Of Blogathons and Linodes

For at least the last year, blogathons have kept The Stop Button going. I was aiming for a Stop Button post every other day in 2019. 183 posts total for the year. For Stop Button. The only “theme” the posts would have is lots of them would be blogathon posts. Because blogathons take the hard work out of figuring out what to watch. I keep meaning to do a blogathon directory for Stop Button but it’s a lot of work. However, I am rather grateful blogathons aren’t just still a thing but also the quality of said blogathons. The bloggers putting them on have been de facto programming my movie watching (and blogging) for a couple years or whatever. The least I owe is a nice directory of blogathon posts.

Maybe after… I don’t know, after something.

The previous paragraph is just preamble to talk about actually programming The Stop Button again for the first time in recent memory. I used to maintain this endless watch list, which eventually ended up in Google Sheets because there were various calculations going on trying to randomize selections but with some intentional weighing. I’m not doing the spreadsheet thing again.

I am, however, using a tech-fueled system to program.

I’ve been trying to get a Linode going for at least a year. I could look and see when I first tried to get a WordPress install up and going, but it still bothers me I couldn’t figure it out. Just way too much work. Maybe not if I knew how to get a domain up and going in 2019 (or 2018) but I don’t and learning how wasn’t going to happen. There’s also the problem of Linode’s help files either being out of date or not seeming aware of the contents of the other help files they link. What was supposed to be simple turned into a major headache. So no Linode WordPress.

I did, however, manage to get a Mediawiki up and running and I manage my watch list with it. So yay, I finally set up my own Linode. Though still not with a working domain name but—again—it’s not worth the trouble.

It’s also not a public website so it’s fine.

I am now ready to program The Stop Button again on my own. Only I still have a bunch of outstanding blogathons to participate in so The Stop Button won’t officially start the new programming schedule until September. I’m also waiting on a few things before I select the first titles. Also not sure how I’m going to talk about those. But progress. Real, visible progress has been made. Albeit only in managing a watch list.

Which reminds me: I need to backup that watch list.

Linode makes it real easy too. Two buttons to click and two dollars a month, which doesn’t even eat into my credit balance because there was a Linode promotion running on “Core Intuition” when I signed up. Now Linode advertises on almost all the podcasts I follow.

Anyway. Success. And love to the blogathon bloggers, who’ll get that directory… someday.

Probably after September.

I really wish I could get a Patreon going to justify taking time off to blog, which ought to be too much of a shameful confession to make but whatever.

Blogging changes

I’m trying something new at Visual Reflux, which has been neglected. And since I’ve been cross-posting from VR to Comics Fondle, Comics Fondle has been neglected. Stop Button I’ve kept up on. Mostly. But Visual Reflux as a new primary site has been a bust. I spent most of my blogging time this year doing Stop Button, which I wanted to keep active but ended up focusing on once again. Even without much of a programming philosophy, I focused on it. Though some of it was doing so many blogathons I never could get started writing about TV, which was theoretically what 2019 blogging was going to be all about.

When I started Visual Reflux earlier this year I wanted to go with self-hosted WordPress, to get into the geekery of blogging again, which has been very disappointing. Primarily because I had wanted to set it up on Linode, then kept failing and finally giving up.

Spoiler: Visual Reflux is going to WordPress.com real soon. I can’t with this… it’s 2019.

And the second half of 2019 is going to be a lot, blogging-wise, even though it’s not going to be a lot of blogging. It’ll probably be about the same amount between the three blogs–VR, Comics Fondle, Stop Button. Or at least not so heavily focused on Stop Button everything else suffers. The plan as of right now is to use Visual Reflux for everything not comics or movies. TV posts, Summing Up category posts—these colloquial ones—music posts, which might happen. And whatever else isn’t comics or movies. Except the new capsule reviews I’m doing at Stop Button. Those are going to get crossposted to VR on a post-by-post basis, not weekly or something. So I’m going to have to check the format for really short posts on those ones.

And Comics Fondle is finally going to get a site overhaul. Not sure I’m going to go into all the categories and tags but there’s going to be some browsing. It’ll get a whole new theme, which VR might get too.

Stop Button is going to have a programming schedule (of sorts). I’ll write about it on its own.

Planned posts is going to be a thing for Visual Reflux. Next post will be about The Stop Button. How blogathons kept me interested in film enough to keep the blog going while not having any interest in picking what movies I watched and wrote about. Then a post about what the new Stop Button schedule is going to be like and be. It’s a very, very low bar constraint-wise. But it’s what I got.

Then an aside about Linode.

Then a post about refreshing Comics Fondle, maybe written as I do it just to get me to both do the refresh and the post.

Then I don’t know what. A conclusion and recap maybe?

But right now sleep.

