Why hello again, dear reader. It’s so good to see you back.
Or, perhaps, I am mistaken, and you’re new here. If so, then welcome in.
Tales of Casstastrophe has gone through quite the redesign over the past few months and I’d like to take a moment to talk you through it before we move on with our irregularly scheduled programming.
Reflecting on the early beginnings of this site, and everything that’s come from it since, is part of what took the redesign so long for me to complete. Not only has WordPress itself (the main engine that everything here sits on) gone through several upgrades since 2015, but Tales of Cass had also been switched through a few different themes since its inception, and never once did I ever go back to make sure everything still looked and functioned the way I originally wrote it to. When I took things offline this fall, the bulk of my time was spent going back through every single one of my published posts to manually standardize their formats and styles. In a sick and twisted kind of way, I’m glad I haven’t had much to say over the past few years because that, my friends, was an exercise in agony.
My very first post—back in 2015—is titled “Why Am I Doing This?” Those of you who have been reading around here for a while now know that my memory is positively horrid, but trust me when I say that I remember every single moment of writing out that post. Cambridge, England. I was sitting in the middle of my small single bed in my dungeon (read: basement) student room on 18 Fitzwilliam Street, my back against the heater even though it was the peak of summer. I was a college student with more Cadbury’s chocolate and strawberry jam in her system than any human has a right to, and I felt an immense need to qualify my intentions before taking this website any further.
Now, almost 7 years later, I’m sitting in the middle of my much bigger bed in my much more above ground (read: high-rise) apartment bedroom in Chicago, extra thick socks on against the midwest chill, a long since graduated and fully employed woman who is well-versed in chocolate vegan protein shakes (because nutrition is hard). And yet I still feel the need to share with you my intentions.
So… this is that, I guess.
What inspired the new design?
Listen. The hot pink title bar served me well for all those years. But strong-arming the old design specs into new theme formats every year or two when WordPress inevitably retired whatever I was using made things get pretty wonky. I won’t bore you with the details, just remember that there’s a reason I failed out of computer science in college. Count yourselves lucky that you never saw the original header graphics for this site, which were super distorted landscape shots from a 2014 study abroad trip to South Africa.
I’m calling the new look and feel of the site designed minimalism. I don’t really know what it means either, it just got stuck in my head and now here we are. A lot of the general mechanics of the different pages are thanks to the actual theme designers. I just had to learn how to make them my own.
The color palette came first, and it found me through the instagram account of a very favorite and frequently linked Follies & Fixations feature—United by Blue. Something about the intersection of earth and water tones really landed with me. Solid and shapeless, stable and kinetic, grounded and calming. They fit well around here.
Then came picking fonts and general text design. We won’t go into the intricacies of scrolling through hundreds of fonts looking for the perfect Serif pairing for headers and bodies, but know that I looked like an absolute maniac at a local café one Saturday morning, turning my head to look away from my laptop then back towards it so I could give my eyes a second of reset time to process disturbingly small differences between one font and another for a grand total of two hours. I wanted something reminiscent of the didactic wall panels in The Whitney and The Art Institute of Chicago and I think we got there in the end.
Last but not least was configuring the new pages and reformatting everything in the blog archives. Believe it or not, every interaction that I personally have with Tales of Cass is through my laptop, so that’s the main format the site is set up to be viewed in. There are a few components here and there that still aren’t perfectly mobile-enabled (especially on This Is Me), and I know that’s the format 99.9% of you are accessing this in, but I had to take a page out of a book from what we tell my clients at work and not let perfect be the enemy of good. I could have tinkered with things for months and months and never relaunched the site, which would have meant never getting around to any of the actual fun bits—the writing.
What am I planning to publish?
In short: all of the same things I was publishing before (albeit hopefully more frequently). The Casstegories aren’t going anywhere.
I’m really excited to do more with Bibliove and Rhythm & Syntax. Also, I may or may not have a new Crawl coming out soon and yes, I have been very stressed over the loss of alliteration for it. I’ll see what I can come up with.
Why am I still doing this?
The main intention behind this blog has always been tracking the moments of my life. Yes, it’s rewarding and exciting when others read what I’ve written and find some connection to it, and I absolutely love the community we have here, but I also know that some day I’ll be the only one coming back. Tales of Casstastrophe is my memory bank.
The experience to be had on this site is particularly special for me because when I visit the posts that are stored here I’m not only remembering the moments and words, but I’m also remembering where and who I was when I wrote them. I’m remembering what was on my mind and who was in my life, what dreams and hopes and aspirations were guiding me through the days.
When I look back at photos taken I see a gentle hand tapping me on the shoulder in the middle of a small town square, holding out little slips of lined paper with my train schedule and emergency numbers, torn from my grandmother’s notebook and left behind at the cafe table where that same gentle hand served me my first scone. I hear a rush of cool air coming through the open windows of a rental car, mixing with beloved songs on a fading radio station and laughter filled to the brim with mirth. I smell salt water in the early morning air of a home I bid goodbye to and fumes of unleaded gasoline on drive after drive after drive. I taste freshly picked veg from a garden I tended to myself, rainbow chards and cauliflower, and sometimes warm baked bread. I feel the texture of a camera lens turning between gloved fingers, every breath and thought and smile and tear.
Hard as I try to convey some of these things for you through my writing, there are pieces that will always and forever belong to me and me alone. Remembering those sensory markers is why I am still doing this.
Also, because it’s fun. I love looking for ridiculous places to explore so I can make a Voyage out of it. I love typing bad jokes and linking to random YouTube videos in places where approximately 3.5 people will understand the reference. I love using as many commas as I damn well please, and writing in my actual tone of voice, and crafting grammatical nightmares in the form of run-on sentences that make little to no logical sense but take you on a journey through my thought patterns nonetheless and leave you breathless by the time you reach their end.
I’m still doing this for me.
At this exact moment in time, Tales of Casstastrophe holds 66 blog posts in the almost 7 years since its inception. 67 once I hit publish on this sucker. I’d like to hit 100 by the end of 2022 (go on, remind me about the Sandra Bullock Movie Marathon pledge, I dare you), which means giving myself the time and space and commitment to do so.
Things are going to be different. There will be change, but we’ll do it together. Promise.
Here’s to many more Tales of Casstastrophe.