Today’s missive will be necessarily brief as I am simultaneously running an international conference, an exhibition, a concert, and a reception this evening at USC. As I was standing in the shower thinking last night about what to write, I remembered how my dear aunt Kathy sent me an email a few weeks ago that promised, get this, that if I used a new beta version of a Microsoft-AOL email program, Bill Gates would pay me a nice little chunk o’ money. XANADU! Where do I sign up?
Now, back in the day, when my search engines of choice were either Lycos or this AMAZING new one called Alta Vista and my browser was one of the various versions of Mosaic, which I downloaded via I dunno, Gopher or FTP, from the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, a wonderful Web site sprang up to debunk the urban legends that somehow found ripe breeding ground on the internet. I don’t know what it is about the online world that causes these things to fester for years, like a burning peat bog or herpes. Perhaps it is due to the anonymity of it all. Anywho, this Web site is www.snopes.com. I am sure everyone reading this has either been referred to it or done the dirty deed themselves. This was particularly useful in the early days of the 1990s when the internet really felt like a “series of tubes that could be clogged with all sorts of information” for the vast hordes who had never ventured online during the true glorious wild west days of BBSes in the 80s.
Like a good geek, I’m a huge fan of the TV show “Mythbusters.” (As an aside, my buddy Steve Winnat is the long-lost cousin of Adam Savage, especially that scene in that one episode where they blow something up and laugh giddily.) I like to be right and I hate it when people spout off with random information not backed up by the cold hard facts. And that is why snopes.com is so darn valuable. Barbara and David Mikkelson, who founded and have run the site since the ancient days of 1995, first met on the newsgroup alt.folklore.urban, which of course gives them great street cred (does one have “street cred” in the online world?). Here’s to the two of you, who have made my life and many others so much easier, by doing your best to stamp out the forces of illogic and unreason that swirl around us. Next time I get an email about the upcoming great gas boycott, a terminally ill child who writes beautiful poetry, how Captain Kangaroo or Mr. Rogers were lethal killing machines in our armed services, or the dreaded “cell phone do-not-call list,” I will continue smiling and continue sending them on to the Web site that offers the unvarnished truth. And has dashed the hopes of at least a few people spoiling for a share of Bill Gates’s riches.