Plain Layne, another Kaycee Nicole?  JUN 15 2004

(Note: the title is a reference to the Kaycee Nicole hoax from 2001.)

About a year and a half ago, I started reading a weblog called Plain Layne (found it on this list of best blogs of 2002), ostensibly written by a young woman from Minnesota named Layne. PL was my soap opera. Some people watch Friends or American Idol, I read Plain Layne.

In the past two years, Layne has discovered she's bisexual; fell in love with a Spanish go-go dancer; made room in her home for her cousin's pregnant girlfriend and now her newborn infant; met up with one of her birth parents for the first time; recounted a fling she had with a former boss (who had a girlfriend at the time); hinted at a rape she endured in Mexico (which turned her into a lesbian); charmed a straight woman co-worker into sleeping with her, becoming her girlfriend and then fiancee (!); broken off the engagement with said co-worker; frequently hooked up with one of the ex-fiancee's friends (another straight girl, if you can believe it); most recently slept with three women in the same week; and somehow, as all this was going on, held down a job at a large corporation working 80 hours a week managing a very successful IT group.

Late last week, her site was taken down and replaced with a bit of Polish text. And that (plus the fantastical series of adventures that Layne was constantly and consistantly embarking on) set people wondering:

Is Layne real? And if so, how real is she?

The main investigation by the people that frequented PL is taking place on a site called "strip mining for whimsy": plain layne and the mystery of the missing sidebar link. It's a long, long thread, so I'll summarize the high points for you:

1. No one seems to have met Layne in real life. Several people (including a close friend of mine) have reported either wanting to make plans with Layne and eventually being rebuffed or making plans with Layne only to be stood up.

2. There are a number of connections between Plain Layne and a noted Web journal from a few years ago written by a woman named Acanit, who won a diarist.net award in 2001 for her writing (archive of Acanit's site). Similar writing styles, similar topics, similar themes, PL contains phrases borrowed from Acanit's site. They both wrote that they lived in the Twin Cities in 2001. Some photos of Layne (or "Layne") (presumably from an early incarnation of Plain Layne) were hosted on the same server (aptura.com) as a version of Acanit's site.

3. The author of PL is highly familiar with Minnesota and the Twin Cities in general (I can attest to that) and is also familiar with what is going on there at any given time (weather, shows, etc.). The author, whether a woman named Layne or not, most likely lived or lives there.

4. There is ample photographic evidence that a young woman matching the description of Layne exists. Photos here and here (these are from old or cached versions of her site). No one knows if the woman pictured is Layne, a model, or an unsuspecting someone.

5. Attempts to track Layne (or anyone she wrote about on her site) down in the real world have failed so far. By her own admission, Layne attended the University of Minnesota, works at a prominant Minnesota-based multinational corporation she nicknamed Minicorp, lives in Woodbury, has a sister named Drew, an ex-fiancee named Lauren who is currently taking architecture classes at the U of M, her parents are from Koochiching county in northern MN, and probably a hundred other little details that could be used to track her down in real life. No luck so far.

There's all kinds of speculation as to what Plain Layne is:

- a group fiction exercise

- Layne is real and so is most of the site; she just used Acanit for inspiration

- Layne and Acanit are the same person, one or both of their sites are fiction

But there's no evidence to support any of those theories conclusively. What's more, most of the people doing the research (former commenters on Layne's site) know each other only online. If one of us (I'm including myself in the research group) says we've met Layne or know where she works or vouches for her in some way, how do we know that person is a) real, and b) telling the truth? What if a long-time commenter on PL is another of Layne/Acanit's alter egos? What if several are? I can vouch for my existance (I think it's pretty clear by now that I exist and am not part of Meg's grand plan to get written up in the New Yorker) and I've met a couple of people IRL who have infrequently commented on PL, but that's about it.

However this plays out, it's fascinating. Many whom now think Layne is fake are pretty pissed about it; they feel betrayed. And I guess I'll be a little disappointed if it all turns out to be a hoax, but all in all, the site was entertaining to read while it lasted. I'm going to open the comments on this one, just in case anyone has any information to offer. I know several folks from the Twin Cities still read my site, as do a few old school journalers that may have some info on Acanit's journal.

