Thursday, September 15, 2011

Via the Wayback Machine

c. 1997
When I first started blogging in 2005 I had no idea who my blog visitors were outside of very rough statistics or posts in my comment section.  I still don't know exactly, apart from commenters or people who tell me in person, but it's quite easy now to view the weekly, monthly or yearly stats and get an idea. To give an example, this week my top 5 most visited posts have been 2007 Rugby World Cup (always high on the list since it first appeared, and I have a strong idea why), Poem: Julia de Burgos's "To Julia de Burgos" (also usually quite high, and it makes me especially proud that my blogpost about one of Puerto Rico's most important poets, an Afrolatina, tends to be regularly sought out), Poem/Translation: Claudia Roquette-Pinto (my translation of one of her many exquisite poems), Review: Homme au bain (Man at Bath) (my review of Christophe Honoré's film, which features a discussion of M. François Sagat, whose name I suppose generates the searches), and The High Line (my 2009 photos from a visit to one of New York City's contemporary treasures).

This week the top referring sites are all Google (US, UK, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, India), no surprise there, but the top key searchwords bringing people to the site are a surprise: "a julia de burgos translation," "homme au bain," "roberto bolano," "mamuka gorgodze" [მამუკა გორგოძე] (? - yes, I had to look him up; he's a star of Georgia's 2011 Rugby World Cup team), "a julia de burgos," and "martin puryear."  Again, how wonderful that people are searching out films, writers and visual artists and coming across this site. J's Theater readers are overwhelmingly from the US, but the next highest groups of page viewers this week come from the UK, France, Canada, Australia, Germany, New Zealand, and Brazil. Hello to all of you! Most viewers (40%) are using Internet Explorer on Microsoft Windows (66%), but Firefox (23%) and Safari (17%), once in the single digits, have crept up, as have the number of Macintosh (25%) and Linux (4%) viewers. iPhone, Android and iPad readers together make up about 3% of readers, which is 3% more than existed a few years ago.

My old web page banner
Before the blog, which I began in 2005, I did have an earlier Web presence, and the main way I knew who visited--beyond the Stat counter --was through the emails I would receive from time to time letting me know that a reader had taken interest in some aspect of my site.  I wantonly gave that out, and never received a single nastly post. Instead, I heard from people who shared my interests in architecture, who wondered what it was like to peer down through the glass floor in Toronto's CN Tower, and who wanted to offer thoughts on who'd win the Cy Young Award in each league. Via the Wayback Machine, the Internet archive, I came across my old page, which I started in 1997 while still in school, and which is archived, with selected posts and updates in 23 "captures," from 1998 through 2001.  Alma mater NYU's servers hosted it, and after I departed their urban groves they shut it down, though by that point it had already been preserved in Net amber. Interestingly enough, one of the first students I taught at the university knew about me and my work via that old website. She mentioned one my animated gifs, a poem I'd created in that format (another remains), and I was amazed that she'd come across it. This was pre-Google, so it might have been Yahoo! or one of the older search engines that summoned it up.

In my personal preamble, I included the following:

One truly scary sign is when one company owns a publishing house, newspapers, a movie studio, TV and radio stations, and on and on! And several companies (Rupert Murdoch's behemoth empire, Sony, Time Warner, etc.) now fit this description. We have to be vigilant as consu mers, as citizens, and one small step is keeping informed through organs such as Media Watchdog, reading everything you can, and resisting the increasing industrialization of our consciousness(es). So PLEASE READ a good book, magazines, newspapers, and buy them if you can from your local INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORE, and articles and pieces on the Web. Whatever you do, don't surrender without a fight! RESIST! 
I'm proud to say I was calling out media consolidation and Rupert Murdoch quo ante. I admit to having not visited Media Watchdog (update: which no longer exists) in many years, though. In subsequent updates I removed most of the polemics and offered readers a less combative welcome. The final accessible main page is from 2001, just before I headed to the university for the first time. From it as from the earlier pages, you could reach my distinct pages set aside for books, sports, art (fascinating to me that some of the drawings have vanished, but one of Charles Bernstein remains), and poetry. Hmm, doesn't this all sound familiar?  Also, because I'd finally figured out how to create frames and tables (remember when those were the hot new thing?) in Html, I'd set up an "Notable African Americans" page, with those frames. This was pre-Wikipedia, so such pages weren't so easy to come by. I did update it a few times. Most of the links appear to have disappeared. Checking Wikipedia today, I note that there are pages for all the people I wrote entries for, including fairly obscure folks like composer Robert Nathaniel Dett, whose music my friend Byron M. turned me onto.

One of the drawings from my MIT days, c. 1989
Many of the files stored on NYU's server(s) are no longer accessible, so my 5 pages of photos from my first trip to Brazil (we went to Salvador da Bahia and Rio de Janeiro in 2000, and ran into Sonia Sanchez and her son twice, once in each city!), are mere ghost traces. Though the captions remain I had to think for a minute about what they may have looked like, though in no time I recalled one of them featuring some of the enthrallingly grotesque statuary in Salvador da Bahia's Ordem Terceira de São Francisco, the monastery just off the Terreiro de Jesus, in Salvador's upper city.  Think ropes--velvet--of blood emanating from Jesus Christ's hands, stigmated palms, horror-film grimaces on the faces of Saint Francis and his life-size peers lining the room, and you start to get the picture.  C couldn't bear to spend more than a few minutes anywhere near these marvelously horrible creations, nor in the ossuary downstairs, but having grown up Roman Catholic and had more than a little exposure to the gory tales of numerous saints' martyrdoms, I found these fascinating. Other photos featured capoeristas, Rio tourist sites (the Rio page is riddled with grammatical and factual errors--Oscar Niemeyer did not design the city's new cathedral, though our guide told us this), and at some point I will have to scour my desk in NJ for the original prints--since I think this might have been just before I got ahold of a digital camera--to find them and scan them in. They also feature my dreadlocks, now a year gone, at their earliest stages. The memories!

One of the old poems, "Super Matrix," that appeared on old website, c. 1998
As Wayback Machine searches make clear, there's more of our earlier web presence than we might imagine, and things persist on the Net perhaps not eternally, but for a much longer time than they once did when they appeared only in print form or when they were passed along in the form of spoken or whispered tales and gossip. I do miss the informality, freedom and directness of that earlier pre-Google, pre-social networking site world, though. I also wonder what has happened to some of the people I used to correspond with, that is, the ones I wasn't fortunate enough to befriend and stay in contact with, no matter how far away they physically were.


  1. Absolutely amazing! I remember the site, the animated gifs, the posts from Brazil... Go Way Back Machine!!

    (Hi Paddi)