The Roundabout – Vol. 4 – March 2015

Well hi there folks, I’m not really sure what to talk about this month.  It’s probably going to be brief.

It’s been an absolutely wild month in which I feel I’ve done nothing, and yet seem to have done a lot.
It’s been a month of change and bluster…fitting for March.  The winds of fortune swirling around, blowing this way and that, shifting everything.
++++++++++++The Studio+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
I’m in.
100% in my space.
And it’s a mess.  Dreadful, horrible, cluster of a mess that looks like a tornado hit it.
But I’m in.  No longer in storage.  And things just keep falling in my lap.  I’m going to be that eccentric guy in the Mill. I will have a fountain outside my door and a fake ficus I call Fakeus to keep the fountain company. There will also likely be a table beneath the fountain and some other fake greenery – because honestly real greenery isn’t going to grow in the dimly lit hallway outside my studio.  I’ll try real greenery inside. I like green things.
I also salvaged a sign that was going to be tossed. It’s a fantastic old marquee from the 70s that I don’t think has actually worked properly since I’ve been alive.  But I took it and applied a little lovin to the sign and now it properly welcomes people to the Pond.
Plus too many other things to really list off, but for which I’m grateful to the universe for sending my way.  I will try to do it all justice and put it to good use.
I’ve got about a month to see it all sorted properly.
Which brings me to an announcement.
********ANNOUNCEMENT TIME***********fanfare**********************doodododooo*****************
Mark it down my friends, May 1st, 2015, Halfacre Pond, located in the WRK GRP section of Taylors’ Mill in Taylors, SC will be having a grand opening as part of the grand re-opening of Taylors’ Mill.
You’re all invited to see the new space and to have fun.  I’m told it will be a veritable circus with live music, entertainment, food trucks, the works.
Hoooooo boy… I’ve got a lot of work to do.
&&&&&&&&&&&&Avengers&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&
Immediately following the epic success or catastrophic failure of the grand opening of Halfacre Pond, I’ll be going to see Avengers: Age of Ultron.
A few of my friends and I began planning that out today, a month in advance.
Yes, it’s that important.
Yes, you’re invited to that as well.  Midnight show at the Hollywood 20, Friday (yes Friday) May 1st.
Yes, I’m a geek. You knew that already.
Few things get me more pumped up than comic stories and characters brought to life and done well. They are our modern myths. Our heroes and legends. Our moral allegories of the present day. And of late, they finally get the treatment and respect they deserve.
The boom of the comic cinematic and television translations has made me giddy. It tickles the nerd neurons.
So much so that my friend Sean and I have started a podcast devoted entirely to comic material on the silver and small screen. It hasn’t been released yet, but we’ve got five episodes in the can so far and if you want to hear them, please do bug @seancampbell on the twitters to get them out there. :D
PS – We call it… something really awesome you’ll just have to wait for.
[[[[[[[[[[[[ In Production ]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]
I haven’t released much this month.  I know. I’m terrible.  I haven’t done any photo shoots.  Not a single one this month.
All my time has been devoted to getting the studio up and running and also to several projects currently in production…including GBS, PS, and a film I’m currently working on – and should be working harder on – for the MyRodeReel contest, which I’m looking to shoot in April.  I’ve actually taken time off to do so.
But I need a little help.
Right now, I’m kinda short one location for the film and possibly a lead actor.
Anybody know of a theater I could use for a few hours?
Maybe an actor? Male? 20s-30s.  The guy I cast originally is moving away soon, so probably won’t be able to do it.
++++++++++++++++++++++Contests+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
It’s juried show season again. Time to do some prints and have my work judged by other people.
So far this year I’ve entered Carolina’s Got Art and the 40th Annual Juried Show at the Anderson Arts Center.  Will find out next week if anything got in.  Wish me luck :D
If it does, I’ll do a mid-month blast with all the show opening dates.
%%%%%%%%Consumption%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%
Maybe it’s the hour, maybe it’s the mushy fingers I’m feeling as I type and gibberish comes out, but nothing really, really stands out among the hours and hours of things I’ve watched this month.
Nothing I haven’t already covered before. It’s all met expectations of being good, with few falling short.
Arrow, Flash, SHIELD all staying the course…nothing out of the ordinary or exceptional.
Animes are finishing this month. Aldenoah.Zero has perhaps been the best surprise out of Japan this last year. It’s an exceptional story that I think will have legs beyond the season. Sure, there have been some great shows the past year. Most of which I’ve forgotten the names of and didn’t leave much impact on me.  I think I’ll be rewatching A.Z in the future and will find it just as relevant and impactful then as it is now. Few series do that.
YuYu Hakusho… that’s one that does. It’s a treasure from the 90s I treated myself to this month, finally picking up the boxed sets. Also, Full Metal Panic!  I watched that whole series again for GBS and loved it just as much as the first time I watched it 13 years ago.
Movies and TV consumed: YuYu Hakusho, Aldenoah.Zero, Log Horizon, Durarara!!x2, Kaze no Stigma, Full Metal Panic!, The Devil is a Part Timer, Arrow, Flash, Agents of SHIELD, Powers, The Blacklist, Backstrom, House of Cards, Game of Thrones, Unbreakable Kimmy Scmidt, iZombie, Wild Card, 2 Guns, Hector and the Search for Happiness, Rope, Birdman, Whiplash, The Theory of Everything
 