There are 54 reader comments

sjc33 15 2004 5:33PM

No information, save that...you know, I was in the frenzy of investigativeness when Kaycee Nicole was busted wide open, but I always felt uncomfortable as to the lengths people went to prove it. In the end, what does a fake web journal mean? I know people had sent gifts and whatnot to Kaycee and so the kinda-sad justification of "mail fraud" was bandied about, but in the end, what does writing a journal that's a work of fiction really mean?

Josh51 15 2004 5:51PM

Capital-A Artists often tread the boundary between reality and fiction for positive effect -- a trick I usually find kinda neat.

So as long as the intent is not to scam visitors, I have no problem with writers weaving fictional tales into the real world through a weblog. If nothing else, it seems like a good fictional free-writing exercise.

Lars Levie53 15 2004 5:53PM

sjc has a point, what does a fictional web journal mean? Does it matter that we have no idea if she is real or if she is, how much of her story is true. In the end, it doesn't matter in an consequential way, but it does raise questions about the nature of the blog and the net.

For a while there, we got our new and information--in large part at least--via 'established' online news orgs, i.e. NY Times, Google News, etc. These institutions have reputations to protect and frameworks to ensure good journalism. But the emergence of blogs as a popular way to get news has introduced problems because blogs aren't necessarily, or usually, associated with large new organizations. That is part of their attraction for a lot of people. However, because individuals are posting a-will, whatever they want and getting their information from wherever they want, we have to think a lot more about how we consume blogs.

Personally, I think that it is all about using ones own BS meter to separate the wheat from the chaff. But also, the Internet itself acts like a natural filter. Blogs link to other blogs in endless groups and this network lends credibility to some degree.

Steve Laniel56 15 2004 5:56PM

I emailed with her a while back, after seeing her Friendster profile (her Friendster userID is 'layne', and she last signed in yesterday). She's friends with a guy named David, who's friends with one of my friends. I'll check with David to see if he knows anything.

Adam Kessel57 15 2004 5:57PM

I discovered that I'm connected to Plane Layne through many different people in Friendster, although no one close enough that I can verify the identity too easily. I'll see what turns up.

Søren Dalsgaard08 15 2004 6:08PM

The supposed "Jason Kottke" is speculating again, I see...

jkottke17 15 2004 6:17PM

In the end, it doesn't matter in an consequential way

I absolutely agree (in case my "the site was entertaining to read while it lasted" comment wasn't strong enough). It matters a little to the people that had invested themselves in Layne and her site, but it's selfish to request of Layne or whomever the author is an explanation of the whole affair.

I always felt uncomfortable as to the lengths people went to prove it

In the Layne case, the investigation has been limited only to online poking around and a little social network exploration. I hope it doesn't get out of hand with people camping out at large corporate campuses hoping to catch a glimpse of her or anything...and it's not my intention or recommendation by publishing this post that anyone do so.

ess32 15 2004 6:32PM

It's not a fiction exercise if you don't label it as fiction. It's cheap - using the weight of "reality" to sell your story.

Although an effective lead for camp tales and urban legends, claiming something really really happened is not a valid literary technique.

As to consequences and what matters, Lars Levie has it nailed. Can I add that people who join on-line support groups (such as for cancer or addiction) and lie and lie are bad and should be punished - but that happens in real life, too.

To the appeal of lurid reality - I'm shocked, shocked to hear that such a bright boy was reading that trash! Jason, did you stretch the truth to make yourself seem more interesting?

Alexander Micek39 15 2004 6:39PM

You can be sure I will be looking, Mr. Kottke. I live in Woodbury, Minnesota (but as you said, the real world details have not helped the search much). There is a very real possiblity that I could investigate the U of M story further. Thanks for opening comments on this post; I think web identity is a very real issue both with Layne and in the broader sense.

Alexander Micek44 15 2004 6:44PM

Sorry to post again (bad etiquette), but it is worth clarifying that I will not be (as you pointed out, no one should) going to any great lengths to find this person if they exist, everyone has a right to privacy ... but when something like this happens close to home (and in a town that can be as small-townish as Woodbury), the natural curiosity is sparked. Thus, I simply meant "I'll keep my ear to the ground."

