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My Webworm Favs
Here are some of my favourite pieces from the last three years.
This page contains some of my favourite Webworm pieces — sent out over the last three years or so.
And over that time, I’d just like to say that I feel incredibly lucky to have attracted such an incredible group of readers.
The people here are something never really expected when I started Webworm in April 2020. I knew that people would maybe read my rambling — but I didn’t expect to be interacting with humans from all over the planet. A variety of ages, races, genders and opinions.
“Twiggs” put it like this:
This community brings me so much joy. With you all, and David’s reporting, I find it incredibly easy to do as Bill & Ted so wisely encourage all of us to do, “Be excellent to each other.” Thanks to all for being you.
And “Jo” said this:
I think Webworm might be my favorite space on the internet these days. So much of social media commenting is full of people sharing their absolute *worst* hot takes and generally just being a drag. Webworm is like a little breath of fresh air/escape from it all. Thanks to you and everyone else for always being here!
This year I also emailed out Webworm’s House Rules; a sort of reminder of how I moderate the community here.
Part of me wondered if anyone would care about this. But 250 comments later, it was clear readers did. And they really supported the ground rules — rules that make Webworm an inclusive, safe space.
I like to think it has something to do with how I write in general — and what I try to bring to my documentary work and podcasts, too: I want to always be clear about what is going on behind-the-scenes. About how something came to be. I want to be transparent, honest, and communicate with you clearly.
Lauren said this about the House Rules:
I am a new(ish) Webworm subscriber... I joined early 2023 and this has been BY FAR the best thing I subscribe to. I appreciate all the work you do, and Webworm is such a wonderful relief from all the nonsense that overtakes the rest of the internet platforms. All the webworm readers in this community are so insightful and knowledgeable and kind, and I really enjoy reading what everyone has to say. Really brings a lot of joy to my day!
Sandy wrote this:
I truly feel like I can relate more to people I’ve never met on here, than some ‘family’ that I happened to be born into. Also, I enjoy learning about ideas I wouldn’t be exposed to anywhere else! I never heard of sealioning, yet just realized that a friend of ours does it to get us riled. Not any more! Thanks, David, for being smart, unafraid, and vocal. It matters!
With all that in mind — here are some of my favourite pieces.
If you are new here — you can sign up for Webworm below. There is a free version, and a paid version (you get more stuff, and can take part in AMAs etc). Only ever pay if it does not cause you any kind of financial hardship.
My favourite personal essays:
A Loveless Marriage I Can’t Escape
Back in 2014 I fell in love with a parrot, and that parrot fell in love with me. I look back on my relationship with a parrot called Keith, who set out to ruin my life.
Why I Don’t Recognise Your Face
How my face-blindness creates an array of strange, awkward challenges in life.
During lockdown, something magical happened: I found myself
After being plagued by images of my stock model twin, I decide to track him down. His name was Marko and now we’re friends.
Time: What Is It?
A conversation with my friends about the nature of time.
Getting the Rabies Vaccine
A squirrel bit me — and it was very expensive.
Pete’s 99th Birthday
An unexpected birthday on a hillside with a very old man.
All Landlords are Terrible Except Mine
My landlord starts leaving me a series of kind notes that remind me humans can be pretty, pretty good.
Covid-19: a love story
A series of spam messages, or true love? You decide.
I forgot meeting Rob Schneider
My memory is very, very bad — so I set out to find some meaning in the haze after discovering a photo of me with Rob Schneider that I don’t remember being taken.
Some selected strange rabbit holes I stumbled down:
The Disease That Spreads Online
Imagine a disease that you catch over the internet: an idea so strong it takes hold and starts infecting your entire body.
Years ago, I started getting legal threats from a filmmaker named Anna Wilding. Then things got wild. This is a six part series.
Has Joseph Gordon-Levitt lost his mind?
When actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt started tweeting a series of increasingly deranged tweets, I decided to dig deeper. This is a 3-part series that ended in a very long phone call with one JGL.
The mystery of Clementoni Toys’ missing puzzle pieces
The very first Webworm I wrote — three years ago tomorrow — about a puzzle company driving its customers to the brink of sanity.
Some essays about things I like:
Emailing Gregor, the guy who lent Moby his CDs
Imagine lending your CDs to an electronic musician who then samples them — and becomes a multi-millionaire called Moby. It’s the story told on my favourite podcast Heavyweight about a man called Gregor. I follow things up with Gregor.
10 podcast episodes to get you through
These are my 10 favourite podcast episodes. I wrote this a long time ago, but nothing much has changed!
Some interesting characters I met along the way:
The time I gave one of the world’s foremost problematic conspiracy theorists a platform on TV.
