Personal Moments of Internet Victory

by Lizzy Bennett

We all have one. A moment of personal Internet victory. Mine involves online shopping (shocker).

I first set my sights on my goal two years ago, during lunch at Farina in San Francisco's Mission neighborhood. As I headed to the bathroom I saw it: 72 Lichtenstein-style faces encased in a custom frame. Several meals later, I got my first tip. The gorgeous Italian woman responsible for the restaurant's interior design -- a modern Italian oasis -- told me that the "faces" are the back covers of Diabolik comic books. With the word "Diabolik" fixed in my mind, I was ready to launch an all out Internet attack.

 farina2.JPG(Left:) The target. 72 Diabolik books in a custom frame in San Francisco's Farina restaurant.

Phase I. Research - I Googled "Diabolik comic books" and quickly learned that they're the James Bond series of Italy. The books are released monthly and always feature a character on the back cover, but not all back covers are equal! The 1967 and 1968 vintages are the most Lichtensteinian. I had my target.

Phase II. Sourcing - I recruited my Aunt and Uncle in Rome, who like all good Italians knew of the enchanting fumetti, to start hunting for the books.

9/9/09 - Roman Aunt to Lizzy: "I will start looking around for these... if they had them in Pieve [small town in the mountains], they MUST have them in Rome too."

 First Diabolik books.JPG(Left:) The first two Diabolik books received from my resourceful and generous Aunt and Uncle in Rome.

I set up an eBay search and became email friends with Fabio, Diabolik's so-called Web Master in Italy. My aunt and uncle and Google translate were critical in my relationship with Fabio.

10/5/09 - Lizzy to Fabio: "Caro Fabio, Ho intenzione di ordinare tutti i numeri di Diabolik degli anni 1998-2005."

Fabio actually wrote back (!) and offered me a discount (!!).

10/6/09 - Fabio to Lizzy: "To have the discount you have to register in the secret area."

But what does it mean?! I miraculously found my way to Fabio's secret area and advanced to the final page of checkout. But one final hurdle remained.

Thumbnail image for booksarrived.JPG(Left:) The books laid out out on my apartment floor.

Phase III. Order Placement - An Italian tax ID Number was a required field of Diabolik's checkout process. An Italian Tax ID Number is, "An alpha numeric code which is assigned to all Italians at birth. Online stores in Italy may request [the code] before a purchase can be completed." Easy, I thought. I'll just make something up until it works. But the site was smart enough to reject all my imagined tax ID numbers. Exasperated I Googled "create italian tax number" and found this this magical site. Could it be?! Step by step instructions on how to create a fake tax code in Italy? In hindsight I shouldn't have been surprised, but it seemed too good to be true. I followed the instructions and placed my order. Success!

10/6/09: Order confirmation from Diabolik: "Complimenti per la scelta! Il tuo ordine è andato a buon fine e presto riceverai direttamente a casa tua i diabolici prodotti che hai scelto!"

final2.JPG(Left:) The final product: 72 expertly framed Diabolik fumetti.

I didn't receive a tracking number but knew better than to ask for one. I tried to take comfort that if I was concerned about my order I could "inviare una e-mail a:" Guess who responds to negozio@? Fabio. 

10/8/09: I trip over a massive box of books on my way out the door at 6:45 am.

The books had arrived. VICTORY!

Phase IV: Framing - I Yelped local framers in San Francisco and found Peter Ong at The Great Frameup. I triumphantly marched to Peter's shop, 72 books in tow, and explained the project. Peter was up for the challenge, and a few months later, the expertly framed fumetti hung triumphantly in our apartment. A photo of the finished project is The Great Fame Up's profile photo on Yelp.

While we've learned to Google things before asking questions and are therefore accustomed to small, daily victories of books found, people identified and places discovered, the Diabolik project remains my greatest Internet victory. What's yours?

Lizzy Bennett is online marketing manager for Timbuk2 Design in San Francisco.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

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