August58 15 2004 6:58PM

"It's not a fiction exercise if you don't label it as fiction. It's cheap - using the weight of "reality" to sell your story. "


Tell that to Laurence Sterne, Daniel Defoe, Samuel Richardson, and an enormous number of other literary giants. Trying to get someone to buy your fiction as truth has long been an acceptable literary tactic, and it's one that the English-language novel as we know it was founded on. Why is it cheap now? I think I'd be pleased if it were fiction. If nothing else it would mean that the skepticism that passes for irony in contemporary culture is not entirely overwhelming.

Nate Balditch02 15 2004 7:02PM

Reminds me of "Is A Flight Risk...", which was a similarly confusing blend of fiction and reality.

Drew04 15 2004 7:04PM

I wish I have this kind of support in my crusade to unravel the true identity behind the Hot Abercrombie Chick. Sigh.

Rex23 15 2004 7:23PM

Watching "Plain Layne" grow to this degree of crazed intrigue is officially my favorite day of internet life.

jessamyn38 15 2004 7:38PM

my pal dave is my friendster link to layne, and even he's not sure she's real... but he does have a long argument full of tasty pros and cons

jkottke45 15 2004 7:45PM

I'm shocked, shocked to hear that such a bright boy was reading that trash!

Heh. I know, the shame. The shame!!

Jason, did you stretch the truth to make yourself seem more interesting?

I'd like to answer an unequivocal no to this, but I can't really say for sure. Although I try to be truthful about myself and about experiences I've had when I write for my site, I can't say for sure that I've been 100% successful. Partially because I honestly can't remember if I've ever doctored anything or not and partially because everything I write is from my point of view and therefore biased. Is my POV truthful? No, but neither is anyone else's. Aside from that, I do the best I can. I'm not trying to mislead anyone or play up my life, which, if you've been following along, isn't all that exciting. :)

I wish I have this kind of support in my crusade to unravel the true identity behind the Hot Abercrombie Chick.

FYI, info on the Hot Abercrombie Chick hoax is available on Josh's site. Other recent notable online identity happenings include the Washingtonienne "scandal" and the Rance mystery (Rance's site).

Adam Howitt54 15 2004 7:54PM

Even Benjamin Franklin used assumed names to explore aspects of his own attitudes and measure the public reaction to them. He published his works all over the world to make a specific social comment without fear of damaging his reputation or to poke fun at his enemies.

JJ Doughboy55 15 2004 8:55PM

So I was lead here today by my friend Alex. I too live in Woodbury, MN. Ironically: I also work for the U of M.

So me being the one who would be curious in searching this stuff down... I searched the public database(s) and failed to find a "Layne" that lives in Woodbury. However, I did look a little bit for the Lauren and got it down to two people based on the information in kottke's post. I would hate to disturb either one of them to find out of they are the correct person, but none the less I will make the mistake of linking to one of my favorite tools at the U of M:

http://www.umn.edu/lookup/?SET_INSTITUTION=
UMNTC&CN=&go+button1.x=11&go+button1.y=8

Needless to say, there are two Lauren's that stood out that are majoring in ARCH.

Interesting to say the least....

I was however unable to locate a Layne in combination with Woodbury... Nor do I or Alex recognize any of the photos (most of Woodbury is pretty developed by now). However, if you have even a last intial, or a middle initial, or just about any other piece of little information that you think the U would store, I could work with it.

One other interesting note: if she graduated from the U of M, the woodbury information would be of no use unless she continued to take classes there or updated her alumni information. Strangely enough there are 4 femail graduaties from Koochiching in the last 3 years. Of those, 2 of them could be when combined with their middle names create the nickname layne, imparticularly 1. That said... without more to go on, not enough evidence either way.

One thing's for sure, I'll keep my eye's open around the local target and see if I see anyone strickingly close...

Wouldn't it be fun to post wanted pictures?



A few more side notes:

MiniCorp could be 3M. Just about every other person that can afford to live in Woodbury works for 3M. Why the nickname Mini I'm not really sure. There are a few other major corporations around here as well.



Ryan Schultz45 15 200410:45PM

For those of you who are suffering from Plain Layne withdrawal and want to commiserate with fellow Layneian refugees, we've re-created the Plain Layne Comment Box on Orkut (most of the regulars have signed on already; you're welcome to join in the fun...who needs Plain Layne to continue our little community??).

