Back in April of 2011, I did an interview with internet legend Maddox of The Best Page in the Universe.
Some of my longtime readers might remember my tenure on the staff of Rantlister.com, a now-deceased website dedicated to cataloguing text-based sites like mine and sharing their updates bi-weekly. The legacy of Rantlister is amazing and is rich enough to warrant its own article at a future date. Sadly, time was not kind to the site (or the text-based internet ranting scene in general), and after several failed attempts to breathe new life into a dying concept, Rantlister ultimately died.
More recently, I’ve been kicking around some new ideas for AJnet. One of the ideas I had was to restart Rantlister as a monthly feature on this site, and try to do what Rantlister did for me by giving other writers and smaller content creators a small boost. My plan was to rebuild the infamous “List” from the ground up using the massive power of the AJnet Organization to painstakingly curate and categorize the content of others. So, naturally, the first thing I did was turn to the old archive of Rantlister that I had saved on my computer and see if any of the sites on the old list were still active.
Well, none of them were. Pretty much all of the sites on the List are completely offline, and the very few that are still up either haven’t updated in years or have retired. This was very disheartening, in my quest to rebuild the List I literally had nothing to start with. Subsequent attempts to find fresh talent on YouTube or other platforms also met with failure. Not wanting to waste too much time or other resources on this, I shelved the idea of restarting Rantlister for the time being.
While I was digging through the Rantlister archives, I came across some of the other projects we did for the site. One of these was monthly interviews with the owners of sites on the List. We did interviews with multiple writers, including Lord Galen of SnipeMe, Kobra/Scott of Kobra’s Realm, Haddox from Sydlexia, Arthur from Arthur’s Hall of Viking Manliness, Gweem from Gweem.net, Thilo of NinjaPirate/The Second Best Page in the Universe, and a few others whose names escape me right now. As simplistic as they were, the interviews were fun, and we got some great answers from some of the internet’s most talented underground writers.
Also among those interviews was an interview I did with Maddox of The Best Page in the Universe. At the time that I reached out to him for a possible interview, Maddox wasn’t quite at the height of his popularity anymore, but he was still highly relevant as an internet icon. His 2006 book The Alphabet of Manliness had done well enough to find itself on the New York Times’ Best-Seller List, and Maddox was wrapping up his second book I Am Better Than Your Kids (later renamed to Crappy Children’s Art). On top of that, he was also working on several projects behind the scenes, including a show on Spike TV with Dick Masterson that ended up being scrapped (they’d later go on to do The Biggest Problem in the Universe podcast together). So you can imagine my surprise when Maddox not only actually responded to my email, but also agreed to my interview request.
Love him or hate him, nobody can deny the legacy that Maddox has imprinted upon internet history. His work was the inspiration for many writers and content creators, myself included. I don’t want to see this interview with a legend disappear forever into the internet blackhole, so I’m reposting it here on AJnet to preserve it for as long as the site exists. I also intend to republish some of the other interviews I did with other writers, as well as some other Rantlister-related content I have saved away in the AJnet vaults over time.
But for now, here’s the interview that I did with Maddox for Rantlister.com in April of 2011.
AJ: You’ve been publicly writing since 1997. Was there any particular inspiration that got you started (aside from your list of 50 things that you hate)?
Maddox: Talk radio was my biggest inspiration. I discovered talk radio around the age of 15 or 16 and couldn’t believe how awesome the format was: people just calling in and debating a topic, yelling, jokes, pranks, sketches, etc. I listened to as much as I could, both syndicated and local: Don & Mike out of WJFK, Howard Stern, Tom Leykis, Opie & Anthony, Love Line with Adam Carolla & Drew, Artbell, Phil Hendrie, Frosty, Heidy & Frank, etc. It was the golden era of talk. Then Disney & Clear Channel started buying out stations to change formats, Stern went to Sirius, and little by little, all the giants were chipped away until the only thing left today is cookie-cutter right-wing talk, and sports. Talk radio is unlistenable today, and only a shell of what it used to be. Bums me out, but there’s hope… I still download “podcasts” of my favorites who kept doing it on their own long after they went off the air.
