Best of 2020

2020 proved to be a damn good first year for the Scratchpad. With my loads of free time, I wrote a lot, perhaps too much, and when it wasn’t about old technology, it was about music. In any event, if you’re new here (hello!) and clicking around, this is a page dedicated to my ten favorite posts of 2020, in chronological order. These are posts that either got a pretty damn good reaction or are just ones I reread over and over.

Hopefully, this gives you a good starting point on damn near 150,000 words of my nonsense…

“A Follow-Up to” (February 2)

The posts were a pretty early hit for the Scratchpad, and I can’t argue with that! They’re still some of my favorite posts on here. I’m happy to have gathered up a lot of scattered information and paint something of an easy-to-digest portrait of what the internet’s first indie music distributor looked like.

Basic cover art

My own musical tribute still waits in the wings for 2021…

“Bufotenin” (February 15)

If 2019 was the year of coming to terms with the past, 2020 was the year of autopsying it. I wrote a trio of posts on my little aphrodisiac music project, taking it from a nascent little exploration of sound to something kinda legit and out there! “Bufotenin” chronicles the mid-2016 halcyon days of early aphrodisiac, certainly a creatively busy time for me. Happy read.

Another glitchpic from a Nikon D50

The Final Hours of VDU“ (February 24)

Following on that last point, I finally got the domain back from my former webmaster in November 2019 and spent part of February putting together a proper, final static site to rest there. For sure, it was an emotional process; you don’t look back at your horribly conceited teenage self without some regret bubbling back up, but ultimately, all turned out well.

VDU's 404 page

“Cleaning Up Pocketwatch (June 9)

A self-indulgent post, but one I actually wrote because someone asked about it! As I sit, my Pocketwatch restoration still draws the most traffic of anything I’ve done, and I’m still super pleased with it. Believe me, unless Dave Grohl himself pieces together a CD Pocketwatch from all those master tapes, this might be it, and I’m not complaining.

My fan-made Pocketwatch album cover

“The Luddite in Me Screams” (June 29)

I try not to post too many rants if I can help it these days, but this one came about during a period where I really started questioning how quick things change in the world. I’m still not buying the all-digital future, long story short.

This one doubled as a call-to-arms for Somnolescent, to embrace what everyone else has left for dead if you still find it useful. At that point, I’d recently become the caretaker of borb’s childhood computer, and the novelty alone of using XP on real hardware again makes it worth the bit of space it takes up, let alone my future plans for the thing, so I’m still making good on that.

This? This is why Somnolescent exists. Somnolescent isn’t built on warm fuzzy nostalgia for animated GIFs and star backgrounds and “gosh, wasn’t Geocities just the best?” No. It’s about proving that the past very much has a place in the future. In some cases, the past is far more useful than the future. We’re not into Gopher because it’s a neat, retro thing to have around. We’re into it because we believe it has a use and function in the modern day. Same with IRC, same with curated art portals, same with old computers, and yeah, same with radio and analog TV. The modern internet hasn’t obsoleted them; they all have traits that make them worth the possible very slight inconvenience of not having inline images.

“The Kuras Stronghold” (July 29)

Most of the summer was taken up by my Quake level “Arrogant Erratum” quickly spiraling out of control and growing almost as large as the network protocol would allow. This was written right after I built the cavern in the second map, revisiting an idea that’d previously been sitting forgotten for nearly three years at that point. I still think it’s one of the most visually catching parts of either of the maps, too.

The Kuras Stronghold

“Iceland (and Other, More Tangible Midwestern Things)” (September 12)

This one still makes me hype. This all came after the frontman of an indie band I like, Midwestern Dirt, reached out to me after finding one of my old Neocities reviews and offered me an early listen to the lead single off their third album Sayonara. And then I got shipped a box of merch and got to hear Sayonara itself early too. Absolutely nuts. I’m absolutely taking him up on his offer to meet at a show somewhere after the Current Health Crisis is over.

The contents of the Midwestern Dirt package

“The Desperate, Bottomless Pit of Nirvana Fan Albums” (September 16)

I tend to sound more angry than I am for comedic purposes, and believe me, this one came way more from a place of amused bemusement than actual outrage. I still think it’s one of the most fun reads on the Scratchpad, just me digging into this revisionist history surrounding a band made up of three average-ass humans at the end of the day. What a trip.

So Kurt now has a record label of his own, called Abscess. He has an art exhibition called…”Window Pain”, like he’s Billy Corgan or some shit. The band would put together a Songs About Fucking-style breakup record featuring their old drummer and including a song from a drummer Nirvana never even had contact with. Courtney is now pregananant with a second kid and Kurt wants to be a family man. Afterwards, they’d tour with a “woman keyboardist” (all those Nirvana songs with keyboards, you know), play all their songs in one final surprise show lasting fucking hours, and then Kurt would do soundtrack work with Eddie Vedder and ride off happily into the sunset.

I still can’t get over this. “My imaginary childhood friend who is now represented by my bandmates.”

This sounds like something Kurt would say, yes.

Fuck this nonsense.

“Rediscovering: The Vines’ Highly Evolved (October 20)

2020 saw the start of my (as of writing) still-ongoing Rediscovering series of album reviews. I did so many, I ended up burning out on them a bit, not so much because they weren’t fun but because the rampant negativity of getting multiple duds in a row felt like it might not be worth reading. I know, me, thinking my rants don’t appeal to people. Still, very eager to get back to them in January.

The Vines' Highly Evolved

Actually picking which one I wanted to feature in this roundup was super tough, as I’m never especially happy with the writing on these after the fact. I think I have to give the nod to the Vines Rediscovering, an unfortunately disappointing and, indeed, not exactly memorable bit of 2000s “garage rock” refuse. (I will say “Country Yard” has grown on me a lot, though.)

One Whole Goddamn Motherfucking Year of the Scratchpad“ (November 27)

And the ultimate! The Scratchpad anniversary post! What started as a brain dump has turned into one of my most curious little projects here on I think overall, this one’s pretty niche, self-serving, and long-winded, but who said those things were bad, eh? (I am trying to pull it back for 2021, believe me.)

The original theme of the Scratchpad

I still stand by my point here, ultimately: it’s okay to enjoy yourself and stay apolitical. Don’t let anyone guilt you for not taking a bullshit stand on something you have no say in anyway. People are too self-serious these days; my operating strategy going forward here is to have fun, write about fun things, and maybe give up some food for thought and discussion should the mood strike.

After all, it’s always 1998 in here, is it not?