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GPS location Date/Time:08/24/2014 14:38:54 EDT

Message:I have still probably not been eaten by bears, and this is where I am.

Kayleigh Willey

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Ready for Adventure


Neocities: Geocities' Optimistic Younger Sibling

Author's note: This post was originally written for the science and technology section of Paper Droids. It can be found in its original form here.

Remember Geocities? That inexhaustible collection of gifs, seizure-inducing backgrounds and clown-vomit-coloured websites has been the subject of some nostalgia lately. Rather than just checking out Wayback Machine and remembering what a hideous place most of Geocities was, someone decided to do something about it.

As much as Geocities was the home to countless affronts to the eyes, it was also the platform where so many of us learned the basics of coding, and where we presented some part of ourselves to the Internet, perhaps for the first time. Geocities is a big piece of Internet history. When Myspace and other social sites stepped into the picture, Geocities faded away, and there has really been nothing like it since. Sites like Facebook, Blogger and WordPress allow you to create a website or an online presence for free, but with heavy restrictions, and usually no need to be familiar with coding or scripting.

Kyle Drake (@kyledrake), the creator of Neocities.org, has set out to create Geocities’ successor. Though some of us may shake our heads and wonder why you would ever want that many gifs in one place, Drake sums up his noble goal in 140 characters or less.

His plan is to take away the comfortable but restrictive WYSIWYG and drag-and-drop layouts of most modern web sites, and allow people to present whatever information they want, in whatever format they see fit. His idea is to create an environment where people can be completely creative, without the hand-holding of guidelines and forms like those of Facebook and WordPress.

In its current state, Neocities provides 10 MB of free hosting, with no content restrictions, as little censorship as can be managed, and complete freedom to put whatever you want on it, ad free. While it does away with the “cities” part, where the sites were divided into sections based on content, you still need to know how to code. The price of creative freedom is that you need to actually understand the HTML and the CSS that goes into your page. A secondary part of Drake’s goal is to create a vehicle for people to learn more about the internet and its building blocks. He feels that it is becoming more and more important to know how to code or program, and he wants to create a place that makes that easy and accessible. Neocities is also working towards having HTML tutorials so that the absolute novice can get started, all at no cost.

Though the service is free to the user, all of the hosting and resources require funding. The site is currently funded by donations, and there are no plans to implement an ad program. The Neocities website states that “[t]he technology has become affordable enough where we can provide this creative space without requiring a business plan that involves selling people out to the marketing industry.” Through donations alone they have secured the funding to host two million sites for two years, according to Drake.

As for the monitoring and censorship issue. The terms on the site make no statement about disallowing any types of content, but it does say that any suspected unlawful activity can be reported to the authorities. If lawful process requires your personal information, they retain the right to give that to the authorities as well. “Uncensored” has to have its boundaries, after all. Luckily, providing any personal information when you register is completely optional. You don’t even need to submit an email address to register.

While this project was started with noble aspirations for a free and unobstructed creative place on the web, there is a lot of potential for mischief here. Like with any anonymous forum, there is a significant chance that the denizens of the murkier places on the web will latch onto this and fill it full of various flavours of vitriol and deception. So far there are people using it to share useful information, introduce themselves, or just straight-up confuse people. (Watch out, that last one is loud.) There are also many sites that should surprise no one.

For those with aspirations of learning HTML and CSS, it is a great way to get started and make something that is completely yours, even if that ends up being a flashing neon scrolling banner declaring your love for banana peppers. If you’ve already got some coding chops, you can make an elegant, stylish place to present yourself. Better yet, find yourself a newbie. Get them started with some basic skills and watch the fireworks.

Whether the platform gets adopted by the creative community, taken over by trolls, filled with auto-playing midis and blinking yellow scrolling banners, or an exciting combination of the three, it will be interesting to see. Who knows? Maybe Geocities was just ahead of its time.


Drawing Strangers on the Internet: The Sequel

If you recall, in my last post about drawing strange people on the tubes, I mentioned that I had found two resources that were helping me practice a bit. The first one was a specific part of Reddit, and I neglected to mention the second one. Since I'm sure you were waiting with bated breath, wait no more!

The other really cool resource that I have been using to hone my meagre skills is a website called Selfless Portraits. The idea is that you submit your Facebook profile picture to be drawn by someone, and you draw one that is randomly assigned to you. The results are sometimes awesome, sometimes silly, and... well, sometimes it just doesn't work.

I'm not so great at likenesses, so I thought doing a few of these might be some good practice.

