Webworm End of Year Wrap
Some nice Webworm moments we shared in 2023.
Seeing as we’re rapidly heading towards the end of 2023 (I panicked there for a second and wondered if it was 2024), I thought it might be a nice time to wrap up some of my favourite moments from Webworm this year — including some feedback from you that lodged in my skull.
It’s also a chance for you to share some of your favourite 2023 moments in the comments! I’m looking forward to chatting to you there.
Just some quick housekeeping — Webworm’s Jurassic Park screening on Friday December 22 has completely sold out. I’m excited! A quick favour — if you got tickets, but your holiday plans have changed and you can no longer make it, please cancel your tickets. The email confirmation you got has a “view and manage your order online” link you can use. This just means your tickets became available again on the ticketing page for readers who missed out. I don’t want any empty seats!
As a special treat for the night — New Zealand artist Jess Johnson is making some one-off custom merch (including caps) for the night, all proceeds going to charity.
Okay — let’s get into my little Webworm summary for 2023.
1. Rabies Chaos
The year started with me getting bitten by a squirrel at the park, sending me on a hideous mission to get the rabies vaccine. My friend Ami called me an idiot.
The piece was pretty funny I guess (multiple injections in the butt are always funny) but also highlighted what a complete fucking mess the American healthcare system is.
Paul chimed in in the comments with his own horror story, which made my horror story a lot more palatable:
“Just a couple of months ago, we found a bat in our bonus room. Tried for days to find someone who could do the injections for a sensible price. Nada. Our risk of being bitten in our sleep? Very low. Chances of dying if we were bitten? 100%.
So $10,000 later... four people with an ER visit each and three injection visits, we have maxed out our deductible, and $10,000 has gone directly into some millionaire’s pocket. $10,000 we could have done a bunch of stuff with in the coming year.
There’s a quote from Gladiator, right at the start:
“People should know when they are conquered”. That’s the US in a nutshell. They have no idea how conquered they are. You could literally tell them “I’m going to reduce your insurance costs by 80% and you will never need to pay more than a few hundred dollars a year for medical care, but you’ll need to pay a bit more tax” and they would gnash their teeth and scream ‘Communism’.”
Most of 2022 was me writing about one of New Zealand’s worst places, Arise Church. Of course when it comes to this megachurch, and others of its ilk, horrible shit keeps happening. So on January 12 Webworm reported that the woman tasked by Arise to look into them had been left with $22,000 in legal bills after the church turned on her.
I still get pretty mad thinking about this. Thanks in large part kind Webworm readers, $25,000 was raised to cover her bills. You guys rock.
As Hayden Donnell would write later in the year, disgraced pastor John Cameron then went and staged his comeback. You can read that piece, or listen to the podcast, here.
This was probably the least read Webworm of the year (or listened to, it was a podcast too), just because it was so darn niche.
I interviewed Jason Woliner about his new documentary series that I absolutely loved, Paul T Goldman.
I’m a big fan of Jason’s — he directed Nathan Fielder in a bunch of his stuff, and ended up directing Borat 2, a film that we are definitely not talking about enough. But through all that he was working on his own series, Paul T Goldman.
Maybe I just like documentaries named after their main character.
“If you decide to quote me or use my name in any capacity for any of your articles, I’ll be sending the piece to my solicitor,” said the MLM pusher.
I am not sure he got as far as his solicitor, but after Webworm published we certainly got a lot of words from the crypto-currency enthusiast:
“If you do not comply with this cease and desist letter by the aforementioned date then a defamation of character lawsuit will be commenced against you through our solicitor at the Witten-Hannah & Howard law firm. The lawsuit will be filed in the proper jurisdiction and pursue all available legal remedies, including any monetary damages, for your defamation.”
Thanks to paying Webworm members, I could run this all by the lil’ Webworm legal team and carry on sailing. So much of this shit just ends up being a face-off. It gets tired, quickly.
I have loved having Hayden Donnell write for Webworm this year. This is one of my favourite pieces of his:
“There’s no easier way to generate headlines on every website and talk show than to make some vaguely woke adjustments to your product. Even if most of the commentary devolves into spittle-flecked rage, being on the front lines of a culture war doesn’t come with any downsides. Liberals will happily buy your updated offerings, while Conservatives will snatch up their boy and girl potatoes to own the libs. The important thing is that everybody pays.”
