Monday, 22 December 2014

The Museum of Me - The Lost Years

I hadn't expected that the shameless trawl through my archives which is the Museum of Me would turn into an annual event, but here we are for the fourth instalment! So, Merry Christmas, and I hope you enjoy the lunacy that I've dredged up from the deepest recesses of the internet for you (and if this instalment doesn't put you off, you can also catch up on parts one, two and three of this monumental series)

I'd implied last Christmas that there wouldn't be another Museum of Me this year. That was primarily because I'd run out of decent content to present, and I didn't want to descend into barrel scraping. But there remained two major gaps in my personal archive, both of them from around the turn of the millennium.

One of those gaps was my epic biography of Mark Tastic (something that I mentioned in my Evolution of Max post earlier this year). I knew that I had the basic text of this, but had lost all the photos I'd taken of my friend Peter in the titular role. The other missing item was my wholly unprecedented foray into home cinema satire. Called Reverse Spiral, this column ran for about 9 months in the early noughties, on a very popular (but now long defunct) DVD website.

A few months ago, I made a systematic search of all my old backups, in the hope of finding any trace of Reverse Spiral. I didn't, sadly, but in a long-forgotten folder on a long-forgotten hard disk, I found the fully-illustrated saga of one Mark Oswald Geronimo Tastic:

It's That Man Again

I should say up front that Mark's biography isn't for the easily offended - in fact, it contains something to offend almost everyone. At the time, I think I envisaged it as a sort of anti-Forrest Gump, or how Martin Amis might write after a lobotomy ;-) Fifteen years later, many of the references are dated, and (in a post Operation Yewtree world) a couple of the jokes cut closer to the bone than I'd intended. But it also prefigures the London riots and the unstoppable rise of Simon Cowell. I wouldn't (and probably couldn't) write something like this now, which is why it's worth presenting in its original form.

Who is Mark Tastic? (1999) - Click image to open website in a new tab

The biography was intended for inclusion on a website spin-off of my CheeseCrank fanzine, which should explain the references to that publication and its editors A.C. Wilton and Bartholomew CheeseCrank. It's puerile, sexist, thoroughly debauched and also rather amusing. Enjoy!

The Internet Never Forgets

And now, onto the archaeological find of the year. My search for Reverse Spiral had yielded nothing, and it seemed that the site would continue to exist only in my memory. But then I discovered an amazing resource called The Internet Archive. Since 1996, the non-profit organisation behind the archive has been crawling the internet and saving the results. With 435 billion web pages in the archive, it seemed like there might be a chance. After typing the URL for the DVD website, I found some captures stretching back to the year 2000. But what about my section of the site? With baited breath, I clicked the link.

Suddenly, there was Reverse Spiral. I can barely express how excited and happy I was at that moment of rediscovery. The archive wasn't perfect, or complete, but it was something I could work with. A great deal of work, as it turned out. Although The Internet Archive contained a lot of the web pages, many of the images were not present. Thankfully, the glorious Crayolavision of How DVDs are Made survived almost intact, because I don't think it would have been worth reading without them. For other parts of the site, though, I've had to reconstruct the pictures from memory with only the image filenames to guide me. Here's an example of the work I had to do on Ask Agony Ninja:

For all that fiddling, I'm really pleased with the results, and I hope I've maintained the slightly amateurish feel that the articles originally had. Sadly, a number of the pages were hosted on a separate site and seem to be lost forever, which unfortunately means that you won't get to search the Anne Widdicombe Film Censorship Database any time soon. Perhaps that's a blessing.

Reverse Spiral (2000-2001) - Click image to open website in a new tab

I've added a short glossary at the top of the site, which should help with some of the technical terms that crop up. For instance, the name Reverse Spiral comes from Reverse Spiral Dual Layer (RSDL), which is a process used to fit twice as much data onto a DVD. See, you've learnt something already! I'd also like to stress that the letters sent to Agony Ninja did genuinely come from users of the site. Reverse Spiral was wildly popular in its day - How DVDs are Made was read 2,875 times and the most popular article (which was too damaged to present) received nearly 6,000 views. It's nice to think that a few more people will now get the chance to read it.