I am not really happy with this one, but doing the relief thing turned out to be way harder than I thought. My original idea was to draw him with a big creepy smile, a la A Clockwork Orange, but I think this is creepy enough.

This is definitely the one that I am happiest with, out of the portraits that I have done on this site so far. The face could be narrower, but I think the photo might be squashed, so it evens out. (That's what I am going to tell myself.)

This was the first one that I did, and man was I ever mad that my first one was a duckface. Turns out that they are really hard to draw, in addition to being weird looking!

And lastly, I of course must share the ones that others have drawn of me! I think it's a good likeness, no?


Star Trek: Into Darkness

I finally got around to seeing Star Trek: Into Darkness this week. My overall impression is that I really enjoyed it! It was pretty action-y, which usually isn't my cup of tea, but I found that there was always enough going on that I didn't get bored.

I understand that the hardcore Star Trek folks have some gripes about it, but I think that being a little less knowledgeable in that department may have worked in my favour. I didn't have any rage out moments related to inconsistencies or anything like that, but I am well versed enough to understand the role reversals near the end, and a bunch of the throw backs to the original series. It is a different timeline; things don't have to be the same. I can accept that as an explanation for any differences from the original series. At the same time I appreciate the parallels that they draw while keeping it fresh.

One minor gripe that I did have is that, as much as I love Benedict Cumberbatch, is he REALLY the right person to play Khan Noonien Singh? (Admittedly, the original actor that played him was Mexican, so who am I to judge?) Although, I do suppose it is possible that in the distant future names that we currently associate with a particular area of the world would probably not have that same association.

One MAJOR gripe that I had was that I had to watch it in 3D. The theatre that we went to had stopped showing the regular one. I should clarify that I hate 3D movies. A lot. Particularly ones that are done the way Star Trek is. The viewer is pretty much constantly bombarded with lens flares and light effects in the extreme foreground (that I probably wouldn't have thought out of the ordinary in 2D), as well as extreme foreground objects at the edge of the screen that cause your eyes (or mine at least) to start trying to focus past the edge of the screen. Another pet peeve of mine was rampant in this movie: switching focus between the foreground and the background. I know that this is a common technique in film, but it really messes with me in 3D, and I find it really distracting. If you are going to force 3D on me, at least let ME choose which layer I want to look at. I feel like 3D is rarely done well enough to not detract from a movie, let alone improve it. I would personally have preferred to watch the 2D version.

To change the subject and music-nerd out for a moment, I REALLY enjoyed the score of this movie. It stayed in the background when it needed to, and was super moving when it was called for. I particularly enjoyed the ending where they worked it into a revamped, epic version of the theme from the original series. I didn't think that I had ever heard anything by Michael Giacchino before, but upon looking into it, he also did the soundtrack of Up, which was wonderfully done as well.

As a whole, I really enjoyed the movie, when I was not being distracted by awkward lens flares in the front of my vision. The score was excellent, the pacing was good, it was not entirely guns and explosions as I suspected it might have been, and it was generally a very fun movie. Although, I will be the first to admit that cerebral it was not, and I feel like that is probably a flaw in a Star Trek movie, but you've got to please the masses with these things, I suppose.

Drawing Strangers on the Internet

Hey, I'm still drawing! Occasionally! Look at that!

I decided to bust out the tablet a couple of days ago and fight with the drivers and wrestle with GIMP long enough to actually get something done, so maybe I will have some things to post.

I recently discovered a couple of really good resources for practicing drawing people. One of them is r/redditgetsdrawn (or r/redditgetsdrawnbadly, depending on how I am feeling) where people post pictures of themselves or their loved ones and people draw them. I've done a couple of these, and they are good fun. Not a ton of work, but good practice for working on either likenesses or styles, or likenesses in different styles. The next few images are the product of some of those adventures.
This one was a person (who was really wearing a puffy sleeved dress!) who asked to be made into a Disney princess. I make no claims to be an animator, but I gave it a shot.

I got adventurous with this one and tried out colouring Questionable Content style. Turns out it is WAY faster, but I still need to get the hang of cell shading. And making line art that makes sense.

The mods made this guy promise that he was not going to use the product of this thread for an album cover. It was all a dark background and super moody looking... So I just drew his glowery face and it turned out looking kind of like Zachary Quinto.

This one is probably my favourite, since it is adorable. The person asked for her and her "Majestic Unicat" to be drawn. I really felt that the cat's expression could only be one thing.