THIS IS NOT "FUNNY", NOR IS IT A "RANT"
Just Some Thoughts and Musings Thus Far
from That Old Codger, Rev. Ivan Stang
I'm really glad I didn't start putting the "Online Stark Fist" (or whatever it ends up being called) on alt.slack yet, because there were a lot of things I was about to do wrong.
I've had Net connection for about 3 months, but only through the rose-colored blinkers of America Online, and am only now beginning to realize just what a MUDDLED idea I had of what the Internet IS. I thought I understood the newsgroups concept well enough; I figured that since I'd been in showbiz publishing from fanzines to TV for the last 30 years -- no, 31 -- that I'd just be dealing with variations of the same old 20th century media. I'm just catching on to how much I don't know.
...WHICH SURE MAKES THIS FUN!!! I feel just like I did at age 10, when Kodak came out with a $10 movie camera. The world opened up and suddenly the Hollow Earth was within my viewport. THAT'S how excited I am, all over again. But you know, when people get excited, they start making mistakes -- SubGeniuses even more so than people. (Luckily, in our casE, the biggest blunders ACCIDENTALLY lead to startling new discoveries! Like inadvertently blowing up your house, but finding buried treasure in the crater. Don't you love it when that happens?)
For the last 3 years, while many of my contemporaries were starting to use the Internet at their jobs, buying CD Rom drives, etc., I was doing NOTHING but organizing and tightening REVELATION X. Although I regret not mentioning alt.slack in REVELATION X (and we may be able to correct that), if I had gotten that America Online account 3 years ago, we'd still be working on the first chapter. And I wasn't even sure what alt.slack WAS. Gradually I became aware that as soon as the book was finished, the very first thing I'd BETTER do was figure out this "Internet" thing AS IF MY VERY LIFE DEPENDED ON IT. I'm slow, and methodical, but not TOTALLY stupid. (IF ONLY!!!)
I WAS totally IGNORANT, however. ("I THOUGHT!!") My DobbsCo supervisor, Dr. Philo Drummond, had been pestering me to hurry up and get with it. Easy for him to say, he's the networking master of all hackers at one of our major nuclear arms manufacturers! (When I met him 15 years ago, he didn't know what a computer WAS. He was just a HELL of a salesman who had connections with this Dobbs guy.) So one night he flew into town, flopped his portable pc open on my desk, yanked the phone line off the phone, jammed it into his tiny little computer, and dialed up CompuServe or something. I didn't even know what a "CompuServe" was. He took me to alt.slack, and a few other places, and by gobbs, it WAS easy! He stumped out the 'fropstick, handed me a 9600 baud off-brand modem with no documentation, growled, "BOY, it's high time you get CRACKIN' or you'll have MISTER D to answer to!" and headed back to St. Louis.
Reverend Stevie Hambone was the one who knew me as a Mac user well enough to say, "Stang, you're so out of it, America Online is the only way you'll be able to get a handle on this." He explained to me what email was. Keep in mind, for 3 years I had been reading nothing but Dobbs memos, monk-drone rewrites, and Hour of Slack logs. Hambone had been trying to get me to pay attention to email since it was invented.
Soon thereafter the book was "finished" and I got that AOL account. But the cost of AOL perturbed me. One of the very few things that I had guessed correctly from the beginning was that I would end up spending, or WANTING to spend, half my time connected, and would run up vast, crippling bills if I wasn't judicious. That free ten hours was used up in the first ten hours. So I simultaneously strived to achieve access through a state-operated freenet type of connection, whereupon I learned that you get what you pay for. The mystery modem, Smartcom, and Kermit did not work well together and my first dose of Unix was truly terrifying. I'm the kind of guy who has never used anything but a Mac, and that mostly for word processing. This whole process was excruciating and nerve-wracking, and I was still moving into a new office-house while fretting out the end of the REV-X deadline layout toil.
((Aside: in my one real year of college in 1973, I became aware of something called "computer animation" -- one or two films had been made using that technique which were beyond imagining to me, and I was an animator -- so I took a computer course. When they hauled out the punch cards, I quit. I was scared of the machines until my boss in 1985 said, "You're gonna have to write the scripts and budget proposals on THIS thing now." It was the first model Mac. I balked, but in an hour I was thinking, "I HAVE BEEN AN UTTER FOOL!!!" I wrote CARE DOG VS. PEE BEAR right then and there, on the boss's time, JUST TO PUNCH THE KEYS. Within days I was in a slobbering frenzy, buying a Mac on precariously borrowed money. The computer was just another tool then, like a hammer or a flatbed Moviola or a 3/4" video tape editing system. Back in THEM days, there wasn't ANOTHER WORLD BEHIND THE SCREEN, like suddenly appeared when I started poking around in AOL.
