Summing Up

That mockingbird don’t sing, or: Blaming the cat for the lack of subtitle

This post is a race. Can I write a Summing Up post in the time it takes me to cook dinner. I was going to have a To Kill a Mockingbird post up tonight but then we watched two “Schitt’s Creek” instead of one (finishing the third season, which has that wonderfully nice season finale; I wonder when the show realized it had potential for so much heart).

But this post is not a “Schitt’s Creek” post. At my current rate of sitcom blogging, I’ll get to “SC” sometime in 2038. I’m still trying to figure out the difference between my new blogging and my old. I wonder if any MFA programs have classes in how to develop a good blogging practice. Is it a serious thing yet? It definitely wasn’t when I was in grad school. I could find this information out instead of musing uninformed about it but… I’m fairly committed to no researched blog posts in 2020. As I type those words, however, I wonder if I’ll change my mind by March.

For example, there’s always a chance some iPhone app will inspire me to a cat-related blog. I had an idea for one a while ago and a friend had to talk me out of it; I wasn’t particularly inspired though. If some talking pet app comes along and works well and easy… YouTube here I come. Though… as I write those words, it sounds like way too much work.

I could not write this post in the time it took to make dinner. I could only write 245 words. Not even thirty percent.

The idea of Summing Up posts like this one is buckets to fill. Don’t know what’s going in, just how much is going in. Or something. Writing without a subject to the word count, trying to ride out thoughts, veering to the best tangents. One of the things I finally learned through blogging—without exactly realizing it—was how to identify how writing would make me feel. If I write a funny review about something terrible, it’s more enjoyable than writing a meaner-spirited review about something terrible. The experience of writing about the thing is separate from the experiencing of thing itself. But it’s not experiencing like researching. It’s 2020. People started doing frame-by-frame analysis of films about a decade ago. Wait, more than a decade ago. And it hasn’t really affected how film is discussed. Social media has changed how film is discussed, but not the frame-by-frame folks. Sorry frame-by-frame folks. I always thought a by-scene examination would be good; my old Stop Button supercuts or whatever were about a third of what they should’ve been. But there was no way I was hosting a video and producing a good video seems like it’d take a lot of time. I remember it taking a lot of time. The computers are faster but… no. It’s too much. Just watch, once they make VR really work for the masses, a bunch of people will just do virtual hobbies instead of real ones. Or not. Commodified VR will be a shitshow because people are a shitshow. It’s going to be terrible.

Are there classes on white space? Not white spaces but….

White.

Space.

Late 1990s, early 2000s white space was the thing. I used to use it in my history papers to show off. Once I learned how to be good at school I was obnoxious about it. I was really obnoxious. But in a different than expected way, I’d like to think. At least there’d be some ingenuity and spontaneity to my obnoxious.

I didn’t time how long it took me to cook dinner, so I don’t have any idea how long it took me to write the first 243 words or whatever. (It’s 243, I really got into word count in grad school; way too into it). But I also didn’t time when I started writing after the… it’s 245. I scrolled up.

Huh. Maybe I’m not so obsessed with it.

Anyway, I didn’t time when I started after 245 so I don’t know how long it’s taken me to get here. I don’t know what I’d do with the information. Do I write faster sitting and typing on a full-size keyboard than I do standing in the kitchen typing on a tablet-size keyboard. Does it matter where in the writing I am… how does speed of writing increase and decrease. Why do I care how fast or slow I write (not type) but retch words onto the keys, screen, code, server, Internet. I don’t have any major writing projects planned where I might need to know how long it takes me to write.

And add cat pictures. Can’t forget to add the cat pictures. Though there’s no advertising code on the site so it’s not like I’ll get those quarter pennies. I’d probably have to take better cat pictures too and it’s a pain. None of the cats like having their picture taken. Gregory actually smacked the phone away from me while I was getting the one for this post. And now he’s whining at me. Correlation without causation: Gregory whines and I finish the blog post.

Gregory 9 January 2020 2

A Cheap Endorphin Rush, or: 2020’s off to a lousy start, isn’t it?

We’ve been marathoning “Superstore” and now “Schitt’s Creek” so I don’t have a ready backlog of Stop Button posts right now. I wrote that sugar-high post earlier this week, which was… something to do. And I’ve been fairly good with the comics posts. I’m going to do the next Ennis Punisher arc in a few days. It’s just not a weekend where I’ve got anything stashed. Streaming series have ended—not even what will be the next “Mandalorian”, what will be the next “Witcher.” As Gulf War III gears up, we’ll have the best entertainment. Not just the best entertainment, but the best entertainment for all of us. Disney’s new audience. Though it doesn’t look like we’ll get full on integration. I don’t think Captain Marvel II will have Brie Larson zapping Irani tanks or anything… the neoliberal promise of 21st century warfare seems to be it won’t have to take up any of your attention. Not unless it takes up all your attention and then you’re not in the right demographic for it to be a concern.

