As I work on the upcoming redesign for Dirty Feed, my thoughts idly turn to the old blog I used to run on ofla.info, back in the mid-2000s. Let’s take a brief look, shall we? I’m sure there’s some great stuff on there.
5th April 2004, “óflå.info Launches!”:
“Make sure you explore all corners of the site; I wouldn’t want you to miss any of the fascinating treats on offer.”
Sadly, all is gone by 18th July 2004. In its place, “Site under renovation”:
Never mind. On 9th August 2004, “For Fucks Sake”:
“I’ve had this domain nearly two years, and the only thing I’ve got out of it is a decent e-mail address and some hangers on.
Let’s try and do something useful with it, eh?”
Excellent… oh, wait, deleted by September 2004.
Don’t worry! On 26th October 2004, we get, erm, ““óflå.info” “launches””:
“Ah, it’s not as good as this one. But it’ll do. Let me know if there’s any problems with the design of the site – I know it’s a bit SHIT here and there.
Stuff to come: ill-informed rants on web design, revoltingly geeky TV stuff (The Sitcom Boom Mike Apperances List, anyone?), and various other shite. And news on the progression of the content management system I’m writing. Current status: Learning Perl, page 1.”
This one actually lasted right up until the end of 2005. Then suddenly, on the 3rd January 2006, all is wiped clean. In its place, we get “Errr… óflå.info, erm, “launches””:
“Hello! It’s yet another relaunch of my personal site! Hoo-fucking-ray. Forgive the odd rough edge; I’ll be smoothing it all out in the next few days.
So why? Well, I did get bored of the old design – but it also reflects a change of DIRECTION. All my web/media guff is going on Noise To Signal (due a relaunch in the next couple of weeks, hence the lack of life around there at the moment).
The old content will be stuck back on here at some point (and some of it also incorprated into NTS); till then, use the Wayback Machine. I apologise for breaking all my links in the meantime; the only consolation is that there was nothing worth much on here.
So, what’s going to go on here, then? Well, my personal blog probably – I think it’s a waste of time personally, which is why I didn’t update for ages before, but so many people have requested I carry on with it that it would be rude not to. It also functions as a nice gateway to all the other sites I’m involved with. Beyond that, there are a few things I have planned – but, learning from past experience, I won’t be announcing those until I have something to show for it. I’ll try and update round here most days, though.
Oh: wank shit cunt.”
Surely, this is it? Surely? Nope. Not only was all the old stuff never put back online, but this entire version of the blog was all gone by June.
Since then, my writing has been rather more consistent. Once my personal blog disappeared from ofla.info for good, I wrote for years over on group site Noise to Signal. And once that closed at the end of 2009, I started writing here on Dirty Feed. Sure, this place was originally called Transistorised for some stupid reason, but from 2010 onwards all my writing is intact, and in the same place.
Still, there’s something to be learnt from the above. The reason I kept launching and relaunching back then was simple: some idiotic quest for perfection. “No, no, that article/design/word isn’t exactly perfect – best wipe clean and start again.” Idiotic is definitely the word… but that part of me still pops up every so often. It’s good to have a look back and remember the road perfectionism can take you if you’re not careful. Hey, write something shit? Or does something just not read that brilliantly with a year or two’s hindsight? Never mind, let it stand as a historical piece, and write something better next time. If you want everything you’ve written online to be perfect, never publish anything at all.
The single best thing for me about Dirty Feed is that I finally stuck at something. No wasting time, no constant relaunches. Just a body of work which built up, year after year, and now stands as something I’m proud of – not deleted off the web, never to be seen again unless someone bothers to throw themselves into the Wayback Machine. I see some people constantly launching new sites for the same old thing today, and I’m glad I finally managed to learn that lesson all those years ago.
If there’s one thing which can be said about Dirty Feed this year, it’s this: a lack of perfection is absolutely guaranteed.
Eileen Webb, “Productivity in Terrible Times”:
“When your heart is worried for your Muslim friends, and deep in your bones you’re terrified about losing access to healthcare, it’s very hard to respond graciously to an email inquiring about the latest microsite analytics numbers. “THE WORLD IS BURNING. I will have those content model updates ready by Thursday. Sincerely, and with abject terror, Eileen.”
