Categories
Technology

On Social Networks

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, especially with the introduction of WT.Social, a new social network from the co-founder of Wikipedia, which boasts about being a better alternative to the mainstream social networks. We all know those mainstream networks, and we’re all probably on them. I’m on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram, but there’s a lot more out there, and sometimes I wonder if that’s becoming a problem.

Originally, Facebook introduced itself as the only social network you’ll ever need. Almost 14 years later, it doesn’t seem like that has happened. Smaller players have joined and left the field, even big players have. Google’s own Google+ lasted 7 years, and let’s not forget Apple’s own iTunes Ping which lasted for a mere 2 years. But, others are hanging in there, like Tumblr, Reddit, and even WordPress.com has a social network element. They thrive on a loyal user base that prefers their product over others, and as Facebook continues to land on the wrong side of privacy, security, and marketing, no wonder other social networks are still thriving.

In the old days, we’d check probably just 1 social network probably just once a day, but now it’s more like 4 or 5 social networks 4 or 5 times a day (likely more). Is that a problem though? Is there an issue with having access to your friends and family, and a whole world of information, at all times? I believe that social media fatigue is real, so I suppose it all comes down to how you use them.

For me, I consider Twitter to be my primary social network, I’m on there and engaging the most, largely thanks to Twitterrific. I’m also on Instagram for photos, LinkedIn for business-y things, and reluctantly Facebook because that’s where I can connect with the most people I know. WordPress.com is in my life too, but that’s where I work, so I still consider it work. I do have my eyes set on Tumblr, but someone has squatted my username, and after winning Twitter and giving up on Instagram, I don’t think I’ll bother right now.

I have joined and thoroughly enjoy one alternative social network, MLTSHP (pronounced Malt Shop). It’s just a place where folks share fun images, GIFs, or videos they found around the internet. Think of it like a curated Tumblr or Reddit. It’s not free, there’s a small $3/year membership fee to keep all the junk out, and it works! Everyone there is kind and supportive, you’re immediately one of them just by joining, and anyone who joins with ill will is usually within hours of violating MLTSHP’s Code of Conduct anyway. The mainstream social networks are free and powered by advertising, you’re the product. MLTSHP is powered by that membership fee (and a $24/year upgrade for folks who want a few extras) and it’s entirely open source. You’ll never be the product at MLTSHP, and you could always fork it if it ever shut down, which is actually how MLTSHP was born from the ashes of MLKSHK (pronounced Milk Shake). You can follow folks there (like me), but the total membership is only in the hundreds, so you can go through the entire incoming feed once a day easily.

For me, MLTSHP makes up the missing piece of my social network collection. Twitter for engagement, Facebook for connections, LinkedIn for business connections, WordPress.com for work, and MLTSHP for fun. While I long for the unlikely days of 1 altruistic social network to rule them all, I think I’ve struck a good balance with these 5. Social networks will come and go. You should definitely try new things, but the best thing to do is to watch out for fatigue, however you handle that.

(Photo by Merakist on Unsplash)

Categories
Technology

WordPress 5.3 Released

WordPress 5.3 has been released! Along with new features, refinements, and accessibility improvements in the editor, this release introduces the new Twenty Twenty default theme, Health Check improvements, verification for admin email changes, PHP 7.4 compatibility, and 387 bug fixes. For specifics, check out the changelog.

645 volunteers contributed to this release, lead by Matt Mullenweg, Francesca Marano, and David Baumwald. At the time of writing this, WordPress 5.3 has been out for about 1 hour, and has already been downloaded 290,235 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 VaultPress, 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: Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger

I grew up loving the Power Rangers, and if you recall I recently tracked down some Power Rangers fan productions, so I was absolutely sure I’d be doing a Rewatch post on a Power Rangers series. Well, I tried, and I just couldn’t get through anything but the 1995 movie, which was still not great, but also not as bad as the TV franchise has aged for me. This lead me to digging into the world of Super Sentai, the franchise that Power Rangers attempted to use footage from while cutting in their own stuff, and I discovered that Super Sentai was far superior. Which brings me to today’s review, Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger, the Super Sentai counterpart to Power Rangers Wild Force.

Wild Force was the last Power Rangers series I watched, and I couldn’t even make it through. Either it was just that bad, or I was growing out of it. So, I thought I’d start my Super Sentai experience off with Gaorangers, the series that Wild Force used for roughly half of its footage, and I was not disappointed. Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger is loosely translated as “Hundred-beasts Squadron Gaoranger,” though if you go by the subtitles during the title song, it could also be “Hundred-beasts Squadron Growl Ranger.”