But not just “Witcher: Season Two” but “Season Three” as well. I don’t know why Warner doesn’t just wise up and do a Supergirl tween movie where Henry Cavill’s the older, uncool cousin to the newly arrived, hip Kara Danvers. I mean, Cavill’s doing a Sherlock Holmes thing with basically that concept. The whole promise of “Witcher: Season Two” is its Cavill playing Wolverine to an Anna Paquin. Do it as an HBO Max exclusive; DC heroes it turns out work better serialized, if only because Warner spends so much time on the supporting cast. Caring about the supporting cast is what’s made Marvel movies change in the last few years-Spider-Man, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, even Guardians (hell, Guardians might’ve started it); it’s very different from not giving a shit about the three warriors in Thor movies or forgetting Leslie Bibb was a major supporting player in Iron Man 1. One of the Leslies. I’m thinking Bibb. I might be wrong. I’m not checking.

Though those DC heroes on TV compliments aren’t currently descriptive because I think we’re done with the Arrowverse (not “Arrow” obviously) except for “Legends” and “Watchmen: The HBO Series” can’t be fixed at this point (I’ve got one left to go). But in general… Marvel live action has been more successful without giving a shit about supporting casts.

Oh, wow, not even halfway done with the post. With that sentiment expressed, I probably shouldn’t go into a Patreon sales pitch… should I? These Summing Up posts having a high—875—target is a helpful constraint. If I’m going to sit down and write one of them, I’ve got to sit and write for a while. I always fretted over the experience of writing—I was a White male cishet MFA student who sat in bars with friends and wrote. Not I was. I am. That reality is never going away. Coworking spaces ain’t got nothing on writers. Though maybe it’s changed.

Speaking of Patreon, I’m almost done with this month’s collection on posts. In fact, I’m writing this post instead of deciding whether or not I’m done with the current amount of posts. There are a lot more I could add… but I’m hoping to have it done this Thursday. I somehow thought it was a good idea to write an introduction for these collections, so I need a good day to work on it. I can’t remember if I decided I’d edit said introduction or not, but I’m erring on… yes, I was going to edit these things. On a few podcasts where people are talking about coding they mention not making comments in the code to remind them why they’re doing something or how and it later bites them on the ass. I’m feeling the same way about the collections this time. Whenever I’d zined up post collections or whatever, I had a lot of structure. Now I’ve got it set to a mindless repetition series of tasks, which even has a review built-in. Not even intentionally. Just turns out the easy way to do it adds that review. Technology’s great.

Shame about the rest of the world.

I don’t want to write about the actual prospect of Gulf War III because there’s nothing I’ve got to say about it. But it’s weighing in a terrifying familiar way. It feels more normal than anything else has in a long time. The United States’s overt imperial aggressions… they’re a recognizable, predictable pattern. Sun comes up, sun goes down type stuff. It’s a lot easier to be blandly anti-war (but pro-troops, obviously, hashtag gag) than to be specifically anti-terrible policy of the moment.

Suffice to say, I’m not hopeful.

On that cheery note, I will go into the outro, which totally ought to be a word and not get the dreaded red dots (I’m kidding, I have so many typos still online, I can’t even imagine paying attention; again, tip your wi… nope, not doing it. So here’s an adorable cat photo. Not doing the series of cat photos anymore because running Waterlogue filters on the cats does not bring me joy. And by joy I of course mean a cheap endorphin rush.

A cheap endorphin rush 2

Nugget, or: Dream of the Sugar Fiend

Every swallow has weight. I’m not sure if it’s the sugar, the alcohol, or what seems to be a coming nausea, but every swallow weighs. The bubbles in the champagne should help though.

I just ate about a fifth or sixth of a Bavarian creme butter braid, a “Fun Size” Snickers, and a 60% Cacao Dark Chocolate Ghirardelli. I didn’t plan on writing about it, so with the Ghirardelli, which holds no significance to me—I have a long history with Snickers bars, fun-sized and not, and the butter braid is my first—but Ghirardelli chocolate squares are just chocolate squares. I preferred the ones with the “save the apes” trading cards inside; all chocolate squares are about the same now.

The butter braid tastes like a more solid cotton candy. I didn’t even register the bread part, even though we haven’t had anything but sprouted grain in a year. I could smell the yeast, which smelled pretty great, but I didn’t taste any of it. Just sugar. Wonderful, wonderful sugar. Like what an everlasting gobstopper needs to taste like; something you’d never want to stop eating.

And then I realized I can’t process the flavor (or lack thereof) over the sweetness of it. So, still, what an everlasting gobstopper ought to be.

And then the champagne.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been up this late, this drunk. It’s 12:41. Writing this post got delayed—wife discovered the hilarious and frankly adorable YouTube reaction videos to the Righteous Brothers; mostly people realizing they were white and then so good. My whole “availability and access is good for the youths (and basically unimaginable to people who couldn’t just watch the Righteous Brothers doing a live performance at will)” point proven. Very cool. May even listen to some Righteous Brothers.

