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Randy Cassingham

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Entertainment Online Since the Internet’s Dark Ages.

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  Secret Identity

It took a while, but I've finally started to get the question from readers: "Are you the same Randy Cassingham that wrote the book on the Dvorak keyboard?" Yes -- surely one Randy Cassingham in the world is enough.

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  Don't Say I Didn't Tell You So

I had spoken about spam here and there in True, but in this issue I published the first installment of what would become my Spam Primer -- a warning that unsolicited e-mail advertising was now officially a serious problem on the net.

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  H.U. -- A Prequel

The "Honorary Unsubscribe" doesn't exist yet, but this week's Premium issue -- the first Premium edition ever -- had something at the top that previewed the idea:

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  Honorary Unsubscribe

Without any announcement, the first "Honorary Unsubscribe" runs in True.

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  A Moment for a Serious Issue

I was quite honored last week to get a copy of the new Breast Cancer Resource Guide of Massachusetts, which lists This is True as a leading Humor Resource for victims of breast cancer. The Resource Guide is an excellent compendium of information and pointers toward more details about this killer disease, against which progress is being made. They also ran a brief story I told them, which I will take the space to repeat here:

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  Boulder Economics Institute

I gave a talk this week at the Economics Institute here in Boulder, which is attached to the University of Colorado.

The institute "prepares" economics and business students from abroad for graduate studies here with crash courses in American culture. It was very interesting to speak to them about American media in the age of the Internet, and the changes that the Net is bringing about.

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  Who to Choose?

The recent Honorary Unsubscribe for Cleveland Amory brought a lot of mail, such as this from Rick in California:

"How did I miss that? I saw him on TV just a few weeks ago. Randy, another reason to subscribe is the honorary unsubscribe."

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  April Fools and the Internet Police

April Fools -- with emphasis on the fools. Yesterday I had the joy of watching a great April Fool's joke unfold. My friends Ray at "Joke-A-Day" and Cathie at the Centre for the Easily Amused staged a big fight for April Fools Day, calling each other names, etc. That's cute, but that wasn't the joke -- even though their messages to their readers were dated "March 32".

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  HeroicStories is Born

I'm pleased to announce my new project: a new e-mail publication with stories about interesting real people. It's a spinoff of the popular "Honorary Unsubscribe" feature in True.

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  A Real Honorary Unsubscribe

This week the Honorary Unsubscribe marks the first time that I know that the "honoree" was indeed a This is True reader (it's called "honorary" for a reason!) But in this case, Jerry was, in fact, one of my best friends -- and a Premium subscriber.

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  Saving Readers from Hell, One Card at a Time

Pascal in France writes, "How can you stand all the complaints and rants you get? Doesn't anyone send good mail anymore? I absolutely *love* TRUE and the way it makes me think about issues. But the whiny people that write you, is that all you get?"

No indeed! I just think readers would get bored if all I ran were the kudos, which indeed come in with much more frequency than the complaints. Indeed, just the notes included with the orders this week for our "Get Out of Hell Free" cards have been great. David in Washington says "I'll forward one to Bill Gates. He probably feels he needs one about now." (I sent an extra one, so it could be "on me". :-)

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  The Sabre Rattles

Readers have really loved my "Get Out of Hell Free" cards. They're even featured in the current (October) issue of Playboy (one of their editors saw them, liked them, and asked if they could write about them).

Meanwhile, a few readers wondered if I'd have a problem with Hasbro (which owns the Monopoly board game); I pointed them to a page on my site that talks about parody, and what's allowed under copyright and case law. That fairly detailed explanation of parody, however, wasn't enough for Hasbro: I heard from their lawyers last week demanding I "cease and desist" from offering the cards. My reply did not require that they have one of the cards to counter my curse, but I was tempted.

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  HUs: Unclear on the Concept

"Chaos" (i.e., he didn't stand by his own comment enough to sign a real name) in Massachusetts writes: "What is it with you???? Why is it when someone really famous who has given an impact on America, you find someone who didn't even matter and place them under the Honorary Unsubscribes? Chuck Jones passes away, someone who has impacted cartoons for MORE than 60 years and you pick some guy who sold newspapers for most of his life????? Worse enough is when you chose someone else other than GEORGE HARRISION! One of the original Beatles who changed music forever and you picked someone who really didn't do anything. That is pretty sad!"

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  Shifting the Spam Problem -- to You

While reading the news I saw an item that to help with the spam problem, ISP Earthlink plans to implement a "challenge-response" system. When someone sends an e-mail to someone using such a system, the sender gets a "challenge" they have to respond to. Typically, the sender has to click through to a web page and enter a code number, and then the message gets delivered.

Imagine having to do that 120,000 times.

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  Bonzer Debut

I've added a new weekly feature to True: the "Bonzer Web Site of the Week" has been added just above the Honorary Unsubscribe. I accept site suggestions for this feature only from Premium subscribers (yes, I'll be checking).

