AN ESSAY IN PROGRESS
Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss
SWORG collapses upon its own faith. A troubled defector had aimed high, dazed his target, corrosively emphasizing the mortal wound of the digital beast. How does one reckon honestly with one of the SWORG's more promising, seminal minds after weathering several years of continued frustration and agitation in the guise of ambition and swill, only to have our fine lad depart in a flaming gust of silly and sadly misdirected ad hominem? In response to this bothersome question, the founding signature of the Scenewash Project has released the following announcement:
IN ORDER FOR THIS EMBARRASSINGLY PRONE web site to proceed upon its original course, a site once considered a remotely ennobling self-refining course, I must assert with characteristic vigor that the original course, circa 1997, HAS NOT been diverted but merely reshuffled by this most recent crisis, yet I do feel however it is essential to discuss briefly this recent upheavel within the SWORG, including previous attacks upon it, in limited detail.
First of all some ancient history. I begin building my first website in December, 1995, when a local acquaintance called me on the telephone with great excitement in his voice. He had discovered America, Digital America, that is, with the advent of the original GeoCities offering. I checked it out, and was immediately hooked. Soon I was cranking out basic HTML code and registering a multitude of sites to explore various interests in my agenda. Though I had begun to experiment and create groundbreaking styles and uses for HTML, within seven months I realized my folly. Too many sites to maintain, too few hands and talents on board. The cryptic browser wars and strong limitations to bandwidth, neither problem fully resolved some six years later, stalled ambition and limited my own creative powers as surging design schemes had to be qualified on a regular basis against each tide of fresh HTML guidelines and applicable tools emerging faster than a single person aiming to create content working alone with soaring objectives could adopt without literally exploding under these mounting pressures. No joking. By early 1998, I sought a neurologist, and Dr. Goldhammer, after running all the tests he could run, offered to jab me in the back of the neck with a needleful of sweet juice a couple times a month to help reduce my stress, and I have gradually learned not to take this web production thing too damned seriously.
By early fall 1996, I had registered my first domain and began sweeping through my dozen plus GeoCities sites and repurposing them to this new site called iMotedotcom. I hosted this first site with a growing west coast outfit for nearly two years until I could afford what was then moderately high-speed connectivity, 128 kbs ISDN piped into and out of my home. Learning at home and from the WWW itself was fun, but limiting. I needed more access to the technology. At some point after I'd landed my first of a handful of web design and hosting clients, I decided that priorities dictated I separate the commercial site from the artistic front, and in the fall of 1997, the Scenewash Project was born.
So the whole of 1998 meant skinned elbows, knuckles and knees right on up to the eyeballs in handling the separation process, creating new banners, rerouting links, building infrastructure, et cetera, all things that had to be accomplished in keeping any number of oddball philosophies out of reach of the consumer crowds and their usual afflictions of petty hypocrisies, shallow end childishness, and doom. Roughly translated: little new content was to be created for yet another long spell.
November 1998 - another brash era arrives. I am dizzy with anticipation and learning curves marking the clock and my nerves. ISDN had finally arrived. Enough pipeline to service the world, I'd hoped. New web server software to buy, to master, to upgrade. A mail server and add-ons to boot, all in the Macintosh flavor. The learning curve would be mild, but the platform issue would be just another strike against me in terms of market power and compensatory advantage, but I pressed on.
Unfortunately, the brave new ISDN technology was an absolute bust on several levels. Nine months of sporadic blackouts kicking my servers offline while I was trying to build a client base to pay for the line, if nothing else, nearly killed me. This was when I hunted down a neurologist, quite sure that the persistant numbness on the right side of my face and those shooting pains arching around my ears like a pair of fighting rams horns along both sides of my neck and skull were not exactly fond side effects to working in this exciting new field of Internet publishing. Warring with Bell Atlantic on several occasions nearly drew blood. The injections helped. A good night's sleep and content building were seemingly out of reach. The few clients I had managed to impress kept me busy, and of course, fitting all this into several construction buildouts around the HOUSE of SWORG was consuming more time than I could beg, borrow, or steal. I had aged ten years in three, and my body was breaking down. Finally DSL entered the picture.