And there’s also this new game I found—“Pocket City,” which seems to be “SimCity” rules with “SimCity 2000” graphics. It’s bringing back the six space rectangle system we had for the original. In youth, which never seemed like youth. So weird. But I beat “Grindstone,” so I needed a new game and the App Store recommended “Pocket City” because I’m predictable. Even to Apple’s hampered algorithms.

I used to use “hampered” a lot more. Probably in undergrad, I’d use it once in every class, then maybe on the final. I approached history writing like performance. I miss that energy. Having a single reader and being able to directly related to that reader, it is performance; in many ways with more potential than a workshop. You’re analyzed in the workshop, not performing. I like the performance thing. It’s what sucks about not having the (previously) very specific Stop Button reader.

I really need to standardize media formatting. I think I’m doing “” for websites of any kind, but I just did video games with them and….

So, yeah, the champagne. It’s not champagne. It’s La Marca Prosecco. It’s pretty good; I can’t remember the writing the last hundred words or so. We’re almost to one o’clock. I didn’t start this post with a word count target because, well, La Marcia Prosecco and whatever sugar rush was still rushing my heart, but specifically because it’s longer than I wanted to write, leading to this… bisected post.

Albeit without any white space.

I’m getting interested in reading again. I haven’t been for a while. And trying to force myself to get interested didn’t do any good. It’s like weather. Sometimes it seems just as much like your expecting it willed it away as… whatever the reverse of that absurd philosophy would be. It was just supposed to do sound good.

La Marca Prosecco.

Wine.com says, “After pouring the first round, seal the opened bottle with a bottle stopper to keep remaining wine fresh and effervescent and keep the wine chilled to 46-50°F.” We did not do those things. Those things is a bit of a stretch. We did not do either of those things. Is my La Marca Prosecco spoiling?

Performance.

Fifty-some words. It’s 12:59. You can give up. No one’s New Years Resolution should be finishing bad blog posts. Especially not mine. Just join the Patreon. I got a Linode invoice while writing this post; it’s kind of less than I thought but also not free. And also not $1.50 a month like how WordPress.com works out. But don’t join the Patreon if you like the posts.

It’s been sixty-two minutes since the sugar and I haven’t thrown up yet.

Success.

Fumetti is never a good idea

I love design. I’m just not good at it; I don’t have fine motor enough to draw, I’m colorblind-ish, I don’t know code. But I love design. Hence the new theme on the site, which chases that pre-Bush “Atlantic Monthly” era of youthful memory, and then “Harpers” until… I don’t remember why I stopped reading “Harpers.” I did though. When I was in middle school I wanted to make zines, but I didn’t want to write anything for them. Like, if I’d known about fumetti back in those days, I’d probably have done it. I would have made fumetti King Kong comics. I’d be terrified to find them today too. Oh, wow, the early nineties; there would have been so much embarrassing fumetti comics if I’d been able to screen cap a show and turn it into a comic.

No, this post is not an announcement of fumetti.

Though it’d be obnoxiously easy these days thanks to… no. I will not be doing a fumetti. I promise. I even promise I won’t do one with Waterlogue filters. There are some things one shouldn’t know. Though I suppose if you did a fumetti adaptation of a comic book and not a movie adaptation itself. Or you could do a significant modification to an existing movie, i.e. Michael Keaton and Rene Russo starring in Batman Forever… I mean, some things shouldn’t be answered.

I don’t think.

What about adapting the Batman comic strip with live action… no, no, no. It’s a bad idea.

What am I talking about? I’d never read a fumetti. I’ve got to remember to stop trying to make media I’d never consume.

So speaking of media to consume—I do have a new project. Actually, it’s the resurrection of an old project—thanks to former podcast cohost Matt’s thoughts—e-Collections. I don’t think I ever wrote about it because I wanted to see how zero effort Kindle discovery works; it works. I think I can buy a cup of coffee from what I’ve made selling a collection of Stop Button Eleanor Parker posts, but Kindle doesn’t actually make it easy so I’m just guessing. Though I suppose you can get a coffee for under two bucks. But I might have sold a couple more.

Anyway. I’m going to start doing more collections, simultaneously to cleaning up the site post-combining. At least one a month, starting with one in January. And I even got the Patreon updated with tiers because I’m a White cishet Gen-X male. Given the site doesn’t have ads anymore, having the Patreon seems less actually icky. Vaguely desperate? Yes, but hopefully passively. Passively vaguely desperate > aggressively vaguely desperate.

The other thing about the e-Collections, which when I last thought about doing them would be collections of Sum Up posts and then the discussed film responses… it gives me a chance to do some different kinds of writing for a similar but different medium. There’s a looser intentionally with blogging than in anything “published.” The finality of the published edition (though I’m going to keep updating the eBook versions, obviously).

It’ll also give me something of a creative project for the year. There was a tweet going around about what your 2020 creative project is going to be and I hard passed on it because it felt like whatever I’d be doing generative writing-wise wasn’t going to be particularly creative. But a new broadly curated blogging collection after consolidating all the blogs. It feels appropriate. And I’ve got plenty of possible collections and even cross-blog collections (the Superman collection will be everything Superman, including the comics; ditto Batman; but the Giant-Size Superhero Cinema collection will just be movies.

