Spaz! Zork! Poindexter!

10/29/03

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Just in case you were needing more of me in your life today, check out my article featured in the Technology section of Salon (I have to use the moniker “Ian R. Williams” to avoid confusion with the wily Brit who frequently covers foreign affairs). You’d think my name was pretty rare, but it’s the equivalent of “John Smith” in Australia, and I’m the fourth one at IMDb alone.

A few words about the article: first off, you can only read the whole thing if you a) subscribe to Salon, which I heartily recommend, or b) sit through a 5-second ad for Visa. I promise it’s painless, but I know a few of you – like my brother Steve – view all internet ads as poison, so consider yourselves prepared.

The article itself stems from an older idea I had about writing a book on the history of “dorks” – the misfits, nerds and geeks of America. After ruminating on it a while, I thought a better idea would be “the death of the dork,” how mainstream, post-Columbine America has started paying attention to troubled kids, and the internet has brought millions of otherwise-spazzed-out nerds together instead of leaving them to stew in their own juices.

This piece was a stab in that direction, but due to an email mixup, Salon accidentally ended up with my first draft and published it. I had written a much better, cleaner and more funny second draft, but it will now be lost to the ages. Anyone who has done any freelancing knows how painful this is; when you fix a piece of writing, the older drafts just make you cringe, like a pair of pants you can’t believe you ever owned. If you read the article, you won’t know the difference – it’s still charming – but it gives me a certain amount of chagrin.

There is also one line in the published version that had been fixed in the second draft, but is now going to be misread forever. I originally said “If it weren’t for dorks, America would look like Chile,” but corrected it to “If it weren’t for dorks, America would be shaped like Chile.” Meaning that it would be a strip of land a few miles wide on the coast. The published version makes it look like I’m dissing Chileans. Which couldn’t be farther from my intentions. I mean, I read Alive just like everybody else.

0 thoughts on “Spaz! Zork! Poindexter!

  1. CL

    You’re right that there is a ‘geek chic’ these days, but there’s no need to fear – most nerdy kids are too unselfaware and insecure for it to do them much good until after college, unfortunately. There will always be kids who wear the wrong sneakers to school or like meteorology way too much, and the existence of Rivers Cuomo won’t help most of them. They probably won’t even know who he is unless they have a cool older bro (older siblings hasten one’s climb out of geekhood). But at least it’s good to know that there’s more hope these days post-schooling.
    I remember there was a kid at my busstop who got picked on once because his last name was Einhorn. The other kids called him “Einstein.” His response was, “Einstein was a great man!” It didn’t help his case.

    Reply
  2. Steven Garrity

    Great article. It caused quite a buzz here at the silverorange headquarters. Isaac was completely freaked out when the guy that he he stayed up talking politics with on Saturday night popped-up in his daily Salon read (we are all subscribers).

    Reply
  3. Alan

    Don’t be misled by false prophets – you are a Montrealer according to that “What’s My Real Canadian Hometown” personality quiz going around the ‘net.

    Reply
  4. Oliver

    I think you missed an important dork. Your article asks “Who wired America?” Obviously, it was old Mr. Wooden, Al Gore. So we very nearly had a Dork in Chief–except predictably he was bullied out of his share of votes.

    Reply

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