead of dragging the matter ups and down, thereby delaying the business. My utmost interest is to ensure that the money comes your way so that there will be enough money to take care of Earlene’s problem.
I have been straight with you as well, if I have anything to hide from you, will I send my passport to you?. It is because you need my international passport, that is why I have to buy a Scanning Machine and this is my first time of using it, therefore, if I am not serious about the matter, will I waste my money and time to purchase the Scan Machine?.
If nothing positive is done today to send the money to the lawyer so that the account will be activated, I will be forced to close the matter and look for alternative steps, I will still assist Earlene to the best of my knowledge as soon as the business is concluded with you or any other person. I don�t want to continue in a prolonged argument everyday thereby delaying my destiny, therefore, it is better that you decide on what to do today.
Thanks and God Bless.

Well! I’m delaying his destiny. I guess I better decide what to do today. I decide to go ahead and end the game, since the guy is not going to figure it out…

Thu, 25 Apr 2003 7:24 AM

Okay, now you’re starting to bore me.

Your passport is as phony as you are. I’ve known all along that you are a lying thief and are trying to steal money from me, but it was funny to jerk you around for a while and waste your time, but I’m done now.

I’ve been putting all your e-mails up at my website so people could laugh at you. Earlene doesn’t exist. I made her up. You are a fool, a mugu and now you have been shown to be such to the whole world.

If you want to see how stupid you are, go to this website and take a look: http://www.monkeyspit.net/rantman/scammer.php

You are too stupid to live. Please die now.


After I sent this message, I went to Toasted Spam, a site where one can sign up for junk e-mail. I enrolled Dr. Steve for a whole bunch of spam at each of the addresses I had for him. Then I forwarded our correspondence to the Secret Service’s anti-scam office. After that I waited about a week and reported him to Yahoo and Juno.

That’s the last I heard of that guy.

Mike did get a little tiresome toward the end with his relentless determination to get some money out of me somehow, which is why I finally ended the game with him. At the same time that I was messing with him, I received several similar solicitations from others. I’m collecting their responses into a separate feature for Monkey Spit.

Tragically, none of them took the bait the way Mike did. I miss that guy.

If you want to try your hand at scambaiting, you’ll need the following resources:

Toasted Spam, a spam subscription service

PseudoMailer, an anonymous mailing service

e-fax, a free fax service. Faxes are converted to graphics and sent to your e-mail address.

Payphone Directory. Need a phone number? Pick one.

It also helps to have some PhotoShop skills, but you can also find just about any picture you might need at Google’s Image Search.

The Feds. This is the e-mail address for the United States Secret Service, which investigates this kind of fraud. If you want to write it down for later, the e-mail address is 419.fcd@usss.treas.gov. Keep this address even if you don’t want to screw around with the scammers; add it to your address book and forward all the scam letters to them as soon as they come in. When you do, be sure to change the subject line to “No Loss – For your database” so that they can process it properly. (If you actually lost money to one of these sharks, put that in the subject line so they can give you higher priority.)

Have fun, and if you hook a live one, send it to us at scams@monkeyspit.net and we’ll add it to our new Scam Baiting page. Good luck!

Talk about your adventures in Scammer Baiting on our new Scam Baiters Forum!

Rant-Man’s Notebook: The Scamming Continues…

The Scamming Continues…

Last week, we left off with Earlene’s husband Homer (named for Homer Simpson, of course) getting into the act with an angry e-mail to Dr. Steve. Let’s see what happens…

Now, some of you might be bored by this kind of nonsense. If so, just skip this week and we’ll be back to our regular nonsense next week. We’re going to set up a separate section for our scam-baiting activities, so you won’t be bothered by it in this space again. Okay?

(If you missed last week’s installement, you can find it here. This week we have multiple personalities conversing, so it could get a little confusing; I’m going to color-code the correspondence to make it easier to follow. Dr. Steve’s messages will be in Green, Earlene’s will be in Red, and nephew Jimmy’s will be in Blue. My comments will be in black italics. Clear? Good. Let’s go.

The nephew gets involved:

Wed, 17 Apr 2003 1:55 PM

Dr. Steve,

My aunt Earlene called me about a loan yesterday. After I insisted she give me more information, she gave me your e-mail address and explained about the money transfer that you want her help with.Later she called me again and said that her husband found out about it and is trying to ruin everything. She asked me to take over the process for her so she can keep Homer from getting his hands on the money, and I agreed to do so, because Homer is a jerk.Please send all future correspondence to me, and I will pass it to Earlene for you. You might want to say something to Homer to keep him from getting suspicious.Please let me know what you need me to do and I’ll take care of it.
Jim MacQuarrie, Earlene’s nephew

That ought to stir the kettle a little bit. And sure enough, next morning, here comes an e-mail:

Fri, 18 Apr 2003 08:12 AM



Thanks for your message and the contents were well understood. Infact, Mr Homer wrote to me and his words were very harsh, he informed me that he has thrown Earlene out of the House, he even accused me of trying to steal his wife, I cried all night and I have been in sober reflection because I cannot guess right the state of Earlene conditions now.

Please Jimmy, tell me the situation of Earlene, she is more precious to me more than all the amount in Federal Reserve Bank and I am more concerned about her health.I will surely write to Homer to calm him down as you have suggested just to avoid further suspicion, but I will not involve such a harsh Man in my business, take note of this.

As regards to the transaction, I have already concluded all arrangement with Earlene before the intervention of Homer, but notwithstanding, God’s time is the best. I have the faith that Earlene will surely tell you to contact me because She has told me much about you, so when Homer came into the matter, I was not shocked because I know that the Almighty God I am worshipping will not let Earlene down.