What do I get out of it, except a possible venti versus grande? Creative energy. I’ll never forget in undergrad writing when the professor talked about how the best work you could do on a story was when you were just going about your day and drifting to it. Creative energy sparks off into other things; the target project is unconstrained but finite. I suppose it’s a potentiality thing.

But the e-Collections actually do figure in a little to the one other (albeit non-creative) project I have for next year, which is a nice coincidence.

The worst part of the Patreon was writing the intro. Having a Patreon seems very dated. Maybe I need some Patreon goals; I have tiers. What would a goal be? I’m not doing the “pick a movie” for a post thing; I’ve now seen how those play out and it’s… nothing I want to be doing. It’s very weird to have ambitions for blogging but none for your blog; it seems like you shouldn’t be able to have the former without the latter. Though there’s an added factor to it with the blogging (as writing) having a passive distribution model.

Now Fozzy; from earlier today.

Buy the new Ijeoma Oluo book

Earlier this year when I launched Visual Reflux as the new everything but The Stop Button blog, I thought I was going to get interested in the technical aspects of blogging again. I was wrong. The technical aspects of blogging are a chore now. At least the first time around, it wasn’t like people just knew this stuff. I need help files written for people who stopped futzing with self-hosting in 2011. I’m probably reading help files meant for boomers. And getting confused. It’s also not exactly frustrating because I know I’m trying to take the shortcut instead of actually learning what I’m trying to do. I’m assuming I can take a short cut and make it successful. Though successful in this case is literally not getting an email notification the site is down. Otherwise, The Stop Button is set. The content’s here. The point’s the content. The content’s here.

Only that success—despite like sixty notifications of old posts (at least) and various crashes and errors and re-imports, but it’s been a success. Much easier than expected. And now I’m not super-interested in curating the old content anymore. It’s, you know, here. I did the move. And I was not expecting this feeling of finality with the old posts. I never treated blogging as at all serious writing and the times I hobbied with collecting it in print was because I like messing around with print. You can make a zine look like an issue of “Harper’s” in 2019. Hell, 2014 probably. It’s fun to futz. But, again, I was only ever a print dilettante. I assumed technology would let me take short cuts and make whatever I needed work.

And I’m basically right.

I was also right about TV on DVD and, to a lesser extent, MOD. I’m not sure I knew a white guy in the mid-aughts who didn’t secretly fancy himself a futurist. Though my sample is overrepresented with comic book readers and futurism was a big Marvel thing in the mid-aughts, when the old young creators were doing new things instead of new young creators doing old things.

Anyway. I’m not really enjoying going back and editing old posts. It might just be “Superstore” is proving exactly the situation I want to cut my teeth on as far as sitcom responses go. With the third episode, which I accidentally watched second, it became obvious I needed to get the wife in on the show. And it’s just gotten better, leaps and bounds off an incredibly solid start. So there’s a lot to look at and talk about. It doesn’t hurt the show agreed with all my early observations and so in how it improves, it’s basically giving me an endorphin rush as it confirms my prescriptions. Or whatever. Also, you should still see August because I was right about Josh Hartnett. I don’t know about the Christian movies and “Penny Dreadful,” but I was still right about early career Josh Hartnett. O. August. See those two.

Old time blogging indeed. This 750 target word count on Summing Up posts is kind of intense. I’m doing 300 for TV, 350 for comics (though trades are going to be something different, probably 750), and movies range from 250 (for a short) to 850 (for something superlative). So 750 is a lot. And I’ve even started taking notes on the 750s; I started a critical epistemology post the other night—didn’t finish because bed time—because I was so pissed off about The Last Jedi response. A friend finally saw it, leading to a terrifying chat simulation of welcomed mansplaining re: Rose Tico (who’s the best thing about the new trilogy, which isn’t the greatest bar but Kelly Marie Tran is a true find), but then the “Mandalorian” sucked, and I heard some older Gen-Xers (forty-five and fifty-ish) talking about how Rogue One is the only good new Star Wars and grumble grumble about the Last Jedi so obviously they can’t be sexist because there’s the woman in Rogue One but obviously Favreau gets it because the “Mandalorian” is so perfect.

It’s playing with your toys. The ones you have stories about for after the movie ends. When you were six or seven. Then you kept playing and it kept getting weirder. Would fandom be so toxic if men had just felt comfortable playing with all their old toys in the nineties? Actually, if you turned that idea into a show produced by Seth Rogen I’ll bet it would work. An alternate history show where men got to play with their action figures into adulthood without fear of shame at wanting the Jedi model Millennium Falcon because the chairs were so much cooler.

Growing up in the early eighties has turned out to be a lot weirder than expected. It really didn’t seem so weird at the time, not compared to other eras. But, yeah… it was weird. And not great. I was in fifth grade when “Native American” all of a sudden was the word. I’m also old enough to remember when it was still “Afro-“ American. So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo. She talks about it. How you didn’t realize “The Cosby Show” wasn’t just not real, it wasn’t even possible until it was way too late.