AJ: Where did the name “Maddox” come from? What is the proper pronunciation of the name? Is it “Mad-ocks”, “Mad-icks”, or something completely different?
Maddox: This is one of the things Wikipedia got right. The name came from an anime I saw a long time ago called Madox-01: Metal Skin Panic. It didn’t even occur to me until years later that the “metal skin” part of the moniker is so apt, as getting tens of thousands of emails critical of me requires me to have a really thick skin. Here’s the intro to the anime: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v
Honestly, I never intended it to be my permanent online nickname, but rather, just my login name for my ISP. My home directory was http://www.xmission.com/~maddo
AJ: Of all the things that infuriate you, what would you say infuriates you the most?
Maddox: Stupid people. These are the people who sit at red lights without their left-turn blinkers on, and then slowly creep out into the intersection when the light changes, effectively blocking you from going around them and moving on with your fucking life. They’re the people who hold up lines, and the reason lines exist in the first place. Ever notice how everyone in front of you takes 10 minutes to get through a line, but as soon as you get there it’s a simple transaction that takes seconds? Stupid people. They’re the ones who ask too many questions in class, and the ones who knock up their girlfriends (or get knocked up). They never have a plan B, or a plan A. They’re thoughtless idiots, and the cattle of society. They exist as cogs in the machine. That is to say, they’re not entirely expendable, but they are entirely forgettable. They’re the self-entitled, do-nothing, know-nothing losers who serve no purpose other than to consume whatever processed bullshit and trend someone from the top throws down at them. Keep buying your iPhones, you idiots! You wouldn’t know innovation if it hit you in the temple.
AJ: Any particularly infuriating experiences you can recall that you’d like to share?
Maddox: I was standing in line at a security checkpoint at the airport when the TSA agent told this chick a row ahead of me to go through the “first class” line. The chick hesitated, then asked the TSA agent if it was “okay to go through first class.” The TSA agent didn’t hear, so the chick stood there waiting, holding up the line while the agent looked over a family’s documents. The chick asked two more times, and even after the agent told her to go ahead, she still said “are you sure?” People like that chick grow up to be nazis. It’s the same robotic, “just following orders” mentality that cause problems in the world, like the fire department that recently let someone’s house burn down over an unpaid fee of $75. Stupid. Whatever dickwad lets my house burn down over an unpaid fee is going to get his face broken.
AJ: In the past, you’ve expressed interest in the band Pantera. What are some other bands you’re into?
Maddox: As for metal, I like Sepultura, Overdose, Slayer, Metallica, Megadeth (just recently got into them, and only a few of their albums), Prong, A perfect murder. I also like jazz (mostly latin jazz like Pancho Sanchez, Cal Tjader, Ray Barretto), Billy Taylor, Miles Davis, Dizzy. Underground/alternative hip-hop: Del the funky homosapien, Pharcyde, Digable planets, Dr. Octagonecologyst, MF Doom, Beastie Boys. Lots of downtempo: most Italian lounge, Nuspirit Helsinki, Towa Tei, Amon Tobin, Irresistable Force, lots of Ninja Tune stuff, Wagon Christ / Luke Vibert / BJ Cole / Plug. Classical: Prokofiev, Mussorgsky, Berlioz, Bizet, Mozart, Chopin, Shostakovich, Saint Saens, Honnegar, Debussy. Other than that, I listen to a ton of video game music. I love the scores to Castlevania, Street Fighter Alpha I & II, Mario Paint, Radiant Silvergun, Border Down, Bomberman, etc.
AJ: What are some of your favorite movies and TV shows?
Maddox: Movies: Army of Darkness, The Big Lebowski, Ninja Scroll, Ghostbusters, Rambo, Godzilla, Dead Alive, Boiler Room, Fight Club.
TV: Curb Your Enthusiasm, Seinfeld, Simpsons, Southpark, Adventure Time, Ren & Stimpy, Daily Show & Colbert Report, Superjail, Archer, The Office, The Whitest Kids U Know, and Iron Chef.
