“The Hanged Man” was an online alias or “handle” I adopted somewhere around 1994, when I didn’t even have access to the internet and instead was using local dialup bulletin board systems (BBS’s). I continued to use the name on into the next millennium, when I started a webpage and got an email address. I’ve continued to use it into the present mostly out of inertia. It’s also a fairly memorable handle, and I’ve had the web domain long enough not to want to give it up.
“The Hanged Man” is a tarot card whose interpretation varies pretty wildly. As I understand it, it represents the sacrifice of control and worldly attachment in exchange understanding or wisdom, and it is associated with the “Dying God”—Odin, Dionysus, Osiris. The Hanged Man has a different perspective on things and so has gained a new understanding. Something like that. I honestly picked the thing because I was given a set of tarot cards as a kid and this one looked and sounded neat. I don’t think I ever tried to read’s anyone’s fortune.
The alias has occasionally gotten me into trouble. I once got a rather scathing email from Don Howard when I accidentally tried to sign up for the HOPOS mailing list with my “thehangedman” email address rather than my university address (I think the phrases “nut cases” and “grow up” were mentioned). Of course the misunderstanding was cleared up very quickly and in the end Don was nice about the whole thing. I’ve occasionally been told that I should get rid of the moniker, which I still use not only for this page, but my personal gmail address, my twitter handle, and a few other things. It looks unprofessional, they say, though Don’s was the most vehement way of making that point. I nonetheless have some fair attachment to it (I’ve had the domain since at least 2001), and it lends some distinctiveness to my online presence which my own name does not. (Anyhow, can you imagine trying to claim “mattbrown” or some variation for any kind of account nowadays?)