If you want to check it out, and you're not already on Orkut, you can either:

1) ask me for a free invitation to Orkut (email ryannospamwinnipeg@yahoo.ca, NOT .com), *OR*

2) you can use this really handy tool: BugMeNot, to get onto Orkut without a userid and password. Do a community search for "plain layne", you'll find us :-)

(BTW, you can sign up for Orkut with an absolutely bare minimum of information if you want to avoid being data-mined: first name, last name, email.)

And did you know Layne Johnson also has profiles on both Orkut and Friendster? The Friendster one is pretty funny; recently updated, she's sticking her tongue out at all of us :-) whom she hood-winked. I just think it's hilarious.

--Ryan (who used to post on Plain Layne as "Quiplash")

Sam Humphries13 16 2004 2:13AM

MiniCorp could be 3M. Just about every other person that can afford to live in Woodbury works for 3M. Why the nickname Mini I'm not really sure.

I assume she used the nickname "Mini" because 3M's full name starts with Minnesota (the three Ms are Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing).

Heather06 16 2004 4:06AM

But didn't she once refer to a megacorp, too?

David49 16 2004 8:49AM

What does the Polish bit say? Is that a clue?

Tao16 16 2004 9:16AM

"Trying to get someone to buy your fiction as truth has long been an acceptable literary tactic, and it's one that the English-language novel as we know it was founded on. Why is it cheap now?"

"Even Benjamin Franklin used assumed names to explore aspects of his own attitudes and measure the public reaction to them. He published his works all over the world to make a specific social comment without fear of damaging his reputation or to poke fun at his enemies."

It is cheap, I think, because of that veil of anonymity that fictional bloggers choose to hide behind. Most blogs are not fictional, and a bit of implicit trust (or faith) has built up among bloggers that whatever is posted is true to the best of the author's knowledge. I don't believe what's required is wariness on the reader's part because personal blogs aren't novels, news sources, or political treatises. Reading a blog is like meeting a person in real life. You shouldn't have to wonder whether the person you're shaking hands with is giving you a false name, and I can see how readers who get emotionally involved would be disturbed when it seems their trust has been misplaced.

August27 16 2004 9:27AM

"Most blogs are not fictional, and a bit of implicit trust (or faith) has built up among bloggers that whatever is posted is true to the best of the author's knowledge."

So, because I'm a blogger (I hate that word, but whatcha gonna do) I have to stick to the arbitrary conventions that everyone else uses?

Thank you, no.

And if you genuinely belive that "Reading a blog is like meeting a person in real life," then you might be in for a nasty shock someday.

eric16 16 200410:16AM

Maybe someone else has covered this in all the mass of exegesis, but:

Has anyone else noticed that the initials for "Plane Layne" comprise the TLD for Poland?

And has anyone bothered to ascertain whether the blog is hosted on a Polish server?

And why hasn't anyone mentioned Pattern Recognition?

sam28 16 200410:28AM

first thing i thought about, eric, was pattern recognition, probably b/c i just finished reading it for the 1st time last week. jason's post is also the first i've heard of layne, so i'm quite intrigued. it'll be interesting to see how this turns out, and thanks to jk for another tip to something interesting i'd never have known about otherwise. he's got a knack for doing that.

eric37 16 200410:37AM

Sorry for the repost, but on followup:

Dreamhost is in Los Angeles.

The "polish text" may or may not be Polish -- I don't speak Polish -- but the page is not a system error page. It rewrites the date and time dynamically using JavaScript. (View Source....wonnerful thing...)

My plausible account: PL is an enhanced version of some person, who's afraid she/he's about to get found out, and thought this would be a clever way to go out. Or maybe just playing a game to see how clever we really are -- noticing, or not, that the error message page is just a page on her web space?

Anyway, damn you, Mister Kottke, damn you straignt to hell!* Because now I'm curious and I've got work to do...

(*On the off chance someone takes offense, be advised: I don't really believe in hell....)

So next step

Tao38 16 200410:38AM

"So, because I'm a blogger (I hate that word, but whatcha gonna do) I have to stick to the arbitrary conventions that everyone else uses?"

