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Friday, June 01, 2018

Comic Cuts - 1 June 2018

Long-time readers of Bear Alley will know that posts to this blog usually pop up at around 5:03 am. Why that time of the morning? Well, sometimes I needed to line up posts and I'd check to see if they had posted the following day. I used to get up really early, so I might be checking the posts at around 6 in the morning, so I wanted a time that would allow the post to appear, to be picked up by the syndication feed I was using (NetworkedBlogs) and for it to be posted to Facebook.

That meant that, when I woke up, I could quickly check to see that it had appeared correctly (Facebook occasionally needed a tweak to get the right picture) and then push on with the day's work.

So an hour was enough to make sure the feed was working, hence the posts going up around five so I could see them at six. Why 5:03 specifically? That was a somewhat random choice, but it was partly because 5:03 is just quirky enough for me to remember. If I want something to appear below the main daily post, I have plenty of options (5:00, 5:01, 5:02) and I can look at a date and instantly know when each of them will appear.

Choosing for them to go up around 5 o'clock also means that if there are any mistakes, I'll hopefully pick them up when I take a look to check that they've posted and it minimizes the number of readers who might have already spotted the mistake, as most of the readers of BA are in the UK and US.

This is a long-winded way of saying that the site that feeds Bear Alley over to Facebook is shutting down in the next couple of days. NetworkedBlogs made the announcement on Thursday. Apparently, they've been slowly shutting down for the past three years, turning off various features, of which the syndication feature is the last one. As that's the only one I use, I hadn't noticed. The first I knew was an e-mail saying I had a week before it was shut down for good.

It's a shame. I remember it being easy to set up and there have only been one or two occasions where it hasn't worked properly in the... well, I can't remember how many years it has been. Quite a few.

This is their website home page as of today – no mention that they're shutting down in a few days!
I'm trying to find another good "feed" that will allow automatic posts to Facebook, but at the time of writing there doesn't seem to be one. A lot of information on the web is out of date. For instance, one recommended method was RSSGraffiti, which I checked out only to find that it doesn't exist any more. A lot of posts date from around 2010-12, which makes them upwards of eight years out of date. None of the advice published by Facebook helps.

What I think is happening is that Facebook and Google are at war. I noticed Blogger doesn't allow third-party widgets any more. That's why the Amazon search box that I used to have on the blog has disappeared. They're trying to push Google+ (launched in 2011 and relaunched in 2015 – did anyone notice?) as an alternative to Facebook but, frankly, they never had a hope in hell.

I've linked up to, which feeds through to Facebook in roughly the same way. It doesn't seem to post images, but at least the link will be available even if I'm not around to add a pic. by hand when I check the posts. The dashboard isn't as easy as NetworkedBlogs. For some hours I thought I had it set up correctly only to receive a message saying that it wasn't. Now, this was a bit sneaky because it had given me the option of letting the site have data on myself and friends, which I had declined.

When I agreed, the site worked fine. But if you're a "Facebook friend," don't panic. I went to the security page at Facebook and made sure the app cannot collect data on friends. Of course, this might mean it will stop working, in which case I will find another delivery service.

We had a gorgeous bank holiday weekend. We were anticipating thunderstorms and downpours, but had barely any – the bad weather skirting Colchester. Probably because it's on a hill. I'm not quite sure how that works, but it seems to be true.

We were out Saturday night with friends to watch Deadpool 2, which we loved. Some seem to think it was not as good as the first Deadpool, but I'd put it on a par. The audience were howling with laughter for most of the film. It might have lacked that initial jaw-drop when we realised, watching the first Deadpool, that this really was an R-rated comedy, and anticipation levels were exponentially higher this time around, making disappointment that much easier, but I loved it and can't wait to see it again.

The only other new film I've seen this week (via Sky Cinema) is Anon, a science fiction police procedural set in a world where police have access to every piece of data on every single citizen, the information displayed in real time as you look at them. A few people – although the number is growing – have managed to delete their data from the system.

The plot revolves around a series of murders which are linked by the fact that each victim has been "hacked" so that he cannot see his killer. Sal Frieland (Clive Owen), already troubled by the number of people disappearing from the Ether database, is contacted by a data hacker (Amanda Seyfried) who gives her name only as "Anon." She links the victims but persuades Sal that she is not the killer.

Unfortunately, by the time you get that lot set-up, there isn't much time left for anything else to happen. Clive Owen was probably aiming for strong and silent but comes across as emotionless and unengaging, while Seyfried is not much better. The viewer is likely to be equally disengaged.

Is it the Scandi-Noir influence that is making characters so unsympathetic? If so, directors have wildly misunderstood what makes the likes of The Killing and The Bridge so popular. When the characters are bleaker than the landscapes they inhabit, that's when you've gone too far. I'm looking at you, Marcella. Kurt Wallander might have been a bit of a misery, but there was light and shade in those stories, not unremitting misery.

If you can't guess, we've kind of gone off UK police dramas. Currently on our viewing schedule we have Marcella (but for how much longer?), The Gifted, which is an X-Men spin-off originally broadcast on 20th Century Fox Television in the US, and Missions, which is a French SF drama about a flight to (and landing on) Mars, currently appearing (with subtitles) on BBC Four. And, I just found out, renewed for a second season.

For fun, we've also been watching Taskmaster (still the best thing on TV), Jon Richardson's Ultimate Worrier (didn't know quite what to expect; found it hilarious) and, a one-off, The Horne Section Television Programme (basically the last tour show with some additional guests). What connects them is Dave. A few years ago they had one original programme on their schedule, Dave Gorman's Modern Life is Goodish; now they're coming up with more watchable comedy than most of the other channels combined. And most of it is utterly unexpected. Marcus Brigstocke talked about his hatred of technology for six shows. Nick Helm had a cookery programme, for dog's sake. But it worked!

Monday we went for a long walk in the woods and then in the afternoon went to a barbecue. My pale legs were catnip to every twig and insect in Essex and I was scratched and bitten so much I've had to cover myself with antihistamine cream for three days. I still have huge red blotches but at least they're not itching.

The last thing I need at the moment is distractions from work. I've been reading some old (1919-21) romance novels for the essay I'm writing for the next Forgotten Authors collection. Not my usual cup of tea. I have a couple of really bad SF novels lined up to read for fun. (Yes, I do have a strange idea of what fun is.)

Random scans. Actually, this is a cheat. I had a post ready to go covering the recently launched British Library SF Classics line and that was meant to be posted today. But with all the mucking about I had to do to get my news feed working again, I posted it yesterday, so some of you may have already seen it. Scroll down if you haven't as the covers are by the remarkable Chesley Bonestell.

1 comment:

  1. (This is Susan, I haven't set up my Google profile)

    Re the cross-posting problem, have you looked at IFTTT (If This Then That)? I looked to see whether my RSS reader, Inoreader, would do it, and found an article which gives an example of "IF there’s a new article with a specific tag in Inoreader, THEN share it on Facebook". This might be one of the many things that you have to have a paid account on Inoreader to do (or not), but it sounds as if you could do it via any feed-reader that has an IFTTT channel.