Innocent celebrities, cartoon characters, and national monuments are turning to an unlikely food source human testicles in a bizarre web fad called "Ate My Balls." With Jason's blessing, Scott jumps right aboard the bandwagon with Jason Fedorow Ate My Balls!, in which he publishes ordinary photos of his friend and roommate with captions describing the man's obsession with consuming the tasty grub. The page gets a postscript when Matthew Preston takes a photo of Scott crying over two gumballs in Jason's gaping mouth.
Enrolled in a hypertext class as part of his English major, Scott is assigned to create a new homepage. (Everyone else in the class is learning HTML for the first time.) He opts for a simple yet striking look: All black with white text and vivid green links. The original version has a photo of Scott silhouetted in a sunny doorway on the far right, but it is soon replaced with a list of links to his classmates and friends. Scott highlights new content when it appears and endeavors to add more humorous one-off pages than at any other time in the site's past.
In the history of his site, only once does Scott pull the plug on a page due to controversy: The Young and the Lifeless, an ambitious project in which he turns his friends into characters in a trashy soap opera and intends to write stories about the various trysts, crimes, and intrigues of their fictional counterparts. One by one, his friends beg out of the project, and Scott cancels it before he even writes the first installment. It is not the last time he writes his friends into his fiction, since they occasionally show up in his text RPGs in various incarnations, but this is Scott's last attempt to portray them in an deliberately unflattering light.
March 20:Celebrity Goo Game, itself inspired by a weekly trivia game by Matthew Preston, inspires a separate trivia game by Aaron Fischer. Every week, Aaron posts the opening seconds of a TV show's theme music on his site with a clue, and asks players to name the show. Scott is determined to win the game out of pride for the goo game, but is narrowly defeated in the final week by Aaron's friend Mike Eberhart. The two finalists congratulate one another and go their separate ways until Mike begins Celebrity Goo Game two years later, eventually becoming a champion of that game as well. Completing the circle, in 2003 Matthew Preston would start a TV-theme guessing game on his own site, unrelated to either Aaron's game or the goo game.
Adoring of his favorite movies, Scott wants to put movie reviews on his site, but can't decide on a gimmicky format until he recalls a scene in high school: An English teacher, who had assigned the class to write reviews of Casablanca, warned one of the slacker kids that he had to write more than "It ruled" or "It sucked." Scott adds "It was okay" to the mix and launches Thorough Movie Reviews in which he "reviews" every film he sees with one of those three phrases and nothing more. The page is just supposed to be a one-joke gag, but Scott keeps updating it with new movies he sees, and gradually he succombs to his desire to write longer and longer reviews until years later it becomes the free-format, gimmick-free reviews archive it is today. The very first review Scott writes is for The Matrix which, of course, ruled.
Scott's hypertext class reads Neal Stephenson and William Gibson as part of a study of cyberpunk, a rumination on the future of technology and human communication. The assignment is to create a minisite about Stephenson's novel Snow Crash. While most of the students stick to plain text and links, Scott pushes his HTML experience as far as he's capable, attempting to create a media experience more about design than content, and it's as close as he ever gets to that ideal. Despite it being different from all other web sites he ever creates, Scott can't resist putting his personal stamp on it by sneaking in photos of his friends.
It is 49 goos and more than a year into Celebrity Goo Game before the game gets its first correct guess from a stranger, someone named Jennifer Youngedyke. Her email address is valid as far as Scott can tell, but she sends him no messages other five correct guesses that spring and summer, and that combined with her suspicious last name makes Scott wonder if she is one of his friends posing as an alias. It subtly influences the site that the first stranger to participate earns Scott's suspicion, making him paranoid ever after that any new unfamiliar registrant might be a friend in disguise, leading him to compare IP addresses and observe times of day when certain members login and participate looking for evidence of ghost accounts. Scott never discovers for sure whether Jennifer Youngedyke was a real person.
In May 1999, Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace is the most eagerly-awaited film in history, with a massive national craze over the imminent blockbuster. Growing tired of the hoopla, Scott throws together a page about the "hotly anticipated" The Love Letter, a minor romantic comedy opening on the same day that was virtually invisible against George Lucas's space opera. It was typical of the one-joke, thrown-together-in-two-hours sort of humor that drove Scott's Home Page during this era.