Is being truthful that much of an arbitrary convention?

I mean, you don't have to. Just as when I meet someone new and shake their hand, I don't have to give them my real name, but it's generally assumed that I will. Likewise, if a blog is not labeled as fiction, I think it's generally assumed that the author is being honest.

spygeek52 16 200410:52AM

I go on vacation and miss all the fun!

If she does work for 3M, I can check it out tomorrow when I go back to work.

August58 16 200410:58AM

When I read a website, any website, I am not shaking someone's hand. I am reading a text, and like any text I have to understand that it is being constructed for me. Anything that smacks of full-disclosure is automatically suspiscious, because it's not something people do very often (except, of course, in fiction).

I like to think I'm a good reader (after all, people pay me for my opinion about books), and part of being a good reader is looking at the difference between the label and the reality.

Jason's blog, for example, is excellent, but like any other text, if you read it closely enough you can learn certain things about how he views the world, and about how that colours his report of it. What it means is that he's telling us how he sees things, not necessarily how things actually are. Fiction is ultimately this taken from the unconscious to the conscious level... *but*, just because something isn't true in terms of police-court facts doesn't make it the same as a lie, or even the same as fiction.

Blogging is not a medium that relies on objectivity, the way journalism does, but it doesn't rely on just making stuff up, the way most fiction does (but then you get people like Robertson Davies, Julian Barnes, Jeanette Winterson, etc., in which enormous amounts of their fiction rely on "facts" that are "true"). Because of its inherently subjective nature, it falls somewhere between the two. It could be said that we see the convention as being "to be honest about one's self" because that is what we recognize as our place in the truth/fiction spectrum, not because that's necessarily where the medium has actually settled on the spectrum.

The burden of how much you believe and what is or is not "true" is not the author's, it's the reader's.

Besides, the best writing always comes from breaking conventions and confounding expectations. Honest. :)

ola05 16 200412:05PM

According to poltran the text translates to:

NOTE! Modernization of server lasts! Services will be effective from half of june. We apologize

Ryan Schultz08 16 200412:08PM

Just wanted to say that I am really, REALLY enjoying this thread and its various thoughtful (and occasionally funny) comments. Between this thread and Joshua's, I am in awe of the impact that one fictional/real blog can have, and I have been endlessly amused (Joe's comment on Joshua's thread about the KARE11 newscopter chasing a navy blue Volkswagen down the 394 still dissolves me into fits of giggles....).

--Ryan ("Quiplash" when I posted on Plain Layne)

Just Wondering13 16 200412:13PM

JJ - You wrote:
Strangely enough there are 4 femail graduaties from Koochiching in the last 3 years. Of those, 2 of them could be when combined with their middle names create the nickname layne, imparticularly 1. That said... without more to go on, not enough evidence either way.


How did you find this information?

Meri38 16 200412:38PM

Fantastic!

I love synchronicity. That was the plot of Law & Order last night (I'm in the UK so probably an old episode) -- some disabled little girl writes book about her life, lots of people fall for it, write her emails and get phonecalls ... turns out the foster parents are con artists.

This sounds hilarious and quite a lot like some of the Belle de Jour questions that have been circulating. But then equally maybe her choice of hosting just wasn't great ;-)

J Strizzy54 16 200412:54PM

I love these blog hoax stories! I have no idea whether Layne is real or fiction, but either way I find the debate over whether and why it matters more interesting than either her blog or the attempts to determine whether it's legit.

leon39 16 2004 4:39PM

Interesting none-the-less. Our apparent thirst for "reality" entertainment has spawned several Internet spin-offs. You can fool some of the people, all of the time...

ess12 16 2004 7:12PM

Daniel Defoe? The adventures of Selkirk were well known when he published - the veneere of "fiction" in Crusoe (and Defoe's roiling adventure books) was akin to a Daniel Steel novel which readers can enjoy as being "based on" well-known Hollywood wives.

In any case, I was quoting a couple of contemporary literary lights, whose names will be withheld so their workshops continue to make

Tao makes an excellent point about expectations. There is a social contract and, even with their short history, we all know what a blog is as well as we know what a sandwich is so that despite the rich variety of bread-wrapped foodstuffs, we know when something is not a sandwich.