The series follows our chosen heroes: GaoRed, played by Noboru Kaneko and suit actor Hirofumi Fukuzawa, the leader and newest member of the team. GaoYellow, played by Kei Horie and suit actor Yasuhiro Takeuchi, the longest serving Gaoranger in this era and the team’s resident hothead. GaoBlue, played by Takeru Shibaki and suit actor Yasuhiko Imai, the youngest of the team. GaoBlack, played by Kazuyoshi Sakai and suit actor Hideaki Kusaka, the team’s courage. GaoWhite, played by Mio Takeuchi, and suit actors Motokuni Nakagawa, Naoko Kamio, and Yuichi Hachisuka, the team’s heart. Tetomu, played by Takemi, the team’s priestess and source of advice. And, later in the series, GaoSilver, played by Tetsuji Tamayama and suit actor Naoki Ofuji, often the team’s last-minute savior.

Using their abilities, weapons, Power Animals, and Mecha, they battle the evil Org Tribe. The Orgs are generally led by Yabaiba, voiced by Kōichi Sakaguchi with suit actor Motokuni Nakagawa, TsueTsue, played by Rei Saito, and whatever higher power Org they can dig up for each arc. Yabaiba and TsueTsue are also the comic relief of the series, but unlike comic relief characters in Power Rangers, they prove themselves to be quite capable quite often.

The ensemble cast is amazing, their chemistry from the start is perfect, and you really get a sense that they all care of each other a great deal (even Yabaiba and TsueTsue). There are two stand-outs not in the main cast that I’d like to mention. Futaro, played by Daiki Arioka, is basically the child form of the team’s god. This kid can really act, he’s great. And finally, Rouki, voiced by Eiji Takemoto with suit actor Shoma Kai. Rouki is one of the “monsters” of the series, but he actually has a back story, character development, and an entire arc. As someone coming to this direct from years of Power Rangers, that is absolutely unheard of. Also, his design is impressive and it allows him to be one of most physical opponents in the series, often battling the Gaorangers directly on the ground.

So, you’ve seen these clips now, and you’re thinking, “That doesn’t look much better than Power Rangers,” and yeah you’re kind of right. Sadly, there just aren’t many clips of this pre-digital era Japanese series with English subtitles, but I assure you this series far exceeds its Power Rangers counterpart. The music is far better (like the music in that last clip), there is actual narrative cohesion when you don’t have to edit out every single minute that looks Japanese, and this series is incredibly dramatic. To give just one example, plenty of people actually die in this series. Early on, most of the Gaorangers are killed in battle (they come back later via a mystical side-quest), but this isn’t some sort of CGI-filled off-screen death. They are brutally killed on-screen. And because that’s not enough, the villains even kill a child on screen. Have you seen any of that on Power Rangers? Nope.

There’s a certain quality to this series too that I can’t quite describe. It’s like a live-action anime. And I know you’re thinking, “Yeah, it’s made in Japan,” but I’ve seen plenty of live action Japanese shows, I even checked out a few other Super Sentai shows too, and they just aren’t like this. Anime tropes shine through constantly, and the show manages a perfect balance of goofy episodes and incredibly serious episodes (sometimes both in the same episode, like that last clip again), kind of like Dragon Ball Z and other anime from that era. But it’s not over-stylized, like live action anime adaptions should be, it’s just anime tropes in a real-world setting, and it’s great.

If you don’t want to dive into all 51 episodes, I recommend at least checking out the Rouki arc, which runs for 10 episodes starting on Episode 15 through 24. If you’d rather watch just one episode to see if you like it, check out Episode 29. I’m pretty sure that either will hook you for the rest of the series. 😉

You can stream all of Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger for free on ShoutFactoryTV. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little experiment with the Rewatch series and Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger as much as I did, and I hope you check out a few more Super Sentai counterparts to Power Rangers shows you may have watched growing up!

Edit: Speaking of that, don’t miss the Rewatch review of Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger, the Super Sentai counterpart to Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

Categories
Nostalgia Review Video

Rewatch: Stargate Universe

Stargate Universe is the final series to follow Stargate SG-1 (read the Rewatch review here) and Stargate Atlantis (read the Rewatch review here). The series premiered in 2009 and ran for two seasons when it was canceled kind of on a cliffhanger, more on that later. The series is definitely a tone shift for the franchise. You’ll find overall that it’s darker and has more character-driven drama than SG-1 and Atlantis.

The show follows a set of occupants from the former Icarus Base who are forced to flee through the base’s Stargate to a mysterious address that the base’s obsessive lead scientist has dialed instead of Earth during the evacuation. The base was on the only planet Earth knew of at the time that could power dialing it, so in that scientist’s view, there was no reason to let it go to waste. Unfortunately, the planet explodes after they go through, leaving them no way to get back to Earth (or get supplies from Earth). They are now stranded several billion lightyears away on Destiny, an Ancient ship with an unknown mission and a predetermined course. They have no way home, they are lost in space, the ship is falling apart, they have no control over it, and they are the wrong people for the job.

