For those who need to understand how the Web is changing the way businesses work
June 8, 1998
The Story So Far...
Many of you have expressed emotions ranging from curiosity to righteous outrage about the intrusion of RageBoy into the staid halls of JOHO. He has had disturbing comments in just about every issue and more recently took over a special mini-edition of JOHO.
Then, in his own newsletter, RageBoy revealed that I am a figment of his imagination.
With this he has gone too far! I am a figment of a far richer imagination than RageBoy's!
It is time to blow RageBoy's cover. He is -- as is moderately well-known -- a voice that emanates from a dark place in the soul of Chris Locke, author/editor of EGR, a web zine whose readers consider themselves to be the webnoscenti.
If you want to know the truth about Chris "RageBoy" Locke, then I am willing to tell it. Read on, MacDuff...
Click here to go to the current issue of JOHO
Click here to go to the special issue of JOHO featuring RageBoy on metaphors
Click here to read the issue of EGR which fictionalizes the editor of JOHO
Click here to go to RageBoy's homepage
Readers of JOHO know that Chris RageBoy Locke has been occupying more and more of JOHO's precious space with comments on everything from how to format a table to RageBoy's exacting specifications to deconstructionist gurglings about content. With the latest special issue of JOHO -- which consisted of a side-by-side semi-conversation between Chris and me -- and the latest issue of Chris's webzine, EGR -- in which a character named "David Weinberger" appears as a figment of Chris's imagination -- we can safely say that RageBoy has definitely gone viral.
Many of you find this puzzling. You signed up for a perfectly normal webzine (JOHO) and now you find yourself being pulled into a far more eccentric orbit around Planet RageBoy. You feel the gravity increasing, the pull accelerating, and you're worried, frankly, that it may already be too late to escape.
Who the hell is RageBoy anyway?
He is, alas, all too real. The truth is, however, that I only met him in person recently, at a Vietnamese restaurant of his choosing, in Boulder. Yet over the past ten years we have managed to spend many hours in each other's company, on the phone, via emails, even in two-person chat rooms (I took the nom de chat of "FlowerChild" and he was, if I recall, "BabySucking BowelFlame").
You might find an account of our meeting instructive.
I was in Boulder to meet with some clients. (Unlike Chris, my means of support are all too visible. Chris' funds first make stopovers in banks in Lucerne, Reykjavik and CoCoCay.) I had mentioned this to Chris in an email, and he said we should meet at last. "Fabulous!" I responded with some trepidation, thinking I could plead a last minute client meeting as an excuse. Chris had outflanked me however, by calling my client and telling them there was a bomb hidden in their building. A cab was waiting for me in the parking lot.
I sat in the restaurant's lobby for 45 minutes, increasingly annoyed at Chris. I hadn't even been able to bring any reading matter with me (I'm currently translating the Upanishads into Klingon as part of a missionary project I've been supporting financially), so I spent the time thumbing through the voluminous Vietnamese menu, rich in vowels.
There was a guy sitting across from me, apparently waiting for a take-out order. He was in his late 20s and was dressed in what can only be called a bar mitzvah suit ... except for the string tie. Nice touch, I thought. He was reading a book of inspirational quotations, enthusiastically crossing most of them out with persimmon-colored lipstick.
"Chris?" I asked him tentatively. "RageBoy, is that you?"
The young man looked up at me as if I were crazy. "Yes," he said. "You must be David. How often have I savored the sweetness of this moment."
We went in to dinner.
The dinner itself is something of a blur. (I think it is not entirely coincidental that my sparkling water was cloudy and smelled of almonds when I came back from the men's room.) I will share the threads and shards I recollect. (Oh, damn, just thinking about it is invoking a "flashback headache." Perhaps I can type more quietly...)
I began by remarking, in a positive way, on how youthful RageBoy seemed. I'd always assumed he was about my age, sort of a late 40s deal. He pushed back on his horned rims, pulled his chin up (exposing an odd ring of bruises around this neck), and informed me in a voice that could be heard all the way back to Hue that I was being an "age-ist."
"Hoo-key doo-key," I thought to myself. I started to try to explain my assumption, but he cut me off with his eyes, pulled a mother-of-pearl pill box from his vest, and downed six purple pills without water. "Are you ok?" I started to ask, but he again cut me off, this time by wagging a long finger in my face.
"Owlsely?" I asked him, thinking we could forge a 60s type of bond.
"Spider monkey sperm," he said. "Keeps me young." He patted his cheeks in a coquettish fashion. And before I could comment further he was snapping his fingers to attract a waiter.
"Are you ready to order, sir?" the waiter asked.
"Actually," I said, "I have some questions..."
