Category Archives: Fan Mail

How to Document your Park

Aug 3, 2016
Hello Bob,

My names Atilio and I’m a 24 year old living in Calgary Alberta up north in Canada! I’m a huge fan and have been following your art for the last few years. I've been into photography for a few years now and after lot of thought and inspiration from your work I've decided I want to branch off into anthropology as well.

Calgary has a few locations not too different from Union Square and I’m going to try and create a documentary about the people of these areas. I was hoping I could get some advice from you as your art has been a huge factor in my decision to start this project!

I've never created a doc and really have no idea what I’m doing! What kind of equipment do you use for your videos and any advise that would help make the locals more receptive to being recorded and photographed? i hope to hear back from you and id really appreciate your time.

Best wishes,


Hey Atilio,
I'm definitely pleased to hear that I've inspired you to do something similar to what I was doing at Union.

Interestingly enough, when I first found myself at the Square I had no plans at all about documenting it in any way. I just fell in love with that park the minute I saw it. It was such an amazing place for people watching. It's those two factors that made it a great documentary possibility. #1 Amazing people watching. #2 Falling in love with the place.

It wasn't until after a couple years into hanging out there I realized I had to have a camera to start filming what I was witnessing there. At first I bought cheap little cameras that didn't exceed $200 and took mediocre photos, and really crappy videos. Mind you, this was around 2004 before digital photography & HD videos got as popular and affordable as they are now. And I'd already had the online presence with Jesus Dressup so I was ready with a platform to showcase my work.

Looking back, the thing I had most in my favor in regards to making people receptive to being photographed, and/or simply allowing me to shoot what I wanted whenever I wanted, was seniority. The more time I spent at that park and the more years that passed, the more comfortable I felt, and the people there just got used to me always being there. They'd even approach me wanting to be interviewed. Then when it came to filming the eccentric regulars like Wendell, Signs or the crusty punks who'd normally shun photographers, I was able to develop a relationship with them before pulling out the camera at all. As time passed and I reached the 8 to 10 year mark I was permitted to film almost whatever I wanted because the people there simply knew who I was, what I was doing, and were even there to back me up if I looked like I might be getting a bit nosey to someone unfamiliar with me. Then it wasn't until probably 2012 or so that I really developed a skill for interviewing. Now that I think about it, that started with me interviewing Shaggy for Year In Reviews. That's probably when I discovered I could basically use the same method of getting information out of anyone.

It also didn't hurt making it all into a game on the postcards to get people involved. Having something tangible to show gave me credit of sorts when approaching strangers and getting them interested in being interviewed on camera.

Around 2008 or so, after the Amazing Strangers section of my site started to actually get noticed by making the Peepers famous I had a fan email me telling me to "Check your PO Box." When I got to the post office, inside waiting for me was a brand new $500 Canon Powershot SX50 HS. I asked the anonymous emailer why he got it for me and what he wanted in return for such an expensive gift. He simply replied "I'm sick of watching the crappy quality of your stuff, but I love what you're doing there." All I had to do was promise him I'd continue to document and upload NYC for him to see. That began my love for the Canon Powershot. And it's the 2012 model that I prefer most. It has the most dependable mic, the farthest zoom reach, and has lasted the longest of the followup models I bought later.

As for editing, I've always just preferred the iMovie program that came with my Mac. As long as I was able to move audio & video around easily, and maybe a few special effect options like slow motion and fading clips together I had all I needed. All of it I found easy to teach myself over the years.

Since I started the one thing I wish I would have invested in earlier would have to be external hard drives. I've lost plenty of photos and videos that I'd give anything to have back simply because I was a cheapskate and put off buying something to back everything up on. Now I have a stack of them, and I'm so pleased to have everything safely saved in several places. In my opinion getting something like a 3 terabyte Toshiba is easily affordable, will store years and years of footage, and could save you lots of heartache in the future.

I think the biggest challenge for you will be finding a place as easy to find subject matter as Union Square was for me. I've asked people from all over the world (who were visiting NYC) if they've ever seen a park like Union in their travels, and almost unanimously the response has been, "Nope. Not like this." But I'd be really interested to see what you can come up with there in Calgary Alberta, Canada. I've yet to see anyone else documenting a park like I have, and to me it seems like an obvious hobby for any filmographer out there.

Thank you for the compliments. I hope I answered your questions thoroughly enough!
Normal Bob


Thank you so much for the advice Bob! I was not expecting such a thorough reply I greatly appreciate it! 

I hope to start this project soon after some more investigation into the different areas of my city. Luckily I have almost identical equipment to your own but I'll definitely be picking up a hard drive for back ups! It's awesome to hear about the gifted camera and doesn’t surprise me at all your works incredible and you have a lot of fans! 

