Categories
Technology

WordPress 5.5 Released

WordPress 5.5 has been released! Along with speed and block editor enhancements, this update adds plugin and theme auto-updates, XML sitemaps, image lazy loading, and over 500 bug fixes. For specifics, check out the changelog.

805 volunteers contributed to this release, lead by Matt Mullenweg, Jake Surlock, and David Baumwald. At the time of writing this, WordPress 5.5 has been out for about 5 hours, and has already been downloaded 1,028,975 times!

All users can safely update from Dashboard -> Updates or download and update manually, though you should probably backup first just in case, unless you’re already using Jetpack Backup, which you really should be.

If you run into any problems, stop by the known issues first, and please let us know if it’s not covered there!

Categories
Nostalgia Review Video

Rewatch: The Fantastic Four

Roger Corman is a master of working with limited time and money. He’s heralded as the King of B Movies and preaches a practice of putting all of the money on the screen, not wasting it on lavish expenses elsewhere. Despite having never won a traditional Academy Award, he won an honorary one in 2010 for his contributions to the film industry. He launched the film careers of Ron Howard (as a director), Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, Jack Nicholson, Sylvester Stallone, William Shatner, James Horner, and many more. He has produced 412 films so far, but only one was never released (and before you ask, it’s not a bad film). This is the story of that one film.

Perhaps doomed from the start, The Fantastic Four was directed by Oley Sasson, and starred Alex Hyde-White as Mister Fantastic, Rebecca Staab as The Invisible Woman, Jay Underwood as The Human Torch, Michael Bailey Smith as The Thing (with Carl Ciarfalio as the suit performer), and Joseph Culp as Doctor Doom, with a score by David and Eric Wurst reminiscent of The Rocketeer and Vertigo. You’re probably familiar with their story by now, either via the 59 years of comics, 4 animated series, 3 released films, or all of the above. A group of 4 friends accidentally gain very different powers and fight a few bad guys, it’s not a complicated story, it’s just a tried and true super hero formula. The film was finished in 1994, but never released.

What sets this Fantastic Four film apart from the other 3 is that it never over-promises and under-delivers. The other Fantastic Four films had huge budgets, and as far as big budget films are concerned, were a disappointment. This film sets expectations early, meeting them well and consistently throughout, and I think that’s part of its charm, as with all good Corman films. To quote Roger Corman, “One of the worst things you can do is have a limited budget and try to do some big looking film.” It won’t wow you, but it won’t disappoint you either. And the good news is, you don’t have to take my word for it, you can watch it yourself!

The story of this film’s fate is indeed a sad one. Depending on who you talk to, it was never intended to be released, a decision that was kept from everyone involved in its production. The general consensus is that the film was produced solely to maintain the filming rights, which were set to expire soon if no film was produced. This is largely why Corman, who was also unaware of the scheme, was brought onboard as a producer for his well-know skill of working with limited time and money. Everyone involved in the production of this film expected it to be the next blockbuster superhero film, they were even in the middle of marketing and convention appearances when Marvel Comics purchased all copies of the film and destroyed them.

At the time, Marvel wasn’t doing well in the film industry. While DC Comics produced the incomparable Batman, Marvel produced the laughable Captain America. Marvel desperately needed to bring everything in-house, no matter what the cost, no matter how shady the scheme. And, say what you will about the tactics, it’s hard to argue with the results.

The unreleased Fantastic Four film, produced on a budget of $1 million, was likely written off as a production expense on the following film’s $100 million budget. Fortunately, one copy managed to escape the purge and lives on as a frequently duplicated bootleg. This is a good film, a lot of people worked really hard on it, and it deserves to be seen. You can watch The Fantastic Four via the YouTube video embedded above or download it from The Internet Archive.

If you’d like to know more about what happened, watch Doomed! The Untold Story of Roger Corman’s The Fantastic Four on Amazon Video, and if you’d like to know more about Roger Corman, watch Cult-Tastic: Tales From The Trenches With Roger and Julie Corman for free on ShoutFactoryTV. If you want to see other films produced by Roger Corman, you can find many of them for free on ShoutFactoryTV. I hope you enjoy The Fantastic Four as much as I do!

Categories
Comics Review

Ascender

There has to be more than this. There just has to be. Why couldn’t I have been born when we still had spaceships and shiftdrives? Why couldn’t I have been born before the Harvesters took it all away?

Ascender is a beautiful series from writer Jeff Lemire and artist Dustin Nguyen. A sequel to their Descender series, Ascender is very much another coming of age story, both for our young protagonist and civilization itself, but this isn’t the same old story, it’s a hard genre reset for the franchise.

