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Saturday, June 26, 2010

From the Archives - The Firing of Our Fourth Blogger, McChristal

We're coming up on the 5th anniversary of our blog, so it's time to revisit our past.

One of the most common questions we get asked besides, "Are you a cop?" is "What happened to that fourth blogger and podcast host who used to be on your site?" The answer stems from an infamous Rolling Stone article.

Back in 2006, we did an interview and Chris, our Fourthblogger (© 2010 Taco Bell), made some inflammatory remarks that resulted in insubordination and his unceremonious firing (we had a "You're Shitcanned Ceremony!")

Basically, "McChristal" said some crazy-ass shit about Malcolm Jamal-Warner. We know! What a fucking monster! Theo friggin' Huxtable, or, that dude from Malcolm & Eddie who wasn't Eddie!

Anyway, the article is no longer available at the Rolling Stone site (or, Minimates Headquarters, for that matter), so we're reposting the complete article (along with some never-before-seen photos from behind the scenes):

November 2006

Minimates Headquarters: Let's start with the obvious question (and I'll pretend that I'm a journalist as we progress). Why are you called HANDS IN THE AIR? Is this a "look over here and listen to us" or are you throwing your hands up in desperation?

Steve: Yeah, the name is really about versatility. It’s about demanding attention because we’re attention whores. It’s about frustration. It’s about being the cool kids in the back of the class pointing out that a lot of what’s going on is absurd and funny or just plain stupid.

Chris: The idea for the name came from Jenni earlier this year (I saved the e-mail). All of our earlier ideas stunk and Jenni is a genius.

Jenni: It can mean a lot of things. Celebration, exasperation, surrender. When you have a question…or know the answer. That’s pretty deep. Damn, I’m pretty deep. For once, I agree wholeheartedly with Chris.

Jason: The name fit because we rant and rave about anything in pop culture, and that can elicit any number of hand-raising or finger-raising gestures. Plus, the hands-in-the-air pose is the easiest pose to put Minimates and other toys in.

Steve: It’s about a lot of things. I’m just hoping it’s never about what the feds say to us one day when they shut us down for excessive penis jokes. I’m looking at you, Jenni.

How did the decision to start this group come about? Was it a conscious decision to be both bloggers and podcasters?

Chris: Jenni and I kicked around the idea of having an Internet Radio show back around 2000 when we lived closer. The idea never died and RSS made it possible.

Jason: Chris wanted be a podcast celebrity, but no one wants to listen to him talking to himself.

Jenni: We wanted the blog because we think we’re funny.

Jason: And the podcast needed a home, so we created the blog which is the perfect outlet for Jenni, Steve and I since we’re all in the television industry with professional writing backgrounds. And Chris has an MBA so he always has a lot of opinions about stuff, but I don’t think he’s ever been published. A letter to Penthouse Forum doesn’t count, right?

Jenni: If it doesn’t, then I guess only Jason and Steve are published writers.

Steve: We came together pretty naturally. We’re all pretty creative people and we were kind of dying for an outlet but at the same time far, far too lazy to do anything that required real effort.

What was your initial vision for the site and how has that evolved over the 7 months that you have been up and running?

Jason: We knew we wanted an outlet to write funny commentary on pop culture, but photographing Minimates and other toys to illustrate the articles just sort of happened. Jenni, Steve and I are big toy collectors, and Jenni and I have always liked photographing them.

Steve: The initial vision of the site I think was actually a little more modest than what it’s become. I really only had in mind a very basic blog and it’s become a lot more than that. I think the biggest example of that is images, which I think we never actually stated should be all toy-based, but just ended up being that way and we’ve kind of run with it.

Jason: When the site first went up, Jenni kept asking the rest of us to hurry up and post something, so I threw together some Minimates, a Kubrick Babekub and a Mez-itz to represent us. So, we found our hook by the second blog posting, even though Jenni and I knew we always wanted an outlet for posting our toy photography. It probably should’ve come to us sooner, but it takes a while for things to sink into our plastic Minimate heads.