The bank here has started the activation of the account for Earlene and the Lawyers are just waiting for the USD$1,250 to be sent to them as the opening balance to activate the account which Earlene promised to send to the Lawyer yesterday before the intervention of Mr Homer.

Please, all you need to do now is to arrange for a way to send the USD$1,250 immediately through WESTERN UNION MONEY TRANSFER or MONEY GRAM to the Lawyer here. This is the fastest way of sending and receiving Money World-wide, they operate everyday, so you can go to your nearby post Office or bank and make enquiry on where to send the money through the above mentioned means. When you send the money to the lawyer, all you need to do is to send the information of the sender to me including the Control Number, question and answer Code for onward transmission to the Lawyer. The particulars of the Lawyer is as follows:- MR CHIDI STANFORD NJOKU.
TEL: 234-1-7741741.

Please Jimmy, I need your urgent response immediately to know the situation of Earlene and about the information passed to you herein. My direct telephone number is 00 234-1-7754429, so you can call me at any time.

Thanks and God be with you.

Yours Sincerely,


A few minutes later, Homer gets a reply:

Fri, 18 Apr 2003 8:26 AM



I am in receipt of your message of 16th April 2003 and the contents were well understood. To be precise, I have never intended stealing your wife as you suspected, all my correspondence with Earlene your wife has been purely on Christianity because we worship in the same Assmeblies of God Church and my introduction of business to her. If she has linked me up to you, I would have as well communicated with you in the same manner, though we are still in primary discussion of the matter before your intervention, but I dont mean bad for your marriage.

I am still a Married man with kids, so how do you expect me to take your wife?. You have a trustworthy Wife in Earlene, so dont chase her out of your house because of annoyance, it will not please God. I am on my kneels begging you not to throw her out of your house and if you have done so, please call her back for christ sake and I wish that you will understand my plight.

I wish you God Blessing and happy Easter.

Thanks and best regards,

Yours Sincerely,


At this point, I actually had some doubts; what if this guy is on the level, and here I am playing with him? So I decide to take it easy on him for a while. First “Jimmy” responds:

Fri, 18 Apr 2003 10:03 AM

Dr. Steve,

Please, it’s Jim, not Jimmy. I’ve been trying for years to get my family to stop calling me that, but it doesn’t do any good. You know how families are.

I think Earlene is getting Homer to calm down, so don’t worry about them. I think they’ll work out their troubles.

Now, about this business proposition: As I understand it, Earlene was setting up this account through you so that you could make a large money transfer into a foreign account. Is that correct? I understand why she would have to do it that way because of her computer problems and having to keep it from Homer, but I don’t have those problems, so I don’t see why I need to open another bank account when I already have one. Can’t you just transfer the money directly to my own account without going through all the trouble of opening a new one? Especially if it takes $1250 to open an account over there; it only takes $100 here.

If this will work as well, I can just send you the deposit information for my bank account and then we can proceed to handle your fund transfer.



Then about 10 minutes later, Earlene replies to Dr. Steve:

Fri, 18 Apr 2003 10:18 AM

Dear Mike,

It’s me, Earlene. Everything is okay now with me and Homer. We had a long talk, and we’re going to work together o help you with this money thing. I’m glad Homer is helping now–he read all your e-mails and he understands a lot better than I do about what you’re trying to do with the $35 million. You must think I’m awfully dumb, don’t you, I mean offering you $20 like that. I thought you needed me to give you money, not that you wanted to give ME money. LOL as they say.

Anyway, Homer and I are writing this together, and we will both help you get your money. i’m sorry if I said anythign improper to you about a relationship. Don’t worry about it, this crisis has brough Homer and me back together.

One thing I have to tell you is that I think my nephew is going to try to cut us out of the deal. He got real excited when I explained it to him, and he’s always been greedy. So don’t do any business with him, he might try to rip you off. But because of that, I’m not goign to be able to borrow any money from him I think, so Homer is going to borrow the money from his 401k plan. It might take a few days.

Thank you so much for helping to save my marriage and for being such a good friend to me, and for promising to give me all that money.


Earlene (and Homer)

OOOPS! I accidentally sent that one from “Jimmy’s” address by mistake. Time for some damage control. I wait a few hours, then reply….

Fri, 18 Apr 2003 2:14 PM

Dr. Steve,

My aunt and uncle were over here at my house this morning to discuss the loan that they wanted from me, and I let Earlene use my computer. After they left, I looked and found that she had sent you an e-mail from here. I read what she sent, and was shocked that she would say I would try to rip you off.

I think that shows how untrustworthy she is. She drinks, you know and sometimes it affects her judgment, and she says things that aren’t right, like that I would try to cheat you. It’s not true. I have only your best interests at heart.

Homer probably put her up to it. That guy is such a jerk.

Anyway, let me know if my bank account will work for this transaction.



I’m sure I blew it; he’ll figure out it’s a hoax now. Next afternoon, Homer & Earlene have an answer…

Sat, 19 Apr 2003 12:44 PM



I am in receipt of your message of 18th April 2003 and the contents were well understood. I was in the best of my happiest moment when I received your message confirming that both of you has come back as a Family. I have been praying for the TEEL Family and I am ensure that God is going to manifest in your lifes. You know the story of Abraham and Sarah, so nothing is impossible for Jesus Christ, you know how he raised Lazarus from the Grave, the same miracle will work in the Life of MR HOMER TEEL & EARLENE TEEL, in Jesus name


As regards to your efforts, I am happy that Mr Homer is involved, therefore, I will have nothing to do with Jimmy, even if he write to me I will tell him to contact you first, though I replied his last message to me, but I will not proceed with him again. Please, try as much as possible to ensure that the money gets to the Lawyer before Tuesday next week, it will surely be an advantage to the procedure of the payment.

