Olden Times

I can’t remember the first time I discovered The Stop Button made it on Wayback Machine. It was a long time ago, maybe when I was trying to pad out content moving over to Sandvox. Somewhere–at least back then–a bunch of the first Stop Button (hosted on jablog) exists.

I’m currently doing yet another site-wide overhaul of existing material on Stop Button. I finished up the internal linking project last year (or the year before?) and haven’t really had any projects going with the site, leading to a lot of failed starts on other projects. Zines, e-Zines, e-Books, e-Zines as e-Books, on and on. Leading up to a capsule project (which would have been a capsule e-Zine then e-Zine as e-Book). But one thing I’ve always had a problem with on Stop Button is the search result excerpts.

For example, if–until today, you searched for “Frankenstein Unbound,” you got:

I don’t like the auto-excerpt because I don’t write with ledes. In the olden days, I had a custom excerpt along the lines of “A review of Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound, starring John Hurt, Raul Julia, and Nick Brimble,” which I also don’t like but at least it wasn’t the auto-excerpt.

But then I got thinking about those capsules I was writing and I wondered how they’d look. So now you get:

Maltin-esque capsule, a nice “Continue reading->” link, not wild about the star rating being separated but whatever. It’s a “good enough” amid an “I like it.” I’ve got a bunch of capsules done, but it’s a multi-year project. Two years I think.

I’ve been posting them on micro.blog, but I’m going to start doing them on Visual Reflux too. I think I meant to post them on VR but then didn’t. Not getting any engagement on micro.blog so… who knows, maybe VR will be better.

Maybe not.

I’m also changing up the footer links on each post.

For 99%-ish percent of the site, the links look like this:

The update, which has <div> tags to make me feel accomplished, looks like this:

Post-specific links were something I’ve wanted since Sandvox–they might have been one of the deciding factors in going to Sandvox–and there’s a lot you could do with them, as widgets, in WordPress. But self-hosted WordPress, not WordPress.com. Back in the olden days, when I ran a local WordPress install on my Mac mirroring the web, but with some related posts plugins going to generate the list for me, post links looked like this:

At some point in 2013, I started adding “also directed by” links. Not just links to the “By Director” index, but links to actual posts.

i.e.:

While we’re doing this trip down blog memory lane… here’s the old header.

Peanuts-inspired.

I manually updated all those links every time a related post “touched” them. So when Alien listed Frankenstein Unbound in its related posts, I went and updated Unbound’s related posts again.

So much fun.

Here’s the 2014 header.

One thing I don’t know about these old posts links is whether they had styling; Wayback doesn’t preserve the CSS.

At least not for Stop Button. Maybe they do with better sites.

But, wait! Look at late 2014.

No links. And why? Because I went through every post and took them off. There had been an OS X (pronounced aa·es·eks) update and it broke whatever I was using to run a local Stop Button mirror. So I couldn’t make the related posts “automatically” anymore.

And then I went in and added the links again on all the posts. So much fun. Fiddling with a fifteen year-old blog is like line-editing a novel draft. It gets really old really fast, yet you can’t stop yourself.

The moral of the story? I should’ve done the Maltin-esque capsules in the first place.

When you’re starting a blog or website, know what you’re going to want it to be doing in ten or fifteen years and know how the web technologies are going to change. Otherwise you’re in for a lot of fiddling.

But don’t it look so much better now?

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Poor substitutions

My birthday isn’t until August and I’ve basically gotten myself all the birthday presents I’m going to get myself. Not in the last few months or the last few weeks, but the last few days. Some of them are time-sensitive—Bastille tickets, some limited stock sketchbooks, the new Tardi (someday I’m going to read all my Tardi; someday)—some of them aren’t. I can’t remember the not-time-sensitive ones. A wee bit of retail therapy. I was pretty done until I found out about the Bastille show. It’s not until October. Anticipating something four months away kind of sums it all up right now. I’m in a holding pattern.

So’s my stress, anxiety, and anxiety and stress-fueled depression. It’s a slight depressive state, I’m fully aware of it, yada yada yada, but it’s here and it’s constant and kind of exhausting. It’s all anxiety or stress-fueled (I’m quietly freaking out about one of the cats right now), which is cool. It’s nice not to have other depressive things going on. Except the state of the world and many of the people in it. Though I suppose they’re stressers.

I’ve been playing this game, NeoDefense, for the last couple weeks. It’s a 64-bit rehash of this older game, GeoDefense, but not from the same company. I was going to do a big comparison post of NeoDefense and ColorDefense but wanted to hear back from the developers and didn’t. ColorDefense is the same(ish) engine as GeoDefense but very different sprites(?). NeoDefense is basically just a 64-bit upgrade with a different take on how to do levels. It’s also harder than GeoDefense (I think). I’m not very good at it. It was until I heard how far people were getting in Alto’s Adventure I realized how bad I am at casual iOS games.

I’m not sure the game is helping with the stress or anxiety. It’s a very stress-inducing game. You constantly feel like you’re running out of time, you constantly feel like you make a little mistake and it snowballs into utter destruction. It also feels really good when you beat a level.

Little victories. Because I’m not eating processed sugar. Otherwise I’d be eating Milk Duds by the carton right now. Not sure how I feel about the substitution.

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.

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.