Cracker by Damian Christie

Mars is close, Uranus is pink

Over the past two weeks there has been unprecedented virus activity on the Net. Have you been hit by the Blaster or SoBig? Somehow I remain unscathed, something of a miracle considering I regularly trawl the outer reaches of the Interweb and I haven't updated my virus software since it expired a year or so ago. A virus of sorts itself, every few days Norton pops up on my screen reminding me that I haven't updated and telling me it'll see me again soon.

One scourge that none of us can protect ourselves from, it would seem, is having stupid friends. Harsh, perhaps? Ok, maybe gullible is more apt. And no, they didn't take the word 'gullible' out of the dictionary, so don't send me that email. But every couple of days I receive yet another email pleading "forward this to everyone!" Whether it's offering some sort of benefit, from the tangible 'trip to Disneyland', to the less tangible 'lifetime of luck with the ladies'; threatening bad luck by breaking the chain; or warning of a virus that doesn't exist, I get them all. Yesterday it was a small girl, Kelsey Brook Jones, 'missing since 1999', whose photo is being cyber-plastered around the world. A quick Google reveals that if she was ever missing, she was found a couple of hours later. Hiding in a tree, or some such.

The trouble I have with these email chain hoaxes, and their cellular text equivalents (forward this to 10 people and it'll cost you $2!), is that there seems to be no end in sight. You'd think the old 'once bitten, twice shy' aphorism would apply, but it doesn't, and it's the same friends who fall victim time and time again. Eventually even they spot a pattern, but then just don't care "Oh, well it's worth a go, you never know…" No, you never do, it would seem.

The current rumours regarding a ubiquitous Auckland celeb bleaching her anus are another good example of when crap gets credence. Now, I'm not close with the celeb in question, nor, unlike every person I talk to, do I claim to have a friend who goes to the same (clearly gossipy) beautician. I have no source whatsoever on this. And yet it took all of five minutes of surfing to figure out, at least with all the certainly I need, that it's a bunch of er, arse.

It appears the same rumours plagued American actress (and partner of Jack Nicholson) Lara Flynn Boyle. These rumours, apparently started by this piece in 2000, culminated in an article by Simon Doonan in the New York Observer, canonising Boyle as the "official Internet patron saint of anus-bleaching." A well-written blog deconstructing these claims, and in fact the whole mythical practice, can be found here. The Antipodean version of this myth has – not surprisingly – found its way onto Jonathan Martin's website, truly the place where style meets substance.

In matters such as these, the Internet is just as often helpful for what it doesn't say, as what it does. A quick search on the topic du jour shows the only relevant links are all about speculation as to who does and doesn't do it. There is no massive list of clinics offering this service, no DIY tips, no alt.rec.anal.bleach newsgroups, and thankfully, a complete lack of before and after pics. Ergo, this is not a valid practice. It just don't happen. No free case of Veuve Cliquot by forwarding this to a thousand people.

Finally, before you close this page, click on the magical 'link' button below and email it to everyone in your address book. I guarantee their lives will be the better for it. Try it. It's worth a go – you never know…