I am looking forward to your positive news.

Thanks and God Bless.

Yours Faithfully,


Ah, but the plot thickens when Jimmy gets an answer:

Sat, 19 Apr 2003 1:46 PM


Dear Jim,

Thanks for your message of 18th April 2003 and the contents were well

understood. The reason for opening an account here is because the money in question will be drawn from our Central Bank of Nigeria by Certified Bank Draft and will be paid to the account that you will open in the new bank, it is from this bank that the money will be re-transfered directly to your account, it is the way it is done here when it comes to Contract payment to avoid conflicting issues with the Authority here.To deposit such big amount of money you dont need to open the account with USD$100, besides, Lawyer’s fee are included in the USD$1,250 requested because it is the Lawyer that will give the bank all the necessary documents and References for the activation of the account.

I know that you dont have enough knowledge about the plans of the transaction, that is why you are feeling in that manner, but I appreciate your questions because it is good for one to ask questions wherever he needs clarification.Until the account is opened, then you will start to understand the procedures of the transfer.It is left for you to decide whether to co-operate with me and do what you were asked to do because I dont mandate anybody to do business with me against his interest. This is my direct telephone number 00 234-1-7754429 in case you need to talk to me. Remember that I cannot do anything with you without the knowledge of Earlene because it is through her that I got to know you, therefore, I advise you to do the same.

I wish you the Best of Luck and God Blessings.

Yours Faithfully,

Dr Michael Steve.



Dear Jim,

I was about sending the above message to you before your recent message came, then I decided to give you this reply altogether. Thanks for your message and the contents were well understood. I am apologizing for the comment made by Earlene and I am really sorry for the misunderstanding between you and her Family, please, ensure that the problem is resolved immediately. As far as I am concerned I am ready to do business with you but you have to abide by the conditions of the transaction not doing things on how you feel. The way things are done in USA is not the way it is done here. If you are ready for us to proceed in this business, send a copy of your Scanned photograph passport to me, including your bank information, telephone and fax numbers respectively and ensure that the USD$1,250 is sent to the Lawyer to enable him go to the Bank to activate the account.

You can always talk to me on phone number 00 234-1-7754429, so you can call me for more clarification as soon as you receive this message now.

I wish you the best of Luck and God Bless.

Yours Faithfully,


I let him stew for a while, then finally get back to him Saturday night…

Sat, 19 Apr 2003 8:32 PM

Dear Michael,

Homer’s out for his bowling night, so I have a few minutes to respond to you privately. I’ll delete my message from my sent file before he gets home, so be sure you don’t quote me in your next reply. It’ll be our little secret.

Homer is a disgusting rotten pervert and I can’t wait to leave him. I’m going to apply for my passport tomorrow, and as soon as I have it, I’ll get on a plane to Nigeria. Which airport should I fly to, and can you meet me there? I don’t care if you’re married as long as you love me and I believe you do. Oh it will be so sweet to be together, and with all that money. I forget, how much of that 35 million did you say you were going to give me?

Is there any way you could send me some money now so I can get my passport and buy the airplane ticket? Homer is getting a loan from his 401k to open the bank account- he explained to me how that money can’t be traced back to you or you will get in trouble, but couldn’t you send me the money for the passport and plane? It should be about $1200, so we would be even.

I’m planning my escape now. Soon, no more Homer, just my 7 foot tall African hero! Oh how sweet it will be.

Love you so much,


P.S. Not a word to Jimmy, either. He’s not really like what I said before, Homer made me write that, but let’s keep him out of it, okay?

I hope he doesn’t notice that Jimmy and Earlene always respond within a short time of each other…

Sat, 19 Apr 2003 8:54 PM

Dr. Steve,

Okay, I’m confused: do I have to go through Earlene or not? I’d rather just do the deal with you and keep her in the dark, okay?

Now, let’s go over it again, okay?

If I understand it correctly, there is $35.5 million sitting in an account, right? And you can’t get it out unless you have an account to transfer it into that can’t be traced to you, right? If I set up the account and help you do the transfer, you’ll give me 35% of it, 5% goes for expenses, and the remaining 60% is for you and your friends, is that right?

Okay, here’s the thing. If anything goes wrong, I’m the one that will go to jail, right? I have to lie to bank and government officials in at least two countries, which could put me in prison for 20-30 years. This is not some ignorant little redneck lady you’re dealing with now.

You know if Earlene and that idiot do it, it will all get screwed up. This is a really critical deal and it could go very wrong. According to my research, the Gross National Income of Nigeria was US$290 million in 2001. That means this transfer you want to make represents about 12% of Nigeria’s economy. Don’t you think the government will notice that? This has to be handled delicately if it’s going to work at all. You guys think a few little bribes are all it will take? Even if the Nigerian government is that stupid, you can bet the US tax people will be all over it. Remember, the internet was invented by the US Department of Defense; do you really think they don’t keep an eye on it?

You’re just begging for trouble, sending out stuff like this in an unencrypted e-mail. Lucky for you that Earlene brought me into it or you’d all end up rotting in prison. I’ve been in the computer industry for a long time, I know what the risks are, and 35% is not enough for it. I want 50% or the deal is off.

