Poor Start

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Status: overslept this morning. this after a poor day yesterday which saw me do sweet-fuck-all. Actually, not completely, but I didn’t prioritise the things I wanted to work on and just focused on the admin stuff because it’s easy to the tick the boxes and feel like I’m accomplishing something. I didn’t really feel all that bad yesterday; a bit groggy, but lethargic, which seems to be par for the course.

And here’s the real crux of the issue. I keep on doing the same thing over and over again, and then when I fail to meet expectations I beat myself up over it. I don’t think this is really productive behaviour, so going forward I’m going to shift expectations for Monday during the few weeks I have left as a free man and shift some of the creative work to Saturday, which I’m doing anyway. Let’s see if that works.

Writing.

A quick proofread of the Aquaman review this morning and minor tweaking and off it goes into the world. I haven’t decided if I’ll post it to other review sites.

After that, not much writing happening. I didn’t even create a blog post yesterday. See above. I’ll remedy that starting today and the rest of the week. I have a limited training schedule this week, so ostensibly have a little extra time to devote to this.

Photography.

Had a good weekend for photography. Tried something new on Saturday night; run-and-gun. I just cleared my mind and had fun with shooting anything that looked interesting while letting go of expectations. I also found that using the LCD on the back of the camera made it easier for me to frame and compose my shots; I could actually see what they’d look like before (or while) shooting. Briefly reviewed the shots yesterday and I think I have a few good ones. Will do some more of that.

Dates.

Had two coffee dates this weekend; and with that I’m going to take a break from the dating app for awhile. First date on Saturday was 26 minutes late. How do I know that? She told me. I actually waited for 15mins and then left thinking that I’d been stood up (again). She contacted me 3 hours later (I mean, seriously, three hours? I gave you my cell number, so you could have contacted me sooner, but whatever.) and apologised. I let it sit, not really wanting to hear it, but responded kindly and then the conversation picked up from there. Full marks to her for the way she approached the apology. It’s pretty difficult for someone to change my mind and I rarely give second chances, especially after they’ve been cavalier with my time (which I take as a lack of respect for me), but she did it. Good job to you, young lady, we’ll try again this afternoon. At 6pm, to be exact.

The second date on Sunday was in stark contrast to that one, arriving 30 minutes early! Good for her. Really attractive with blonde hair and bright blue eyes. Not really my type as I prefer the darker features, but the conversation was easy and we got along well together. The parental issues are apparent; she spent quite a bit of time complaining about her emotionally unavailable mother with no mention of her father. She’s quick to apologise for things which don’t warrant one and I can feel her pressing for acceptance from me. Given her background that’s not surprising. She’s also a very smart high agency individual who doesn’t seem to take ‘No’ for an answer. Bit of a mystery to me why she would want to work for one of these McFinance houses when she clearly has what it takes to be an entrepreneur and work for herself, but I’m sure she has her reason. We’ll definitely get together again.

 

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Aquaman (2018) – Movie Review

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I’ve been big fan of Aquaman ever since I started reading about his adventures in DC Comics (hah, Adventure Comics) when I was a very young kid. I grew up on an island where the ocean was the centre of my universe, its all I knew, so reading stories about heroes fighting crime in these large concrete jungles in parts of the world I’d never visited was completely alien to me. You’re basically telling me tales of people living on the moon, and I couldn’t relate to that. But, heroes that fought crime in the ocean? That was literally my backyard and something that my young mind could wrap its head around.

The other part of the story that resonated with me was Arthur’s bi-racial and bi-cultural background. He had a foot in both worlds, but was treated like an outsider by each one. That was also a feature of my childhood, growing up as a minority on an island without much of a tie to the culture of the majority.

So, Aquaman was my guy.

The thing that impressed me the most about the film was the ambitiousness of the filmmakers. They didn’t hold back at all when making this movie. Given the underperformance and tepid reception of the DCU films to date (with the exception of Wonder Woman), it’s reasonable to expect that the studio would have scaled back the production budget and made a smaller film to reduce their risk and ensure that it turned a profit. But, they didn’t. They fully committed to the project and it shows; this is a very expensive looking movie.

The other thing that impressed me was how closely the film sticks to the source material. Based upon the rebooted DC Comics New 52 series from the creative team of Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis and Paul Pelletier, they changed very little from the book. Inculcating Jason’s Hawaiian heritage into the role of Arthur Curry and changing the sequence of events around Atlanna’s time spent on the surface world with Tom Curry (which is cleaner and works better than the comic book) are the only deviations, the rest is exactly like the source material.

In this day and age where they’re trying to generate broad appeal amongst an audience that has a casual relationship with the character and his world, that’s no small feat.

