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.

The Punisher #5, In the Beginning, Part 5 (of 6)

The Punisher #5; Marvel Comics, MAX; June 2004; $2.99, 36 pgs; available collected and digitally.

No spoilers but it’s appropriately awesome how Frank gets out of the cliffhanger. That resolution gives way to the female CIA agent showing up and attacking the mobsters, saving her boss, distracting the goons from Frank, which gives Micro the chance to loose him.

The resulting action sequence is fast, bloody, and brutal. LaRosa paces the action out beautifully. Even though Frank’s been in action before in the series, it’s been a while and we’ve just sat through two full issues of Micro hyping up The Punisher. Turning him loose—with Micro mooning on about it after unlocking Frank’s chains—Ennis has to be careful not to go overboard. It’s intense, but guided. During that sequence, Ennis also shifts the narrative distance a little, back to Frank. It’s no longer Micro running their scenes together, it’s Frank. It’s a distinct change, alongside the CIA and mob plot lines, which stay about the same. Sure, there are going to be less CIA agents in play, but there’s only one more issue in the arc. Ennis is very clearly building up to something.

The issue ends on a softer cliffhanger. The danger is unseen, but imminent. Frank has called the mob boss up and told him to come and get it. Meanwhile, the CIA boss is betting his career on being able to bring home The Punisher.

As for Micro, well, Frank tries to explain how he doesn’t actually understand the things he thinks he understands. Once they’re out of the interrogation room, Frank starts talking a lot more, which Ennis does very, very carefully. Frank hasn’t had much dialogue until now. There’s probably twice as much dialogue from him in this issue as in the previous four combined, not counting the narration, which is a different thing.

But Frank talking to Micro? Trying to make him see reality. Ennis is on a tightrope to get across enough information without giving Frank any extraneous lines.

It entirely changes the Micro character, turning him into tragic figure, one whose misunderstanding is going to get him in more trouble than anything else ever would have. Including his arrangement with the CIA boss, which Micro seems to have gone for just because he desperately wanted to make Frank—and himself—more legitimately relevant.

Ennis makes Micro sympathetic without having any sympathy for him.

While moving the narrative distance away from Micro’s shoulder and over to Frank’s. It’s the most exquisite writing yet, if only because it makes Frank so much more active a participant.

Crashed

I’m two Visual Reflux posts behind (I don’t know why I went from one post a day to at least one VR post a day but whatever) so here’s another WordPress-related one. WordPress frustration related one.

Well, combination WordPress frustration and frustration at self one.

Last October, I made header images for all the indices pages on The Stop Button. For example:

I’d never had them on the indices for this WordPress theme because it gives the page title and the image distracts. Or is at least redundant. But for some reason I pulled the trigger on it (I think because I change the header image, getting rid of the collage, which was a lot of work and made zero difference to anyone including me).

I’m publishing the Genre index as I write this post. It won’t have a header image because I can’t find the template. I can’t find the template because I’m really bad at organizing the files I need to keep around. I can’t even remember if I did it in Affinity or Photoshop. I searched for the template in both formats this morning and came up empty. Unfortunately, I can’t keep looking because my home Mac has crashed in its MacOS update. Is this crash the end for my early 2015 MacBook Air? I won’t know until I get home. Maybe? Maybe not? I’d say it should be lasting longer but I’ve been running it as a desktop for over a year now and it’s never been happy with that configuration.

But yeah, don’t lose your image templates and–maybe–don’t run a MacBook Air as a desktop and update the OS remotely.

I’m not even sure I have the main header image template. I have the old ones around for sure (they’re all I found when searching this morning) but maybe not the color-matched one.

So maybe it’s time for new Stop Button headers?

The Punisher #4, In the Beginning, Part 4 (of 6)

The Punisher #4The Punisher #4; Marvel Comics, MAX; May 2004; $2.99, 36 pgs; available collected and digitally.

Ennis doesn’t waste any time with the pitch—Micro’s pitch, the reason there’s a story. Does Frank want to go hunt Bin Laden? The CIA can turn Frank into an international terrorist hunter, with Microchip backing him up, all the weapons he could want. On and on Micro chip goes, talking to empty-eyed Frank, who occasionally looks like Clint Eastwood again, but only occasionally.

