One Whole Goddamn Motherfucking Year of the Scratchpad

I write a lot. I have a lot of thoughts about a lot of things, and if I were to chase all of them down on the group blog, Letters From Somnolescent, it might as well become Letters From mariteaux. (We’re working on it. Folks gotta be in the mood.) There’s been a whole lot of ideas I’ve passed up writing about because they’re too niche for the group blog and I don’t have as much a point about them as I do a proper, edited essay.

So begat “Why I Need This Blog”, the first entry I ever posted on the Scratchpad back on November 27, 2019. At the time, I really wasn’t sure how long I was gonna keep it going; I just needed an outlet valve for everything going on in my head. I started it at a bad time; 2019 in general was a really rough (but necessary) year for me. Regardless of what you can say about 2020, this one’s gone a lot better.

The original theme of the Scratchpad
Man, remember this thing? I still kinda like it, even though it’s absurdly clunky to look at.

And here we are, on November 27, 2020. One entire year of updating this little scrapbook, rambling, and being on-and-off unsure of what really I want to do with it. I’ve written a lot of posts I like and a lot of ones I only keep because I’m man enough to not memory hole my bad days. I’ve had people tell me the only thing they regularly check on the entire domain is my Scratchpad, yet I still don’t know how many regular readers I have. I’m still screaming into the void as ever.

For what I set out to do? And for what it is? I love it. Don’t mistake my trepidation and aimlessness for distaste; I love having it. It’s become perfectly ingrained into my routine. “Alright, finished this thing, time to write a blog post for it.” “Got a lot of weird thoughts, guess I should write about it.” I write, Jon. It’s what I do, and I’ve yet to care if a single other person reads it. (Comments are always appreciated though. Let me know you’re out there lads!)

Believe me, I’ve had a lot of thoughts about what I’d write for the anniversary post, thoughts about its history, what I write, what I avoid writing about and why, the nature of blogging in 2020 in the first place…and I guess I’ll address it all! Hope you’re fine with it being a fairly ungraceful ramble, but I think you’ve come to expect that from me if you’re a regular Scratchpad reader.

And if you’re expecting a rundown of favorite moments or anything: wait for December on that front. This one’s on mindsets.

The Past: WordPress and Otherwhere

I initially started the Scratchpad after some experimentation with another idea I had, one called Otherwhere, which was sort of a return to the artist-specific song blog idea trailed originally by two now-defunct blogs I’m quite fond of, Teenage Victory Songs for Weezer and Pop Songs 07-08 for R.E.M. I wasn’t too fond of what I was writing for Otherwhere at the time, but what I took from writing it was actually how lovely WordPress was to use. Before then, we’d been using Nucleus on Letters, which was junky, poorly-documented, and long abandoned by the devs. There was just no contest between the two.

DreamHost pushes WordPress a whole lot on its site. It has an entire hosting plan called DreamPress, which is explicitly geared towards people who have WordPress-based sites. As such, setting up new WordPress installs is as easy as giving it the domain and directory to install it on and which database to throw WordPress’ guts into. So, a couple days before I transferred Letters to WordPress, I installed myself a blog.

It wasn’t an impulsive thing, really. At the time, I’d become really hyperaware of how frequently I lose portions of my online history. I have none of my old, childhood YouTube videos anymore. They’re all gone. I lost several microblog entries from Neocities, along with two different site redesigns. (I wanted to have an “archived microblog entries” page on here, but alas, an incomplete archive just isn’t as appealing to me. Maybe someday.) It still periodically gets me achy.

Naturally, Caby and I frequently pass art we find back and forth, and at one point, we were peeking through the gallery of a rather strange fellow who seems to use a different name on every site, but his own site’s called Bimshwel, so we’ll go with that. Now, the thing I took most from his site isn’t his weird, sketchy, blobby, questionably-colored cartoons (though those are also pretty fun to look at), but the extent of his blog. Entries going back to 2007 or so! 2001 if you wanna count the HTML-only stuff! That’s 19 goddamn years of personal history.

One of Bimshwel's recent entries
You know, on the other hand, I don’t really know if I trust that title. Watch he turns out to be a massive degenerate or something.

I love long-running blogs. that’s someone through two, maybe three stages of their entire life, all documented. You see their interests shift, their projects shift, but the thing that stays consistent is them. Jason Scott’s ASCII is another example of a blog with some serious history behind it.

Many, many years of posts
I can’t even fit it all on screen!

I could see it then; I wanted to do that, not for anyone else, but for me. To keep as much of my history, scraps, and process preserved as possible, like a online diary of sorts. I didn’t need the minute-to-minute minutia that comes with having a Twitter always within reach to bitch about things on, but a blog? With how much I ramble? Perfect.

In that sense, the Scratchpad’s been a resounding success. I have spent plenty of time looking through everything I’ve written, rereading things I’d forgotten and ending up with a weird sorta smile by the end. It’s not narcissistic; frankly, until recently, I’ve never much liked anything I’ve written, so taking any pride in it at all is actually something of a shift for me. (You, in the peanut gallery; stop mistaking bluntness with arrogance.)

