Sweet Solitude

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My alone feels so good, I’ll only have you if you’re sweeter than my solitude. 

Status: good. not a great day for writing. I did, however, process a few photos including the above capture which I took in -20c weather.

I was sitting in the Library on Tuesday struggling with getting started and saw this potential photo outside the window. So, given I wasn’t making any progress on that front I decided to bin it and grab my camera gear. Too cold to stay outside for too long, and I don’t have right clothing to spend hours outside, I knew I was going to have a very short window to get the shot.

The actual photo I saw in my mind was a slow shutter speed capture of the train as it snaked it’s way up the tracks, but by the time I got there and trudged through the knee high snow, it was time to go back. My fingers were already aching and I couldn’t feel the controls on the camera anymore, so a slow shutter speed shot was out of the question. Still, I was able to get a few decent shots, the above being one.

I’ll have to venture down there again when it gets a little bit warmer and try to get that slow shutter speed shot again. On the upside I learned that I need an ND filter for taking these kinds of shots during the day. I can’t get the aperture and ISO low enough to compensate for the shutter being open for any length of time during the day with my current kit, so I picked up another lesson in the process.

I’ll call that a win.

Nikon D3400
1/500 sec
f/9
18mm
ISO 100

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Mid-week Slump

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Our life is what our thoughts make it.

Status: good. struggled mightily today to get any decent writing done. This journal entry is not being written until late in the day because I chose to focus on busy work and not on the important stuff. I’m questioning my commitment to making this work. Again.

There is of course some other stuff going on. I wasn’t booted from the unit his morning because the construction has been completed, so I stayed at home and slipped back into my old routine. What was the result? Not fucking much. I think I fare a little better when I can treat this like a normal “work” day and get out of the unit. I think I’ll try that tomorrow and see if I have a better result.

Did I talk about my date on Saturday night? Don’t remember. In any case, I had a dinner date with a woman who reached out to me on the dating app. That’s quite rare, I’m usually the one who has to initiate. So, brownie points to her for that. Decent online banter and we spontaneously agreed to meet for dinner on Saturday night at Sabbai Sabbai, a Thai place near me. Because it was short notice all I could get were seats at the bar. This place fills up fast and you need to make reservations in advance, which is the sign of a good place, so I was lucky to even get the bar seats.

She was pleasant enough, but after about 15 minutes she just checked out. We were talking about….schooling? College? Something like that, I think. In any case, I felt her just shut down and pull away. At that point I knew the jig was up and she had lost interest. The rest of the date was pleasant enough, she re-engaged but I knew this was going to be over at the end of the meal. This is, of course, one of the reasons I don’t like having dinner on the first date. I shell out for the meal and then she rides off into the sunset, never to be seen again.

As expected, and I’ll give her some credit for this, the following day she sent me a text which said, “thanks, but we’re not a good match.” I actually appreciated the text, so another brownie point for her, but next time I think I’ll just stick with coffee to see if we are compatible before progressing to a dinner date.

Anyway, it’s all good. Lesson learned. Again.

Nikon D3400
1/30 sec
f/5.6
52mm
ISO 800

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The Monkey Mind

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I’m always soft for you, that’s the problem. You could come knocking on my door five years from now and I would open my arms wider and say ‘come here, it’s been too long, it felt like home with you.

Status: good. kinda. Didn’t get enough sleep last night and the monkey mind is riding me hard today. It took me three tries to spell the word “night” properly. Now I know I’m tired.

Distracted by the need to get out and take photos of the new snowfall after the winter storm last nihgt, fuck, night and hesitating because it’s pretty cold outside, and the wind is still quite strong, so essentially it’s a maelstrom of snow being blown off the buildings into these swirling winds which adds to the unpleasantness of being outside.

I think I just need to suck it up and do it. (I think that might make a catchy slogan)

Negligence and a lackadaisical Chairman. The condo association failed to bill the shareholders/lease owners for the use of AirCon over the course of 2018. System failures, I’m told. It took a year to resolve. Coincidently it ran for an exact calendar year. Suspicious. Even though they new this was an issue at the mid-mark of last year, they waited until a full year had passed before informing us and, oh by the way, here’s your bill for the 2018 AirCon.

I hate surprises.

Spoke to my tenant and they are going to cover the bill, thankfully. That’s one less thing I need to worry about and I’m very thankful that I don’t have to cover the bill. As for the Chairman, I think I need to have a word with him about this. Actually, debating over whether I should or not. I doubt I’m going to get the response I want, it may just frustrate and annoy me. I suspect I want to reach and out inflict a little damage for the pain he caused. If that’s the only intent then maybe it’s best to let sleeping dogs lie. The tenant has agreed to pay the bill, I should maybe just call it good enough.

