The Laboratorium
May 2001

Fake Girl, Real Tears


In the realm of human emotions, double negatives fail to apply. When her online friends learned of Kaycee Nicole's death, they poured out their grief. And when they learned that Kaycee Nicole hadn't really died, they felt worse.

Kaycee Nicole never died because she never existed. In the days after the announcement of her passing, the lamentable death of a cheerful 19-year old was erased from the books of the "real" and replaced with the news of an elaborate fabrication. Kaycee Nicole was fictional, the creation of her "mother," Debbie Swenson, who has since admitted the deception.

She apologized for the hurt she caused, but explains that "Kaycee" was an amalgam of three real people, all of whom died too young, after struggles with leukemia or cancer. The hoax, she explained, was prompted by "wanting to tell their stories" and "sharing the love for life they gave to those they loved."

I have seen people refer to Kaycee's meta-story as a uniquely Internet-age one. It is not: it is a story for any age. I have heard it described as having deeply disturbing implications for the weblogging community. It does not, except so far as it shows that the weblogging community is not so different from any other form of human community.

Debbie did something billions of people do every day. She lied. Like everyone who lies, she had her reasons, about which the rest of us can only speculate. Maybe she wished the lie were true, that "Kaycee" were real. Maybe she realized that the fictional Kaycee's story was capable of drawing more empathy than the real stories it retold. Maybe she was flattered by the implicit compliments Kaycee's fans paid to her own creative skill, or maybe she found the writing itself rewarding. Maybe she wanted to share with the world what her late friends had meant to her, for others to experience that tragic joy, not just hear about it secondhand. And maybe she wrote between tears, desperately wishing her friends back to life, hoping somehow to give back to them a little of what fate denied them.

Not an enormous lie, at least in the beginning. She changed a name, she elided some details and made up some others, she attributed real quotations to false people and vice-versa. And then, like any compelling fiction, the lie took on a life of its own - Kaycee Nicole lived! Friends gathered around and offered to help, the lie spread and metastasized, Kaycee's circle grew as her story touched more and more people. Phone calls were fabricated, wishlists and incidents, and ultimately even a death announcement.

And in the end, the deception achieved the status of betrayal. In itself, this is an accomplishment: you cannot be betrayed by someone you did not trust. People trusted Kaycee; they empathized with her. Debbie made unwitting conspirators of them, made them parties to the lie, pledged them to emotional compacts she knew to be shams. She could see how deeply invested they were in her illusions. In the end, she tried to let them down as gently as she could, but even her best wasn't good enough, and it all came tumbling down.

In this, she is hardly different from anyone else who lies on matters touching on the emotions. I'm sorry, that sounds like fun, but I've already promised to pick my friend up at the airport then. Yes, I will always love you and no, there is no one else. I tried to call you on your birthday, but the line was busy. He said to tell you he was sorry for everything before he passed away. We think that a well-chosen lie has the power to mend a tear in the world; we think we can shield other people from unpleasant truths. Sometimes we are right, and sometimes we are wrong, and all too often we make a mess of it without meaning to. You always hurt the ones you love.

And they could be hurt because the will to believe runs so deep in the human psyche. At some crucial point in those first few years of life, a child learns to start thinking of these sensory inputs as sights and sounds, and then as faces and voices, and then, crucially, as people, beings not unlike itself. And from that point on, there is no going back, no, not ever.

We know that evidence can deceive us; we know not to believe what strangers say; we know that all trust is inductive, uncertain, unproven. And we ignore that knowledge in every minute of our waking lives. Social engineering works for exactly the same reasons that society works: we are by nature credulous, seeking, always seeking, to empathize with the person opposite us. We see faces in rock formations; we ascribe human motives to roulette wheels. We empathize with characters we know to be fictional so strongly that we cry at the end of E.T. and read tributes to Mrs. Landingham into the minutes of the California State Assembly.

Our minds are primed to expect human response, to the point of seeing intelligence where none inheres; when someone really is on the other end of the line, the sense of recognition is so strong, so overwhelming, that credulity is the order of the day. When someone with talent and motivation sets their mind to deception, the odds are already stacked in their favor. Literary fraud is as old as literature; just ask Ern Malley and Prester John. There is nothing about Debbie's deception that is qualitatively unique to the Internet or to weblogging.