The first two months I spent mostly diddling low-budget machines and learning technical terms -- my vocabulary probably hasn't grown so fast since I was 12 -- and fantasizing about exactly what I was gonna do with this new planet that Dobbs had dropped me off on. Some of what I was reading about "netiquitte" in magazines and on line seemed sort of arbitrary to me. Alt.slack horrified me at first, due to the crosspostings. And people kept AFTER me about AOL like it was some kind of SIN! (How ABSOLUTELY RIGHT THEY WERE!!) But I started thinking, GARSH, I can assemble the new FIST and USE all the REV-X outs right here, and have people add to it, and then later I'll print it all up, with art! Which is more or less still the plan, but... well, my "take" on the whole thing was pretty crude and limited. I started capturing stuff from alt.slack and assembling these FAQ-like documents and special headers and ways of delineating "FIST" postings from the rest of alt.slack. I didn't want to CHANGE alt.slack, I just wanted to add to it, make an area that was somehow a more formal presentation of certain "departments." Like "HIGH WEIRDNESS" or "UPCOMING DEVIVALS."
I was spending EVERY SPARE MINUTE, however, trying to learn more, to escape from America Online. A lot of what I was seeing on alt.slack baffled me... like references to this "Web" thing. I finally got an inkling of what the Web is -- and I FREAKED. If it was what I thought it was, and especially if it might potentially be what I THOUGHT it might be, then my entire life up till then had been one gigantic preparation for the ultimate multimedia interactive combination of film, video, art, music, text, acting, collage editing, HELLFIRE, I WAS BORN FOR THIS!! I ran out and bought all the slick trendy Net mags I could.
That was about one month ago. I was asking less and less dumb questions and getting clearer and clearer advice from alt.slack denizens. I finally took the ultimate plunge -- I READ A BOOK. I had been collecting advice all willy nilly and scattershot, and out of it kept emerging the suggestion, "READ A BOOK LIKE...." Adam Engst's INTERNET STARTER KIT (for Macintosh) kept being recommended and when Nenslo sighted Dobbs in it, I went for it. (My experiences with computer store clerks during this time will have to be saved for a future rant or horror novel.)
That was a week ago. Scales started falling from my eyes until the area around my desk looked like something from the scaling bins of a seafood factory. That book is REALLY WELL WRITTEN and even FUNNY, considering how dry such a technical manual COULD be. Sure, it's 900 pages long, and I'm only a third of the way in, but every bit of it has been an ENTHRALLING LEARNING EXPERIENCE. I no longer feel like the TOOL of some INSCRUTABLE PRIESTHOOD, but almost like one of the SCIENTISTS! -- well, compared to last week, anyway. Engst's presentation is PERFECT for someone at my ape-like level of understanding. I gotta hand it to the guy. It's all elementary stuff to most of you, but for we who have been lured in by Venus Flytraps like AOL (albeit a FIENDISHLY WELL DESIGNED Venus Flytrap!!!) unprepared, his book is a real treasure. There was a lot of CRITICAL BASIC INFO that I was missing. Magazine articles just don't cut it.
So right now I'm probably about as GOGGLE-EYED as I'll ever be again in my life, unless I ever make it to Bangkok. I'm sure most people here have had the same castle-in-the-sky visions. I'll probably calm down a WHOLE lot once I get that Metronet account open next week and start using things like Mosaic, and actually get a grip on what I've been reading about. But there have sure been some times this week when I thought I was going to get apoplexy from SHEER JOY OF LEARNING and the subsequent EXTRAPOLATING as to what could be DONE with all this!! And it's a damn good thing the world behind the screen is looking so good to me right now, because the REAL world has been a CORRESPONDINGLY UNCOMFORTABLE place lately -- just a spate of temporary machine and body part breakdowns (fax-answer problems, bank screw-ups, insurance screw-ups, modem screw-ups and Preacher's Lip, if you must know) -- you know how "when it rains, it pours." Hand in hand with all the excitement, though, is the embarrassment of realizing that all my behavior and reactions have been JUST TYPICAL. I am starting to see why the aces here get so frustrated with the jokers who come flopping in from places like AOL, having gone through NO GAUNTLET WHATSOEVER, and suffering serious misapprehensions about where they are and what's up. I now slaver in anticipation for the