Steve: I don’t know too many smaller blog sites that take as much care or thought when it comes to imagery and making sure to include images with every post so that people have something to look at. It’s turned out much better and much more visually interesting than that, which is definitely a good thing and all of the credit for that goes to Jenni and Jason.

How does the multicultural (and bi-coastal) make-up of your group affect the way that you approach your articles and podcasts?

Jason: West coast writes and talks about funny stuff. The east coast (Chris) writes about Apple products and how great NYC is. That’s the running joke. Just search for “Apple” on our blog and you’ll bring up every single article that Chris has ever written. And he always somehow manages to make New York seem like the center of the world.

Chris: It’s funny that Jason said that about my limited blogging – it’s true but I never realized before now. I guess that I am not much of a writer but I love to talk so while the blog articles are primarily the strength of Jason, Jenni and Steve – I’m more of an uncensored talker which becomes a running joke on the podcast.

Steve: I’m not sure the multi-culti thing influences what we write about in any conscious way, but I think it does give each of us our own voice and viewpoint and I think that comes across both in the podcast and in blog posts.

Jason: The multicultural angle is nice because it makes us look like a Minimates Benetton ad.

Jenni: Yeah, we prove that geekiness knows no race or gender. And um, that really cool people can be into dorky-ass shit.

Steve: We’re approaching things from different angles and that is always is a good thing whether we’re talking about something serious, which is rare, or something completely frivolous, which is pretty much constant. I think it definitely sets our group apart from other blogs and podcasts.

Why have you chosen to represent yourselves as toys on your site? The most recent incarnation has three of you as Minimates and Chris as a PALZ figure. Does this stem from a desire to retain some form of anonymity or is this a hook to set your site apart, along the lines of the Gorillaz being represented as animated characters to the public?

Jenni: We’re so hot we thought that people wouldn’t pay attention to our words if they were distracted by our looks. And Chris believes that cameras steal your soul.

Jason: The alter ego and anonymity bit is a factor, though. But it’s just more fun to pose toys and photograph them. We have so many toys that we always joke that if someone broke into our place, they’d wonder why a bunch of 10-year-olds are living by themselves.

Jenni: That witness protection money pays for a lot of toys.

And is Chris, as a New Yorker, represented by a PALZ figure because he would hate to be confused with someone from LA or is this simply due to the fact that there weren't enough black minimates to choose from?

Jason: Well, Chris doesn’t look like Storm, Blade, Luke Cage or Bishop. But he does he look like the Family Matters cop from Die Hard, but in a business suit. And it is true that Chris doesn’t want to be associated with L.A.

Chris: Actually, most people say that I look like a combination of Malcolm-Jamal Warner and Turbo from Breakin II: Electric Boogaloo. They don’t have an action figure for that.

Steve: Yeah, I think it was just that the Minimate selection was a little low. Power Man’s not wearing a business suit, War Machine’s armor is running on Windows XP, not OS X, (I hear he’s getting a Vista upgrade early) and Bishop never got his MBA on account of him being hunted by Sentinels in a twisted version of the future of the Marvel Universe.

Jenni: Wait a minit, “most people” say you look like Malcolm-Jamal Warner combined with Turbo? Most people come up with that exact combination? Really?

Why do you think people are seeking alternative sources of information, like blogs instead of mainstream media? Is this due to programs like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report which expose what not only appears to be blatant misrepresentation by the media but information bordering on propaganda?

Jason: I think that’s a big part of it, but I also believe people are lazy and blogs are a convenient way for them to find real opinions on issues while they’re slacking off at work. And yes, I’m typing this at the office.

Steve: Well, I’m not sure anyone goes to blogs looking for too much genuine information--Lord knows we never give out any.

Jenni: I’m a blatant misrepresentationalist and an unapologetic propagandist. Am I working in the wrong medium here or what?

Steve: I don’t think people are looking for news on blogs because they’re not looking for news anywhere. Is that due to the mass media proving its inability to maintain high standards of investigative journalism in a post-9/11 America? I’d say “yes,” but that’s just my opinion. It’s much easier to take 10 minutes here and there at work and look at only the news/opinions that interest you. Unfortunately, when all you read is the stuff you want to see, that causes its own set of problems (hello, Fox News).