It is not tenable to quit my job and hie off to Planned Parenthood HQ and wait for them to make use of my superior content organizing skills. It is not a good idea for you to resign from stable work that supports your family and community because you’re no longer satisfied by SQL queries. The Trevor Project needs your donation more than they need a JS developer proficient in easing animation.”
“I don’t know about you, but I have been struggling mightily with this very thing. I’ve always had difficulty believing that the work I do here is in some way important to the world and since the election, that feeling has blossomed into a profound guilt-ridden anxiety monster. I mean, who in the actual fuck cares about the new Blade Runner movie or how stamps are designed (or Jesus, the blurry ham) when our government is poised for a turn towards corruption and authoritarianism?
I have come up with some reasons why my work here does matter, at least to me, but I’m not sure they’re good ones. In the meantime, I’m pressing on because my family and I rely on my efforts here and because I hope that in some small way my work, as Webb writes, “is capable of enabling righteous acts”.”
I have a good reason. Whatever shit is going on in the world, it does not make everything else unimportant. Life doesn’t work like that. At best that’s a route to giving yourself mental health issues, and at worst it leads to extremism itself.
To take Jason’s three examples. “The new Blade Runner movie” is related to a film which is widely regarded as one of the most important and influential films ever made. The horrific politics and actual human suffering happening in the world at the moment doesn’t stop that from being interesting and important. “How stamps are designed” can only be dismissed if we’re going to think art isn’t important any more – and I don’t want to be associated with anyone who thinks that.
And the blurry ham? Take a look at it. Yes, that’s a fun optical illusion. But let’s state what optical illusions are really about: how we all perceive the world. If anything, that’s even more important now than it was six months ago. That blurry ham is not about ham.
We can all dismiss and belittle our own work, for various reasons. Maybe we’re frustrated by state of the world and wish we could do more. In my case, it’s that I don’t want to be seen as arrogant. Let’s take an example of something I wrote recently over on Ganymede & Titan, about edits made to pre-watershed showings of Red Dwarf XI. It’s hardly the most important article in the world. A few changes made to a couple of episodes of a sitcom, big deal. I put aside hours of my time to rewatch the whole series and write that?
But worries about arrogance or not, the fundamental issues considered in that article are bigger than that. That piece is talking about broadcast standards in television. It’s talking about who has the right to make changes to a television programme. It’s talking about how you can remove material from a programme and still keep the meaning of a scene. And finally, it’s talking about the very nature of comedy, and how the taboo subjects affect it. In its own way, that piece of writing is as political as anything I’ll ever write, and there’s not a mention of Trump or Brexit in sight.
Just because there are absolutely atrocious things happening, and that some people are suffering hugely because of it, that doesn’t mean other things aren’t important. Because if we never think anything else is important aside from people’s suffering, we invalidate 99% of human endeavour. Nobody needs me to list a catalogue of atrocities… and beside it, list all the other important things which were happening in the world at the exact same time.
We should all care about the terrible things going on. We should all make sure we’re doing something to make the world better. But never feel guilty talking about your silly things.
Because they’re not really that silly, you know.
Man, people whinged too much about 2016. True, there was Trump, Brexit, and celebrity deaths aplenty, and on a personal note I nearly died of pneumonia. Still, I published some fun stuff on Dirty Feed, and isn’t that what really counts?
Time for my traditional self-regarding list, then. Below are a few of my favourite things I published here last year. (If you enjoyed any of it and can afford it, please consider donating to the Internet Archive.)
Fawlty Towers: A Touch of Class
Tracking down which parts of the first episode of Fawlty Towers were reshot between the original pilot recording, and the programme’s actual broadcast the following year. The second most popular piece on the site all year, and contains possibly the only time Dirty Feed will ever concentrate on somebody’s hairstyle.
The Fragility of the Web
I’ve written a lot of stuff about the web this year, most of it to general disinterest. This piece can stand to represent all of them: on how easy it is to destroy the web even when you think you stand to protect it. Not my best-written piece of the year, but a piece which gets to the heart of why I care about this stuff.
Who Framed Michael Eisner
Did the creators of Who Framed Roger Rabbit really manange to sneak in a flash-frame of Disney CEO Michael Eisner’s phone number into the film? (No.) Can I use this topic to talk about Python edits instead? (Yes.)
Blade Runner Afternoons
Ever wondered about how the famous Blockbusters cityscape opening titles were created? The show’s 1989 annual reveals all, with some beautiful behind-the-scenes pictures. This was the most read piece on the site all year. (I also posted some more behind-the-scenes stuff from the annual here.)
