Fun reading

Note: The links on the left are to reasonable copies of the articles, which are provided here in case the the real versions (on the right side with Spinn's descriptions) go 404. The only changes made were correcting image filepaths and deleting some troublesome ad banners and javascripts. Correcting all the links in the pages wasn't worth the trouble, so don't count on any of them working. Just read them and double-back here. --Anonymous Prime
P.S. Anything here in this shade of blue is me. Everything else is from Spinn.
Blair FC Project
NEW:From the Brunching Shuttlecocks-
The Ratings: Paleolithic Web Sites by L. Fitzgerald Sjöberg, a more-than-occasional submitter. Another attempt to explain why the DFC works; though I wouldn't refer to the DFC as "paleolithic" yet. There's also The Blair Family Circus Project by Eric Lipton and Tobi Greenberg.
Scroll Phoenix New Times, Scroll column. Excellent article.
Andy Ihnatko Andy speaks! Andy Ihnatko's column at MacCentral
CBS What looks like the full AP story on the CBS site. That end bit is kinda embarrassing.
Werehamster An editorial by Chris "Werehamster" Dugan, one of my regulars. Does a much better job of answering "Why do people find this funny?" than I've been able to do.
404'd before I could archive it. Sorry. --AP The Associated Press follow-up, in which I tried to correct the Wired inaccuracy, and it's wrong again. 3,000 to 5,000 people per day. 50,000 to 70,000 hits per day. (Although this week, it's been more like 250,000 hits per day.) And again, the lawyer didn't set a Sep 20 deadline; he wanted it down immediately. (The letter is below.) He wanted a reply by the 20th, but that was based on the fact that they sent the letter on the 10th to the wrong address.
Wired Wired article, but please note: It's not a cease-and-desist order, it's a letter from a lawyer. I've never used the phrase, "drop of saliva". My site gets more like 30,000 to 40,000 page views a day, 1/2 to 2/3rds of which are from the DFC. That's 1,200 submissions per cartoon, not per week. Per week it's probably more like 6,000 to 8,000.
AZR 9/22 The Arizona Republic article, Sep 22
AZR 9/23
The Arizona Republic article, Sep 23. Contrast Bil's opinion with the Post-Gazette article in April. We certainly haven't gotten any worse since April. (In fact, DFC #2 still makes me cringe, and that's from 1995.)
ZDNet ZDNet NetBuzz, but that's basically a parrot of the Wired article
E & P News Editor and Publisher news, with a probable print article forthcoming
Getting It article by David Cassel, the World's Most Intense Reporter
DeadLaszlo The DeadLaszlo article
Paul T. Riddell Paul Riddell's essay. The most touching treatment I've seen.

October 7, 1999

Huh. Well, #500's put to bed. The DFC is not long for this site. Better check it out while you can.

Incidentally, I had decided a week ago that I wouldn't have the heart to delete any captions in 500 on its way to the archive, so your accepted captions are most probably there. Which works out well, because I still haven't read the thing.

September 28, 1999, 11pm

Let me tell you...

When you're the guy who runs the Dysfunctional Family Circus, and you talk to Bil Keane on the phone for an hour and a half, it really takes the wind out of your sails.

Kids, I've decided it's time to end this. When I got the lawyer letter, I was shocked and concerned, but I'm not convinced that the DFC is on the wrong side of the law. However, when I saw that article in the Arizona Republic about how Bil was personally upset at the site, it depressed me. I haven't run this thing for four years because it's a bastion of the First Amendment, you know? I ran it because it was fun for me. And, having heard over the years the Bil has a sense of humor about parodies of his strip, I really wasn't too concerned about him in a personal sense. But knowing now that he's upset about it, I had to think: what say this did go to court, and what say I did win. Would it still be fun for me? I don't think so.

On the 27th, I sent the lawyers a response. It said essentially this: I'm willing to discuss changes, but I believe the site as it exists is currently a parody, and thus an exception to copyright infringement. So they'll get it tomorrow, probably. But I saw the Scroll article today, and it was the third paragraph that put a thought in my head: this is probably sucking for Bil as much as it's sucking for me. (Well, okay, not as much, as he has King behind him...but you get the idea.) Today I started getting physically ill over this, I think. Because when that letter hit, that was just gonna piss Bil off more. And, tomorrow's my wedding anniversary, and we're going away for a week. I didn't want to have things all happen while I was gone, and moreso, if I just left things as they were, I'd be worrying about it my whole vacation.