AJ: Any sports you’re into?
Maddox: Yes if you count bowling, snowboarding and biking. No, if you don’t.
AJ: Being a video game fan, what is your opinion of modern gaming? Do you feel that the quality of video games has increased or gone downhill over time?
Maddox: Modern gaming is a jumbled mess of overly produced first person shooters, and that’s pretty much it. There are only two glimmers of hope: 1) Indie gaming and 2) Nintendo. Both parties have something in common in that they’re the only ones still innovating. Sony and Microsoft seem to be hell bent on releasing huge tent pole games like Halo, and Modern Warfare (though the latter is EA). I’m bored to tears of playing the same game over and over again. Some of the most innovative games I’ve played in years have come from the indie scene, in the form of downloadable content. World of Goo was a small, downloadable game that cost less than $120k to make, and was infinitely more enjoyable than the obnoxiously long, cut-scene laden Castlevania: Lords of Shadow abomination that came out on PS3 this year. I think cut scenes are killing gaming. I wish developers would spend 100% of their time and budget on making the game, and not trying to make video games be more like movies. If I wanted to watch a movie, I’d watch a movie. Keep your fucking movies out of my games.
AJ: Picture yourself being given unconstrained authority over the United States. What are some things you would change?
Maddox: I’d start with an education campaign to get everyone to drive faster, and slow people should either stay in the right lane or get the fuck off the road. I’d also inform everyone that they can turn right on red lights, because I lose my mind when I’m stuck behind idiots who don’t turn right on red. I’d pass a truth in advertising law, and I’d probably require a competency test for pregnancy.
AJ: Describe your perfect day.
Maddox: Every day I’m alive is a perfect day.
AJ: Are there any other rant sites you read besides your own?
Maddox: No. I intentionally go out of my way not to read other sites similar to my own because I don’t want to be influenced consciously or unconsciously. That doesn’t mean I’m unfamiliar with other rant sites (I keep abreast of what’s out there), but I try not to read them. That way if anyone says I ripped someone else off, I can honestly say it was a coincidence. There are only so many topics and so many observations about them. People are bound to repeat something that’s been said before. For example, I came up with a joke about Christopher Reeve a long time ago that was posted on bash.org (“Which actor does Christopher Reeve wish he was instead? Christopher Walken”). It soon spread around the Internet and other people have posted variations of it, even on bash.org. Did I originate the joke? I don’t know, but I know it’s possible that other people came up with it on their own, or that someone thought of it even before me. It’s kind of an obvious joke.
AJ: As your site has gained popularity, people have began using it as a comparison for other websites, for example, the phrase no rant site owner wants to hear: “Maddox Rip-off”. What are your feelings on this, and do you feel that maybe the term “Maddox Rip-off” is being thrown around a bit too frequently?
Maddox: This has been a point of contention between people who run other rant sites. Look, if you run a rant site that came after me, you’re going to get compared to me. Just like every single MP3 player gets compared to the iPod, and every single touch phone gets compared to the iPhone. You always get compared to the biggest player in the game. That’s just the way it is. My site has been around the longest (going on 14 years now), and it wasn’t until I recently got email from people who were 13 and 14 years old that I realized that my site has been around longer than some of my fans have been alive. Think about that. So yeah, you’re going to get compared to me. And I’ve generally seen people react to that comparison in a number of ways:
1. Outright denial. They claim they’ve never heard of me, never seen my site, etc, etc. If that’s the case, then they haven’t done enough–or any–research while writing articles, because if it’s a topic I’ve covered, I’ll probably be the first link on Google. So either they’re telling the truth and their articles are poorly written due to lack of research, or they’ve done their research and they’re lying. This is rare.
2. Anger. They get pissed and all butt hurt about it, so they irrationally vilify me as the source of their grief. These people can’t cope with criticism and shouldn’t be running a rant site. People used to call me a “George Carlin rip-off,” even when I hadn’t even heard of Carlin until 3-4 years after I’d launched my site. And I still get compared to comedian Bill Hicks, even though he died in 1991. Doesn’t mean I’m going to cry about it like a pussy bitch.
