Markovian Parallax Denigrate
November 20, 2012 12:52 PM   Subscribe

But back in 1996, users of the proto-Web community Usenet got spammed with messages that reached an almost transcendent level of bizarre—a weirdness so precise it implied the influence of a very human intelligence. “Markovian Parallax Denigrate,” read the title of each post, followed by a mountain of seemingly meaningless word spew:
Unraveling the Internet’s oldest and weirdest mystery
posted by the man of twists and turns (68 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
god, I never do this, but MetaFilter: a mountain of seemingly meaningless word spew
posted by theodolite at 12:56 PM on November 20, 2012 [10 favorites]


That whole article is a catch phrase generator! Metafilter: Grow a monster penis. Lose 20 pounds. Help out an African prince. You know the drill.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:59 PM on November 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


That Kibo sure was a prankster.
posted by griphus at 1:01 PM on November 20, 2012 [8 favorites]


I must say, I'm loving the tag list on this post.
posted by radwolf76 at 1:05 PM on November 20, 2012 [11 favorites]


This article is spam.
posted by Chuffy at 1:06 PM on November 20, 2012


In the end, aren't we all spam?
posted by zippy at 1:07 PM on November 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Spam spam spam.
posted by JHarris at 1:09 PM on November 20, 2012


As somebody who actually uses tags to find older things on MetaFilter, I'm less amused.
posted by cribcage at 1:12 PM on November 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


THEN WHO WAS CODE!?
posted by Krazor at 1:13 PM on November 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


That was a really well-researched and thorough article.
posted by subdee at 1:13 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Are they sure it wasn't Serdar Argic?
posted by gubo at 1:15 PM on November 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


As somebody who actually uses tags to find older things on MetaFilter, I'm less amused.

Many (most?) of the tags on this post only bring up this post, so I don't think there is much worry about it seriously screwing up the search results.
posted by asnider at 1:16 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I thought this was going to be about those "one weird old tip" advertisements, but it was actually a lot more interesting than that.

Factoid: The early USENET archives were preserved thanks to Henry Spencer, who used to be the IT guru in the department of zoology at U of T, where I did my graduate studies (not at the same time). It's hard to imagine the admin staff today having the time and freedom to make the kinds of contributions Henry did.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 1:18 PM on November 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


And who remembers Manley Hubbell? What ever became of him/it/her/them?
posted by tommyD at 1:20 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wait, with this final piece of information, the pieces of the mystery all fit together - I understand everything now! This actually makes the final season of Lost make sense!

Well played, J.J. Abrams - well played.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 1:25 PM on November 20, 2012


I miss Usenet.
posted by Mars Saxman at 1:30 PM on November 20, 2012 [19 favorites]


And who remembers Manley Hubbell? What ever became of him/it/her/them?

Got eye surgery, a new computer, and some wifty new instruments, and is still doing cutting edge science to this day....
posted by eriko at 1:35 PM on November 20, 2012


Proto-Web community? PROTO WEB COMMUNITY?!?! I just died inside a little bit.

The early USENET archives were preserved thanks to Henry Spencer

Immortalized as Sandor at the Zoo in the Hugo award winning classic A Fire Upon the Deep.
posted by Justinian at 1:41 PM on November 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


I miss Usenet.

I had this exact thought last week, followed by "well, I bet there are still people there", and so I went and looked in on rec.arts.sf.written.

I really wish that I hadn't.
posted by brennen at 1:42 PM on November 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


I vaguely remember this. I had gone from USENET via UUCP to reading it on the Internet-connected server at graduate school so I wasn't stuck having to download it via dialup modem.

Raise your hand if you remember Telebit TrailBlazers!
posted by tommasz at 1:42 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I really wish that I hadn't.