Hi-de-Hi! Edits #1, #2, #3
Comparing the DVD release of Hi-de-Hi! and its afternoon repeats on BBC Two. I maintain that Mr. Partridge really did once tell Peggy to “fuck off”. (Comparing all 58 episodes of the show is probably the biggest undertaking I’ve done on here all year. Final piece coming in January.)
“Network, we’ll have to come back and do the draw…”
About the lottery breakdown Bob Monkhouse dealt so expertly with back in 1996… and my own personal relationship to it. But not quite as wanky as that sounds. Nearly as wanky. But not quite.
A George & Mildred Christmas
A late entry, sneaking in at the very end of the year, about George & Mildred‘s Christmas episodes… and how the last episode manages to question the entire setup of the whole show. I’d love to write more stuff like this in the coming year.
Other things I wrote which I think turned out well: about the cut Diana joke in Men Behaving Badly, a skilful piece of presenting, the weirdest abandoned website ever, Elstree being silly, a guide to social media for game developers, why I dislike Digital Spy, old documentaries getting things wrong on purpose, and about ghosts of the internet.
However, my favourite piece I wrote all year wasn’t even on Dirty Feed. Instead it was published over on Ganymede & Titan, the Red Dwarf fansite once described as “a crock of shit” by Iain Lee. That piece was Hancock’s Half Hour: The Tycoon, and is all about the similarities between the Hancock episode The Tycoon, and the Red Dwarf episode Better than Life. It’s (nearly) everything I’d like my writing to be, but don’t always manage.
Back to Dirty Feed. Last year ended up being a bit of a mixed bag for the site. Sadly, I didn’t manage to get back to doing this, or finish this. On the other hand, I did publish more pieces on the site than any previous year, and for various reasons the year didn’t really lend itself to bigger projects in the end.
Thanks to everyone who has said nice things about the site over the past 12 months – I really do appreciate it. And I have lots of plans for the upcoming year. I may even finish the article I teased at the end of my Best of 2015 piece. Who knows?
I don’t ask for any money for writing Dirty Feed. I don’t have a Patreon. I haven’t run any kind of Kickstarter. I don’t have a tip jar. I don’t have Amazon referrals, or an Amazon wish list. Call it keeping the site pure, or call it not wanting to have any kind of obligations around here. Either way, if you’ve enjoyed anything on here over the past 12 months, you’ve enjoyed it for free.
This year, I’ve written quite a lot about the history of the web. (And I’m currently in the middle of a new piece to publish at the start of next year.) Those pieces include:
Not forgetting this piece I wrote over on Ganymede & Titan, about Red Dwarf fandom mid-2004.
Some of these articles might not be your favourite things I’ve written this year. I generally get a lot more positive feedback for stuff I write about the telly, and my internet archeology pieces go rather unnoticed. But that’s fine. I write Dirty Feed for myself as much as for anyone else, and the important thing for me is to have a mix of different kinds of stuff here. (Though, of course, there are plenty of parallels with the kind of internet archeology above, and the kind of thing I do with old sitcoms.)
Still, the important thing about all the above articles: they all relied on the Wayback Machine in order to research the web of the past. And perhaps it’s easy to get blasé about its existence, now it’s been around for so long. But if you step back and just think about it: typing in a URL, and being able to visit (most) websites at (nearly) any point in their existence, is absolutely damn incredible. And is vital to maintaining a record of the history of the web. My silly articles are nothing compared to how important the Wayback Machine is for everyone – and, indeed, the Internet Archive as a whole.
So, here’s my request. The Internet Archive is currently fundraising, and is well short of their goal. If you’ve enjoyed anything I’ve written over here over the past year, and can comfortably afford it – and that latter part is crucial – please consider giving them a small donation. It would mean a lot to me, and is the most relevant support you could give this site.
Thank you. Serious message ends. I’ll be back tomorrow with a round-up of all my nonsense over here from the past year. I didn’t half write some shite.
A quick piece of housekeeping: if you follow me on Twitter, I’m currently taking a little leave of absence. So if you want to keep up with what’s going on with this site, make sure to follow @dirtyfeed instead. Unlike my main account which had all kinds of rambling nonsense, this new account1 will only have links to site updates, and nothing else. (For now, anyway.)
