Up to now, "Julia Allison," as a name, didn't mean much to me; I'd seen it bandied about on Gawker, usually unfavorably. In fact, she has her own tag at Gawker, wherein I found snide observations like this:

All that sucking up to Chris Anderson and "branding" herself as a sort-of techie has finally paid off! New York dating columnist Julia Allison — famous for being famous for no reason on the Internet — will grace the August cover of Wired. (She must have timed her baffling new website Non Society in order to coincide with the cover.)

Perhaps she did. I wouldn't know. I generally skipped over the Julia stuff during my perfunctory biweekly scans of Gawker; the relevance of a New York-based [insert term as explicit as, but kinder than, "attention whore," if one exists] is presumably fairly low on the global scale. The actual Wired article, by Jason Tanz, eventually showed up on my doorstep, complete with the obligatory seriously-overprocessed cover photo, and it reveals that one of Allison's goals was to "become a cult figure."

Being fiftysomething and presumably somewhat detached from the Wired world, I might have written her off as Yet Another Net Narcissist, strutting and fretting her quarter-hour — Shakespeare yields to Warhol — on the stage. I didn't. And I don't think it's because of the aforementioned cover photo, which in spite of heavy Photoshop filtration reveals a decently pretty young woman with at least B-plus, maybe A-minus legs; I think it's because at some level I prefer to keep buried, I have some vestigial urge to seek the limelight myself.

Evidently I've raised ambivalence to a moderate, if not high, art. I debuted in the BBS world in the middle 1980s, when it was relatively easy to carve out a name for oneself; but the name I chose was one I was careful (mostly) to dissociate from myself. After that, I took a position as a FidoNet moderator; but it was in a conference where high moderator visibility was not to be encouraged. In 1996 I put up this very Web site and the very first Vent; but while I signed my name all over the place, it's a name sufficiently common to constitute hiding in plain sight.

So I can't really resent Julia or her however-fleeting fame. And besides, she seems to have some sense of proper self-mockery. From that Wired piece:

After Radar named her the third-most-hated person on the Internet — she placed just above the marine seen on YouTube tossing a puppy off a cliff — her knowing response won over even the most hardened Gawker commenter. ("I want to thank my agent, who has been with me since I was just mildly annoying," she wrote. "Of course I want to thank my self-promotional narcissism and my incessant desire for infamy at any costs. Thank you so, so much.")

I couldn't have said it better myself. Let's hope I don't get the opportunity to try.

The Vent

  23 July 2008

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