By the time I first heard a prepubescent Michael Blount finish his goodbye, I had already forwarded his website to my e-mail list. The 11 year-old’s confident, high-pitched internet outreach for a steady female play date – coupled with elementary HTML, a charming naivete, and a haircut that might’ve barely passed for fashionable in the previous decade – inspired a mesmerizing mix of emotions (Do I feel sad for this kid? Is he awesome? Is it OK to laugh?).
From what I remember, Hello My Future Girlfriend was my initial foray into the crawlspace of the World Wide Web, my first encounter with a meme. It was Martin Sargent who made the introduction.
In January 2001, Sargent featured Blount’s amateur online personal during his segment on ZDTV‘s Screen Savers. Formerly an editor at PC Computing Magazine, Sargent originally appeared on the program to explain things hardcore tech, but quickly found a niche in online cultural phenomena. He was one of the first personalities to talk about the memetic internet and expose a cable television audience to bits of online wonderful. Hello My Future Girlfriend resides inside the Pantheon of Internet Ephemera because – along with a numuber of other inadvertent and unexpected virtual creations – Sargent put it there.
Sargent’s segments and shows would change, but the basic premise stayed the same – comedy/talk/variety program with a menage of content from technology, the internet and pop culture’s underbelly. After Screen Savers, came Unscrewed, followed by Infected, then Web Drifter, and finally, Internet Superstar.
Maybe it’s because they’re the programs I’m most familiar with, but the latter two seemed to showcase Sargent at his best. A slacker everydude diving into, documenting, and discovering the world’s inexplicably entertaining and bizarre.
Last week – along with co-workers Sarh Lane, Damon Berger, Jay Spieden, Glen McElhose, and Heather Frank and shows Pixel Perfect and PopSiren – Martin Sargent and Internet Superstar became a casualty of tough economic times and a downsizing industry. The show will be missed. If history’s any indicator, Sargent will be back before long, but in the mean time, finding internet fame and awesome just won’t be the same.