In my work I use Adobe Dreamweaver, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, Adobe Bridge, and, of course, the oldest web-building tool known to modern man; Notepad. I even have an old t-shirt that says Adobe on it. It has nothing to do with the software giant, but I still wear it during intense web-building sessions. For luck.
The truth is that I always enjoy working on my web sites. It relaxes me, keeps me away from gambling and crime.
Over the past few years this site has gone through an evolutionary upheaval… most of the old, academic content was left on the sidewalk with a note attached (RMJ -- Remove My Junk) so that Recology Sunset Scavenger would carry it away on the agreed-upon date.
Today, this site is focused on showcasing my digital daydreams and my ability to “make deals” with Photoshop, these being my humble efforts in the little appreciated and largely misunderstood practice of what I like to call unrealism.
Since this site is mainly a collection of pictures with some words here and there, my main target is the larger desktop screens. But since I also own and use an iPad, a cell phone, a Kindle HDX, a laptop and a standard issue shoe phone, I try to ensure that my sites work well on all these devices.
My very first site was an HTML 2.0 site for San Francisco’s Department of Public Health’s Immunization Section. It featured content from our award-winning print newsletters CIP News and UPDATE, both of which were written by health educators and laid out, by me, using Quark Xpress (it was much cheaper then). That first site was coded by hand.
In time, I realized that I wanted to learn how to make a proper web site, so I began to code and design what became historyofcuba.com.
I embraced the wisdom of the founding fathers; Tim Berners-Lee, Tog, Jakob Nielsen, David Siegel, Peter Morville, Science-Officer Spock and others now nameless and forgotten.
Cuban history had been a life-long hobby, and I had consumed everything I could find on the subject, regardless of political orientation. Combining the Internet with my passion for Martí, Maceo and Gómez was a spiritually enriching experience.
Over the years, developing the site felt like I was doing my duty as a citizen. Like I was a teacher enlightening my countrymen about our small neighbor island. There was a great deal of back-and-forth email with site users, and this enticed me to look deeper at the content, to simplify the pages and add better navigation… to make improvements wherever necessary and to tailor the content to the needs of the user.
This site was a labor of love, a project through which I could teach and learn simultaneously. From the beginning, there was a lot of support from users, most of which were students, teachers, journalists and travelers. They appreciated my attempts to navigate this history without slanting towards a pro or anti-Castro perspective. Their questions and comments helped tailor and develop the site into a powerful educational project; this is 500 years of Cuban history folks, not politics.
The goal for historyofcuba.com was always honesty, accuracy and availability to all that wished to explore this history. I quickly embraced the practice of clean html, cascading style sheets and wide accessibility. My personal goal, other than the technical challenge, was to entice people to seek out Cuban history beyond the site, to learn more than is possible through references in pop culture and the news media.
After returning to school to complete my education and increase my unmanageable student loan debt into something ferocious and death-defying, I became obsessed with recording the opulent street art scene my eyes feasted on daily, and was compelled to create graffitisf.com as a home for the resulting images. The site features an insane organizational scheme… as I assembled a neighborhood by neighborhood “walk through” of the city’s vibrant street art scene. I tried to make something different from the database-driven approach popular with such sites… and it featured a different way of looking at murals… I embraced the environment in which the mural lived.
You can navigate the neighborhoods without returning to a menu or home page, though you can if you wish to.
The Graffiti Wall section became the drum beat to which I slammed my head… one of my favorite sections is still the Stevenson Wall by which I used to walk almost daily. I also seemed to wear out lots of shoes seeking out murals by Amanda Lynn, something which I can’t explain logically. One of her murals even showed up in a short story that two or three people actually read.
For a while the site consumed my waking hours, and I found it impossible to keep up with the amount of photographing and coding and testing required. The Thumbnails page began to take over my life… I was in trouble. Then there’s the Olive at Larkin wall in the Tenderloin… and the murals by Zio Ziegler…
I enjoy the puzzle that is organizing data, chunking information and laying out web pages. Sorting out confusion is fun, though, paradoxically, I don’t really like traditional puzzles and I hate cleaning the kitchen. Yet complex stories and unexpected plot twists attract me.
At the same time, I love the visual fantasizing of the images, and the idea of mixing reality with unreality… on purpose. And it’s not just the obvious Escape From New York therapeutic effect… the process takes my brain into areas I might not explore, other than as a passive consumer… a way to create worlds and explore possibilities… a way to bring life to something imagined… to relive a childhood… to express beautiful and pure incongruity…
I also enjoy playing Cecil B. DeMille in my own way. The preparation and execution of these works generates much needed… payback. [These issues are explored to some disturbing conclusions in the Unreality Studios Manifesto.]
Today this site is focused… it moves forward...
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