The Art of Deleting Scenes

Tim Blake Nelson’s O adapts Shakespeare’s Othello as a modern, moody, lush, teenage Southern Gothic. Sixteenth century Venice becomes a South Carolina prep school, Palmetto Grove, in the late 1990s….

 

I finally got to write a snooty Josh Hartnett O piece, which is legit a bucket list item. I had an interesting process for note-taking his performance, which I thought might be something I could turn into some kind of content, but then decided no. Maybe for something else (with that same process), but not O. I do have a couple video pieces I’m planning on doing with the film, but next week. Or later. Not on a schedule.

When prepping the post for publishing, I went back and forth on pictures. Should I have stills from the film, should I use publicity shots or screen-grabs. When I started writing it, I intended to have quotes amidst the text and went ahead and did quotes. But not until I looked at the second disc of the old Lionsgate DVD special edition and found the deleted scenes. I skipped through them, trying to see if there’d be interesting shots to use for post images.

And what appears to be in the deleted scenes is all the “teen movie” stuff and way too much of it. It looks like the deleted scenes probably ruin Mekhi Phifer and Julia Stiles’s relationship, give Josh Hartnett and Elden Henson a lot more morose antics (without hurting their performances), and I don’t know what else. It’s really good they went, especially given where Tim Blake Nelson takes the movie. He really doesn’t get his due as a director.

It’s really good this scene of Hugo/Iago (Hartnett) trying to con Desi/Desdemona (Stiles) with Michael/Cassio (Andrew Keegan) isn’t in the film. It would completely screw up Hugo and Desi’s “relationship.”

Todd McFarlane is still Todd McFarlane

Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Todd McFarlane is none of the things mentioned above, though he’s a great example of why you can be nuts if you can draw a way enough people like. I mean, Spawn? It’s objectively tripe.

No surprise he’s about to jump ship from his own movie. No surprise.

Younger selves

One thing I do now when blog writing is spend however long I want on it. The whole reason for Stop Button’s old 250 word count constraint and Comics Fondle’s 150 one was so I wasn’t spending too much time writing blog posts. I wanted to be quick at it. Not so much anymore. Now I just go. I don’t edit either, which would seem very strange to my twenty-one or twenty-five year-old self. I don’t draft and revise blog writing. I just write it and post it. There are fourteen year old blog posts I’ve been revising this year finally. Things I’ve collected in print, things with hundreds and maybe thousands of readers, but no one caught the misused word and cared enough to comment. I’ve got a couple of my core readers who’ll let me know if there’s any grammatical or spelling error too egregious but otherwise… I just let it fly.

I would have had zero respect for me. At twenty-one or twenty-five. Zero respect. Though I would’ve also had zero respect for any Internet publishing. I had no respect for any kind of ad-supported writing. I was an elitist about being elitist. Not an elitist’s elitist because… elitists were icky bad, but sort of anti-snobbery snobbery. Contradictions are great ways to get in personality and, for some reason, it really clicks with readers who have mild contradictions. Or at least have observed them. It’s probably also why (middle class White) people are so obtuse about people who vote Republican.

I’ve got my big writing day tomorrow. The most fun I’m going to have with it is probably the header image, though I’m thinking about some quote things. I’ve learned a bunch of fake CSS for WordPress.com lately. I’ve started a long-term Stop Button project involving it. Long term meaning at least a couple years. Last time I did a long term Stop Button project (on the same area of the post, actually) it took so long I forgot when I’d started it or even had it as a goal. This time I’m… just as disorganized. It’s supposed to be a fun project. Quick mental gymnastics. Some standard coding, some inventiveness, pretty columns.

Pretty columns also work for images and quotes, so maybe I’ll incorporate those tomorrow.

I actually have two blogathons starting tomorrow (and running concurrently). Not sure if I’ll just do both posts tomorrow and leave it or stagger them. Guess it depends on how writing goes, which I should be a little more worried about than I am.

It’s one of those posts I should definitely proofread and revise but I might not have time.

Again, this lack of good creative scheduling would rather disappoint my younger selves. Though, frankly, I’m constantly disappointed in them too.