I’ll mull this over some more…..

Nikon D3400
1/60 sec
f/5.6
18mm
ISO 800

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Comic Book Review – Batman Vol. 5: Zero Year – Dark City (The New 52 – 2015)

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Batman Vol. 5 Zero Year-Dark City collects two of the final story arcs for Zero Year; Dark City (issues 25-27) and Savage City (#29-33). This is the conclusion of the three-part story arc major crossover origin event known as Zero Year. Dark City picks up after the events in the first story arc of Zero Year, Secret City, after Batman has stopped the Red Hood Gang and the Riddler shuts off all the power in Gotham City. We see the reintroduction of the classic GCPD blimps from Batman the Animated Series, which is awesome to see, as they comb the city searching for any sign of Batman. But, Batman has a new case on his hands involving a killer who uses a serum that causes uncontrolled bone growth. Batman discovers the villain, known as Dr. Death (who was Batman’s first major supervillain he fought in DC Comics, the Joker was the first villain Batman faced in his own comic book series) and both Death and the Riddler team up to seize control of Gotham during superstorm Rene which threatens to cause even more problems for the powerless and crippled Gotham City. In Dark City, more is explained about Bruce’s opinions of Lt. Gordon and why he doesn’t trust the police lieutenant. We also see more backstory involving Bruce as a child and his parents leading up to the fateful night in Crime Alley. Dr. Pamela Isley also has a cameo appearance in this arc but her research will later impact the look of Gotham in the next story arc. Savage City takes place several days after the events in Dark City. It is now, Zero Year: the new calendar year according to Edward Nygma. Using Isley’s research Riddler has turned Gotham into an overgrown barren wasteland and his demands for Gotham is quite simple: get smart, or die. Every sunset, the Riddler on a giant screen in Gotham and challenges any brave citizen to ask a riddle that he can’t solve. No one has been successful. Bruce can’t retrieve any of his suits or gadgets from the cave so he must improvise and create a torn and tattered costume and tools to help him mount a counterattack against the Riddler. Batman enlists the help of trustworthy allies who are trying to fight against the Riddler, specifically Lucius Fox and Lt. Gordon. The team is also joined by a special covert military assault force as well. But time becomes the enemy as jets threaten to bomb Gotham, doing exactly what the Riddler intended and sending Gotham crashing down all around. Batman and his team must work together to stop the Riddler and survive Zero Year. Scott Snyder’s writing is still great. The characterization of these characters is both refreshing and still honors the source material, which Snyder is very good at doing. The interaction between Bruce and Alfred is very special and very well written. Bruce’s relationship with Gordon changes drastically in these final arcs and it makes sense why Bruce finally throws off his uncertainty about Gordon and accepts him as an ally going forward. The story appeared to take a lot of inspiration from The Dark Knight Rises and the video game The Last of US (both can be seen in the Savage City story arc). The inclusion of Dr. Death as one of Batman’s first villains, just like in the original comics, was amazing. Snyder really got to show off his horror writing here with gorgeous yet very visceral character design for Dr. Death by Greg Capullo. Speaking of Greg Capullo, he hasn’t lost his touch at all. Gotham is very vibrant and well defined as well as people are all distinctively drawn. Capullo always brings his unique style to many of these characters which I enjoy, it definitely sets his work apart from other artists. We see many new vehicles a Bat-blimp, a proto-Batmobile race car, and the Bat-boat. All of them are beautiful to look at and are drawn with great detail. Danny Miki and FCO Plascencia make Capullo’s art look absolutely gorgeous and very vibrant and colorful as well. Batman Vol. 5 is a great ending to the masterpiece of an origin story retelling. To me, this will be my favorite Batman origin story, not because it’s new and I very much enjoy Snyder and Capullo’s run on the character, but because, like Year One when it was written, Zero Year speaks to us in the 21st Century. Zero Year addresses our anxieties our struggles and places Batman’s emergence in the midst of all of those things to show us how truly great a hero he is.

 

4 out of 5 stars

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Monday Mornings and Good News

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“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.”

Status: good. better than good. I’ve decided to continue with the dry weekends for at least this coming weekend. I’m a bit torn in that I want to make the most of the time I have left in the city before travelling back to Gilligan’s Island. Which means I’ve not yet gotten all of the wild nights out of my system, I think. It’s just that when I get to the island, opportunities become very scarce and the choice is made for me. And maybe that’s the crux of the situation. Even though I have no interest in doing it, it’s my choice and not someone else’s. And on the other side of that thought: is having a few wild nights really making the most of my last few months here?