Awaiting your response,


I don’t hear from Dr. Steve again until the next morning, which happens to be Easter Sunday. Meanwhile, a friend of mine has decided he wants to play too, so he’s sent a note to the good doctor. We’ll check in on him another time, but the fact that he gets an answer confirms for me that this guy is a criminal and deserves whatever he gets. So with a clear conscience, I wait for a response from Mikey.

Sun, 20 Apr 2003 07:18 AM

ATTN: Earlene

Dear Earlene,

As directed by you and Homer, I would only have something to do with Jimmy on your direction. I am asking you to have patience now till the completion of the business which is going to take few days as soon as the account is activated in the bank, then you and Homer will have enough money to get your passports and even visit Nigeria, therefore, I urge you to keep your cool and ensure that you stay in Harmony with your husband, Homer. For Jimmy, I will handle his matter carefully. Please, encourage Homer to hasten up with the arrangement and let him have some words across to me so that I will know the development.

I wish you the best of Easter and God Bless.

Yours Sincerely,

Dr Michael.

Jimmy gets another e-mail not long afterward. You have to admire the guy’s persistence!

Sun, 20 Apr 2003 08:14 AM


Dear Friend,

Thanks for your message of 19th April 2003 and the contents were well understood. I assure you that this business has no side effect now and in future, all the necessary documents as regards to the payment are much in place, therefore, no risk is involved. The step we have taken in this business is to ensure that the money is not questionable here and in USA, so going to jail is out of the point in this business.

As regards to the percentage, I have agreed with my colleagues to give you 40% instead of the initial agreed 35% and if the present percentage is not good for you, I am sorry that there is nothing we can do about it, then we can start looking for another person. No matter the circumstances, atlast, I will still ensure that a normal percentage share is given to Earlene and the Husband no matter who must have carried out the transaction with me, though I might not even mention the name of the person to them to avoid complications.

If you agree on the percentage share, all you need to do is to send a copy of your passport photograph to me through E-mail attachment, including your telephone and fax number, full address and Bank information, i.e, Name of your bank, its address, Account number and the beneficiaryâs name, telephone and fax numbers of the bank respectively, including the Swift / sorting code (if any). Also, ensure that you make the necessary arrangement to send the USD$1,250 to the lawyer so that he can start the process of activating the account in the bank. Like I informed you in my message of yesterday, you can always reach me on my direct telephone # 00 234-1-7754429 at any time if you need an urgent information.

Advise urgently.

Thanks and God Bless.

Yours Faithfully,

Dr Steve.

Since it’s Easter, I ignore Dr. Mike for the day. Monday morning, we’ve got mail.

Mon, 21 Apr 2003 12:55 AM


Attn: Mr Jim,

Dear Friend,

How was your Easter?. I expected you to give me a reply to my message of yesterday, but all my expectation was in vain, How is Earlene and have you heard from her?. I am still expecting your message on the required datas.

Advise urgently.

Thanks and God Bless.

Yours faithfully,

Dr Michael Steve.

Mon, 21 Apr 2003 12:57 AM


Attn: Mr Homer & Earlene Teel.

Dear Friends,

How was your Easter Holiday?. I hope that you guys enjoyed it very well?. If so, thanks to Almighty Jesus. I sent a message to you yesterday which I am yet to receive a reply, so please confirm if that message was received and let me know the update.

I am waiting for your urgent response.

Almighty God be with you.

Thanks and remain blessed.

Yours faithfully,

Dr Michaels.

Time for some drastic action….

Mon, 21 Apr 2003 4:34 PM


I need your help. I’ve applied for my passport, but it will take a couple of days to get it. Once I have it, I want to come to Nigeria. I need to leave as soon as possible, and I will bring all of our money with me in cash. We have about 20,000 in our savings.

The reason is, I have to get out of the US as soon as I can. There’s been an accident. On Sunday, while I was preparing our easter dinner, Homer and I got into a big fight over this money thing of yours. He yelled at me and said I had almost messed up everything by falling in love with you. He yelled and yelled and even slapped me for being a stupid woman. Finally I couldn’t take it any more. I was standing there in the kitchen crying and he was screaming at me for involving my nephew in our business and I couldn’t take it any more. The ham I had been slicing was there beside me with the knife on the plate and Homer came at me to hit me again and I stabbed him in the throat to make him shut up. I stabbed him over and over and the blood sprayed all over the kitchen. Finally he was dead, so I dragged him into the spare bedroom and wrapped him up in a plastic tarp.

I called in to his work this morning and told them he was sick and wouldn’t be in for a few days. I think I have about a week before anybody gets suspicious, and by then I’ll be long gone.

What is the name of the airport in Nigeria that I should go to? Will you meet me there? Please help me, your my only hope.


Well, that ought to shake things up a little.

Tue, 22 Apr 2003 5:28 AM

Attn: Earlene.

I received your message and the contents were well noted. I don’t believe you killing Homer, over an argument?. What for?. It is against God’s wish. Homer’s money is not important when he is dead. If it is true as I don’t believe it, if it is true all you need to do is to fly out of USA and go to any Island Country near your Country and stay there for the time being. Take your passport with you . Our Country has strong tie with USA and such things will not be accommodated here. I am not happy at all with the present news.

I am confused and has nothing to say about the present situation. What you should do now is to delete all correspondences between us to avoid involving yourself into more problems. Coming here will not solve the problem now, it will increase it, therefore, look for another Island or Country nearer USA to accommodate yourself now till the matters goes down. I am not happy with news now, so I am feeling seriously bad.