Tamaki and Valero-O’Connell’s Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me is another of these YA graphic novels without any chapters or natural narrative breaks. The first time I came across one, I realized it was going to be a trend and yep, it’s a trend. The difference is last time it didn’t work, this time it works out perfectly. Writer Mariko Tamaki and artist Rosemary Valero-O’Connell’s plotting works for a single sitting read. Tamaki has these narrative frames—the protagonist writing emails to an advice columnist—which provide a nice backdrop and structure. The protagonist not being particularly reliable also helps.

Not reliable like she might be dishonestly reporting to the advice columnist (and thereby the reader) but she’s not reliable. She messes up, just enough to stay actively hopeful she won’t mess something else up. Because at some point it just becomes her predicted behavior.

The protagonist, Freddy (short for Frederica), is dating the titular Laura Dean, a popular girl. Freddy’s got her core group of gay friends, while Laura Dean seems to be popular with everyone. It’s never explained why Laura Dean is popular—other than her mom frequently being out of town and there being booze and beds—but it’s also never explained exactly what Freddy sees in her. Presumably it’s some unquantifiable attraction thing but… Tamaki doesn’t give it enough attention. And Valero-O’Connell’s art doesn’t do implying of that nature. It implies other things; it has to imply a lot of other things, actually, because Freddy is frequently turned away from the panel or somehow obscured. We don’t get to see her reaction shots to how things play out around her.

There’s something non-committal about the book too—it’s aimed at a YA audience and there’s a certain age appropriateness. Or not being willing to not be age appropriate, which is fine but is definitely going to limit some potential.

It’s a solid read. Valero-O’Connell puts a lot into the panel layouts and compositions and it works.

I’m not a hundred percent on the coloring. At least every page something is pink. It’s a drab pink, kind of a mopey one. Or maybe the story’s just sad a lot. But it doesn’t add anything to the work.

Last thing—Tamaki has these talking stuffed animals, which is awesome, and not in it anywhere near enough.

Actual Newsletter Reading

I started using the new NetNewsWire this week. I knew about it being back, but I hadn’t investigated it because… Feedly. Also in the post-Google Reader world, my RSS reading has failed. But I got curious about NNW again. It’s got Feedbin support and I love Feedbin. Feedly I don’t love, but find it useful. Feedbin I love but always found limited.

Probably should’ve tried making folders in Feedbin, but whatever. It took NNW until I discovered them.

While I was playing on Feedbin’s web interface, I discovered you can send your newsletters to your Feedbin. I like newsletters. I even tried doing a special newsletter thing in addition to blogging a few years ago. That didn’t work out.

I was subscribed to a few TinyLetter accounts back when it flashed in the pan, even if they were just blog posts. And thanks to Feedbin, they could even have a blog post UI. At least an RSS-y blog post UI.

I subscribe to a lot of newsletters because Gmail and endless storage. I’m really bad at my personal email inbox maintenance (currently at 577). And going through and changing the mailing address on all the newsletters seems like a pain. Then I realized Gmail and filters so now I’m just marking the email read, archiving it, forwarding it to Feedbin. It’s going to take a while to get all of them over there no doubt, but they’ve started showing up there and not the inbox so it works.

Maybe it’ll lead to more actual newsletter reading, which is behind even the blog reading.

The Punisher #12, Kitchen Irish, Part 6 (of 6)

The Punisher #12

This issue, the last in the arc, starts without a title page or credits, which makes it almost suspenseful to see if we’re ever going to find out what happened with the art. Because the art at the beginning of the issue, with the Napper French resolution, is a lot better than the art’s been for a while. And Dean White’s colors aren’t doing the weird bleached out but still too neon yellow thing. It’s a great opening, even if it seems like someone decided MAX didn’t mean in-panel amputations and did some cropping so things don’t immediately make sense. Or maybe Fernandez really did leave the “shot” out, which would also make sense, but someone would’ve had to send the page back to him then… right?

Anyway. The improved art holds up for a while, but starts to slip once Fernandez has to do the big meeting of the gangs. They finally team-up this issue to go get their fortune (completely forgetting the Punisher has been after them, which seems like a mistake but whatever). For the action showdown, even with White’s color scheme being better… Fernandez loses control of the art again. Maybe even gradually, like it gets worse as it goes along. By the end of the sequence, he’s back to those terrible panel compositions so the action barely makes sense and all Ennis’s preparations are for naught.

It’s particularly upsetting because it seems—during that first scene—like the book is going to right the ship in time.

By the end, it’s back to overlooking Fernandez’s poor panel composition and lousy expressions and trying to concentrate on Ennis’s dialogue. The comic does pull off a solid Punisher moment (while Ennis identifying MAX Punisher as “Old Frank”—vs. “Big Frank,” which is what Ennis called him back during the early Marvel Knights days), but Fernandez chokes on anything involving the British agents. Ennis has already turned the gang leaders into caricatures so it doesn’t really matter given Fernandez and White (the coloring on the showdown is where he starts going wrong this issue).