Probably not.

The place has been officially rented. Tenant secured for a February 1st start date. Income secured for the next 12 months. I was a little concerned as they came back with an extensive list of amendments to the Lease on Friday, and I thought this might have been the start of a lengthy back-and-forth as we worked towards settling upon a comfortable middle ground. One of the couple renting the place is, or was, a lawyer because the language inserted into the amendments was pure Legalese. In any case, good news on a Monday morning: it’s been accepted, signed and the relator has confirmed the receipt of funds.

One less thing to worry about.

As I write this from the top floor of the Reference Library overlooking Rosedale, I can see the subject of my next shot. A small dog park which overlooks a section of the subway which briefly emerges from the underground. Nice location for a slow shutter speed shot of the train, and with everything covered in a blanket of white I think this will make a nice contrast between that and the grey of the train.

The only reason I was able to see the dog park and subway from this angle is because my usual seat was taken. And the seat was taken because of the call I had to make to arrange cleaning of the unit (my usual seat is in a No Noise area, so couldn’t make the call from there).

A fortunate turn of events.

Writing. I’ve been entertaining the idea of giving up, thinking that maybe this isn’t for me. Two failed starts and discouragement is running quite high. I’m honestly too stubborn to quit and have a habit of holding onto things which are well past their sell-by date, but yesterday I had a good day of writing. Not a great word count at 346, but they are usable words, coherent sentences, which is unlike what I’ve produced to date.

I’ll call that progress.

Nikon D3400
1/30 sec
f/3.8
21mm
ISO 800

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Giving Up

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Status: good. a wee bit better than yesterday. Day two of unit repairs and I have to admit that I’m finding the intrusion to be bit stressful and disruptive. No, I’m allowing the construction to disrupt me. And of course that’s an excuse to not do any proper writing. So, I’m sitting here in the Library pretending to write and not getting anything done. Again.

On the verge of giving up, honestly.

Draft lease for the place arrived yesterday. Made a few minor amendments and off we go. Big relief that a tenant was found and I’ll be generating fresh income starting in a few days.

The last reference arrived late yesterday which I’ve supplied to the insurance company. The ball is now in their court. Once they’ve completed the reference check and pre-screening process then we can firm up my start date and I’ll officially be on the countdown. The end of this part of my life and onto the next chapter. Wish I was a little more enthusiastic about it.

With three months left I’ve been trying to decide what I’m going to do with the time I have left. Stay put and continue to beat my head against the writing? Or, stay put, bin the writing and focus on the photography? Or, perhaps a combination of both? Or maybe I should just leave this place altogether and do some travelling? Whatever I decide I’ll need to do it quickly, and knowing me I’ll regret the path not taken (because that one is perfect which is a prime opportunity to idealise it).

I kind of wish that this job had not been offered to me. I mean, it’s been a year of submitting applications and having interviews with frustrating results. I already decided that this was the last straw. The last job I was going to apply for and if I didn’t get this one then I was going to head East. Options: heading to the UK and looking for a job in London, or heading even further East and focusing on the photography (and blogging). I really liked the latter idea. I still like that idea.

(And I still think that this is the right choice to make. Impractical, but the right choice)

I’ll mull it over some more…..

 

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X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) – Movie Review

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In 2000, Bryan Singer shook Hollywood with X-Men: a blockbuster that dared to take comic book superheroes seriously and intelligently. Now, in 2016, he bequeaths us X- Men: Apocalypse – the most dire sabotage to the genre’s longevity and credibility we’ve seen since…well, X-Men Origins: Wolverine (and, amazingly, just as excruciating). My theory? Singer has consciously treated his fourth X-Men as a piece of holistic, self-reflexive, self-loathing performance art. You wanted an Apocalypse? You got one, all right.

You’d expect the film’s critical lambasting proceeding the airtight Days of Future Past to be hyperbole. But no – X-Men: Apocalypse really is THAT intolerable. Many have pointed to the film’s Return of the Jedi “the third one is always the worst” quip turned horribly ironic prophecy for the First Class trilogy. But what if this wasn’t just a smarmy, overconfident boast backfiring hilariously? What if the film is literally cheerfully prophesying its own awfulness?

