The Tar Pit MP-WP theme

October 21, 2019 by Lucian Mogosanu

V patch: mp-wp_thetarpit-theme.vpatch (seal).

The results presented here can be obtained by: first, copying the "default" theme directory to a new one and changing the comment at the top of each php file so that the "subpackage" field reflects the name of the new theme1.

Second, one may optionally remove the sidebar by searching for all calls to the get_sidebar function and commenting/removing that line2.

Third, one should adjust the style.css file to reflect the desired visual layout, i.e. colours, font, column size etc. Additionally, it's easy to remove the gradient-ish header by editing header.php and removing the inline CSS referring to "kubrickblahblah.svg". This step can be run in a feedback loop with others, e.g. adjusting the column size after removing the sidebar.

Fourth, one should adjust archives.php, i.e. the "Archives" template to contain the desired content, e.g. in this theme's case a search box, the categories and the monthly archives.

Fifth, one should create a new template named "First" for the first page. Creating a new template is achieved by creating a new file, say, first.php, which at the beginning contains e.g.:

 * @package WordPress
 * @subpackage TheTarPit
Template Name: First

Obviously, we then need to display the header:

<?php get_header(); ?>

and then the content. We won't go into details regarding how to display e.g. recent posts and comments3, but after you've done this, you must similarly make it echo the footer:

<?php get_footer(); ?>

Sixth, one may display the pages described in the fourth and the fifth steps by e.g. creating a new page in the Wordpress administrative interface and setting the "Template" field to the desired template. If your template doesn't appear there, then you've most likely botched something in the code, so please to go back to the fifth step.

Seventh, there are other small things that you might wish to do, for example getting the proper selection mechanism in place4. Similarly, you can add Trilema-style random taglines to your header.php by first adding to your theme's functions.php:

function thetarpit_head() {
        $taglines = array('A witty tagline',
                          'Yet another witty tagline',
                          'You're going to laugh your ass off reading this');
        $tagline = $taglines[mt_rand(0, count($taglines) - 1)];
        update_option('thetarpit_tagline', $tagline);


add_action('wp_head', 'thetarpit_head');

then in header.php changing the following call




Of course, the pseudo-random array indexing can be replaced with a database query into a new table or whatever; this can be adjusted as the user desires.

Eighth, one may now finally lie back and admire his new theme. It may not be perfect, much like the hack-ridden process of arriving here wasn't. That's fine though, even God himself rested after making his imperfect earth.

  1. Although to be honest, I've observed no difference in keeping those comments as they are. This is mostly a cosmetic change for whomever reads the code. 

  2. People don't seem to like the single-column format and I quite see the reason: there's all those useful quick links accessible through the sidebar that would otherwise require navigating to another page, which is, I agree, annoying.

    Here's my visual design philosophy instead: I don't want to clutter your visual field with things that are not immediately necessary when you're reading a post. If you're reading e.g. this article and you suddenly expect to move to, say, recent posts and then immediately back to the article, then I'd say this is a very peculiar habit; while we're at it, why not add a third column to display the comments for the current post in parallel with the main content?

    Anyway, this is how this theme works: if you want to access quick links and such, they're all on the first page. Want to take a look at recent comments? then simply navigate to and there you'll find them.

    All this being said, I'm vehehery far from anything resembling a UX expert, so I don't expect my words on the matter hold much weight. 

  3. Long story short, look for wp_recent_posts and get_comments in your MP-WP tree, using the grep -rw method outlined in the exploration tutorial

  4. For the record, The Tar Pit theme comes with server-side selection included. 

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2 Responses to “The Tar Pit MP-WP theme”

  1. #1:
    spyked says:

    Meanwhile we observe that the "recent comments" functionality on the first page is utterly, utterly broken. Let's take a look at it:

    <h2>Recent comments</h2>
            $args = array('status' => 'approve',
                            'number' => 30);
            $comments = get_comments($args);
            $i = 0;
            <ul class="recentcomments">
                    <?php foreach ($comments as $comment) : ?>
                    <?php if ($comment->comment_type == '' ||
                              $comment->comment_type == 'comment') : ?>
                    <a href="<?php echo get_comment_link($comment- rel="nofollow">comment_ID); ?>"
                       title="<?php echo get_the_title($comment->comment_post_ID);
                       ?>"><?php echo $comment->comment_author; ?></a>:ยท
                       <?php echo wp_html_excerpt($comment->comment_content, 75);
                    <?php ++$i;
                          if ($i > 7)
                    <?php endif; ?>
                    <?php endforeach; ?>

    Notice the error? The code takes the most recent 30 posts, regardless of post type, and only then filters out pingbacks. So if Wordpress happens to start a flood of pingbacks (for example, as a consequence to post categories being updated), then none of the new non-pingback comments are displayed anymore.

    The fix is pretty simple: account for post types when querying the database, and limit the query for a given post type to a given 'number'. Until that's implemented, I guess the reader will have to occasionally suffer from the lack of recent comments.

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