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  New Project: True-a-Day

I've been wanting to do this for at least four years. And, finally, my late 20th Century vision has been realized.

For years, people have been asking if it was OK to put True stories on their web sites. I have, from time to time, given permission for specific stories to be posted on special request, but I have never given "blanket" permission for sites to put up "sample" stories at will. Then I had an idea on how to do it.

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  Yet Another New Project: Jumbo Joke

I shut down my "Randy's Random" e-mail publication a year and a half ago, and I still get people saying they miss it. RR was a place where I posted random bits of interesting humor that didn't fit in True. I stopped it for several reasons, including that it was a true pain to deal with Yet Another E-mailed Publication, there was no income involved, and plenty of other irritations.

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  A Failure to Grasp Reality

You know I write about idiots every week, but it's not all that often that I have to actually deal with them one on one, in real time. But I had one today. My "other" publication, as you probably know, is the True Stella Awards, which details real-but-stupid lawsuits.

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  Another Spinoff Site

Last week, as I was writing the announcement of the new archive site for the Honorary Unsubscribes, I mused about how I have "spun off" all the sections of True's web site that didn't really have anything to do with True's "mission". Then it hit me: I had spun off all the unrelated content except for the Bonzer Web Site of the Week. Since that's nearly a clone of the new Honorary Unsubscribe archive, it was very simple to do "Bonzer" too: it was up and running by Monday! Another great job by my site programmer, Leo of Ask Leo. There are some great sites that are well worth your time: http://www.BonzerSites.com

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  Separated by a Common Language

It's been 27(!) years since I was in England, but I vowed "I shall return" and I'll be wading ashore in mid October. As some of you know, I'm writing a book for the True Stella Awards about the loss of common sense in our civil courts, and I think there's no better way to see how our court system got started than to visit the place where Anglo Saxon Common Law began.

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  Operation Iraq Hell

Last year, I ran a letter that came in with an order for GOOHF cards from a U.S. Army captain; he said the cards were for his men being shipped off to Iraq. I noted that I threw in some extras, and several of you wrote to ask if you could send some extras too. Then other readers asked if they could send books for the soldiers, rather than cards. Yes, and yes: all told I got contributions from 216 people who enabled me to send 21,260 GOOHF cards, 827 sheets of GOOHF stickers, and $2,376 worth of (discounted) This is True books to soldiers serving in Iraq in all branches of the U.S. military. This page tells the whole story, with several letters from the captain, Charles from Ft. Riley, Kansas.

I heard from him last night. He writes:

Continue reading "Operation Iraq Hell" »

  Got GOOHFy

Richard in (I think) Connecticut writes:

"I hope I don't sound too dense but I don't understand your GOOHF cards. I know they are based on the Monopoly cards. What I don't understand is when one would use them. I wouldn't necessarily want to give them to someone I don't like or someone I thought was doing something wrong because I probably wouldn't want to joke with them. I wouldn't necessarily want to give them to someone I do like, because that implies I think they would otherwise go to hell. Plus I wouldn't want to seem so arrogant that I thought I had the power to influence God about something as important as whether someone's soul spends eternity in hell or not. I know it is just a joke and I shouldn't try to read too much into it but I just don't understand it (and that is a little bit frustrating). Obviously a lot of people do get it (everyone who buys the cards for example) and I feel left out."

Continue reading "Got GOOHFy" »

  Another Self-Proclaimed Religious Scholar

So I get this e-mail from a reader demanding to know why I make my world-famous "Get Out of Hell Free" cards available. I've written about that quite a bit over the years, so I don't intend to repeat it all here (see the GOOHF site if you're not already aware of the story. The basic answer, though, is "Because people like them.")

Anyway, William in Zimbabwe wrote:

Continue reading "Another Self-Proclaimed Religious Scholar" »

  HU's: I'd Like to Nominate...

Quite a few readers wrote last week to ask if they can nominate people for the Honorary Unsubscribe, mostly due to the death of Don Knotts (Deputy Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show, among other roles), but also for actor Darren "Mike Hammer" McGavin. And Monday I learned that Dennis Weaver, who lived just a few miles from me, died on Friday. He was Chester in Gunsmoke and also played a New Mexico marshal working in New York in McCloud. McGavin was 83; Knotts and Weaver were 81. All three were pioneers in early television.

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  Are You Responsible for Spam?

So if True's readers are the "Cream of the Crop" (as I have said many times), what does that make the rest of the online population? About as scary as the Waterbury School Board. This week the online security firm Sophos threw up its corporate arms in disgust over the continued proliferation of viruses and "worms" online.

