Monthly Archives: July 2015

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Scrubbles.net Is Fifteen Years Old

Scrubbles.net screen shot, March 2001 (Via The Wayback Machine).

Scrubbles.net screen shot, March 2001 (Via The Wayback Machine).

In the midst of filing Blu Ray reviews and preparing Christopher‘s next novel for publication, it crept up on me that the Scrubbles.net weblog has been in existence for fifteen years. Can you believe it? I can’t.

Back in July 2000, I was an itchy music reviewer and wannabe cultural critic with a limited web presence (basically a portfolio, a rudimentary “about me” page with a few links, and a monthly roundup of albums I was enjoying at the time). Weblogs were just getting started – Blogger had been in place for just a year at that point – and most of the existing blogs were tech-oriented or online diaries. Inspired by sites like Boing Boing, Pop Culture Junk Mail and Robot Wisdom, I signed up with Blogger and used it to set up a daily log of links, observations and ephemera to be housed at an address on my local ISP’s server (I think it was blue.psn.com). Using a rudimentary knowledge of HTML and CSS and the Blogger engine, the simple, Twitter-esque blog shown in the above screen shot came about. In those days, I remember hand-coding each month’s entries and manually including the archived pages on the blog’s sidebar. Blogger also lacked a commenting system (!), so I used a script authored by the fabulous Kris Howard at Web-Goddess.org. Blogging was that much of an isolated, fringy interest – but not for long.

The earliest topics at Scrubbles included things like obviously doctored publicity photos, the singing career of actress Tuesday Weld, and a strange hand-painted folk art sign hanging in my neighborhood. To my gobsmacked surprise, these ruminations started attracting an audience. Just a few months after Scrubbles launched, Matt Kingston of Hit Or Miss added Scrubbles to a directory of gay male bloggers. This introduced me to a whole bunch of great guys, many of whom I still consider friends. After the Scrubbles.net domain was secured that autumn, it started a flurry of posts, links, reading and reacting – I totally threw myself into this blogging thing and loved it.

As improbable as it seemed that the early Scrubbles.net actually had a readership, things really took off in 2001-03. In September 2001, my idols at Boing Boing added Scrubbles.net to their “Best Blogs” sidebar, an honor shared by just a dozen-odd others. The band Weezer added a link to Scrubbles on their official website. People started visiting daily by the hundreds, drawn in by links from other weblogs. I kept things fun, kitschy, thought-provoking, concise, interesting. Snarky, pop culture-oriented blogs were becoming more common at this point, yet Scrubbles.net stood out enough to even appear on several year-end Best-Of lists (yeah, that shocks me, too).

Scrubbles.net screen shot, June 2004 (via The Wayback Machine).

Scrubbles.net screen shot, June 2004 (via The Wayback Machine).

As fantastic as the heyday of Scrubbles.net was, I could already feel the buzz waning as soon as Spring 2004, when some of my entries were published in a book on blogs. Ironically, this came as I quit my job in late 2003 and was able to devote time to longer, more thoughtfully written pieces. It wasn’t from a lack of trying on my part. People were moving on to the next thing, however – post 9/11, the so-called “War Bloggers” had crashed the scene like a bunch of frat boys at a nerd party. Weblogs were no longer idiosyncratic musings on random ancient-history crap like mine – they had to be about something, dammit! Hey, the nice thing about blogging was that there was room for everyone. In short time, the new blogging paradigm was set – hyper-specific on topics, smoothed-out, preferably endorsed by a mainstream news outlet and maintained by a group of office drones. I did my best to adjust, but ultimately these changes left me out in the cold.

Although readership dwindled in the mid-2000s, I went out of my way to make Scrubbles.net my own quirky corner of the net. An update on the blogging service Movable Type completely hosed the archives up through mid-2005. The ensuing migration to WordPress served as an excuse for a slight reinvention. It ultimately didn’t amount to much in terms of resonating with an audience, yet this space was finally solidifying into what I originally envisioned it to be. Posts were devoted to vintage magazines and illustration, scans of printed ephemera, sharing goofy songs from the past, communicating joy at coming across something cool on YouTube.

Scrubbles.net screen shot, February 2010 (via The Wayback Machine).

Scrubbles.net screen shot, February 2010 (via The Wayback Machine).

Blogging still serves a fantastic opportunity for individuals to have a voice on the internet. Scrubbles.net flailed a bit during 2008-12, a time when most bloggers were abandoning the format in favor of quick, easy social media networks like Facebook and Twitter. I kept soldiering on, posting weekly Scrubbles.net updates on movies, television, music and books that captured by fancy. Nobody cared, which only made me frustrated and depressed. I took to Twitter and Facebook, shocked and surprised that some of the people with whom I was friendly with during Scrubbles’ heyday wouldn’t give me a second look. Many others were accepting, however, and for that I’m grateful – plus, I’ve made several new friends on each new platform. Because I have many thoughts that don’t fit elegantly in a status update or tweet, Scrubbles.net is still here. Perhaps it’s not updated as frequently as I’d like to (once a month, basically), but I’m happy with the obscure-book-sharing mojo it has now.