Debbie knew enough to write a convincing account. She got the credibility-establishing details of disease and description right; she got right the voice of a scared but joyful girl with leukemia; she nailed the fears and emotions that resonated with her and Kaycee's readers and correspondents. All of this came from somewhere painfully real, or else she has a prodigious empathetic talent herself. The biographical details, the day-to-day actions and affirmations, well, those she faked, but those weren't the things Kaycee's friends were responding to.

This is the part that tears me apart. It's the Stephen Glass story all over again, only played out as tragedy. Debbie succeeded beyond belief in sharing the stories she wanted to share and in making profound human connections in Kaycee's name. Something powerful and resonant took place here, but because of the fabrication baked into Kaycee's story at the outset, it all may be lost. Kaycee's mourners' genuine grief is hopelessly admixed with shock and disillusionment now: the betrayal is inseparable from the trust it undermined. Kaycee is lost in a sense worse than death; not only did she never exist, but every meaningful experience her "existence" gave to other people is itself now suspect.

Or is it? One might think that Debbie is now beyond trust, that there is no way to stop this freefall back to the harsh and unyielding earth of cold and verifiable first-person facts. But, then again, by that token, there'd have been no way to stop the fall after the story of Sheyla, or MoundsOfJoy, or Nowheremom or, stretching a bit further, OurFirstTime, or Kibo, or the LambdaMOO">http://www.levity.com/julian/bungle.html">LambdaMOO rape, or any of the other too-numerous-to-mention well-publicized online line-blurring incidents of recent years.

If we haven't learned our lesson by now, perhaps it's because it's a lesson we shouldn't learn. We suspend our skepticism out of love, out of love for humanity and for those souls close to us. We've all lied, been lied to, lied to ourselves, lied and been lied to in love itself, and yet we go on looking for human connections and blindly believing when we think we may have found them. This time for sure.


Disclaimer: I knew nothing of Kaycee before I heard of her "passing." I am reacting to a few of the reactions I have seen, but I am by no means a Kaycee expert, nor do I even know enough people who did know her to say with any certainty what their consensus is. My points here are simple: from my limited perspective, there is little unique to the Internet in Kaycee's story, and I see no villains here.

A Sense of Direction


Early April, I'm on vacation, playing Dance Dance Revolution, when the phone rings. It's Chase. "Grimm, you should go check out ZDNet," he says. "Your group's been dissolved." I finish up my game, go online, and oh my, yes indeed. Our VP went into the cage with his archrival; the archrival left.

I knew in that instant, knew beyond argument, knew beyond explanation, knew with utter certainty that I was going to quit my job. Not that I don't enjoy what I do. It's just that I enjoy writing more. Count up my late nights across this past year, and the Laboratorium beats out work by an order of magnitude.

Here in the coding world, we know exactly where we're going, even if we don't have a terribly good reason for going there. Whereas I'd rather be following purposes around, even into the fogbank. Technology and law and policy and community and creativity and the power of words: there's so much to say. I could be entirely wrong in everything I say, and these would still be discussions the world desperately needs to have.

So I'm leaving programming to try my hand at writing. Three more weeks of work, and then it's out into the unknown for me. Public intellectual or bust.

I'll be traveling in Eastern Europe in June. July is my Seattle swansong, a final glorious summer month in this glorious city. Come the fall, I'm holing up in Boston, teaching a CS section and working other part-time odd jobs, and doing the grunt work of writing and getting that writing published. Beyond that, I don't know.

Which is exactly the point.

The Bad Candy Project, Phase II


INTRODUCTION

In early January, five people gathered for a mission that would test their limits and push them to the very edge of sanity itself. Set before them: a dizzying array of candies and confections from the Pacific Rim, some delectable, some detestable. Our travellers, soujourning in a land of candy not their own, would be exposed to the best in man's candy-creating nature, and the worst. What follows is entirely in their own words. The candies are real, and waiting for you -- if you dare.

But first, let's meet our distinguished panellists:

James: Best known for playing Ophelia in the Ralph Fiennes production of Hamlet, he immigrated to this planet in 1992.

Michael C: Inventor of the rubber band, and the only living descendant of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

Michael K: The first programmer to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel, and the fastest draw south of Vancouver.

David: Current Scrabble World Champion, and the author of seven books, including River of Flames: A History of Turkmenistan.

Nina: Recently returned from mediating a cease-fire in the Congo, star of the PBS series Home Renovation the Nina Way.

Liz: Ranked number 8 on the NASCAR circuit, head curator of the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

Calbee Snow Pea Crisps

Liz: These are like cheese puffs without the cheese. You might like one.