Dr Michael

He sounds worried! Woo hoo!

Tue, 22 Apr 2003 10:47 AM

Dr. Steve,

My Easter was fine, thanks for asking. I was at my mother’s house. She’s Earlene’s sister. We didn’t see my aunt on Easter, because Homer doesn’t like to go out much, so they have holidays at home and their mobile home is too small for them to entertain in. Just as well, my mother can’t stand Homer anyway.

By the way, have you heard from my aunt lately? I tried to call her yesterday, but there was no answer.

Getting back to business: I should have all the bank information you need pulled together today. I had a computer failure yesterday and just got your e-mail this morning.


I wait a few hours, then send this one:

Tue, 22 Apr 2003 3:20 PM

Dr. Steve,

Okay, I think I have everything you need now. My passport photo is attached, and here is my information as you requested:

telephone: 760-762-9103
fax number: 413-778-1103
full address: 632 Mergberger Rd., Rundfunk, CA 91275

Bank information
Name of your bank: Grand Fenwick Savings & Loan
bank address: 345 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91101
Account number: 86-7-530-9

I don’t have the bank’s phone or fax numbers here, but I’ll get them when I go there to make the $1250 transfer.

The 40% percentage is okay I guess.


I have no idea who this guy is; I did a Google search for passport photos, and he was the lucky winner. All the info I gave is totally bogus…

telephone: a payphone at a rest-stop off Highway 58 in Boron, CA.

fax number: an e-fax number I set up; it goes to my e-mail.

full address: a nonsense address I stole from a friend.

Bank name: Grand Fenwick is the country in “The Mouse That Roared,” a great book and movie.

bank address: address of the Bonsai Cow, currently a vacant lot under construction.

Account number: 86-7-530-9 I slay me. It’s “Jenny’s” number, 867-5309. Oh, you know, the Classic Rock song. “Jenny, I got your number, I’m going to make you mine…”

I’m fairly certain I’ve gone too far. He’s going to check on the bank information for sure and then my game is up. Besides, I think he’s done with Earlene, especially after her next e-mail…

Tues, 22 Apr 2003 10:56 AM

You bastard! I was depending on you to help me in my time of need. Homer is dead and I don’t know what to do… my god what have I done.. I killed him and its your fault, I killed him for you. he was going to ruin everything and take your money. I don’t know anybody in any other country I can’t just pick up and go to cuba or wherever, you’r the only person I know outside the US and I need you to help me. Rescue me like you said you would, you told me you loved me, was that a lie??? Now you want me to delete all our e-mail so nobody knows it was your fault. You selfish bastard, I hope you burn in hell for what you did, just the way that I will for killing him. I hate you so much.

Well, I guess I set him straight. I got a response within about half an hour.

Wed 23 Apr 10:11 AM

ATTN: Mrs Earlene.

Dear Earlene,

Your message has been received and the contents were well understood. I thought that you were making a joke by saying that you killed Homer, I don’t believe it and I am confused on what to tell you because nothing has been prepared here to accommodate you, even the money you are talking about has not yet reached your hand, so how am I going to cope with the money arriving there. Why I suggested that you should leave to another Country before preparations will be made for you here is to ensure your safety, because coming directly to this place now will not help matters.

I have not in life believed that such misunderstanding could occur between you and Homer to that such a tragedy extent. Like I have informed you, the best thing you should do now to move to another Country and from there I could make necessary arrangement for you because the situation now is very impromptu and I cannot handle.

Take my advice and let me know your opinion. Why I asked you to delete your mails is just for your own sake, it has nothing to do with Homer and you, afterall, I was still replying you and him.

Let me know your situation.

Thanks and God be with you.

Yours Faithfully,

Dr Mike.

Better see if he’s cut me off yet…

Wed 23 Apr 10:47 AM


I’m sorry I called you names, I’m just so upset, and I need you to help me. You might be right about what I should do, I did a search with that google thing and found out that Belize has no extridition treaty with any other country so if I can get there I’ll be safe. My passport should be ready tomorrow and then I’ll go to the bank and get the money and then go to the airport. I will fly out of the Ontario Airport, but I need to figure out what airline to fly, I don’t think I can get directly to Belize from there I’ll have to change planes at a bigger airport I think.

I will take your phone number with me and when I get to Belize I’ll find out how to stay there for a while and then I’ll come to nigeria. I’m sorry for being mad it me, I thought you were abandoning me now that I screwed up everything by what I did to Homer. I couldn’t help it, Homer was so awful to me, he used to beat me up sometimes and yell at me about everything, and he kept me practically as a prisoner at home, checking up on me all the time and listening in on my phone calls, he was a horrible monster and I’m glad he’s dead. I didn’t kill him over this money thing, it’s been building for about 15 years, I just never had the courage to do it before, I was afraid of going to jail and I didn’t have any way to get out so I stayed and took it. Now its over and I can make plans for my life and I want to be with you..Can I be your girlfriend in nigeria? Your wife doesn’t need to know. In the bible, didn’t Solomon have somethign like 300 wives and a lot of girlfriends? I know its not the best thing but it’s not that bad. Not a s bad as murder anyway. Please tell me you still love me.



Holy cow! This guy never gives up!

Wed, 23 Apr 2003 4:42 PM

To: earlene@monkeyspit.net



Dear Earlene,

Your message of today has been received and noted. Your trip plan is in order and you should make it as quick as possible and get me informed wherever you are and I will get in touch.

Thanks and God Bless.

Yours Faithfully,

Dr Michael.

