The caged songbird network

oubliette.nu was registered in February 2016 via Namecheap. The revamped network was unveiled two months later, replacing disconsolation.net, which had been up since December 2011.

NO, LETHE. NO. GO ABOVE AND BEYOND THE LIMIT. ABOVE. AND BEYOOOOONNNNNDDDDD. Andrea (the individual to blame for the word vomit on this network)

History

Making fansites has been a hobby of mine since around 2002. Like many others, I have made my webdesign journey through various webhosts, including Beepworld (the dark ages), Tripod, Geocities, Funpic and bplaced. Most of them eventually became ridden with ads, so – after some convincing by Elysa – I decided to grant myself a long-standing wish by purchasing my first domain and webspace in 2011. Though barely anything from that early time remains, the experiences from all those years have had an immense impact on my interests and the lens through which I perceive media. It is they who have shaped the person I am, and all the memories now form oubliette.nu as well as a few other outlets.

This network was hosted at klue.com.au (formerly bubble.nu) from December 2011 to July 2013; ever since, it has been stationed at three-words.net.

Domain Name

Oubliette derives from the French oublier – "to forget" – and means Forgotten Place, which makes it a direct link to Lethe, the name I've been going by since around 2008 (Greek for forgetfulness, oblivion or concealment; also one of the five rivers of the underworld in myth).

The domain name was chosen partly due to this thematic connection. Fading into oblivion as well as losing my memories are perhaps my greatest fears: disappearing without trace, leaving no proof of things to have ever existed. I wish for my love and my thoughts to mean something; I wish for my present feelings to endure time, for my future self to be able to look back and see the person it once was. To me, writing is the most precise way to capture all of the things I wish to convey, so I give them shape by recording them with words. Calling oblivion by its name means working against it – it means not allowing memories to die.

An oubliette is actually a very particular kind of medieval prison: a dungeon only accessible from a trapdoor high in the ceiling, said to be impossible to escape. Writing also always means relief to me, as I am able to move on after knowing that my thoughts and feelings are in a safe place – even if I should forget them, my writing would be there to remind me. Forgetting is a natural condition of living: to live means to forget, as new sensations flood you and new memories are made. But you can have them both, the past and the present, by giving those sensations a vessel and storing them in a secret place; they'll be there for you to revisit from a new perspective – that of the person you become. An oubliette – in a figurative sense here, of course – is a place you put things to safely forget about them, and that is a good thing.

But writing means so much more to me even beyond that: I consider it the only way I am able to truly express myself. My physical self is vessel and prison both, the limitations of the spoken word and the fleetingness of oral conversation effectively preventing me from connecting with others, erasing any desire to convey my love. Written conversation is my door in the ceiling, and my means of linking the internal with the external world; it's the one genuine bridge between what I think and what I express.

Lasty, I have always been immersed in fiction, which makes up a significant part of my world. But fiction ages, and many of the things that once were my entire world – that may still be a part of my world – aren't as well-known anymore. They're doomed to fade away and to be forgotten – but there has to be a place where those forgotten things go. Shrines are one such place, and it is my full intention to give it to them.

Network Title

When I decided to replace disconsolation.net due to its unwieldy length and sound, I knew I wanted a domain name that would allow me to retain my network title.

I associate The Caged Songbird with some of my favourite fictional characters: the kind that finds an odd sense of comfort in the status quo despite the misery and loneliness, for reasons only they are capable of understanding and accepting – a result of having spent so much time in that state that it has become all that they know, and because happiness and pain are such abstract and individual things. Those characters are in sorry states which they fail to overcome, their feelings holding them prisoner, their misery becoming their cage.

Misery cannot and should not be measured and judged from anything but an individual perspective, and this cage means pain and comfort both: pain because the thing you want is out of reach, with there being no way to obtain it, comfort because you have come to embrace that condition as an element of your identity and reality, which gives you some semblance of control. Even if the truth is that you simply aren't able to let go of the pain and that part of yourself just yet, unwilling to step into the unknown past the pain, that is not something to be judged: Each person has their own reasons behind their decisions, and how they choose to handle their pain is something deeply personal.

The songbird is meant to represent one such situation. It is something that is loved for its function and image rather than its true self. It is kept in a cage, untouched, never to know direct affection – its only purpose its singing, its only desire to experience the impossible. And the more impossible of a dream it seems, the more desperate it grows, and the stronger the yearning. But it resigns to its fate – because it doesn't know the sky above, and the cage is its whole world – and tries to capture what little it has by holding on to both its love and its pain, expressing them in its song.

I find myself relating to such characters and such works of fiction, as the many years of my adolescence were spent exactly in that state, and they are years I now consider formative. I am drawn to wretched and misunderstood characters, and it is important to me to convey that no matter how dear someone is to you, how fiercely you disagree with their choices or how delusional they may be, in the end, it is up to them to carve their own path and choose what they can or can't live with.

Looking back, it often seems to me as though one must first cross the darkest places before being able to show sincere tolerance and understanding towards others in situations one can't even begin to imagine – and that is what fuels my writing.

Layout

When making layouts for the network's hub, I try to choose images that depict a subject I can more or less identify with. After all, the network is, in a way, the center of my internet activity, and the product of my media consumption and thoughts – as such, I'd like the hub to represent me in some way.

Wither & Bloom is version 3 of the network and features drawings from the manhwa Forest of Gray City by Jung-Hyun Uhm (its original title is along the lines of "Running Through the Urban Forest in the Sunset"). It's a two-volume series that is the equivalent of a Japanese slice-of-life josei, featuring a freelance artist in her twenties as she stumbles through her everyday life while looking for something to hold on to. All around her, friends and acquaintances alike are starting to settle down; in contrast, she neither has financial nor job security, not to mention being stuck with a job she isn't passionate about and unable to imagine a future where she is supposed to work all day long.

The manhwa has gorgeous drawings, and I adore the mood it starts with: the desolateness in its cityscape, the melancholy of everyday loneliness, and the emptiness of promises unredeemed. I'm in my twenties now, and against all talks of potential and the future, I can't see that future – there are no guarantees, and already do I feel that I'm lagging behind. All around me, people are outperforming and outpacing me, and it makes me feel so very small.

Do I recommend the series? No, I don't; the second volume is a letdown, shifting its focus from the main character to the young man who has moved in with her, and overemphasizing romance rather than further pursuing its themes. To add insult to injury, it ends abruptly the moment the romantic aspect is resolved. I will, however, continue to cherish it for what it could have been, and continue to seek out josei series. I think our generation and my age range could stand seeing more stories aimed at an older female audience that is still trying so very hard to live up to all the promises and expectations they have grown up with.

credits
gains
  • BEING TRUE TO MYSELF
  • transition from XHTML to HTML5 ("semantics, Lethe!!")
  • significantly better grasp of divs and floats (rot in hell, tables)
  • better understanding of lists and how to style them
  • several other neat tricks and tools for the toolbox
  • strengthened bond with Larissa!! (Larissa is amazing okay. She helped me on a daily basis for an entire week, going over my code, showing and explaining me new and old things alike, answering all my noob questions and cries for help, and fixing a lot of things that broke in coding this. A lot of this is trivial because it's invisible, but this was an amazing experience despite the many frustrations! ilu Larissa. ehehehe.)