Scott's latest idea for a friends page has a lot of room for creativity: He pretends each one is a recording artist and creates the cover to their latest album, based on in-jokes or other references. A few of the jokes are too mean-spirited but the page is well-received, and the graphic design style Scott develops with this project shows up years later on the large promotional images he places at the top of his site homepage. The "CD collection" friends page is such a hit that it is followed up in December 2001 with a "book collection" sequel.
Always ready to steal a great concept, Scott borrows the humorous style of "The Onion" and fashions his own fake news stories in a feature that lasts two years. Among the headlines: Protestors Organize Million Monkey March, Boy Mauled by Pokémon, Bill Gates Learns He is Worth $90 Billion, Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company Admits to Cloning Humans, Bush Resigns After College Protest, Cellblock D Wins Prison Spirit Week, and Cats to Bush: 'All your base are belong to us.' The stories are mildly popular and get linked from various other sites, but take too much work for Scott to maintain with any regularity.
Two of Scott's loves, Chinese food and photos of his friends, come together in a new page called simply Fortune Cookies. Each friend is written a humorous personalized message purportedly from inside a fortune cookie, and the page is full of in-jokes. Among the entries: Kelly Lee gets "In two hours, you'll be hungry for a Steakburger," Jason Fedorow gets "You will not meet new acquaintances in bed," and Matthew Preston gets "Are you done? Want more Pesi?"
September 1:The Island at the End of the World, Scott's fantasy RPG, comes to its original end in April 1999 and loses several top players at its conclusion. Determined to give the game the interface it deserves before it resumes as Volume II, Scott spends the summer creating a colorful and highly organized new site just for the game, finally re-launching it as Blood on the World's Hands on the first day of September. It stays in this successful format for another two years, and during that time Scott keeps so busy writing new posts that he rarely manages to reformat old posts or add more reference material to the site, a trend that continues in games to come. The colored gradients in the menu re-appear intact in 2006 as part of the shell of a newly-launched redesign.
After Scott becomes an ordained minister through one of those Internet churches, he begins blessing household objects and offering to marry people's pets. Inevitably this inspires a page on his site, Homepages of the Holy, where he "blesses" other people's pages he finds online, starting with the anime fansite of newly-married Lori Lancaster. Scott decides to alternate between friends' sites and strangers' sites, but the award doesn't catch on and he soon abandons the project. Half of the strangers respond positively and the other half doesn't respond at all.
All over the web, Mr. T fights random enemies in a silly meme pitting him against President Clinton, Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII, Stephen Hawking, and even God. Scott puts his own spin on the trend with Mr. T vs. My Friends, a nine-page comic in which the venerable A-Team star kills Scott and winds up throwing his friends all over the place in the ensuing battle. Full of in-jokes, it becomes one of the most popular friends pages Scott ever creates, and leads to Mr. T becoming the 100th celebrity goo..
If American politics is a joke, Scott figures he ought to mine it for what it's worth. Scott launches Hardie/Preston 2000, his presidential campaign with roommate Matthew Preston as his running mate. With campaign pledges like "No more taxes. Ever," and "Social Security, schmocial schmecurity," the two set out to clean up Washington politics, but the grassroots movement never materializes and their parents won't fund their advertising platforms, stopping the joke at the page that spawned it. The following summer, Matthew's acrimoniously-split ex-girlfriend emails Scott to make fun of his campaign pledge to "Free Jeffrey Dahmer now!" because she thinks he isn't aware of Dahmer's death, and he patiently explains the joke to her.
Walking home from class one afternoon and thinking about how film critics always seem to publish their annual ten-best lists a month before the year actually ends, Scott is thunderstruck with the idea of creating his own "ten best" list and gets so excited he (almost) runs the rest of the way. A marathon writing session that night produces some amateurish text but clearly communicates Scott's passion for the movies he saw that year, and 1999 was a good year for cool movies: The Matrix, Fight Club, American Beauty, The Sixth Sense. Scott has so much fun writing his ten-best that he follows up a week later with a list of additional summaries of the year 1999 in film, and the feature becomes an annual element of the site, although thereafter Scott insists on waiting until January on principle.
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