3. Acknowledgment. People who simply say “yeah, I knew of Maddox before I started my site, and he influenced me to create my own” go a lot further than the other two categories above. People hate being lied to, so if you simply come out and say “Maddox influenced me,” and leave it at that, people will leave you alone–unless you truly are a ripoff (and I’ve seen a lot of outright cases of plagiarism).
I don’t see anything wrong with people saying that their site has been influenced by another writer or person. We’re all influenced by someone or something. For me, it was talk radio. And I clearly acknowledge my influence on my site. Nobody has ever called me a ripoff of talk radio. It’s what you do with your source of influence that makes all the difference. In fact, there are a couple of really popular websites whose creators acknowledge me as one of their influences: TheOatmeal.com and 27bslash6.com. Both of those creators have said in interviews that I influenced them to some degree, and then they took that influence and made something new and original in their own voice. You can clearly see threads of my influence in TheOatmeal’s writing, but he’s taken it in a different direction with his comics and art. And 27bslash6.com is also done in a voice that’s his own; I’ve obviously trolled people in hatemail on my site, but he has taken it to different levels and places than me. And in turn, he has influenced other people to create their own sites. That’s how it works. Either you can hang with the criticism, and you’re in the game, or you cry and quit, and point the finger at me like I had anything to do with it. Writing rants can be cathartic, but if you’re writing to get fame or money, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. When I started my site, I had fewer than 5 readers per month, but I was ecstatic that I had even 5. I couldn’t believe that anyone–let alone millions of people–wanted to hear what I had to say. I would have kept writing even if it was just 5 readers, and that’s what separates me from many bloggers and ranters coming up today. I do it because I love it. I think about it all the time. It’s part of who I am. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:
“The time of getting fame for your name on its own is over. Artwork that is only about wanting to be famous will never make you famous. Any fame is a bi-product of making something that means something. You don’t go to a restaurant and order a meal because you want to have a shit.” -Banksy
AJ: At one point, you linked Ebaumsworld.com on your website. Some point down the road, you removed the link. Have you heard the accusations of them stealing content from others, and if so what’s your take on them (both the accusations and Ebaumsworld)?
Maddox: Yes, I have heard of Ebaum’s trouble with stealing content. In fact, that’s how I first started talking to him a long time ago when he posted my children’s artwork critique on his site. My “I am better than your kids” article got submitted to his site because it had been going around in an email. So when he posted it, I sent him an email asking him to remove it. He said he’d like to keep it up and offered me a link instead. The link he gave me was tiny, so I asked him to just remove the article and he did.
I don’t know how he’s treated other people with content he posted in the past, but when I asked him to remove it, he was cool about it so I don’t know what the big deal is. I’ve heard rumors and read all sorts of horror stories from people who’ve supposedly had their stuff stolen. I asked him about it, and he said that the people who accused him never asked him to remove any of the material, but rather, they just attacked his servers with DoS attacks and forum floods. Too much drama. Again, I don’t know all the details of who stole what, but he kept his word and removed my link when I asked him to.
The reason I stopped linking to him is because when my book came out, I only received 5 copies from my publisher. He asked for one of them and said he’d give my book a plug on his site when it came out. Since my marketing budget for my book was $0 (the publisher spent nothing initially, and everything I spent was out of pocket). I was in debt nearly $20k just to get the book finished, so I needed all the help marketing the book that I could get. So I parted with one of my precious few copies of my book and sent him one. He never followed through, so I removed the link and that’s that. I haven’t talked to him in years and have no idea what the story is. Drama beads off me like water on a duck’s back.
AJ: Moving back to talk radio, do you foresee yourself ever doing something similar on your website, such as a call-in show or even a podcast?
Maddox: I would love to. Dick Masterson and I have talked about doing a podcast or a call-in show.
AJ: A common criticism of your website is that you haven’t updated as much since you announced your first book, “The Alphabet of Manliness”. What’s your response to this criticism?