Holy shit, her new book’s called Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America. It’s going to be amazing. She’s so great.

And y’all almost got a whole paragraph about the spectrum of potential targeting per demographic but instead I’m just going to get this posted so I can get ready for work and get those cat pictures together. I’m not sure the opening quote thing is happening this post. Actually probably just a “Buy the new Ijeoma Oluo book.”

And here’s Gregory, stoned on sunlight.

“Meddling Kids”

You know what’s not a word?

Self-depreciating. Self-deprecating is a word, self-depreciating is not. I wish I’d consulted a dictionary in high school when I added the word—which I pronounced self-deprecating but a friend definitely told me it was pronounced self-depreciating; I could’ve won a point, back when I thought be righting about grammar with a mostly casual acquaintance was the most important thing.

Why, yes, I did grow up on “Seinfeld,” which isn’t the best but still better than many of the alternatives. We won’t even get into growing up on “Friends,” but just imagine the nonsense you spew if you grew up on “Home Improvement” and I make that statement as someone who, before he went all in on 45, occasionally liked Tim Allen’s performances.

Reminder: need to watch Big Trouble again.

It’s going to be really scary when you type reminder and then your personal assistant mines following to create a reminder. I assume the only reason we don’t have it is because LinkedIn hasn’t made an Android fork yet. It could email all your contacts letting them know when you, I don’t know, wake up in the morning or when not to message because you’re taking your morning shit. Honestly, I think that development would’ve been more of a Hillary presidency outcome type thing. Neoliberalism’s affects on late stage capitalism’s productivity innovations.

If only.

I’m not even trying to get dark, just get some cat pictures posted. Wholesome blogging. With fake watercolors.

Possibly daily. Like, fall 2016 I was trying to do a total of lot of words a day. Multiple posts on Summing Up to get to the word count. I could probably even look up that word count, I must’ve mentioned it somewhere. But then inauguration and so on.

But daily posts as an excuse to post cat pictures? Possible. Depends on how cute the cats are being. Except Fozzy, Fozzy always just looks cutesified regal to me.

My writing has changed a lot since 2016; I’m not currently working on a fiction project. I think I stared that year with a mind to edit the second novel, instead it’s still basically in a first draft stage, which I’d call a second draft stage because of how I rather inventively incorporated revisions into the novel’s structure because I knew writing in a creative vacuum—not just no one reading the novel, no one even checking in on it—was going to present a lot of problems. As it stands, the opening needs a significant rewrite, but only about fifteen pages. Just the first two scenes.

One of the main reasons I fell off the novel is when I realized, fall 2016, how I could edit it to sell it. Because the fucking election. Probably could’ve made some hay with it, especially as centrist as my “fellow” White liberals have gotten. Glad I didn’t, but also… as a cishet White male in 2019, unless I’m fictioning by committee and even then… other people should be doing the job. White men have been writing the lines for everyone else for way too long. Some of them did it well, some awful ones of them did it well, but we’ve moved on. We’ve found the right mix of ability, creativity, and commercialism. Without being good—whereas the first time they were at least good—Marvel has determined the narrative’s future, which means we’ll have to wait until 2032 for the revised medium to mature enough for its Watchmen, but in theory we’re hitting its eighties in just a few years now. If cycles work the same way they did before the Internet, which they might not but also might. Disney slowing down the ether’s active imagination with fucking weekly releases of “Baby Yoda.”

Speaking of “Baby Yoda,” I need to write my fifth episode post but… spoiler… Dave Filoni is bad at writing, directing, and approving the casting. It’s a rather disappointing episode, but thanks to the deliberate structure, easily dismissible.

But the changing in writing… I know a lot better what I don’t want to blog about. I don’t want to write about blog setup and whatnot, I don’t want about… Somerset Maugham novels, which is too bad but it’s enough work you want to be doing it for a reason. Commercializing one’s writing slows its creative roll. It’s a very comfortable hill and there are almost no exceptions to the rule, not really. And I don’t take the blogging potentially professionally enough to want to slow the writing development. I’ve got years of 250 word posts on Stop Button where the writing stalled, whereas now I understand the point is writing not the number of posts.

I’m creatively holding but staying present because there’s the more potential for good readers and watchers and thinkers than any other time in history.

Well; made my word count so now cats.

“Go to the hills”

I got my MFA from the Art Institute of Chicago, which both does and doesn’t seem on brand for me. I wasn’t an art school kind of person but I’ve always been a believer in making an education from what’s available in a place, which sucks because I’ve gone on to give that advice only to have it not go anywhere near as well for the recipients of said advice. I’ve never said anything similar about the second Master’s, mind you. The functional one. My undergrad in history and my MFA are far from functional.