The time I met Karl Pilkington on a park bench in London.
A French Cannibal
I talked to a French cannibal called Nico, to ask why he likes eating people.
I talk to Louis Theroux (a guy who obviously influenced me) about his “Jiggle jiggle, I like it when you wiggle wiggle” rap.
If You Liked Tickled:
Tickled 2: This Time It’s War
Expanding on the world of Tickled, I discover that David D’Amato had a tickling ring within the US military. A two part series talking to some of the marines sucked down a tickling rabbit hole.
Someone Kept All of David D’Amato’s Letters
A former student kept all the letters D’Amato’s alter ego “Terri Tickle” sent him. Then he sent them to me.
Why Luka Magnotta started sending me letters from prison
Why a Canadian killer (the guy from Netflix’s “Don’t Fuck With Cats”) started writing to me from prison with an elaborate story involving — you guessed it — David D’Amato.
Tickled: a journey through our poster designs
I show you the alternate Tickled posters that didn’t see the light of day.
The full bonkers cease-and-desist letters
New Zealand barrister Chris Patterson keeps being hired by idiots to try and shut me down. These are the cease and desist letters he wrote on behalf of David D’Amato (and Dr Dan, another Webworm fav).
My highlights (or lowlights?) on conspiracies and chaos:
Why #saveourchildren is not about saving our children
Why reality no longer exists for conspiracy adherents: it’s all a live action role playing game, where they’re the hero.
The Lonely descent into QAnon
Famously worn by Kylie Jenner & Lena Dunham, the founders of New Zealand brand “Lonely Lingerie” have turned their mind to conspiracies, aliens & Star Seeds.
The Never-Ending Legacy of the Satanic Panic
How the Satanic panic of the 80s never ended. And going on 2023 so far… probably never will.
If You Liked Dark Tourist:
A look back at some behind-the-scenes photos from our time shooting in Columbia with Pablo Escobar’s hitman, Popeye.
Thinking back to Myanmar
As Myanmar’s military swept in to seize power, I looked back at my bizarre time in Myanmar.
Inside Famagusta: The Forbidden City opens
When I visited Cyprus for Dark Tourist, I was detained for snooping around Varosha. Now, in a political move - it’s open. Let’s go inside.
Guest essays and conversations that have stuck in my head:
When your mind’s eye is firmly shut
My friend Kate writes about having aphantasia, which means she can’t picture things in her mind: “Imagine black. Not a black room or a black piece of paper. Just black. Just nothingness.” Like my face-blindness, the mind is a very weird thing to taste.
Conversations about a Good Death
After becoming increasingly terrified of dying, I seek out some experts to calm my nerves. It sort of works.
Quiet Quitting Doesn’t Exist & Never Did
Hayden Donnell tears apart the myth of “quiet quitting” — a thing we were told was a thing, but isn’t actually a thing. You can read all of Hayden’s guest columns here.
“It’s pretty shitty in the cyber world for us right now”
A trans athlete writes about their lived experience — and answers a list of questions from angry tweeters.
I Went to Cuba and Tried to Quit the Internet
Each month Tony Stamp writes a Webworm newsletter summing up the last month online. Here he goes to Cuba and attempts to do the opposite: Quit the internet. This is one of my favourite pieces of his. You can read all of Tony’s columns here.
“I was shot with two arrows — first in my stomach, second in my chest — by a man in the depths of the jungle.”
An essay from my friend Matt about what it was like to get shot in the chest by arrows — and how it’s changed his views on life, death, and everything in-between.
Some thoughts on journalism:
Building Trust in Investigative Journalism
Some of my stories see me interviewing people who have experienced something horrible. This is my approach to gaining trust, and respectively telling their stories.
How I Make my Weekly Podcast, Flightless Bird
Making a weekly regular show that features a produced audio documentary each week comes with its own set of challenges (I have made about 50 episodes now). I break down how the sausage is made.
The Incredible Multiverse of NZ Journalism
Why some journalists hate crediting each other’s work — and why that has to stop.
When the host of Trigger Happy TV got really mad at me
Why Dom Joly told me to “get my own fucking ideas”.
A World Ruined by Confident Stupidity
The case for compulsory agnosticism, as laid out by Hayden Donnell.
An International Assassin Slips Into New Zealand
Failed politician Billy TK Jnr spins a story about an international assassin sent to kill him. A good intersection with Destiny Church.
Evangelicalism is Not Just a Religion; it’s a Parallel Culture
An essay from former Evangelical Christian, Joshua Drummond, about what it’s like on the inside. And when the brainworms begin.
The Hare Krishna who called me “c**t face”
A few months of hate mail led me to a person I did not expect.