After being born over a year ago, my website has slowly but surely evolved from a simple sandbox to a small but sturdy skeleton upon which I am finally beginning to drape some sinewy scraps of meat. Building upon my extremely basic and sporadic attempts to learn web development and programming, which blossomed in the halcyon days of early-2000s forums like Gaia Online and expanded after taking a few computer science classes in high school and college, I’m extremely proud of what I’ve already been able to create (and feel grateful that Neocities’ backend stonewall has relieved me of doing any actual coding except for the occasional snippet of JavaScript)!

Like all code, my HTML and CSS are fundamentally built upon the most important invention in programming - cut, copy, and paste - but I still have to work in the mud of the code, so to speak, and I am not given the luxury of retroactive structural changes provided by proprietary content management software like Wordpress or Tumblr. That limitation lengthens the time it takes to create new pages, and exponentially increases the amount of effort it would take to make any site-wide structural changes. In fact, the labor of reproducing HTML pages one by one by one by one is so tedious that I ended up conceding my headers and footers to a JavaScript .load function courtesy of jQuery, enabling me to at least retain the ability to update navigation links and certain site frameworks as I so please. This was eminently useful when I learned about the spam risks of a plaintext mailto: link, and I was able to find a nifty JavaScript workaround that could immediately boot up throughout the site.

I’ve been learning other new tricks and techniques as I go, fleshing out each page to make it more functional, elegant, universal, and accessible. Besides forking my navigation divs into separate HTML pages, I learned about the exciting (to me, anyways) and robust capabilities of the @media print stylesheet rule, which allows you to designate custom CSS for when someone wants to print out your website. I’m very pleased with how it’s turned out, especially after figuring out how to use a neat filter(invert) function to render my white-lines-on-transparency images as black lines on the printed page.

What I have created is in line with the early spirit of web content, with an emphasis on gathering and elegantly displaying pages of writing, tables, images, and links like a constantly-expanding Trapper Keeper (note: my print stylesheet could help make that a physical reality). My black background behind a white, computery font was an attempt to fuse my cyberpunk sensibilities with my belief that white screens are just too damn bright, but a friend of mine commented that it looks like “a website that’s going to kill you.” I might decide to incorporate my print mode lessons into a color-changing toggle, but that seems like a bit of work; besides, maybe it’s a good thing for websites to be more comfortable for yours eyes and less comfortable for your brain. If you find my website terrifying, you might just have to print it out!

Despite being a fully digital creation, in a way my website is handmade. Almost every line was written, at least in its original iteration, by me, on this very keyboard. The amount of time I spend duplicating, formatting, organizing, and ultimately publishing each page could be considered a waste compared to the rapid-fire abilities of Wordpress, let alone the instant gratification of a Facebook post; but on the other hand, the quest embodied by Silicon Valley startups like Google for ultimate automation is at least beyond, if not contrary to, the rugged philosophy of the early online frontier I am clinging to.

A sketch of the first paragraph of this blog post, rendered with fancy medieval script and an elaborate floral illuminated 'A' at the head of the paragraph.

A manuscript portrayal of the first paragraph, featuring an illuminated "A" based on a drop cap styled by William Morris from a font "Goudy Initialen" by Dieter Steffmann, made available under the Openclipart license. The image uses a free font created by Frederic Goudy.

You may have noticed the trend of simple line art illustrations that have been accumulating on my blog posts. While they usually have a conceptually modifying alteration or addition, so far each is based on a simple Photoshop mouse-trace of a pre-existing photo or illustration made available under Creative Commons licenses. I have always considered myself to be “bad” at drawing, but because tracing is the first step on many artists’ journey to mastery, and because in the 21st century writing is almost required to be accompanied by some kind of visual component, like a hall pass to the algorithmic social media pipelines, my doodles are probably here to stay. If nothing else, like illuminated letters or marginalia in 7th century European manuscripts, they imbue a certain dedication and longevity into the words beside them.

While it would be egotistical to compare myself to the great medieval masters of painstaking calligraphic reproduction, I’d dare to hope that the difference in quality between handwritten manuscript and pulp press might be half as apparent when visiting my site. If nothing else, there is at least a certain meditative quality to producing HTML pages one by one, a deliberation which in the requisition of additional effort ideally leads to a higher bar for quality. While my Facebook friends are subject to whatever slop splatters out of my festering pot of thoughts, this website is home only to those words and images which I deem worthy of posterity - and extra effort.

So even though it may not look like I’ve poured hours into perfecting the site, I am pleased that the continuing creative process of experimentation and expansion has so far yielded a deceptively robust container in which to place my creations. I have barely scratched the surface of the next step, which is getting some lost soul to open the box, and praying that by the time they’re through with it, a single scrap of hope might remain stuck to the bottom. If that’s you, then enjoy!