Mail a complaint Michael Burton’s Pathetic Home Page

We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be. —Kurt Vonnegut, Mother Night

This is an awkward kind of thing, you know—building a personal website. What common experience can you compare it to? Writing a personal ad? Standing on a rooftop, shouting “Hey, look at me”?

How does a political candidate feel, posing for a campaign photo that will be plastered on countless posters and billboards? Intelligent, forthright, courageous, compassionate, trustworthy. Okay, just a little more courageous, please... Careful, don’t lose that compassion stuff... Now, say cheese... CLICK!

One instant to introduce you to The Real Me.

A well-known cartoon from The New Yorker says that “on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” (Another cartoon has a different take on the subject.)

People on the internet don’t hear the sonorous timbre of your voice, or catch the playful twinkle in your eye when you flash your winning smile. And they don’t notice that you have spinach stuck to your front teeth, or that your breath could peel old wallpaper. You are free to invent yourself. You are compelled to invent yourself.

On the internet, it seems a person (or a dog) is no more and no less than the sum of his enthusiasms. Here are some of mine.

Story of My Life...

    Wherein the author had a strife
    with Nature, to outdo the life.


    Visitors occasionally wander into my little domain, drawn by the tootling of music from my portable stereo. Some wear a pained expression; others seem almost enraptured. They all ask, “What is that?” I would be delighted to tell you what it is.


    Not that many years ago, if you wanted to see a great old movie, you needed patience. Eventually the movie might show up on television, chopped up by commercials and censors, but better than nothing. If you were very, very lucky, you might catch it at a revival theatre. Times have changed. Video stores and cable channels have replaced most of the revival theatres, but today we have unprecedented choice. And I have a few recommendations.


    Late in the 1970s, a friend built himself a computer from a kit. He showed me how he punched in machine language programs on the hexadecimal keypad, and how the program output appeared on the LED display. He predicted that someday I would have a computer, too. “Hah!” said I. I got my first computer in 1983. To the shock and dismay of all, I am now a computer professional. A long, strange trip it's been.


    In 1972, I cast my first vote in a presidential election. A lot of water under the bridge since then—victories, defeats, changes of heart. Some regrets. But I am still proud of that first vote.

the Funnies

    I once took my little sister to the movies to see the re-release of Disney’s Peter Pan. It was my birthday gift to her. What a fraud I was! My sister’s birthday was my cover story. We went because I wanted to see the movie. Animated cartoons, comic books, newspaper comic strips—they told me I would outgrow them. Wrong, wrong, wrong.


    When he was governor of California, Ronald Reagan built a new governor’s mansion to replace the old Victorian structure. Reagan’s successor, Jerry Brown, never moved in. One of Brown’s complaints was that the new building had no bookshelves. No bookshelves! Aauuugh! Where would you put all your books?


    Stuff some wise guys said.