Sites for Sore Eyes

Once upon a time, I built websites.

I loved doing it, in fact. I’ve been building websites since the end of the last millennium. My first two sites were built while I was in high school. The first was Elephantitic Monkey, followed by Stranded on the Edge of Infinity. Both served the same purposes:

  1. I wanted a forum for inflicting my ranting, bad opinions upon the world. Let’s just say that an insecure 17 or 18-year-old who smugly believes they are smarter than everyone else in the room, and who thinks they have a gift for being edgy-funny, should probably not have a bully pulpit. If teenage me had possessed a smartphone and a 5G connection, I would have been an absolute menace.
  2. They were places where I could hang out with my friends, both offline and online. We had writers, artists, monthly columnists, and a message board. The weird little communities that sprung up were my favorite thing about sites.

Elephantitic Monkey was an obnoxiously colorful little site. Its logo was an MS Paint image of a monkey carting around its cartoonishly large testicles in a wheelbarrow. It was wonderful and still fills me with delight. I searched through my 25 years of archives and was actually able to find it. I may be a digital hoarder, but I am at least an organized one.

Great, now this post is NSFW.

Stranded on the Edge of Infinity was a much more emo-looking site. I designed its logo myself with some image editing software that I probably acquired through extralegal means. Of the two sites, Stranded is the less interesting to me. I’m pretty sure at the time I wasn’t very happy and was also going through a self-serious phase, none of which ages well.

Both sites were created using the late, lamented Yahoo Geocities PageBuilder. It was a great tool for a teenage novice looking to infect the internet in 1999. It was also an absolute bastard to update a lot of pages at one time. So, these sites were eventually retired, and I moved onto a parallel pursuit, one whose sobriquet had been coined but was not yet in wide use.

I’m talking about blogging.

I built the first iteration of JOSH BALES dot NET back in 2001. I bought the joshbales.net domain for 15 bucks, found a cheap web host, and I was ready to go.

I taught myself HTML, CSS, and a little PHP by studying the underlying code of blogs I liked and reverse-engineering them. I got pretty good at doing a full visual refresh about once a year. I could spend hours staring at HTML code, playing with CSS, making them do what I wanted, and barely notice the passing of time. It was so much fun, and so rewarding to see the finished product. I did 11 or 12 redesigns before doing so became, first, time prohibitive — I was working full time and also had a life! — and second, became ridiculously hard to do from a technical perspective. Blogging software like WordPress, which this site uses, has evolved over the years and has some cool functionality, but it’s conversely made it harder for an amateur like me to keep up. Now I use premade themes with minimal customizability. It’s a little less fun, but it’s much easier and allows me to use my limited free time for other pursuits, like lecturing myself about how I really should be writing.

Have I been blogging for over 20 years? Yes. Do I still have those archives? I do. Will I ever add them to the current archives, which only go back to 2015? Absolutely not. The thought of anyone today reading what Younger Josh wrote is almost enough to give me the cold sweats. They’re not as bad as the stuff that was on Elephantic Monkey or Stranded, but they’re still, at best, very cringe.

Anyhow, thanks for reading my meandering TED Talk.

What initially sparked this crawl down memory lane is that I was thinking it’s been a minute since this site has had a visual refresh. Black/white/gray as a color scheme is still very much me, and it never really falls out of style, but I’m tired of it. It could be the February-in-Ohio blues talking, but I want to inject a little more color, a little more warmth into the design. That’s right — it’s makeover time.

If anyone reading this designs WordPress themes and is interested in doing a custom job, shoot me an email or DM me on social with your rates and some work you’ve done.

Here’s what I’ve been up to this week.

Reading:

I’ve been watching more movies and writing the last couple of weeks, so my reading has slowed down a bit. Currently in the middle of THE DAUGHTER OF DOCTOR MOREAU, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. What I love about Moreno-Garcia’s books is that she is constantly switching genres. MOREAU is a historical sci-fi. The book before this one — the excellent VELVET WAS THE NIGHT — is a 1970s-set Mexican noir. My favorite of her books — THE GODS OF JADE AND SHADOW — is a sort of fairy tale set in the Jazz Age and follows a young woman and a Mayan god of death having an adventure across Mexico.

Watching:

Jess and I are working our way through POKER FACE on Peacock. We’re a few episodes in, and it is quite good. Each episode is its own separate case-of-the-week, so you don’t necessarily need to watch them in order. There is an overall connecting story always in the background — and occasionally the foreground — so it might be more enjoyable to watch it from the beginning. From Rian Johnson, who can do no wrong when it comes to murder-mysteries, and starring Natasha Lyonne as Charlie, who is essentially a human lie detector. I have read that the format of this show is modeled after COLUMBO, wherein we see the murder take place at the beginning of the episode, thus letting the viewer already know the identity of the malefactor, and then watch Charlie figure it out. Lyonne is so much fun to watch as Charlie. I hope we will be able to spend many more seasons with her.

For the last few years, a comrade and I have been working our way through the FAST & FURIOUS series. This is my second time watching most of them, his first. Last weekend we watched FAST FIVE, which is probably the best entry in this dumb, ridiculously over-the-top, fun franchise. TOKYO DRIFT still has my heart, though.

GENTLEMEN BRONCOS, from the filmmakers who brought us NAPOLEON DYNAMITE. A kid attends a fantasy writer’s camp where he learns his novel idea has been stolen by a published but struggling author. That’s the general plot, but it doesn’t do the film justice. I saw this when it came out 15 years ago and loved it. Hadn’t seen it since, though I’ve been talking about rewatching it for years. It was as delightful as I remembered, and my comrade and I were laughing very loudly throughout most of the movie. Then a really weird thing happened near the end: the main character casually drops a transphobic slur. Bear in mind, the film’s tone and sense of humor up to this point have been gentle and goofy — then out of nowhere comes a wholly unnecessary slur. Ripped me completely out of the movie. I know cultural landscapes change and some will argue that you shouldn’t judge a piece of past art by today’s moral standards, but a) this movie came out in 2009, which wasn’t that long ago, and b) the rights of trans people everywhere right now are under extreme attack from all sides, so no. It wasn’t acceptable then, and it isn’t acceptable now. Incredibly disappointing for an otherwise brilliant movie.

Wanting:

This USCSS Nostromo hat — which I already bought in the days since I started writing this post. I’m going to San Diego at the end of the month, and this will be my travel hat.

Advising:

Here’s a tip on how to prepare for your annual performance review.

Listening:

GENTLEMEN BRONCOS did have a fantastic soundtrack, including some songs by 1990’s New Age artist Ray Lynch, which really fit the weird story-in-the-movie parts quite perfectly. Lynch’s album DEEP BREAKFAST also makes for excellent background music while writing. Here’s “The Oh of Pleasure”:

And Kirby:

Two full body shakes in the morning and this guy is ready to tackle the world (breakfast).

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