Hey Kids! Comics! – Howie Chaykin’s History of Comics

Heykids

Howie Chaykin, a writer/artist who’s been on the comic scene since the early seventies, has always been a bit of an outsider. While he’s done his share of the standard and not so standard mainstream hero fare, has generally exemplified his best work among the “anti mainstream” tendencies. After all, a guy’s gotta work, right? But it’s within those oddball, fantasy concepts he reveres and excels in.

Early on at DC, working on the Burrough’s revival Weird World series, the wonderful Sword of Sorcery adaptions from Fritz Lieber; the related creator owned Cody Starbuck from Gary Frederich’s Star Reach label; culminating here on his most successful creation (in my own humble opinion), American Flagg for First comics. About this time he matured, decided to push the envelope on “acceptable” comics, and went off on a series of outlaw concepts for the mature readers Vertigo line, did the nasty x rated Black Kiss series at Vortex, and stayed away from the big two, only dipping his feet in the water for the steady paying work. During a recent reentry into semi mainstream, he collaborated with writer Matt Fraction on the wonderful (but also not fer kids) Satellite Sam series at Image.

While all this time having both steady income and critical praise, he still kept that outsider, trend bucking cynic that picked scabs frequently off those with gentler tastes. Whether brought on by personal experiences or sympathetic attitudes towards his fellow creators, this history in comics has brought him to create Hey Kids! Comics!, a five issue history of comic books and the creators that brought them to life and suffered greatly for the experience.

Chronically depicting the lives of three comic books creators that spent their lives working within our favorite hobby, he covers lots of ground by splitting chapters by decades, showing the aging and growth of our protagonists and the world they inhabit, warts and all. It’s a good way to keep all the misery from overcoming us, done in several page chapters, each issue repeating the format while continuing the main story, as well as some of the more scandalous and heartbreaking tales from its history.

Chaykin spares no expense here in the lives of these creators, as they struggle to continue to earn a living, meanwhile watching the business grow and evolve around them, swallowing decency and mutual friends along the way. The comics business is shown by its soft underbelly, the stuff you didn’t want to know, but knew it existed. The many lives destroyed in its endless conquest for fame and the almighty dollar.

While a decent understanding of comics actual history will provide dividends to those who study such things, the synonyms of those depicted will entertain and horrify any reader. The industry whose products we loved for a lifetime had their origins in stories not far removed from EC horror comics of the fifties. Both sides of the coin are represented and contrasted, the wealthy publishers, the insane editors, and the mercilessly taken advantage of creators, adding up as entertainment for mainstream comic readers that probably didn’t even know they existed for the most part.

Chaykin is in his element here, ceaselessly parading it all for us, never withholding the sordid truths, the monetization of sex, the racism and ever present class warfare, all adding to our precious comic memories, unshielding our eyes from it’s mean and devastating truths.

Aesthetically, one can say Chaykin here has some of his ticks that some readers may find off putting; his slight visual repetitions from one character to another and an expanding list of characters can make you work a bit to keep it all straight. I read each issue a couple of times, then blew through all five for a much more coherent and continuous read. The sheer cynicism on display here could turn off some readers, but its the subject matter here thats off putting, Chaykin’s talents only serve too well the stuff he’s depicting. For me, these ticks can be forgiven. After all, Howie is in his seventies, and he’s producing here an incredible tale- a sympathetic story thats incredibly sad mostly because it is real and the casualties are those we grew to love and admire in our desire for four colored fairy tales.

Chaykin only works with A-list talent, so kudos also to Wil Quintana’s rich, lively colors, and the never ending varieties of Ken Bruzenak’s lettering. Also assisting in his line up are several guest stars, helping him create the detailing that helps give the book life and it’s authentic touch, as well as back matter thats essential.

Despite whether you can stomach the details and the story, the utter lack of ethics or morals portrayed by those in charge that benefitted the most from them, there can be no doubt that (paraphrasing from the book) comic books are truly the ATMs of the media development industry these days.

Howie, you’re a tough read. But somebody’s got to do it, and while I’m sorry its you, you are the best fitted for it. Thank you.