That reminds me. If I EVER hear drums featured heavily on a soundtrack again I’m walking out of the movie or turning it off.  Whiplash annoyed the crap out of me with it and so did Birdman. Yes, I know Whiplash is about a drummer. JK Simmons was fantastic in it. But it serves no point to play the same damn thing over and over again with minor variations.  I can’t tell the difference and found it actually distracted from the story rather than adding anything to it.  Then Birdman did it for no damn reason at all except to show the film kids the difference between diegetic and non-diegetic sound.  ENOUGH WITH THE DRUMS
Also, I met the new Reed Richards and the new Supergirl in the same movie.  One furthered my decision to not bother with Fantastic 4 and the other didn’t tick me off.
################ OUTSIDE ####################################################
It’s some place I’ve been going more, lately.
The fresh air, delicious sunshine, not freezing temperatures.  Quite refreshing.
I’ve been frustrated with a lot of things lately, yes even despite all the good things happening, minor things have been irking me.
Reading outside helps. I finished The Arrivals, finally, and have been delighting my eye holes with Patrick Rothfuss’ The Slow Regard of Silent Things which I have been intending to read since December.
It’s an odd little story that I’m falling in love with.  It’s more a novella than novel and comes with illustrations, something I wish more books would take note of. Art bolsters the story. I’ve always been a fan of creative deviations from normalcy.  I’m one myself. This book is definitely for me.
Later today I intend to pick up PV Brett’s The Skull Throne which pleasantly popped on my radar earlier this month.  I wasn’t expecting another volume in his series for another year.
But that seems to be the way of things. I’ve got new fare from Robin Hobb and Brandon Sanderson as well.
It’s time I took a break from TV and go read under a tree again.  I need to find a good one here.
In college, there was a delightful little park tucked away by my major building that had these remarkably large cherry trees, and every spring I would just go relax and read beneath them. One of my fondest memories.
Someplace quiet, with only the wind to keep me company as I leaf through the pages of other worlds.  Where can I find that?

 

The Roundabout – Vol. 5 – April 2015

Hello again my good friends, how have you been?

*listens patiently*
That’s excellent to hear! Now on to me. :) That’s why you’ve stopped at the Roundabout, after all.
====STUDIO+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
You know how I said May 1st would see the big shindig to kick off the Mill’s grand reopening? Well, I was lied to.  It was intended to be the big kickoff, but now it’s been delayed once more… now the big party will be June 5th, so I hope you’ll drop by and have a good time then…
BUT for those of you who have already cleared your calendars to come see me in the new space, well come on out! I’ll still be there and so will several other friends of mine in the mill.  250 Mill Street, Taylors. We’re up on the 2nd floor in WRK GRP.
My studio space is ready and already in use! In fact, it was used just last night.  I’ll be sure to tidy up before you arrive though, but pardon the mess if I don’t ;P
(((((((((((((((GGGGHosts of the Mill))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))
I began this series last fall and was able to get 3 shoots in before the drama unfolded. It, like everything else, got put on hold while all that was sorted, but now it has resumed!
Last night I coaxed my friend Jenni out to play a 1920s era flapper and ghost about the mill.  (toward the end of the gallery)
This series is comprised of shots using long exposure and double exposure.  It’s rather mentally challenging and actually works more like a video production than a normal photo shoot.  Last night, I found myself actually blocking out the movement in the shot with Jenni, setting positions and marks, timing it out.  Directing Motion in a still. The exposure is taken for 15 seconds or more, depending on the location and available light, so all the action has to take place in that time.  Off camera flash is used to freeze each pose in the frame.  That’s how I achieve clarity and transparency in the image.
It certainly is an exercise in mental imagery. Visualization. Even more than shooting with light you can’t see…like infrared or even flash… you have to know how the light will read, how long to hold the position so the subject shows up enough but still maintain the transparency for the ghost effect.  I really enjoy the challenge of this series and there will be a few more added to it.  Huge thanks to Jenni for helping resurrect the ghosts, and to those still to come.
……..[ o*]……PHOTO BOOKS…………………….………………………………………………../
In fact, I will be having a photo book from this series made and it will be for sale at the June 5th grand opening. Not sure how much I will be charging until I actually lay it out and find out what it’ll cost to make, but I imagine it will be in the same as Abstracting Waters – around $60.  I’ll be ordering May 15th if you’re interested in a pre-order.

Speaking of, I still have a few copies of Abstracting Waters available if anyone is interested.