About two minutes later…

Wed, 23 Apr 2003 4:41 PM

To: jim@comicbookresources.com

Subject: URGENT



Thanks for your message of today 23rd April 2003 and the contents were well understood. Your request is not wrong, I will send a copy of my international passport to you by fax tomorrow because I dont have scanner machine now, but if I get one in any internet cafe here, I will try to send it to you from there.

Your request will be in your hand tomorrow morning, so please try your best to ensure that you arrange for the sending of the money to the Lawyer tomorrow because I dont want anything to delay the activation of the account this week.

I will get back to you tomorrow.

Thanks and God Bless.

Yours Faithfully,

Dr Michael.

Time to yank the chain a little more:

Wes 23 Apr 2003 5:56 PM

Dr. Steve,

After I wire the money to you, how long will it take to conclude the

transaction and give me my share? I’m going to need a lot of money very

quickly. My aunt Earlene is in some really big legal trouble that I can’t go

into now, and I need to help pay for a lawyer. It’s a real mess, but I can’t

talk about it. If this transaction is going to take more than a few days to

wrap up, then I might not be able to wire the $1250. Please let me know soon

so I can decide what my options are.



Dr. Steve is possibly the stupidest scammer on earth:

Wes 23 Apr 2003 7:40 PM


Dear Friend,

Thanks for your email and the contents were clearly noted and well understood. Infact, i was very shock when i heard you say that your aunt was in big problem, please explain because i was not happy hearing such words ok.

As per your question, as soon as we receive the money today, your account will be activate latest by monday the money will be in your account.

I have told you that i m’ going to send you my international passport and contact address by tomorrow you don;t have any problem ok.

Thanks and God bless.

Best regards.

Dr.Michael steve.

And that brings us to the present moment. Here’s my next e-mail to him, which I’m sending out in a few minutes

Wes 23 Apr 2003 5:56 PM

Dr. Steve,

I can’t say a lot, because the lawyer told me not to say anything to anybody, but here’s what was in the newspaper this morning:

Adelanto- An Adelanto man was found murdered in his home yesterday, and his wife was arrested a few hours later while attempting to close his checking account. Homer Teel, age 47, was discovered by a Gas Company employee who noticed a foul odor while taking a meter reading. He looked through the window and saw what appeared to be a body wrapped in plastic sheeting, and called police.

An alert was put out for his wife Earlene, age 44. Monday morning, Earlene had called Teel’s employer and told them he was sick and would not be in for a few days. At the time of her arrest, she was at the Adelanto branch of Grand Fenwick Savings and Loan attempting to withdraw $19,000 from Teel’s checking account. Packed suitcases were found in her car, along with her passport and a printout of an online reservation for a plane ticket to Belize.

That’s all I can tell you now. Sorry to involve you in this family mess.



And now we wait…

The fun concludes in Part 3!

Be sure to check out our other Scam Baiting pages at The In-Box!

Rant-Man’s Notebook: Customer Serviced Part 2, and Other Tales

When last we spoke, I was waiting not-so-patiently for my new computer to be delivered. Here’s what’s transpired since then. Last Wednesday I called the company (IO Sales of San Jose, CA, doing business online as eDOT Direct, though they also call themselves Advanced Vision) and asked where the computer is. They told me it would be here on Monday the 17th, and I told them that if it wasn’t I would cancel the order. That’s where we left off.

So Monday, there’s no computer. About 4:45 or so, I call them again, and talk to an argumentative young man who tried to explain to me that February 25 to March 17 is only 14 days. Never mind that they never told me it would take 14 days; actually, on March 6, the woman I spoke to told me it would take three days. In any case, the guy was so thick-headed I found myself yelling at him. I started to say something, and he cut me off with another mealy-mouthed excuse, so I said “I’m the customer; that means I’m right!” I was really fed up with them.

Here’s a tip if you work in customer service: don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining. This idiot actually tried to tell me that the delivery was delayed because they had to verify my credit card, so it was my fault. He didn’t want to discuss the fact that it took them 11 days to figure that out, and then a week later forgot that they had already done it. He kept saying “we didn’t do anything wrong.” I told him that they hadn’t done anything right.

He ran through his excuses again and told me to be patient, that the Mac would be delivered “tomorrow or Wednesday.”

“I’M CANCELLING THE ORDER!” I screamed into the phone. He told me that I would have to pay the shipping charge for returning it. I told him that I certainly would not, that I would dispute the bill with the credit card company. I told him that their company has the worst customer service I have ever encountered in over thirty years, and that they ought to be put out of business.

He yelled back, “you should be out of business too, you stupid idiot!” and hung up the phone.

I called up my credit company and spoke to a very nice and helpful woman in the dispute resolution department. Told her the whole story, informed her that I had cancelled the order, but that I believed the company would fight the refund, so I wanted to get it on file immediately. She put me on hold and called the guy at IO Sales/eDOT/Advanced Vision/whatever other dubious name they operate under. Eventually she came back and told me that the guy had assured her the computer would be delivered on “Wednesday or Thursday” (gee, he told me Tuesday or Wednesday; truth-impaired or what?), and that I should just refuse the shipment and they would take it back. She also promised me that she would put a note in the file and make sure I got a full refund from them, with no shipping charge.

It was so nice to talk to a competent person who knew how to do her job instead of that fly-by-night incompetent who’s probably operating out of his garage and wouldn’t know customer service if it bit him on the butt.

The saga continues. Meanwhile I’m still shopping for a Mac.