Is this desire for truth, this desire for "radio verite" as Chris put it in your first podcast, even attainable? Are we recognizing that there is no "objective truth" but only "observed truth"?

Jason: It is attainable… at the iTunes Music Store. But don’t search for the first episode. Really. The other ones are much better. How’s that for objectivity?

Chris: Wow! You actually listened to our first podcast? I tell most people to start at show #2. Show #1 is the only one that I actually edited which is why everyone thinks that it sucks. As far as the objective/observed thing – I am an engineer not a philosopher and we try to tell the truth as we see it.

Steve: Real, genuine truth does, in fact, exist, whether any of us realizes it or not. I think on a very general level, people want it and know when they’re not getting it. But we’re not really about that, honestly. We just like making fun of things and hearing ourselves talk, so to speak. If anything we say sends someone on a quest for genuine truth, I wish them the best but we’re probably not the best place to go for that kind of inspiration. I mean, we spent half an hour talking about “does the Hulk’s penis get bigger in proportion to the rest of his body,” for Christ’s sake. We voted, and the answer is a resounding “yes,” by the way.

Jenni: Finding the real, genuine truth is easy. I’m always right, therefore, my version of anything is the unassailable truth. Particularly when it comes to proportional penis size.

Is this proliferation of blogs which now comprise the Blogosphere a new revolution or are bloggers handing out pamphlets on the street corners of cyberspace? Have blogs become the soapbox of our generation?

Jenni: There’s actually a print version that we hand out on street corners. And once a month we stand on the corner of Sunset and Fairfax and do a live reading of the new articles from the blog. Steve crocheted us these beautiful robes, which Jason hand-painted with all-natural dyes. It’s quite a happening. What was the question again?

Chris: If you read the book The Long Tail you know that the proliferation of voices on the blogs and podcasts which cater to the unique and specific tastes of a few in aggregate have the power to exceed the popularity of the “dominant” media. Put another way, they are our generation’s soapbox and they are a revolution.

Jenni: Hence the popularity of Snakes on a Plane. Oh, wait.

And in this torrent of voices can anyone really be heard? If people are talking and no one is listening isn't the whole idea of the blog as a communication tool a red herring?

Jason: Is this some sort of zen “tree falling in a forest” question? It’s definitely TOO easy for everyone to have a voice through the internet. I really don’t need to read some Wiccan poet’s diary or see home movies about someone’s cat on YouTube.

Jenni: If you say “penis” enough, people will listen.

Steve: What?

Chris: To my earlier point, if the content is good and it has a particular niche then there is an audience that will listen. Our blog readers are increasing every day and people who aren’t related to us are listening to our podcast (we never thought that would happen).

Is it any easier to glean information from the Blogosphere where checks and balances aren't present or are bloggers by nature more concerned with truth than the mainstream media? Who's policing the police, so to speak?

Jenni: I dress as a sexy cop for Halloween every year, so I guess I’m the blog “po po.” This year, I’m going to be a sexy ZOMBIE cop. Sorry, a sexy ZOMBIE blog cop.

Chris: It is actually harder to get an “officially vetted” perspective in the Blogosphere but because you know that it is opinion then you can triangulate to get to the truth.

Jason: Bloggers have their own agendas, too, so people should still be seeking news from multiple sources to get the balanced picture. I’d hate to think someone gets the wrong idea about a news story just because we photographed the Minimate version of the person in a compromising position.

Steve: The blogosphere is more like trying to find out who’s sleeping with whom in the locker room in Junior High. It’s all rumor and speculation and way less people are getting any than are rumored to be. At least that’s what I always told myself in Junior High.

Jenni: Do you know how risky it is to sleep with someone in the locker room in junior high? Little known fact: you can get athlete’s foot ANYWHERE on your body. Let’s just say I “did” a lot of “time” in “detention” for my junior high locker room romps. And that’s why I lost my teaching certificate.