Also, I’m working on a third photo book tentatively entitled Eye For Detail which will build upon a subject matter that’s always fascinated me: Old items. Weathered, decayed, survivors, small things of interest overlooked every day but that have great character. It may be available in time for June 5th, but I may hold off until July.  We’ll see how it comes together :)
I enjoy photo books.  I think they present collected works well.  I always end up with a sheer glut of images that are great but never see a printer, this is one way I deal with that. Plus there’s just something so powerful about holding a tangible artifact of your work, work that by its new nature is very ephemeral.
%%%%SHOWDOWN%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%
Art Show news. The Anderson Juried Show was great.  Lots of talented artists’ works on display. Didn’t take home any prizes this year, but it is the first time both pieces got into the main show.  Plus, there was actually buzz about my pieces.  I heard people speaking about the Econoline tailgate and even came across this lovely old lady describing my Glendale Shoals piece to a little crowd gathered around her.  I did something unlike myself and went up and introduced myself to her and the group.  Perhaps it will sell? Who knows.  It’s nice to be noticed though.
No love from Carolinas Got Art. Oh well.
Next show I’ll be entering for sure is the Spartanburg Library’s 3rd Annual Juried Show.  I may also try to shoot something for the Foundry Arts Centre’s Circus show…deadline for it is May 15th as well…so I need to figure out a circus themed shoot fast.
&&&&&&&& As I Write This &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&
I’m watching The Blacklist, one of the best shows on television, and am suddenly reminded of perhaps the BEST show to be released in the last decade, a real top tier production, of course I’m talking about Daredevil.
Now, I won’t gush too much, though I honestly could go for hours on the show, but suffice it to say that you should be watching Daredevil, even if you’ve already seen it, you should be watching it again. And again.
It is so well crafted that it is hard to find any fault with it – rare for me, even rarer for a friend of mine who found no nits to pick – other than there’s not more television like this.  The storytelling is phenomenal and the cinematography is absolutely brilliant. Another friend called it the Renaissance of Noir and he couldn’t be more spot on with that assessment.  The interplay of light and shadow and bold, brash colors defining the scenes is remarkable.
It is breathtaking and yet inspiring. Quite the dichotomy.
%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%MCU%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%
This brings me to an event we’ve been waiting on for years.  Phase 2 is complete, and I know some of you have already seen Avengers 2, and I’ll ask you to hold your spoilers – one of the only times I’ll ask for that – and I am SUPER PUMPED EXCITED to see it on the big screen.  If you care to join, local friends, Friday night at 12:15AM at H20. That’s when I’m going.
It will be hard to live up to the first, but honestly, I believe they did.  The first trailer was good enough for me to have faith.
Phase 3 is going to be the real test for the MCU though. They are expanding well beyond the core that the mainstream public has become familiar with into characters and territories and worlds and events deep in comic lore where only the geekiest nerds dare tread. Those who have navigated the turgid waters of Retcon and swallowed bitter pills larger than any Infinity stone know what lies ahead, the bounds to which disbelief’s suspension will be stretched, the turmoil and strife that comes with re-integrating a long lost friend into the world.  It’s going to be rough. It will test who of the main stream has enough gumption to stick with the MCU all the way through Phase 3.
For me, I’m excited to see what’s in store.  I’ll ride this high as long as the general public is funding the budget to make these dreams come to life.
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Production Halted!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Temporarily!!!!!!!!
Well, my vacation came and went without a film being produced.  The logistics and talent just didn’t line up this time.  I haven’t abandoned it, but it is on hold for the moment while I get other projects up and running, establish myself more, and get a wider pool of cohorts to call from.  Tis the way of things.  Everything changes.
““`______““`
I received a rather odd message on facebook when I got up today.  Not odd in content, but just circumstance. A somewhat random acquaintance I met at a MTG tournament sent me this message. It read something to the extent of “If you ever delete people you don’t talk to from facebook, please don’t delete me, because I enjoy watching your photographic exploits.”
It was odd because this person has never liked, commented on, or even spoken about any of my photos before, and is not (currently) on this list. I believe him. And obviously it was in response to Ghosts, but I wish he’d spoken up sooner.
Which is why I’m glad all of you have.
There have been many negative things going on that have stretched me to my bounds, but I’ve been making it thanks to you guys.  Knowing people actually care about what I do with my photography and creativity helps tremendously. It is often a supremely solitary pursuit and while sometimes that is a perk to what I do, it’s also during those solitary times that doubt and misgivings eat away at my thoughts.  Knowing you guys are on the other end of the email helps keep it at bay.
So thank you, as always, for being there. For liking what I do. For supporting me. For speaking up and telling me.
/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
That brings us to the end again my friends.  Until next month, be well and keep in touch.
////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
James Pittman

