Last night, as I returned to my apartment from the laundry, I heard a great rustle in the trees that formed the property buffer. Instinctively, I looked up to the spot where the leaves shook in the darkness, and saw the responsible party.
A big, beautiful opossum stood upon a high branch, and peered down directly at me, its chalk-white face clear as day. I felt an immediate connection with this wild animal, and without a second thought waved to the possum and began speaking softly to it, as I would to my pet hamster, insisting that I mean no harm.
The possum continued to gaze quizzically, motionless, until I waved goodbye and went inside to fold my newly-cleaned clothes. I thought about the possum long into the next day. I never for a second considered it was in jeopardy of any sort, or that it was a threat. I felt safer knowing it was out there, and that our connection, however brief, was meaningful and genuine.
Then, sometime after, I sat down at my computer and got back to work.
You see, in internet parlance, I am what’s known as “terminally online”. For at least the past five years, I have been online from the time I wake up to the time I go to bed. Everything I do for work requires an internet connection. I spend more than eight hours a day staring into a screen.
The only reason I know this isn’t detrimental to my health (aside from the need to exercise regularly to keep my knees from aching) is the fact that more than 80% of my time online is spent making money. If my comics and art aren’t selling, then I put more toys on eBay, and vice versa. If neither are happening, then I do like Tyler Durden and “make soap”; create more content with what I have on hand, or don’t have to buy.
This is the basic formula under which I have operated since the founding of my first website, Mike The Pod, in 1999. Its unspoken purpose was very simple.
- Expose my original content to the world (wide web), and make my work easily accessible to potential employers and clients.
- Provide visitors with a unique and raw style of humor on a regular basis, building a loyal fan base.
- Exercise and develop my own creative abilities, in real time.
- SELL COMICS.
All you know about me’s what I sold you, dumbfuck-Tool, “Hooker With A Penis”
I sold out long before you ever even heard my name
I sold my soul to make a record, dipshit
In the very beginning, I was even more forceful and mercurial than I am now. Any time I felt like my hard work wasn’t being properly acknowledged, I became enraged. I wrote angry letters to Entertainment Weekly because they had devoted column space to a website composed of photos of various meats rotting in a man’s front yard, rather than MTP. Any site that was spotlighted over my magnum opus of internet crap drew my rancor; especially if it was a comic strip. I believe “Space Moose” was literally the only strip I admired. Everything else I saw, I knew I could do better.
That last sentence is key to my point in this article. I saw a property that was popular, and knew intrinsically that I could top it. As a cartoonist, this goes all the way back to school for me. If someone laughs at a comic strip that I didn’t draw, then I want to make them laugh even harder at one that I did. I want that admiration all to myself. If this sounds alien to you, consider the competitive attitude of athletes you respect, or just enjoy the fact that you’re not me.
As a Flash animator at the dawn of the 21st century, I found a home at Tom Fulp’s Newgrounds site, among thousands of thriving creators. I saw animations I knew I could top, and animations I knew I couldn’t (Bitey of Brackenwood, for example). I saw Fulp weather just about every insult you could imagine and let it all slide without a flinch. I gained fans; like, we’re talking thousands, as well as constructive criticism that buffed me up to the point where my stupid cartoons almost aired on real TV, which was a way bigger deal than the little ol’ internet at the time. More copies of my movie sold on Newgrounds than anywhere else; even my own website. I had several online conversations with Tom Fulp himself, where he treated me like a superstar creator, despite the fact that he oversaw a Flash portal teeming with tens of thousands of other, equally ambitious animators. Despite the fact that the dude is a powerhouse of talent himself (see the independent video game masterwork Castle Crashers, which made it all the way to consoles, and then some).
I will most likely go to my grave eagerly defending Tom, his brother, and Newgrounds. What they gave me, for free, during the formative years of my animation career was beyond priceless. If you look closely during a street scene in John’s Arm: Armageddon, you’ll see a wall emblazoned with the NG “tank logo” as well as the symbols of a couple other animators who encouraged me.
What I didn’t know at the time- what it was almost impossible to know was, Newgrounds, its staff and talent pool were the rarest of gems.
You see, twenty years ago, those things you call “memes” were known simply as “funny pictures”. You could amass a pile of them and set up your own website, where visitors could peruse them or share them with their friends at work. You could put ads up, and spin a tidy profit, all off of other people’s material.
And thus the vultures swooped in.