I may be confusing pragmatic and functional. I’m real tired. But with that exhaustion has come some clarity as far as my latest boondoggle with the Stop Button move. I forgot to change over this eighteen square pixel transparent PNG file I use on the movie ratings to intent them a little and used a WordPress plugin to do a bulk change. On what I thought was 3,000 posts. Turned out it did something to every post on the site… it eighty-sixed the paragraph tags. Not the ones with additional code, just the standard <p> and </p> tags. It erased them, which is something WordPress started doing a long time ago now (long time ago in Internet time).

It felt really familiar too. Not just screwing something up with a bulk change and not having a backup—make a backup y’all, even if you can—like I could, undo it with yet another bulk import of all the Stop Button, Comics Fondle, Visual Reflux, and Summing Up posts. I’m even more exhausted after typing that sentence. I think I did this same thing before changing something else and I think I went through however many posts and added in the paragraph tags again. But you know what… no one is going to notice. No one reading is going to experience any difference. You know why, because WordPress adds in the paragraph tags when rendering the posts. So it’s a fuck up and I should’ve made a backup and that find and replace plugin is far more destructive than convenient, but it’s also not a particularly… actually, no, it’s not even a visible fuck up. It’s something dumb I did and I should’ve known better, but the resulting material is no different.

The experience for the reader isn’t different at all, which brings it all back to the art school and this instructor—an eighties artist of solid renown and a smart guy—talking about how he got into it with another artist about artifice and when it matters. Kind of like the Val Kilmer Tombstone thing about the original director wanting them all to wear period accurate costumes and not modern fabrics. The camera couldn’t tell the difference. The first director got fired, they got to wear modern fabrics and be more comfortable and Tombstone stank to high heaven. So maybe a bad example. But it’s not worth sweating paragraph tags, not when the whole point of the blog is the blogging. The -ing of it. The generative exercise.

I mean, back up your work. Even if you can recreate it without backing up, back it up. But don’t forget what you’re making.

Sadly, no accompanying cat pictures because I need to go to bed. I also need to decide if I’m going to re-add those paragraph tags as I gradually clean up the old posts.

I always said when I turned forty I was going to dump the novels online. Since turning forty and now one and forty, I haven’t given it any serious thought. I can’t even imagine how much I’d fret over that shit though. The funny thing about the paragraph tags going and the threat of the paragraphs going? I never wrote my fiction in paragraphs. I mean, I initially did but then I got away from it in MFA school; I added all the paragraph breaks later, in one of the edits. I did something similar with blogging at the beginning…

It seems kind of disingenuous to be so worried about paragraph tags when I was so willing to make a lack of paragraphs a style hill. Of course, I don’t think about style hills anymore, which is kind of too bad. But it’s 2019 and there are multiple reasons not to worry about style hills anymore, but damn if they didn’t used to be a thing.

The aughts had a lot of pointless things, things so pointless in hindsight it’s very hard to imagine ever assigning them importance. Previous decades obviously had the same problem, often with greater intensity, but by the aughts we should’ve known better and instead we kept investing in shitty ideas because the idea of them not working out was scary.

And guess what… they didn’t work out.

Wow. There’s an upper. I could use a cat picture right now.

“Think about the future”

You may have noticed some changes at the Stop Button in the last few days. A totally different theme, TV posts, no header images, inconsistently getting the new site versus the old. It’s not just you, it’s everyone. Well, somewhere out there is an ISP with updated DNS not doing the inconsistency, where it looks like the old site because it is the old site, hosted on WordPress with a .net domain, which will be the case for the foreseeable future. The Stop Button gets hits through WordPress. None of the other blogs do. Except Summing Up… I think. More on that one in a bit.

The reason for all the changes is a good old fashioned—old time blogging—hosting switch. For the first time in almost a decade, The Stop Button is going back to self-hosted. Well, not self-hosted as much as Linode-hosted but you get the idea. 2016-2017 was supposed to be about getting into long-form colloquial blogging (i.e. Medium-esque “essays”) and I did all right for a while but then the inauguration killed my soul and my writing. But even zombified, there were writing lessons learned from it (basically just getting better at infusing writing banter with content) and 2018 and 2019 became the years where I really tried hard to write longer form stuff on Stop Button. And they got some hits. The John Carpenter retrospects and the Eleanor Parker retrospects both did great. They don’t anymore, which sucks since I put months into both, but lesson learned. Worse, the subsequent longer form posts—the Godzilla one I hated, the Luise Rainer retrospect, which was great writing practice but not much fun, an ill-advised “King Kong and me” post, the Josh Hartnett O piece I’m most proud of but no one reads because I’m right about it and you’re wrong and you just can’t acknowledge it, and the also ill-advised but for different reasons Star Trek II soundtrack post—got very few readers. Very few. I don’t talk about the actual numbers of Stop Button posts because one shouldn’t brag or self-shame about blog readership… but very little readership on those posts, which took a lot of time and more served to validate my opinions on blogging versus writing and why the latter shouldn’t be rigorously applied to the former.