The Roundabout – Vol. 3 – Feb 2015

Time keeps on slippin, slippin, slippin…into the future…

Okay, I’ll spare you my dreadful rendition of that song, but for the February Roundabout on this last day of the shortest month of the year, I want to talk about time.
++++++++Studio Time++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
After much wait time, uncertainty, and many moments of doubt, I’m pleased to announce I signed the year-long lease on my studio last week!
That’s right, the JPG and Halfacre Pond have a physical home again, now in Taylors’ Mill.
About damn time!
You’ll probably find me there after midnight and during most of what down time I have.
For the next year.
I’ve decided that I’m going to give it a year to become self sufficient… if it doesn’t, then I’ll probably pack it in and it’ll be time to move on.
For now though, it’s time to move in! (Pics coming next month)
^^^^^^^^^^^^Down Time>>>>>>>>>>>>vvvvvvvvvvvv<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
Yes, I actually have that, from time to time.
I think.
I’ve kinda co-opted my down time for feed time for halfacre pond. On my down time, I enjoy watching movies & television shows (which I now review), watching anime (which I do a web series about with a friend), reading, and lambasting myself for not writing even though I desperately want to but the fictional words just don’t flow any more…dried up with the passage of time.
One story involves a future time traveler, another of timeless creatures eons old, and still another of a time yet to come in which we burn water from the skies and humanity finds a use for the appendix.
I suppose I must find solace in the fact that I’m exercising my words again with non fiction and thoughts like those found here in the Roundabout and those various and sundry reviews and other essays and articles on halfacrepond.com
***********Production & Consumption *********************************************************************
Those thoughts, varied and sundry as they are, coalesced into an article reminiscing about my time playing Magic: the Gathering and a potentially new article series I’m calling Double Feature in which I contemplate movie pairings – unusual pairs, thematic pairs, movies that compliment each other to provide an experience greater than the sum of the individual films.
The first up was Gone Girl and John Wick.  Not quite sure how that’d work? Check it out.
The other major avenue of production this month came from a little show I’ve started called The Good, the Bad, and the Screwy in which I get my friend Max to watch a new anime each week in an effort to guide him to the good stuff and past the dangerous cliffs of the bad. It’s been fun. Hoping to keep it going for a while, but time has gone against us. Production has been fraught with delays due to the snow and other factors. We’re working it out and are playing catch up the next couple of weeks.
To make these things, consumption of copious amounts of media is required.
I’ve almost finished The Arrivals, that novel I mentioned last issue, about a band of killers and sinners and misfits pulled from across time from as far back as the Victorian period and the Wild West to modern day into an alien place called The Wasteland. It’s good so far, though a relaxed read that doesn’t keep you frantically turning pages – which is actually good this month since I haven’t had much reading time.
A couple of movies worth a few moments of time.
The Conversation, a film by Francis Ford Coppola starring Gene Hackman, circa 1974. Hackman plays a security and surveillance expert who, while already highly paranoid, believes he’s come across a murder plot while on an investigation, slowly piecing together bits of a conversation he’s assigned to record. Truly a classic, building suspense through repetition and pacing and subtle bits of maneuvering on the part of the story to really bring about something from nothing. Keep an eye out for a pre-Star Wars Harrison Ford.  If Hackman’s character seems familiar, well he should, he’s played the same guy twice – unofficially. Tony Scott’s Enemy of the State is an unofficial sequel of sorts. It’s worth your time and available on Netflix.
Predestination is all about time. Mobiusine is the best word I can make up to describe it. It’s one long conversation, essentially, between Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook (who, I might add, delivers an excellent performance in this) in a bar and across time. Please don’t hurt your brain watching this one…paradoxes do tend to bring on migraines….but the film is quite good. It’s based on a story by Robert Heinlein, you’ve been warned. Available from redbox.
Also viewed: Stonehearst Asylum, The Station Agent, Not Another Happy Ending, The Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Gone Girl, John Wick, Two Guns, Fury, Unicorn City
 
Television has been particularly good of late. Arrow has proven again what happens when you have faith in a series and give it time to mature. Three years ago there were no comic book shows on television. Now they’re everywhere and they are delightful. They show that the stories can be well developed and characters can grow and show remarkable aspects of themselves if given a chance.
The Flash has a particular timeless quality to it that I’m greatly enjoying, even as they rush toward Paradox. A huge Bravo to the writing team for their brilliantly elegant translation of heady time travel theory into layman’s terms using classic cinema: Terminator and Back to the Future. Clever.
As seen not on TV (who watches TV on the telly anymore? Ain’t no one got time for that!) – Arrow, the Flash, Gotham, Agent Carter, The Blacklist, Constantine, Backstrom, M*A*S*H, Full Metal Panic!, Space Dandy, Durarara!!X2, Log Horizon, Aldenoah.Zero2, Cross Ange, Psychic Detective Yakumo, Prince of Tennis.
 
 
&&&&&&&&&&&&Wheel of Time&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&
 
I would be tragically remiss if I did not mention in a missive focused on time the fact that we received this month the Wheel of Time pilot no one wanted starring Billy Zane in perhaps the most literal translation from page to screen I’ve ever seen.
My friend Brandon put it best: “My mind boggles that this exists, that the Jordan estate disavowed it, that it’s so awful, and that they managed to be 95% word-for-word accurate and STILL manage to completely and irreversibly deviate from the book.”
 
To quote the series:
“The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again.”
Please, please, please let this myth be long forgotten before a true, approved adaptation appears.
 
Blech.
 