If you surfed the internet for “funny pictures” circa 2003, regardless of who created them, you would see one of two watermarks intruding at bottom. Without fail, it was either ebaumsworld, or SomethingAwful, with a webding of a hand grenade. The former was the domain of Eric Bauman, whom I clearly recall threatening young creators with litigation on Newgrounds and elsewhere (“I’m still gonna own your site bro”), under the protection of his daddy Neil. Proprietary rights meant nothing to the Baumans, unless it pertained to someone else’s image they watermarked and posted on their own site. Then it meant war. They gleefully squashed all comers, whether justified or not, and when offered a multi-million dollar payout for their palace of plagiarism, they took it and fucked off.
For that reason, and because the site once employed Karl (of the only podcast worth listening to, Who Are These Podcasts?, despite the intro that clearly rips off Sifl & Olly, perhaps intentionally), I don’t have the vitriol towards Bauman & Son that I once held. Besides, their incessant watermarking was universally loathed, to the point where software was created to remove it, so it’s not the surfeit of potholes it once was. And again, the Baumans took the money and ran, which with the benefit of hindsight was the smartest and most admirable move they could make.
Smart and admirable. Two words that have never, ever been ascribed to Something Awful, its appalling userbase, or its now-dead founder, Richard “Lowtax” Kyanka.
If you blinked in confusion at the above paragraph, congratulations, you are demonstrably smart, and admirable. The sole reason any human being ever browsed the Something Awful forums, or was brainless enough to pay ten dollars to post there, is to learn about the lives of people that made their own lives look like a rock star’s by comparison. (Or to have access to something I’ll mention in a minute.)
Off the top of my head, here are some things I am cursed with knowledge of, not from browsing the Something Awful forums, but through osmosis from elsewhere, where these incidents and persons were chronicled and rightfully disdained.
- Constant lectures on the brilliance of Karl Marx from a literal faggot who takes dicks up his ass and is photographed enjoying cock-and-ball torture.
- The words “shit” and “fuck” are automatically softened to “poo poo” and “gently caress” (unless you cough up the :tenbux:), making every post read like the ramblings of a mental defective (which all of it is).
- A man whose roommate shit into the bathtub for months, layering it with cardboard, until it formed a sort of “fecal lasagna”.
- Apparently, if you don’t wipe your ass properly, you get an itchy boil at the top of your ass crack that stings when your back sweat drips onto it. Unless you’re a full-grown human, like myself.
- Forum moderation provided by the most broken, contemptible, self-hating degenerates this side of Sodom, who proudly display the large foreign objects they casually stick up themselves, and who ban any paying posters that question their authority.
- Insane idiots from flyover states who resemble filthy bean bag chairs, who develop inappropriate obsessions with girls they don’t even know, and when predictably rebuffed, remove the prized female’s head with a firearm, before doing the same with their own.
You may ask yourself; why would anyone subject themselves to such things, let alone pay for the experience? Oh, that’s an easy one.
At the start, Something Awful was all a front for a database of pirated movies, software and porn. Literally nothing mattered besides that, and it was understandable that the site would attract the most awful and revolting people in the online world. Then Kyanka started to get caught, so the pirated material was all removed, and anyone who asked about it was banned and lost their money.
Because “Lowtax” Kyanka was the most awful of all.
He was never funny, never competent, and never anything but a Cautionary Tale. Lowtax was a piece of absolute shit who deserves to be forgotten and never even thought of again.
Strong words for someone I never met, huh? Again, I presume you to be a fine upstanding person, simply because you’ve chosen to read my work. It’s more than likely that you have no idea why I would even bother wasting words on such an individual.
As they say far too often on the SA Forums, welp.
Richard Kyanka fathered three daughters with two different women, both of whom he abused verbally and physically. When the first mother of his children tried to leave him, according to the police report, he dug his quarter-inch-long fingernails into the flesh of her forearm until he drew blood. The second mother was a Canadian whom he kept as a political prisoner until she escaped to a domestic violence shelter. His disinterest in his daughters was so obvious, most people had no idea he was a father at all; one girl was so traumatized by him, she would chew the ends of her fingers off when staying at his home post-separation. He left his offspring in the care of one of the most demented, diaper-shitting pedophiles ever known, while he gobbled nebulously-prescribed pain pills, ate $80 mail-order pies washed down with box wine, and passed out on the toilet trying to vacate an opioid shit. When the truth of this (and more) came to light, as his Patreon donations disintegrated, Kyanka showed his true white-trash colors.
