Bert Is Evil: The True Story Behind the Web's First Viral Hit

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5 out of 5 stars
By M. Lucero on 05-25-15

A glimpse of Internet history...

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

It's hard to imagine life without Internet memes, even for people who have lived in decades before they were around. For this and similar reasons, reading Bill Meek's single, Bert Is Evil, feels surreal. Exploring one of the first memes to spread around the Internet, the book recalls those far-off days when something amusing on the Internet to pass around to all our friends felt novel and unexpected.

Given the ubiquity of memes like Condescending Wonka, Philosoraptor, and Misunderstood Spider, this look back into the recent past feels more extreme of a retrospection than it should — as if we are talking not about something that happened in the late '90s, but rather something out of your grandfather's reminiscences of walking uphill to school both ways. The days before color television. The eight track. An odd effect, making me feel old as well as inspiring thoughts about the contracting and dilation of time.

In his book, Meeks carves out the story of a proto web developer by the name of Dino Ignacio, who created Bert is Evil in that early era of the bare-bones Internet which Meeks likes to call the Old Wide Web. Ignacio, we learn, derived the meme's humor from his linking of the well-known Muppet to dark and shadowy figures Lee Harvey Oswald, Osama Bin Laden, and even Hitler.

Reading this account, I realized that I had indeed browsed this site — or perhaps one of its many mirrors, the reasons for which Meeks chronicles at length — and that its 'shopped images indeed lingered somewhere in the ephemera of my memory. It made me think as well of other similar early memes, my favorite of which was Mr. T vs Everything, a site which 'shopped (with much less skill than Ignacio) images of the A-Team hero into poorly-executed webcomics, often ending with T throwing his foes into outer space.

These sites, as well as many others, provided troves of amusement at a certain point of my life; and yet all of them find their provenance in the work of Ignacio. A shadowy figure himself, Ignacio is brought to life by Meek's story, which takes the form of interviews with the man himself, and analysis and commentary by Meeks. Weaving together the history of its naissance, its popularity boom, and the fallout of its unfortunate involvement in a protest rally, the short feels like an episode of This American Life for the internet, especially if you listen to the audiobook edition.

Recommended for anyone interested in the history of the Internet, or even for those mildly curious about how these memes got their start, Bert Is Evil is a short, amusing, and informative look back into the incomprehensible labyrinth that is the Internet, clearing it up and lifting it out from obscurity for the reader to understand, maybe, one of the many roots that grew into the Internet we know today.

What other book might you compare Bert Is Evil: The True Story Behind the Web's First Viral Hit to and why?

It reminds me of This American Life for the Internet.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?


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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Natalie Niezgoda on 07-24-15

How far we have come!

Hard to believe we have come this far.
Great narrating. I love listening to anything Elaine Bacen reads.
Natalie Niezgoda

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4 out of 5 stars
By Deedra on 06-16-15

Bert Is Evil

Would you listen to Bert Is Evil: The True Story Behind the Web's First Viral Hit again? Why?

no,because I already read it

Any additional comments?

Bert is Evil is a retrospect of the early days of the internet.It doesn't seem that long ago that we all dialed up and jumped on the www train.It's the story of the one mans rise to stardom for his original viral hits and the fall out from his satire.
Elaine Baden is fine as the narrator,though maybe a man would have suited this material better.(sorry)
"I was provided this audiobook at no charge by the author in exchange for an unbiased review via AudiobookBlast dot com."

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4 out of 5 stars
By Carolyn on 05-17-15

Interesting bit of history.

This is an engrossing short history about a website. I really liked the memories it brought back of how it used to be using the web. The only complaint I might have is I wish it was longer.

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