Introvert blogging

The first blog comment I ever got—on jablog—made me question the whole idea of starting a blog. It certainly affected how much I was going to engage with commentators. Back in the early days of blogging, when you read every kind of blog because there were (relatively) so few, people made comments a lot. Even if it wasn’t exactly on point. A gracious read of white men forever commenting on something they don’t need to comment on or don’t know jack shit about could be they’re trying to show they read the thing. It’s also an incorrect read, but based on those early days, I could see it as a bad defense.

I’ve been thinking about blog comments a lot lately because I just got a number of them. I’m pretty sure there are full years The Stop Button went without any comments. Not three, but maybe two. My blogging style doesn’t promote conversation, which is… what it is. I feel a lot more differently about it now than I did when I started but, conversely, I have a lot less time to watch movies. I’m pretty set in how I’m choosing movies to watch, movies to write about. There was a “Five Favorite Movies of the Fifties” blogathon last week and, while I recommend everyone go and read every post and make a watch list… I still haven’t done it. I don’t have a watch list for movies anymore. Because between my watch list, contemporary releases, contemporary home video releases, direct recommendations, and indirect recommendations I’m… seventeen years behind.

About Schmidt was the first film I remember deferring. Still deferred.

Anyway, at the same time was I getting all these productive comments, I was also getting a little flurry of negative ones. Not on the post for the blogathon, but on random sci-fi movies. The commenter saying they disagreed and they liked the special effects or some such. I get polite, community-building commenting. I don’t get the “thumbs down” posts. I got one years ago on the Alien 3 assembly cut post saying I wasn’t being productive in my post. I responded to the comment saying it wasn’t my goal to make a productive suggestion because no one cares about my suggestions for $49 million dollar movies.

The most famous commenter I ever got was Fred Dekker, who emailed me about my Monster Squad review but left a comment for my Robocop 3 one. He really didn’t like the Robocop 3 one and I took great pleasure in not posting it because he swore so much. In hindsight, I should’ve just edited out all the fucks. But he said something about how I shouldn’t be picking on fifteen year-old movies. I sometimes wonder what kind of comments other people got because, at that time, I seriously got a search engine hit for “Fred Dekker” almost every day of the week. I’m being a little mean but did you watch Predator 4? Also Monster Squad normalizes and promotes the fuck out of homophobia.

In workshops I’ve seen writing students piss instructors off so much the instructor throws an eraser (the student said his work couldn’t be improved on, every word was his exact intention). I’ve also gotten yelled at for arguing about whether or not kung fu is Japanese. That person shit-mouthed me for the rest of the semester, which is hilarious because I was leading a positive discussion of her piece. Me and comments are always on shaky ground.

Visual Reflux is supposed to be all about old time blogging (practice) and part of it is comments.

The funny thing about blog comments is they lead to me and Matt Hurwitz starting “Alan Smithee Podcast,” arguably the highest profile thing I ever did online.

So I don’t know. There are all sorts of tips and tricks to driving comment-based engagement—written back in 2007 or 2008, I’m sure–but I can’t stand even being a little patronizing. Not to drive engagement. To talk shit, sure, but not to drive engagement. Engagement is one of those things I refuse to fret over. If I thought it was worth fretting over, I’d write to encourage it.

Introvert blogging?

Unfettered verbosity

When I started Visual Reflux, it was going to be all my web-writing. I wouldn’t launch A Televisual Feast, I’d roll Comics Fondle into VR immediately and start thinking about bringing Stop Button in too. If it were 2005 and I hadn’t spent fourteen years blogging at thestopbutton.com, it might have worked out. But it really hasn’t. Visual Reflux has a lot of regular content, but it’s more colloquial stuff than me sitting down and writing focused posts about every Fawlty Towers episode, which still may happen but not for a while. And I’ve got a good process for it (thanks to the now portable MacBook Air). So, of course I’m ending up back at micro.blog.

Starting with this week’s “scheduled” daily posts, I’m cross-posting to a.micro.blog (or micro.thestopbutton.com). I waited years for micro.blog to launch—launching and basically quitting Summing Up while waiting for it—subscribed and fairly quickly stopped using it. I’ve ended my subscription twice. I’ve restarted my subscription twice. Cross-posting to micro.blog means a lot more “social networking” than before for this writing. It might lead to more readers, it might not. But not cross-posting definitely doesn’t lead to more readers from micro.blog. I’m also taking down the 100% link-posting to the Comix Gallery Facebook page, which has been the Comics Fondle (blog and podcast) social spot. Outside comments, which I still need to write about in general. However many months in and VR is starting to get more focused, both in terms of content and intent.

