"...behaviour that gets labelled schizophrenic is a special strategy that a person invents in order to live in an unlivable situation."
R. D. Laing, The Politics of ExperienceWe admit it: we've been sulking in our tent. We figured that if we couldn't get even 200 subscribers to this piece-of-trash newsletter then screw it, you know? And in fact the last issue precipitated a record number of unsubscribe responses. (OK, so it was only three, but it's already a pretty small list.) Evidently, Free Speech is something one simply does not joke about in this medium. Even if it is just parody. Parody is an advanced concept to some. It's not their fault they don't know what's going on.
On the other hand, it's not our fault either. We did get rid of some of the dead wood that way, even if our numbers went negative there for a minute. But then we noticed that something quite odd was happening. The longer we sulked, the more subscriptions came in. Could we be Onto Something here? A new kind of cyber-extortion, perhaps? Suspecting that this could well be the case, we make this promise to you, Valued Reader: the more subs you send this way, the less we will write. Anyway, we're checking out the hypothesis. If you never get another issue, it means it's working.
Of course, it's entirely possible that this whole sulking business is simply a deep-denial subterfuge attempting to mask the fact that, after just a handful of issues, we are already completely tapped out. Scraping the bottom of the cranial barrel so to speak. However, being committed to the most radical form of honesty (sometimes referred to as shameless exhibitionism), we decided to explore this very possibility in some detail. This has required a sort of split-brain preparation in which we interview Our Virtuous Twin, one clocke. Let's see if we can't get this individual to go on record...
What's So Funny?EGR: So, uh, what do you think about the state of the Internet Industry these days?
clocke: The internet industry?! Have you lost your freaking mind? The "internet industry" can kiss my ass, and so can you! I don't feel like talking. I had a fight with your wife last night and I'm not feeling real chatty. Go away.
EGR: My wife? Oh no, kimosabe, that one was your call. I had nothing to do with it. I begged you not to keep going out with her. But NO! You had a better idea! I guess I just wasn't good enough for you, huh? Ach, you're so weak! Then again, you never listen to me anyway...
clocke: Never listen to you? That's rich. All I've been hearing about since the end of April is this incredibly dumbass newsletter you cooked up. You've wrecked my career with it. I'm just sitting here waiting for the other shoe to drop. It's just a matter of time before I get fired for this, and you know it. I think it gives you some kind of weird charge. Isn't that right?
EGR: Well, they say Change comes in many forms. And remember what Joe Bob Briggs said.
clocke: Who the hell is Joe Bob Briggs?
EGR: He's the MC on the Saturday late-nite Movie Channel thing -- least he used to be. You know: the Drive-In Will Never Die? Beasts, Breasts and Blood? Iron Joe Bob? Man, where do you check out to during these things? Thinking about The Web, no doubt, or some other Really Compelling Issue. Jesus, would you get a life!
clocke: Oh yeah, I do seem to remember something about that, come to think of it. Some mouthy shit-kicker with a ten-gallon hat? Didn't I read that he had an advanced degree in English Literature?
EGR: So what? Who gives a crap. The point, Clem, is what he said in his fanzine about quitting your job.
clocke: You actually signed up for that? Oh man, what next? Don't you realize that we're probably Being Watched? And you're off subbing up for everything in sight on that damned web connection of yours. I wonder what the FBI is making of all this. And have you seen the junkmail coming in lately? I mean, you can't walk across the floor without tripping over the stuff. "Christopher Locke, Chairman, Entropy Gradient Reversals." You are one sick puppy, Frank.
OK, I know I'm going to have to humor you anyway, so tell me, what was it Joe Bob Briggs had to say about quitting your job?
EGR: He said just do it.
clocke: Well, that's brilliant. Just quit, huh?
EGR: Yeah, he said all these people dream about becoming independent and quitting their jobs, but that they've got it all backwards. What you do is: first you quit your job. Then you get independent.
clocke: Hmmmm. Well he could have a point there. And that's what you're up to with EGR? Trying to force me out of work?
EGR: Work!? Remember who you're talking to here, kid. Whatever it is you think you've been doing, it sure isn't work. Nobody's fooled by the fact that you're online 12 hours a day. It's the biggest waste of time anybody's thought up yet. I mean, Microsoft Hearts is more productive!
clocke: I am taking the pulse of the industry.
EGR: Oh please, stop! I can't breathe when you get me laughing like that. No more! I'll be good!
clocke: Well, I am.
EGR: Whew man, that was close! Well OK, I'll go along for the ride. "So, clocke, what does this pulse tell you?"
clocke: That the patient has slipped into a deep coma.
EGR: See! And you say EGR was all my idea.
clocke: It was. I still see it as my responsibility to alert people to the dangers of a potentially mass medium that is spreading stark-staring stupidity like a pandemic virus. Ebola pales.
EGR: Oh I get it. Sort of a "one if by land, two if by sea" kinda deal? 'zat what you're thinking?
clocke: You always trivialize the important things.
Cross-Wire Your Corpus CallosumEGR: Uh-huh. And just how long have you been laboring under this particular delusion? A messiah complex no less. I didn't think things had progressed quite this far...
clocke: It's not a messiah complex, goddammit! There are still people concerned with the future of this medium and its social impact and, and... all that. And I'm not talking about the boobs who've signed up to get your aberrant EGR ravings either.
