We would sit there in front of his old 8088 and look for stuff to download. When we found something, he'd start the download and we'd go out and jump on his trampoline. If we were lucky and call waiting didn't kick in, 30 minutes later we'd be treated to some stupid dos utility or better yet a 16-color gif of Madonna in her swimsuit.
Eventually the days of the BBS would give way to the internet. Instead of dialing into some dudes forum, I’d dial into some other dudes UNIX shell. Now, I’d have to not only FTP the file from some place (hope I remembered to set the client to binary mode!), but then I’d have to transfer it from the UNIX box to my box.
Soon the UNIX shell gave way to SLIP and PPP. Now we are cooking with gas! In 1996, my computer finally was "on the internet" instead of just dialing into some dudes shell account. Enter Netscape. Enter IE. Enter ICQ, then AIM.
... Oh wait. Where was I going with this? You see, somewhere between ICQ and AIM and me graduating from high school and entering college, there came about this little known website called Slashdot.
Slashdot was the self proclaimed Nerd Capital of the Known Universe. They were gonna change the world man! Take the term Geek and make it something positive! Screw those jocks in high school! Screw the MAN and his nefarious ways! Fuck copyrights! Fuck patents! Fuck paying for software! Fuck M1Cr0$oft! Fuck you too!
I’d waste countless hours reading every comment from every story on Slashdot. If I finished reading the comments for story, I’d hit F5 to reload the page to see if anything was new. Once I found Kuro5hin, I made an almost immediate switch and proceeded to do the same routine. Beyond not getting out of the house, there was a severe problem with this.
The Thinking Cap
As I’ve learned, you see, on the Internet you have to wear what I call the "Internet Thinking Cap". There is something very impersonal about the internet and if you don’t wear the cap, bad things might happen. When I first started this internet business, I would believe anything I read provided it read was easy to read, persuasive enough, and syntactically correct . In other words, if a comment or essay superficially looked okay then, unthinkingly, its arguments MUST be correct and the person who wrote it must be one smart cookie. My thinking would literally be: "wow, so many smart people! They are such good writers, how can they be wrong?"
What was worse is this assumption often invaded my real life as well. Very often I would unthinkingly accept as truth anything told to me by somebody who was opinionated and well versed. However, this would prove to be harder to overcome than my internet problems and is the subject of another time.
You see the problem is, when you think that any writer who can make an easy to read, persuasive argument is somehow smart and trustworthy you start to believe everything you read. I mean, if you think about it, there are a lot of people how there that can write a pretty persuasive argument. Why, everybody on Slashdot were geniuses! Kuro5hin's trhurler was the smartest guy on the planet! I mean, look at them, they can all SPELL! Wow! So many smart people to learn from!
My theory of "if they can write, they are correct" would serve me quite well until three simultaneous events would converge and form the catalyst that would change the person I was into the person I am today.
It was the end of 2001. The .com game was over, unemployment was high, nerds everywhere didn’t have jobs, barcodes were still king, and I was entrenched in my second year of college. There I am, floating merrily along in a raft above a sea of ignorance. I'm sipping my Martini with my shades on basking happily in the waning sun. Didn’t know where I was, who I was, where I was going and I really didn’t care.
I had just started my new classes for winter quarter: Microeconomics, World Literature and the second quarter of the calculus series: Integrals. I had chosen the economics and literature classes at random to fill my distribution requirements, the only class I really needed was calculus. Unbeknownst to me however, was these two randomly chosen courses would challenge the core of my belief system and prove to become the greatest forces of change in my life.
The one force, microeconomics, challenged my assumptions about things such as minimum wage laws, unemployment, monopolies, wal-mart’s, and globalization. The force explained to me that as a statistical whole, we humans act in a rational, predicable way and our behaviors through the very simple explanations. It made me consider that most of humanities problems stem from the behaviors of free-thinking men and women and not "the man,” "the corporation,” or “the machine.” Perhaps the system isn’t corrupt, the only corrupt people could well be us as individuals. Perhaps many of our laws are misguided attempts to fix problems and that these laws could be harming us more then helping us.