So, I got Bil's home number from--well, an unnamed source--and decided to give him a call. We spent an hour and a half on the phone, and...well, regulars to the site know how I love to document interesting stuff like this, so I had to fight againt my basic nature not to record it. Wishing I did now, though, if only to save for myself. Amongst other things, it's surprising to hear Bil Keane say the word "nipples".

But as we got further into the conversation, I just realized I couldn't really go on doing what I'm doing. He's actually a nice guy, and certainly not the senile old bat most of these captions would have you believe, anyway. (He goes running every other day! Damn! He probably gets more exercise than I do.) He's open to the parody concept, you know, and I suppose there's a chance I could have continued the thing with some modifications. And such captions wouldn't be as sterile as you'd believe, honest: the guy made me laugh on the phone, and you may know what a challenge that is. But I can't say my heart would be in it.

I still say the parody is defensible, though. And I was getting enough good reactions from enough different directions that I'll bet I could've put a fairly decent defense together, cheap or pro bono. And I didn't go looking for any of the publicity, either--I didn't turn down many interviews, sure, but reporters came to me, not the other way around. So, I could just say, you know, this is a parody, I'm within Fair Use and the First Amendment, and Keane can go screw himself.

But I'm not that kind of bastard.

So, you know, call me a wuss if you must. But, if so, I'll tell you the same thing I've told other people over the years who didn't like the way I was running this thing: if you don't like what I'm doing, do it yourself. It's not a difficult concept. You don't need my programs--post a picture, accept captions via e-mail, post the ones you like. Let me know the URL and I'll even send some captions (although I was rarely funny enough for my own high standards). And then, you know...fight the good fight. I'm just not really into it myself.

So, as far as SpinnWebe is concerned, #500 really is the last one. I've told Bil I expect to have this wrapped up by next week. But, you know, after I finally made that decision, I really felt happy. It wasn't nearly as depressing as I thought it would be. Er, sure, I haven't read the captions for #500 yet, but on the know, it's generally been a good thing. And while I'd have some difficulty justifying some specific captions I've published, the DFC project as a whole has really made me proud. Despite what some people may say about the quality of the content, I'd say it's been a worthy project over the years, and I don't regret the time I've sunk into it.

And, to my regulars: guys, I can't say enough. Thanks for sticking with me. Your e-mails over the past week have been really touching (and were partially inciting me into wanting to fight if neccesary, you bastards). I wish that more of these reporters had said something about the efforts of all the people that came to my site with the express purpose of making me laugh (as far as I was concerned, anyway). But trust me, I pushed it on almost all of them. I mean, I think part of the magic of this collaborative effort was that me and my editors cut out 90% of the captions we got, but of course, the only way the thing was amusing was because of the 10% that made us laugh. And I know I certainly couldn't be as consistently as funny as many of you. If there were a way for me to repay you all for the comedy and the loyalty I've seen over the years, I would. But I'm only human, and I don't have the lifespan neccesary to do your efforts justice.

So, to everyone: thank you, and goodnight.

Fun reading

The story so far...

September 28, 1999

Andy Ihnatko weighs in on the issue. Of course, it's gifs, not jpegs, but it's not like he got numbers wrong by an order of magnitude, so I'm not going to quibble.

Article by James Hibbard in The Phoenix New Times. It's funny--when people send me mail about my punctuation pages, they usually say something like "now I'm checking my message three times for correct punctuation." I must be griping about article errors a lot, because James called me last night to verify the facts of the story.

Either way, though--cool article.

September 27, 1999

This morning I had a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich on a sun-dried tomato bagel at Dunkin Donuts. They're not as disgusting as you might think, really. Although one's the limit...I had two at the same time once. It's like the second one makes your body realize what you're doing to it.

Uh...I dunno. I didn't have a real update, but I felt like putting something here anyway.

September 25, 1999

Someone sent me the link to the CBS version of the AP story. Corrected the error, too...thanks, guys. Although I hadn't realized the AP reported caught me in the half hour where I thought BIL KEANE WAS STARING INTO MY SOUL. Dang. I'd since assumed that Gayle (or Gail? Bil's real-life daughter, anyway) was talking about her husband, who was probably named Gregory. Looks like I was correct, but I wish I had worked that out before I actually talked to a reporter. Dang.