The Present: Avoiding political theater

As I’ve grown, as this year’s gone on, and as what I do with the Scratchpad has shifted from “outlet valve” to “actual content production” (I’ll get back to that…), it’s given me pause for thought about the nature of blogging, what feels like a legacy activity on an internet with a receding attention span (does Hims sell a shampoo for ADHD?) and a perpetual case of tall poppy syndrome.

Let me be clear: Twitter is where you go to make everyone around you miserable. YouTube is where you go to shill Manscaped and Honey. People mix their emotions, their politics, their business operations, and their hobbies in such regularity that the whole thing has turned into what I can only compare to “suicide”, where you mix all the sodas at a fountain (and then promptly vomit, most likely).

People no longer shut off; no platform, no matter how small, is sacred from the perpetual march of political theater and societal opinions. You’re not allowed to shut off. Never! There are bad things happening in this world! Everything you do is a statement, every pulpit you have a place to make sure everyone around you knows where you stand on the Culture War. People have lost any and all perspective; I don’t even think, at the height of the bitter hatred (rightly so) of Bush, people were constantly talking about how awful of a president he was. But now, as we all shit where we eat, so too we all get E. Coli.

Frankly, Bimshwel is a perfect example; dude’s got posts from this month on his art blog rambling about the election in a way that someone only on schizophrenia meds dosed slightly too low can. (No link, go find it yourself if you really want that.) Twitter is basically the premiere place to see people, some of whom you might very well like, making sweeping statements and saying them with such conviction and such a lack of levelheadedness that they leave you cold as a result.

Batshit lunacy
Scribbling on screenshots posted to your furry art blog, which is the best, most sane and sensible way to make your political opinions heard on the internet.

Better yet, thanks to their own consciences, they’ll often gloat about how they didn’t need you looking at their shit anyway as you wander off. Another potential bond with another person has been permanently broken. It shouldn’t make you happy. Nothing has been won here. More misery has been brought into the world as the result of this interaction.

Consider it like this. You have an opinion, one that will split your audience, and you trumpet it right where they see it. It doesn’t matter the opinion. Half of your audience will now go “ah right well he’s a tosser” and leave, and the other half, now having gotten a hit of “rad, he agrees with me” from you, wants you to post more opinions. This isn’t about which side you hold, whether you’re a commie pinko idealogue or a fascist traditionalist only half-joking about the helicopter rides. It’s about alienating everyone around you and doing it with a smile.

(And if your reaction is “but we can’t just let bad things happen in the world!”–my point exactly.)

And that? Is what I seek to avoid entirely with the Scratchpad. I have absolutely had essay and post ideas that I’ve scrapped, shot down before they even reached the draft stage, because they’re at least slightly political, and fuck that. There is enough misery in this world, enough people out to ruin your day, seeking to piss you off and remind you of your place in the Culture War: out on the front lines, making sure you shame and alienate your own fair share.

At the moment we thrive on a deep hatred of others, and I don’t mean ribbing and I don’t mean satire. I mean virulent fucking distrust, spite, anger, fear, the kind you only get constantly listening to the media, to banter, to happenings. The kind that makes you quietly feel like you have to do something about those people. People are scared, and fear makes people animalistic.

I don’t have the answers to solving any of that, and neither do you. What I can do is write a little haven for it. That’s my one political statement, the one hot take I make on here going forward, maybe ever: you’re allowed to have no opinion on any of it. Being apolitical is fine, maybe even the smart thing to do.

The Future: Blogging when no one else is

As far as attention spans go, there’s simply no denying the march of technological advancement. All Twitter needs is an account name, a password, and a phone number, and you now have your place to make your millions and get all the big numbers telling you how notable your opinions are. It’s dead simple. Phones are built for touching and going, and indeed are often touch and go in operation. Things are gonna continue to get easier, dumber, and less capable from here on out.

I had a weirdly blackpilled moment about a week ago where I realized that it wasn’t some manipulation of 90% of the internet that the old internet goes off to scrap constantly–it was just human nature. We tried making Escargot work in the group to no avail (and what good that did anyway with how badly they buggered the recent update). IRC is an on-and-off proposition around here. We couldn’t just make it work by believing in it–there’s always something newer and more convenient.

I know it sounds silly to be dejected by that, but it’s true. We have the urge to resist the scourge, and it never much gets us anywhere. We just go back to Discord.

But in that blackpill came, really, a refocusing, another whitepill–and one that I think applies to the Scratchpad too. A desperate attempt to revive the past falls as short as blindly accepting every change. The issue was never the technology, but how it’s used. It was one of the first things I rambled about as mariteaux–the fact that the past is used as fashion rather than a way to enhance the present. There are plenty of bands out there whose entire sound comes down to “bad cassette tapes”, plenty of people who have static sites merely to have static sites, and plenty of videos whose entire aesthetic is cribbed from “hey, remember when your teacher used to play Reading Rainbow in class?”.