Michael C: Why would I like one when I don't even like cheese puffs?

James: This is flavorless yuck.

Michael C: This tastes like food for pets. I don't know for which ones, though.

Michael K: I find this scary-looking. It looks so non-vegetable like.

Michael K: I could see that with time this might become an addictive snack food.

Liz: How much time are you talking about?"

Michael K: The peas have this oddly . . . pea-like aftertaste

Nina: They're that bad? Every time someone tries one, they ask for a glass of water.

Hello Kitty Lips

James: Hmmm. They're just like any other hard candy rolled in sugar that comes in a round metal tin.

James: Nice flavor, though.

Liz: It's a very mild grape.

Nina: Doesn't this defeat the whole idea that Hello Kitty has no lips?

Michael K: Or none that can be seen.

Peach Mini Fruity Gels

Liz: Ohh, ohh, it squirted!

Liz: I don't know what to do now, I can't get it open any further. Every time I open it, it squirts further.

James: Oh, I tear them open with my teeth.

Liz: It feels funny. I can't swallow it.

Michael C: Don't these pose a choking hazard to small children?

James: They have sort of a dual texture. Like jello with small cubes of coconut gel.

Michael K: They make these really disgusting noises if you slurp them.

Tongari

Nina: The bag smells like a desiccant packet.

Michael C: Or like the garage in Dan's new house. Sort of a paint car smell.

Nina: Maybe it's paint thinner. See on the bag, there's a drunken cat, and this one thinks he's flying

Michael K: I need some pickled ginger. I need a palate cleanser.

James: They're sort of like sugar wafers, with a more powdery sugar filling. Less creamy, more powdery.

Liz: Less creamy, more powdery. Sounds like an advertising campaign gone wrong.

Michael K: The outside is pure cardboard.

James: It smells like lots of moving boxes.

Michael C: The new house smell, there you go.

Liz: There's no fat in this bad boy. The whole bag is considered one serving.

Michael K: Not bad, but the repeatability factor is low.

Nina: It's like eating week-old icing.

Shrimp Chips

Liz: Ewwww. (winces)

Nina: You know, David has been complaining about these for a year. Every time I eat them he says he can't go anywhere near me. I thought it was just him.

James: Ewwwwwww! It's fish food!

Liz: Don't point that bag near me!

James: Put it in the fire hazard unit!

Michael C: I'm just going to put this and hide it away in the kitchenette.

Tattoo Gum

Michael K: That tattoo looks like an undead triceratops.

Michael C: It's a triceratops skeleton, but it's wearing one of those dog sweaters. Like a pet corpse.

Michael K: After a bit of chewing, the gum flavor has lost its charm.

James: It's pretty ordinary gum.

Hokkaido At Last Cow Calcium Candy

Michael K: (reading from the bag) "A not too sticky, calcium-enriched candy that's both healthy and tasty."

James: This is the butteriest candy I've ever had.

Liz: It's amazing!

Nina: Isn't it? How much calcium is in it? it's like evaporate evaporated milk.

Michael K: Gets a big thumbs up from me.

Michael C: It seems like the wrapper is just permission to eat a pat of butter. See, it says that a bag is only 17% of your calcium RDA.

David: It's like biting into putty

James: Yeah, it's like the stuff we used to hang up posters back in the dorms at school.

David: I think the taste is more some consequence of a chemical reaction than something intentional.

Grape Caramels

Michael K: Grape. Caramel. Grape. Caramel. Who had this idea?

Nina: Nothing yet, no, no, I don't like it.

James: This has the texture of the stuff that dentists use to take impressions of your teeth.

Liz: And it tastes exactly like the fluoride treatment.

Michael K: Same color, too. The grainy texture brings up bad memories of the dentist. Oh, no, there's a whole bag left!

Liz: Mike will eat it.

Michael C: Hey!

Chocolate-Filled Marshmallows

Michael K: It's an instant s'more. Put it on a graham cracker, stick it in the microwave

Nina: It's like eating the Pillsbury Doughboy from Ghostbusters.

James: Pretty low-grade chocolate. Pretty low-grade marshmallow, too.

Snow Pea Crisp, Part II

Michael K: Give me another snow pea crisp.

James: What?

Nina: What?

Liz: Why?

Michael C: Huh?

Michael K: It's the closest thing to a palate cleanser we have here.

Licorice Olives

Liz: I love olives. I like them flavored with garlic.

