MaxBarry.com
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Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.

Blog

Thu 19
Oct
2006

It begins

Jennifer Government Now you know I hate blowing my own trumpet every time something happens in the real world that’s straight out of one of my books. Well, maybe “hate” is too strong a word. I mean, “enjoy on a deep, almost sexual level.” Yeah. That’s more like it.

Anyway, I think this one is worth mentioning because it’s at the more extreme end: it’s that thing in Jennifer Government where everyone takes their surname from their employer. John Nike. Billy NRA. Violet ExxonMobil. And so on.

There’s a historical precedent for this: in centuries past, John Smith was the town blacksmith, Tim Baker really was a baker, and Geoff Wang was… well, let’s not think. In the Jennifer Government world, where a person’s job is the most important thing about them, returning to that concept made sense to me. Also, when I worked in sales, I’d get a call from “Michael Jamieson” or whoever, and frantically think, “Jamieson, Jamieson… who the hell is that?” It would have been so much simpler if he was “Michael McDonald’s.”

Now, we’ve already seen people selling their surnames to corporations, and even a particularly disturbing case of parents auctioning naming rights to their baby. But does it really count as a fulfilled prophesy when the people doing the fulfilling are missing some essential part of their brain? I dunno. I think that’s a little like saying, “I foresee a day when people will smack themselves in the face with hammers for fun,” and then claiming it came true because of my cousin Donny. Poor Donny. Well, you pity his parents, mostly. But back to the issue. For me to feel like I really nailed this one, it has to be done in all seriousness. Nobody should even see anything wrong with it.

So here we are. Lately companies have been stampeding into Second Life, a virtual reality of the kind that everyone thought the internet would be, before discovering it was just typing and clicking on links. In Second Life, you create an avatar—a little person to be—and run around… um, doing stuff. You know, like walking around… or going shopping… or building a house. But without having to stand up.

So. The news agency Reuters just opened an office there and assigned reporter Adam Pasick to the beat. So now there’s an avatar that looks like Adam in Second Life, reporting on news. Only what’s his name? Adam Reuters.

Oh yes. Innocuous. That’s how it starts.

Comments

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Machine Man subscriber Max

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "I'm my number one fan!"
Posted: 2933 days ago

Thanks to Mark for pointing me at this one!

Adam A. (#256)

Location: Phoenix, Arizona
Quote: "Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that." -George Carlin"
Posted: 2933 days ago

It's still "virtual" though. We're still about 20 years away from that happening in real life.
And 50-100 years from now, when everyone's name is their job/company, whose name will be in Wikipedia as the source for that idea? Our friend Max.

Michael Ricksand (#2212)

Location: Terra
Quote: "You do not have a right to be stupid."
Posted: 2933 days ago

Don't you know that naming yourself after your company is a common practise long practised? For instance, what was the surname of the man who worked at the first McDonalds restaurant? McDonald, that's right. And Ben & Jerry's actually has employee's named Ben and Jerry!

Ralf Plattfaut (#2482)

Posted: 2933 days ago

BTW Max: Company is out in Germany (of course as Chefsache). I read it and like it, although some translations are a bit weird.

Machine Man subscriber Xavier Desroches (#1840)

Location: Brossard, Qc, Ca
Quote: "Smile, Tomorrow Will Be Worse... - Murphy"
Posted: 2933 days ago

If something stupid can be done, some peoples will find it and do it thinking its cool / good / intelligent...
(Just like the guy who ate a whole plane in the guiness records...)

Jeffrey (#2286)

Location: Right here
Quote: "Mathematics is a powerful language. Just look at how mathematicians destroyed the housing market."
Posted: 2933 days ago

that's if we haven't completely destroyed the planet in 50-100 years from now.

Machine Man subscriber Adam (#24)

Location: Morristown, Indiana
Quote: "Why do I blog? Simple, because Max Barry blogs."
Posted: 2933 days ago

Friday. October 20th, 2006

STORY TIME!!!