day when I too can join those "elitist snobs" in their (JUSTIFIABLE!) reaming and flaming and humiliation of the rude clowns who come waddling and hollering into this civilized encampment thinking they're God's gift to the Internet. I know I have a long climb yet. But that's okay. I welcome it. It may only be a piton at a time UP, but each piton is also an inch FORWARD. I have had THE VISION. I have seen the LIGHT. As opposed to THE LITE. ((Of course, all of this, all our struggles, will be rendered laughably pitiful when we suddenly all have MWOWM access 7-5-98!!!)) I'm not gonna sit by and be a victim of changing technology -- THIS time. The jump from film cutter to videotape editor, with THE BOOK OF THE SUBGENIUS in between, wasn't NEARLY as hard as I thought it would be. This one is harder, and I'M GLAD!! It's TIME for a damn CHALLENGE!!! There's only three more years of Earth-time left and I for one might as well ENJOY THE STRUGGLE WHILE THERE STILL IS ONE!! It'll just make the Slack seem that much better. My dependents are a bit miffed at me for spending so much time studying Net navigation instead of writing that HIGH WEIRDNESS BY MAIL newspaper column sample that might make us some MONEY. And she's right. But I KNOW that there is a hellbound train or spaceship or something I must grab ahold of and board JUST IN THE NICK OF TIME before it pulls out of the station. The STATUS and SOVEREIGNTY of the Church of the SubGenius must be established and NAILED DOWN, AS SOON AS POSSIBLE in Internet History. The planet will be literally JAMMED with false "Bobs" soon, especially this part of the planet. PEOPLE MUST KNOW WHERE THE TRAIL OF THE TRUE "BOB," THE ONE TRUE "BOB," MAY BE FOUND!!! If the false SubGenii get the jump on us, my friends, it isn't just The SubGenius Foundation bank account that is doomed, it isn't just the TRUE SUBGENIUS WILD TALENTS that are doomed, it's THE WHOLE FUCKING UNIVERSE!!!
So you better believe, I am trying to get up to speed as fast as I possibly can. Those close to me will tell you that I am not responding very REASONABLY to things that block my way in this quest. I feel REALLY SORRY for the 10,000 "squid mail" correspondents. My symptoms are probably familiar to all of you. One of the very first things anybody said to me when I entered alt.slack was, "I appreciate your hard work so far, but you're gonna have to run the gauntlet here just like everybody else, Stang." I now begin to understand that statement.
Obviously, on the Internet the Church of the SubGenius can breed like a yeast or fungus. It's PERFECT for multi-brained maniacs. It's too tricky for most Normals to do anything but fiddle with, and we know that very soon they will be more dependent on it than they know. THIS IS OUR WAY TO CONTROL !THEM! FOR A CHANGE.
My idea of the SubGenius Web place, the Palace of Dobbs, is --needless to say -- the most rip-roaring, hell-barraged combo imaginable of Revelation X-type art & rant (in COLOR), the ARISE video, three kinds of SubGenius radio show at once, the STARK FIST, and various OTHER media we've scarcely begun to conceive of yet. Heck, that shouldn't be hard. All I have to do is learn hypertext programming, that's all, and that's not so difficult, they say... actually, I would probably only need to know its CAPABILITIES and LIMITATIONS, and find some crazed volunteer to do the actual juggling. Evil Palmer Vreedeez is working in this direction too, from the more graphics-n-games angles. Gobbs only knows what Nenslo is cooking up. There are a whole lot of SubDoks out there, animating Pipes and Saucers and Connies. With the guidance of Great Men Who Do No Work like Dr. Drummond, we SHALL PREVAIL!!
All that said, here's my "take" THUS FAR on some Internet traditions and how they might differ slightly on alt.slack, or at least within whatever section where I put together the ONLINE FIST (it may be that the Web is a better place for such; I haven't been there yet!!!).
EMOTICONS: I dunno, those things seem to me like LAUGH TRACKS -- like nipples on a bull. It sort of kills the joke when you end it with "I'm only kidding." Maybe I'm being hypocritical -- I'm the biggest proponent of "gimmick punctuation" in the world, what with the ALL CAPS and boldface-italics overkill of SubGenius tradition -- but I just happen to think Smileys are BAD "gimmick punctuation." Shakespiere didn't need to include emoticons for the actors to know how to say the lines. Poe didn't need Smileys so you'd know when he WASN'T being scary or depressed. Next thing you know, we'll be back to hieroglyphs, and I'll be out of a job because I CAN'T DRAW!!
