ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

Sketch the Cow —

My XBOX gamer tag is “Sketch the Cow” and this causes some confusion. My IRC handle is “SketchCow” and it’s being used to say the same thing and to get around length restrictions. But it’s meant to be “Sketch the Cow” as well. Very occasionally, people wonder what the hell is going on, so here’s a very quick, very short primer.

In 1986, deciding to start a band with my friend Jeremy Stone, we spent a lot of time on what most reasonable high school bands would find important: the band name. We had a working title of “J.S. Squared”, since that was both our initials. This was fine and good. We started making music, and things went along.

At some point we knew we wanted to start building an elaborate, overly complicated backstory and statement associated with the band. This resulted in us working on “job titles” in the band. We were coming up with all sorts of crazy titles; one of them was “Rodent Motivation Supervisor”, as I recall. Somewhere down the line, one of us devised the title of “Bovine Ignition Supervisor”.

We looked at each other, and said “This is too good not to name the band this way.”

So the band became Bovine Ignition Systems.

This led to several things. First of all, our songs started taking on more and more of a “cow” theme. Heck, cows were inherently funny and so there you go. But more critically, people were starting to kind of associate us with cows. We were sent cow gifts, or referenced cow things, and it got kind of crazy there.

Ultimately, though, we found an ad for a cow suit. I ordered one immediately, for the time that we would perform live.

The suit was cool, and so I wore it here and there, and on our big live gig, I definitely wore it onstage, to great acclaim.

As I went to college and Jeremy as well (different colleges), we each had, in our possession, both our songs written by Bovine Ignition Systems (We’d do a few more after high school) and a ton of cow-related items. And by this time our families were well aware we had a “cow thing” going.

There’s “the cow”. Now, to switch gears…

In college, like at high school, I liked drawing. I liked drawing a lot. So in a lot of cases, you would find me drawing cartoons and art throughout classes, in hallways, and specifically in the common room area in my dorm. There was a fellow, his name long lost to time, who would come in to find me sitting around with my pad, and say “Hey, Sketch”. He did this for a full semester we were both in the same dorm. I thought this nickname was great; it said what I did, and it was one syllable. I thought it was pretty cool but didn’t force it on others.

When I got into the MUD world, co-founding a game called TinyTIM, I named my account “Sketch”. My description said I was a guy with one eyebrow and a big pencil. It was this way for about a year on the game.

For halloween, it became a suggestion and then a fad to re-describe your character on your MUD into a costume. So, naturally, I “dressed up” as a cow for this online costume ball.

Problem was, I forgot to change it back.

Months went by, and I was still a cow. Sketch the Cow. People assumed this was on purpose, and it became how I was known. A little cow, with drawing supplies. I liked it, and to be honest, people found an administrative type who was a cute little cow to be at least a slightly less problematic hurdle to approaching me. The fact I had a fantastically bad temper and a vice-like grip over the environment was still a bummer for some folks. But again, at least I was a cow.

I was a cow on this MUD for a decade, before retiring in a shitstorm of classy controversy. By that time, it was cemented. I was Sketch the Cow, and that was that. References abound to me in this fashion. Remember, it wasn’t until 1998 that I started this whole “archive” deal, and 2001 before I did documentary stuff. So there were many years of me, cow-hood and the rest before I ever got onto my current gigs.

This is also the reason, by the way, that I own A good opportunity, a fun idea, and moooooooo.

And now you know. Handles are weird things. They come from strange places, and go places even stranger still.

One other bit: when it came time to make a company to do my documentaries, I decided that my old band name was too cool not to bring out again, and this is why the production company is called Bovine Ignition Systems. The name has confused the living hell out of nice folks signing releases or doing business deals (and in fact the abridged name BOVINEIS is on the inside rim of the BBS Documentary DVDs), but that’s where it came from, a special time earlier in my life that has stuck with me ever hence.

Categorised as: jason his own self

Comments are disabled on this post


  1. jad says:

    I was also in some high school bands and we also seemed to pay more attention to the band name and other gimmicky thins than to actually playing music.

    One band was called “The Gold Balls.” Our schtick was that we would build a fully automatic golfball launcher and pelt the audience with golfballs at our shows. That never materialized though.

  2. Daniel Black says:

    Hello there. Here’s a little “Wow, how small is the world!” for you:

    (-) I have been a big fan of, and the culture you attempt to archive, for a decade or more. Still haven’t ever bought the documentary, but it’s on my short list now that I’m all, you know, gainfully employed and relatively successful at feeding myself and my family.

    (-) I was a regular, albeit not quite in the Marcia / R’Nice / Sketch crowd, on TinyTIM, for a few years. Principally hit the Nexus, coded some objects/settings (mainly not-quite-coy references to the Aeon Flux mythology), but also hung out with Groot, Broin, Emmeline/Saxifrage, and Periwinkle. For what it’s worth.


  3. Flack says:

    Interesting post, Jason! For some reason I always thought the alias had something to do with the Cult of the Dead Cow. I think I first ran into you on IRC in #cDc, thus the mental association.