At a glance it doesn't look all the different than any time in the past 10 years. No, it's not like 1992. But then what is? I see James Nicoll, Konrad Gaertner, Howard Brazee, David DeLaney, Sea Wasp, Joe Bernstein, etc etc and that's just on a 10 second peruse of a few threads.
posted by Justinian at 1:48 PM on November 20, 2012


Man - I miss when the internet was as weird as this.
posted by symbioid at 1:49 PM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Weird that Lindauer worked for Carol Moseley Braun, and got in trouble for pretty much the same sort of freelance diplomacy that she did.
posted by dhartung at 1:53 PM on November 20, 2012


I don't think that it's accurate to describe what Moseley Braun did as "freelance diplomacy", since it's quite likely that her trip to Nigeria and subsequent support of the Abacha regime was done at the behest of her then-fiance, a former lobbyist for the Nigerian government. Lindauer seems to have been (and maybe still is) mentally ill.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:01 PM on November 20, 2012


I must have missed the part in the article that unraveled the mystery.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:06 PM on November 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


T-shirt with a picture of a road sign:
THE INTERNET IS FULL
GO HOME
posted by mrbill at 2:09 PM on November 20, 2012


Unraveling the Internet’s oldest and weirdest mystery

Unraveling that even the Internet's oldest spam messages were sent, weirdly, from fake email addresses. Meaning still a mystery.

Edit: Although, the Daily Dot article claiming to, ahem, 'get to the bottom' of the Goatse mystery may still be worth reading.
posted by StrangerInAStrainedLand at 2:14 PM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm sure as hell not Googling it at work, but didn't someone (Rotten? SA?) do an interview with Goatse dude maybe like ten years back?
posted by griphus at 2:18 PM on November 20, 2012


gawker
posted by onya at 2:35 PM on November 20, 2012


I miss Usenet.

MeFi, as well as several other communities I'm engaged in are sort of the methadone version of Usenet: gooed enough, but not as good as the real stuff. What I was actually missing the most was the fact that with a decent newsreader it was very easy to follow active discussions even as they got older. Here, if you don't actively follow a thread and it scrolls off the homepage it may just as well not exist anymore.

So umm, anyone done a MeFi RSS to Usenet conversion yet?

I see James Nicoll, Konrad Gaertner, Howard Brazee, David DeLaney, Sea Wasp, Joe Bernstein, etc etc and that's just on a 10 second peruse of a few threads.

I've made several attempts to get back to rec.arts.sf.written in the past five-ten years or so, but the problem is that while these people may still be around, they're now posting in a howling void of spam and utright nutters (naming no names, but if I'm not mistaken the dude who thought it was possible for his friend to pee on a copy of the Canadian constitution is still there) while no new people ever come in. It's just the same old people having the same discussions. Easier to follow James on his Livejournal...
posted by MartinWisse at 2:44 PM on November 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Off-topic, but I had no idea that the artist publishing as "Chris Ware" was actually Rob Pike.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 3:19 PM on November 20, 2012


but if I'm not mistaken the dude who thought it was possible for his friend to pee on a copy of the Canadian constitution is still there

I remember that! Hilarity ensued.
posted by Justinian at 3:37 PM on November 20, 2012


"REORBIT VENUS INTO A NEAR EARTH-LIKE ORBIT TO CREATE A BORN AGAIN EARTH" -- Archimedes Plutonium
posted by straight at 4:18 PM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


"UN-altered REPRODUCTION and DISSEMINATION of this IMPORTANT Information is ENCOURAGED, ESPECIALLY to COMPUTER BULLETIN BOARDS" -- Alexander Abian
posted by straight at 4:24 PM on November 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


"Meow meow Matt Bruce meow meow Henrietta Pussycat meow meow Presidents of the United States of America meow Kitty."
posted by pyramid termite at 4:41 PM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


It is pretty well know that random word spam is part of known plaintext attacks.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:49 PM on November 20, 2012


"UN-altered REPRODUCTION and DISSEMINATION of this IMPORTANT Information is ENCOURAGED, ESPECIALLY to COMPUTER BULLETIN BOARDS" -- Alexander Abian

Wasn't that Robert McElwaine, the LARSONIAN Physics/Soviet JUMBO Cosmospheres kook, not Abian (who, IIRC, was a moderately distinguished mathematics professor who lost his grip on reality in advanced old age)?
posted by acb at 4:50 PM on November 20, 2012


Yep that's McElwaine.
posted by Justinian at 5:02 PM on November 20, 2012


> I miss Usenet.

I don't miss all of it by any means, any more than I'll miss somethingawful or any of the chans when they go (amusing as they can be now.) But comp.unix.sysv386 -- will there ever again be as concentrated a stream of usefulness? Hard to believe. The idea of being able to ask your idiot no0b questions directly to spaf and henry spencer and larry wall and guys like that. Getting SystemV r3.2 installed and UUCP working and news flowing all by mah se'f without having that crutch yet (it was more like a JATO'ed flying carpet that a crutch) was a F*cking Challenge. No, sorry, you can't ask Peter Honeyman why your HoneyDanBer UUCP doesn't work until you make it work.

