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.

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?

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.

Might not Hopefully

If I had Visual Reflux set up a little differently, I’d really easily be able to go back and look to see the last time I was getting my daily posts done. It’s been a while. Longer than when I was sick and I’ve been sick a week; out of commission two and a half days, maybe two and three quarters days. The day I slammed Hiball to try to stay conscious was a bad one, even if I was technically functioning.

But falling off the daily wagon didn’t start with the sick. I feel like it was that big MCU post, which got a whopping seven hits. I’m not sure how many it would’ve gotten over at Stop Button but definitely more than seven. Though maybe not. For all the energy I put into the “Sum Up” posts at Stop Button, only the John Carpenter and Eleanor Parker ones were ever popular as far as hits. Might be why I lost interest in doing them and instead just call anything long form a “Sum Up” now. Like the microcast I meant to do daily and haven’t done since… Tuesday? I tried today but kept getting distracted.

I’m preoccupied. Like, big time. And I’ve been avoiding acknowledging it, even though it’s been “around” for a while now. It was a predicted preoccupation so I thought I’d compartmentalized enough to get around it but no. There’s only so much one can do to prepare for anything. And this one hit me.

I’m hoping this bit of acknowledgement will help me get things back in gear. Maybe start small, like a post a day for a week. Shouldn’t be too hard since I’ve got five more issues of Punisher to write about and the Visual Reflux podcast. It’ll also help not being dreadfully ill.

The big hope, as the week starts tomorrow, is keeping the depression in check. Preoccupation stress and anxiety leads pretty quick to a depression spiral for me. Always has. I’m old now so I’ve got all sorts of tools, both recommended ones and the tricks I’ve learned about myself over the years; just need to remember to use them. I’ve got a really weird project I’m going to do this week, but it might actually prove rewarding. Might. But not hopefully.

Blogged Ramblings vs. Podcasted Ones

I tried really hard to get a second episode of the Summing Up Microcast posted today but it didn’t happen. I recorded… four times? Like, way too much time spent on eight minute podcasting. Way too much time. Background noise is the current culprit. Though maybe Ferrite isn’t as good for recording as it is for editing? Regardless, I’ve got a microphone coming and hopefully it’ll help. At least enough to get the episodes recorded and posted. Drawbacks of planning and executing a new creative venture in about four hours. Just because 2019 makes it easy doesn’t mean you don’t still have to figure things out.

It’s going to be real funny if it turns out to be Ferrite though. Real funny.

The whole impetus for the microcast was getting ready to start the Visual Reflux podcast, only we didn’t get around to recording the first episode today so it’ll be a week out at least. The delay is fine… gives co-host Vernon time to see Avengers: Endgame and for me to stay caught up on “The Flash.” He’s on his own for “Supergirl” right now though. And we even have an agenda. Don’t have a theme song yet, but an agenda is something. Usually we have a list. Agenda seems more legit.

Otherwise, Visual Reflux (the blog) seems to be doing fine? I got burned out doing the MCU recap last week and I’m also behind—a little—on comic book stuff, but I’m getting closer to it. Punisher: Born was a bit of a buzzkill but I think I’m getting back into the rhythm… even if I’m going to have to do one more single read-through on the first Punisher MAX arc.

I’m having some trouble with the “daily Visual Reflux post as a writing discipline” thing for some reason too. I had been fairly enthusiastic about it but writing 350 words about nothing every day isn’t particularly easy. And even with the “cheat posts” (link posts back to The Stop Button), well, it doesn’t always work. Especially not on days without posts.

But maybe I’ll do some thoughts on the Criterion Channel later? Since I watched something on it this morning.

Best of luck on future projects

“I hate writing about great films. I absolutely hate it.”

From November 2005. Came across it on a project I’m not ready to talk about yet because I haven’t decided if I’m doing it yet. I’m “testing” the project, because it’s a big one and of questionable reward, even creatively. Well, maybe not. It’s kind of really fun, creatively-speaking.

But this post isn’t about why I don’t hate writing about great films anymore.

It’s instead the start of the drum roll on the podcast. Technically it’s all green lights. Anchor is so much easier than GarageBand and Levelator and FaceTime and Skype and Audio Hijack and so on. I’m not sure when the first episode will be released, though we’ve got the recording scheduled. It’s kind of amazing how well Anchor works.

At least for recording. The whole posting the podcast thing… we’ll see. I’m going to run the first episode at least in the Comics Fondle Podcast stream. I’d run it in the Best of Alan Smithee and Stop Button Favorites too but I’m not sure how I was publishing them. Through WordPress somehow, but maybe through FeedBurner too? I don’t really want to go back and figure it out, since I’m pretty sure listenership on the old stuff has fizzled.

Oh, wow, Anchor may have stats I don’t need to comb through AWS logs to calculate.

I’m sure I’ll be more excited when I’m not trying to figure out how to get rid of clicks. I took the more “hobbyist” route with Visual Reflux (self-hosted versus WordPress) but as an extended try-out. It all may change next year. The site went out last weekend, which wasn’t cool. One of the big reasons I moved Stop Button to WordPress.com was because the site kept going down and GoDaddy seemed unable to fix the problem or guarantee their fix was going to work.

The other big reason was because the company is owned by terrible white people and we all need fewer terrible white people in our lives.

But it never occurred to me, in 2019, to try and self-host another podcast. No thanks. There’s an app for that.

Other site news… the Punisher MAX proper readthrough is starting soon. For my made up word, readthrough, do I want to hyphen or not. Read-through or readthrough. The former at least doesn’t give me red lines.

And I’m going to do a MCU ranking post after Endgame because Fiege totally said it was the end of Phase Three and is now walking it back but whatever. He also said Infinity War was standalone. It is, of course, just not how he meant.

