The Sweet Spot: The Golden Age of The Thumbnail Gallery


“Oh, what big eyes you have!” “The better to stare at pixelated boobs, my dear!”

The future can be a terrifying place, especially when you’re on the bleeding edge of the present, watching shreds of now disappear on the front end, into the chaotic abyss of tomorrow. And maybe the past is no better; cling to yesterday and watch it disappear through your fingers…tighten your grip, and lose even more of this life you’re living to the ghosts dragging it home to sleep that cold slumber with them.

They say you can never go home again, and all of the machinations one could conjure won’t make that idea any less true. It’s the present we must inhabit, but that’s not to say that we can’t enjoy the memories of what we had, or the hopes for we might someday enjoy.

Take for example, pornography. Today, a person need not do much more than park his or her libido-supercharged ass in front of a computer and search for his or her favorite terms. Interracial, octopus, blumpkin: do what you want! You can, so why not do? It certainly has opened the eyes of recent generations to all of the interesting ideations of sex that can be had. And then, if you’ve had your fill of the Big O by binary code, you can just go onto Craigslist, OKCupid or and…ahem…order out (delivery fees vary by service and provider).

Hell, it’s such a simple thing that somewhere in the neighborhood of 113,000,000 folks in the United States are now supercharged with a sexually-transmitted disease! I get the feeling that such a number still doesn’t place us in “we’re #1!” territory, either by sheer number or per-capita, but damn it if that’s not impressive, in the same way that The Rape of Nanking is impressive.

To get an idea of just how impressive a stat that is, go outside. Don’t worry, no one’s gonna mug you. Start walking, anyway you like except “into traffic” will do. Eventually, you’ll pass a person. Then another and another. At that point, stop and reflect…which one of them had an STD? Because the odds are that it was one of them. Keep on doing that for a while.

“So, is this guy saying that the increase in the number of US STDs can draw a direct corollary to the more readily-available nature of pornography in 2013?”

It certainly does read that way, doesn’t it? Well, the article I read that had the stat about +/- 113m Americans with STD’s also happened to mention that the highest concentrations of those diseases congregated in the 15-24 year-old age demographic.

So, let’s say that this is all about modern porn availability; a 24-year-old with an STD would have entered the aforementioned demo at age 15 in 2004. In that timeframe, we’re starting to talk about high-speed Internet being widely available. We’re starting to see Redtubes and Porntubes and Eskimotubes all over the place, filling minds with dreams of the sex they’ll someday have. There has always been weird porn–and lots of it–but unfettered access like that given to the world by high-speed Internet service is unprecedented. All knowledge comes at us like a tsunami, but porn rides the tsunami like a surfing gorilla in board shorts.

Anyone remember this hit?

Yeah, just like that.

For a second, let’s climb into our sensory deprivation tanks and take a bee-line through the mind to the woolly, checkered past of the 80s and 90s. If a person wanted porn, dirty gas stations, adult bookstores and the somehow-storied collections of your friends’ parents were really the only outlets through which a person could get their hands on some smut. Otherwise, it was the odd Frederick’s of Hollywood catalog that might or might not have been dropped off at the wrong house by the mailman, or skipping school to watch MTV’s The Grind and trying to time yourself so you didn’t pop off when the Jamaican dude had his solo dance, because then you’d think you were gay for a week. You’d have to negotiate a covert operation to buy old Penthouses off that enterprising Filipino kid in the gym before 1st Hour, or you’d have to be 6 years old and small enough to hide under one of the corner tables in the living room while your dad watched Cinemax after midnight. And then, you never knew whether your dad was kicking your little ass because he didn’t want you watching porn or he was embarrassed that you caught him watching porn. It was a real world of arduous navigation then, turning people who might have been simple creeps into absolute wretches, and turning wretches into monsters…or however that goes.

There was a sweet spot, though. There was a place that once was that might not ever truly be again, a sort of relic. It’s possible, probable even that we’ve transcended the fire within that would allow us to greedily consume a TGP, or thumbnail gallery post, and find us happy in the aftermath. For all of the memories of pain and horror that traumatize us and refuse to let us go, the mind is shockingly plastic and dynamic, and we might very well have evolved beyond the individual hot-shot of some glamour girl gone bad.