Once i get this whole thing kicked off I want you to know you’ll be credited in any video I produce and I’m absolutely honored to be mentioned on your site! thanks again for everything bob! 

Best wishes,



Almost not believing, & your Moments of Deconversion

Below is an email from an ALMOST unbeliever who I attempt to help along the path to disbelief. I’ve always thought it’d be wonderful to have collection of unrepentance stories detailing the exact moment, realization or epiphany that caused a believer to declare their atheism. I realize it’s generally a long process, but usually there’s a moment when the lightbulb finally sparks to full glow and there’s no turning back. What was your Moment of Deconversion? Please share. I plan to use your stories for a new page of fan mail.

Lauren’s letter

Hey Bob,
I sort of just stumbled onto your site through Dress Up Jesus. When I first saw dress up Jesus I laughed to myself a little bit haha. But this is kind of long, and I don’t even know if you check this or will respond, but i just wanted your opinion on some stuff I have been wondering.

Anyways, i looked around on your site and read some of the mail you have gotten. And reading through a few of your responses I saw a few things you stated about what you did or didn’t believe and specifically that you don’t believe in God. Now I am from a Christian family, grew up in church, and now attend a Christian university. ‘Religion’ has been bred into pretty me even though I hate that term. But this last summer, while trying to explain Jesus and God and Christianity to a friend of mine I realized that I don’t even know if I believe what I am trying to convince my friend of. I mean how can some Being that I am told I will never understand create this earth which is huge and create all life and then because some ancestor of mine ate the wrong fruit, separate Himself from me and then love me still so much that He sends His son to earth who performs all these inexplicable miracles and heals people and then the people kill him and then he rises from the dead and goes to heaven and for some reason that saves my soul and I get to go some place up in the clouds when I die? Sounds kind of weird when you think about it. And so long story short, for the first time in my life, I don’t know. I can’t look you straight in the face and say that I believe God exists and in everything that Jesus did. I am doing some spiritual counseling with a mentor at my school but I am looking for some little piece of absolute proof of God’s existence so I can grab onto that and rebuild my belief system but it isn’t there. It is said God is God because He is unfathomable, but thats not working for me right now.

Anyways, what I wanted to ask you: since summer and all the questions, i have thought a lot about what life means now if I don’t believe in God. And if i take that thought and follow it through to what that means for me, it means life has no purpose. I can drop out of college or be valedictorian, fail my classes or ace them all, live homeless the rest of my life or make lots of money, be a jerk to everyone in my life or nice, go kill someone or save someone’s life, start a war or stop one…idk it doesn’t really matter. Because one day I am going to die and all the things i did in my lifetime won’t do anything for me when i am dead. And what about death? If there is no God, no heaven or hell, no redemption or damnation, then what happens when I die? Is it just eternal dark nothingness? I have been living in that mentality and it is depressing. Part of this is me venting thoughts, but I also want your opinion. Some Christian people in my life have given me sugar coated ‘o well you aren’t really doubting and Jesus is real you just have to believe’ answers and other Christian people have really been an encouragement to me despite how what they say still solves nothing. I have come to the conclusion that rejecting God for me is not an option because, well to be honest I can’t really deal with the idea of rejecting God any better than the idea of believing in God.

In my searching, I have come to find that if I could say I believed in God, He would be good, loving, and relational. I used to think I was better than people because I was a Christian and followed this moral code that somehow got me some special attention because I was good. But what I am finding is that this Jesus hung out with the rejects, the sluts, the diseased, the homeless and the needy. In fact, he would have been rejected by today’s mega churches, televangelists and ultra conservative bible-thumpers. But I still can’t grasp Jesus or grasp the idea of God. This was a little longer than I expected, so if you are still reading sorry. But I would like your honest ideas, especially on the after-life and if God exists. Just stuff I am wrestling with currently, and I don’t know, you just seemed like a guy who would give me your ideas straight. Anyways, thanks!


P.S. – hey, also reading your hate mail, I still consider myself to be a Christian despite doubting pretty much everything (i think i am allowed to do that haha). but i am embarrassed to be put in the same category as those people who have been sending you terrible hate mail. i am no theologian, scholar, or even that religious, but if those people are supposedly following someone who’s ultimate message was just love everyone, they are doing a poor job of it. you are obviously stirring up the pot and getting under someone’s skin but someone is learning to love from what you are doing so good job i think.

Hey Lauren,
Let me first say I know right where you’re at. I was there once and the answers that are so obvious to me now seemed like faint shadows of mystery then.