——————-Playing with Time———————————————————————————————–
And now for what you’ve all been patiently waiting for, my trip to Glendale Shoals.
This is the only photo expedition I had time for this month, what with the doom falling from the skies and all, and it’s the perfect exploration of the use of time in photography.
Timing is everything in photography: the wait for the perfect moment, the time it takes for the light to be right, the requisite time one must spend with a location before it gives up its secrets, even the events leading up to and after the shoot bear on the final images.
That day had a most peculiar flow to it.
It was a Tuesday, I didn’t have to work, so I slept in a bit. Got up and watched Gotham, ate, and decided I was going to shoot that day.  It had been far too long and I wanted to experiment with falling water and long exposure.
Now, I knew where I wanted to go, but I could never remember what this place I had seen with the old rail bridge and mill dam and rushing water was called. So I asked a friend who had been there, Mike, and he told me and I figured out how to get there. Well, I also needed to pick up a print of Sheep, the Woman, and the Blackbird another friend named Mike did on a sheet of acrylic – turned out fantastic, btw, drop by the studio to see it before it gets shipped off to the West Coast – so I planned my route and would get to the Shoals about 4~4:30 to catch the last chunk of light for the day.
Or so I thought.
I lingered. At home having conversations. Looking up info on this place. Taking it easy. Headed out, chatted with Mike at the shop, made some plans for the following Friday.  Alright, a little behind schedule, but sun wasn’t setting until just before 6.
Get to Pine Street. Shut down. There’s been a wreck across 3 lanes. Judging by the yet to be totally atrocious backup, it’s just happened maybe 20-30 minutes before.
The amount I delayed lingering in conversations.
Well, I find all that out later, but right then, I was more annoyed at the delay and the rapidly dwindling shoot window.
I ended up taking a most circuitous route to the Shoals, which put me there quarter after 5.
I shoot a lot on the bridge, try to work the sun in, but it’s kinda bland and…well…as powerful as the sun is, when you’ve seen it incorporated into so many shots, it just doesn’t strike you much any more. The sunset wasn’t particularly spectacular either.  Those get old in photos too. Never really in person, but in photos.
The best shots that day come before and after the sun set. Before, it illuminated the ramshackle buildings tumbling down upon themselves in a golden light of yesteryear, highlighting the crackling age upon the face of the bridge.
After.
People always seem to like the buttery smooth flow of tumbling water. It’s a tricksy subject to capture. These sorts of shots are done using long exposure to get motion blur on the water.
The problem then becomes the light. Where usually photographers beg and scream for more luscious, delicious light, we begin crying for shade. We throw neutral density filters on the lens, stop it down all the way to f/22, do everything we can to cut away the excess light bombarding the sensor for all that extra time.
Remember, typically the shutter is only open for 1/200th of a second, less than the blink of an eye, but when you try to catch a smooth waterfall, you’re talking 8/10ths of a second or a whole second or even 5 to 10 whole seconds the shutter is open allowing light to flood the sensor. It’s an eternity in modern photography.
What is one to do?
Well, I waited.  I waited until after the sun vacated the sky, leaving only the delicate afterglow of twilight.
Less light? It seems counter intuitive at first, but when you think about it, it’s exactly what you want for the shots.
This serene shot is the result of light distilled for 8/10ths of a second, combining the smooth falls with the glassy reflection. It’s also the first print I’m having made in 2015. I ordered it as the largest print I’ve ever had made – 30″x45″ – as a canvas gallery wrap. Drop by the new place and check it out later next week :)
Less light allows you to spend more time setting up your shot, standing out in the middle of the shoals looking back into delicate falls with a gleaming red bridge and a previously harsh sky which if it’s still too much, can simply be blocked out by your hat. That’s how I got this shot. With an overall exposure of 15 seconds, I had time to work out a double exposure of sorts, covering the top half of the lens with my hat for the first 10 seconds while the falls and foreground river were exposed the whole time. It’s crazy, but it works when you have time.
Time was fleeting though. I could barely see the shoals beneath my feet as I counted the seconds off in my head. Expanded shots in condensing time, what a concept.
The longer I lingered, the longer the exposure, the fewer shots I got in the dwindling light. The asset quickly turned toward the edge of danger, and I hopped back to shore to revisit the tumbledown houses and try to catch a ghost. No luck, but I might have caught the Flash streaking by.
At that point I was tired, my fingers were frozen, and my back was starting to ache from the cold. It slowed me down enough to watch a mother pull up to the bridge and get out with her kid to look at the full moon rising beside the old mill.
It had entirely escaped my notice, the little bit of it peeking over the horizon at that point. I was so concerned with packing up and getting warm that I failed to notice my surroundings. Again, delay caught my attention and something magnificent was seen.
The graffiti on the bridge reads Short Work. Which, it was, honestly. I was out there maybe an hour, but many more hours went into it, though it felt like much less.
=========The Passing of Time=============================================
My watch died today.
So did Mr. Spock.
Actor, director, and fellow photographer – Leonard Nimoy was an incredible spirit and light in the world. Few have the privilege to impact the culture of everything the way he has, and fewer still have born the weight of such things with as much dignity and careful consideration. I really cannot describe the absence his passing creates, but to say that the echoes of his works and words will resonate forward through time in the generations of minds he influenced.
The watch can be fixed, replaced.
Mr. Nimoy cannot.
I want to share with you an interview he gave a little over a year ago, made all the more poignant with his passing. Please pay special attention to his thoughts on the creative’s life.
%%%%%%%%%%%Regarding Time%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%
Time seems to expand and contract with notice.
A co-worker today said that this year is already 1/6th finished.
That astounds me. We just started this year.
But, we just started last year. And the year before that.
Time.
Don’t kill it, pass it, waste it. Don’t think it is in infinite supply, because it’s not. Time is the only thing we have to spend in this life. That really has value.
Cherish it.
Do something meaningful with it. Do nothing with it, so long as the nothing is in pursuit of something – be it sanity, clarity, or that which only has meaning to you.
Spend it carefully and with purpose.
We don’t know how much we are given until it’s gone, and as it does, time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping…

Double Feature

Let me tell you a story.  A story of stories and how they make me feel, because that is what stories are meant to do.

They are meant to hammer at you until your cold, jaded, forgotten heart lurches in your chest. Until the pit of your stomach falls away like the temple floor beneath Indy’s feet. Until you feel drained of pent up emotion – angst, anguish, laughter, joy, fear, dread, doubt, wonder, thrill, anger, rage – we’re not allowed by society and cultural norms to express. Until we are cleansed of these things in the sacred cathartic act of empathy.

One day back in the fall, I went to the movies. I hadn’t seen anything in a while, and there were several seemingly good options out there, so I decided to make it an entire evening – taking advantage of $2 popcorn Tuesday at Regal – at the theater and ended up watching Gone Girl and John Wick back to back.