I guess for a bit, I almost fell into it too.

I think the heavy focus on the past by my generation comes from a certain distrust, worry, and detachment from what’s happening now in media. Let’s just say I’d rather spend an evening with a box of off-air tapes than I would someone’s Netflix account. It’s not that I’m trying to be a contrarian, trying to reject the avalanche of media coming out constantly; it just happens that way. None of it appeals to me. It all feels like some weird attempt to be new and stay new, when nothing is new forever.

All the games I’ve been enjoying lately are only old in their age, not in how they play. They still hold up lovely today. Music doesn’t age a bit. Blogs that haven’t been touched in ten years and may one day only exist in the Wayback Machine (and maybe not even there!) are still fun to look through. And why are they fun to look through? Because they’re little historical snippets of people having fun.

Cammy wanting to blog seeing someone else blog
Okay, maybe he wasn’t having fun. Still! Time capsule., Google Reader–why did we get rid of these, anyway? Still useful…

And that’s the thing I want to take from this entire train of thought. It’s not the fact that they’re old that makes them appealing, but that they hearken back to fun. Not perfect times–nothing is–but more fun times. Times that exist irrespective of your age, your political persuasion, what’s wrong with your head, what you’re going through, or anything else that makes a man miserable. All those old sites and blogs might very well have been written while someone was shaking their head and going “goddamn that Tony Blair”, but that didn’t stop them from having fun.

Consider that even in the bleakest, dirtiest, shittiest trenches of World War II, soldiers still had entertainment and a sense of what was worth fighting for. They still told jokes, they still had their music, and they still kept morale however they could. You’re not in the trenches, and neither am I. I don’t want to participate in the circus of people prematurely aging themselves when things have never been better. Again, I say better–not perfect, but there will never be perfection. There will always be some fear and some fearmongering to fight, but that’s not my war.

I want to make my things and enjoy myself how I see fit, and give you a window into something you might find enjoyable too. I want to use what I love about the past to make modern things come to life. I’m tired of irony and how people desperately use it to not feel vulnerable. I want to be sincere and doofy about all the weird little obscure things I enjoy. If telling the truth is the best way to fight a lie, the best way to fight timid narcissism is to be a proud sperg.

As for the Scratchpad itself, I think next year, I’ll take it down a notch. Not post less frequently necessarily, but make it less of a big production. I spent a lot of time on blog posts this year. In my head, I’m aiming for next year to be quieter, but spent on bigger things. I wanna get back into guitar and really make my right hand work properly. I wanna draw, illustrate my stories, and show you all my lads as I see them. I’d like to turn “The Fatal Commons” from a short story into a novella, something longer and full-length.

I guess it goes back to what I said earlier about the Scratchpad going from an outlet valve to something I’m making actual content for. These posts have gotten more grandiose as time has gone on, and I’d like to scale it back and keep it a simple little brain dump. No doubt there will still be big, sweeping, over-the-top posts full of pictures and Big, Genuine Points to Make–and I still have like twenty more Rediscoverings to do–but I want to think less about them.

Happy one year of the Scratchpad, everyone. It’s not going anywhere, I can tell you that much. And even if I’m one day the only one left in the world who actually blogs about shit–I’ll still probably do it because Lord, I never shut up.

“We are the way/The past gets to the future/We are the hope”
(“Junk for Code” by Autolux)

4 Responses to “One Whole Goddamn Motherfucking Year of the Scratchpad”

  1. dotcomboom Says:

    It’s been so easy to forget in the midst of all the conflict going on in the outside, in the end we’re all just weirdos on the internet and we might as well do our part to keep it an interesting place. Gotta keep it fun or we’ll have nothing to look back on.

    Here’s to many more years of the blog. More years of creating and living, too. We’re writing the future every little step we take, even if we don’t realize it at first.

  2. mariteaux Says:

    Humility is something a lot of internet people forget. You can put your point strongly and still remember you’re just one person spewing opinions into a void. I’m one such person. Ultimately, very few of us will change the world, but many, many more can change little pockets of it by doing neat things and enjoying themselves. Can’t get anywhere if you’re miserable.

    Here’s to many more years of the blog >:3c

  3. borb Says:

    People are so scared and feral these days that occasionally even I’ve felt it, but the real thing we should be focusing on is keeping our heads up and not losing ourselves to the madness in our own heads.

    I’d take creative stories, nice drawings, and people enjoying themselves over politics any day of the week and I can’t wait to see what’s to come in the new year.

  4. devon Says:

    Looking back on this is a pleasant thing, which can show how things progressed, how they changed and how we changed. Some things can be cringy, but there are still things we’re proud of. Politics mixed with this age really poorly and takes all fun out of it. Being apolitical in a place where you share your creations for most people is a huge sin unfotunately.

    Happy one year of Scratchpad, here’s to many more years of the blog