Ode to the CD-R

This post is about what happens when I go home to Vista and tell my mom I can help get rid of stuff, and then end up finding old things in boxes, getting all nostalgic, and memorializing them in writing instead.

One of the last times I went home, I found a stash of burned CDs in my childhood closet. It’s probably safe to say there were hundreds of them, organized into cases by time period or theme or vacation. One case had a bunch of mixes my friend Jen had burned for me in middle school: a time capsule of Y2K-era pop songs and sound bytes from Space Ghost Coast to Coast and The Osbournes. A separate case had all the Beatles bootlegs I’d downloaded from Kazaa: demos and alternate takes and obscure interviews (undoubtedly I included some of these in the mixes I made for Jen, even though she always made sure to tell me how much she didn’t like the Beatles).

Several other cases were full of the mixes I made in high school. There was a CD for pretty much every band tournament or trip I went on between 2002 and 2006. Most of them were a hodgepodge of whatever “songs of the week” I was into at the time, which almost always fell into one of two categories: early 2000s pop punk or 1960s classic rock. Besides the name of the tournament or trip, none of the CDs have their contents written on them, but most followed a similar structure: some rock songs to get me hyped on the bus ride to a show, then a whole slew of emo-adjacent songs in the middle that I typically listened to on the night ride home (hello Postal Service), then a few more peppy songs to even it out. I stuck to this pattern because it made it easy to skip the emo stuff if I wasn’t in the mood.

There were also two full cases of ripped drum corps shows and wind ensemble recordings, in case you ever doubted my band nerdiness. Another random stack consisted of maybe a dozen mixes I made in college (“Night Drives,” “Guitar Hero 2,” “S&G”), but by then CDs were becoming a thing of the past and we’d all moved on to that iPod life.

I played a couple of the old CDs for funsies—yes, we still have a stereo that plays CDs—and almost immediately cringed at the jarring jumps between decades/genres (no joke: The Who > Sum 41 > solo Mick Jagger > Avril Lavigne, yikes). BUT, it also made me remember how much effort had to go into the creation of that one cringey mix. Pre-iTunes/Spotify/YouTube, in the year 2000 AD, you had to obtain the songs you wanted usually by asking a friend if you could borrow a CD or finding/downloading songs from a P2P platform (shoutout to Kazaa and Bearshare)…then, once you ripped your CDs and downloaded your files, you’d take the songs you were into at the moment and organize them in some software like Nero, probably around 10-15 of them at a time because that’s all an audio CD-R could hold…then you’d put in an empty disc from the stack on the desk and wait for the computer to acknowledge it (sometimes it didn’t) and finally write your audio files to that flimsy piece of plastic, which would inevitably fail the first time and spin hopelessly and silently in your CD player until you tried again on a new disc, at which point you could finally, actually listen to your mediocre pop-punk-classic-rock mix in satisfaction. (Not trying to make excuses for my questionable music choices, but I do admire the patience of my former self for repeating that process literally hundreds of times.)

For every 20 CDs I burned, there were probably at least 10 failed attempts that ended up tossed in a corner somewhere. I didn’t throw them out because I thought maybe I could use them for a funky art project or something, but they eventually ended up in the trash along with any other CDs that got too scratched or held too many embarrassing memories. As for the rest, they were shuffled around in duffle bags and backpacks and car stereos for a good decade or so, until coming to rest in their clear sleeves in the cases in my closet. None are memorable enough to recreate (or even listen to again), but I don’t think I could ever get rid of them. So…sorry Mom, they’re just going to keep taking up space in the closet until one day I have my own house I can move all my old stuff into.

Anyway, I guess that does it for my short tribute to compact discs on a blog that at one point was all about records. Nostalgia is a funny thing.

On Geocities, FanFiction.net, and Tumblr

I recently read a fascinating Longreads article by Julianne Aguilar about girls on the Internet in the early 2000s and found myself relating to it way more than I expected. Not just because I was a 12-year-old girl who had a DIY Geocities site, but because it made me remember how it felt to be part of that era, among a bunch of other kids who were just old enough to navigate the world wide web, trying to carve out their own space in uncharted digital territory.

We were the first generation to grow up using the Internet as a platform to express ourselves, which was honestly pretty awesome. I had a blast making websites that consisted mostly of photos and gifs from my favorite TV shows, occasionally supplemented with hyperactive ramblings about my best friends (the Cool Cat Club) and unabashed proclamations of my life goals. And as Aguilar points out, we were also the first generation to confront harassment that could be totally anonymous and untraceable (to us, at least). It was a world that was totally separate from real life, but the interactions we had with strangers—good and bad—still affected us in real ways. Definitely not something I ever considered at the time, but interesting to think about now.

oldlayout
Who else learned how to make a scrolling marquee from this site?

In the article, Aguilar describes exactly the kind of website I had (and that every other preteen girl online seemed to have): “an About Me page, a page of lyrics…a page of jokes, graphics she’d made, dolls collected from around the ’90s Internet of Girls. A guestbook.” Oh man, I totally remember those digital dolls (I mean, “dollz”…edit: here’s a great throwback) and the little virtual bumper stickers you could collect and put on your homepage. It was totally normal to go around and find guestbooks to sign, complimenting the owner’s website and asking them to check out your own. I still remember a very specific guestbook entry someone left on my site that said something to the effect of, “Fun website, but maybe don’t auto-play the MIDI of ‘Come on Over’ on every page??” Good call, stranger.