This was an excellent decision. Here’s why.

Gone Girl is fraught with tension and suspense.  I truly believe it to be an admirable successor to Hitchcock and would call it a modern Psycho. Yes, I think that highly of it.

I’ve quipped many times that Gone Girl is a film that justifies my decision to NEVER EVER GET MARRIED.

The film does an excellent job of storytelling. It is gripping and draws the viewer in. Even when you know what happens, you’re fully convinced Nick is a wife-killing d-bag. Then it smacks you half way through with what’s really going on in a “That Bitch” moment. And it really never lets you go…leading you around by the nose.GoneGirl

It jangles the nerves and gets the viewer all worked up until the very last frame and doesn’t let them go even as the credits roll.

Never.

Trapped, like Nick.

Well. Gone Girl did it’s job. I felt something. Boy did I feel something.

I left the theater twitching mentally, completely creeped out, and walking a knife edge between tension and being drained.

Another popcorn. Refill the drink. Bring on John Wick.

I’m just going to go ahead and get this out of the way and say John Wick has become probably my favorite Keanu Reeves flick.

It’s a guilty pleasure action flick that has a beautifully symmetrical, surprisingly meaningful story to hang the violent body count on.

It begins with a dark and gritty hook. Well considered and laid out. Rather calm and deliberate. Cut to black and alarm clock announces the day of his wife’s funeral. Cut back to the illness and the joys found and lost. Progress forward again to the aftermath of her death, leaving John one last gift. A dog to love, to love him, and to give him purpose so he can begin healing.JohnWick_Daisy

Enter Scum-Bag Russian Mobster Theon Greyjoy. We already know it’s not going to end well for him. It never ends well for Theon.

He steals John Wick’s car. Kills John Wick’s dog.

There are two hard and fast rules of life one should not ignore if one values their life.

You don’t mess with a man’s car, and you certainly do not kill a man’s dog.

And John Wick is not just any man.

John Wick is the Boogeyman, rather, he’s the bastard you send to Kill the Boogeyman. The mere mention of his name turns bowels watery.

Anyone think he’s just going to let this go?

Didn’t think so.

Yes, it becomes a gleeful revenge tale told in a rather classy, gentlemanly manner. The film elegantly creates this cultured underworld that operates by its own rules and codes of conduct. Of hitmen – and women – and hotels and clubs and operators and organizations that work to maintain a certain balance and decorum amongst the seedy underbelly of the city.

A civilized world in which the name John Wick carries utmost respect. Damn uncultured kids not showing proper respect. Had Theon just acted with this same code of civility instead of the pompous arrogance common among  entitled brats…but I digress.

JohnWick_ManTears

Mandatory fight in the rain. Because men don’t cry.

The film establishes “the way it is, and must be” and follows it step by step until the inevitable conclusion of this gentlemanly shoot ‘em up, culminating in the classic show down in the rain.

It follows the rules and gives the audience the catharsis it desires. It relies upon understood touchstones of storytelling and uses them to great effect. I mean, if you can’t have Nazis as your villain, Russian Mobsters is a close second in my book.

JohnWick_ThatGuy

That Guy!

Plus you’ve got this guy’s mustache again. You may recognize him from The Equalizer. His name is Tait Fletcher, and he’s my new favorite “that guy!”

It’s gloriously overblown and larger than life, and that’s what makes it the perfect chaser for Gone Girl.

 

JohnWick_Hammer

Where Gone Girl is subtle and stealthily knits your nerves in a net drawn close around your heart, John Wick takes a sledgehammer to the emotional blocks, breaking desires wide open, fulfilling the wishes in the darkest corners, and washes them all away in the rain.

JohnWick_EndDogAnd with puppy kisses.

For a violent revenge flick, John Wick extols the virtues of love more than anything else. Love is what raises us up, makes us better, heals us, and bereft of it, plunges our hearts into the darkest recesses of existence.

That is what good storytelling does for you. It works you up, draws you out, and winds you down.  This combo did that for me. An excellent choice, to do this double feature at the theater.

That was then, this is now. I just finished Gone Girl and John Wick for a second time, and my feelings on the subject remain unchanged.

Time For A Little Magic

Magic: the Gathering, that is.

Yes, I play. I’m not a long time player, nor am I any longer a serious competitor in the game, but I still enjoy it.

I first started playing back in 2012 when I picked up the habit at Max’s old comic shop. It gave me something to do that was fun and social and not related in any way, shape, or form to anything I’d done before. And it was pretty fun.

That’s what games are supposed to be… fun.

Now, there’s also a dark side to Magic. A bloodthirsty competitive side. That’s not so fun. People can take it way too seriously, and that’s what drove me away from the game.

Here’s where I had a lot of fun though – building decks. I always built my own decks, my own way, ignoring for the most part all the deck lists coming from the pro tours and IQs and other tournaments.  The one trick pony decks designed to instantly kill you opponent. Granted, I did build a few decks designed to put opponents down hard and brutally, but I always put my own spin on it.

WARNING: I’m about to go into some deck theory examples that few people will be interested in… please do skip to the FINAL THOUGHTS ON GAMING section at the end if you don’t really play MtG.