Well, if I can keep to a schedule.

I’m getting to the point I’ve got more ideas for daily posts than days to write daily posts. There’s the blog comments post, there’s a “Legends of Tomorrow” post, there’s a newspapers.com post, there’s an iMac hacked to run Mojave post, there’s a media epistemology post, there’s a Phantom Menace post, there’s even a “what’s new at The Stop Button” post. There are a lot of back burners. If writing these daily posts were a traditional writing practice, I’d just set some time aside to write them and maybe even randomize the topics. Draw one from a virtual hat, write about it for thirty minutes or whatever. Unfortunately, I don’t have a set writing time. Set writing time makes all the difference.

Even with a portable MacBook Air.

I could also write a whole post about getting a MacBook Air used as a desktop for two years turned into one meant for portable computing needs.

I think the tl;dr of this post is cross-posting to a.micro.blog is going to be a thing. I don’t know if there’s much else. Unfettered verbosity.

Works for free

After yesterday’s post, I looked at what I had to do today and figured I’d really be able to get that post about blog comments done. I had more time today than I did yesterday. I really should’ve been able to do it.

But I didn’t even check to see if I can still track down those Fred Dekker comments.

I aimed a little high considering most of my free project time today was spent trying to figure out how to get transcribing to work. I found an app–InqScribe–which has a free fourteen day trial (enough time to get through the two projects I’d need it for) and was pretty happy with it until discovering you have to manually insert the time codes. I thought it was smart enough to auto-record them and then export them. Nope, you’ve got to hit Command-; or something.

The app costs $100 if you want to be able to export your transcript, which I assume you could otherwise copy and paste into a word document of your choice. Maybe you can’t copy and paste it. Because if you’re doing a lot of transcribing, I imagine the auto-timecoding thing would be worth $100. But since auto-timecoding isn’t even a thing in the app, what’s the point.

There isn’t one. I spent about thirty minutes figuring out how to do it myself in AppleScript and now I’ve got the same functionality thanks to TextExpander. TextExpander costs about $50 a year (it’s subscription so about means about) and does all sorts of other things. You could also use Keyboard Maestro, I think. All I’ve got is a shortcut to get the current time from QuickTime Player and dump it into whatever I’m typing in.

So InqScribe is a fail. And a bit of a rip.

And figuring out how not to use it at all–instead of just finishing the fourteen days (the first project is “due” Friday the second is “due” right before the trial ends), I wanted to be done with the app. I like my new workflow. It’s cleaner. It uses better apps. Whatever.

But it was a time suck so no blog post about blog comments today. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe not tomorrow.

If anyone wants to use the AppleScript, it’s below. You need TextExpander though. All it does is get the current play head position in a QuickTime Player window and print it out formatted. It’s far from the best AppleScript scripting but it works and works for free (plus AppleScript) and works and works for free* are more important than anything else.

tell application "QuickTime Player"
	tell document 1
		
		set current_time to (current time as string)
		set theMovieDate to date "Saturday, January 1, 2000 at 12:00:00 AM"
		set theMovieDateNew to theMovieDate + current_time
		
		set theDuration to the time string of theMovieDateNew
		
		set AppleScript's text item delimiters to {":"}
		set {hh, mm, ss} to text items of (text -11 thru -4 of ("0" & theDuration))
		set AppleScript's text item delimiters to {""}
		{hh, mm, ss}
		set theHours to (hh - 12)
		if theHours = 0 then
			set theHours to ("00")
		end if
		set theResult to (("[" & theHours & ":" & mm & ":" & ss & "] ")) as text
		return theResult
	end tell
end tell

Forecasting

I’m four posts behind on Visual Reflux. I even have a topic ready to talk about (blog comments, specifically how I deal with them; I may include the Fred Dekker ones for download if I still have them; he swears a lot). But I’ve got limited interest in writing it today. Limited time too. It is fourteen years of various thoughts to assemble.