Pat Freestone is not a fake. Layne may or may not be... although in this case the truth of the text doesn't matter as much as it did with, say, the original Iraqi blogger.

What I find really lovely and new about this adventure is Ryan Schultz recreating the comments for the late, lamented blog. That's user experience on the hoof.

Scott McGerik12 16 2004 7:12PM

I had become quite bored with the Plain Layne persona after it devolved into a soap opera but I admit to enjoying this new plot twist.

DaveP42 16 2004 7:42PM

The sticking-out-tongue photo on Friendster predates the disappearance of her blog. By at least a couple weeks.

August34 16 2004 8:34PM

I was actually referring to Moll Flanders, for which he initially exploited the confusion over whether or not it was a true account or fiction in order to increase sales.

But I have yet to see a medium in which the so-called social contract (another term I dislike, because it implies that the conventions of a medium are fixed and immutable) have not been exploited for artistic interests, and I hope I never encounter such a medium. Sherman's March comes readily to mind for documentary film, and of course the whole point of Geist is to blur the lines between fact and fiction as much as possible.

So if this turns out to be fake, then it can't have been a blog? What is it then? How do you factor forms like prose-poetry into your "we know what isn't a sandwich" cosmology? I mean, the conventions of poetry require that it be in verse, no?

I'm very interested in literary taxonomy right now, and if this does turn out to be a "fake" blog, then I'd like to know what we intend to call it (because the fact that the posts were made up does not change the fact that something that looked like a blog--but perhaps wasn't--actually existed as something real, or at least as real as a blog).

JJ Doughboy38 16 2004 9:38PM

Back on the chase:

So after reading her blog a little more in depth, I come to find she goes to my church. It's ironic she describes one of our services so accurantly, the only thing it was missing was the name of the pastor. I read that she goes to our singles group, so I sent an email to our director of adult education. She knows who I am and hopefully can get back to me as to whether or not she has ever seen the person.

As for where I got the information "just wondering." The U of M has a pretty extensive database: http://dw.umn.edu/. That if you know your Oracle you can track a good amount down. Needless to say, I can't make any of the information public because it is just that, not public information. However, making some cross-refrences to try to narrow people down... Well that information I don't mind sharing...

If it turns out she does in deed go to my church and I can find a way to contact her, I will surely post here that I found her, but unless she wants me to say who she is, I won't make that public either. There is a level of mystery that all people should have a right to.

Kip Ingram09 17 200412:09AM

In case anyone is interested Google still has some Plain Layne stuff in its cache here.

Gudy49 17 2004 8:49AM

DaveP, Layne's sticking-out-tongue photo on Friendster is several years old. I'd guesstimate it from 2001 or earlier, but definitely no later than mid-2002

jeremiah17 17 2004 9:17AM

The simple sad fact is that this person does not exist, in any incarnation except in that little space between your ears. This is a made up fictional account written by some lonely geek hoping to achieve noteriety by attempting to lead everyone by thier short and curlys.

spygeek18 17 200410:18AM

I reconsidered tracking down Layne at work. If she was real and wanted to disappear, it's not my job to pull her back into the light.

I didn't read PL, but I did read some cached pages describing her work environment. I'm skeptical that she works at 3M. Unless the IT department is vastly different from the other departments I've worked with, they don't let peons sit in on management meetings (like she supposedly did for Cal), and very few people work 80 hour weeks. Heck, the place is deserted every Friday.

spygeek25 17 200410:25AM

Oh, and the dreamhost thing...I'm hosted there as well. The plainlayne subdomain has been completely deleted at this point. In fact, I could have taken it over myself just now.

LT27 17 200411:27AM

As for "the girl in the mirror"
Hellen (everyday stranger) uses that line too.

Lily21 17 2004 1:21PM

Ryan Schultz (Quiplash) has taken over both domain names (Plain Layne & Sedalina). If you go to either domain it links to his site.