Kyanka and his blood-sucking lawyer of a mother took to harassing his Canadian ex, while Richard incessantly tweeted that his “VINDICATION” was just around the corner. He talked shit about the mother of his child to whomever would listen, to the point where his first ex-wife stepped in to help her. A GoFundMe was set up, which Mother Kyanka Esq. quickly had shut down. As the walls closed in, Richard sold off his cash cow to an admiring Bitcoin millionaire for $450K. This and other funds he intentionally squandered so that he could not be court-ordered to give any to his children or the women he chose to birth them. Then he kept up appearances by live-streaming himself eating giant summer sausages, while secretly using his home for glamor shoots of large-footed transgendered models. I am making none of this up.
When an actual judge got wind of this, Kyanka was ordered to fork over $92K, plus $3,500 a month for child support. A smart person would face their transgressions, apologize sincerely to everyone involved, and set about making things right. This is a guy whose Patreon was bringing in thousands a month, and despite all evidence, still had devotees willing to burn money on him. Some people believed in Something Awful that fervently. Not because it was good; because it was once a safe haven for the worst of the worst (if they paid $10).
Not long after judgment was passed, Richard “Lowtax” Kyanka took a pistol he’d lied about losing during a move, stuck the barrel in his mouth, and added a sunroof to his brain. His final act was to deprive his family of any and all financial support.
At the time of this writing, there are several hundred pages of people dunking on Kyanka for being the poorest excuse for a human being imaginable. This is a person who wasted no opportunity to whine about a spectrum of self-inflicted or imagined ailments, if it meant donations. This is a person who turned down a $13M buyout in 2006 and went on to despise his site and its userbase because of it. Oh, and the reason his site was so compromised over time was due to the fact that he caved to every angry deviant. Last I checked, his mother was on social media insulting anyone who laughed at him, or believed his ex-wives. Thankfully his children are all daughters, which is nature’s way of saying “your seed isn’t good enough for a bloodline”. We need not fear a world sullied by another “Lowtax”. Don’t bank on his estranged children carrying on his legacy; one of them had his name listed as “Birth Giver” in her phone.
It’s good that Lowtax is gone. His term as the Ultimate Cautionary Tale is concluded. Christ, I haven’t even mentioned the time he flew cross-country on his own dime so that the Worst German Director Alive could beat the shit out of him in an exhibition boxing match, which he prepared for by wearing colorful shorts. I didn’t even tell you how he flew to Utah after the birth of his third child so that an unbalanced 22-year-old Mormon ho could gently caress his cheek with her foot. It goes on, and on, and on, like one of his boring forum threads.
Imagine if for one moment, this gibbering, dog-faced, dupe of a man could have said (or even simply inferred):
“We are here to laugh at people, and by doing so, feel better about ourselves. All of this is but marks in the sand, worthless except for that precious, energizing laugh. That’s what brought you to me. That’s what brings us all together. That’s what will endure. Not the money, not the humiliation, not the pain; nothing but the laugh. That’s all it’s about. Thanks for being here.”
But some people are fated from birth to be Cautionary Tales. By their deeds they teach us, most importantly, not to be like them. Not to follow in their path, not to walk a mile in their sweaty shoes, but to do whatever it takes to be better. One day you could be turning down a million-dollar paycheck, the next you could be eating a bullet in some basement after streaming yourself sucking off a salami. Alone. With the inescapable realization that you brought every ounce of it upon yourself.
One of the biggest lies going around is that anyone, no matter how weird or deviant, can find “acceptance” on the internet. The truth is opposite; on the internet, all your quirks and proclivities are liabilities to be exploited by your enemies. Anything you post can and will be used against you. And the ugly truth is, your liabilities often aren’t the weapon of your enemies; anyone will use them. Your friends, co-workers, even your family. Even complete strangers on the other side of the world. As soon as you stop being useful to someone, those liabilities you volunteered come into play as blunt instruments with which to batter you. To cast you out.
The solution is simple. Be a good person. Don’t give in to the temptations of the dark side of the internet. Be honest with yourself and the people who care about you; if anyone uses that as an excuse to belittle you, that’s on them. I myself have witnessed bullying and ridicule on the web that nearly brought one or more persons to extreme self-harm; every single example I could cite for you here was universally forgotten in a year or two’s time. No matter how much grief was caused, nobody cares after a short while. Everyone involved learned they were better than all that, and moved on. That’s what good people do.
Now you’ve seen what bad people do, and the cost of it. Now you can understand a little better why so many people seek out revolting material on the internet. Not only to laugh at it, but to know subconsciously that we’re better. Something no one will ever tell us; something we have to tell ourselves. Alone, in our darkest moments.
We all need to know we’re better than something awful.