The Woot-Off

Woot is hands-down my favorite place to buy strange things on the Internet. The idea is simple: one thing per day, one price, cheap shipping. They put up a new thing each day, slap a price on it (generally a low-low price), and sell it until they run out, or until tomorrow comes (specifically, "tomorrow" occurs at 11:59pm Central Time in the U.S.). The items are all over the map, though typically they're electronics of some sort -- MP3 players, laptops, television sets, speakers, thumb drives, and so on -- though occasionally you'll see items like the Mediocre 6 Piece Luggage Set ($39.99) or the infamous Random Crap ($1) -- the latter being a bag containing up to three random crappy items (Woot writes: "In return for your money, you'll get some kind of bag and some quantity of crap. We promise nothing more than that. You should expect even less.").

So why do I love Woot? Because they're funny and they're honest. They make a business out of selling slightly obsolete (or refurbished, or discontinued, or just sort of mediocre) stuff at a good price. They also routinely write the best product descriptions in the world. Here's an example: below I'll reprint the entirety of their product description for the Sunforce Solar AA Battery Charger offered on October 25, 2007 ($4.99):

Looks like the longhairs and the eggheads were right. The planet really does seem to be heating up. Temperatures and ocean levels will continue rising in the coming years - and if you're smart, so will your personal net worth. Here are a few tips for profiting from the coming global catastrophe:

* People always say beachfront property is so valuable because nobody can make more of it. Wrong! Right now, you can get a three-bedroom bungalow in the town of Jackson, Alabama (elevation 772 ft.), a hundred or so miles from the Gulf of Mexico, for around $40,000. But what happens when the ocean levels rise, all 400,000 residents of coastal Mobile (elevation 10 ft.) need a new place to live, and you're sitting on a brand-new piece of oceanfront real estate? Name your price!

* Consider pursuing an advanced degree in dermatology, oncology, or another skin cancer-related field. With every new hole in the ozone layer, demand for those services keeps going up, up, up. Ch-ching!

* Think "outside the big picture". Sure, you could just plant some orange trees in Maine and wait for the profits to roll in. But somebody's going to need to protect those orange groves from mobs of starving looters - and they're going to need bullets to do it. Hoard ammunition, explosives, armor, and weapons now, for resale in the post-cataclysm world. They aren't getting any cheaper!

* Concentrated, portable energy will be at a premium after the collapse of civilization. Turn the sun's brutal radiation into $$$! The Sunforce Solar AA Battery Charger can juice up 4 AA batteries at once, with no AC connection needed. Today's Sunforce owner is tomorrow's battery mogul. The planet's future is going to be sunnier - with the Sunforce Solar AA Battery Charger, so is yours!

Pure poetry.

So it's with great joy that I point you to the current Woot-Off, a rare event during which Woot deviates from its one-thing-per-day model and instead sells a backlog of leftover or small-lot items. The items go up for sale and are sold until stock runs out -- then another item appears. Nifty flashing lights and a sales progress bar let you know something special is going on, and you can follow along in the Woot Forum as fellow Wooters complain about each new product.

To announce this latest Woot-Off, loyal Wooters received a "leaked" memo yesterday. It's really a joy to read. Check it out:


Attention Woot employees -

We are now entering the final phase of preparations for the Woot-Off planned for midnight tonight. This is when we depart from our usual deal-a-day model and sell one product after another, offering a new deal as soon as the previous one sells out. For some reason, Woot members like chrishiggins continue to have high expectations for this event. We must make every effort to ensure that they feel disappointed and betrayed.

All workers should be physically and mentally straining to make this Woot-Off a success, like every muscle in a wolf's body strains to capture and devour its prey. We expect total compliance with the following objectives:

* Make sure the stables are thoroughly cleaned and the horses properly groomed and shod. As you know, Commander Rutledge prefers to lead us on horseback during Woot-Offs. Charge!

* Customer Service department: all vacation requests for this week and next are approved. If you have not filed a vacation request, take one anyway.

* The little green pills in the kitchen are there to keep you alert and working. Take as many as you need. Officially, Woot does not believe in the concept of "overdose".

* Take at least one of our servers offline, just for laughs.

* Go to the landfill and dig up some more Sansa media players. If you see any Digipro Graphics Tablets (and you will), grab those, too.

* Place crap bags in company latrines so those orders can be "filled". To this end, the company will provide free lunch today from El Feo, the filthiest burrito joint in Dallas. Do your worst, guys.

* Neutralize all negative thinking among our members. We simply cannot tolerate any more posts like "do not want" or "Woot-Off killer". If electronic means like word filters and IP bans do not work, we must reactivate the rapid-response teams to physically eliminate all threats to our reputation.