Instead I thought, why not a regular Sunday post with a schedule for the week. After all, I’m now somewhat more enthused about blogging thanks to my MacBook Air being… Air-y for the first time in a couple years. Air-y as in able to be used as a portable device, no longer serving as a desktop replacement. Oddly enough, the two years didn’t break the battery. It’s at eighty-eighty percent efficiency but whatever. B+ when I was in middle school. Not sure I knew what a B+ was in high school, but it still might have been an 88.

I never did the normal blogger with a laptop thing of going to a Starbucks and drinking coffee and eating a… Starbucks treat and posting to your blog. That whole line was supposed to be a Batman homage but doesn’t really work so just imagine Michael Keaton saying it. I don’t think I remember how much Michael Keaton’s performance in the first one impacted my understanding of film acting back in 1989.

Anyway. Old time blogging. Blogging with a laptop. Because a cishet white guy emulating cishet white guys in 2006 is a… very cishet white guy thing to do in 2019. I mean, David McCullough’s new book, The Pioneers, is basically about how we should lionize ignorant white settlers. I haven’t read it, but they were literally more ignorant of how the world actually functions than a four-year old today so I’m confident saying ignorant.

I did have a laptop back in the mid-aughts and I did write blog posts on it, but Stop Button blog posts weren’t really blogging by 2006. I’d settled into the whole “film response vs. film review” thing by then, which itself was a particular kind of elitist choice. Laptop was for prose. Back when I used Mellel for writing. And maybe ecto for blogging. I think I just went ahead and switched to Word at some point. Like, Mellel had formatting issues when creating Word files? I can’t remember. It was before DOCX. It was practically the Dark Ages. You could still rely on being regularly disturbed by Steve Ballmer.

So Sunday posts will be a forecast of the week. Presumably a thoughtful one. Maybe next week.

This week, I’ll say there’s going to be the post about blog comments. And three other posts. Possibly a really tech-y one about hacking a mid-2011 iMac to run Mojave with the right colors. Hint: get a copy of High Sierra’s /System/Library/Extensions/AMDRadeonX3000.kext and put replace it on the hacked Mojave install. Possibly not. A post about “Legends of Tomorrow” since its season finale is coming up? An actual TV post? Stranger things have happened. A post about “Game of Thrones” titled, “I don’t give a shit and neither should you”? That one would actually be a lot more like how I blogged in the mid-to-late aughts, back when I thought we were all just going to coast through a Neo-liberal reality because no one would actually be stupid enough to vote to have their healthcare taken away.

I used to assume most people were just “there,” not too bright, not too stupid. Unfortunately it turns out, no, they’re too stupid. They’re too stupid to realize they’re too stupid to realize they’re too stupid. Bad times.

Maybe “Game of Thrones – Bland white men with shaved heads boring their wives in the Costco dining section because they can’t shut up about character development, which they don’t understand anyway is not a good look. Be better”. But it would be a Friday post and I’m not scheduling Friday or Saturday posts. Sunday through Thursday. Friday and Saturday posts might be link lists but I’m not committing.

But Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday posts this week?

It’ll happen.

I’m eighty-eight percent sure.

The Punisher #6, In the Beginning, Part 6 (of 6)

The Punisher #6The Punisher #6; Marvel Comics, MAX; July 2004; $2.99, 36 pgs; available collected and digitally.

Ennis brings back Frank’s narration for the last issue in the arc. He’s got some observations about the mob guys, a blow-by-blow on his fight with Pittsy, the preternaturally tough mob thug (which Ennis handles brilliantly to show Frank’s disorientation after a particularly intense beating), and not much else. It’s an all-action issue; Frank’s taking on the mob as the CIA boss comes in with an attack helicopter. Lots and lots of bad guys getting taken out by Frank. There’s the most insight so far in the series into the character too. While Frank doesn’t expound in his narration, he does actually converse with someone besides an informant or Micro. He sums it all up in four words to the CIA boss when they finally collide.