The most standout issue in your letter here, the thing that was simultaneously shoveled into your brain with God, is the “no purpose without God” idea. An idea that seems outright perverse when I consider it now. Would failing all your classes, dropping out of college, being a jerk to everyone and living a life of homelessness make your life better & more enjoyable? Forget whether or not it’d please the maker of the universe. Would it please you? Are you only living this life so you can hurry up and claim the prize someone promised waits for you after the grave? Do you honestly see no other reason to put effort into being good, expanding your mind, working towards the things that make you proud, and in general pursuing happiness as it applies to you?

Has the belief in God really taught you that your own goals, aspirations, pleasures and values aren’t important if it’s for yourself and yourself alone? Has your belief really encouraged this downgrading of your value and judgement? In my mind those sort of lessons are nothing short of mental abuse.

Obviously you have value without whatever god you pretend exists, and your well being matters, and doing things that give you meaning and purpose not only helps you but those around you as well. Treating others well inspires them to treat you well, which obviously adds to your own fulfillment. Failing all your classes, dropping out of school and living on the streets doesn’t sound like anything that’d make life more enjoyable or purposeful and help anyone you care about. On the other hand, expanding your mind, searching out intelligence, asking questions, and finding your own life’s purpose may not please this god-being at every turn, but it could sure put a smile on your face, and clear the cobwebs away from the purpose you’re seeking. Do you have a couple ideas bouncing around in your head that you could set your sights on that’d make for an enjoyable and interesting purpose in your life? Would throwing a brick through the window of a liquor store then stealing everything you could get your hands on and drinking yourself into oblivion help you acquire that fulfilling enjoyable purpose? Or would you instead be able to do something else to add value to your life so you can be someone you’re proud to be who, when she discusses what she believes, is proud of what she says because it makes sense?

My belief is that when I die it’s done. I didn’t exist before I was born, and I’m going to the same place afterwords. It wasn’t a scary world of darkness and nothingness or an eternal void, or anything at all. Before I was born I just wasn’t. I didn’t exist. And as I remember it wasn’t the least bit of an inconvenience. I suspect that nonexistence after life will be similarly uneventful. This immediately places FAR more value on the process of living this life. When I finally came to the conclusion that I was in fact an atheist, my life began to brim over with meaning and purpose. Much of which is trumpeted on my website for the world to scoff.

It became abundantly clear that living my life for an eternal super being who loved the speck of dust named Bob did very little to add meaning and value to my life. It’s impossible for me now not to see that concept as uninspiring, wasteful, and degrading. When I get emails like yours I tend to want to speed you along the path of unbelief so you can get started on REAL life. One that has you telling people about beliefs that make sense, have a basis, and encourage thought, study, and doubt.

I could go on and on, but I’ll stop here. I get ahead of myself and overly excited about seeing someone’s eyes opening up to reality.
If there’s any questions I didn’t answer let me know. I’ve got a head full of answers.


Agnostics vs Atheists, FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT!

“Normal Bob,
I found your site a couple weeks ago and I find it almost addicting. I’ve been reading through the hate-mail section and it’s so fascinating to read the give and take between yourself and the people who believe in God and Jesus and all that.  I really like the way you respond to them with a combination of logic, sarcasm, teasing, and parody.

But I’ve noticed that there doesn’t seem to be much discussion about agnostics and that seems strange to me because to me being agnostic makes much more sense than being an athiest or a believer in any notion of god put forth by any of the religions.

On the one hand, all organized religions are based on flawed thinking, as youhave pointed out so well.  It’s easy to see that religious beliefs are based on wishful thinking.  We all would like to believe that there is some benevolent god that will reward us eternally if we live good lives.

On the other hand, I can’t follow the reasoning of athiests who believe that there is no god whatsover.  How can they be so sure?

Here’s my view.  As humans, we see the universe through the framework of time and space.  Everything has a spacial relationship to everything else, and everything has a time relationship to everything else.  My body is a measurable distance from the empire state building.  The empire state building is a measurable distance from the moon.  These distances flucuate, but they are measurable.

Likewise, there is a measurable amount of time that elapses between the moment of my birth and the moment when I taste my first beer.  There is a measurable amount of time between my first beer and the death of Julius Caeser.

Everything we know about the universe can be fit into these frameworks of time and space. But that leads to the mystery of infinity.  If everything has a relationship to some great cosmic timeline, where is the start of the timeline?  If everything has a place in the universe, where does the universe begin and end?  No matter how far back in time we go, we can always go farther.  And no matter how far we travel in the universe, we can always go farther.  It hurts my brain to think about the infinity of time and space.

