I’m still recuperating from getting sick. As a result, this past Tuesday, December 13, came and went. The date matters to me because it marks the anniversary of when I bought and began to populate the Disquiet.com URL, way back in 1996. Each year when December 13 has come around, and I’ve had the time, I’ve recounted from scratch my memory of the site’s origin. This year, I was both so busy and so tired that I spaced on it entirely until after I had sent out the Tuesday issue of This Week in Sound.
A few months before starting Disquiet.com I had turned 30 years old. I’d recently moved to San Francisco, after seven years in the Sacramento area, where I’d moved from Brooklyn in 1989 to work as an editor at Tower Records’ Pulse! magazine. While at Pulse!, I co-founded, with Bob Levine, the magazine Classical Pulse!, and I founded, in 1994, epulse, Tower’s first online publication, a weekly email newsletter, back when such a thing was quite new. We used the Majordomo software, which debuted in 1992.
In 1996, I left Pulse! to join Citysearch’s San Francisco office. I continued to write freelance for Pulse! up until the magazine was closed down as part of Tower’s eventual bankruptcy. I also edited comics for Pulse! during that time, and epulse, as well.
I already had a web address in 1996, thanks to a bit of server space provided by my ISP, but I wanted a proverbial/virtual room of my own. When I joined Citysearch, I realized at some point, quite early on, that something felt missing, some sense of an identity, online or otherwise. The string of letters denoting a subdirectory of my ISP wasn’t sufficient. I played with a few options. In 1996, URLs with “.com” as a suffix were still abundant. Words I considered included “yellow” and “cilantro.” As an admirer of Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet and a devoted listener to quiet music, I felt that Disquiet.com made perfect sense. I recall I had to use a fax machine to complete the URL purchase — that’s how new, how tethered to pre-internet media, the web was at that time.
I ported over my ISP site, and then built a style for Disquiet, using a free font that emulated the scrawl from Depeche Mode’s Violator album cover. I modified the pixels in MacPaint. At first, Disquiet.com was simply a repository for articles I wrote for Pulse! and epulse, and then I began writing for it directly.
The word “blog” didn’t exist yet. A friend of mine, Jorge Colombo (best known, later, for his iPhone covers for The New Yorker — and, like Pessoa, a native of Portugal) suggested I add dates to the pieces I posted on Disquiet.com. Since Jorge is wise, I did this. Eventually I added an RSS feed, which, like the rest of the site, I edited by hand until 2006 or 2007 (I’d have to look back), when I paid someone to patiently port the website over to WordPress, which is how it has been published ever since. I’ve spoken more recently with some friends and supportive readers about maybe switching to a static site at some point, but there are only so many hours in a day.
Disquiet.com has remained largely the same since 1996. The world, however, has changed. And as the world has changed, my sense of Disquiet.com has changed, both what it means to me now, and what it has meant to me. The past comes into focus. The throughline gains heft.
Assuming I manage to post something daily for the remainder of December, then 2022 will have been, I believe, the third year in a row I’ve managed to do so. Disquiet.com will, in a few years, have been part of my life for more than half of my life. That online-life balance is fairly common for folks who came of age, let alone were born, after the arrival of the web browser (or what is sometimes described colloquially as the start of the internet), but less so for those of us who consumed and produced culture well in advance of that media milestone. Disquiet.com felt, when I founded it, like a digital equivalent of a self-published zine or mini-comic. It was an online journal, and remains so to this day. It had a social component, long before the term “social media” came to mean a fairly specific sort of thing — connecting me to musicians and readers in a way that felt different from earlier forms of correspondence: more sinuous, more of a piece. As music moved online, that sense of continuity — the golden braid of writing online about online culture, writing digitally about digitally mediated culture — felt richer, and all the more so as life in general moved online. At some point “online” became the norm, and I was writing about culture where it, to a great degree, simply happened.