I haven’t gotten any Marvel movie-related hate comments since the first Avengers so fingers crossed I at least get one?

Fine Jetpacks

Visual Reflux had some down time this weekend. Not relaxation time but server out time. It’s been a while since I’ve had a blog with a server in despair. WordPress.com is real stable. It’s frustratingly limited but it’s real stable. I’m basically running VR self-hosted just to see if it matters at all. So far it doesn’t. I’ve done some CSS tweaks but it’s not like I’m willing to put in the rest of the work on google ads or even google analytics. The far less informative JetPacks are fine.

I’m really behind on my daily posts, but since I’ve given myself the makeup post later on, it’s not a stresser. VR is all about stress-free blogging. Lots of it, but without pressure. Letting blogging pressure was always one of my big problems over the years and I wasn’t even considering it Serious writing. And it’s nowhere near as serious as I used to be but I also needed to chill the fuck out on some stuff.

VR is supposed to be more balanced.

We’ll see tomorrow with the Eltingville Club and the Stop Button link post.

All Hail the King, Baby, All Hail the King

 

“From thy wedding with the creature who touches heaven, lady God preserve thee.”


When I first came across the “One That Started It All Blogathon,” I avoided it. If you look at the left sidebar at Stop Button, you can see I don’t avoid many blogathons. I only don’t do a blogathon (these days) if the blogger running it is problematic or if there’s just no way I’m going to write in the format. I post movie responses. Single movie responses. But, very slowly, I’ve been branching out.

And this year I’m apparently going to do a bunch of different things, including look at Star Trek II’s music (just the music) and talk about Josh Hartnett in O. 2019 is the year of not giving a shit when it comes to blog subjects.

I dwelt on doing the “One That Started It All” blogathon because it seems like I should be able to identify the film most influential to me. Even if I’m going to say something like Wild River, which I didn’t see until I was about twenty. Or Play Time. Play Time would be a good one. Grand Illusion. Kane’s not unthinkable.

So I kicked it around in my head, even toying with the idea of doing Ben-Hur because it was a movie I heard about as a kid (from my mom) but have no memory of seeing in its entirety.

Then I got to Kong and it was perfect and so I set about writing the post. After signing up for the blogathon.

I wrote four and a quarter drafts of the Kong post. On incredibly rare occasions, I’ll write two drafts of a movie post. I’ve never pitched a longer essay—well, wait, I rewrote the Superman franchise post, but those changes were about form—and there was some file-saving disaster the first time I tried doing the Carpenter retrospect. But going back and rewriting from scratch for Stop Button. Not my thing. But I found myself working out the post through writing it.

And now I’ve got a bunch of variations on the post, written over a two week period; I’m curious how they’re different, from a statistical standpoint.

Besides the obvious length-related differences—the post is about twice as long as any of the previous drafts, which all clocked in around 1,200 words—apparently my writing is about the same. Thirteen to fifteen words per sentence, eighty-five percent monosyllabic words. The first two drafts were, according to the Automated Readability Index, sixth grade level; the third draft and the posted one are fifth. For students from 1967.

Dale Chall says it’s an 11th to 12th grade level, which is higher than I’d like. Flesh-Kincaid says you could read it at twelve. I was twelve in 1990. I’m not sure I would’ve cared about someone’s summarized King Kong memoir. I think the Dale Chall is comprehension, but all those tests are going on syllables and word length and whatnot.

I used to freak out about not writing at a high enough grade level and then I ran some Hemingway through the readability calculators and stopped worrying.

An almost ten page King Kong ’33 piece. I’m all right with how it turned out, which is good. I really didn’t think I would be so pleased. I hated the second and third drafts. I hoped but didn’t think there’d be some clue as to why in the syllable count or something but no. Can’t readability analyze away writing you’re not happy with.

400ish words of talking about writing instead of writing

At something like 10:45 last night I realized I wasn’t getting my daily post in. I’ve been planning on starting the TV episode posts and it’s not going well. It just hasn’t worked out, scheduling-wise. But hopefully I’ll get caught up on posts today somehow. It’s only two, but this morning when I decided to write two… well, I assumed I’d be done with one of them before now.

My two writing projects from yesterday have had progress, but not completion. Not even anything I’d considered finished drafting. But the other big thing from yesterday worked out fine—the Visual Reflux podcast is working (technologically speaking) and we ought to get our first episode out… before the end of the month. Anchor’s iPad app isn’t full-featured, something they don’t tell you on the app but on their website. It’s not ideal but it’s workable.

It would be far more exciting if everything else this week weren’t so daunting. I may have to reexamine TV stuff, just because of the current schedule issues. Maybe it ought to start in the fall anyway.

But I’ve also noticed I’m not posting links, which I used to do to check “VR post” off in my bullet journal-y thing. I’m not… reading right now. I’m either in research mode or contemplate on draft mode. They’re mostly mutually exclusive from each other so adding general reading would just confuse things even more. And, to be honest, Punisher: Born got the Ennis read-through off on the wrong foot. I really wanted to find something good to read in before the next (first) Punisher MAX arc and I’m having selection paralysis. New or old. Mainstream or indie. Like everything creative is stuck until I get through this week’s projects, which is fine… it just hasn’t happened lately.

I’m not posting haikus about King Kong movies, which was a real possibility this week, so I guess it could be much worse filler.

I think I’ve got the projects sorted. I’m not confident I have them sorted, but I think they’re sorted. The problem with drafting to a point where I can then deliberate on the draft is I need dedicated time, which I really don’t have.

But, hey, Anchor works and, one way or the other, one of the projects will be over this Friday.