”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.