The comments section as usual was an enlightening read. Beck (who’s been on Webworm since it started three years ago!) replied with this, and she’s bang on:
“It’s a distraction. We are constantly provided emotionally charged scenarios that we simply “must not” allow ourselves to sit on the fence about, but rather select one of the two polarizing options and get prepared to die for.
To Hayden’s point these types of scenarios often make certain people a lot of money, but more importantly and tragically distract the general population from all of the things that could and should be benefiting from our indignation and moral outrage.
Corrupt politics, a dying planet, prejudice based on sex, sexuality, race and gender still existing in every layer of every society. We waste our limited energy day after day on forming opinions about and fighting about situations that are at their core just rather pointless distractions.
We are kids arguing over who got the most lollies while the man that gave them to us has just kidnapped one of our friends and is driving away.”
This piece was about a year in the making, and will only really make sense if you’ve seen Mister Organ. Ultimately, the police fucked up and dropped their case against Sean Plunket — but this piece shows you how easily the court system can be manipulated. In this case, against me.
Your 257 comments, including this one from Susannah, were kind:
“Fucking hell David, this newsletter was wild from start to finish....and yet I was not at all surprised by who turned out to be behind it all. So sorry you had to go through this and hope you are doing ok. Glad to be a subscriber and hope it helps in some way.”
What can I say? Another doozy from Hayden Donnell, looking at how the anti-vax brigade decided to galvanise around, well, genitals:
“It feels like seconds ago that much of this army of angry tweeters was posting about an imminent wave of vaccine-induced mass death, and it’s pretty strange they’re now mainly preoccupied with making sure all the doodles and vaginas are in their preferred locations ahead of the apocalypse.”
As Webworm contributor Jackson Wood reported, there were some issues with Kiwi brand Kremelta’s website code that led to some X-rated chaos:
Let me set the table:
You’re searching for a recipe online to send to your sister. You find the page. Copy the link. Switch over to iMessage. Paste. You hit send before the preview loads but when the little spinny thing stops and it says ‘Delivered’ the preview pops up and you see “Asia porno norske porno videoer | escorte vestfold sexdate bergen”
I’m not sure if you noticed, but this year has been sort of horrific. I felt it, and I attempted to write about it:
“I felt scared and I really hated it, and I am just so grateful it’s the daytime and I am awake and feeling mostly fine again.
I woke up and caught up on a group chat. My friend’s kid had just had their first nightmare. Wolves on the roof. There were no wolves on the roof, but try explaining that to a kid who’s just seen some wolves on the roof.
I realised that last night I had wolves on the roof.”
There was a lot of beautiful feedback to that piece, and advice, and this comment from J has stuck with me, and helped me. Maybe it can help you, too:
“I’ve recently been through a terrible traumatic thing and as well as not being able to sit with my thoughts — got to be busy got to be doing something, anything — I have also been having exceedingly terrible nightmares (Like wake up heart racing sitting straight up in bed hyperventilating sheets soaked in sweat gagged scream curdling in my throat get me out of here nightmares).
There’s a God Damn pack of wolves up there.
All of this sucks. The things that have helped me the most to try and move the wolves on are:
1) talking to friends, making an effort to see and chat and hug pals.
2) exercise. I cycle everywhere and so I treat it like a spin class to blow out cobwebs. Also do gentle restorative mindful movement yoga/stretching
3) see a psychologist and grief counselor: talking helps especially when there is no judgment and they provide context and advice and importantly tools like cognitive behavioural therapy to use.
4) eat healthy. Cut back on caffeine and sugar.
5) and this is the most important and the hardest: be kind to myself. Not to the extent where I justify shitty behaviour, but bringing compassion and empathy that I would give to literally anyone else to the person I should love the most, Me.
Also I think maybe trying to befriend the wolves. Trying to, where possible, sit with my thoughts and observe them for what they are and be curious about them. Why are they there, why are they so upsetting. Trying to move into a more meta (in the sense of overarching view but also perhaps in the Buddhist sense) view.”