2019 was also supposed to be the year where the long-running and actually listened to Comics Fondle Podcast transformed into the Visual Reflux Podcast. To date, we’ve had one episode. And I had even started doing comics posts on the Visual Reflux site, which was going to be an all-in-one with comics, TV, streaming, and (after I came up with the project) Maltin-sized movie capsule posts. Only I never got around to doing the TV stuff I had planned; I wanted to start with “Fawlty Towers” but writing about sitcoms isn’t easy. I had wanted to do a deep dive into “Penny Dreadful” but the time commitment was always too much. It wasn’t until this fall I got Visual Reflux going with actual TV and streaming posts and it’s worked out. It’s helped my blogging; what I learned from blogging about ”Love and Rockets” on Comics Fondle last year, which was a huge project also without any significant readership but still worth it for my brain, has helped with VR. And I’ve been steady with my ”Punisher MAX” read-through, though I’m behind; again, not lighting the world on fire, but the target audience is literally two people. Anyone else is gravy.

But with Visual Reflux working out, I got thinking about a newsletter again—something to consolidate all my blogging content—only the idea of doing a newsletter… eh. No. I’d rather not. The last one didn’t go well and I did at least a month of work on it. Some of the newsletter thing has always been about getting a Patreon going up, which also has never been successful. And it makes sense… I don’t give to White male cishet media bloggers either. If there is a network of White male cishet media bloggers who support each other on Patreon, it’s probably a bunch of fucking ‘Murican Nazis so no anyway.

(Patreon will be live on this new site before the end of the year, obviously).

I had wanted to do Visual Reflux self-hosted because old time blogging, but it was such a pain in the ass. I couldn’t get Linode to work, because despite dropping some bucks on blogging, I’m not really interested in getting SSL to work or Apache or whatever else. VR went from EasyWP, which is great just somehow not geeky enough to scratch the self-hosting itch but also not straightforward enough to just be WordPress.com, to WordPress.com over the summer. Headaches, even mild ones, gone.

But since I last tried setting up Linode—only eight months ago—things have gotten easier. Their one-click WordPress install… works. There’s some additional setup without the best documentation but it’s adequate documentation. It’s possible. So you’re now reading this on a Linode-hosted WordPress install, unless you’re reading it on summing-up.com, which hasn’t made the move yet. It’s next. Then Comics Fondle. Comics Fondle is going to be a lot of work. A lot of work.

Except once the work’s done, it’s done. All of the blogging will be in one place, like old time blogging. And it’ll be on the blog with the most consistent readership.

There have been some hiccups, which I could blog about at length but won’t here and probably won’t at all because they’re very specific to my posts. Just… don’t do a related posts plugin. It’s a bad idea. Also, if you’re doing bulk changes with BBEdit and Applescript, make sure you save your files in both. Also make sure you remember to apply the rename all in Script Editor instead of just changing the number of the xml file. Anyway, it’s a whole lot. Not even getting into SSL….

There are still some big little things to figure out, like whether or not Summing Up posts get header images; Comics Fondle will not, just the cover images. There are also two other writers on Comics Fondle, who I haven’t talked about the hosting move with because… there’s no way not to be long-winded about it and also getting into the failures of the last few years to grow the sites on their own.

Matt (Hurwitz), one of the aforementioned Comics Fondle writers and former Alan Smithee cohost, has this great observation about people using Batman when they’re doing something new because Batman is always good for some hits—when I started doing serials on Stop Button I did the first Batman serial—but, outside the top of this post, I’ve got no Batman at launch here. Nothing in the queue either. Because I’m sick of Batman. I’ve been trying to gin up interest in the brand since the late nineties and I just can’t anymore.

So instead… how about some fake watercolor cat pictures.

Incomplete thoughts

The Internet has fatally wounded big c criticism. Big c criticism got its first major wounding in the mid-nineties with Independence Day. Then it got hit again with Armageddon. So it was down and bleeding and couldn’t defend itself—if it’d known how—for the death blow of social networking. Also, also, there was all the critic shake-up after Siskel died and so on and the New York Times changing then becoming irrelevant, which I’ve always blamed on them going with the three critic route instead of just platforming Elvis Mitchell.

It was the late 1990s or early 2000s, film had time to be better for that move.

Instead, we’ve got what we’ve got.

When I started writing, blogging was blogging and writing was writing. They were very, very separate.

I proofread writing, for goodness sake; I didn’t proofread blogging when I started and I don’t now… I’ve gotten better at spelling—or just found an accurately spelled vocabulary; some of those old posts are raggedy. I still find typos when I’m going through to update them. I’m doing Martin capsules. It’s a lengthy project but still fun blog tinkering, The most important aspects for being fun blog tinkering, in Capsules case, is getting to play with image manipulation. It also doesn’t require much new writing. I’m writing so much. It’s so much—four blogs, plus the Capsules micro-blog. If I had half a brain I’d start working towards consolidating the writing on The Stop Button and whatever else—video, podcast—on Visual Reflux. See, I had wanting to make my writing my blogging—meaning edit posts, meaning do drafts, meaning… proofread. But one of the great things about how and why social networking ended big c criticism is criticism’s never been better and there’s never been more of it. When Ebert brought in Richard Roeper, he broke the gate—seemingly unintentionally—and the gatekeepers have slowly lost power until now. Popular film got better faster than critics got about talking about better popular films. Even now there are some fundamental misunderstandings, with the old folks not listening when the young folks are right. Because the young folks know better. Right now some thirteen year-old out there has a better handle on my take on film than I do at 41. They’ve already got the algorithm. And they’ll have a better one next year while I’m catching up with the now twelve-year old who’s got it. It’s a different world and a better one for those differences.

