I woke up in a strange place

By Marc Heiden, since 1997.
See also: a novel about a monkey.

Main | September 22 »

September 21, 1997

static from nothingness
(from inception to finished product and all of the staring off into space inbetween: the days and times of some guy, namely me, trying to put together a web page)

The last update was in February, I think. I don't remember precisely. Either way, restlessness had set in and I decided that it was time to change everything again. Generally, I sit there and reload the first page of my homepage until I'm good and sick of it - until the minor flaws become glaring and dwarf whatever good bits may be there, and then I can't stand to look at it again until the entire thing's been redone. A bit extreme, but effective. It was particularly easy this time because I'm now viewing everything with my new laptop (sold the old computer to my mother and used the proceeds to buy young Marvn of Wales Jr.) which does 800x600 resolution (as opposed to the old one's 1024x768), and I realized that the page didn't look particularly good if you didn't have the exact same setup that I did when I designed it. Things didn't fit like they were meant to, and the font I used for the menu logos kind of grates after awhile. Add that to my growing belief that frames have been played out, and it was time for a change. So...

September 10th I was watching TV and Mariah Carey's "Honey" video came on and induced vomiting, so I turned it off (actually, I probably just switched it to VH-1) and began going through all the HTML files for the old page, first backing them up to disk for history's sake and then deleting about half of them. I went through the rest of them and started editing them. Usually at this point I leave the pages more or less the same and concentrate on finding all the hidden jokes and deciding which ones just aren't funny anymore. This time, though, I just deleted everything. It was time to make an entirely new page - despite its compatibility flaws, the last version of Outside the Asylum had gone pretty much as far as it could go. Besides, you have to stop those version numbers somewhere. "Outside the Asylum with Marc Heiden 14.1" was bound to not be very good. I considered "Asylum '97", but a) Microsoft jokes are lame and b) there are getting to be far too many pages out there with "Asylum" in the title (I even found another "Outside the Asylum", though it was a downright normal page). Thus, a New Thing was born. Once nearly everything was deleted, I threw up a skeleton menu of links between pages to make bouncing back and forth simple and then left it alone.

It's a fine line between clever and stupid, really." - Spinal Tap

September 14th The new design finally struck me. I try not to think about it directly - usually, something just occurs to me during class or when I'm watching a movie, but never when I'm trying to come up with it. I knew I wanted to do something fairly minimalist this time, and I wanted to get away from cluttered background textures that made the words a pain to read (and my page generally lives and dies by the words, well, those and the frog picture). I had started experimenting with the TABLE tag last time out, so I started making everything into a table and began slapping together the background textures, smoothing things out and making sweet love by the fire. Instead of the pseudo-pretentious rambling that ends up as the finished products, I should release the temporary paragraphs that I write to fill space. Those get downright weird sometimes.

The "November Rain" video is on right now. It's my favorite video of all time. It just cracks me up. The wedding cake falls on her head at the end and that's how she dies, I think. Either way, it's just great.

September 15th Still screwing around. Most of the work at this point consists of struggling to come up with variations on the design theme. Graphic design isn't my strength, but I think it turned out OK. No words yet. I think it was tonight that I wound up sitting through two hours of VH-1's "Behind the Music" while I did web coding. The respective sagas of Milli Vanilli and Boy George may have indirectly influenced certain areas of this page - don't say I didn't warn you.

"I'll Be Missing You" is the #3 video of the 90's? MY ASS! A touching tribute to the Notorious BIG by a bunch of people who cared about him so much that they didn't even bother to write a new song?!?! I'm going to have to disagree with MTV on this one. "Sabotage" as the #2 video, though, that I can't disagree with. Not that I'm a Beastie Boys fan, but it's a great video. They should let Beavis talk along with it - that improves it substantially. If "Song #2" is the #1 video, I'll be unusually pleased. My hopes are not high, though, since they're generally not referred to as "an influential trio from Seattle".

September 16th Most of the backgrounds are finished. Today's viewing is a biopic of Marilyn Monroe starring Mira Sorvino. What effect this has upon the work done, I'm not sure. I decided to make "home" the main page and put an intro page before everything else to explain compatibility - I knew already that I didn't have the attention span to recode everything for non-table browsers, so it was more or less a disclaimer for primitives who were wondering why it looked strange. It was also a good place to used the cow picture. Originally the entire background was going to be alternating black and white lines with subliminal messages all over the place and only one or two lines of readable text, but it ended up being more interesting in concept than execution. Once the basic design was done, I started the slow writing process. I decided to keep a few of the pictures - the screaming heads, the ever-popular frog, and the bio page picture, which I just couldn't bear to let go of. It's so...accurate! At this point I'm rather pleased with the way it looks.

September 17-19th This is when the unpleasant bit begins - I start getting sick of looking at the new pages before they're even completed and wonder if it's worth going on with. Kind of like struggling with suicide, except not really. Updating the links, finding new ones, rewriting old stuff, designing a couple new pages (like the archives page). Most of the work consist of pushing text back and forth, adding and subtracting line breaks, and other equally earth-shaking stuff. I've ended up not ditching everything from the last page - the MangoJam page, for example, which I forgot about until the last minute, just got a slight rewrite. The credits page was new, so it stayed similar. Octavio Julio Soldavilla Y Rodriguez got his sorry ass kicked out of here, but you never know when he may pop up again. The bio page is fairly similar too, although I cut it down a bit cos it was getting out of control earlier. A tendency of mine when doing this sort of thing is emerging again - the witty bits get these dark, moody background/text combinations and the bitter, sarcastic stuff gets the bright, happy ones. I'm always doing that, moreso this time out than before. Several hundred music videos later...

September 20th It comes together into what you see here now. This is when it becomes entertaining again - I can run around and start hiding jokes and erasing the test paragraphs. The majority of the work consists of finding spaces where I could put something strange, and the non sequitur follows naturally and often instantly. Heh. There's an oxymoron calling for you on line 1, sir. A lot more screwing around with different fonts and font colors this time around - last time I made logos with Paint Shop Pro, but this was much easier. I probably would have finished it today (viewing: "Back To The Future III") but I ended up having dinner at the Peking Garden courtesy of the Pattee family and then working at WEFT (Radio Champaign 90.1 FM) until 4:30am and then chatting with tow companies about getting people out of my parking spot.

September 21st The page is done. All that remains is to tweak a few things and write the "home" page text once I've come up with a name. Candidates are still floating around as I write this: "the Holy Bible" (courtesy of Rory Leahy), "Morality, Truth, and God", "Star Wars Master Edition", "Yes, You Can Have a Dollar", "Not Inside the Nuthouse", "The Heiden Family Home Page", and "Poop". Haven't chosen yet, but I should have by the time you read this. And the winner is...?

I woke up in a strange place is the work of Marc Heiden, born in 1978, author of two books (Chicago, Hiroshima) and some plays, and an occasional photographer.

Often discussed:

Antarctica, Beelzetron, Books, Chicago, College, Communism, Food, Internet, Japan, Manute Bol, Monkeys and Apes, North Korea, Oregon Trail, Outer Space, Panda Porn, Politics, RabbiTech, Shakespeare, Sports, Texas.


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Written by Marc Heiden, 1997-2011.