I think he's gonna start something...but you'll have to ask him.

kowgurl55 17 2004 1:55PM

Hey, ess, how do you know Pat Freestone isn't a fake?

ess57 17 2004 7:57PM

Kowgirl - Pat Freestone is humor. Using Tao's example: If Tao and I met and he shook my hand and introduced himself as Owen Wilson's better looking younger brother and my future love slave, I would laugh and wait for his real name. Someone talks about a boy raised by termites (Pat Freestone does), that someone is obviously not sticking with the facts or attempting to convince anyone that this is just the facts, m'am. (Worth noting that this site is a good example of how little "Truth" as in caught on tape has to do with "Truth" as in the human condition.)

August, your point about Moll Flanders goes right to the lurid pitches for things like the Amy Fisher True Story Made for TV movie.

A good analogy for blogs might be "True Tales as Told by A Veteran of Whatever Dern Battle.” Such lectures were popular in the centuries before the arrival of the History Channel. The audiences for these speeches knew that the speaker might bend the truth a little, might be subject to all the errors of memory that are human, but counted on the speaker being a basically sincere vet who had been at whatever dern batter. When grifters were caught purely making stuff up (and they were), the con artists were tarred and feathered or run out of town on a rail, etc. etc. (Didn't Tom Sawyer bump into a couple of thespians who had used this trick?) I'm sure the people who sent gifts and cash to Kaycee felt similar dismay when the truth came out.

P.S. Where are you getting the idea that a social contract is fixed and immutable? Why, I haven't stoned an adulteress in ages.

Look at the new twist with Layne blog comments - this person or persons or the Rand Corporation and Reverse Vampires created a blog with comments, yet the comments have, briefly, taken on a life of their own and now we get to wait and see where Ryan Schultz and his crew take it from here.

We're all aware that people talk tons of smack in sex chat rooms? Right? And that this is pretty much accepted.

Sorry, Jason, I hope this is relevant and adds something new instead of being a hijack! If you, in your life as a New Yorker, get a chance to see Colin Quinn live, do so. The star of Tough Crowd has a great set about people who deliberately screw with the social contract. Very shrewd comedy about people who are able to do this in a way that makes you look like the asshole.

August20 17 200410:20PM

My point about Moll Flanders, interestingly enough, is one of the reasons they still teach it in universities. Likewise with Richardson's Pamela.

Food for thought.

PurpleCar58 17 200410:58PM

Ess and August, the social contract surrounding the web since it's public inception has always carried a "caveat emptor" warning unlike any other past public technology. The media and technophobic word-of-mouth immediately painted the web as a conglomeration of modern-day snake-oil salesmen. The relatively small number of upper-eschelon purist geeks were the blogging pioneers, setting down a blogger morality of honesty, courtesy and timeliness.

Of course, as blogging became widespread, those high ideals faltered. Along with the run-of-the-mill personal-fantasy producing individuals, purely commercial blogs "written" by a certain fictional character, sponsored by a commercial outlet, will be the new wave in fiction entertainment. The insidious (and perhaps subliminal) product-placement and click-throughs may be as ubiquitous as spam.

I agree that at present, it will be difficult to weed out the "Flogs" (Fiction log or Fake log) from the "Blogs" (believable log?), but we'll all develop the hardened skills over time. This mystery or potential Flog isn't as much a sign of the typical degradation of blogger morality as much as it is a sign of growth.

In typical blog-reader (and now writer) style, I'm accustomed to being introduced to the mystery and reading its resolution all in one post. It's refreshing that any mystery, commercially fabricated or not, can last more than a few nanoseconds.

Mr. Kottke, be sure to keep us updated! Thanks for the fun.

Joe21 18 2004 4:21AM

E! is reporting that Layne is carrying the love-child of country music star Keith Urban. Layne was spotted backstage at Keith's performance at the Riverbend music festival in Chattanooga TN last night.

At one point during the show, Layne appeared onstage with Keith singing a duet of "Baby Come Back," and as any kind of fool could see, she was wearing a strap-on dildo.

jkottke35 18 200410:35AM

And with the dildo joke, I think our time together here has come to an end. I thought we'd have some conclusive answer to this whole mystery by now, but that's not the case. There's a lot of circumstantial evidence (as well as a ton of opinion) that seems to point to Layne not being who she says she was, but nothing definite. Some people are convinced that she is a complete fraud. I'm not...the evidence just isn't there. And now that all this has occurred and Layne has taken down her site, we may never have the hard evidence to determine what really happened.

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.

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