The ALL CAPS taboo:
Certainly, people who do everything with CAPS LOCK on out of sheer laziness are to be pitied and shunned, likewise ThOsE wHo TyPe lIkE ThiS. All caps means "shouting," right? Well, this is alt.slack. We're SubGeniuses. We're pissed off and agitated half the time almost by DEFINITION. Sometimes we DO shout. In fact, we shout a LOT! There's a whole planet and billions of years of history to shout ABOUT! So FUCK 'EM if they don't like us occasionally god damn SHOUTING!!! It's bad enough that we can't use italics and boldface. Besides, the tradition of COMIC BOOK STYLE PUNCTUATION is part and parcel of our artistic expression as members of a legitimate art movement. ;)
POSTING EMAIL FLAMES SENT PRIVATELY
I recently did this, and got scolded. Nenslo -- who has already cut a swath through the SubGenius squid-mail world, leaving behind only those who hate him and those who admire the daylights out of him -- got email from some REAL idiot, and posted it in alt.slack. I had an equally dumb one on file which I'd planned to put in ONLINE FIST, so I tacked it onto that thread. I got taken to task for that, and I do regret leaving the guy's email address and name on it. BUT! All of my favorite print magazines make a habit of printing the dumbest letters of the month along with the "regular" letters to the editor, and SO WHAT? In the STARK FIST we have always published the most revealingly human hate-mail to The SubGenius Foundation (or would, anyway, if we published more often). It's the old "letters to the editor" tradition, and after all, this is The SubGenius Foundation, the main initial publisher of things Dobbsian. ON THE OTHER HAND, this medium is much more IMMEDIATE. Flaming somebody here really ISN'T like cussing someone by mail, because it happens much faster, and thus more "heat of the moment." And magazines never publish the ADDRESSES of the idiots. Most SubGeniuses are, astonishingly enough, fairly reasonable people when you get right down to it, as long as they take their medication. But there are always those overzealous religious nut SubGeniuses who are looking for any chance to "get revenge" on people who criticize the Church, or, conversely, on people who they think might be getting too much CREDIT for the Church, like me. These "Bobbies" don't realize that those who criticize "Bob's" Chosen are more to be pitied than beaten or flayed alive (and that IGNORING the heathens is the most EXCRUCIATING torture one can inflict on them 90% of the time). We don't want some poor mal-aligned human -- the equivalent, to us, of a severely mentally handicapped victim of brain damage -- to be mercilessly pranked and terrorized by insecure SubGenius or "Bobbie" bullies. It's not a fair fight. It's like kicking a puppy dog. We don't need to stoop to their level. Now, I probably need to be as careful as anybody about unjustly flaming people who piss me off, because I am a moody sort of fellow and get enraged at certain times of day for NO REASON, and I have the ability to respond with an unleashed hate that JUST ISN'T APPROPRIATE sometimes. I have been aware of this for a long time, but I still find myself resorting to ABUSING MY ABNORMALITY TALENTS in putting down some poor bastard who really should have just been ignored. INDIVIDUAL HUMANS are NOT WORTHY of OUR HATE, it's as simple as that. Aces should HELP Jokers. It's best to take that small hate and divert it, transmutate it into a much LARGER Hate, a Hate that can be wielded with cleverness and sneakiness at the Conspiracy that made these DUMB FUCKING IDIOTS what they are. (No offense intended toward medically defined idiots and Sub-SubGenii.)
Of course, I don't practice what I preach, because... well, actually, that's "Bob's" line. He can get away with that kind of attitude. We aren't as lucky as he is yet, so we have to fake it.
So here's OUR POLICY:
We are editors of a "magazine," and we will continue to reprint and distribute "letters to the editor" that are hilariously, astoundingly stupid. BUT we shall remove the "names" and "addresses," robbing their Dupe authors of glory, yes, but protecting them from retribution.
That's what I've been thinking so far. I really want to start dumping the vast acres of cool unpublished SubGenius text files here soon, so any suggestions as to METHOD OF DISPLAY and -- *hyuk* -- "POLICY" will be GROSSLY APPRECIATED.
Rev. Ivan Stang, The SubGenius Foundation, PO Box 140306, Dallas TX 75214, firstname.lastname@example.org, fax 214-320-1561... soon to be email@example.com!! (Couldn't get subgenius.mil or subgenius.gov!) But don't use that address YET.
I am now going to go and remove my "Member Profile" from America Online -- or rather, change it to a directive to go to alt.slack. A symbolic act. I don't want to be in the same listing as people who choose the AOL name, "Bob Dobbs." Yes, somebody has decided he is Bob Dobbs on AOL. ((He or she changes the spelling slightly -- "to be safe," I guess.)) Now is that low, childish, unoriginal, stupid, risky, corny, and demeaning to the name of "Bob," or WHAT? Unless, that is, it IS "Bob." HELL, IT MIGHT BE!! But it's probably just some mal-aligned Rogue Pink like Bob Dean. "Bob" can't TYPE!!
Regarding Microsoft's Bob: If people are SO DUMB that they have to depend on "BOB" to tell 'em how to run their computers, and "Windows" is TOO COMPLICATED for 'em, then they shouldn't be allowed near SHARP OBJECTS, much less COMPUTERS!
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