Also very much miss rec.arts.books, which gets my vote as usenet's most metafilter-like place. Nobody remembers its official group charter, which was totally steamrollered by its unofficial one (rab, the group where bookish people talk about whatever they like.) I have lost touch with most of the regulars, which is too bad because they were a stellar bunch. John McCarthy died not long ago and was famous enough so that his obit was widely reposted, including on mefi. I did recently stumble on a person who I am certain is rab's own Meg Worley. I have not bothered the lady, though she would certainly be as gracious and funny as ever if I did.


> Raise your hand if you remember Telebit TrailBlazers!

19.2mbps! (Claimed.) Which beat the fastest and best Windows modems, none of these even claimed better than 14.4. Our hype is faster that your hype! Odd, though, that I never got any serial crossover cable file transfers from the box at one end of the bench to the box at the other end that measured better than 9600bps. I suppose the difference was all error-correction overhead and bit friction.

Also, my lawn, get off it.
posted by jfuller at 5:08 PM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I remember reading that the writers for Star Trek III were looking for a surprise to have in the movie – the surprise couldn't be Spock's return, because the title was The Search for Spock, and they couldn't just have Kirk shrug at the camera at the end and say, "Well, we didn't find him."

Except now I guess maybe they could've.
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 5:13 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's a really interesting article, but the reliance on stylings lifted directly from Adam Curtis (e.g. "This is a story of two Susan Lindauers and how they accidentally...") does make it feel almost plagiarised. Still glad it's here, but it is interesting to me how easily a distinctive voice can be appropriated by cliché.
posted by howfar at 5:13 PM on November 20, 2012


I lit the fuse. I ran. I waited for the boom, but it just fizzled.
posted by djduckie at 5:20 PM on November 20, 2012


Well played, J.J. Abrams - well played.

For a moment I thought you meant Lee Abrams, the guy who ruined FM radio.
posted by ovvl at 5:24 PM on November 20, 2012


Also very much miss rec.arts.books

Oh, me too. RAB was where Mike Godwin actually first proposed Godwin's Law, IIRC. I also miss alt.folklore.urban, alt.society.generation-x, soc.motss, and misc.kids. Metafilter is the closest thing I've found to the old Usenet, but it's just not quite the same.
posted by Daily Alice at 6:01 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


alt.folklore.urban was great, as was alt.folklore.computers. alt.conspiracy was entertaining at times; much of it was the same tedious militia/black-helicopter/NWO/Illuminati/elders-of-Zion spiels, though occasionally a paranoid visionary untainted by a broader paranoiac groupthink would show up and start posting tracts about the evil schemes of the Secret Underground World Society or something. And then there was alt.religion.kibology and such. The entire alt hierarchy was a den of high weirdness...
posted by acb at 6:09 PM on November 20, 2012


I thought it was the .alt sewer.
posted by Daily Alice at 6:29 PM on November 20, 2012


I still have my talk.bizarre t-shirt.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:54 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


The early USENET archives were preserved thanks to Henry Spencer

Immortalized as Sandor at the Zoo in the Hugo award winning classic A Fire Upon the Deep.


I was just going to say, there's something about the unofficial name of this, the Markovian Parallax Denigrate, that reminds me so much of the names of things in A Fire Upon the Deep. I hadn't realized that book had been published in 1992, but now a lot of things about the messaging protocols in it make so much sense.
posted by limeonaire at 7:16 PM on November 20, 2012


talk.bizarre was my first internet driven meetup. T'was FATBOB (or maybe SATBOB). I so miss the USENET of the days before the commercial use and SPAM started eroding it away into a wasteland. And killfiles, I really miss killfiles.
posted by zengargoyle at 7:20 PM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


In helicopter conspiracy news, though, I had a dream last night where hundreds of drone helicopters in eerily perfect formation filled the sky of whatever country I was in, slowly and exactly crossing a beautiful valley toward the hotel (more like a wooden three-story cabin) where my college friends and I were staying. We weren't just being evacuated—we were about to be exterminated!

