Jon Stewart blue pic
 

 Jon Stewart Intelligence Agency
    A n   u n o f f i c i a l   f a n   c l u b

We're fighting, apparently, with one of
Xena's web sites. It's a huge battle.

— Jon Stewart on the JSEB

 


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 Close Encounters of the Jon Kind
 Standup Shows
The Fan Files

 

Name: Annie
Age: Late twenties
Location: Taft Theatre, Cincinnati, Ohio
Encounter date: October 18, 2002
Event:
Improv 40-year anniversary festival, Diet Coke with Lemon's Do What Feels Good: Laugh!
Added: October 23, 2002

Warning: Lots of assuming that you know Jon's older jokes, profanity, & sexual material. Jokes have been recreated from (very poor) memory.

 

It is a beautiful fall evening on October 18, 2002, in the city of Cincinnati, state of Ohio. Jon Stewart is about to own me. This is my story.

I arrived in Cincinnati at around three or four in the afternoon. Cincinnati, by the way, is lovely. I had never visited the city before. Five bridges, all different colors, span the Ohio River from Cincinnati, Ohio, to Newport, Kentucky. Built-in concrete bleachers line the river, apparently for river events and fireworks displays. Across from the Taft Theatre, there is a very pretty park with pathways covered in tree canopies. It seems like a nice place to live.

I visited the aquarium in Newport before moseying on to the show. The aquarium is small, but terrific. There are acrylic tunnels that allow sharks to swim directly overhead as you gape at them. The jellyfish were particularly beautiful. I had a bowl of chili at the snack bar inside and managed to spill a few drops on my pants. I panicked, thinking that I couldn't possibly meet Jon Stewart with chili stains on my pants and live it down. I managed to get most of the chili off, but I was haunted by visions of my chili-stinking self bumping into Jon Stewart. "Hi Jon!" I would say, as he backed away looking for a way to escape this crazed fan with red stains on her pants. I reassured myself by reasoning that there was no possibility of meeting Jon. And if by some ironic divine intervention I did bump into Jon, he would probably not be staring at my pants. One would hope.

On the way back to my car, I noticed a huge sign near the aquarium that said, "IMPROV." I thought that was odd, considering Jon's show was connected to the Improv and the Diet Coke with Lemon promotion. I didn't know there was an Improv near Cincinnati. Puzzled, I got back in my car and headed toward the theater just a few miles away. I randomly selected what looked like a good garage to park in. As I pulled up to the booth, the ticket woman asked me if I was going to see Jon Stewart.

Now, when I was in sophomore high school English class, my teacher explained that every story has what's called an inciting incident. This is a moment that catapults a tale into a real story and terminates all the introductory crap. It's something interesting, significant, and/or exciting. This was my inciting incident.

Until this exact moment in time, I had been calm about about the whole idea of going to a Jon show. Sure, I had dreamt about it for six years, written essays about Jon, taped every appearance he ever had, started a fan site, ran a fan club, spent thousands of hours of time on the web, and meticulously planned every detail of this trip. Sure. Hey. What else would I do with my spare time? Work out? Finally finish reading Mason & Dixon? Teach people how to read? Screw that.

I was going to see Jon. Finally. And I hadn't thought about it that much. I joked about my excitement on the board, but I didn't really truly think about it. Then this stranger spoke to me. And she said His Name. And that's when I realized it was going to happen. I was going to see That Guy. You know, The -- The Guy. He was in the same city. Right now. In the same place. Breathing the same air. Within several hundred yards. Of me. Close by. A mere stone's throw.

"Are you going to see Jon Stewart?" this nice person asked. After I let that sink in, I screamed, "No one speaks the name of Jon out loud! How dare thee? Thouest blaspheme the Name That Cannot Be Spoken. Sacrilege!" Actually, what I really said was, and I quote, "Yes." She gave me my parking ticket. (What? I needed to park. I had plenty of time to fight the infidels later.)

After I parked, I walked up to the theater. My first impulse was to get on the street and look at the marquee. I had to be sure. I still had doubts, you see. Indeed, Jon Stewart was up in bright light ... well, bright black plastic letters. I was very relieved.

