my site was in SoHo/Lofts

From this article about the end of GeoCities (via):

“My strongest memory of GeoCities was that it was a sort of web ghetto for people who didn’t know how to or didn’t want to bother to get their own URL and ISP,” says web design guru Lance Arthur ( “It did not, as I recall, offer any tools or help, or if it did they were the sort of tools and help that were unhelpful. Its main advantage was cost, being that it was free.”

That’s not how I remember it.  Well, GeoCities’ main advantage for me was indeed cost, as I was a sophomore in college when I set mine up in 1997.  As such, I didn’t fall into the “didn’t know how” or “didn’t want to bother” camp, but in the “couldn’t afford to” camp.  I didn’t know how/didn’t want to bother to investigate free student web space at my school, though, so I signed up for GeoCities.

As I recall, GeoCities didn’t offer any tools or help, UNTIL!! Until it came out with this sort of WYSIWYG-precursor where you could choose backgrounds*, fonts, colors, images, etc, make different sections on the page for different topics/paragraphs, and then look at a preview of your work before confirming it.  That was all I knew how to do on the web, so that was what I did for awhile, and I really enjoyed it.  And then I noticed a little link at the top that said, “View HTML.”  Curious as to what that would look like, I clicked on it.

Of course I was hooked. It wasn’t too hard to figure out which pieces of code did what.  All the images started with img src, all the links started with a href, and the fonts started with font face.  Everything had quotes and brackets, and it wasn’t long before open bracket a href equals quote quote close bracket made sense to me.

So I had images and fonts and links and text down, but I had one problem I couldn’t solve. I asked a friend on IRC for help:

Me: How do I make things go next to each other? Like if I want one image on the left side and another on the right and some text in between?
IRC Friend I Don’t Remember Anything About Except He Loved Jewel And His Name Was Tom: Ah! For that, you’re going to need tables.**

And I was off.  I learned more tips from some HTML tutorial sites, and from there I graduated to a few other free web-hosting sites before getting a job as a web designer in early 1999. In 2000, I bought this domain and started this website.

My point, I suppose, is this: if people think GeoCities didn’t offer any tools, that’s all right. The way I used it, it was a tool, in and of itself.  It’s the whole reason I learned HTML and fell in love with web design, and as such it’s indirectly responsible for my career.

I’m not sure whether to thank it or blame it for that last part.

It’s both sad and not-sad when something like GeoCities goes away.  It’s pretty obsolete now, but it’s importance in web history won’t be forgotten, at least not by me.  Thankfully I have all my old websites stored away on a hard drive somewhere–all their bad poetry, their homages to Ani DiFranco, their dead links, and their seizure-inducing animated gifs.

Rest assured, I will never, ever show them to anyone.

*I chose a ridiculous lurid orange with some prism-like shapes in it. It did not tessellate properly, and it haunts my dreams.

**I was kind of sad when everyone stopped using tables for layout, only because I’d become really, really good at coding multiple levels of nested tables by hand.  But I’m definitely not sad now.

Mr. Treehorn treats objects like women, man!

If any of you are Metafilter-readers or regular NPR listeners, you’ve probably heard about the Bechdel rule this week.  If you haven’t heard of the Bechdel rule, here it is, as written in Bechdel’s comic strip, “Dykes to Watch Out For.”

I only go to a movie if it satisfies three basic requirements: One, it has to have at least two women in it, who, two, talk to each other about three, something besides a man.

When I read this, I thought four things:

  1. Boy, lots of cool people are named Alison with one L.
  2. I bet that every episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer follows the Bechdel rule.
  3. But Dr. Horrible definitely doesn’t.
  4. And I bet a lot of my favorite movies fail, too.

It should be noted here that I don’t think that the Bechdel rule should be seen as a hard-and-fast rule–rather, it’s something to make one think about how movies are made, and for what audience.  After all, there are quite a few very good movies that don’t follow this rule, and I’m sure there are some bad ones that do.  It just now occurred to me that a lot of hard-core porn films probably follow the Bechdel rule: the parts at the beginning where they talk about how the cable needs to be fixed, or the refrigerator just broke, or whatever.

Anyway.  Because I find this Bechdel rule very interesting, I’m going to test all the movies on my shelf at home:

The Big Lebowski: Fail.  Two women, Bunny Lebowski and Maude Lebowski, who never speak.

Election: Pass.  Tracy Flick and her mother talk about the election, and Tammy Metzler talks to her sort-of-girlfriend Lisa, though it doesn’t go very well.

Adaptation: Fail. Susan Orlean and Charlie and Donald’s respective love interests don’t talk to each other.

Far From Heaven: Pass.  Cathy and Eleanor talk about the party they host together.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: Fail.  Clementine and Mary never meet.

High Fidelity: Uber-Fail.  It’s got lots of women, but they never talk to each other.  This movie fails for a lot of reasons.

Wayne’s World: Fail. Obviously.

The Royal Tenenbaums: Pass.  Margot and Etheline talk about Margot’s depression.

Donnie Darko: Pass. Sometimes Kitty doubts Mrs. Darko’s committment to Sparkle Motion.

Being John Malkovich: Pass-ish.  Lotte and Maxine talk to each other, but they talk about sleeping together while Lotte’s in John Malkovich, so I’m not sure it counts.  That movie’s hard to classify.

Shakespeare in Love: Pass.  Viola and her nurse talk about theatre.

Roxanne: Fail.  Roxanne and Dixie talk, but they talk about men.

Sideways: Fail.  We never see Stephanie and Maya talk to each other.

About Schmidt: Fail. Warren’s daughter and future mother-in-law never have a conversation.

Punch-Drunk Love: Fail. Barry’s sister and Lena talk, but they talk about Barry.

The Man Who Wasn’t There: Fail.  Doris Crane, Ann Nirdlinger, and Birdy never speak to each other.

Pollock: I never watch this movie because it’s too depressing, but I suspect a fail.

So that’s a 64% failure rate.  The point of this, of course, is to illustrate the fact that all too often, women in movies are seen through the eyes of men, or else they’re used as props to illustrate what the central male character is going through.  Rarely are they shown dealing with their own issues that are unrelated to men.

That’s why High Fidelity gets an uber-fail.  All the women in it are props for Rob Gordon to lean against or react to or use to deal with his own issues.  The girls he dumped are happy to see him and talk to him years later, and even when Laura’s dad dies, she chooses to deal with it by having sex with Rob, a plot point that always rang false for me.  I know that the way Rob relates to women is the central point of the movie, but the women in question could really use some help with their self-esteems.

Now that I think about it, the television shows I like follow the Bechdel rule much more often, sometimes even on an episode-by-episode basis.  Buffy, pass.  Veronica Mars, pass.  The Office, pass.  Gilmore Girls, pass.  Lost, pass.  30 Rock, pass.  Granted, most of these are shows with large ensemble casts, and with central issues unrelated to male-female relationships, so it’s easier for them to pass.  But neither Veronica nor Buffy nor the other female characters on those shows could be called props by any stretch.

I’m not sure that this indicates that television is better at fleshing out its female characters, but maybe it does.  Or maybe it’s just that my taste in TV shows runs toward those with female main characters, while my taste in movies runs toward those written and directed by quirky men (Anderson, Kaufman, the other Anderson, Payne, Coens, etc.) who usually write about male protagonists.  Or maybe it’s just that I’m more familiar with television than film.

But it does seem like television has more female writers, directors and show runners than movies have female writers and directors, doesn’t it?