Fun Decks I’ve Built… Reckoner

Continuing the thought above.  For example, I built a Naya Reckoner deck around Boros Reckoner, Frontline Medic, and Legion Loyalist, with Blasphemous Act for the kill. Harsh, brutal, all my creatures live but you have naught before you but a field of ashes and all your life burned away. But because I wanted to, I put a few Sleepy Dragons in the deck to combo with Increasing Savagery. I just really like that combo because it throws people for a loop and off their game plan. A theme prevalent in my most favorite decks. They don’t know how to react to it. Some are smart enough to kill it straight off.  Others just stall their attacks and wait for their win con to work out. Then a dragon eats their face. Or they have enough creatures stalled on the field I can Blasphemous act for 1 red mana. Or a lot of other things could happen. It’s the meanest deck I’ve built as far as speed and competitiveness go, but it’s still fun for me.

That’s how I build though. I build decks that I can play any number of ways. I build decks I can play seriously or sillily, depending on my mood. I build flexibly so that I can still win even if I don’t get a combo off, or so that I can’t be shut down by one countered move. A lot of decks are too rigid, in my opinion, focused on that one perfect moment where you’ve got everything in place, and blow their load.

That’s no fun to me, I enjoy actually playing the game. Not pulling the same trick over and over and over and over and over until I can do it in my sleep. Boring.

I also enjoy the mental challenge of deck building.  I love making Pauper decks. Especially Pauper Burn.

Pauper Burn

A Pauper deck, as the name would indicate, is made up of cheap cards. Magic can be pricey with popular winning cards going for $30-100+ in Standard format, and in the thousands for rarer cards for Legacy. I like taking a $5 deck and instilling a little hubris in the occasional braggart who thinks they’re the deuce because their deck is expensive. I also like just building a $5 deck for the challenge to see if I CAN beat those other decks with it.

You can build one easily enough using cards ranked as Common or Uncommon…sometimes throwing in a Junk Rare if it’s cheap enough (though strictly speaking Pauper decks can only consist of Commons and Uncommons…the lowest ranked cards).

Again, it comes down to fun. You can invest lots of money in it, or a little, as long as you decide to have fun with it, that’s what matters. Challenge yourself as much as you challenge others.

Then there are decks I build just because they are patently absurd. I have a penchant for taking cards viewed as useless, the quirky cards, the ones from the Isle of Misfit Toys, and making them shine.

Slumbering Dragon

The Sleepy Dragon combo I mentioned above is one such instance. The card is a 1 drop dragon that just sits there. It’s a 3/3 flier, but can’t attack or block until certain conditions are met.  Those conditions are that it has to have 5 +1/+1 counters on it, with a condition that says I can put one such counter on the dragon for each creature that attacks me. Normally it just sits there. No one’s going to attack and let me pump it up…the dragon becomes an 8/8 beast of a creature when awake, and grows stronger with every attack launched against me.  Quite vicious. I put it out turn one and stare people down with it. Most players don’t make serious overtures at winning until about turn 4 or 5 anyway, so logically, the card is kinda useless because other players will have built their win condition up while my dragon just sits there, right?  Wrong.  Turn 4 Increasing Savagery puts the necessary 5 counters on it and by this point I’ve pulled a few other shenanigans so you’re taking upwards of 16 in the face from flying double strike added to the little bit I’ve whittled you down early on. Boom. Win. Didn’t see it coming.  (for those unaware who are still reading at this point… you only get 20 life points in Magic…this dragon can eat most of them in one gulp when played correctly)

The card is valued at around 50 cents-$1 I believe…at least it was when I played more.

Goblin Burn

There’s another deck I’ve built around a terrible card called Burn at the Stake…takes 5 mana to play, plus you have to tap creatures to inflict the damage – three times the number of tapped creatures, to be precise. That’s a pretty hefty cost considering most players only have 3-4 creatures on the field to tap at one time, and they’re usually needed for defense.  But, I do things differently. I put it in a fun little goblin deck that multiplies goblin tokens faster than Tribbles, thanks to another overlooked card, Krenko, Mob Boss. Most people only see it as useful for over-running your opponent with little goblins, and play accordingly, somehow preventing them from attacking, etc.  They never see the Burn at the Stake coming.

Lost in the Woods

Likewise, I enjoy making people become Lost in the Woods. Another clunky mechanic most people wouldn’t ever prepare for because to make it work, your deck has to be almost entirely made up of land. A typical MtG deck consists of 60 cards divided into 20 land (mana base) and 40 spell (does stuff) cards, or some ratio close to that. Lost in the Woods, if I recall correctly, has 36 Forests (land) and 24 spells. Four copies of Lost in the Woods, and 20 for support and win cons.

The way this works, Lost in the Woods is an enchantment that affects the field of play that states whenever an opponent’s creature attacks me, I may reveal the top card from my deck, and if that card is a Forest, the creature becomes Lost in the Woods and does no damage to me, then I put the revealed card on the bottom of my deck. That’s why there are so many land cards in the deck, to increase the odds of becoming Lost. With 2 or 3 copies in play, it’s almost impossible for any attacking creature to do damage to me.

I throw out Garruk to generate blockers and absorb any other damage, and some other support and life gain and I’m pretty invincible.  And it frustrates the heck out of most opponents.  Plus I always throw in a few surprises for them to encounter while they’re Lost in the Woods. You never know what you’ll stumble on.

Goats

Probably my silliest deck, Goats doesn’t conform to many standard conventions. It follows the rules, there are only 4 copies of each card, but it’s not a 60 card deck – it fluctuates between 68 and 74 depending – and it’s not sleeved. It’s entirely for casual play and is handily beaten 7 out of 10 times.