Once upon a time in a magical land that is now called "Canada", there was a small lizard named "Oni"(pronounced Oh-nee). Yes, a lizard in what is now "Canada". It's crazy...but just wait until the end. Well, Oni was a very adventurous little lizard. One day, He was walking through the desert, and he found a magical cactus...Similar to a genie. The cactus told Oni that he would grant him any wish that he wanted. Well, Oni thought long and hard. However, he did not think very wisely. Oni decided that he wanted to see something that he had never seen before...snow. The Cactus warned Oni that there may be some horrifying consequences, but Oni did not listen. So the cactus said, "Okay", and then spoke some magical words. Sure enough, snow began falling from the sky. Oni was in complete awe at the sight of the snow. He was so amazed that he barely even noticed it getting cold outside. Oni just sat there until he was frozen in complete happiness. Oni is still there today in northern Canada frozen under the permafrost way up north. And to this day, Canada is extremely cold. This story is 100% true. Don't believe that geography and meterological stuff. It's all hogwash created by the "liberal media."

-adam speicher

austin (#2462)

Location: rhode island
Quote: "hmmm...bleh..."
Posted: 2933 days ago

I found this blog especially funny...for some reason.

Shawna (#2485)

Location: San Francisco, CA
Quote: ""She is a child of ferocious will. She would question the universe if it could answer." - Anon"
Posted: 2933 days ago

Darn it! I've been trying to get onto the site to tell you about Adam Reuters for the past several days. Anyone else having trouble with maxbarry.com recently? Or does my work computer just hate me?

Machine Man subscriber Max

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "I'm my number one fan!"
Posted: 2932 days ago

It's not you, it's my web host.

Mike Reason (#2743)

Location: Rhode Island, USA
Quote: ""Carpe Diem!""
Posted: 2929 days ago

Secondlife is another example of the flaws inherent in an ancap society: Hyper-inflation, flamers(people that just go around harrassing people for fun), no zoning-laws (so nothing stops a person from building an ancient egyptian style house in a victorian style neighborhood and bringing down their neighbors' property value), and mobsters. Though you can't hurt another person's avatar, there are asshats that will extort linden dollars out of people. They do this by harrassing or using hacks on players until they pay protection money or just give up and stop playing. I've never actually played but I've read a couple of articles on it. I'd provide a link to the SecondLife Herald but I'm not sure if it would be proper netiquette.
Well anyway, this gave me an idea. As SecondLife avatars exist in a quasi-state of nature and their is an evident, what Locke called, "Threat of the Uncertain." A person could make a lot of money if they gathered up a bunch of haxors, set up a company, call it the Virtual Corporate Republic or the Trade Security Organization or something, and in exchange for a regular membership-fee, called "tax", would protect them from flamers and mobsters. Let's see: the average exchange rate in SL is 300Lindens for every American Dollar, and if you got 40 subscribers, minus the costs of maintaining a beurocracy, minus wages for enforcers, minus Linden Lab's cut. That gives you an annual profit of $5.00!!!

Brittany O. (#1688)

Location: Montana
Quote: "My love calls me Boom..."
Posted: 2928 days ago

All I have to say is Adam Reuters, you are a little bastard. How you dare copy someone as cool as Max.

Lea (#2745)

Posted: 2928 days ago

I just wanted to also point out that Nike has a pair of high tops on sale for $8500 USD. The moment I saw that price, I thought of Jennifer Government.

http://www.vintagekicks.com/sb/080192.html

Adam Messinger (#1124)

Location: Kansas, USA
Quote: "www.adammessinger.com"
Posted: 2926 days ago

I've been watching Second Life for some time because if its interesting resemblance to Neal Stephenson's "Metaverse." This naming practice was actually started back at the beginning of SL, when employees of the company were given avatars with the last name "Linden" -- for the game's developer, Linden Lab.

For Linden Lab, this made sense from a practical standpoint. Regular residents of SL can choose from a pool of available last names, which are refreshed every so often to prevent anyone from having the same first name / last name pair. Linden wanted its in-world employees to be immediately identifiable when they were "on the job" as support personnel, however, so it gave them all the company's name.

Unlike Linden Lab, the new corporate residents of SL have no such compelling reason for the practice. After all, they don't work to support the world -- they're just marketing in it. Then again, the chance to name their in-world representatives after the corporation probably seemed like too good a marketing opportunity to pass up.

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