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  GOOHF: A Major Milestone

This is True has hit a major milestone. You are of course aware of my "Get Out of Hell Free" cards, my response to a reader telling me I am going to hell. I've mentioned from time to time that they sell really well, which says something about society (like "Thank you, but I have my own fine morals and I don't need some drama queen to tell me that her warped 'I'm-sleeping-with-my-pastor' morality is better than mine.") But I've never really said how well they sell. I'm going to now:

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  New Project: Groxx

I mentioned in my author's notes recently that I was working on a new site. It's been in beta testing by Premium subscribers, and I'm finally ready to open it up to a wider audience.

Continue reading "New Project: Groxx" »

  This is True Videos: Take 2

Just over a year ago, I launched a new This is True video series. There were some things I really liked about those videos, but there were quite a few things I didn't like about them too. Only five were produced.

Continue reading "This is True Videos: Take 2" »

  Denver Mensa A.G.

Kit and I are back from Denver, where we both spoke at U.S. Mensa's Annual Gathering. Several readers have asked what a Mensa gathering is like. Mensans simply have one thing in common: they're all in the 98th percentile of intelligence -- pretty smart people.

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  New 'Deluxe' GOOHF Card

I want to tell you about my new Get Out of Hell Free product. I'm really excited about it: I've been dropping hints about it for several weeks now, and I'm happy to say they start shipping Friday.

Continue reading "New 'Deluxe' GOOHF Card" »

  Laugh, or the World Laughs At You

It's so sad to see how people just can't take an obvious joke. (Say, like on a site called Jumbo Joke!) There was a political item today, and it resulted in a lot of whining -- and protest unsubscribes.

Continue reading "Laugh, or the World Laughs At You" »

  Honorary Unsubscribe Choices

Two weeks ago I ran out of time to research and write the Honorary Unsubscribe -- and then forgot to note that in the issue. The H.U. runs the following Monday in the Premium edition, and I had time to research it over the weekend, so there was an H.U. entry that week -- free edition readers just didn't see it. But it's in the archive, if you like to keep track of such things. To catch up see Hans Beck.

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  Changes to the Honorary Unsubscribe

Now and then, Premium subscribers, the paying customers which, I have said time and again, make True possible, get a little miffed that they get the Honorary Unsubscribe after it's published in the free edition. Frankly, shouldn't they get it either exclusively, or at the very least first? Each time I've responded to the complaint with a "that's the way it is" dismissal, but the most recent one pushed me over the edge, so I put it out to the Premium readers, asking the entire population of them what they really thought about it.

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  Don't Talk to the Cops

Some readers will be a bit puzzled why I would spread this message in my blog: "Do not, under any circumstances, be interviewed by the police without advice from a lawyer." You have a right to remain silent, and I urge you to exercise that right. Especially if you are innocent.

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  The Dvorak Keyboard

I've heard from several friends who spotted me in the Wall Street Journal today. It was just a tiny mention in an article about the Dvorak keyboard, an ergonomic alternative to the common "Qwerty" layout that you probably use.

Continue reading "The Dvorak Keyboard" »

  Ed Freeman and Political Manipulation

It goes on and on: See Update.

I generally don't want suggestions for True's Honorary Unsubscribe feature; my usual problem is having far too many possibilities for the one slot each week. In July 2009 a new trend started: people wanting me to do an Honorary Unsubscribe write-up for Ed Freeman, a brave Vietnam War helicopter pilot who saved about 30 shot-up kids and was awarded the Medal of Honor -- the U.S.'s highest military decoration.

Continue reading "Ed Freeman and Political Manipulation" »

  GOOHFy Anniversary

Oh! I just realized it's an anniversary! When I went to look up what was the best story from 10 years ago, I realized that there were really two: Mike the Headless Chicken, and the story that led a reader to tell me I was, positively and without doubt, going to hell.

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  Honorary Unsubscribe: Yueyue

I don't often copy Honorary Unsubscribe write-ups to the True site: there's an archive for those. But I suspect readers are going to want to talk about this one, from True's 23 October 2011 issue:

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  End of One Era, Start of Another

While doing my research this week, I stumbled across an interesting tidbit: Paramount Pictures has become the first major film studio to announce that it will no longer be distributing movies on film, and is going exclusively to digital distribution. Only 8 percent of theaters in the U.S. have held back on converting to digital, so this will put some added pressure on them. Paramount says Anchorman 2 will be the last of its features to be available to theaters on 35mm film stock. Other studios are expected to quickly follow suit.

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  My New Hobby

My New Hobby ...is drones. Nah, not the things that drop bombs from ten miles up, but, basically, a flying camera.

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  What's Up with Jumbo Joke?

An old email humor list I ran called “Randy’s Random” got turned into a web site, Jumbo Joke, way back in 2004.

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  The Return of Randy's Random

Long-time readers may remember that years ago, I had a separate mailing list called “Randy’s Random” — mostly jokes and funny stories. But how to deal with graphics? I didn’t want to email graphics, so Randy’s Random then morphed into Jumbo Joke, which (as you probably know) ran for years. I sold it a year ago because I was tired of maintaining it.

Continue reading "The Return of Randy's Random" »

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