But briefly, during the reign of the 56k modem, the TGP reigned supreme. Click on a link–a vague link of broken English, keywords and lots of lies–and secure for yourself 12, 16, maybe more pics from a single photo shoot. Or maybe it was a Dogfart TGP, and you’d get a 4-in-1 sequence of shots, almost always showing the sheer terror of white women as black men prepared to make them useless to all but the Church, forever enduring. Whatever you got, it didn’t move. The mind had to negotiate the material, fantasize and create.

There was still risk involved. Sure, you didn’t have to engage clandestine operations on the sly, become a master of cloaking your physical identity or get judged (or worse, approved) by gas station attendants. And if you grew tired of the TGP, you still had to go out into the real world and maintain some level of social skill to possibly talk someone into touching your worn-yet-eager parts. But it still took more than a moment to look at a single image. However secure your location, and however open your schedule, you had to wait for pictures to load. And then, 70% of the load could show you the woman of your dreams, only to have the final 30% show your her giant dick. I like good stories, but not all good stories.

The TGP had the entire concept of pornography perfected. Not too much, not too fast. It wasn’t the fevered cocaine shamble of today’s porn, and it wasn’t an amateur dry-run for becoming a part of the CIA. The reward for the risk was adequate, didn’t desensitize, and even added a bit of the surprise and allure that modern porn very rarely has.

And better still, a TGP had composition. What pics, in what order? What’s the best shot (aside from money-) for this attractive glamour model, what makes her most alluring? It was magic, the magic that gonzo porn kills and scripted porn flicks abuse into stupidity. Silent, imaginative, provocative, still just sleazy enough to feel fringe, but conventional enough that your neighbor and his neighbor and her neighbor might all be checking out these same pics. The tease of the wait: yeah, you could see your interracial octopus blumpkin images, but you have to hold on tight ’til the fucker loads! Can you do that? Can you hold on? Well, if you didn’t want to risk scarring your psyche, that was a measure of restraint that you had to master.

We’ve moved past this, I feel, as a culture. We watch our shows when we want. We can fuck the auction process right in the ass and just buy it now on eBay. Places where people eat Sunday dinners have microwaves because, fuck, we can’t be expected to enjoy our friends and families for 30 minutes between the salad and the entrée! I know people who get depressed if their status updates or tweets don’t get Liked almost instantaneous, and that’s a real fear because they know their thoughts and quips will be obsolete within a few hours. For all of the Tetrapak-ing, canning, freezing and vacuum-sealing we’ve learned, it seems everything has a shorter shelf-life than ever.

Is that bad? Nah, not really. It’s just The Way. Bad is trying to predict where The Way will go, or pining for where it once was. It’s a yearning for what was that doesn’t wither, instead keeping us shackled to concepts that die. The way I see things now, if I can’t look back on something fondly, I need to rid myself of it. If something has yet to exist, then I need to hope or plan, and not fear. Seeing the Golden Age of the TGP in this light makes the memory sweeter, and that maybe I long for the memory, not the time. At least today, people don’t have to spend hours in front of a screen waiting for things they don’t want; now it’s many screens, and people can have endless desire. I guess it’s a way to go.

Thumbzilla, you were cool. We had good times. Find us again if you like, but know that we keep the lights on to illuminate the darkness, not to guide you home.


About xtopherjacques

I'm an unreliable narrator, which is supposed to be the fun of it. I'd imagine it's a lot more fun to be led off a cliff if it feels like a circus until it happens. Oh, I'm an average guy; I respirate and dream. Here, I'll talk a lot about both. There will likely be too much talk about bodily fluids of varying viscosities for one's liking, but I refuse to change that until it bores me. Thankfully, I also have healthy obsessions with foods (it might get weird), body washes and obscure media. I also talk a lot about my house being haunted and possessed, neither being true. All of those things should keep this all interesting enough. I sure hope so.

Posted on 03/29/2013, in Fun Stuff!, The Complexity of Simple Lives, The Little Things That Will Eat My Sanity and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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