I walked into the theater and asked the woman at the box office when the doors opened. She said seven. It was six. I was displeased. The web site for the theater stated that the doors opened two hours before the event, so I had rushed downtown for nothing when I could have spent more time staring at jellyfish. I wandered around outside. I found myself in (okay, I went to) the alley that passed by the back of the Taft Theatre. I walked carefully, looking for anything potentially Jon-related. The theme from Mission Impossible played in my head. There was no one in sight. As I passed the rear of the theater, I saw it. A door, slightly ajar. Unlocked. My devil and my angel argued briefly. The angel won. I couldn't justify criminal trespass, Jon or not.

So I walked on, finally resting near an empty fountain in the park across from the theater. The weather was cool, but nice. I had on khaki pants (with small chili stains), a pinkish three-quarter sleeve cotton top, and a long-sleeved denim shirt. I wore brown Doc Marten shoes I've had since college and a brown purse containing my precious ticket. (I knew it was in there because I had compulsively checked for the damn thing every ten minutes.) I was comfortable. I loved fall weather. After half an hour, I went back to the theater to wander around. By this time scalpers were selling tickets on the corner and a couple guys showed up to play music. One of the guys played the sax, but he was bad. The sax honked a lot, a sound I recognized from my brother's old clarinet-practicing days.

By this time, people had started to gather. The Mission Impossible music started up again in my head. Every conversation near me I listened to. Every car that pulled up, I watched. (I don't usually do stuff like that, I swear. I was looking for something. Anything.) A couple next to me must have worked in the theater or had connections because someone they apparently knew walked up to them and said that their backstage passes must not have done them any good getting in early. I then picked up bits and pieces, and one of them mentioned that their parking was $8, and the guy who had walked up said $8 dollars wasn't bad for a night out. This exchange suggested that the couple had gotten their tickets free. My devil tackled my angel and urged me to throw rocks at the three of them. Eight dollars wasn't bad? I spent over a hundred for two tickets and a full tank of gas to get there! I would have happily spent $500 to see Jon. Eight dollars wasn't bad?! Down, devil, down!

I knew darn well that Jon would not appear at the front door, but when a limo pulled up I couldn't help but feel a twinge. It turned out to be some stupid guy who was not Jon. (On that day, any person was not Jon Stewart was, ipso facto, stupid -- including myself.) Later, a Papa Johns delivery guy dropped off what looked like four boxes of pizza, and it was all I could do not to accost him and demand what toppings Jon liked. It turned out the pizza was sold in the lobby later, so I'm glad I didn't unnecessarily attack a delivery boy. Criminal trespass and four counts of aggravated battery -- all avoided in one day. My angel was exhausted.

The doors finally opened at seven. I walked in only to find that the inner lobby was now open. The theater was still closed. So I had to wait another twenty minutes for the theater doors to open. I passed the time by looking at what kind of people were there. There were quite a few people who looked like high school and college students. I think about three-fourths of the audience was probably fourteen to thirty-five. The rest were older.

When the doors finally opened, I knocked down several old ladies in front of me, kicked away their walkers, then stepped on their hands to slow them down. (Kidding.) When I got in, I knew that I was in the second row. What I did not know was that Taft had placed two additional rows of folding chairs in the empty space in front of the regular front row seats. That's where I was sitting. They had managed to place me even closer to the stage than I thought! (I imagine the people in the front row of the regular seats were pissed since they probably thought they had the best seats.) My seat was about six feet right of center and about six feet from the stage.

As I sat there in the second row, I remembered Jon shaking hands with front row people at the end of his Unleavened HBO special. For the rest of the night, all I could think about every time I looked at the people sitting in front of me was how if Jon reached out his hands to shake ours I would be forced to knock their heads together and step on their unconscious bodies to reach Jon. They didn't look that strong. I figured I could take 'em, even if I did smell like chili

I sat in seat five. To my right was very nice-looking thirty-something couple and to their right was a pleasant fellow who bought his ticket at face value on the street. To my left were three boys whom I think were freshman from Ohio State University. They were kind of obnoxious, but the fact that they were die-hard Jon Stewart fans made me feel very loving and protective of them. ("Those darn kids," I would mutter, wiping away tears.) Actually, I had to resist the urge to stand up, turn around, raise up my arms, and shout "You are all my friends! I love you guys! You really like him! You really like him!" The student next to me had a digital camera, and I later discovered that the woman next to me also had a camera. I could have kicked myself. I wish I wish I wish I had taken my camera. The turnout looked good. I don't think the show sold out, but the balcony was nearly full.