Maddox: Honestly, there are 3 big reasons:
1. Quality over quantity. I’ve mentioned this on Reddit, but I really do self-edit a lot. I wrote or started writing 13 articles last year, and only posted a couple because I’m rarely satisfied enough with anything I write. I’m by far my harshest critic. Hatemailers have nothing on me.
2. I’m busy. I’ve been working on my newest book, “I am better than your kids,” which required going through over 1,200 pieces of art, scanning each one, color correcting, colorizing and photoshopping every single piece. That’s in addition to cropping, cleaning up and making the text pop (pencil on paper doesn’t scan too well). I wrote something like 35 drafts, and the manuscript ended up being about 30,000 words. For comparison, a normal 200 page book has about 40-45k words, so even though it was picture heavy, this book had almost as much writing as a normal 200 page novel. In addition to that, I’m still running my online store (though I have a manager now, it’s still work to print labels and take care of the programming). I still run my own site, write updates (even though I don’t post all of them), and I write a lot of shit that never sees the light of day, like scripts for TV shows. I worked my ass off on that Spike show, and nothing ever happened with it, so I have nothing to show for it. On top of my book, websites, programming and site admin stuff, I do improv, write screenplays, take meetings, design shirts and write, shoot, produce and edit my online shows. I’m constantly working.
3. After “The Alphabet of Manliness” came out, I had worked so hard for so long, that I just got burnt out. I went through a long period where I was just numb. I had high blood pressure, I was overweight, and had cholesterol problems. Writing that book almost killed me because I didn’t take any breaks. And similarly, I holed myself up for 8-9 months to get this new book done. I was a little better about taking breaks this time around (at least one day per week), but it’s still a brutal work schedule. I’ll post a picture of the huge stacks of manuscripts, notes, and art I used to create this book. There’s a stack of over 3,000 pages of paper and notes sitting next to me as I write this.
So that’s why updates are sometimes sparse. In spite of all the work I have to do by myself, I still manage to squeeze out a few updates here and there, and bust out my videos while juggling administration duties. Not bad for one guy.
AJ: Aside from your upcoming book “I Am Better Than Your Kids”, any other upcoming projects you want to tease your readers with?
Maddox: I don’t like to tickle my readers’ balls. Just like the Spike show that fell through, lots of shit I’m working on now might not see the light of day. What I’m working on now is really big. If it takes off, you’ll know.
AJ: What is your opinion of the Obama administration?
Maddox: Well, well, well. I get to answer this question a week after Osama Bin Laden was killed. If you would have asked me a week ago, my answer would have been different, but I have to hand it to the guy for making the call to send in SEALs instead of bombing the place.
1. I’m tired of people saying Obama deserves no credit for killing Osama. Not giving Obama any credit because he didn’t pull the trigger is like not giving Osama any credit because he didn’t hijack the planes. The operation to kill Osama had 79 people. Some of those people coordinated funds, some did recon, and some simply sat in an office in a remote location and monitored the situation. Saying the SEALs deserved all the credit means you’re denying all the other people on the team who made it possible. You have to be a serious blowhard not to give everyone involved some credit, although I agree that the SEALs deserve a majority of the credit for their bravery. But that doesn’t mean Obama and the other 72 people don’t deserve any.
2. Everyone bitching about Osama being treated according to Islamic tradition needs to shut the fuck up because I’m pretty sure Islamic tradition doesn’t include getting shot in the face.
3. All the hippies bitching that Osama was unarmed when he was killed, are you fucking serious? What do you think was going to happen if they brought him and tried him stateside? They weren’t going to hand the guy a pistol before he got the electric chair. Fuck hippies.
Overall Obama has been disappointingly inadequate. I’m especially pissed off at the Democratic super majority that did nothing with their power. The entire political system needs to be reimagined. I have an idea, but it’s far too long to go into here.
AJ: Before we wrap things up here, anything you want to say to your fans or other people who might be reading this?
Maddox: No, quit reading this shit.