I’m certainly not leaving Twitter because it’s merely “quips and outrages”, and I expect I’ll be back properly again next year. For now though, I need some time where I’m not bombarded with things which are a bit much to deal with at the moment.
Two blogs I follow have redesigned recently: Jason Kottke’s kottke.org back in September, and Andy Baio’s waxy.org this month. Both have used their redesigns to muse on the nature of independent self-hosted blogs, rather than just sticking all your writing on Medium and the like.
I can only echo what Andy Baio says:
“Ultimately, it comes down to two things: ownership and control.
Last week, Twitter announced they’re shutting down Vine. Twitter, itself, may be acquired and changed in some terrible way. It’s not hard to imagine a post-Verizon Yahoo selling off Tumblr. Medium keeps pivoting, trying to find a successful revenue model. There’s no guarantee any of these platforms will be around in their current state in a year, let alone ten years from now.
Here, I control my words. Nobody can shut this site down, run annoying ads on it, or sell it to a phone company. Nobody can tell me what I can or can’t say, and I have complete control over the way it’s displayed. Nobody except me can change the URL structure, breaking 14 years of links to content on the web.”
At the very real risk of being both self-indulgent and exceedingly smug: Dirty Feed is one of my favourite things I’ve ever done. And one of the reasons for that – a couple of guest posts aside in the site’s early days – is that it is entirely my own. Nobody else can control it, fuck around with it, or tell me what to do with it. If Dirty Feed moved to a service akin to Medium, I wouldn’t find it nearly as appealing to write.
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Happy New Year, everyone. And another year, another opportunity to be self-aggrandising and pretend it’s all in the spirit of “reflection”. Nevertheless, here are some of my favourite articles on Dirty Feed from the last 12 months. ENJOY IT YOU SCUM, ENJOY IT OR I WILL HAVE YOU KILLED.
Specifically, why automation isn’t to blame when a TV channel falls off air. Mainly written so I can smugly point to it when someone randomly complains about TV automation on Twitter. Yes, I am a complete cunt, why do you ask?
11 Things Wrong With Fawlty Towers
By far my most popular article all year in terms of hits… mainly because most of the words are John Cleese’s, not mine. My main aim was to prove to everyone that the John Cleese commentaries on the Remastered boxset are absolutely glorious, and well worth repurchasing the show for alone.
Acorn Fools’ Day
A trek through some fun April Fools gags in Acorn computer magazines of the 80s and 90s – and one of those articles I’ve been meaning to write for years, and then finally got round to. I’d love someone to write something similar about magazines for other platforms. Please?
Duncan Newmarch: “The Jingles I Grew Up With”
A chat with BBC continuity announcer Duncan Newmarch about why he loves radio jingles so much… and why he put together a montage of them which lasts two hours. I really must do more interviews, as “somebody else talking instead of me” is usually a relief to everybody.
24 Hours in Channel 5 TX
Probably the best thing I wrote all year, about a topic which really isn’t talked about much: how a television channel these days is actually put together. (I promised a follow-up piece answering all your questions which has yet to be published: hopefully it’ll be finished this month.)
One Foot in the Grave: Hearts of Darkness and The Thrilling Conclusion
Finally, the answer to a question I’ve been wondering for years – exactly what was cut out of the One Foot in the Grave episode Hearts of Darkness when it was released on DVD? It was extremely satisfying to finally get to the bottom of the mystery… especially when the answer was one nobody could have predicted.
‘The Quatermass Experiment’ Experiment
A piece ostensibly about the differences between the original broadcast and DVD release of the live 2005 version of Quatermass… but which turns into musings about the nature of live television drama about halfway through. This just nipped in right at the end to be my second-most popular piece of the year, which is nice, as this is the main reason the site quietened down for the last few months – it was an absolute bitch to research and write.
And bringing up the rear: why Comedy Central are IDIOTS, the history of jingles, how journalism works, and a look at edits made to The Fast Show on DVD. Oh, and this site hasn’t updated since I slagged it off, which is amusing.
So, a little self-indulgent ramble. Whilst I don’t sit obsessing over stats, “Are people reading your stuff?” in a general sense is always nice to know. 2015 has been the most successful year yet for Dirty Feed in that regard, with more readers than ever – in fact, slightly more than 2013 and 2014 combined. This is mainly down to a few pieces being shared rather more than usual, so thank you if you’ve retweeted, linked to, or written about one of my bits of nonsense over the past year. I really appreciate it.