In other news…

We have a new addition to the household. My oldest daughter had spent the last couple of months browsing ads online, finally finding one that caught her interest. She wanted to meet this one, so she answered the ad, and then I had to drive her (and the rest of the family) about 50 miles in the rain to meet him. His name is Duncan. That’s a good beginning, since my great-great-great-grandfather was named Duncan. It seemed like a good sign. He’s young, but very friendly and outgoing, and the whole family was immediately taken with him.

So what’s he like? Well, he’s black, about average size for his age, very intelligent and completely charming.

He’s nine weeks old, and he’s a labrador retriever.

Two of our cats took refuge inside the floorboards in the bathroom we recently demolished and only came out today. The third one set about laying plans for an assassination the moment he laid eyes on Duncan.

So far it’s interesting.

Before we drove to East Pootwaddle to pick up the dog, I led a five-mile hike for the Boy Scouts through the city of Sierra Madre, a wonderful little town best known for serving as the setting of the 1956 movie “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” It still looks the same. We assembled in a parking lot not far from where the pods were distributed, and the rain began to pick up. I told everybody that we could reschedule the hike if they wanted, that we didn’t have to do it in the rain, but that if anybody wanted to hike, I would lead it despite the rain. A few people bolted for their cars, but 22 of them decided to go for it. We were thoroughly drenched by the time we finished three hours later. My jacket finally dried out yesterday.

So, no, I do not have enough sense to come in out of the rain. But you knew that, didn’t you?

Rant-Man’s Notebook: A Nation of Wimps

A Nation of Wimps

If you’ve been reading the Stella Awards (no, not that stupid collection of urban legends you got in your e-mail; the TRUE Stella Awards, published by Randy “This is True” Cassingham), you know that we’ve got a real problem in this country with people blaming others for their own stupidity. If you’ve been reading my babblings for a while, you probably remember my comments about the Funsuckers, the people who run around sucking the fun out of everything. We’ve got a real problem with people thinking they should be protected from every conceivable hazard. I think I’ve finally figured out a part of the reason why.

No, it isn’t the lawyers. Yes, trial lawyers eat their young, and the personal-injury leeches who show up on late-night TV promising to get you millions of dollars for being an idiot are the worst of the lot, but tort reform isn’t gonna fix the problem. Besides, do we really want to ask lawyers to fix the problem? Do we really think they will? No, it’s much deeper than that, but let’s start with one little source of the problem.

The problem is we are becoming a nation of wimps. Used to be, if you did something stupid, somebody would say “ooh, that looked like it hurt. Did it?” If you admitted that it did, they’d say “Won’t do that again, willya? See, you’re smarter now. You learned something today.” And that was the end of it. Not anymore. Now, you don’t even get the chance to do anything stupid, and if you do, the pile of safety guards and protective gear you’re using will keep you safe, even if it does prevent you from using the thing properly. But that’s just another symptom. Why are we becoming a nation of wimps?

I suspect that part of the problem is people waiting longer to have kids. Back when I was a kid, people started their families when they were in their early 20s or even younger. Now they’re waiting until their 30s and 40s. But how can this matter? Consider this: when you and your friends climbed up on the roof to jump into the pool, or fought duels with pointy sticks, or played Evel Kinevel on your Schwinn Stingray bikes, your parents were either oblivious or unconcerned; kids will be kids. Ah, but the little old ladies… they had a problem with it. The grannies in the neighborhood went into fluttering conniptions, terrified that you would Fall And Break Your Neck or Put Someone’s Eye Out or Start A Fire. Fortunately, the grannies and other little old ladies had no power. All they could do was twitter and fret while you collected battle scars and stories.

The little old ladies were in their 40s, 50s and 60s…. the same age as the mothers of today. The people who would have been grannies and granpas in the old days are moms and dads now, and that makes all the difference. They’ve forgotten what it was like to be a kid, and they’ve collected a couple of decades of horror stories, and gotten set in their ways, and they’ve slowed down–they can’t keep up with their active tots, so they have to slow THEM down.

My wife works in the after-school program in an affluent community; the kids are the children of scientists, university professors, lawyers, doctors, people in the entertainment industry. These are not stupid people. They’re smart, successful in their careers… and completely paralyzed by fear and worry as only little old ladies can be. There’s one kid, a bright, healthy, active, normal kid. His parents make him wear a helmet to school. There’s nothing wrong with him except that he’s been saddled with parents who are SURE he’s going to end up with a massive head injury. They have a whole shopping list of things he’s not allowed to do; basically anything that looks fun. Fortunately for him, the school staff has more sense than that, and he gets to participate in the normal activities despite the parents’ paranoia.

My bride told me about this, and I thought about it for a while, and finally I asked her how old the parents are. In their 50s. When I explained my theory to her, she told me that all of her most difficult parents are over 40, and all of her most difficult children have parents over 40. I think the kids are difficult because they’re being smothered to death.

But the bigger problem is, these overprotective worrywarts are smothering the rest of us as well. it’s not enough for them to make sure that they don’t eat junk or breathe cigarette smoke, they have to make sure the rest of us don’t either.

Another parent I know told me about a time when she organized a field trip to a museum. One of the parents was completely stricken with terror at the prospect of driving into the city. Not because she’s afraid of driving on the freeway or anything like that; no, this one was petrified at the idea that her kid might see a homeless person. “What will I say?!!?!??” she cried. The idea of having to explain the concept of poverty to her pampered and sheltered little angel practically unhinged her. She thinks she’s doing her kid a favor.