What do you see as the root of the West's obsession with celebrity? Is it based on an out-of-control American Dream where success is measured by how many zeros are in your pay-cheque or is this deifying due to the fact that we the Western culture have lost our myths? Is Hollywood literally the new land "far, far away"? And do bloggers, by commenting on this obsessiononly fuel the fire?

Jason: I hope we’re fueling the fire. I definitely think that us using a toy as a stand-in for a celebrity is a way of idolizing the person, and people in general seem to need those bigger-than-life personalities. Even though, technically, we’re making those personalities about an inch-and-a-half tall, which really isn’t that big unless you’re an Olsen twin.

Jenni: I don’t think it’s just the West. In Japan, they sell a Hello Kitty doll made to look like Paris Hilton.

Steve: I think the easy answer is that most of us lead dull lives full of pleasures that are simple at best. Celebrities get to do all of the fun things. They’re also a fun diversion from actual issues which are both boring and sometimes frightening, so when you don’t want to worry about the world going to hell in a handbasket, you can focus on calling Lindsay Lohan a junkie slut.

Jenni: Who else is proud of me for not making a “pussy” joke just now?

Where does Hands in the Air fit in all of this? What does your group bring to the 'sphere and what do you hope to achieve?

Steve: I think what we bring is another unique set of ideas and viewpoints and commentary. It’s just us, as unfiltered as we can be.

Chris: We hopefully are bringing lots of laughs as well as changing lives. Like on the blog for instance, I learn a lot about new music and new video games I might like.

Jenni: My mother thinks it’s only a matter of time before Jon Stewart or someone stumbles upon our blog/podcast and hires us to write for a hit TV show. Sadly, our hopes for future achievement, when we’re being honest, aren’t that far off from my mother’s prediction. Until then, if we can start just one awesome rumor or coin but a single stupid catchphrase, I think we’ll feel fulfilled.

Jason: Sadly, that hit TV show will be Two and a Half Men. And one of us is going to have to be that “Half Man.”

Did Matthew McConaughey take you guys up on the offer and end up playing Donkey Kong at your place while naked and stoned?

Jason: Yes, and he brought over his new biking buddy Lance Armstrong and we had a ball. We would’ve had more balls, but you know.

Jenni: Jason’s hands were definitely not in the air that day. And here I thought he was full o’crap about being able to juggle any kind of balls.

Jason: And it came out that Jenni is the “Half Man.”

Steve: I would like to take this opportunity to point out that after I called out the studio for how derivative the Failure to Launch poster was on our blog, the poster was quickly changed in future print ads to a different image. Coincidence? I think not.

Final words: What should everyone know about Jason, Jenni, Chris, Steve, and Hands in the Air?

Chris: That we appreciate all of the Minimate HQ fans who have checked out our blog and podcast. We really enjoy the idea that total strangers are amused by what we do.

Jason: That’s weird. Most total strangers aren’t amused by what I do to them. At least that’s what the spritzing of mace in my face would lead me to believe. Anyway, I hope all the toy fans enjoy our Minimate photography, and along the way I hope they end up enjoying our blog articles and podcast songs and conversations, too.

Steve: I’m nowhere near as deep as this interview makes me look, so bear that in mind if you visit the site or listen to the podcast. There’s really not that much going on up there, I promise.

Jenni: We are grateful to anyone who reads or listens to us. And maybe it’s not showing, but we are kinda funny, sometimes.

Thanks again for speaking with us!

Jenni: Oh no, thank you!

Jason: Thanks for supporting us and giving us the exposure! 

The Hands in the Air gang circa 2006 (from left to right):
Steve, Jenni, the now-departed McChristal and Jason (on floor).


jenni said...

A. We should podcast again
B. There was a black guy on our site/podcast?
C. You later
D. There is nothing I like more than my own jokes. We should be interviewed every day. Where the fuck is Oprah on this? Get on your shit, Oprah.
E. If I won that "be the next Oprah" contest or whatever the fuck, could I just interview us every day? Because that would be worth it.
F. Nice pictures, Jason!

婷珊 said...