Michael K: (moving to other end of room) but do you like them flavored with licorice?

James: (moving away also) The smell. It scares me.

Michael K: It smells just like pickled olives. It's just just that I was in a candy frame of mind, and you know, you smell pickled olives.

Michael C: How do you get an olive this hard?

Nina: Is there a pit in it?

James: Licking the surface isn't that bad.

Nina: It tastes like mold.

James: It's hard to eat these things. It's so --

Michael K: (unintelligible cry of horror)

James: Whoa. Who thought of this? This had to be an industrial accident.

Liz: I had to spit mine out.

Michael K: This is as close as I have ever gotten to hearing what could be called a sickening crunch.

Liz: Did you ever get to the center? What's in there?

Michael K: I threw mine out first. How many sickening crunches does it take to get to the center of a licorice olive?

Beatles

James: I think we should go for something that would completely eradicate that taste. Let's go for the Beatles.

James: Examine the package. Skittles, I ask you?

Michael K: That's Korean ingenuity for you.

David: Skittles without the burden of the FDA and their annoying regulations. The candy company is called Orion. Like some kind of Mars imitation.

Liz: They're good.

James: Of coure they're good; they're Skittles.

David: They're kind of irregularly shaped. Maybe they're all the irregular Skittles they couldn't sell in America. Just package them up and export them to Asia.

Michael K: Look at the wrapper. None of the fab four was really a keyboardist. Is there some kind of color code with the Beatles?

Michael C: Goo goo ga joob, I am the red one!

Gummy Burgers

Michael K: The mascot looks a little like Mayor McCheese.

Nina: Hey, they've got Arabic writing on them -- they were made in Indonesia. The back of the wrapper lists all these places -- Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, this is the city I was born in. This candy's been all over the place.

James: Don't eat it, you don't know where it's been.

Michael K: It's oddly tough.

Michael C: There's no burger. Pickle, mustard, and tomato.

Liz: Hey, you can disassemble these!

Michael: Is there something crunchy in these?

Liz: No, that's your imagination.

Snow Pea Crisps, Part III

Michael K: (cell phone rings, brief conversation). Hey, guys, my girlfriend says stay away from the snow peas. They make you constipated.

Liz: How many do you have to eat?

Michael K: (confers on phone) The whole bag.

James: How could anyone ever possibly eat a whole bag?

Soda Hard Candies

Nina: I want the sorry bunny.

James: It's a hard candy, slightly sour.

Nina: This says "seven vitamins," but the soda says "decavitamin." That's ten, isn't it?

Michael K: Something happened to the peach flavor of that candy when I bit it.

Nina: It went horribly wrong.

Millet Sugar Candies

James: Hey, there's a desiccant packet in here!

Liz: Millet. That's a kind of seed. My bird eats it. It smells, like . . . desiccant.

Nina: It's, ah, crunchy.

Michael K: This is not biteable. Now it's like eating a sugar cube.

Michael K: Now I've reached the treasure inside and it's chewy. But I can't taste it because of the sugar.

Liz: It's like I just drank corn syrup.

Michael K: This candy must have been a practical joke.

James: You buy it for your friends.

Michael K: It's like a Tootsie pop in that you spend all this effort to get to the middle and it's totally not worth it.

Michael C: It's unbelievable.

Nina: I can't cut through these things even with my kitchen knife.

Peanut Brittle

Nina: This black part must be black sesame.

Michael K: This is the worst thing I've ever had.

James: This is just more sesame than I can handle.

Wet Lemon Peel

James: Hey, it's registered with the U.S. Patent Office.

Michael C: Are they suggesting that they're patenting this stuff?

James: Let them have it. It's disgusting!

Michael K: Lemon peel is basically inedible even before you coat it in licorice powder.

The Rock

Not only do we not remember what it tasted like, we don't even remember what it was. It must have been so bad that we're blocking all memories of it.

Yogurt Chewing Candy

James: It's kind of tough to be called a chewing candy.

Michael K: How would they sell if they called them a chew toy?

Liz: The candy is getting hot as I chew it.

Nina: Mentos make your mouth cold, and this makes your mouth hot. So you can regular your mouth temperature like a thermostat.

Michael C: It doesn't seem appropriate to have to chew it. A very strange chewing consistency.

Red Coconut Ball

Nina: Can you taste the red?

Michael K: No. There's actually no point to it outside of its being red.

Super Melon

Liz: Whoa whubba whubba!