Another force, the books I read and the discussions I would have in my world literature course would open my eyes to other cultures and value systems. So different were some of these systems that I found it hard to comprehend the people in that system could function. This force would not only open my eyes to the world, but it directly challenged some of the assumptions found in my economics class.
But there was another force, a third force acting on me. It was a strange force. One that at first would intimidate me and anger me, but would eventually give way to acceptance and happiness: Adequacy. Upon first visiting Adequacy, I was shocked. On the surface, the comments and stories were persuasive and very well written. But for some reason, I just wasn’t buying it. In spite of the website satisfying my conditions for believing something, I couldn’t do it. There was just something innately wrong with the messages behind the facade of well written prose.
A giant war was beginning to erupt in my brain as it desperately tried to reconcile these forces with not only each other, but everything in my past. I began to get very angry. Angry at myself. Angry at society. Angry at the dirty fucking hippies, the socialists, the communists, the fucking Slashdot idiots, and everybody else who was seemingly was trying to control me.
Despite my anger, I was fascinated by how different the world looked when viewed through the lens of economics. I was ecstatic to be given this new tool and I was proud of myself for applying it by critically examining how I looked at the world. The whole system fit my rebellious past and finally I could put a name on it: capitalism. All hail America! All hail capitalism!
As the war in my head was fought, my personality became guarded, bitter, and jaded. I started to dress the different. My cloths became more conservative; t-shirts made way to button-down dress-shirts (though I never tucked them in, ick!) My staple diet of Corduroy pants was pushed aside for new, pressed slacks. My trusty Converse gave way to dress shoes. My bleach blond hair grew back to its normal black state. I voted for every libertarian on the ballot, even though I knew none of them would stand a chance. I smiled less. Everything I read or heard seemed to be attacking me somehow. There wasn’t a moment were I could let my guard down. The entire world was all against me: the bus driver, the guy next to me on the bus, the teacher, the people on the sidewalk, the media, the government, even I was against myself. It was Cory vs. the World.
But there was still the issue of Adequacy. I was mad at Adequacy too. They were so persuasive, so well written, but holy fuck how could they say such things? Who were these guys? And then one day, for some reason, it hit me, and hit me hard. I was reading the website using the wrong lens. Yes, the website was well written, yes the site was persuasive, and yes the site followed proper grammar rules and spelling conventions. Through that lens, by all appearances the site should have been 100% correct. But holy fuck, correct it was not! The damn thing was a parody, written deliberately to provoke. Once I started reading the site through the lens of parody instead of the lens of truth & belief it was obvious the website was not serious at all! The entire website was patently absurd bullshit! Glorious, glorious, sweet glorious bullshit! And they had got me hook, line and sinker.
Almost immediately after my revolution, I said “Fuck it, if I can’t beat them, I might as well join them.” But as whom and as what? I was never good with handles, nicknames, aliases, or whatever you want to call them. To this day, it is why I use my real name, Cory King. It wouldn’t stop me from trying though; over the years I came up with a whole host of names such as satyr, lysergic, midknight, and martinocortez. Wait. What? Martino Cortez? I could use that for my name on Adequacy! And use it I did.
I wasn’t quite sure who this Martino Cortez fellow should be. Since Adequacy was home to some of the most intelligent people on the internet, they wouldn’t let just any joeblow into their inner circle. No, the esteemed editorship wanted somebody who was businesslike, refined, sophisticated, and above all, extremely wealthy. Clearly Mr. Cortez was such a gentleman. Plus, it certainly helped that he was much smarter then that Sylvester Q McNamera guy who claimed that he was the smartest person on Adequacy. In fact, Martino Cortez was so smart, he held not one, but two PhD’s.
And so it would be. On December 8, 2001, Dr. Martino Cortez, PhD was born. His inaugural diary, Good Morning Nobile Sirs, almost wrote itself. Polite, refined, wealthy, educated and a bit perverse, Dr. Martino Cortez, PhD would become perhaps the most important person in my life at the time. Through him, my life would undergo a transformation that would change me into the person I am today.
To be continued...
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