Occasionally on Webworm I like to come to the surface with something that isn’t bleak — in this case a piece about how I roasted myself on the internet as a joke, which led to the internet rushing to my defense (by absolutely destroying me). It makes sense in the story, trust me.
This was the year my back decided to spin out and land me in a whole world of pain. This piece let me explore the US vs New Zealand healthcare system a little, and the comments contain a plethora of stories and experiences — good and bad — that have stuck with me. Jess in particular had a fucking year of it, and it was really cool to meet her at the Roswell screening of Mister Organ. She’s a terrific human (with a terrific tee).
For anyone asking: I am doing OK — lots of ongoing physio and exercise and we’re doing pretty darn good.
Webworm looked at how Sir James Wallace, a man worth $165 million, abused young men — in plain sight — for so long. And why so many people supported him. I wanted this story to act as a reflection and a warning. Of course — as we head into 2024, the Meat Man is been released from prison.
Like Arise, justice has felt very hard to come by this year.
I know with the current annihilation of Palestine, stories like this can elicit a “who cares”. That’s how I feel re-reading this. I get it. But Webworm spent a very long morning nagging Miami Zoo & the Mayor of Miami for answers on its absolutely cooked treatment of lone kiwi bird in its care. I mean — kiwis are nocturnal. Daytime selfies and touching? No.
Fortunately, the nagging was worth it:
“Please know that your concerns and those expressed by the community have been taken very seriously and as a result, effective immediately, the Kiwi Encounter will no longer be offered.”
Your responses to this piece were so kind, insightful, and full of love I really didn’t know what to do with myself. Thanks, Paul:
“Any psychological diagnosis is such a multi-faceted thing. On the one hand there is relief - this is a thing. It explains a lot of my experience. I’m not lazy or stupid or broken. Yay!
But there is also grief - the loss of the healthy self. At the end of that label is this word 'disorder'. So I really am broken? F**k!”
Readers were also incredibly honest and bare in sharing their own stories and that made me feel very proud of this place. Thanks, Eddie. I feel you.
“I’m living in a mess. I’ve never been able to stay tidy in my life. Two of my siblings have been diagnosed with ADHD and according to a friend who has some expertise in these things, if you have a sibling who has ADHD, you have a 50% chance of having it too. I have sporadic moments of motivation lasting maybe 15 minutes. I actually put the dishwasher on a couple of weeks ago.
I'm pretty sure my lifelong difficulty with housework is ADHD related. I can’t afford to get assessed - yet. So I'm really struggling. Mess depresses me but I live in it unable to fix it because my brain is overwhelmed. The years of shame because I can't do housework - can’t even get started on it most of the time - eat away at me. Can’t afford a cleaner.”
I think there is something in sharing our stories here that matters. Being seen matters. This life is the furthest thing from easy. The very least we can do is see each other.
I wanted to end with a fun piece from this year. And this is it. After being involved in a rental scam in LA, journalist and musician Daniel Smith teamed up with a PI to solve the case.
“Brian Wolfe walks into the San Fernando Valley Starbucks like it’s his own personal saloon, and it kind of is. The Private Investigator conducts most of his business here, at least the initial meetings that kick off a case. Brian is a former Quarterback and looks it. His tall frame is compartmentalised into taut blocks of muscle. His silver hair flips back like the crest of a lacklustre wave. He walks in such a spitting image of John Wayne that I check his boots for spurs.
I explain my situation to Brian, to which he replies, “You my friend are a serious, bonafide, knucklehead”.
He clarifies that I may in fact be a rare case of a “double-knucklehead”.
It goes places you just don’t expect.
Holy shit. It’s been a busy year.
There’s a lot of other stuff I liked sharing this year — the man responsible for Spider’s dreads in Avatar 2, Kiwibank doing a shitty thing and reversing it after Webworm wrote about it, calling out Arise Church for breaching employment standards, Webworm winning “Best Team Investigation” at Voyagers, and your 600 or so comments discussing New Zealand’s depressing right wing government. Honestly — the comment thread is such a great discussion and worth your time.
Thanks for being here on Webworm, and for your ongoing support — with your eyeballs and your subscriptions.
Could not do it without you.
I have a lot of gratitude for you Worms.