Michael: Aaaa! Since when is a melon sour? I taste no melon and I taste a lot of sour. This is a joke. Melon is lemon spelled differently.

Nina: This is cleverly disguised lemon candy. I bet the inside tastes like melon if you can get there.

Liz: (wordless clutching at the air)

Nina: I'm going to pop the whole thing in my mouth. . . . I'm getting my taste of the melon. The melon's coming out.

James: When I was in high school, I ate too many of these things and my tongue started to peel.

Michael: It's so not worth it.

James: I'm going to try an experiment here.

James: One melon ball, approximately 25cc of water.

James: Hmm, if you drink the tailings, it's just barely bearable at this dilution.

Liz: I'm going to take them with me to school to feed to students who are annoying me.

James: This is not your ordinary good superpower. This is like radioactive mutation superpower.

Michael C: Like the Hulk, you know, the whole green skin thing.

Nina: This may be worse than the Super Lemon. At least the Super Lemon has the lemony taste. But this is pure sour.

Li Hing Mui Flavored Sour Patch Kids

James: They look like sour patch kids that were left somewhere for years.

Liz: They smell pretty nasty.

Michael K: They're kind of salty. They remind me of the olives.

James: (reading aloud) Ingredients: sugar, glucose, modifed corn starch, plum, licorice.

Michael K: Licorice! That's why it reminded me of the olives.

James: I'm trying to keep it away from the bitter part of my tongue.

Michael K: My tongue feels pretty bitter after all of this.

James: My tongue's pretty bitter -- at me.

Michael K: This is the worst sour patch kid ever. It's horrible. At least there's a reason for their existing. I thought they were just a cheap knockoff, but there must be a market somewhere for licorice-flavored Sour Patch Kids.

Michael C: I'd say they taste worse than they look.

Mango Pudding Cups

Liz: It has the same consistency as the peach cups, even though it says 'pudding'.

Nina: Definitely false advertising.

Michael K: This is definitely not sour. And no plums in it, either.

James: None of this plum stuff we've had tastes like plum.

Michael K: It tastes like this mythical Chinese idea of plum I've had all my life.

Nina: Have you ever had a plum in China?

Michael K: Well, no.

Nina: It tastes too much like a mango to be good,

Michael K: It tastes like that part of the mango too near the pit.

Nina: I be that's what they use that part of the mango for. They use the outside of the mango to make yummy mango things. They make this out of scrapings from the inside.

Michael K: So this is like mango offal?

High Class Focus Plum Candy

Michael K: This brings to mind all the really bad feelings from the smells that would go through the house when my dad would make this herb broth.

Michael K: Look at this bag. If they're picking them plums when they're green, no wonder they wound up like this.

James: (after smelling) You know, Mike, you're right, we really don't need to eat this.

Michael C: You know, it doesn't smell that bad.

Liz: You eat one, then.

Michael K: It looks like New Mexico.

James: New Mexico?

Michael K: Yes, those red river rocks near the mountains.

Michael C: (emits sickening crunch)

Michael C: (reaches for water)

Michael C: (downs half the glass, then the rest)

Michael C: (drink's Liz's glass of water)

Michael C: (throws plum away)

Michael K: Michael has tasted a world no man should taste.

James: Can you describe the inside, maybe in terms of colors?

Michael C: The inside was kind of, like, darker, like brown. It looked like there was a nut in there or something.

James: Why am I bothering resealing this?

Nina: There's actually a seed in here you're not supposed to eat. The outer part is the dried flesh, down under all the sour powder.

James: But why?

Nina: We should save this for Halloween.

Michael K: That's so cruel.

Michael C: I'm never trick-or-treating again.

Cubyrop

James: I think we need something kind of mild-mannered now.

Nina: They're cute.

Liz: Ew.

Michael K: We can't win.

Liz: No, it's a funny flavor.

Michael C: They're sweet.

Liz: It's vomit-flavored.

Michael K: Ballpoint pen ink. This is horrible. It was fine until I thought of what it was.

James: How do you know what ballpoint pen ink tastes like?

Michael K: I don't use ballpoint pens, because the smell of the ink gets to me.

James: This tastes like there's something burning inside of it.

Shrimp Crisps Redux

Michael K: I think some shrimp crisps would be good now. They're actually addictive after the first time or so.

James: That I don't believe.

Michael K: I've never actually poked my nose into a bag and smelled them before.

Michael C: Is that the mistake?

Michael K: I think that is the mistake.