Kitchen Irish isn’t able to deliver on any of its potential. It’s not like Ennis layered his “Old Frank moment” through the issues; he just gets away with this great, impromptu Frank observation because the book’s still got a bunch of goodwill. Ennis’s writing is just sensational enough to separate itself from the art.

It’s not all good from Ennis, however; there are three word boxes of narration from Frank and they’re solely to remind the reader. Way too functional. If Kitchen Irish is any indication, Ennis doesn’t yet have a handle on how to comfortable make Frank the protagonist for an entire arc. He gets an issue, some pages here and there, but the leads of Kitchen Irish are the bad guys, then the British, then Frank. And then Napper French; he’s ancillary but not to ancillary. Frank being subject is fine, just so long as he never becomes caricature.

He gets way too close to it in Kitchen Irish. Partially because of Fernandez, but mostly because of Ennis.

The Punisher #11, Kitchen Irish, Part 5 (of 6)

The Punisher #11

Fernandez’s art goes from where it was on the lacking scale last issue to much worse this issue. And someone else noticed, because Dean White’s color work now includes giving the walls textures in addition to doing all the perspective on Fernandez’s faces. It’s a bad turn.

And most of it comes after the already bad turn when Fernandez utterly chokes on the big action sequence. He can’t keep track of the characters, he can’t keep track of the setting, he can’t keep track of the action. Worse, the issue opens with it. It ought to be a great sequence and instead it’s impossible to imagine it even being successful, much less superior. Frank’s got a little bit of narration for it, then Ennis drops it and Frank from most of the rest of the issue. Instead when it’s on Frank and sidekicks, Yorkie—the ‘Nam buddy turned MI6 assassin—gets the big scene. It’s great scene, with Ennis getting to show off how well he can write expository dialogue about the Troubles and the British soldier take on it. Shame Fernandez does such a bad job with the art.

While Yorkie’s having his combination history lesson and sociology riff, the bad guys are recovering from the opening firefight. Finn—whose terrible rendition (Fernandez somehow has a harder time with bandages on the face than a translucent mask the first couple issues) forecasts the art depths—teams up with widow Brenda while the River Rat brother and sister find themselves on their own (and the sister becomes an even stronger character, despite how bad Fernandez is at her arc in particular), and Maginty gets into a bit of trouble.

It’d be nice if Frank played a bigger part in the story, but it’s also very much not his story. He’s a guest star in his own comic, which is fine—Ennis does well enough with the additional cast—but the art. It’s not fine with the art. Fernandez is just too slim and whatever the compensation thing with White’s colors? Doesn’t work. Really doesn’t work.

Only Ennis’s writing is holding the book up now and he’s got his slips and slides too. Though it’s hard to know if they’re on him or because Fernandez’s composed the panel so poorly.

The Punisher #10, Kitchen Irish, Part 4 (of 6)

The Punisher #10

Well, the Fernandez art problems escalated quickly. Reading this issue, I had this foreboding feeling, like it was going to be bad… only it’s perfectly well-written, beautifully organized, only the art is always off. Fernandez is still rushing and relying on the colors. And Dean White’s colors don’t match Fernandez’s lines. Though there’s really nothing to do with the now poor composition of these panels. Bad composition, bad detail, then weird colors.

Then again maybe the panel composition was Ennis’s idea, which certainly makes sense for the talking heads portions of the issue, when Fernandez can’t get an expression out of the characters (reading the issue I just kept thinking, oh, yeah, it’s one of those Ennis issues without someone who knows how to do that thing he does with talking heads). So the close-ups are ineffective. Some of the long shots are just bad. Like the angles. And in those panels you can tell it’s not White’s fault, it’s Fernandez.

There’s still some great character stuff on the River Rat leader, Polly, and a little bit more on Brenda. The difference between Polly and Brenda is Polly’s not as awful of a person and Ennis is able to use Brenda for some shock value. Then there’s some more on Maginty. The issue opens with the Punisher—notice I’m in the third paragraph and haven’t mentioned Frank yet? It’s because Fernandez avoids showing him in panels, which works in the last scene because it opens with Frank’s narration. In the rest of the comic it makes him third or fourth tier in his own book. It’s very weird.

And not entirely on Fernandez. Ennis clearly wants to do Frank a particular way and Fernandez isn’t on the same page. The script and art never exactly seem out of sync either, which is almost to the issue’s detriment. The art’s just a bad take on the events it portrays.

The opening scene is Frank and his sidekicks (but he’s actually just their sidekick) interrogating their prisoner. He goes into a big exposition dump about the old neighborhood and all the gangs searching for a ten million payday.

The flashback doesn’t work. The old Irish mobster who died looks like a wizard, which—again—could be Ennis’s fault too. But they only don’t work because Fernandez hasn’t laid the groundwork for it to be effective. This issue’s exposition dump ought to be amazing. Instead it’s… poorly composed talking heads exposition dump.

The writing this issue is great. So good it lets Ennis get away with a cheesy cliffhanger.