17th Anniversary of Disquiet.com

17 sentences of reflection on fax machines, HTML, corporate housing, and ambient music

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Seventeen years ago today I purchased the URL Disquiet.com.

Each passing year, when I have the time, I write a bit about that process, that time period.

I think I’ll give myself the additional Oulipo constraint of utilizing only as many sentences as there are years to the anniversary, though of course parentheticals, em-dashes, semi-colons, and other delaying tactics will allow me some leeway.

One constraint that has been consistent over the years: I don’t read back what I’d written before, because part of this semi-annual reflection is allowing mis-rememberings to seep in; I’ve seen and read Rashomon enough to appreciate the value of multiple viewpoints, all the more so when those multiple viewpoints are one’s own.

In 1996 I had moved to San Francisco right around my birthday, August, from Sacramento, where I’d been living since 1989, after moving out from Brooklyn in 1989 to take a job at a music magazine, Pulse!, published by Tower Records.

I’d had various FTP and low-key web presences since 1994, around when 1993’s Mosaic browser gave way to the Netscape browser, and mostly I used them as places to store small documents, to link to things of interest (in 1994 there was only so much of non-scientific, non-governmental interest on the then very new World Wide Web), and to practice my HTML.

I considered various names for Disquiet.com, including Yellow and Cilantro, but eventually went with Disquiet because I was under the spell of Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet, and because, clearly, the word fit so well with what I was interested in: quiet music, sound manipulated by electronics, shifts in culture as a result of technological augmentation.

As I recall, purchasing the URL involved a lot of non-Internet activity, including some phone calls and faxing.

It also took quite a while for the DNS system to function properly, so that entering the URL into the browser brought up the web page.

Even then, server time-outs and other issues would often yield the site not loading.

I was, at the time, newly installed as editor-in-chief of a website about San Francisco (Citysearch.com), and my anxious weekend duties included waking up early and testing if the site was live (which it quite often was not), and then dealing with IT to correct the situation.

At first, Disquiet.com was simply a repository of material I had published elsewhere, primarily at Pulse! (along with its sibling publications Classical Pulse! and epulse), where I continued to contribute until the magazine closed in 2002 — this is why the site’s earliest posts actually predate the site’s debut; only later on, when my friend Jorge Colombo suggested that I start date-stamping my posts, did this site become what would be termed, later still, a blog.

Among my first freelance pieces for Pulse! after leaving the magazine fulltime was an interview with Aphex Twin for his quasi-eponymous Richard D. James Album — I had no idea at the time that I would 17 years later write a book about Aphex Twin, albeit about the record he had released two years prior, Selected Ambient Works Volume II.

I would eventually write the cover story to the final issue of Pulse!: Missy Elliot.

The Aphex Twin interview took place in corporate housing (i.e., Noe Valley apartment abandoned by a senior Citysearch manager and filled with small cots, like a safe house for wayward travelling salespeople), while I looked for an apartment (eventually landing one in the Richmond District, about which at the time I knew absolutely nothing) during what was probably an even more difficult time to find housing than is the case today.

I frequently make lists of the 10 things I most thankful for, and this website has never dropped off — and I am very much looking forward to what I will do on it (and tangentially off it) in 2014.

A web search informs me that December 13, 1996, was a Friday, just as it is today — so much for bad luck.

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