Frank’s not impressed with the pitch. No more heroic action outings to fund the military industrial complex. The first time he gets the hint of an eyeball it’s to tell Micro where to stick the proposal. The second time, when he’s actually got a visualized eye, he’s talking about the Vietnam war memorial.

Turns out all Micro’s big talk about being Frank’s best friend and a valued part of Team Punisher? It’s all in Micro’s head. He doesn’t seem to understand Frank, who does take a moment to try to explain it all. It’s a flashback from Frank, to after his family died, and he explains what punishment means to him. It’s brief and fast—the mob guys are mounting their assault to take him (and the CIA) out—but it’s really, really heavy. And Micro, who seemingly really thought he was going to get Frank to agree to be a one man war on America’s enemies… doesn’t get it.

The interrogation scene is phenomenal, even with LaRosa and Palmer’s frankly (no pun) off-putting Frank. He looks like a soulless thing more than a person. The lack of visible eyes (Micro has a bunch here, as he blathers) is unsettling, which is part of the point. Outstanding dialogue from Ennis, great visual pacing from LaRosa.

Ennis has Frank and Micro as his A plot, then the CIA and the mob as his B plots. The CIA stuff is good—both closer to humor than the rest of the book (mean-spirited dark humor, but still humor) and as character development. Ennis isn’t forgetting about his cast.

Similarly, the mob stuff is all good. Turns out the Boston crew is a lot smarter than the CIA. They don’t do decorum, they do brutal.

When it gets to the hard cliffhanger, which is one of those “worst case” cliffhangers, it’s hard not to remember how Ennis already got away with one just a couple issues ago. So straits aren’t too dire. It’s a going gets (impossibly) tough. Time to see how Frank gets going. So it’s less about concern or confusion and more about anticipation.

It’s exquisitely written, well-illustrated, with a great pace. Ennis and LaRosa have definitely hit their stride.

Shortcodes

Apologies for the blog-geeky post. Not even Visual Reflux related blog-geeky.

I have a lot of indices over The Stop Button. Until a few weeks ago, all have them have been manually maintained. For about fifteen years. Well, wait. Going back to the first Sandvox Stop Button so probably more like thirteen years. Fourteen years? I could figure it out on the Way Back Machine but not right now. I’m going down enough of a blogging rabbit hole here.

Last year I started the “By Rating” index, which I’ve always thought about having but never put together. I got it together, then I never updated it because it’s not in my workflow. I have an Applescript to open up all the pages to edit. I don’t use MarsEdit for it because… reasons. Probably because I’d need to refresh the entire blog before editing the pages every other day. Fingers crossed there’s a post or page specific refresh some day. No matter what I’ll need to update the main index manually.

So with the ratings index, I kind of wanted to just get rid of the page since I knowingly wasn’t updating it. But it gets hits. It’s way more popular than the “By Country” index, for example. Only I didn’t want to update it. I didn’t want to figure out the workflow.

Luckily, shortcodes. WordPress shortcodes are these, well, short bracketed statements that, umm, expand to code?

For example,

[display-posts category="cult" posts_per_page="100" include_date="true" date_format="j M Y"]

Instead of that bracketed statement, there’s a nice descending list (by date) of all the posts in the Cult category. I initially didn’t like the display-posts thing because of a UX issue, then realized… The Stop Button is a hot mess of UX issues I don’t care about, why not have one more, which led to the “Index by Ratings” page updating on its own, then the “Index by Year” page, now I’m putting together the “Index by Genre” page. “By Year” is possible to convert, “Actor,” “Director,” are possibly possible; “Country” and “Series” are impossible. The problem with the last four is WordPress.com versus a self-hosted install. So I could automate Visual Reflux indexing to my heart’s content only… I don’t have any plans to index Visual Reflux.

I’ve known about shortcodes for years and probably use them somewhere on Stop Button already and forgot about it (maybe a video link?), but the display-posts one is working out. Automated indexing is awesome. Especially after fourteen years of the other way.