That obsessive lead scientist I mentioned is Dr. Nicholas Rush, played by Robert Carlyle. He is exactly where he wants to be, unraveling the mysteries of the universe, and everyone else is just getting in his way. He frequently comes into conflict with the ranking military presence, Colonel Everett Young, played by Louis Ferreira. He’s a kind leader who cares for his people, but he wasn’t supposed to be the one commanding the expedition, and while Rush wants to forge forward to the mysteries of the universe, Young wants to get his people home. They’re balanced out by Ming-Na Wen as Camile Wrey, the ranking representative of the International Oversight Advisory. She often provides a bridge between leadership and the civilians onboard.

One real standout on the show is Eli Wallace, played by David Blue. Eli cracked the code for dialing the mysterious address, a task that Rush begrudgingly could never figure out, so he hid it inside a game that Eli, an unemployed college dropout, just happened to solve. Minutes later, he was visited by Rush and Lt. General Jack O’Neill, beamed up to the U.S.S. George Hammond, dropped off at Icarus Base (with his permission), finished the program to dial the mysterious address, and of course evacuated to Destiny. As the fresh newcomer to this entire experience, he is our analog throughout the series, and in case you ever forget, the only shirt he has says “You are here.” Eli constantly has to prove himself, a task he often excels at, despite being constantly out of his depth. He’s like a son to Young, an unwanted pupil to Rush, and a close friend to everyone on board. He doesn’t want to be there, no one wants to be there, but he’s going to make the most of it.

There are a few more characters of note. The entire science team is delightful, and it’s a lot of fun to watch them grow close (and grow a sense of humor) over the series. Besides Rush and Eli, there’s Peter Kelamis as Dr. Adam Brody, Patrick Gilmore as Dr. Dale Volker, and Jennifer Spence as Dr. Lisa Park. And, if you ever need a dose of realism, look no further than Jamil Walker Smith as Master Sergeant Ronald Greer and Mike Dopud as Varro. They are both no-nonsense military men who will do the right thing simply because they see no reason to do anything else, and they’ll tell anyone exactly what they need to hear at any time.

Yeah, I know, that’s a lot of characters, and this is a huge ensemble cast, so that’s not even half of it. What matters is, these are all the wrong people for the job. Some want to explore, some want to put every resource into going home, and at many times they clash. The bulk of the first season is devoted to figuring out how to work together, how Destiny works, why it randomly stops at system with active Stargates for only a few hours, and where it’s going in the first place. The characters drive the drama here. By the time we get to the second season, everyone knows their place and everyone works together, because they understand this is their life now. Almost sensing that, Destiny reveals her bridge, giving them full control over the ship (thought there is still no way to gate home, and the trip would still take far longer than a human lifespan). This all opens the series up to some more interesting developments.

As mentioned earlier, the show’s cancelation does leave it to end on a cliffhanger. Normally I don’t recommend shows that end on cliffhangers, but it’s by far the most gentle cliffhanger I’ve ever experienced. There is no peril, in fact they are escaping peril, and all we are left with is plenty of time for Eli to solve a problem that we all know he can solve. He even has enough time to look out the window and smile as we fade out. Most folks can easily imagine their own continuation of the series from that point, but if you absolutely must know what could have happened next, the show’s producer covered some of the possibilities.

Stargate Universe was the end of an era for a TV franchise that ran uninterrupted for 14 years from 1997 to 2011. The studio which owned the property switched gears and launched the incredibly low-budget and incredibly terrible Stargate Origins in 2018, which ignored all previous shows, and thankfully appears to have been canceled.

You can stream Stargate Universe for free on Amazon Video if you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber or buy the complete series on Apple TV for just $29.99. If you loved SG-1 and Atlantis, there’s no reason to not at least give it a try, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Categories
Video

An Impressive Anime Fan Production

By this point, you’re looking at the image above and saying “that’s not anime,” and I suppose you’re right, but this incredible short film is inspired by both the style and content of My Hero Academia, so it’s definitely a production by an anime fan at least.

UA:LA imagines what if MHA’s famous Tokyo setting was in Los Angeles. It’s the brain child of Hollywood action directory Christopher Clark Cowan (whose credits include Kingsman: The Golden Circle and Solo: A Star Wars Story), and Hollywood stuntman Gui DaSilva-Green (whose credits include Captain America: Civil War and Deadpool). I have seen live action anime fan films before, but this one blew my mind to the point that I can’t stop thinking about it a whole day after I saw it. My words can’t do it justice, so please just watch it.

If you’d like to know some of the behind the scenes details, check out Stuntmen React To Bad & Great Hollywood Stunts 7 from Corridor Digital. They also cover some of the other films that Cowan has worked on.

I hope you enjoyed all of that as much as I did! 🙂