The issue ends with another of Micro’s long speeches, explaining how the Punisher works only for Punisher MAX not to work that way. Micro again refers back to the Born limited series; it comes off as nonsensical, reaching. As opposed to the interrogation, he and Frank are actually conversing. Frank’s not verbose in his responses, but he tells Micro what’s what. Tersely.

In addition to the action violence, there’s a lot of gore this issue. Much more than the first issue, which had ordnance capable of removing bad guys’s heads from their bodies. This issue those types of “kills,” for lack of a better term, get the close-up. One time the close-up gore kill is for a joke (as close as the comic ever gets to a joke—there are two in the issue, Ennis’s somewhat sardonic humor soaked oily black), the other time it’s for emphasis, to leave the reader with a better understanding of what they can expect from the series. The arc is called In the Beginning, after all. Beginning could also refer to how Micro comes to understand Frank. He’s got the wrong ideas at the start, he learns more, makes more wrong conclusions. It’s more unfortunate than tragic, as Micro’s only likable opposite the CIA pricks, never sympathetic.

Ennis does a particular great job of showing how Frank and Micro work together, presumably echoing their many years together in the old days. Before Punisher MAX, before this Frank, before this Beginning.

It’s a phenomenal conclusion to the arc. Ennis has everything running smoothly—the mob stuff in particular (the mob boss all of a sudden, but appropriately, gets a promotion serious villain)—and Frank’s fistfight is awesome. Strong art from LaRosa. He, inker Tom Palmer, and colorist Dean White toggle from small scale action to a big scale much different than they’ve done before. Even though Frank’s got a plan, the odds aren’t in his favor. Except with Frank, odds don’t have anything to do with it.

It’s haunting. Depressing. Unpleasant. And exceptional. Garth Ennis figured out how to do the Punisher straight. Not ironic, not right-wing gun porn, but straight. In the Beginning gets Ennis, Frank, and The Punisher off to superior start.

Monopoly-bopily-dipity-doo

Disney is now the only one with its hands on Hulu?s steering wheel. Disney and Comcast announced a deal under which Disney will assume full operational control of Hulu, effective immediately.?

Let’s all go to the Disneys, let’s all go to the Disneys, let’s all go to the Disneys…

I didn’t care much about Disney growing up. Cartoons were too kiddy. Touchstone was too bland. I was a Miramax fan in my teens, but fickle. It didn’t last until college. So I stopped caring about even that Mouse House tentacle. But I was also not a fan. Eisner seemed like a dick, old man Disney had some icky politics, whatever.

I didn’t even start caring when they bought Marvel because the first batch of Marvel movies from Disney weren’t any better than the first batch of Marvel movies not from Disney. Feige didn’t bring back Ed Norton. That I cannot forgive. Though I have zero interest in seeing Edward Norton do what they made Mark Ruffalo do. Ruffalo being turned into “90s Tom Hanks but a sidekick” is fine for Ruffalo, I guess. I didn’t have the hopes for him I had for Norton. Didn’t have the investment.

And there was also when Feige split from New York. It seemed like New York had the better ideas. I mean, they got Chris Evans for Captain America didn’t they. I always assumed Feige was against that casting.

I may be entirely wrong. I may even be able to google it and find out. Don’t care enough.

I started being vaguely interested in Disney after the Walter Isaacson Steve Jobs book. Jobs really liked the Disney brand and how it was cultivated, curated. Jobs had interesting takes on everything. Thoughtful. Insightful, sometimes of the not obvious. I like those takes the most. Insightful of the not obvious.

So Disney getting all of Hulu, cementing further entertainment control? I don’t give a shit. Maybe I’ll get more “Jessica Jones”? Probably not but maybe. There’s a better chance of it than there was before Disney got Hulu. Even if it’s infinitesimal.

I love “Jessica Jones.” I even love the end of Season Two.

Just imagine a Jessica Jones/Captain Marvel team-up. Krysten Ritter and Brie Larson doing bad cop, good cop.

Le sigh.

Anyway.

I don’t really agree with calling Disney a monopoly though. Because all they’re a monopoly on right now are things people like. Marvel, Star Wars, the Princesses, the live action movies, Pixar. X-Men, Aliens, Predator, Die Hard? Those are thinks people used to like. Whether they like they again. Whether they like the new things again… remains to be seen.