From the time I first began editorializing under the pseudonym ‘Doc Palindrome’ in 1999, i’ve been asked the above question many, many times. As I am all about origin stories, I though that the most appropriate time to actually tell the origin of everything that is ‘Doc Palindrome’ would be upon launching my own vehicle for editorializing. As such, I have been taking the answer posed by the title of this article with a remarkable level of seriousness for nearly a decade as I procrastinated exactly how I would answer it upon launching a site called docpalindrome.com.
I received my first email in 1995. Having spent a fair amount of time reading about Cyberpunk culture, playing games with a similar thematic element, and watching films and television revolving around hacking culture, I had every intention of having a virtual presence that was cool. However, as high as technology was when I was in my teenage years, that which enabled such access was beyond the means of my mother and myself. So, in college, I was assigned my first email.
Upon discovering that I would have an email on the local network, I had every intention of grasping what I, at the time, had thought was an awesome high school nickname, ‘Jester.’ Perhaps you knew other people who had the nickname ‘Jester’ and thought they were all original and cool in giving themselves this nickname, but for me, this nickname was both earned and assigned. By simply emulating a sketch from Saturday Night Live which revolved around a guy bothering co-workers while they attempted to use the company photocopier, a high school chum transformed ‘Jesse’ into ‘Jester.’ Being impressed with this, he noted that I was actually funny and the nickname stuck (as a note: besides my first name, my secondary qualification of this nickname is that I have performed comedy, professionally, for nearly two decades of my life and, as a tertiary one, I built a miniature gaming army around a single unit called ‘death jesters,’ but I digress).
Of course, having had this kick-ass alias for several years, I had a desire to incorporate it into my ‘Net ID’ or ‘avatar.’ See, back in the early days of the internet, these were terms we used. I could say that it might have been because we were somewhat naive as to the true capabilities of the internet but the truth is that everyone in the 1990’s, including and especially myself, was incredibly dumb. Why else would all that terrible music have happened? I mean, Kris-Kross?! That was really a thing!
So, I wanted to use Jester on my email. Instead, I was saddled with the classic ‘last name and number’ affectation which is so remarkably banal that I can barely fucking stand it. ‘Edmond7’ hardly had the aura of mystery that ‘J3$T3R’ (or whatever I thought I was going to use that sounded ‘1337’… damn it, I attended a Lilith Faire, what did I know?!). I sighed and hated it and dragged my way through nearly enough school to graduate with a degree in something useless.
Two years later, I signed up for my first Yahoo! email. Finally, I had the chance to make my own choice! Finally, I could create the identity of online anarchy that I had envisioned in my darkest desires! Finally, I could be ‘firstname.lastname@example.org!’
What the actual fuck?!
Every variation of ‘Jester’ that I tried failed to work. I finally took two numbers that I thought were memorable and attached them to the end of the email address. I hated it. Perhaps I’m a little OCD or just plain obsessive, but numbers in an identity simply looked stupid to me, not ‘1337!’ To this day, I hate having numerals of any kind as an online ID. As with my first address, my new, exciting, futuristic means of communication was met with complete ennui. However, I soon realized a secondary possibility: I could simply create another email through Yahoo! How could I turn ‘Jester’ into something that was original enough not to be taken but still be remarkable and cool.
I’ve always been fascinated by the unusual. Paradox theory, temporal and quantum physics, conceptual reality; all this stuff captivates my imagination. I also love language and the unusual use, thereof. Perhaps part of this is due to my dyslexia. Linguistic and numeric concepts that confound other people will often seem rudimentary to me while the most simple concept may be completely beyond my reach. One of the concepts for which I have always shown an inclination are palindromes – words or phrases that are spelled the same backwards as they are forwards.
And that was was the answer to my conundrum.
‘Jester’ became ‘jesteretsej,’ transforming a nickname that, as I had discovered, was used by roughly 19% of the population (although, I still believe that my qualifications for this name rather justified my use of it) into one that was unique and, after a brief and educational explanation, was memorable.
Of course, what I had not taken into account was junk mail. Yeah, I know. Here I am talking about being ‘1337’ when I was really just another poseur who didn’t realize that I should avoid signing up for stupid things and have an email specifically for that. After a year, or so, the jesteretsej email was unusable. Hundreds of messages flowed in, every day, forcing my to sort through offers of superior homeowners’ loans, immensely-sized genitals, and porn to find an email from my aunt in Michigan. The situation became untenable, but I developed an elegant solution – I would make yet another email.
I said ‘elegant,’ not ‘original.’
By this time, I had revisited my passion with pulp and Golden-Age era heroic figures. Again seeking to be original in my identification, I chose to embrace the idea of a pulp figure with an unusual affectation and chose my new email to represent some fictional aspect of myself. Thus was born, Doc Palindrome.
That was, as mentioned earlier, 1999. Since then, I have endeavored to grab any web presence I can with the name. I have been foiled on a handful of occasions, but I remain, in general, triumphant of utilizing Doc Palindrome as my online identity. In fact, I have maintained hold over the domain for quite some time, having it interrupted when I neglected to pay the bill, at one point, only to restore it to its rightful owner when the aggregate company that had purchased it had failed to renew it in time to continue to attempt to extort money from me.
However, over the years, Doc Palindrome has developed beyond some identity that I apply to myself. It’s grown into an actual character that has woven a path through history.
The man that would, one day, become known as Doc Palindrome was born during the Roman Empire and discovered, upon reaching the ancient age of 75, that upon dying, his aging would be reversed. Upon reaching the point he might have normally been born, he would return to aging normally. He lived a 150-year cycle of aging normally and then doing so in reverse over and over.
In this way, Doc affected various points in history. His involvement led to the creation of legends and myths, many of which were caused through his accidental influence. Despite his age, despite his experience, Doc Palindrome has failed to accomplish his goals more often than not.
In the 1920s and 1930s, he operated as a ‘mystery man,’ battling evil of a supernatural bent. Despite having no natural talent for magic, his vast amount of direct experience with the occult enabled him to battle the forces of darkness in ways that others could not. By the time of the Second World War, the name of Doc Palindrome was renown as someone who could and would help those in need of protection from the dark forces of the beyond.
Then he disappeared.
And that’s the other origin of Doc Palindrome, but not the last one.
For some time, I have offered my opinion in editorials in various online resources. I started my own blog, at one point, which attained a minor following and I have worked with others, as well. However, I found no satisfaction with such things. Working on my own lost appeal and led to lack of motivation whereas working with others generally led to various forms of frustration as my vision would, inevitably, clash with theirs.
So, I came up with something new. I determined that I would, instead of attempting to build my own thing and put myself in place as a petty tyrant, open up the panel to those who wished to contribute but had been frustrated by opportunities to do so. In fact, I want to have my thing be as much of a ‘creative geek co-op’ as anything else. Those who offer up their intelligent, creative experiences and ideas will be as much a part of it as I am.
In point of fact, I am giving control of something I have held onto to those with whom I know I can create something amazing. After so long of seeking full creative control of something I am, instead, letting it go. I have returned, in some metaphysically geeky way, to that road which I first walked, creatively. I simply find myself able to navigate it in new and different ways.
So, who is Doc Palindrome?
Doc Palindrome is an email that I used for years.
Doc Palindrome is an identity that I once used grasp at some notion of anonymity.
Doc Palindrome is a mysterious pulp hero who battles the forces of the occult.
Doc Palindrome is a place where creativity thrives and geeks of every type gather to build something new.
Maybe I could even say that Doc Palindrome might even be you.
But I won’t.
That would be cheesy.