It’s hobby

My real writer friend has a real writer problem right now, which puts things in a lot of context. In grad school my best instructor/the best instructor in terms of encouraging writerly behavior and practices surprised us once by saying to call yourself a writer you need to be published. Thinking about it fourteen-ish years later when many of my classmates have gone on to teaching, not teaching, writing, not writing, being a writer is about trying to making it your career. I was always more concerned with the accompanying safety net instead of doing the tightrope stuff. When I worry about my writing, it’s this stuff, it’s the blogging. It’s hobby. Something to keep the brain from atrophying. If there’s some particularly good writing up online, I don’t know. Even when I do read over old posts, I don’t pay too much attention to them. Hence the constant discovery of fifteen year-old typos. That’s not a real writer problem. Just like that “that,” an edit pass or editor would do something about those typos. I always hated paragraphs. So no more paragraphs on Summing Up.

White space. Maybe even some fucking dashes. But not paragraphs. I used to go back into writing and add paragraphs. I think even in undergrad when it was a history paper and I was already leveraging my rather impression exposition against having a very, very weak thesis statement. If I remembered a thesis statement at all. I used find funny citations too. Run-on sentences, artificial paragraphs, funny citations. Factually accurate but still more concerned with being entertaining. I did obnoxiously well with it, which was the point.

I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with blogging the last few days. I’ve got a good schedule with Comics Fondle’s Punisher posts. Don’t really have to think about it, just follows my work schedule. Because I feel more self-conscious about crying over Garth Ennis Punisher in private than I do in public. In public you can whirl in some potential embarrassment; it’s not just about the sadness of the comic, it’s about whether or not you’re willing to make a spectacle of yourself. And, for “The Slavers,” definitely. This latest arc’s got no teary-eyed moments, neither did the last one, so maybe someone told Ennis to stop trying to make grown men try. Of course he went on to do it all the time in the sequel series so who knows. Reminds me: Ennis has a new Punisher series coming; Soviet. Can’t forget about that one, as I’m nearing half done on my Punisher MAX read-through. After I finish it, I think I’m moving on to Swamp Thing but I’m not sure. I’m still not happy about how I write responses to chunks of issues versus issue to issue. I shoot for 350 words on single issue posts, 500 words on the chunks (i.e. Limited Series, Mini-Series, Maxi-Series, Story Arcs, Collections, One-Shots, Graphic Novels). So it’s basically 350 words for a twenty-two to twenty-six page comic, 500 words for anything over thirty pages or multiple issues. Because even though I can watch a three hour movie and write about it a day later and fixate on something in the first act, it doesn’t work that way with comics. If there’s a too visible act structure over a six issue story arc, the comic isn’t doing its job as a periodical. So maybe the difference is between ongoing and not? But I need to figure it out; I’ve got a lot to read after Punisher and I need to figure out how to write about it if I’m going to write about it. I put a lot of thought into Comics Fondle. Not work, but thought. Of any of four goddamn blogs—I really should’ve just folded everything into Stop ButtonCF has the most potential for impact. If I can get someone to read Love and Rockets and Ennis Punisher, well, it’s a good thing. And I’d love to be cited in some scholarly paper about Ennis’s war comics. Or write one. But I’d need a sabbatical.

Em-dash.

I think 750 is the new Summing Up word count target. Not target exactly, minimum goal. Someone tried convincing me to do something similar back when Stop Button strictly followed a 250 word count per post. I haven’t had a problem with writing terseness since freshman year of undergrad or so; the 250 word limit did something to how I write. And my writing after the years of 250 word posts is better than my writing before, so whatever it did worked. Some of it is CYA, obviously. Back when I started The Stop Button, the world hadn’t decided what was acceptable film criticism. Through some expository paragraphs on the old posts and actually amp up the snide remarks and I’d be just fine… for about four years ago, but still. We’re now over the 750, by the way.

Last thing: we’re listening to Louis Theroux’s book, Gotta Get Theroux This (highly recommended), and he talks about how it took him two weeks to write his spec script for “Newsradio.” I made a lot interesting choices, media consumption-wise, in writing school. “Cheers” and Lanark, for example. I wrote an episode of “Cheers” because I was convinced you ought to be able to hack out the plot structure in an afternoon and have it through edits to a reasonable quality in a day or two. I mean, I was right. Theroux got his two week thing from popular sitcom writer wisdom, which seems like an artificial constraint. Going to a writing program at an art school helped with one thing… cutting through the bullshit and deciding what kind of effect you want something to have. Does that effect need the bullshit or just to be itself.

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