• Rewatch: Tenspeed and Brown Shoe

    Rewatch: Tenspeed and Brown Shoe

    Before I begin, I don’t mean this to be a hit piece. I love both platforms dearly, and as I’ve been noticing myself spending much more time on one than the other, I thought I’d explain why.

    Let’s start with my old friend, WordPress. WordPress is an open-source publishing platform. It’s software, provided for free and developed and supported by volunteers, that you install on a hosting provider. So you take this free software and install it, your site is entirely self-contained, and that is its biggest strength, something no other platform can claim. You own and can do everything. And I’ve been doing that a long time, since the start. This year, I’ve been using WordPress longer than I haven’t, and that’s mind-blowing!

    WordPress is powerful; it does so much. Its editor can’t be beaten if you want complete control over your posts. If you want full control over how your site looks, the site editor will let you easily reach your heart’s desires. That is power, real power, for free. Is that not enough power? No problem, there are currently 59,271 free plugins available. Don’t want to customize your theme from the default? No problem, there are currently 9,603 free themes available.

    That’s a lot! It’s truly incredible, in many ways freeing, but it’s also a lot. Sometimes, or I guess often these past few years, I need less, and that’s where Tumblr comes in. I’ve been on there for 2 years now, and the more I’m there, the less I’m here. One word can summarize that: convenience. Or, more specifically, convenience by ease of use, and most important, lack of options.

    That’s not to say Tumblr is crippled; it’s not, and far from it. Tumblr’s editor may not have as many options as WordPress, but it’s more than enough, and it’s getting better every day (and now powered by Gutenberg). There are no plugins, and theme editing is limited to editing raw HTML and CSS, but you can still find a theme that’s close enough to what you want.

    You simply get your Tumblr site looking the way you want, then use the app or visit the site and start writing and sharing content you love. And I know what you’re thinking right now; WordPress has an app too, but again: convenience and lack of options, just write and share.

    So, that’s where I am right now. If I have something short to share; a few paragraphs, an image, a video, or an article I love, it will be on Tumblr because I can do that with nothing in the way. But if I’m writing a long post like this, something I’d be happy to know is on a platform where I fully own the content, it’s going to be posted here with WordPress. A long post is by no means a quick process, and the tools here are just more suited for that. This is by no means a character limit thing, just to clear that up. Tumblr is not Twitter. A single text block on Tumblr can have 4,096 characters, and a single post on Tumblr can contain 1,000 blocks.

    So, at the end of this stream of consciousness, it’s all about using the tool that’s best suited for the purpose. Tumblr is quick and convenient, and excessive options don’t get in my way. It’s perfect for short and immediate content creation and sharing. WordPress is powerful; it’s perfectly suited for building longer content that I don’t mind spending time on.

    In short, use the right tool for the job, or perhaps, more importantly, use the tool that feels right to you.

  • Vote!

    Vote!

    We have a blogging club at work, and each week we share what we’ve posted. I mentioned this week that I haven’t posted anything new because all I can think about is the election and I don’t want to get too political on here (you can follow me on Twitter for that), but here we are, with a crucial election less than a month away.

    “Don’t boo! Vote!” – President Barack Obama

    This year, voting is not only your civic duty, it’s a moral obligation. I could rant forever about how this country’s political system is dominated by only two political parties, but for now that means you’ve got two clear-cut choices for President. You can choose President Donald Trump, a man who has used the office to enrich himself and openly supports racist, sexist, homophobic, and transphobic policies (and may very well be racist, sexist, homophobic, and transphobic himself), or you can choose someone who isn’t, Vice President Joe Biden.

    Are there other issues? Yes, of course, and you should take your time to actually research them, Ballotpedia is good for that. Don’t just cast your vote because you like the political party they claim to belong to. Remember that you’re voting for a man (hopefully someday a woman), not a party, and that man will represent our country globally and drive policy and decision making for the next four years.

    There’s a lot at stake riding on this election, so make sure you’re registered to vote, know your rights, volunteer as a poll worker if you can, and vote!

  • Blog What You Want To

    Blog What You Want To

    “What should I write about on my new blog?” is a question I’m asked very often. I always reply with my own question, “What do you want to write about?” which always leads to an interesting conversation, so today I figured I’d take to my blog to blog about blogging, because I want to.

    A lot of folks think they need to pick one subject to write about in order to build an audience fast and get rich quick, and they’re not wrong. If you write only about fish, people looking for sites about fish will find you often, and ad revenue and subscriptions can build up quick if your content is good. But, are you willing to write about fish daily or weekly for the next year or more? I’m asking not only do you have the knowledge at hand, but are you ready to put in the work solely about fish? Some people are, the existence of popular single-subject sites is proof of that, but even most of their founders have taken a back seat and hired writers instead.

    Burnout is real, and if you find yourself repeatedly doing something you don’t enjoy, you may find yourself giving up or paying someone else to do the work. I know this, not only from watching single-subject sites fail over burnout, but from having personally experienced it too. I kept my Splash Panel and Rewatch reviews going for quite some time, but eventually putting the work into them became tedious. I just didn’t enjoy them anymore, and by extension, I didn’t enjoy blogging anymore.

    There’s an alternative to having a single-subject site, and that’s to just write what you want to when you want to. When inspiration strikes, write it down and share it. Don’t hold yourself to a single subject or schedule, just show the world who you are. If you don’t have time to write a post at the moment, jot some notes down really quick and write it up the next day. You won’t build a following as fast as you would with a single-subject, but I can say from experience that audience will hang around a lot longer. They won’t be one-time visitors from a search engine, they’ll be long-time subscribers. That’s what I used to do around here, and I think that’s what I’ll do again.