Chris "Werehamster" Dugan, one of my regulars, wrote an article about this which answers the "Why do people find this funny?" question so much more eloquently than I've been able to, thus far.

September 24, 1999

It's out on the AP wire, now. Probably be silly to try to list all the papers that have run it. Had a few old friends call me after they heard about it on the radio, though. I'll bet they're pronouncing my name wrong.

September 23, 1999

Damn! Well, here's an article in The Arizona Republic, on Bil's home turf. And apparently he's not happy. sigh. Although, I'd resist the opinion that the DFC's gotten any "more dastardly"...I just spun through DFC#2, and some of those still make me cringe. Either the lawyers showed him specific excerpts to rile him up, or he never really saw anything in the first place.
Meanwhile, here's an article that was also in The Arizona Republic the previous day. Actually fairly balanced (except, of course, the Wired inaccuracies that are memeing their way through the media).

And, a correction from David Cassel:

In your "Story So Far" section, I think the words you're looking for are "crystal meth addiction", not "methadone addiction."

Hope this helps!

David Cassel

He is of course correct. I regret the error.

September 22, 1999

And those friends to whom I am grateful for posting about my current situation (in no particular order): Goats,,, prolefeed, and memepool, to name just a few. Sorry if I missed you, but digging through my logs for the past few days is only slightly more difficult than digging through my mail for the past few days.

And, not really the same thing, but fun reading anyway: the Post-Gazette article in which Bil says he doesn't mind people making fun of his comic. So I'd appreciate it if people stopped the comments that Bil is money-grubbing and without humor; remember, he didn't send the letter, King Feature Syndicate's lawyers did.

September 21, 1999

Please be patient! The server's getting entirely hammered with traffic.

And here's the archive, for you newcomers.

September 17, 1999

Well, here it is, kids

At long last, the sledgehammer.

Any suggestions?

Re: Unauthorized Use of "THE FAMILY CIRCUS" Characters

Dear Mr. Galcik:

We are counsel for Bil Keane, Inc., which owns all of the copyrights, trademarks, and other subsidiary rights relating to THE FAMILY CIRCUS comic panel and its characters, and for King Features Syndicate, a division of The Hearst Holdings, Inc., which syndicates THE FAMILY CIRCUS in hundreds of newspapers in the United States and throughout the world. Because of the foregoing rights, third persons are not authorized to reproduce or copy THE FAMILY CIRCUS comic panel or the characters appearing therein in any form for any purpose without a written license from our clients.

Notwithstanding the above rights, we have evidence indicating that you are operating a site on the World Wide Web under the name "The Dysfunctional Family Circus" which displays THE FAMILY CIRCUS comic panel and the likenesses of THE FAMILY CIRCUS comic panel characters. Our evidence also indicates that you are using the mark "The Family Circus." These uses are made without the authorization or approval of our clients.

Such unauthorized use constitutes an infringement of our clients' rights rendering you liable for damages. Therefore, on behalf of Bil Keane, Inc. and King Features Syndicate, we demand that you immediately and permanently discontinue the use of THE FAMILY CIRCUS comic panel and of the names and likenesses of any of THE FAMILY CIRCUS comic panel characters, including, without limitation, immediately removing and deleting any reference to THE FAMILY CIRCUS on your site on the World Wide Web. By September 20, 1999, you must advise us in writing of your compliance with our request and furnish us with the following information so that we can make a judgment as to the terms on which we are willing to resolve this matter:

(1) The date you first used THE FAMILY CIRCUS comic panel and/or THE FAMILY CIRCUS characters.

(2) The date you first created the Dysfunctional Family Circus site on the World Wide Web.

(3) The names and addresses of any individual who has assisted you or participated with you in displaying THE FAMILY CIRCUS comic panel on the Dysfunctional Family Circus web site.

(4) Whether you have used THE FAMILY CIRCUS comic panel or characters on any advertising material or any other site on the World Wide Web. If the answer is yes, describe each item or site and the nature of the use of THE FAMILY CIRCUS on the advertising or web site.

We trust that you will understand the concern of our clients about the infringement of its rights and that you will fully cooperate with us. Please direct your written response to me by no later than September 20, 1999, to avoid the necessity of our taking further legal action.

Very truly yours,

John D. Parker


cc: Bil Keane, Inc.
King Features Syndicate

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