EGR: Hey, easy, those are our Valued Readers you're talking about there. A finer bunch of people you're never likely to meet.
clocke: Oh sure. And I suppose after you've laid waste to my professional career, they're going to support us somehow, right? You think anybody would pay for this drek? I guess you missed what happened to Web Review, huh?. And they even had real writers. Sort of. Don't you read the computer trades? Nobody online wants to pay for anything! They're all a bunch of deadbeat info-junkies looking for their next free fix. I say piss on em.
EGR: Well, new models are emerging.
clocke: New models of WHAT? You really have gone round the bend, I guess. Look. It's real real simple. Food costs money. Rent costs money. You need money to live. To get money, you have to at least appear willing lionize people you know for a fact to be drooling imbeciles. Everybody learns this in Kindergarten. Grow up!
EGR: Sounds to me as if you're still stinging from that whole MecklerWeb experience.
clocke: I don't want to talk about MecklerWeb. Besides, I signed papers. You can't talk about that.
EGR: Pal, I can talk about anything I damn well please. I would think that had gotten through to you by now.
clocke: Tell me about it. You've become a dangerously loose cannon. Hell, I'd fire you myself if I could.
EGR: And risk Total Dissociation? I don't think you're quite ready for that little number.
clocke: Why not? Corporations do it every day. It's called downsizing. They lop off their brains so there's less drag on Accounts Receivable.
EGR: Now see, that sounds like something I might say!
clocke: Look, just leave me alone, alright? I bought you the digital camera, the scanner. I got you a nice new copy of Photoshop. What have you done with them?
EGR: Well, I was going to do something on my trip to the Information Industry Association's Annual Information Industry Investors Conference.
clocke: Oh, you went to the IIAAIIIC? And?
EGR: It was too depressing. Well, not so much depressing as... did you ever get the feeling you were bleeding from the ears, or that a water buffalo had suddenly sat down on your head? Hard to describe, really. I did get lots of shots of people. But you want to know what was really weird?
clocke: You're going to tell me I bet.
What Was Really Weird
EGR: It was that the people I met there -- I mean individually -- were actually pretty OK, but that didn't seem to keep the whole thing from being Totally Stupid and Boring.
clocke: Were there lots of CEOs on hand?
EGR: Oh yeah! Place was crawling with em.
clocke: Well, there you go. Did they say things like "clearly" a lot? Did they all have PowerPoint slides showing how they would Dominate the Market in 24 months?
EGR: Well, yeah, now that you mention it...
clocke: So, you went to a computer conference. That's what computer conferences are all about. Didn't you network? At least hand around your card?
EGR: I don't have a card.
clocke: Great! That's it. I'm finished.
EGR: Now wait a second. You were there too! Why are you trying to lay this off on me? Where's your business card?
These guys said I should title this "The Three Amigos!"
clocke: Well, uh...
EGR: Just what I thought. What a hypocrite! You've thrown in the sponge and you're trying to make it look as if you've got some principled reason for being so aloof from it all, so unplugged. Like I said, I think that MecklerWeb business really got to you. Then internetMCI polished you off good and proper. The whole Vision Thing. Your fifteen minutes of fame. People calling you up all the time for interviews. More speaking invitations than you knew what to do with. And now you're just another cyberschmuck trying to get FreeLoader to install. Joining mailing lists to commune with other losers and hacks. This ringing any bells for you, butthead? It sure ain't ringing your telephone!
clocke: No, it's not like that. Really.
EGR: Uh-huh. That's what they all say. All the Internet Old Timers are just weeping in their beer. "But we were there at the Creation! We built this medium! How come nobody will listen to us anymore?" They sit around hotel lobbies reminiscing about the heyday of com-priv. They base their groveling little hand-to-mouth consulting practices on USENET statistics and traceroute dumps and try to pass themselves off as Internet Journalists. It's pathetic, really. It's embarrassing.
clocke: I think you're being terribly unfair. A lot of us... a lot of them, I mean, were right. There was a bright future, and a New Way to be forged. Now it's all hucksters and sweepstakes and other unmentionable shit.
EGR: What are you talking about? Why, it's still Morning in America! Nothing is over. It's just getting started. EGR is simply out for its fair share of Mom's Apple Pie. And look, admit it: you're utterly complicit in this. You could have stopped me. But you didn't. Why not?
clocke: Well, it has been a little hard to see where all this is leading. I figured maybe you were Onto Something. But I don't know...
EGR: You hesitate because it means copping to the fact that everything you thought you knew is simply and completely wrong. Isn't this what you keep trying to tell the suits? But it's really all projection. It's really about you. You've become cynical. You've become jaded. You've become surfeited with too much deep thought and penetrating analysis. And you've gotten used to making way too much money. In short, you're fucked.
Well not me, bro. I'm ready to rock over here. Ready to Lock-and-Load from the Bell-Tower of Life. Why settle for Going Postal when you can guarantee overnight delivery? Dig it. I'm the enthusiasm you lost back when you thought you were about to Hit the Bigtime, but never did. Well, don't cry in my beer, asswipe, just because your megalomaniac pretensions got thwarted. Don't tell me about protecting your precious position and prestige! Don't bring me down with your petty paranoias! Don't drag me into your puerile little persecution fantasies!
clocke: Wow. That's some pretty strong medicine. Do you honestly believe that's all true? I'll have to think about this. But damn, now I'm really confused...
EGR: Hey, buck up Buddy Boy. Roll with it.
Some of you have asked whether I'm still at IBM. Absolutely. Of course, the views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the organization as a whole. Just in case you wondered.
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Entropy Gradient Reversals CopyLeft Christopher Locke email@example.com http://www.rageboy.com
"reality leaves a lot to the imagination..." John Lennon
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