August 1997
s m u g
net worth
by Leslie Harpold


No More Cool Geeks

At this infantile state in the development of the Internet, we find ourselves firmly lodged in a time where the words "cool" and "geek" are horrendously over used. I am constantly amused when I hear 36 year old ad execs with bubble flips and Manolo Blanik pumps exclaiming "I'm such a geek! Last night after work I surfed the Internet for two hours! I almost missed Friends!" This is not a geek friends, this is just an American. These days everyone wants to be special though and especially when it comes to online "life," if there is indeed such a thing, it seems the only way people have reached for, is up or down, but not all the way up to near deity or all the way down to total loser. Maybe it's time.

Now we all know that the meaning of the word geek, especially in the last 10 years has totally reinvented itself, a few times even. From meaning "freak of nature" as in circus geeks - bearded ladies, webbed feet, that sort of thing - to geeks-as-losers, the kind of people who went to Role Playing Game Conventions and learned Klingon on their lunch breaks at the accounting firm, to it's present incarnations where it seems to be an indicator or being on the cutting edge of technology, or at least having AOL installed on your home computer.


My new friend Alexis Massie called for the death of the word geek and I'm going to second it, officially, right now. While I have your attention, I'd also like to call for a moratorium on the use of the word "cool" except to describe temperatures between 60 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. The overuse of the word "cool" to cover anything that has any redeeming value is consistently driven home to me every time I am forced to attend one of those computer expo type things at a large convention center, where I have learned nothing, but generally walked out with shopping bags full of branded stocking stuffers and laundry day apparel.

If you've never been to one of these expos, I highly recommend that instead of spending the money on an entrance pass, next time you are in the laundromat, ask everyone there to simultaneously throw t-shirts at you and scream "Come see what's cool over here and Win!" for about ten minutes and you will feel as if you've been there. The only telltale sign you have been through a simulation and not the actual experience will be that you are not dehydrated or wearing a name tag.


That's it. There is nothing cool about hardware dongles. At least not in my world. While I see they could be helpful, and effective anti-pirating security measure, it is not between 60 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. I feel the same way about dynamically generated HTML, every set of Photoshop plugins I've ever seen, and of course, about MMX technology. It's not cool. It's useful, a times saver, it can even be damn efficient and in the case of Photoshop plugins, make drop shadows and the like, but drop shadows, as we all know are no longer cool, so why would the software that made them so prevalent still be cool?


I will concede that I still think some things are cool in the vernacular sense. Mission of Burma's Signals Calls and Marches is cool as are the Collected Letters of William S. Burroughs. I don't even think SMUG is cool anymore, I'm just hoping people think it's entertaining or at least gives them that special relief when they are overcome with that not so fresh feeling. Tattoos and piercings are not cool, they are either attractive and yummy or not, depending on the quality, placement and overall harmony with the wearer. Big shoes are not cool. Do you know how much strength I have had to muster to say those words in that order kids? Plenty. Big chunky shoes are foxy, enlightening, desirable, expensive, and naturally, black.

I don't want to live in a refrigerated world where everything turns out to be cool in the end. Things I was chastised for have entered the vogue. Having net access, publishing a web page at all, now cool. Even liking Tom Jones has been elevated to a level of cool I could never have anticipated after falling in love with him again in 1988. I feel like everyone who gave me the dismissive "pfft" at the time should now pay me two dollars for boldly setting a precedent. I'm not saying the comeback was my idea, far from it, I'm just saying when anyone scoffs at you and then turns tail, they should give you two dollars, I think it should be a law.


I have come to terms with the fact that none of these things are cool. They are merely interesting or not. Interesting if you like them too, not interesting if you don't. Let's keep some perspective here people.

I do not think of myself as cool or a geek. I know I have referred to myself as both in the past, and I apologize here, openly and publicly. I will now define myself more specifically, and relative to the situations I am called on to do so. I urge you to do the same.


It's Media, Damn It

The Internet is not cool. Well, maybe a little bit, but the thing is, it's a useful, sometimes amazing, exciting communication tool - and although we've collectively gotten so lazy we just slap the label "cool" on anything we like, the whole net-dot-cool thing is getting a little passé. Let's increase our word power, kids, because everyone knows the one thing that makes anything or anyone uncool, is them announcing how cool they are.

And the same is true for geek. Next person who tells me they're a geek has to prove to me thay have a Siamese twin, breathe through their eyeballs or at least have an accessory nipple.


in the junk drawer:

July 1997
June 1997
May 1997
April 1997
March 1997
February 1997
January 1997

and such
and such

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