Today, the plug was finally pulled on my website, DanielThomas.org. The domain was due for renewal, and after many months of consideration, I decided to let it go. It's time to move on, and, in fact, I've already moved on some time ago. My blogs, Daniel Thomas Vol 4 and The Ghibli Blog, are where I create online today.
I build DanielThomas.org in 2002, and launched on January, 2003. It's remarkable to see how far the internet has evolved over these seven years. I was so proud of my design, proud of the ease of navigation, proud of the way I assembled my art galleries, proud that I had a home online where I could write and share my thoughts on a variety of topics: art, music, games, movies, politics, personal happenings. It was a lot of hard work, but I was proud of my efforts.
But, oh, Good Grief, maintainence was such a pain. Having to literally redraw the homepage with every addition or new essay was time-consuming and increasingly irritating. Having to debug the code was a pain in the neck, even with my elegant (and ancient) HTML design. Somewhere around 2004 or 2005 I completely redesigned the site, refining and honing the design skills I had learned. I was always pushing for traffic and trying to build an audience. It was so much work, and eventually, I realized that I just wanted to focus on the art, and leave the tech side to someone else. Once I decided to experiment with Blogger, there really was no going back.
DanielThomas.org was very successful, at least by my standards. I can tell you that I reached over two million visits, and thousands of hits per day, during the site's golden days. But I learned to distrust these numbers. Much of my traffic was due to message boards and other sites hot-linking my images. It became such a problem that I tried to change the photos around, swap in nasty messages, harass any offenders I found who wouldn't give credit (or links) back to me. It was a real pain in the neck.
The worst offender - and my highest bit of notoriety - was my film review for The Boondock Saints. This was a cheap, practically direct-to-DVD gun movie, humorless, witless, and crude. I watched it on the couch of some so-called friends one night, and just hated it. I wrote the review, published, and then soon discovered, to my surprise, that Boondock Saints was a cult hit among the college crowd. And these were not the smart kids. Hoo boy.
For the next two or three years, I received a steady stream of hate mail, barely coherent, mostly whining. Those kids really loved that movie. I was burnt out enough by the obnoxious and dumb frat culture, and this certainly didn't help. Do you know how annoying it is to sit in an empty theater, watching an acclaimed documentary, while the sports bar crowd is shouting and howling for dreck like Boondock Saints? I still get headaches thinking about it, even though I've moved on and learned to enjoy my qwirkier neighbors. They'll be middle aged and overweight soon enough, and I'll someday miss their belligerance.
I also received a steady stream of critical emails in response to my essay on Stryper. That was a real surprise. I wrote the essay to accompany one of my digital paintings, which just happened to be yellow and black. Of course, I immediately thought of those 1980s hair metal bumblebee costumes. I really hated '80s hair metal when I was a kid. I'm still getting a rare message today; my last Stryper defender wrote to me last summer. Haha.
I always took the good and the bad. I always cherished every letter from someone who enjoyed the paintings. I even tried to sell a few, without much luck. I've grown tired of the art hustle; it's just another nerdish clique that seems trapped in the past. I always wanted my art to embrace the future, the people, not the hipsters. The hipsters can look after themselves. That's why I built my own arts site in the first place. I was convinced that the internet was the key to an artistic revolution. Every artist should have their work online, I thought. I felt art should be treated as music, where the internet was concerned. Open the doors wide for everybody. I still believe those things, and the explosive evolution of the internet has proven this again and again. Everybody can create. Everybody has something to contribute.
DanielThomas.org - I couldn't get a dot-com back then, because it was taken by a Trekkie - was made possible by a roommate of mine named Joe Osburn. Joe worked for a local internet and web design company, and he offered to host my site for free. That was very generous of him, very generous. He renewed it whenever necessary, moving it around one server to another, keeping it secure. I have always felt deeply indebted to him for his kindness. I think I once paid him by giving him some of my paintings. It's getting harder to remember. Time always moves you forward, and the years melt away with the clouds.
Once my blogs were up and running, there really was no need for my old art website. I can focus on movies and animation at The Ghibli Blog; politics, pop culture and art have a home at Daniel Thomas Vol 4. The work now feels freer, faster, more immediate. Well, at least when I can be bothered to write regularly. Ahem. Pardon.
So, dear friends, let us pay our final respects to my "arts-and-entertainment webzine," DanielThomas.org. It was a wonderful experience, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Thankfully, I've moved much of my older work to the blogs, and I'll have to continue that until everything is preserved online again. I'm still not sure what to do about the artwork. I'll figure something out. I hope I don't get the idea to start a third blog....yuck!