Jason Scott dwells on the contrast between what’s on the cover and what may be inside when it comes to technology, and focuses on John Aleshe’s background.
How much scamming is out there? Well, this (see right-hand image), for instance, is the cover of the Atari Video Checkers program for the Atari 2600. This is a beautiful piece of art. This is a proud king overlooking this young man whose lady by his side lovingly adores him as he moves a piece forward with a sense of kingdom and justness.
This (see image below) is Atari Video Checkers in real life. That’s what that was. That was on the cover; that was inside. And I think that’s something you need to think about. How often have we had that happen, where that was on the outside and this was on the inside. I’m not the only person who thought this, by the way. People have made lots of little tiny jokes about this piece of work. Do we agree to just disagree and to assume that the unreality we’re presented is the way things are?
We have this propensity for kind of overlooking rules (see right-hand image). If we get to things that we want to do, we do them. There’s a concept of a term called the ‘desire path’. In parks, that’s the area of the park that is not paved, but it’s been worn down because people said: “Fuck it, I’m going this way, it’s easier for me.” Life’s riddled with these little desire paths, and to me fraud is the ultimate desire path, which is “Oh, these morals…”
This is a 1970s ad for cocaine accessories from a magazine (see left-hand image). This happened. You know what the best part is? They’re made of ivory. This happened and you would actually be able to order it in a men’s magazine; your cocaine accessories made out of ivory to have sent to your home, because: “You deserve it.” Life changes, right? Things get weird. You look back and you’re like: “I can’t believe anyone would ever fall for that.”
I’m gonna end up writing that waiting in line to the iPhone store or while they’re playing Candy Crush, which is, essentially, a slot machine with candy. I have a real moral issue with Candy Crush. I think it will made illegal in the next 5 years, things like that, because it turns every single aspect of the gaming into a tollbooth, and it preys immediately on your sense of need. It’s basically the gambler’s fallacy combined with Bejeweled. So it’s a very good harbinger of it, and it’s right now. I know they are making millions of dollars a day at it. They are really making millions of dollars on Candy Crush. We’re fine with this, in some ways.
I was lucky enough recently; I put up a page about Mr. Aleshe. I was fascinated by this story. He died in 2000. He was 41 years old. He had, again, just sold his company. He had shocked everyone that he had done this. And when I put all that story of him together I actually went back and I found the people on the FidoNet community that he had screwed that I’d read about, David Kramer and others. I said: “You’ve really got to go after this estate.” And they thanked me and they did. Many people went after his estate in the wake of his death, people who had been screwed by him over the years.
When I first gave this talk a while ago, I made an effort to maybe try to dig a little bit further into his story, because it’s so easy to go: “ISP owner turns out to be a fraud – we’re done here.” But again, just like Mr. Hunt, the Colonel, you’ve got to say: “Where does this come from? When do you not think that getting your fingers shot off is kind of a tag out in the wrestling game? Who loses a finger and doubles down?!” And you’re wondering what the people say to the guy, I mean, if it wasn’t indicated from the previous writing. He would just tell people that he was in Vietnam and lost it, so that was his cover story for the missing finger, as opposed to: “A cop shot my finger off because I’m bad.”
He has a brother, Tom, who is just a couple of years younger than him. I threw various easy means in the 2010s and was able to find his phone number. I also found his ex-wife’s phone number, or technically his widow, although there’s no indication they were together at the time of his death. He had gotten married at 20 – I found his wedding certificate. I left a message on her phone – no answer, no callback. But Tom called me back. Tom did not need to call me back, and I’m always going to say: “Thank you for calling me back.” I said: “Yeah, I have this page on the Internet,” and he said: “I know exactly who you are. You’re the guy with the page. You are the person with that page about my brother.” This (see right-hand image) is a picture of John when he was 17. It turns out they now put yearbooks online, too.
So this is John at 17 in Nevada, raised in a Catholic family, in a Catholic high school in Las Vegas. Tom and he went to school together. Tom said: “We were both adopted, if that matters.” Tom has gone on to a very happy life. I have photos of his family, he lives very happily; no major perpetuated frauds on his record, no shooting out with cops, no mugshots. He has gone on to be a fine life, and he lived under the exact same roof as his brother.
Two things from his conversation with me were interesting. The first one was he said: “I bet you’re calling me to find out the good part of John and how you just didn’t understand what he was really like; and I can’t do that for you, I can’t tell you the good side – there isn’t one. I can’t justify anything he did and I can’t say why.”
The other one was that the last time he’d seen his brother alive was when his brother was driving away in a rented car that Tom had lent him to get some defense down for a court case he was in. And that was in 1989. So the last time he saw his brother alive was when he was driving away in a car. Later Tom was arrested at his workplace at a hotel for grand theft auto when the car was never returned. The next time he saw his brother was when he was dead in Indianapolis. Their father had died in 1993 – no contact, no mention of the funeral, anything. He was surprised to find out that he was married. He had not been told about that. So, complete cutoff – he said he could not recognize, he barely could recognize his brother. He was 300 pounds; he’d lived life large at 41.
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