The stage had a cardboard brick wall, a stoop with several (five?) stairs, and a door (all the comedians entered the stage through that door). There were four yellow beanbag chairs on the right and a stool (someone put towels and three Dasani water bottles on it later, though they were never used). On the left, there was a small modern red velvet couch. There were two large lemons hanging from the ceiling (Diet Coke with Lemon, remember?) that later lit up, and the walls were plastered with giant Diet Coke ads. The stage was covered with carpet. When the show started, two large monitors on either side of the stage showed a very loud Diet Coke Improv/Laugh fest video commercial thingy.

Budd Friedman, the Improv owner and founder (I recognized him from an NBC special they ran on the Improv a few months back) hosted the show. This surprised me. The show was much more formal than I had expected. Hosts, ads, videos -- I was used to the opening act plus comedian formula. But I guess Coke can afford to pay for a little more pizzazz. He spoke briefly and was pretty funny. He told us that the Improv would soon be opening in Newport (oh!), and then he said that three comedians would entertain us.

I frowned, confused. I knew Jim Gaffigan was in the show, but a third comedian had never been mentioned anywhere. Not on the Ticketmaster site, not on the Taft Theatre site, not even on the Diet Coke site. I wondered if it would cut into Jon's time. I got that feeling I imagine many dogs get when they sense that their master is about to be attacked. The hair stood up on the back of my neck and I started salivating and growling whilst glowering at Friedman with Cujoesque red eyes. Or at least I would have, had he not then immediately introduced Tim Young.

Tim is a lanky, dark-haired fellow who has family in Cincinnati and is from Kentucky (just south of Ohio for you Midwest-impaired). After I got over my resentment at his presence, I discovered that he was very funny. I would keep an eye out for that name. Tim Young. His bit on believing in the Pope was terrific. ("My girlfriend's mom asked me if I believed in the Pope. I didn't know how to answer her. I never knew it was such an issue. Isn't he a real guy? I mean, it's not like there are blurry pictures of a Pope-like creature in the woods attacking people. You don't hear about Pope sightings in the National Enquirer.") He had a playful yet professional quality that I found appealing.

Jim Gaffigan performed next. He was, as usual, great. I was already a fan of his, so I was really happy that he was opening for Jon. He had a lot of new material, plus some old classic material that I guess is still new to most people (Hot Pockets!). He's one of the very few celebrities who not only has a web site but seems to be actively involved in its content: http://www.jimgaffigan.com/

Then it was Jon's turn.

Now, I have to make a confession. This whole thing threw me for a loop. I had been excited ever since the parking garage lady had mentioned Jon's name, but I still couldn't believe I was really there. It just wouldn't sink in completely. Every once in a while I would realize where I was, but I swear, I think my brain decided, on its own, that it would be dangerous for me to experience all this fully. So it just went ahead (without my permission, I might add) and partially shut down for maintenance and repair. So when Jon was announced, I didn't stand. I just sat there. Staring and clapping. Like an idiot. The three college guys next to me stood, raised their arms, and bowed repeatedly. (Those darn kids. Sniff.) A handful of people stood. But I, Annie, President of the only Jon Stewart fan club in existence, remained rooted to my seat like an underripe turnip. It was very sad. And yes, I am very ashamed.

But, god, did he look good! I kept thinking, like a cretin, "That's that guy on TV! He really looks like that! It's him! It's Jon Stewart! Up there! On stage! That's Jon Stewart! Jon fucking Stewart!" I'd never seen him in the flesh before, you see. It was Jon all right. Big and real, instead of little and on the TV. He wore a tan cotton Stussy zipper jacket, a blue shirt (not a v-neck, one of his favorites), slate-gray pants, and slightly scuffed simple black shoes. Everything he wore looked weathered, soft. Good old Jon. I figured he'd be as comfortable as he could be.