The filmmakers also give us the viewing audience an extensive look at Aquaman’s universe, taking us from his birthplace in Amnesty Bay to Atlantis and then on to all (or most) of the remaining undersea kingdoms all while introducing us to the main characters from those places. This could have easily caused the film to feel overstuffed, but it doesn’t. It really felt like world building, which is something that Marvel has done very well with the MCU, and that allows them to tell stories beyond the typical origin stories going forward. I think this is really important for the ongoing viability of the character because not a lot of people are familiar with him and his universe.

All that said, it is a bit of a silly movie, but in a good way. At no point during the film did I find it hard to suspend my disbelief. It wasn’t trying to be anything other than what it is; a big, bombastic summer blockbuster tentpole movie. You’re not going to find Shakespeare here, but you will find a superhero fantasy film with a little Greek mythology, Lord of The Rings, Indiana Jones, Star Wars and a smattering of horror elements. It blends together seamlessly and creates something unique amongst the superhero genre, not to mention unique amongst the typical origin story we’ve seen many times.

The bottom line is that this movie is fun and engaging, visually stunning with great action sequences supported by a compelling enough story without leaning too heavily on comic book tropes, all while staying very faithful to the source material.

This is for me the best DCU movie to date and I’m eagerly looking forward to the next installment with James Wan at the helm.

 

5 out of 5 stars

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Comic Book Review – Batman Vol. 7: Endgame (The New 52 – 2016)

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The Batman\Joker ‘Endgame’ storyline that has been building over the space of the past few issues culminates in the 7th New 52 Batman trade. After a less-than stellar series of sidesteps in Vol.6, Vol.7 showcases Batman at his best. Scott Snyder has put together a nail-biter of a conclusion, bringing in the Court of Owls, along with a coterie of Batman’s long-term adversaries, and throwing them into the mix of a Gotham driven to the brink of destruction (again) by The Joker’s virus. It would be unfair to discuss how it all plays out, but things come to a head in a grand finale that will dramatically affect the Batman line for quite a few issues to come.

Highly recommended.

 

4 out of 5 stars.

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Trusting Old Friends

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Status: very good. at that part of the week where I’ve been getting enough sleep, sticking closely to my normal (eat/sleep/train) schedule and laying off the alcohol. This seems optimal for me. I’m generally in a good mood heading into the weekend. The days are getting longer and the temperature is getting better, which I’m sure is contributing to my overall positive wellbeing.

Aquaman and Writing.

Forced myself to finish the first draft yesterday. I have to admit that the second half of writing the review was like pulling teeth (almost like those dreams where you are trying to walk somewhere, but no matter how hard you try you don’t make any progress). I realise that this is all in my head and I’m the one standing in my own way, so I deferred to Fonda Lee’s advice and lowered my expectations which enabled me to finish the first draft (I was actually going for a zero draft, but ended up exceeding expectations). I’ll circle back to it later today and give it a polish which will hopefully look presentable for posting.

Career.

An old neighbour/friend reached out to me last night to ask if the rumours were true; was I returning to the island. I answered in the affirmative. She then asked me if I was going to work for (unnamed financial services company). I again answered in the affirmative, and then curiosity got the better of me: how did she know this? The island grapevine is legendary for it’s effectiveness in spreading information, and equally legendary in its ability to embellish stories into an almost unrecognisable caricature of itself. Besides, I’d only told a handful of people, mostly family, so wasn’t expecting it to spread far and wide. Turns out that she works for the same company, in the same department and it looks like she’ll be reporting to me.

This is very awkward. Or it will be awkward, I think. I’m not overly concerned that she reached out to me, we know each other well enough for her to do that, but it’s the way she did it. Basically, she buried the lead and then asked questions when she already knew the answers. People typically do that when you’re trying to bait someone. In any case, I’m going to let it go and not dwell on it too much. They’re is nothing I can do about it right now anyway; I’ll just cross that bridge when I get to it.

Date.

I ostensibly have a coffee date tomorrow. I think. She seems nice enough, but comes across as a bit conservative and a little shy. She also has a bit of a long lead time in the it looks like she is taking her time to explore the dating app. Hard to tell at this stage what I’m getting myself into, but I’ll know soon enough.

 

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Aquaman and Zero Draft

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Status: good. wide awake at 3am, but forced myself back to “sleep”. Catnapping is a better descriptor. Dragged myself out of bed when the alarm went off at 5am. Sitting here procrastinating; full of energy and unable to settle down. I should fall back on the meditation skills I’ve been developing in order to help me focus. Which in this instance means writing a journal entry for the blog as a way to organise my thoughts and prioritise my tasks for the day.

Aquaman.

