Maybe you heard it in history class, a PBS documentary or some BuzzNet piece, but I here to inform you that the Internet was not made for surviving enemy attacks or as some stuffy academic research about information flow. Do you really think Tim Berners-Lee really wanted a better way for physicists to link their research? Psssshaw.
I was that kid, on the youngest end of the neighborhood gang (in those days, literally just a bunch of kids), where, older, bigger, louder kids were the athletes, the planners of adventures, the ones who talked smoothly to girls. What did I have?
Like Bill Cosby was sure his name was Jesus Christ I was fairly sure my neighborhood name was Shuddup Smartass. I count on the idea that in the teacher lounge my name brought up eye rolls and the files had a big red SA stamp on my folder.
Not The Media, but old media, my formative years astute in front of a giant glowing tube of a TV set in a wooden box. While too young to understand what was happening in the 60s, I was schooled in the art of farce via Laugh In.
In the mid 1970s some kids were whispering about a new thing on Saturday nights that sounded like my kind of show. It was not even carried on the local NBC affiliate in Baltimore, to catch the first season I had to wrap foil on the antenna of the TV in the basement just to catch a fuzzy signal from the Washington DC station. This show made fun of everything- the news, commercials, itself and offered weird music like Leon Redbone playing a tuba. And it was live.
My formative literature? What could teach me more of mocking the world than MAD magazine? From apathetic hero Alfred E. Neuman to the obnoxious Roger Kaputnik, fold in covers, Spy vs Spy— this was my window to culture (as it were). I grew skilled at backing out the real story lines of movies from the versions presented in MAD. I knew everything about The Godfather from its treatment there; when I got around to watching the movie decades later… I knew it all.
Someone tried to bring me to my senses by telling me in very serious tones that the word sarcasm comes from a Latin word meaning “to cut flesh”. I steadfastly refused to ever fact check it, I am afraid to ever discover that this was errant information. I relish my little truthiness. Please leave me be in my ignorance. It’s a lush place.
During middle school, wiring sarcastically turned out to be a gateway to A papers in creative writing. I still have a copy of my 7th grade recasting of King Arthur as a group of leather clad car racers, a 16 page cursive hand writing on lined paper tome called The Legend of King Archive and the Drivers of the Round Lot.
I created mockeries of the Chiquita Banana Company, I am the Walrus, Ralph Nader, the Frito Bandito. Teachers loved this stuff. In graduate school I turned our Geology Department newsletter into a faux tabloid called The Weakly World News.
All of this was influential training for my entré to the internet in the late 1980s. OMG in text, in mailing lists, MUDS, you could talk like anyone, not just say things, but SMACK. The reason this worked for me is that I am really an ISA, an Introverted Smart Ass. I can say things online that I never would in person.
But taken one way that means you could just be an obnoxious jerk. My mode is not to do attacks on regular people, or to make personal cut downs (most of mine are self directed, I am an easy target). Why lash out at ordinary folks where there are so many corrupt politicials, evil corporations, mindless spammers, futurist gurus, end of the world believers?
I was primed for that first launch of the Mosaic Browser in 1993- the world of fun poking exploded open to allow for images, sound, even crude MPEG video. Figuring out HTML was the gateway to make fake web sites.
Today I live for remaking old pieces media with my own contorted concepts. I get this ideas in my head and I cannot do anything productive (whatever that means) until I dive into PhotoShop with some old move poster.
There are an infinite number of ways to be a smart-ass online, do I really have to spell them out to you? Have you been online? We have blog comments (or for the A-League, go for the mosh pit of YouTube comments), obscure interest forums, Amazing product reviews, feline memes, video mashups, and of course… twitter.
The downfall of Facebook is you can only annoy people who already know your routine, like your family, and all those dorks from high school who are now not very different, just grayer, fatter, better employed than me, and surrounded by cloned offspring. But in twitter… you can be a bonafide smart-ass to complete strangers. That’s my gold mine.
So do I appreciate those Wizards Who Stayed Up Late?
Cover photo: creative commons licensed (BY-NC) flickr photo by publicenergy: http://flickr.com/photos/publicenergy/5067668352