    If you’re burning out over a single subject and don’t know how to get out of that rut, start by sharing small bits of content you enjoy elsewhere. I really have to credit MLTSHP and Tumblr for reminding what it felt like to just share what I want to without being beholden to expectations, and for that reason, I’ll keep sharing things there. Stop by MacManX Aside or signup for MLTSHP any time for some random fun, but do expect more longer form random fun here from now on.

    Writing for a single-subject on a schedule will almost certainly grow your site quicker, but it’s nowhere near as fun as sharing yourself with the world by sharing what you like when you’re inspired to. And, if you’ve never blogged before, stop by WordPress.com where we’ll be happy to get you started!

  • Rewatch – Highlander: The Series

    Rewatch – Highlander: The Series

    The story of the Highlander franchise is probably familiar to most people. In short, Immortals exist, they can only be killed by losing their heads, which triggers the Quickening, a sort of vampiric transfer of power and knowledge. The goal is to be the last Immortal alive, who will receive some unknown fabled prize. The first three films are fairly straightforward, Immortal Connor MacLeod (played by Christopher Lambert) encounters one or more Immortals who have turned evil, and he cuts their heads off. It’s a bit of a repetitive formula, and if you think that’s all there is to this story, it’s because you’ve never watched Highlander: The Series.

    Highlander: The Series premiered in 1992 and ran for 6 seasons. It follows the story of Connor MacLeod’s clansman and student, Duncan MacLeod (played by Adrian Paul). In comparison to the movies as simply as possible, the series offers a solid look at the life of an Immortal. Born in 1592 in the highlands of Scotland, Duncan lived a very complicated life, from warrior to rebel to medic to spy to antique salesman to teacher to spiritual mentor, you will have seen his entire life unfold by the end of the series. There are your typical “cut off the evil Immortal’s head” plots for sure, but there are years of character development and lore too. The show follows a simple formula of present day situation alongside flashbacks to a period in Duncan’s life that informed the decisions or methods. I know it sounds like that might get dull, but it somehow never does. Duncan is charming, supportive, and stern when he needs to be. Simply put, you’ll wish he was your friend too, and that’s a great draw to keep watching. Plus, the sword fights are excellent.

    Duncan MacLeod is not alone on his journey. Alongside frequent guest stars, he’s joined by his student Richie Ryan (played by Stan Kirsch), his confidant Amanda (played by Elizabeth Gracen), his Watcher Joe Dawson (played by Jim Byrnes), 5,000 year old Methos (played by Peter Wingfield), and it would be a crime not to mention the frequent guest appearances of friend Hugh Fitzcairn (played by Roger Daltrey). Watching Duncan grow is great of course, but it’s even better when any of these 5 show up to spice things up even more. Speaking of growth, Adrian Paul didn’t have much of a resumé when he was cast, and you can watch him grow in his acting, martial arts, and eventually directing talents throughout the series. I can’t think of a way to describe it simply other than it’s great to observe.

    The series really hits its stride in season 4, it’s just about when they stop experimenting with their formula and settle on something both that’s both enjoyable and impressive in quality. In fact, all of the 5 supporting characters mentioned above were either intended to only last a season or only appear for a pivotal multi-part episode, and yet they were such great characters that they became staples of the show. Another factor that might make season 4 so great is that they’re all either main or recurring characters by that time. That is not to say the other seasons are bad, like I said before, watching this show grow is just as much fun as watching Duncan MacLeod grow.

    The series itself has a solid happy ending, but you can continue Duncan MacLeod’s story with the excellent 2000 film, Highlander: Endgame. It’s the first Highlander film appearance for Duncan MacLeod and the last for Connor MacLeod, a solid end for the franchise. You may have heard of a 2007 film called Highlander: The Source, but it’s truly awful, don’t watch it. It was intended to be a final end to the franchise, but everyone involved in the film now refers to it as “a bad dream” so maybe just leave it at that. Like the Immortals all say, “There can be only one (film with Duncan MacLeod in it),” and that’s Highlander: Endgame.

    Highlander: The Series is a great long-running series packed full of great characters, great action, great lore, and great growth. You can stream Highlander: The Series for free on IMDB TV or buy it on Apple TV for $39.99. It’s engaging from start to finish, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

    And now a quick little side-note. Writing these Rewatch reviews has been fun, but just like with the Splash Panel reviews, it’s much easier to do when you already have a collection of things ready to talk about. Rewatching these great old shows has taken time away from watching great new shows, so I’m going to take a bit of a break on these. That doesn’t mean I’ll stop, it just means these will be a lot less frequent, after all there’s still tons of great old shows out there.

  • 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!

  • Rewatch: The Fantastic Four

    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!

  • Ascender

    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!

  • On Social Networks – Tumblr

    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)

  • Rewatch: Starcrash

    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.

  • Ice House Canyon Trail

    On Friday, Sarah and I decided to get out of the house and visit the Ice House Canyon Trail on Mount San Antonio. Overall, I think we did more walking that day than we have since March. We turned back at about 0.8 miles in, since that was 30 minutes of walking and we didn’t bring any water. Unfortunately, we found out that the titular Ice House was only 0.9 miles in, so we’ll definitely have to come back another day.

    Safety-wise, this is a very narrow trail, so it’s impossible to effectively distance from passers. Fortunately, about 3/4 wore masks while passing, which is not perfect but also better than I expected.

    I took a few photos along the hike to share, enjoy!