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26 May 2024 home : about : create : digests : bestofs : specials : priests 15:44:50 GMT

Biographies of The Internet Oracle Priesthood

David Sewell

Tenure: April 1992-Present

Now that everyone and his dog [Steiner, NEW YORKER, 1994] is on the Net, dsew likes to stun the masses with the fact that he has been off and on Usenet since 1981. In theory his first Unix mainframe account was to allow him the high privilege of using vi and troff to print out graduate papers and dissertations on a tank-like Diablo terminal at a dozen pages an hour, but once he moved beyond Rogue and Adventure to explore the gnarlier maze he entered by typing "cd /", there was no turning back. dsew's main contribution to the Net during his newbiehood was to provoke the creation by Mark Horton of the first .d group, net.jokes.d, when he was one party to a flame war over ethnic humor on net.jokes that led to many cries of "Hey, this group is for jokes, not discussions *about* jokes", thus inaugurating a fine Usenet tradition.

dsew's checkered and highly suspect past qualifies him for Oracle priesthood, since after earning a Ph.D. in American lit at UC San Diego and teaching several years at the U of Rochester, homesickness drove him from gray skies and too much green stuff to where he could be a hobo & spend weekends getting happily torn to shreds hiking through catclaw and cholla patches. After nearly starving doing freelance editing for academic presses he is now nearly starving doing scientific editing for RADIOCARBON, the main international journal in the field, housed in Geosciences at the U of Arizona, but since they give him to play with a Pentium unning OS/2 and packrat, his 486 that sits on the floor running Linux and talking to the world (properly speaking it's not a packrat, it's a white-throated woodrat, but that was a bit much for a hostname), he can't complain.

Much of dsew's personal and professional life has revolved around humor of one type or another, from a high school yearbook photo in which he is seen reading Highet's "Anatomy of Satire"[*] to a dissertation -> book on Mark Twain to writing about and for the Oracle. He gets most of what he knows about pop culture from the two TV shows he watches, Saturday Night Live (which as we all know sucks rocks big time now) and Mystery Science Theatre 3000. He used to teach & read lots of metafiction and still likes Oracularities in that mode if they're clever enough. He wastes enough time on Usenet to enjoy Oracularities that use Net inside jokes creatively. He thinks Diogenes would have liked "Beavis & Butthead" ("To a woman who had flopped down before an altar with her butt in the air I remarked in passing that the god was also behind her.") He hangs out on Usenet because he's still fool enough to think it's the closest thing we've got to Socrates' Athens or Shakespeare's London.

[*] Cf. dsew's attempt at a Swiftean demolition of Green Card lawyers

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