Botan Rice Candy

Michael K: You can eat the inner paper.

Nina: But not the outer wrapper. That's cellophane.

Liz: It melts in your mouth.

Michael C: You can get a kick out of these sorts of candies in school. You can try to impress your friends. Oh, look, I ate the wrapper. Then it dawns on you that they don't care. They just think you're a freak.

James: Ooh, look at the sticker.

Nina: It's a decapitated cat.

Michael C: It's a raccoon.

Liz: There's the driver. He's backing up.

Michael K: Is he backing up, or is this a roadkill warning?

Mysterious Plum

Liz: What's in this one?

Michael K: Plum.

James: Yes. (sighs) There are still two types of plum candies left.

Lemon Peel Candy

Nina: How did we wind up with two lemon peel candies?

Michael C: Why does the world need two lemon peel candies?

James: Duty calls, but I can't bring myself to do it.

Michael K: Up until today, I didn't know that there was licorice in Asia.

James: They must have so much they don't know what to do with it.

Michael K: This looks like mold.

Liz: Oh my God.

Michael K: Don't smell it, just eat it.

James: It's like musty licorice.

Michael K: It starts soft and lemony, then it turns to licorice.

James: The aftertaste is awful.

Michael K: Pure licorice aftertaste.

James: It lingers and it burns, like the melon powder. Keep away from open sores.

Michael K: Have any of the things that we bought because they loooked weird actually tasted good?

Michael C: The burgers tasted OK.

Michael K: No, things that actually look like they've been swept off the floor.

Michael C: You know, that sprig of parsley over there is looking really good.

Michael K: Actually, that parsley has more in common with that lemon peel candy.

Liz: (quietly munching on water crackers)

Reconstituted Plums

Michael K: We have learned to avoid all the stuff that looks like nether organs.

James: There are two principles at work here. One, all the plum stuff tastes horrible. Two, all the stuff that's processed has been fine. So let's eat the processed plum candy.

Michael K: That's a paradox.

James: Immovable stone, impossible force?

Michael K: It's kind of like Mini Me in a plum.

Nina: Is this the one with the vinegar in it?

Michael K: Is there licorice in the ingredients too?

James: (checks) No.

Liz: (reads from lable) Plum, vinegar, salt, MSG, organic acids.

James: It starts with plum, then they grind it up, then they put it back together in the shape of a plum. An exercise in food cycle futility. It has a tough coating, aaaaaaaa!

James: (spits)

James: You bit into it, and something squirts out. Something . . . alien.

Liz: Get a tissue.

James: It's vinegar squirting out. Vinegar!

Liz: (to Michael C) How's it going?

Michael C: Nothing's happened. Nothing at all.

James: I take it all back. This is a real plum. It hasn't been ground up, it's been putrefied in vinegar. In vinegar. It only looks like it's been processed.

Michael K: So the two principles remain inviolate.

James: Can you name a single American candy that uses vinegar?

Liz: Maybe Sour Patch Kids.

Green Tea Marshmallows

James: I can't tell good or bad anymore. It's just sort of safe-tasting. At least with every bite, I taste less of the plum vinegar.

Michael K: I'm starting to feel like Roger Ebert, you know, I don't like anything.

Michael C: I bit it in half and started squeezing it and then this little tongue emerged.

Liz: It tastes like a green tea teabag.

Plums in Corn Syrup

James: : We're basically done.

Michael K: This looks like plum.

James: There's no licorice, there's no vinegar. How bad can it be?

Michael K: Well, just give me one that's completely encased. With this one the pit was peeking out.

James: I'm prepared to spit this out very quickly.

Michael K: The problem is you'll be sucking along, feeling fine, and then a nasty little surprise will jump out at you.

James: It's basically your standard sugar/corn syrup hard candy.

Michael C: I'm doing okay. I've got it completely in my mouth.

Michael K: It's okay.

Nina: It's just corn syrup.

Michael K: Yeah, except for the plum.

Michael C: I'm going to have to spit this out soon.

Nina: Children all over the world are starving.

Michael K: You know, I think they're not going to get much nutrition out of these.

James: I think they'd refuse to eat this.

Nina: I think my tooth just got pulled out of its socket.

Michael K: I've got another great idea. Let's pour corn syrup around a mushroom!

Conclusion

Michael K: Well, I learned something important today.

Liz: What?

Michael K: Avoid plums, licorice, vinegar, and, oh yes, brackish sesame seed.