My mom once told me it’s easier to put on shoes than to carpet the world, but these people haven’t heard that. Plus, they compensate for depriving their kids of any kind of character-building risks by indulging them with luxuries. In other words, they are systematically raising a generation of soft, weak, frightened, impatient, spoiled, materialistic, dull-witted, apathetic, selfish children, who will age but never mature. Hothouse flowers. The real world will crush them like daisies.

The upside is, kids like mine will have no trouble taking over the world.

The Smartest Man You Never Heard of

This week I got to spend a few hours burning CDs for the Mount Lowe Preservation Society, Inc., which reminded me how interesting that place is. So I’m gonna bore you with some details.

The reason for telling you all this is that there are probably some places near you that are every bit as interesting as Mount Lowe, build by people every bit as interesting as Thaddeus Sobieski Constantine Lowe, and you probably don’t know about them either, and maybe this will nudge you to go find them. Aside from that, there’s the fact that T.S.C. Lowe is probably the smartest man you never heard of.

Thaddeus Lowe was born in New Hampshire in 1832. His family was very poor, to the point that he was handed over to a neighboring farm as a child, there to work as a farmhand. While working to earn his keep, he noticed that clouds at a certain altitude always moved east at a consistent speed, even when clouds at lower altitudes were moving west. From this he reasoned that there must be an air current that traveled in that direction consistently. He figured that if a person were able to get to that altitude, the wind stream would carry him across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe. He determined to try it, and that began his interest in ballooning. At 11, he ran away from the farm and made his way to Portland, Maine, the largest and closest city to the area, 100 miles away. It took him two years to reach Portland. The main reason he left was that the family he had been given to refused to allow him any schooling. They had no books, and considered him a servant with too much to do to waste time filling his head with idle nonsense like an education.

Eventually, after working as a cobbler and other jobs, Lowe became the assistant to a traveling showman named Professor Reginald P. Dincklehoff, who performed an exhibition of science and magic. Part of the show involved the creation of hydrogen by putting metal filings into sulfuric acid, then using the gas to make soap bubbles that remained in the air until they popped. A couple of years later, he bought out the show, eventually earning enough to settle in New York and pursue more formal studies in science, especially ballooning and aeronautics.

By 1857 he was earning his living as a balloonist. Along the way, he experimented with various ideas to help in his plan to cross the Atlantic. One of those was the altimeter. Soon orders for his invention from across the country kept a crew of workers busy.

Later, while using the portable hydrogen factory that he had invented to inflate his balloons, he noticed that the compressor tended to freeze over. Most people would have tried to find a way to prevent that. Lowe instead decided to find a use for this discovery, and invented refrigeration, eventually becoming very wealthy from the patents he held, which included the refrigerated steamship and refrigerated railway car to transport perishables, and the ice companies he established.

In 1861, Lowe flew his balloon on a 900-mile journey from Cincinnati to South Carolina, arriving a week after the fall of Fort Sumpter. He was arrested as a Union spy, but convinced them of his innocence. Upon his return to Cincinnati, he was contacted by President Lincoln, and was commissioned as an officer, deploying his balloon to observe Confederate troop movements. The Air Corps he founded eventually became the U.S. Air Force. During this time, he came up with the idea of launching his balloon from the deck of a boat. This way, he could sail down rivers and ascend closer to the enemy in unexpected locations. So he invented the aircraft carrier. He also brought along the newfangled camera and took photos of the terrain, inventing aerial photography.

After the war, Lowe pursued his ice business, expanded into gas production, and made a lot of money. By 1887, he moved to Pasadena and “retired.” That is, he shifted his attention from the gas and refrigeration businesses and on to astronomy. First, though, he needed a place to put all the money he’d made (he was on his third or fourth fortune by this point), so he founded Citizen’s Bank, which is still in operation.

Upon hearing that a New York observatory was surrounded by too many lights and becoming unusable, he agreed to rebuild one atop Echo Mountain in the foothills above Pasadena. This led to his becoming one of the founders of the California Institute of Technology, or Caltech for short. While making preparations for the observatory, Lowe met David McPherson, an engineer, who had a plan for an incline railway to ascend the mountains. Lowe agreed to build it. In 1894, he built Echo Mountain House, a 12-room hotel at the top of the mountain. Later this expanded to an entire resort, including a zoo. The railway continued on for another four miles or so to Mount Lowe (formerly Oak Mountain) and Ye Alpine Tavern.

Between 1893 and 1936, an estimated 3,100,000 people rode the Mt. Lowe Railway to these destinations, which became the most popular tourist attraction west of the Mississippi, the Disney World of its day. Among these visitors were Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, along with all the glitterati of the day.

Unfortunately, the railroad and hotels cost more to build than they brought in. This depleted Lowe’s fortune, and the final length of track, intended to reach the peak of Mt. Lowe, was never built. Lowe died in 1913, and the railway was sold to the Huntingtons’ Pacific Electric Railway Company. It closed down in 1937, and today only the foundations of the buildings remain. You can read all about it at the page I linked above.

At some point along the way, Professor Lowe took his young granddaughter, Florence Lowe Barnes, to an airshow. She was fascinated by the planes, and eventually became a pilot herself. You might have heard of her. She was better known by her nickname, Pancho Barnes.

Anyway, I was burning CDs of music composed about Mt. Lowe: The Mount Lowe March, Pacific Electric Trolley Waltz (two versions), and The Echo Mountain Schottische. If you want to hear them, go to the Mount Lowe Preservation Society’s music page and give a listen.

There, now you know something you didn’t know before. Ain’t knowledge grand?