Today is Mark Jackman's birthday. Mark and I have been good friends for a long time. I once referred to him as the Gigantigest Brain of All Time.
It's pretty well known that Mark hates blogs. He thinks they're insipid. When I first learned this in 2005, the first thing I did was create a blog in his name. It has stories like A VERY interesting cloud:
In other words, content that represents the very thing that Mark hates about blogs. I'm grateful that he loved it.
I looked at the sky. I saw a cloud that looked like this:
I can't tell yet if this is the top of Peppermint Patty's head, or a tank. Don't you like that link for Peppermint Patty? That is so n33t.
Two years later, I was talking with our mutual friend Jeremy and we decided to create yet another blog. One where Mark Jackman -- the real Mark Jackman -- would post his outrage about being misrepresented. We decided to call it The Real Mark Jackman, even though it was fake, all fake. The blog was defined by its fourth post titled "Restoring My Integrity":
Integrity is important to me. My integrity, other peoples’ integrities, you name it. One thing I learned is this: integrity is the basis of relationship, and when your integrity is out, there’s no relationship. The discussion of integrity is more important on the Internet, where it can be so easily discarded for convenience. With this I realize that if I’m going to start a blog, my integrity is going to be of utmost importance. That’s why I think it’s critical that I come clean before our relationship goes on any further.
Afterwards we went back to writing bogus crap about things like Polly-o String Cheese or republishing our not-for-kids email blather, only occasionally touching on the purpose of the blog: Mark Jackman's online identity.
This is my fourth blog post. My first post introduced the blog and my second one pointed out my very recent discovery of an imposter blog. My friend Jeremy correctly caught that I started the blog, by calling it “The Real Mark Jackman’s Weblog” and only later did I make a second comment: “Hey! There’s this fake me!”
I wouldn’t normally make a big deal about it but Jeremy called me out, and so I must confess: I didn’t start this blog to keep friends in touch, but to combat the fraud perpetuated by this fake Mark Jackman. Interesting Cloud? Indeed! I intentionally wrote my blog posts in that specific order because I wanted to shroud my real intent - to combat a blatant lie, one where we’re all victims of someone else’s lack of character. And yet, my own lack of character defied my true intentions, and Jeremy, a good and loyal friend, caught me in my lie.
Some of you might think this is not such a big deal, but it is. If I don’t come clean about my real intentions, I’m just as much a phoney as “The Fake Mark Jackman”. The last thing the world needs is another blog with pick-and-choose honesty. The last thing the world needs is another fraudulent genius.
I promise that I will never lie to you again.
We had higher aspirations for this blog. Really, we did. We tried taking it in a different direction, but could not give it the greatness that Mark genuinely deserves. It was our plan to keep it a secret from him and reveal it on his birthday. Four months ago, he called me and said "Have you seen this site called 'The Real Mark Jackman'? What is that?" What it is, Mark, is a not-so-successful attempt at creating something worthy of honoring you.
And so, on Mark's big birthday, we have retired the blog with a farewell post titled "Who is real? Not me.":
It has finally come clear to me that the great social experiment of an Internet of ideas is doomed to fail, if anything because it’s impossible to tell what is real. Let me give you a concrete example.
the whole point of my blog was to identify these other people in the world who claim to be Mark Jackman. My attempts to contact them or their online webmasters yielded no fruit. I wish I spent more time focusing on this noble goal instead of talking about things unrelated to anything because resolution of this issue has become critical: someone is claiming I am not real. With that, I see that the experiment this blog is serving has failed, and it’s sign of where the Internet is bound to take us: a place where identity is meaningless and can be casually exchanged for nothing. If Oprah can purchase her identity on Twitter, why can’t someone buy mine with nothing more than sheer will?
Mark deserves better for his birthday than our failed ego trip, so let me end with this: Mark is the most loyal of friends, brilliant and funny, compassionate and direct. He is great to have during your hard times, but even better during your best times.
But here’s the truth. I’m real. This is really my blog. I really work for deckArta (our website is down right now, but it’ll come back, you’ll see!) And so now my very existence is at question. Though it’s true, it is my birthday, and I appreciate there is one final acknowledgment that I am who I am, because before too long my coworkers will ask me to show my driver’s license, my girlfriend is going to say that she has no idea who she slept next to all these years, and further down the road when the Internet is the sole gateway to our consciousnesses, I will disappear in a puff of inconsequential smoke.
It may be that truth is fiction, and I am dead, but not without taking someone with me. Happy Birthday.
Mark used to say that he won a contest before he was born and the prize was to be whomever he wanted. He picked himself. I won a similar contest: my prize was selecting a friend with all the qualities I would want. I picked him.
Happy Birthday, Mark.