In terms of the writing, I’m never happy that I’ve written enough, and I certainly didn’t write as much as I planned to. On the other hand, some of the pieces I did get round to writing are some of my favourites I’ve ever done. It feels like Dirty Feed has established its own voice more than ever, and hopefully that voice is “Things most people wouldn’t bother to write about, but you’re vaguely glad that somebody has.”
Sadly, my planned redesign and relaunch of my podcast didn’t happen, and in 2016, the lack of a proper responsive, mobile-friendly design is nothing short of ludicrous. These are my two priorities for the forthcoming year. No excuses.1
And that’s quite enough of that. Happy 2016 everyone. I hope you’ll join me for more nonsense this year. Right, I’m off to research old Buffy fansites which disappeared off the net ten years ago.
I’m not joking. That is literally what I am doing.
Whilst I’m getting my shit together to actually write something on here, here’s something fun to be getting along with. Over the past few years I’ve been getting some jingles sung for the site, courtesy of JAM Creative Productions of Dallas. My chum Duncan Newmarch has put together a montage of some of these jingles… with the odd added sound effect added here and there.1 Some of the jingles, including the first, are hot off the mixing desk this week:
Yes, that definitely wins the award for “Most Uses of the Word ‘Dirty’ in Two and a Half Minutes of Audio”.
These jingles were all originally sung for US or UK radio stations between the years 1976 and 1991. It gives me a kick that this site can use versions of the same material made for New York’s Z-100 in the 80s, or Radio 1 in the 90s. (For a bit more on the history of these jingles, check out this article I wrote earlier in the year.)
You will have heard some of these jingles on the front of a few of my audio posts, but the main reason I’ve been buying them is for my podcast, which abruptly stopped in September 2012. I’ve been feeling guilty about that for ages, especially as people have actually been asking when it’s going to return. The reason I haven’t really talked about it on here is simple: it felt self-indulgent, and I didn’t want to promise a date I couldn’t keep. Which is good, as it’s been “a couple of months” now for three years.
So, I’d best answer the question properly. Put simply: those first few podcasts were meant to be 10-minute trial offerings, leading up to a proper series of half-hour episodes. Unfortunately, in 2012, I suddenly – to my immense surprise – got a proper career, and things took a back seat for a while. Which is a shame, as I promise a section about Friendship is Magic in those trial episodes, and I had an awful lot to say about that series in 2012. Sadly, it’s all rather been said by now. Hey-ho.2
Anyway, I still don’t want to give a date, but I do have solid plans to actually return to making podcasts. I’ve spent far too much on these sodding jingles not to. In the meantime, enjoy these gorgeous silly jingles. I think every podcast could do with one.
Having gone on yet another explosive rant about Sam Wollaston recently, I am reminded that I’ve never linked to any of the TV reviews I’ve written for other sites on here. Part of me, to be honest, is disinclined to do so; some of the pieces I’m not very proud of at all. But there’s some good stuff amongst the dross, and besides: I’m cursed with a bizarre sense of fair play. If I’m going to be slagging people off on Twitter, or writing about poor journalism on here, it only feels fair to actually link to some of the stuff I’ve done which I’m not that keen on, rather than pretend it never existed.
So, here is a full archive of television reviews I have written elsewhere. These are mainly from the now-defunct media blog Noise To Signal, although there’s a couple from still active Doctor Who site Unlimited Rice Pudding!, and one from Red Dwarf fansite Ganymede & Titan. It doesn’t include anything lurking in Dirty Feed’s archive, or reviews of anything which isn’t strictly a television episode.
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Exactly five years ago today, Dirty Feed came into being. (Actually, that’s strictly not true – it was called Transistorised for most of that first year – but let’s ignore that, as it was a rubbish name.) After Noise To Signal closed, I wanted a place of my own to post my nonsense. No real plans, no ambitious proposals: just “let’s talk about stuff I’m interested in and see what happens”.
I rarely do navel-gazing posts here – in fact, bizarrely, even the change in name from Transistorised to Dirty Feed wasn’t actually noted on the site. But I thought I’d allow myself something just this once. What follows is a list of some of my favourite things on the site over the past five years. I ORDER YOU TO ENJOY IT.
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