The next thing I knew, I was back in high school, being handed good-luck Rice Krispies–treat triangles by a headphones-wearing math teacher, Ben Linus from Lost... So I guess I survived the drone war.

posted by limeonaire at 7:25 PM on November 20, 2012


GROUP alt.horse.ebooks
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:31 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


So today, thanks to Metafilter I have been reminded of MC Hammer's 2 Legit 2 Quit, Goatse, meow, usenet, and now Alt.fan.karl-malden.nose.

Between that and the necrophilia pics on io9 this has been a really '90s kinda day.

The spirit of the '90s is alive on the Blue.
posted by Mezentian at 8:05 PM on November 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've just had a look at the (deleted) Wikipedia article and boringly enough, it's like whoever wrote this Daily Dot article used it as a template. No grand conspiracy theories, no deep dark information that secret Wikipedia operatives deleted...just "This happened on that date. Some people think this. Some other people think that. Also, Susan Lindaeur!"

As a conspiracy theory, "the article mysteriously disappeared from Wikipedia!" sort of sucks.

On the other hand, interesting article and post! I'd never heard of this - 1996 was a year or two before my time on Usenet.
posted by badgermushroomSNAKE at 8:45 PM on November 20, 2012


Metafilter: Help an African prince grow a monster penis. Also, help him lose 20 pounds.
posted by ostranenie at 8:55 PM on November 20, 2012


Yeah, it was interesting to learn about the Wisconsin gym teacher, but I felt cheated by that headline. If they figured out who those Usenet spammers - or - even modern email spammers were, it'd be so gratifying. No one ever seems to track them down.
posted by ignignokt at 9:32 PM on November 20, 2012


I see James Nicoll, Konrad Gaertner, Howard Brazee, David DeLaney, Sea Wasp, Joe Bernstein, etc etc and that's just on a 10 second peruse of a few threads.

I"m pretty sure James Nicoll is only still on rec.arts.sf.written so he can mine it for material for "Memetic Prophylactic Required" posts on his livejournal. Of course he's one of the only reasons to read LJ these days, so I'm not sure where he'll go next.
posted by happyroach at 9:46 PM on November 20, 2012


Am I mad, or mis-remembering, but was Sea Wasp a poster on the old rec.arts.dnd, in the Land Before Time? Because that name is clanging some bells.
posted by Mezentian at 10:04 PM on November 20, 2012


I still have my talk.bizarre t-shirt.

I still have my scary devil monastry Adminspotting shirts, though I never got the Solsticespotting shirt a friend made for an alt.fan.terry-pratchett meetup, riffing on the druids = programmers link pTerry had made.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:56 PM on November 20, 2012


Wasn't that Robert McElwaine

Yes, and the quote about re-orbiting the moon was actually from Alexander Abian and hopefully there's a few kibologists around who will appreciate the mis-attributions.
posted by straight at 7:14 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


> Metafilter is the closest thing I've found to the old Usenet, but it's just not quite the same.

At least I'm reminded that there is a way around that silly mefi no-img-tag business.
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  M:6QI='D@:6X@8W5T=&EN9RP@<&%S=&EN9RP@

posted by jfuller at 7:34 AM on November 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


sz pissing_elephant_by_qu0ns4r.jpg
posted by Justinian at 11:24 AM on November 21, 2012


Just scanning this in recent activity I thought someone pasted in their geek code block.
posted by griphus at 11:29 AM on November 21, 2012


No, it's obviously jfuller's PGP signature to prove he really wrote that comment.
posted by straight at 8:34 PM on November 21, 2012




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end

posted by dmd at 12:11 PM on November 25, 2012


If you want to see what dmd has commented, copy it into a text file then upload it here.

(If someone could come up with a way to uudecode automatically and display the results inline in a Greasemonkey extension, we might have ourselves a userspace replacement for the IMG tag. It'd fill threads with a lot of unreadable garbage for people not using it, though. Maybe if the font size was really small....)
posted by JHarris at 12:34 PM on November 25, 2012


Bah, I tried it with a 27K image and still ended up with a huge colon blockage of text.
posted by JHarris at 12:44 PM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here:
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end

posted by JHarris at 1:05 PM on November 25, 2012


(That was only three K.)
posted by JHarris at 7:59 PM on November 25, 2012


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