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Author Steven Roberts Addresses His Reference to P in 1988 Book
from Ed D. & Steven R.

Ed’s Preface: Before your get into the current exchange of emails between author Steve Roberts and myself, I encourage you to reread the email exchange in which I first mentioned Robert’s reference to P:

Oprah’s "Disgusting" P-like Experience
from Roman H. (September, 1998)


From: Steven K. Roberts

Date: January 19, 2000

Hi Ed...

A friend recently did a search for references to my 1988 Computing Across America book and sent me a pointer to a page on your site in which you wrote, in part...

Late last year I pulled a book from my shelves that I hadn't read in ten years. (I love to re-read books that impressed me when they were new. Especially books that I regard as particularly "timely.") This book was all about the high-tech revolution in the mid-Eighties. The book was Computing Across America, by Steve Roberts. The first time I read it my psoriasis hadn't manifested. I probably didn't even have a handle on what psoriasis was. This time, though, a similar very negative reference jumped out at me. I don't recall the exact words, but the image was "disgusting psoriasis."

Needless to say, I was quite distressed to read this and the following commentary, especially since the point of the chapter was the amazing brain-to-brain contact that occurs online, when we are prevented from forming culturally habitual judgements and preconceived notions based on appearance. Given that intent, it was particularly disturbing to hear that I might have inadvertently been profoundly insensitive.

I looked up the paragraph of interest, and it reads:

And thus we have the phenomenon of 'compusex.' A balding fifty-six-year-old malodorous insurance salesman can be a tireless muscled young stud; a fat bleary-eyed woman with psoriasis can become a tasty temptress in a silky negligee. The two meet and dance to each others' perfect touch, lovers without peer, hot and insatiable, their fragrances delicate, their touches expert and tingling. Interactive mind-to-mind contact makes it real, but the sensory information is a projection of fantasy, something that can be startlingly intense. You have to try it to believe it.

I was somewhat relieved to see that the word "disgusting" isn't in there after all, as that would have been a rather nasty subjective take. The actual wording is objective, though I suppose it does make an aesthetic point by virtue of contrast with the fantasy that follows.

I certainly do apologize for leaving an irritating impression with this ... and I wish you all the best!

Cheers, -Steven K. Roberts, Nomadic Research Labs, http://www.microship.com


Ed’s Response to Steven Roberts: What a delight to get a message from you, even if the subject was less than pleasant. Your attention to this, after all this time, is appreciated. Unless you object, I intend to reproduce your email in whole in next month's update to FlakeHQ.

Shortly after rereading Computing Across America I found your web site and learned about the new adventure (and the intervening ones, which I had missed). Someday I hope you will write a book about sustaining youth and vigor!


From: Steven K. Roberts

Date: January 20, 2000

Hi Ed...

No objection at all to your use of my letter—and thanks for the opportunity to add my commentary!

I'd also be delighted to add you to the nomadness mailing list, if you like—I post a Microship update to it about once a month and there is no other traffic or list use.

Hey, I'm probably showing my ignorance here, but I had a weird experience with flaking skin about 15 years ago. My father had been having a real problem with his hands for about a year ... very hard, dry, flaking skin ... even cracking and bleeding around the joints. During a visit I saw what he was going through and recalled a time not so long before when mine had started to dry out and crack—and after analyzing what had changed in my environment I had isolated the cause to Ivory soap. Sure enough, he had Ivory in his bathroom and a stack of bars in the closet. I suggested he switch and within weeks it cleared up completely. Dunno what's in that stuff, but it's 99 44/100% nasty!

Anyway, thanks for the good wishes ... and I'll get to work on that book! I need the inspiration myself.  Seven years working on this boat project is way too long and it's often hard to stay focused, even though the end is in sight.

Cheers, -Steve


Ed’s Afterword: What a terrific thing for an author to do. For readers who may be interested in nosing around Steven’s current business, go to http://www.microship.com. Steven’s 1988 book, Computing Across America, brought us along with the author on a round-trip, coast-to-coast ride on a recumbent bicycle. He funded his trip—at least in part—by pioneering and promoting (initially for CompuServe) "on the road telecomputing" with hardware that was, by today’s standards, pretty primitive (I know because he inspired me to run out and buy the same things). The delight in the book was this: While it may have started out to be a journal about traveling and staying gainfully employed and communicative via telecomputing, it ended up being what all good travel books are—character studies. I bought copies of CAA for friends. In my mind there are three traveling-in-America books published in the second half of the past century that are still worth reading: Steinbeck’s Travel’s With Charlie, William Least Heat Moon’s Blue Highways, and Steven K. Robert’s Computing Across America.

To Steven: It sounds as though you have an inherited allergic reaction to Ivory Soap! I hadn’t heard of that one, but I’m not surprised. One thing we can say pretty confidently: Your dry, cracking skin problem on your hands was most likely not P. Unfortunately, P is never resolved by changing soap products. At least, not for long.

Thanks so much for visiting, for showing us your good will and respecting our sensitivities to how P is referenced in the media. We wish you good fortune in all future endeavors, Steven! -Ed

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