Aside from one or two real-life friends who I shared my site(s) with, most of the people I interacted with online were people I’d never met. And later on, when I started getting obsessed with certain bands, there were people from across the world who became like idols to me. There was Beth, who had the same tastes in music and an offbeat sense of humor that I tried unsuccessfully to emulate (sadly, I can’t remember the name of her site). Then there was Sabrina, who ran God Bless the Beatles (which still exists!) and frequently published new pages like “The Many Adventures of Paul Without A Shirt” and “The Heather Advice Skanktuary” (because we all hated Heather Mills). There were also girls my age who were really good at making Livejournal avatars in Photoshop, and devoted fanfic writers whose novellas I literally printed out from FanFiction.net and read in bed at night (it’s just now occurring to me how weird that is….but I didn’t have a laptop and I just really wanted to read my Beatlestories).

GBB homepage
God Bless The Beatles, 2002 (thanks, Wayback Machine!)

The article describes how young girls like these—who may have been totally average people in reality but found a certain celebrity status online—were inevitably harassed and bullied as a result of their popularity, even back then “when the Internet was small.” Aguilar talks about trying to track down one of her own personal idols from the early 2000s, a girl named Sara who may or may not have died in June 2017. It made me think about all those young writers and creatives I followed and looked up to, and where they might be today (I doubt I’ll ever know).

The tone of the article is pretty somber, but while reading, I couldn’t help but think about the flip side: what a cool world we created 20 years ago, where we all had our own personal corners of the Internet, and where fans of a particular band or TV show could meet other fans from across the world and be geeky together without feeling embarrassed about it. There are friends I met on Livejournal that I still keep in touch with today, yet have never met in person (all because we shared a favorite band). So I guess my response to the article is a more optimistic one…even though I encountered my fair share of nasty comments as a kid on the Internet circa 2000, I was lucky enough to find a niche that made me feel at home, and plenty of people who inspired me to keep writing about all the random silly things I liked, because they did it too.

I guess the same applies today, but on a much larger scale. My 12-year-old self would be delighted to know how many online mediums there are for feeding one’s fangirly emotions. YouTube is an endless rabbit hole of homemade tribute videos, Twitter is the perfect platform for unfiltered season finale reactions, and there’s a subreddit for every fandom imaginable. And don’t even get me started on Tumblr.

(Ok, actually, a quick love letter to Tumblr:

When it comes to fansites, Tumblr is the closest equivalent I see to the websites of the early 2000s I used to frequent. In addition to being a mecca for amazing fan art, it’s produced a whole network of incredibly comprehensive fansites, most of which are created by teenagers and 20-somethings known only by their usernames. What’s also amazing is how *organized* these online fandoms can be. Like, it’s super normal for the content on a Star Trek site to be categorized by series, movie, character pairing, starship, etc. Or for there to be a tag for Mulder’s glasses on an X-Files blog, because of course I’m not the only one who giggles stupidly when Mulder wears glasses. In short, I love the dedication of these young fans/artists, and I also love that I’ve gotten to see some of them launch careers in illustration or graphic design after getting their start on Tumblr.)

These wonderful communities of strangers—who form friendships and support each other and constantly create new things to share with the world—are enough, in my opinion, to balance out the ugly. There will always be awful people saying awful things on the Internet, but as long as there’s also good stuff like this, it’ll be worth preserving, and protecting.


PS: I tried in vain to find my middle school-era websites but 1) I can’t even remember what they were called, and 2) even if I did, I’m sure they weren’t important enough for Wayback Machine to archive. But I did find a snapshot of my high school pet project, the VHS pit site, so I’ll leave you with that:

pit site
(This probably looked awful on every browser except my own. Also, you can’t see the MIDI file anymore, but I learned my lesson about auto-play.)

Sleeping all day, staying up all – niiiight

Geez it’s been forever since I’ve posted in here. I’ve started about twenty different posts in the past few months, but as is my style, never got around to finishing them.

However!

This weekend Alex went up north and I stayed back here in LA, which resulted in a weekend full of cleaning, chick flicks, shopping, and blogging, hooray!

I have a bunch of short, tumblr-style posts coming up. Sorry for the lack of decent, coherent writing (been doing too much of that for work, anyway!)

First subject on the docket…

I was going through my iTunes the other day, making a bunch of playlists which included songs from high school. (Ahhh, the good ol’ days of New Found Glory, Yellowcard, blink 182, The Postal Service…so many forgotten songs!) One of the most amusing parts was reliving the brief emo phase that took over Vista High in 2004. Who remembers the song “Ohio Is For Lovers” by Hawthorne Heights? Oh man, most emo (screamo) song ever. Followed closely by “My Immortal” by Evanescence. I used to watch music videos every morning while getting ready for school…watching these videos now makes me feel 14 all over again, haha.

Other videos that bring me back:
“Ocean Avenue” Yellowcard
“Mr. Brightside” The Killers
“I Miss You” blink 182
“Helena” My Chemical Romance

And finally, a high school-era video I’m not overly embarrassed to post here:

Loved Hot Hot Heat (still do)…thanks to my good friend Jocelyn! Also, wonder if the “Goodnight Goodnight” video was inspiration for OK Go’s “End Love” video?

Ok, I think that’s enough music videos for one day. This might be one of those posts with a dozen broken links a year from now.

Hopefully I’ll be back to post again soon!