ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

Tracing DNA —

Every once in a while, I’d like to point out the historical/archival efforts of others, and encourage you to take some time to check them out. We’ll start out simple, but well: DNA Lounge.

The DNA Lounge is a nightclub/club in San Francisco. It has a range of shows it puts on, including touring acts, local bands, and nights with just a lot of people and music blasting over the speakers. Running this whole show is a guy named Jamie Zawinski.

I’ve never met Jamie Zawinski, but I’ve certainly used stuff he programmed as a result of working for Netscape in the 1990s, I’ve played with the really amazing screensaver project he’s been involved with, and I’ve been a rabid reader of his jwz website for many years now. He’s a complicated person, with interests I don’t share and opinions I don’t share but many that I do and a method of describing things in the world that I enjoy reading.

He resigned from Mozilla/Netscape/AOL in 1999, loaded with some cash, and unaware that he had gotten out before things really went downhill in the tech world for a while. So he kind of disappeared there, and then he announced he was opening a nightclub. This struck me, at the time, as spectacularly weird, tangential and strange. But it was his money and his time and he was still updating his website, so that worked for me.

But Jamie is a programmer and engineer, and so he approached this new phase of his life with lessons and outlook he’d used before, and this is where it gets interesting. He kept a weblog of the entire experience, telling you sometimes day to day what was going on with the DNA Lounge project, the money, the hassles, the heartbreak, and the sleaziness of the San Francisco political machine.

The journey starts here, with a historical background of the building his club was in, and then it follows through the present day.

It is, in a word, spectacular. Every weblog entry is a joy, with the elations, depressions and brutality of following one’s dreams. And not to give anything away, but the club does ultimately open, take in acts, and he just keeps weblogging, giving you a unique perspective as a club owner and chief bottle-washer. I find it magical.

As an extra bonus, when he opened the club, he added audio and video livecasting to the club, so that you could see and hear the whole event from your desktop! In fact, some acts told him they wouldn’t perform unless the cameras/feeds were turned off. Result? He wouldn’t let them perform. For years, I’d be working on my projects, and plug into these video/audio feeds so I could be “at the club” while doing my archiving/describing.

During the production of the documentary, I found myself with an extra evening in San Francisco, staying at a buddy’s place but not having any interviews lined up. I had been reading the DNA weblog for years at that point, something like 3 or 4, and I had always hoped I could go there. I figured out the address, made my way down, and walked right in.

It turned out the club was closed, but the front doors were unlocked, because a couple people were borrowing the club space (with jwz’s permission) to do some final sorting/stapling of a zine that was about to ship. I stumbled around into one of the people there, and she was kind enough to give me a tour. It was glorious: there were the welds I’d heard about, the stairs he’d had issues with, the stage layout he’d chosen, the missing walls, the bathrooms, the televisions… I pointed out everything as we went, and she was able to show me where each of the cameras was located. I also saw (but couldn’t enter, obviously) an amazingly cool private space jwz had built for himself within the club so he’d always have a great seat. Good for him!

I bought my DNA t-shirt, bought a few other items, and walked out into the night, forever linked.

It’ll probably take most people days to read through the weblog entries, but I promise you, they’re worth it, all of them. And it’s absolutely true, and absolutely free. A treasure.

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  1. fuzz says:

    I too have been reading the DNA lounge blog for years, and if I ever make it over to your side of the pond, it’s one place that I’d like to check out, in short, I know exactaly what you mean 🙂

  2. Michael Kohne says:

    You know, you have to stop posting stuff that’s quite this interesting. I stayed up ALL DAMN NIGHT reading jwz’s blog. Just because it was well written and interesting (literally all night – I finally went to bed at 4 am).

    Thanks for costing me a night’s sleep!