Screenwriter Simon Kinberg (whose ongoing employment after penning both X-Men 3 AND 2015’s Fantastic Four speaks to a deep, virulent masochism on Fox’s part) meticulously collects Every. Single. One. of the superhero genre’s most loathed tropes, and rubs them in audience faces to such a nauseating extreme I felt a rash breaking out over my corneas. Oodles of stilted, snoozy exposition, and uber-serious self-important melodramatic posturing? Check. Risible, shoehorned-in love scenes? Yup (“I’m on a beach” is in danger of becoming the new “Martha” or “Brutasha” of boneheaded superhero movie maneuvers). A plot that careens from subplot to subplot like a drunken mosquito, each only in service in the interests of (sigh) universe building, yet still unreasonably stagnant and draggy? Oh yes. A climactic blow-out so bloated with incompetent, aimless CGI it nearly outdoes Hulk’s murky mess of a lake battle that then devolves into a literal, beat-by-beat remake of Fant4stic’s mortifying, rushed final boss battle? Oh COME ON. This is beyond surgical, histrionically poor filmmaking. This is Fox watching the world burn.

You can practically taste Singer’s desperation to ape as many iconic X-tropes as possible for fear that he won’t get another chance, including clumsily reintroducing his original roster, but it only makes the film more contemptuous. At one point the plot gets – literally – hijacked just to devote the film’s middle third to an extraneous William Stryker/Weapon X Hugh Jackman cameo. And yes, in spite of the material’s almost unquenchable coolness, it’s a dud too. Singer can’t even be bothered to keep up the campy, pop-art political subtext of the last two X-outings, despite the almost irresistibly spoofable Reagan administration. But, lest you find his film insufficiently profound, he has a peeved Magneto…um…destroy Auschwitz. Um. Wow. I’ll just let the seismic tastelessness of that sink in, and scuttle on.

Surely, you plead, there’s solace to be found in our beloved cast of lovable mutants? Not so. Most of the movie alternates between the cast of actor-props practicing their constipation stares as they feign telekinetically moving/dissolving things. By the final third, the main attraction is Jennifer “Speechsnoring” Lawrence, Rose Bryne, and Sophie Turner attempting to aggressively under-act one another (Turner wins; we have an actual contender for ‘worst blockbuster performance ever documented’. Just remembering her gives me a headache). Tye Sheridan’s Cyclops matches them in petulant overacting, and is just as hatable for it.

It almost defies belief seeing the X-Men’s single most formidable foe squandered to such an outstanding degree. Poor, poor Oscar Isaac. It’s offensive enough leaving Apocalypse bereft of any context or explanation for his powers, resurrection technology, or world-destroying motivation, but he’s so swaddled in mountains of torpid Power Rangers prosthetics, and given nothing to do but whisper and stand with his arms outstretched, we nearly forget about him while he’s still on screen in front of us. As he innocuously and politely assembles Alexandra Shipp, Ben Hardy, and Olivia Munn’s human action figures to stagnate around a desert with him (for HOURS.), CGI farts swirl around his visibly slight frame signifying his (unseen) menace. Shameful is far too feeble a word for this travesty.

The rest of the cast phone it in with furious nonchalance. Michael Fassbender in particular, doesn’t bother hiding his contempt at how often he stands around vacuously, stuck with a pathos subplot so strained he – literally – bellows at God. James McAvoy is on inappropriately but hysterically fine comedic form for the first third of the film before being reigned in as a googly-eyed morality platitude slot machine. We get glimmers of charisma from Evan Peters’ delightfully snarky Quicksilver (and yes, he gets another slow-mo scene. Satisfied?) and Kodi Smit-McPhee’s bashfully goofy Nightcrawler (even if 13 years of FX improvements make him and his ‘bamfing’ look even less credible than Alan Cumming in 2003). Naturally, Kinberg is clueless on how to use either to anywhere close to their full potential, sidelining both and saddling Quicksilver with a motivation so cumbersome you can feel Peters rolling his eyes as the words tumble sheepishly out of his mouth. Recognizable side characters like Tómas Lemarquis’ sassy Caliban intrigue, but are virtual nonentities.

Still doubt Singer’s willful self-destruction? Dig this: the earlier X-Men movies fiercely advocated for education and tolerance, employing violence only to stave off hate- crimes. Apocalypse ends with Lawrence’s MystiKatniss droning on the virtues of militarism Above All Else. Here is the death of Xavier’s dream – so dismal that the only worthwhile embers are lazy callbacks to moments done better in other Bryan Singer X-Men films (McAvoy and Fassbender virtually shed tears of embarrassment reenacting dialogue exchanges from X-Men 1). If this is the rejigged time-stream after Days of Future Past, they may as well ship Wolverine even further back in time to put the whole sodden franchise out of its misery.

 

3 out of 5 stars

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