twenty years with a website

Toronto, 2016.01.01

19 years ago today, I brought the first database-driven part of this website online. It was a collection of movie reviews.

This website started life early in '96 as one of those "~" user pages on an NCSA web server within a corporate intranet. The site consisted of manually-edited flat HTML files. I could see the limitations of that setup immediately, but it took me a few months to turn the technologies I'd used at work towards that hobby. The driver was a collection of movie reviews; it would grow too quickly to warrant some messy file-based system. And so, using a very primitive version of MySQL and some Perl-based CGI, I began to create a content management system.

It being January 1, I was reminded of that initiative and wondered, "Has it been 20 years?" It was only 19. On January 1, 1997, the first entry was "Scream". About which I wrote, "This is a slasher pic, a spoof. Amusing, but silly and boring. It was fun watching the audience jump, though."

That was a full two years and nine months before my first entry in this journal. Before I packed it in twelve years later, I did more than 450 of my mini reviews, which slowly grew in length and quality. The final entry, in March of '99 was about the movie "Religulous":

"I was very disappointed with this film by Bill Maher. Maher's a funny and intelligent individual and I figured that this would be insightful and entertaining. Instead I found it poorly written and off-putting.

While I understand Maher's frustration with organized religion as a source—or exacerbation—of many conflicts in the world I didn't care for his methods in this investigation. Time and again, he'd find someone with a religious bent, and attempt to discuss their views. But instead of letting these parties speak for themselves, he would time and again cut them off an present his jaundiced view. I found it telling that the only time he cut an interview short was the one time that his interviewee wouldn't allow Maher to interrupt and shout him down with whatever view Maher had brought to the interview.

At the end Maher attempts to pin on a message that anti-religionists should stand up and take back the world in favour of rationalism. But by the time he's delivering that message he still hasn't made the case that we should. If anything, by hectoring and laughing at a variety of people along the way, we come to identify with those whose views Maher is mocking.

Well, not all of them—some seem outright fools who don't know what they're talking about. But even with those Maher would have been better served to simply let them condemn themselves with their blithering rather than attempt to highlight their deficient thinking. But Maher never really gives them a chance."

It's probably just as well that I stopped writing (to complain) about movies. But it also goes to show: databases are forever.

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