I’m four hundred words into the review and apparently I have a lot to say about this movie. It’s coming together much more quickly than the Captain Marvel review, which is probably par for the course. The Captain Marvel film had a few agendas surrounding it which I didn’t want to have taint my opinion of the film, so tried to be as diplomatic as I could in my critique of it. I think it would have been a little easier if I actually liked the film, which I didn’t. Aquaman is a different animal in that it doesn’t have this baggage, was well received by audiences and I genuinely enjoyed the movie. Maybe that’s the key. In any case, I still don’t enjoy the process of writing these movie reviews, but I’d like to have a complete set of posts on the superhero genre (for what reason, I don’t know) and given I’ve completed 59 of them another 4 won’t kill me.

Writing.

Came across a post on Twitter from a writer named Fonda Lee yesterday where she described her approach to overcoming “writer’s block”. The quotations belong to her. I’m also impressed that Twitter provided something useful as I don’t have a high opinion of the platform. In any case, the thrust of the series of posts was to convey her approach to overcoming “writer’s block”, or better yet, how to overcome the fear of failing and becoming stuck in the process.

This plagues me. I’ve been stuck for about three weeks now and haven’t made any meaningful progress on the stories I’ve been writing (and ultimately want to complete).

Fonda’s approach is to lower her standards, treat whatever she’s working on as a Zero or Negative draft (which is less than a First draft), being okay with writing crap and having faith in the process. This makes sense to me and I feel a weight has been lifted off my shoulders just reading/knowing how a professional writer overcomes this obstacle. I’ll need to reach out to Fonda at some point and thank her for this timely piece of advice.

Career.

I need to pull the trigger on living accommodations for my first two months back on the island. My tenant’s lease doesn’t expire until the end of June, so I’ll need something to cover me between when I arrive and when they vacate the unit. until then. I’m a bit gobsmacked by the short term rental costs and unwilling to experience the pain of spending that much money on two months rent. It’s the equivalent of almost four months here, which is fkn nuts. But, this par for the course. Everything is like that down there and I’ll just have to get used to it. In any case, I need to get this sorted sooner rather than later or risk losing out on the place that I want.

Photography.

Haven’t posted anything to IG this week as I’ve been working through the photos I took last weekend. I think I’m about one third of the way through the total, and I’m okay with not posting anything (on IG or this blog) until I’m completed. I would like to experiment with increasing my follower count by indiscriminately following other accounts just to see how its affected. I don’t want to overwhelm my feed too much with BS, but I can always undo it if it doesn’t have the desired effect. This is a low priority task, so I’ll leave it for the end of the day.

 

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Comic Book Review – Batman Vol. 6: Graveyard Shift (The New 52 – 2015)

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So here’s the deal with this book and why people are rating it so low. Snyder and Capullo have done the majority of their Batman run in arcs, arcs which take up a trade’s worth of material all by themself. However, inbetween these arcs are usually one-and-dones, smaller stories that only take up one or two issues. Including chronologically didn’t work so well, because it would have made the trade’s too big, and make less sense as a story. So, all the one and done Batman stories are collected here. Some of these issues are very good, some of them less so. The issues it collects are #0, 18, 19, 20, 28, 34, and Batman Annual #2.

#0 is sort of a precursor to Zero Year. It would have been nice if this was included in the first Zero Year trade, but again, that would have made the book too big, so it goes here. It’s a good story on it’s own, just a little out of place.

#18 is a Harper Row issue, detailing how she tracks Batman in the days following his son’s death. If you liked the other Harper story in City of Owls, you’ll probably dig this. I was never huge on Harper, so it didn’t do much for me, but too each’s own.

#19-20 is a short Clayface story. I really enjoyed these two. It has one or two tender moments with Bruce still dealing with Damien’s death, Clayface seems to be going through a cool process, and there’s a great easter egg to a certain DC Animated show from the 90s (and not the one you think). There’s a moment where I think Bruce plays things a little close to the chest with his secret identity, but I can forgive it. It’s important to note too that these are the only 2 issues drawn by Capullo in this volume.

Batman Annual #2 is a fun short story where Batman is trying to break out of Arkham Asylum. It also introduces the character of Eric Border, who will be important down the road (don’t look up why, it’s only 1 volume away).

#28 is definitely the worst of the bunch. It’s a story that ties into the Batman Eternal series. You may or may not be completely lost reading it, and you will never see any pay-off for what happens in this series. Read it if you plan on reading Batman Eternal, but otherwise I’d almost say just skip it.

#34 is one of my favourites. It’s a simple murder mystery story, with Batman trying to hunt down a serial killer. It’s not Capullo, but the art here is amazing. The story, other then one big “WTF, HOW” moment is really well done.

Overall, it’s nowhere near as good as the other volumes, but there’s plenty of material to enjoy. Issues 19, 20, and 34 are definitely the stand outs, with the annual being pretty good as well.

 

4 out of 5 stars

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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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