I have to conclude that the existance of the universe and everything in it cannot be explained by science.  Science may be able to determine that there was a ‘big bang’ that resulted in the formation of the galaxies, but where did the ingrediants of the big bang come from?  There could never have been a ‘time’ when absolutely nothing existed, because how is it possible for something to come from nothing?  So I’ve concluded that the answer lies outside of the framework of time and space.  We owe our existance to something that cannot be defined physically.

But I have no idea what that something is.  I just know that it is beyond the understanding of human beings because it does not fit into our framework.  That’s why I call myself an agnostic.  I believe there is some ‘force’ or supreme being that caused the universe to exist, but I accept that I have no way of comprehending its nature.

As an athiest, do you believe that there is no such supreme being/force?  If so, how is it that we exist?  To me, it seems impossible that the universe just came literally out of nowhere. Something caused us to exist, that seems certain to me, but I don’t believe that any human being has any real concept of the nature of that ‘something’.  I believe that the most honest answer one can give to mystery of our existance is, ‘I don’t know.’ ”
William Bell

To me the answer to this seems so simple.

Do you really believe that indefinable thing you’ve postulated is a living being who we’re meant to worship? That’s what a “god” is, and it’s something I’m utterly convinced is make-believe.

For instance, let’s say instead of a living being creating the universe, it’s somehow evolved up from something minute. Or perhaps the universe is a perpetual exploding/imploding process that has no beginning or end and is just a repeating cycle. Do you consider these explanations godly, to be worshiped on hands and knees, prayers, thankyou’s, offerings, the works? Of course not.

Or how about if aliens made us in an experiment. Are they gods we’re to be worshiping? If aliens made us are we to build churches to them and adore them? Make them our gods? Again, the answer seems an obvious “No.”

In fact, how about this? Let’s say a wizard type character actually did invent us, and plant us on planet earth and he’s watching us scramble about tripping on rollerskates, wearing wigs, burning down each others houses and eating everything we can get our hands on. Is he the god we’re meant to be submitting to? Ass in the air/nose to the pavement, loving & worshiping as a god? Once again, I say, “Nuh-uh.”

My atheism is directed at the gods, which I believe is the most common use of the word. And that goes for the word “agnostic” as well. Because there seems to be nothing more clear, more obvious than there are no gods demanding we worship them, and the idea that there are is absolutely a man made concept, and nothing more. From everything we know, that we know here on planet earth, gods are make-believe, 100% of them, therefore I confidently call myself an atheist.

I mean, am I wrong? Do you think we’re supposed to be worshiping something, we just haven’t figured out who or what it is yet, therefore you call yourself an agnostic in regards to the gods?


Death of an Atheist – Rest In Peace Peter (Zooloo)

Last week I received an email from a fellow atheist and friend of the site. The topic was “Facing death as an Atheist.” The full correspondence is posted on the latest page of Fan Mail, but his initial email is posted here so that you can share your thoughts & feelings in the comments below.
(This was the last time I heard from Peter – 2015 Normal Bob)

Subject: Death of an Atheist

Zooloo aka Peter
Zooloo aka Peter

Hello Bob.
I’ve been getting a bit short of breath so I went to the doctor who sent me off for a chest x-ray.

I was told the results would take about a week so when the doctor phoned me the very next day it wasn’t going to be good news. Since then I’ve had a CT scan and next week I’ll may be having a lung biopsy.

If I do have lung-cancer words and phrases like “too late to do anything” and “abrupt” keep cropping up. In short don’t buy me a Christmas present as I may not be around to receive it.

So what’s this got to do with NBS? Well, faced with one’s own mortality is a very interesting experience and there’s certainly things to learn form it.

My “religious” feelings are and have never been strong but I think for you and many of your fans they have been. If confronted with the prospect of death it’s would be easy to seek reassurance in the familiarity of a religion and as the religious are not above exploiting the weak and vulnerable how can their clutches be avoided?

The best thing you can tell people and what I’d recommend being central to what you tell others is “Which one?”.

It’s too easy to fall back on superstitious beliefs that were firmly indoctrinated in childhood and arguing/reasoning against them is giving them a reality and credibility they don’t don’t deserve.

“Which one?” avoids this path. Don’t argue against specifics as it’s too easy to get entangled.

“Which one?” puts them all into perspective. Focusing on one, the one true one you were lucky enough to be accidentally born into, gives it a reality it does not warrant.

If there was just one thing you could say to your fellow atheists say “Which one?”. It could be more important and telling than you think.

With regards and sincere best wishes

Zoo aka Peter
Continued on a new page of Fan Mail