He started out slow. He made fun of the backdrop, which he called the ugliest backdrop he had ever performed in front of. He also joked about how he and the other comedians had to break it down and tie it up with rope after the show. He wandered about on the stage, joking around and dragging his microphone stand here and there. He made a lot of jokes about the Bengals that I didn't get because I have no idea what happened with the Bengals. I don't follow football, so the jokes just went straight over my head. I guess the team is no longer in Cincinnati. Or something. The audience seemed unhappy about it, but they laughed really hard. A guy yelled, "Go Bengals!" and Jon joked about how much honor and denial that guy had, like a beaten and delusional war general trying to fight on until he was killed. "Go Bengals!" Jon repeated in a mockingly weak voice. He joked about how huge the airport was and how the audience was really white. (It was -- I was the only minority I noticed there, aside from potential Jews.)

Early on, a small group of front row people who had left right after Jim Gaffigan snuck back bearing beers (drinks were allowed in the theater). Jon yelled at them. "Did they tell you there would be an intermission? What did you guys get? Is that beer?" One of the guys nodded and offered Jon a large plastic cup full of beer.

"I'm not drinking an open beer!" Jon declared. The guy said something that apparently reassured Jon because Jon did take the beer, gazed at it for a moment, then suddenly lapped at it like a dog. We giggled as the beer dribbled down his Jon's chin. I was fascinated with the beer dripping off his face. He then proceeded to sip it the rest of the night. I can't tell you how jealous I was of the guy who bought Jon a beer. We found out later that he had actually bought the beer for a female friend of his. This beer group (they were sitting on the left side of the pit, I was on the right side) got a lot of attention by Jon. Jon asked him later who the beer belonged to, and when he said it was his friend's, Jon wanted to know if they were dating. The guy yelled, "No!" Jon thought this was hilarious, and imitated him. "No! How could you possibly think I'm dating this very attractive girl! Absolutely not!" He then asked what they were, if not girlfriend/boyfriend. That's when another person in the group stated that they were "friends with baggage."

Jon had a ball with that. "What the fuck does that mean? Oh, is that what they're calling it now? Baggage? Yeah, I got her to, you know, carry my duffel back last night, if you know what I mean. How much baggage was there?" He made a few more luggage and baggage jokes throughout the night. It was great.

Jon put his beer on the fake stoop. He put it down with exaggerated care, commenting, "Gee, I will place this beer down upon this stoop. I certainly hope some neighborhood hoodlums don't arrive and pilfer it!" He had a somewhat annoying habit of going to the back of the stage, sipping the beer, putting it down, then coming back to the front of the stage. This sort of slowed down the pace of the show and someone in front yelled that Jon was drinking too slow. Jon looked up and said, "What? I'm drinking my beer too slow? What? You want me to chug this?" Another guy from the second row shouted, "Chug!" Jon launched into a tirade about how only kids give into dares and that if he didn't watch himself, he and the beer group would end up naked in a field outside of Cincinnati tipping over cows. "But officer!" said Jon in a whiny voice. "I had to eat a plate of my own shit! They dared me!" He then teased them, dipping his finger into the beer and licking up one drop at a time off his fingers.

He asked how old the "Chug!" guy was, and it turned out he was forty-five. "You're forty-five?" yelled Jon. "And you're still taking dares? You should know better! That's what kids do!" Later, Jon launched into his hemorrhoid bit, and he said, "You know what I'm talking about, don't you forty-five?" Forty-five laughed hard, as did we.

Jon ridiculed everyone else who stood up. When another group got up to get more beer right in the middle of Jon's women-bad-at-handjobs bit, Jon yelled, "Hey! Where are you going?" Jon pretended to be one of the guys leaving. "Hmm. All this talk about handjobs...." When another group got up, Jon asked, "What the hell is going on? Is everyone in back fucking?"

Jon's energy was low-key. I'm not sure what I expected. I had seen Unleavened so many times, I think I expected an organized series of precisely-formulated jokes that segued seamlessly. That's not what happened. Jon, I learned, was that anal only on special events (such as his HBO special and the Comics Come Home gigs). Regular Jon preferred to ad-lib and play around with the audience. Snippets of information from other recent encounters that I had avoided rereading right before this event floated back into my consciousness.

Eventually I figured out Jon's strategy. He would do prepared material, but it always sounded like he was just making it up as he went along. (I, the primary stalker in the audience, knew better.) He would then ad lib with the audience. Sometimes the ad libs led into more prepared material, almost as if he knew what the audience would say ahead of time. I think he had a list of jokes in his head and inserted them whenever appropriate. The result was a show that seemed like a relaxed string of series of stories interspersed with audience play. Jon, of course, is a brilliant ad libber. And now I know I he knows it. He counts on it. So it was a big part of his show.

