Over the course of a summer it all clicked for me. I mean how computers are for much more than playing Zoombinis and making spreadsheets. And I cannot describe how liberating that felt. My life today is still buzzing in the afterglow of that one delirious summer when it clicked. Because within six weeks I had discovered the magic key—as I’m sure that everyone does—that no matter how talented or brilliant someone is, they’re only a couple of YouTube videos ahead of you. With a computer you can write songs and make music videos and learn how to play guitar and edit photographs and build a website better than the NYT in just a few sleepless nights because I can, too.
On one of these long summer nights I stumbled upon SONOIO, a gloriously dark and mesmerizing synth band, and at that point I had begun my descent into web design and Nine Inch Nails fandom and learning about MIDI and amplifiers and CSS. Returning to SONOIO today I can still see myself hunched over my desk in that summer delirium where I was welding all these disparate things together. Trying to figure out what computers are for, and figuring out who I am in the process, too.
The first computer I ever bought for myself, a white plastic shell MacBook, was and still is the most startling and beautiful little machine. It felt like a toy. And as soon as I opened it up I knew what it was designed to do and I suddenly understood what all computers really ask of us: remix absolutely everything. I’m talking about the purest joys of computers here when you take something beautiful or busted and then fine tune it or blow it up just because you can.
Speaking of which, one evening in that delirium I was listening to SONOIO’s Houdini over and over again and it struck me that I could just make a music video. That was a thing you could just do. I had no idea how of course, I’d never edited video together before in my life, but dangit I had all the chaos emeralds in front of me and an endless supply of Diet Coke. Who the hell was going to stop me?
I began by downloading every recording that exists of Harry Houdini and I found archive after archive teeming with resources. This might’ve been the first evening I heard of The Internet Archive and I’m sure my eyes popped out of my head when I found it and started reading about The Presidio. Perhaps that evening was when the very first thought of San Francisco popped into my head.
Anyway, I started taping all these brief video snippets together in my bedroom until I had made a music video. A few minutes later and I had uploaded it and then crashed into bed. When I woke up in the morning I found that SONOIO himself had stumbled upon the video and shared it with his fans. It certainly hadn’t become a YouTube success in the same way we might consider one today, but I still cannot describe that feeling. It’s the very same feeling that writing gives me today, that sensation of closing the gap between people across a vast distance.
It’s not great, or even good. Okay, okay. It’s pretty embarrassing. But the reason why I’m still bragging about it ten years later is because we should be proud of all the bad-yet-daring things we do.
Even if it’s a dumb music video.
Behold! My newsletter—sent infrequently—about new things that I’m working on. Every so often it’ll contain notes about web design and publishing things that I’m interested in, too.