As for the blogging world in general, it’s less visible yet active as ever – industrious, clique-y, yet not too engaging (my opinion, of course). Occasionally I’ll come across an utterly fantastic, awe-inspiring weblog like Codex 99, but those are few and far between. For the most part, the scene has become something of a pissing contest to see who could out-geek each other the most. There’s enough goodness in the chaff to keep me going, however. See you for the next anniversary.

Look What I Found: 2015 Catch-Up

Spread from Marc Davis: Walt Disney's Renaissance Man showing his 1940s bullfighting art.

Spread from Marc Davis: Walt Disney’s Renaissance Man showing his 1940s bullfighting art.

The theme of this post is “More,” as in – More books! More visual inspiration! More occupied shelf space! In my last post from a month ago, I wrote about my plans to spend each month of 2015 buying a different beautiful, visually-oriented book at a budget price. With a couple of exceptions, I’ve kept true to the plan. I’ve already shared the May book – Sing for America, illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren. The June book has also been enjoyed, and will become the subject of its own post later on. In the meantime, I’m taking this space to write a few bits about the books from January through April. Let’s begin!

In January, something that had been on my want-list for some time. Published in 1959,The Golden Book of Myths and Legends was illustrated in striking primitive-modern style by Alice and Martin Provensen. The Provensens lent their talents to many different projects over a long, long period of time. Myths and Legends comes from a particularly excellent, creative time when they applied vibrant textures and stylization to traditional subjects like The First Noel (1959) and The Iliad and the Odyssey (1956). More recently, I picked up the Provensens’ 1978 children’s book A Year at Maple Farm at a thrift store, a sweet look at the seasons changing at their farm.

The Golden Book of Myths and Legends (1959).

The Golden Book of Myths and Legends (1959).

Echo and Narcissus, from The Golden Book of Myths and Legends.

Echo and Narcissus, from The Golden Book of Myths and Legends.

Heracles: The Twelve Labors, from The Golden Book of Myths and Legends.

Heracles: The Twelve Labors, from The Golden Book of Myths and Legends.

February signaled the annual arrival of the huge VSNA Used Book Sale, held mere steps from our house. This year, I splurged a bit on a beaten-up yet nice ’50s-era copy of The Passport, an illustrated volume of doodles, cartoons and observations from the famous New Yorker artist Saul Steinberg. One of my fondest childhood memories was checking out a reprint of this book from the local library – it was literally one of the main things that influenced me in becoming an artist. Steinberg’s images of exotic locales, skyscrapers, mismatched couples and exaggerated Americana remain as delightful as ever. What a treasure!

Saul Steinberg - The Passport (1954).

Saul Steinberg – The Passport (1954).

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In March, I caught wind of this stupendous auction at Van Eaton Galleries of vintage Disneyland stuff – posters, props, costumes, souvenirs. Although the items were listed at well above my price range, I ended up blind-buying the auction catalog in luxurious hardback. It turned out to be well worth the money, since the book’s colorful photography and detailed descriptions serve as a wonderful general-purpose guide to vintage Disney theme park items. Organized by land, the book is full of fantastic stuff that even my Disneyland-saturated eyes had never seen before. The top sale from this two-day auction was lot #357, a green animatronic bird from The Enchanted Tiki Room, which fetched $153,400.

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Van Eaton spread of Main Street, USA items.

Van Eaton spread of Main Street, USA items.

Chapter headers with map diagram and vintage snapshots - nifty!

Chapter headers with map diagram and vintage snapshots – nifty!

Van Eaton catalog spread of Matterhorn/Fantasyland items.

Van Eaton catalog spread of Matterhorn/Fantasyland items.

Continuing along the same lines, April‘s selection came from our long-awaited tour of the Disney Studios in Burbank, California. At the studio’s Disney Store (yeah, they have a complete Disney Store location right there on the backlot!), I picked up a lovely tribute to one of the studio’s icons – animator and imagineer Marc Davis. This gorgeous looking large-format volume is divided into ten chapters, each headed by a sincere testimony from a Davis friend or admirer on a specific aspect of his life. The topics include not only the expected animation and theme park attractions, but non-Disney things like Davis’ illustrated trips to Papua New Guinea, personal art, and instruction. Although the book omits a few projects (there’s nothing at all on the Country Bear Jamboree attraction, for instance), I appreciated the space given important areas like the never-produced 1960 film Chanticleer and Davis’ biggest supporter – his widow, Alice (a talented artist in her own right).

Marc Davis: Walt Disney’s Renaissance Man was published by Disney Editions in 2014. Buy at Amazon.com here.

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Marc Davis concept art from Chanticleer.

Marc Davis concept art from Chanticleer.

Marc Davis concept art for America Sings Disneyland attraction, 1970s.

Marc Davis concept art for America Sings Disneyland attraction, 1970s.