Jon asked what young people liked to do for fun. And the guys next to me yelled, "Skyline Chili!" I think Jon misheard him and started talking about Skyline being a hangout for young people, but then someone yelled that it was a chili place. (I actually passed Skyline Chili during my walk. It's two blocks from the theater.) Jon did a double take. "Young people like to do chili?! I ask where you guys hang out, and you say chili? How much does this place suck if the young people are hanging out eating chili?" He went on, pretending to be a guy from Cincinnati who loved Skyline. "Dude! I had, like, a whole bowl of chili last night, and I don't even remember it. Oh man, I had so many onions and cheddar and beans." It was a hoot. Later on in the show, Jon was talking about sex, and made a passing reference to Skyline. Someone in the front row yelled, "Three-way chili!" which naturally led to some interesting comments from Jon, none of which I remember, except that they made me warm. (Stupid brain meltdown.) Ironically, despite all the talk of chili, I had completely forgotten about the stains on my pants -- the harbingers, if you will, of this momentous occasion. Jon was my only focus.

Jon did the bit about the pumpkins, and he said that "you can change your heart, you can change your mind, but you can't change your dick." He described a tape TDS received of a guy humping a piñata. A woman in front yelled, "Where?" Jon seemed flabbergasted by the question. "What do you mean where? How would I know? In his paper machie ass? It's not like the tape was narrated!" For some reason, his consternation had us in stitches. He then turned around, did a gentle humping motion, turned his head towards us, and said in a cheerful voice, "Hello! How are you? This is my piñata! I'm fucking it in the ass!" I was near tears. Jon stopped humping. "The point is, this guy was fucking a piñata! It doesn't matter where!"

As is probably clear by now, Jon was dirty. He didn't hesitate to be so, either. After a few dirty comments, he smiled at the audience and said, "Hey! That's not the nice man from the TV!" I laughed, remembering this line from another encounter. Speaking of other encounters, a woman in the balcony yelled, "I love you, Jon!" and Jon nodded and said, "Thank you. I'm fond of you too." Jon said the same thing to Melly, Rianna, Krissy, and Kristen, if you remember.

"WE LOVE -- YOU JON!"

"I'M FOND -- OF YOU TOO!"

A man also yelled that he loved Jon, which we all enjoyed very much. "Thank you, sir," said Jon, wryly.

Jon talked about politics in mostly a roundabout way. I found this interesting considering the political nature of TDS and his very clear feelings about certain issues on Unleavened. On the upcoming Iraq war, for instance, he kept talking about how excited he was that we were going to start bombing people again. He waxed nostalgic about the good old Iraq-bombing days, and how happy he was when we started bombing Afghanistan. When people booed that, he explained that it wasn't about Afghanistan. "We can bomb Canada, I don't care. I just like bombing things."

He explained that we were going to bomb Iraq no matter what. We would find any excuse to do so. He did his impression of the US. "You must let in our inspectors!" He then imitated Iraq, using a generic middle eastern accent. "Okay, okay, you can come in." US: "Uh, uh, you must serve snacks when we get there!" Iraq: "Okay, okay, we serve snacks. We serve snacks." US: "Uh, uh, uh ... the snacks ... must ... uh ... be KOSHER!"

At one point, Jon leaned on the mike stand and said, "What do you guys want to talk about?" Someone in the balcony screamed, "Talk about how stupid George Bush is!" Jon insisted that Bush was not stupid -- he was a genius. "Imagine if you've been drunk for forty years. Then you wake up one morning, and you say, 'That was fun. Okay, let's go get the president thing now.' Genius!" All his political jokes were like this. You had no idea if he meant it.

He did not do the cat in heat impression, although he did do a very strong humping motion that Melly once described. (This was in addition to the gentle humping motion he did when describing the piñata man.) I must admit that seeing that up close left a very distinct impression on me. (No, I'm not giving any details on what that impression consists of.) Melly had insisted that I look at his, um, well, you know Melly. But I'll be honest. I was so distracted by Jon's eyes, that I could see little else. They were a bright, sparkling blue. I couldn't get over how blue they were. It was like two gleaming beacons, and I zeroed in on them. The only time I didn't look at his eyes was when I was trying to memorize what he was wearing because I knew people would want to know that. (Okay, the female people would want to know that.)