Chris snapped his fingers again, this time at me. "I will order for both of us." He then rattled off a string of dishes, none of which I recalled seeing on the menu I'd perused while waiting. Many of the multi-part names seemed interchangeable, so I can't tell you exactly what he ordered, but Chris does seem to have a preference for foods you eat without silverware, the viscera of fish, and anything with the letters "CAT" in it.
"Very good, sir," said Eduardo, our waiter, but I noticed that on his way back to the kitchen, he ripped off the top sheet of the pad he'd been writing on, crumpled it up, and threw it into the restaurant aquarium where the water began to boil with the frenzied action of its hungry inhabitants.
"So, my good man," Chris began in an obviously phony Scottish accent. "You look to me like a man who can be beaten."
"I could snap your wee back with one twitch of me dorsal fin."
"Um, yeah, well, I guess." This seemed to reassure him. Having established mastery, he was willing to let down his guard for a moment. This became the rhythm of the evening. "I am terrified of mirrors," he confided, his face becoming drawn and his voice taking on a tightened quality as if an unseen hand had him in its grip. "I see my face and it isn't my face."
Just as I began to commiserate, his posture once again stiffened and he spoke with authority, albeit this time in a voice he probably thought captured the essence of a Venetian Doge but which sounded to me remarkably like Fran of "Kukla Fran and Ollie." "I wrestled the wind, you know. I won. Two falls out of three. Came in like a lion, went out on a limb. Like those damn Frenchie deconstructionists. Deriding Derrida's Derriere. Like it?"
"Too bad. I've erased it. Eradification of the erasure, the spoor of the past we have not built. Like it?"
"No?" I essayed.
"Excellent!" he exclaimed and began chortling. This at first pleased me because it meant I had passed some kind of test, but the chortling continued for a full three minutes -- a very long time to chortle, which you can prove to yourself by trying to chortle for even ten continuous seconds. The fit ended only when Chris gave himself the Heimlich maneuver by falling against the edge of our table four times at which point a remarkably large Ziplock bag emerge from his mouth. "Tres embarrassment," Chris said, quickly tucking the baggie into his coat pocket. "I was just in Amsterdam," he said by way of explanation, "and, frankly, I expected to see this at the other end, if you know what I mean." I would have known what he meant even if he hadn't risen a few inches in his chair and gestured rather rudely to make his point.
Eduardo placed an avuncular hand on Chris's shoulder which seemed to have a calming effect on him.
"So," he said after drinking both his glass of water and mine, "I read the latest JOHO. Frankly, it is a pointy-tipped curl of dog poop."
"Oh, I'm sorry..."
"No, no, my good fellow, it is the Web. All that is bad is good. It is a veritable panopticon reversal. Entropy is running backwards. Water runs uphill. Seattle Slew wins the Triple Crown, but that is but a metaphor -- it was the first one out of the Gates."
"I thought you had had enough of metaphors..."
"That itself was a metaphor. It was the play of opposites. Play is, of course, it's own opposite -- ludo, deludo, say no more -- in the Hegelian-Feuerbach sort of dialectical way. Or, as Schleiermacher put it .." Here Chris paused to look up "Schleiermacher" in what appeared to be a Bartlett's Quotations. Apparently not finding anything by Schleiermacher, he -- as I later confirmed -- went to the nearest entry (Bartholomew Schidoni) and quoted, "I, too, was born in Arcadia."
Not knowing exactly how to respond, I looked around the room for Eduardo. RageBoy, sensitive to my moods the way a venus fly trap is sensitive to six-legged movements, was on his feet demanding, in what had become a trans-Scandinavian accent, "Service! Service! Service!"
Then it was as if Chris had seen himself from the outside. He plummeted into his seat and began fidgeting nervously with his string tie. "Has he been bad, then?" he muttered to himself repeatedly.
Eduardo, apparently used to this pattern of behavior, came over and quietly placed on Chris's brow a poultice of matted straw and juniper leaves. Chris's breathing slowed and his face changed color, from a brick red to what the paint companies might call Engineering All Nighter -- a pale buff about the shade of dried library paste.
I reached out a hand, thinking I might pat Chris's arm, but Eduardo shook his head and I sat back.
When the platters of food arrived, Eduardo didn't even bother to place any in front of Chris who now was rocking back and forth, repeating "Is he all right, then?" I hadn't realized how hungry I was, and did a yeoman's job plowing through the dishes.
After paying what seemed a princely sum for dinner, I draped Chris's coat over his shoulders and left him in his chair with assurances from Eduardo that he would get Chris home.
It was only in the next issue of EGR that I discovered that Eduardo was in fact Chris, and "Chris" was a down-on-his-luck former editor of Wired whose spirit RageBoy had broken.
As Schleiermacher once said, "Hang on, Snoopy. Snoooopy, hang on."
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