I was learning volumes along several tiers of Internet technologies. True, I'd only managed to attract four or five paying clients, and all my money-making schemes had been suffocated as the gold rush of commercial interests led up one blind alley in chasing online shopping dollars after another. More woes and disappointments. Suddenly I had a houseful of Mac computers, several websites, and my dirty claws in nearly every pumpkin pie the Internet had to offer. But I was barely making enough money to pay the bandwidth charges, much less have anything left over for compensation, new software, hardware, and a sampling of that peace of mind I've always heard so much about. Absent time, money, or optimism, I was not a happy philosopher, and the hunger artist in me was only a vague shimmering spectre from my past. I was completely alone, suffering from nearly every scheme of personal rejection and intellectual isolation I could imagine, not a friend in sight.
But an unexpected phone call arrived that same November, placed by our young recently defected genius, who now preferring to remain anonymous, shall remain so. On this particular autumn day, we swapped many an aggressive grin over three hours of chat which soon led to others. The coordinating fact is, we had both once been subscribed to a post-situ listservice hosted by Spud up in Baltimore. A specific group of us had been targeted, then tarred and feathered by some demented jackass from NYC. There were about eight of us who refused to be swept up in the proto-socialist moods and motives articulated by the Brown-Leung faction over there, so why not invite the blacklisted few to a new listservice hosted right here on GT's own inhouse servers, we asked ourselves. From this stimulus, the SWORG SWILL was founded. Wild tales of past failures and future ambition were mapped in the suddenly facile algebra of faith and high seriousness we spirited. For the next two years the handful of meaty collaborators swilled and swooned over each crack in the mud we stepped along as we hiked around the global verb wearing special socks and service goggles in our search for meaning and mystery, still hustling our collective paramnesia while working for the big payoff we each sponsored as result.
But nearby lurked other trouble which threatened the SWORG.
The rowhouse next door was being sold. After failing to negotiate a deal to buy it myself, not only was I now forced to suddenly contend with a roving gang of rather indiscreet drug dealers in my back alley, hanging across the curb and on my front stoop at all hours day and night, another captain of black market industry and a fluctuating crew were actually now living next door and importing old cars and mattresses to buttress the yard in revolutionary fashion, with a wanton eye peeled and a sophistcated legion of razor-thin lies aimed at supersized ugly white man, spooky and mine. Life as a humble writer living among the disenchanted had decidedly sunk to another new low, so plans to vacate the premises after 13 years in the neighborhood became the guiding and grinding force, all other intellectual work radically sublimated to this new crisis.
After a few escape miracles fell nicely into appointment, only to be replaced by new and unprecedented agents of disaster and sluggishness, the old homestead was sold and a new space acquired. I eagerly prepared to return to a stalled career of writing and living with new vitality. But to my surprise, this next year slumped into an even more confounding brew and slow drool of worldliness gone wrong. More garbage files piled into the computations. After thirteen years of comfortable maintenance I'd only just in the final year domiciled in SE, finally completed a full compliment of shelves and storage areas required to house the library and archives section of my identity. This sudden upheaval into a studio unit less than one-third its previous size understandably ushered in another whole set of problems and social algorithms from which I am only now comfortably in control. So the hare and the tortoise partnership finally began to fray.
Excuses multiplied. Tyrannies of alibi time swashbuckled, and nearly everyone in the sway could sense the alarm, each of us ritualized by our own individual tongue and strategic natures. But even the most recent blip on the radar, this hardly surprising defection of our youngest foil, cannot persuade me to throw in the towel. No apologies are sought. No apologies will be made. No weeping, nor careful sweeping under the carpet undertaken. No gnashing of teeth, no bloodbath bonanza, no sloganeering for which we stand united shall hinder the inevitable charges. I make no predictions short of saying, that 2001 seems more like 1997 again now than ever, and while suspect, the original intent has been resurrected despite the misdirected coup attempt and heckling departure of our former prized pitchman. May he educate himself in peace. He certainly deserves what he most ambivolently emphasizes in others. And so we each face tomorrow, none the wiser, knowing but one thing for certain.
The fallout will take care of itself.
submitted by Gabriel Thy
SWORG - July 19, 2001
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