A lot of the material was stuff I'd heard before, but some of it was altered, and some was more detailed (his description of his dog's vomit eating cycle was excruciatingly detailed). I knew Jon was a Mac man, but I did not know that he refused to buy a PC because he thought Bill Gates was evil. He told us he once owned a G4. He then went into his returning-his-computer story which was longer and funnier than the version I heard on Letterman. I probably laughed the hardest here. Maybe it's because I'm a computer geek, but when Jon described how his computer with the power to launch space shuttles simply froze when he tried to install Wolfenstein (a game), I think I hyperventilated. "If I can't install the game," explained Jon, "I expect maybe a special message that says, 'You must order special part XZ-9952-GZ' or something, considering I paid thousands of dollars for it! But no! I get nothing! It just sat there, staring at me!" Jon then stared blankly ahead and talked out of the side of his mouth, pretending to be his computer. "Is he still there? What do we do now? Shhhhhh. Maybe he'll turn us off. What's he doing now? Oh no ... wait ... he's ... he's slamming his head into your monitor." Jon said that he unplugged the computer, replugged it, turned it on, and promptly got a message saying, "Hey! Dude! You didn't shut us down properly!" I absolutely screamed at this. (Yes, I'm a nerd.)

Though Jon didn't have the aggressive precision he had on Unleavened, it was still unmistakably Standup Jon. (Most of you know by now that Standup Jon is the guy I love, not TDS Jon, whom I just like.) His "uhs" were minimal, his awkward TDS charm was gone, and that manufactured anchor personality was nowhere to be found. There was a little touch of edge, of impatience, of genius. He didn't soften his comments or act apologetic for anything he said, things he does regularly on TDS. He was almost hostile at times, brooding. This was Jon Jon. My Jon. Jonny Jon Jon. Dirty Jon. Cussin' Jon. Jon Jon Jon Jon Jon Jon Jon. Oh Jon oh Jon.

When it was all over, it was much too soon. I think Jon had done an hour. (Damn you, Young and Gaffigan!) This time, I had no problem leaping to my feet. I even threw in a few WOOs which were drowned out by the crowd. Jon got a full standing ovation, and then he was gone. Budd Friedman said, "They love you! Come back out here!" and Jon came running out, his beer in hand, holding his arms straight out from his sides, pretending to be a a bird. He then ran backstage, and it was over. I was left amazed, stunned, and unable to believe that I had actually lived through what I had just lived through.

I drove home depressed, knowing that I was no longer in the glorious presence of Jon. The sun had set, and all I had left was the cold, rainy sky around me. It was the first depressing signs of Post Jonatic Bliss Disorder. And there was no going back.

So now it's been five days, and I keep seeing his face and feeling those eyes. I watch The Daily Show, and I can't pay attention to what Jon says. I can only see him pacing on the stage, dragging his mike stand, stopping to sip his beer, taking his time.

I'm obsessed with trying to find those eyes on television, but they're not there. Maybe it's the lighting, his blue shirt, or my imagination, but I believe those eyes are stage eyes, seen only by those blessed enough to catch him live.

Sometimes I think I'm recovering from amnesia. Just yesterday, I remembered that Jon gave a wonderful speech on September 20, 2001. Same guy. Totally forgot about that. Loved him more. I got an e-mail that mentioned Jon's international show which airs in Brazil. Forgot about that too. Loved him more.

I had forgotten everything. For me, Jon was bigger on stage than his entire career. His one hour of greatness was more alive than any other moment I ever had watching him on television. It's the gift of a live show. A live performance is irreplaceable and irrevocable. There's nothing else like it, and it stays with you forever.

He breathed, he smiled, he walked. The muscles moved in his body, the blood flowed through his hands, and the voice poured through his throat. I felt it. I tasted it.

The image that haunts me is Jon, standing casually, microphone in one hand, microphone stand tilted over in the other hand, the stand's base rotating in lazy circles on the stage. He smiles slightly, passing those brilliant blue eyes over us, knowing us, playing us, teasing us, touching us, slaying us, owning us.

It is a beautiful fall evening on October 18, 2002. The city is Cincinnati. The state is Ohio. I belong to Jon Stewart.

And he won't let me go.

 

October 23, 2002


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