* Last time, spot checks revealed that approximately 25% of products shipped are broken, incomplete, or excessively dirty. This is unacceptable. For this Woot-Off, defective shipments must make up at least 40%.

* Remind SmartPost that there's no need to hurry on these orders. Prompt delivery makes our customers spoiled and argumentative. Let them learn humility and gratitude while they wait.

Above all, we must strive to make this Woot-Off even more tedious, disappointing, and lucrative than the last one. The employee who achieves the most toward this end will be rewarded with one brown Zune. Second place: two brown Zunes.

Forward into battle! Remember: to give one's life for Woot is glorious!

Larry Stalin
eCommerce eKommissar
Woot, Inc.


All hail our new Woot Overlords.

Cory Doctorow, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
Pop Culture
When MAD Magazine Got in Trouble for Printing Counterfeit Money
Cory Doctorow, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
Cory Doctorow, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

MAD magazine has always prided itself on being a subversive, counter-culture presence. Since its founding in 1952, many celebrated comedians have credited the publication with forming their irreverent sense of humor, and scholars have noted that it has regularly served as a primer for young readers on how to question authority. That attitude frequently brought the magazine to the attention of the FBI, who kept a file on its numerous perceived infractions—like offering readers a "draft dodger" card or providing tips on writing an effective extortion letter.

The magazine's "Usual Gang of Idiots" outdid themselves in late 1967, though, when issue #115 featured what was clearly a phony depiction of U.S. currency. In addition to being valued at $3—a denomination unrecognized by the government—it featured the dim-witted face of MAD mascot Alfred E. Neuman.

The infamous $3 bill published in a 1967 issue of 'Mad' magazine
MAD Magazine

When taken at its moronic face value, there was absolutely no way anyone with any sense could have confused the bill for actual money. But what MAD hadn't accounted for was that a machine might do exactly that. Around the time of the issue's release, automated coin change machines were beginning to pop up around the country. Used in laundromats, casinos, and other places where someone needed coins rather than bills, people would feed their dollars into the unit and receive an equal amount of change in return.

At that time, these machines were not terribly sophisticated. And as a few enterprising types discovered, they didn't have the technology to really tell Alfred E. Neuman's face from George Washington's. In Las Vegas and Texas, coin unit operators were dismayed to discover that people had been feeding the phony MAD bill into the slots and getting actual money in return.

How frequently this happened isn't detailed in any source we could locate. But in 1995, MAD editor Al Feldstein, who guided the publication from its origins as a slim comic book to netting 2.7 million readers per issue, told The Comics Journal that it was enough to warrant a visit from the U.S. Treasury Department.

"We had published a three-dollar bill as some part of an article in the early days of MAD, and it was working in these new change machines which weren't as sensitive as they are now, and they only read the face," Feldstein said. "They didn't read the back. [The Treasury Department] demanded the artwork and said it was counterfeit money. So Bill [Gaines, the publisher] thought this whole thing was ridiculous, but here, take it, here's a printing of a three-dollar bill."

Feldstein later elaborated on the incident in a 2002 email interview with author Al Norris. "It lacked etched details, machined scrolls, and all of the accouterments of a genuine bill," Feldstein wrote. "But it was, however, freakishly being recognized as a one-dollar bill by the newly-introduced, relatively primitive, technically unsophisticated change machines … and giving back quarters or whatever to anyone who inserted it into one. It was probably the owner of those machines in Las Vegas that complained to the U. S. Treasury Department."

Feldstein went on to say that the government employees demanded the "printing plates" for the bill, but the magazine had already disposed of them. The entire experience, Feldstein said, was "unbelievable."

The visit didn't entirely discourage the magazine from trafficking in fake currency. In 1979, a MAD board game featured a $1,329,063 bill. A few decades later, a "twe" (three) dollar bill was circulated as a promotional item. The bills were slightly smaller than the dimensions of actual money—just in case anyone thought a depiction of Alfred E. Neuman's gap-toothed portrait was evidence of valid U.S. currency.

Getty Images
Watch 18 Minutes of Julia Louis-Dreyfus Seinfeld Bloopers
Getty Images
Getty Images

Sometimes you just need to settle in and watch professional actors cracking up, over and over. That's what we have for you today.

In the two videos below, we get a total of 18 minutes of Seinfeld bloopers, specifically focused on Julia Louis-Dreyfus. When Louis-Dreyfus cracks up, Seinfeld can't help but make it worse, goading her. It's delightful.

Sample quote (during an extended break):

Seinfeld: "We won an Emmy, you know."

Louis-Dreyfus: "Yeah, but I didn't."

Her individual Seinfeld Emmy arrived in 1996; the show started winning in 1992. But in September 2017, Louis-Dreyfus—who turns 57 years old today—set a couple of Emmy records when she won her sixth award for playing Selina Meyer on Veep.


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