Without giving too much away, a cataclysmic event at the end of Descender destroyed almost all technology and decimated all life. In the absence of technology, magic has been rediscovered, and in the absence of civilization, mythical creatures once again roam the land. Yes, the sci-fi franchise has suddenly turned to fantasy.

Throughout the story, a young girl and her father (a main character from Descender) will try to find their place in this strange new land, picking up new and old friends along the way. A powerful sorceress who filled the power vacuum early on stands in their way, but another familiar face from Descender may hold the secret to dethroning her and returning the world to the way it once was. The story is engaging and fast-paced, and the art is absolutely gorgeous and reminiscent of water colors. Simply put, you’ll love this series, even if it’s just for the art alone. You can definitely start Ascender without having read Descender first, but part of the charm is the whiplash of that genre transition. I recommend reading both if you can.

The first two volumes of Ascender are out now, and volume three is just one issue in, so it’s a great time to start. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Categories
Technology

On Social Networks – Tumblr

Back in November, I shared some thoughts on social networks. I had just joined Tumblr at the time, so I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with it. I think I’m getting the hang of it, so I thought it would only be fair to revisit it separately. Before I continue though, please take a moment today to ask Facebook to stop profiting from hate speech and misinformation.

Back in the old days of this blog, I’d post short content far more frequently. Photos, GIFs, videos, links to articles elsewhere, single-sentence remarks, usually multiple times per day. I didn’t have anywhere else besides my Twitter account to share these things, and Twitter isn’t really built for centralized consumption, so the blog here was a more natural fit. Over time though, this blog has evolved into much longer form content, leaving no room for frequent small shares.

Tumblr is much more centralized than Twitter though, so I have begun to post small frequent shares again at MacManX Aside. Not only is the experience of browsing an individual’s content similar to consuming a stand-alone blog, but the overall community seems perfectly suited for the things I want to share. It even has specific posting styles for text, photos, quotes, links, invitations to discuss, audio, and videos, all of the things I stopped posting here (for the most part). In November, I had no clue what to post there, but the light bulb went off rather quickly, and I’ve begun posting small things I love again quite frequently. Plus, that all auto-shares to Twitter, so that’s handy. Engagement there is still low for now, but to be honest engagement has always been low here too.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a post about social networks without me mentioning my absolute favorite social network, MLTSHP. I post similar things there, far more things actually, and it is quite simply the best, kindest, most supportive, and most diverse social network I have ever been a part of. Think of it as a highly curated selection of things we love. Plus, engagement is off the charts, and everyone feels like a friend from day one. Sure, it costs $3/year to join, but that’s because it’s entirely community funded (no ads or tracking), and that tiny $3 gate seems to keep the bad people out (there is an aggressively enforced Code of Conduct for any who gets through though). Did I mention it’s entirely open source too? Anyway, if you ever decide to join, please feel free to follow me there, or check out the publicly visible Popular page if you’re unsure.

With all that said, while posts like these are somewhat permanent, my views on social network usage are always in flux. Therefore, I am now keeping an up-to-date page listing which social networks I use.

(Photo by Merakist on Unsplash)

Categories
Nostalgia Review Video

Rewatch: Starcrash

To those of you who follow me on Tumblr, you may have seen me claim that Highlander: The Series would be the next Rewatch post, but I overestimated how quickly I could get through 6 seasons of 90’s TV. I somehow have even more respect for what my friends Mika and Tracy at LezWatch.TV do now. So, anyway, where’re back to films with an odd favorite of mine: 1978’s Starcrash!

Distributed by Roger Corman’s New World Pictures and directed by Luigi Cozzi, Starcrash has everything you could ever want: starship battles, a robot with a Texan accent, nonsensical costumes, a knockoff Jedi, a John Barry score, Christopher Plummer, and David Hasselhoff! The story follows our heroes, played by Caroline Munro and Marjoe Gortner, as they race to stop Joe Spinell’s evil Count from unleashing a sinister weapon (which is never fully explained) on the galaxy. Their journey takes them to many different worlds, all ending in a crash between two starships, the titular Starcrash. What, you were expecting something more profound from the title? This is not a profound film. This is the kind of film you watch with your drink of choice, and thoroughly enjoy, because it’s exactly what you need right now.

Starcrash is not a great film, it has numerous easily identifiable flaws, and yet it still manages to hold itself together, and I keep coming back to watch it again and again. It is absolutely enjoyable, and I think we can all agree that enjoyable films are the best films. If you want to understand what I mean by of all that, you can stream Starcrash for free on Shout! Factory TV, or buy it on Apple TV for just $9.99.

I sincerely hope that you enjoy this not great, but also very entertaining, film. Laugher was not intended, but it is absolutely permitted.