But those other 3 times have lead to some epic matches. The core of the deck is Trading Post, a 4 drop junk artifact card that lets you do four things:

1, Tap, Discard a card: You gain 4 life.
1, Tap, Pay 1 life: Put a 0/1 white Goat creature token onto the battlefield.
1, Tap, Sacrifice a creature: Return target artifact card from your graveyard to your hand.
1, Tap, Sacrifice an artifact: Draw a card.

Pair that with some heavy life gain, token multiplication, stat boosting, and a monument that makes those goats 6/7 flying, first strike, protected and all sorts of other nonsense…plus some other artifacts that let me recycle my deck…

I had a guy playing a Counter/Burn deck mill me out 3 times, hit me with every burn spell he had, and I still won with a 67/67 Serra Avatar…because every time he drew me out, I fished the artifact I needed out of the graveyard with the 3rd ability, sacing a multiplied goat from the 2nd ability, recycled the deck, etc, etc, etc.

The match lasted well over an hour and it’s still one of my favorite memories playing.  Ridiculous, but fun.

Legacy Goblins

I think this is my favorite deck. It’s actually a competitive deck in the Legacy format, though it’s not structured like any other I know of.

Legacy is famous for the super expensive cards considered too powerful for regular game play and for decklists that are designed to do one thing supremely well… Turn 1 or Turn 2 win.

I don’t play that way. I’ve only ever played this deck once competitively and when I did it confused the hell out of people. So much so, they walked away with a >~<; look on their faces. People just could not figure out what I was playing because I drew upon 4 different Red Deck Wins strategies to build my Goblins.

One game I won with Goblin Charbelcher, so my opponent sideboarded (adjusted) cards in his deck to counter it. The next, I burned him to death with Storm, which he had no counter for because he adjusted his deck to play Charbelcher.  Third game (for fun) I just kept hitting him with Goblins, because he wasn’t prepared for significant defense and I drew a lot of Goblins.

Yeah, he was entirely furious because I didn’t play traditionally constructed strategies.

But. That’s how I play.

Final Thoughts on Gaming

Typically straight up Burn…I hate Control style play.  I play the cards in front of me and don’t worry too heavily what my opponent may be doing.  I hate memorizing what EVERY card played does, though I pick up enough as I play to sometimes pick apart the threads of their strategy, but I don’t really worry about it. I never play well when I’m worried about countering moves all the time.

I don’t play Magic very much anymore. Usually I’ll play with Max.  Or with my friend Matt on dinner break at work. He’s an old school player, most of his stuff is illegal in competitive play now, but we play for fun. I don’t have a Standard deck anymore either, so it works out.

I hadn’t played in almost a year until recently when I picked it up again. I like playing it. Just got burned out on it.

That’s the thing about gaming…you can take it too far…take it too seriously…and lose sight of the fun.

I’m a competitive person, but I’ve learned winning is fun, but not everything.  It’s also fun to do silly things just to have done them. Like with my Goats. Ridiculousness.

I like it when a game can let you play with serious, focused intent. Allows the glory in your victory as you crush all your foes with wit and power. That’s fun. And then lets you hardly even pay attention to what you’re doing, chat, do cool things, make interesting plays, do the unexpected. That’s fun too.

You’ve reached a happy medium when you can play a game as seriously or as sillily as you like and feel equally as good about winning as not winning. When you can find like minded players to do this with.

I want to play more. Anyone up for a friendly game?

The Roundabout – Vol2 – Jan 2015

Greetings and/or salutations, whichever you prefer, but don’t be greedy.

How’s everyone? Have you been well? I hope so.

The new year is off to an interesting start…mostly thanks to you guys. The response to the first volume of this newsletter was amazing to me. Thank you.

Story time!

=======Intake==========================================

I’ve found a new show to love. Backstrom.

Stars Rainn Wilson and Dennis Haysbert. It’s new and unusual, based of a book series I now intend to track down, and just plain good. I say it’s new, but it’s really not. It’s a classic story, oddball detective who is smarter than everyone else, massive jerk. Done in a coarse, unapologetic way that’s different from what’s being offered up now. I like it. Check it out. It will probably die soon because it’s on Fox and on Thursday nights against some stiff competition.

Gotham, Arrow, and the Flash came back with a vengeance this January, picking up right where they left off for winter break. Each has a different flavor of the comic book story, and each is pleasant.

Flash had the most perfect comic book style super hero fight in Revenge of the Rogues, while Arrow delivers chills and suspense as Starling City falls apart in the turmoil of Oliver’s absence.

Gotham continues to do two things perfectly – establish Jim Gordon as the hot scalpel working to cut corruption from the city and show the wounds of Gotham as they fester into the city that creates the Batman.

Premiering in January, we also finally got to see Agent Carter, which just received the high blessing of the Stan Lee cameo in this week’s episode. I want to like the show…I really, really do, but they’ve got to give me something to work with here. I loved the Marvel one-shot Agent Carter, the 12 minutes of sheer gumption and badassery that set Carter up to be the premier field agent and founder of SHIELD. However, the series seems to have undone all the strides made in those 12 minutes and taken a step back, which I’m not happy about. It feels like the show is about to work its way back up to the point we reached in the one-shot, so I’m hopeful moving forward. I’d probably like it more if I hadn’t seen the one-shot. I’m probably too biased and expect too much from it.

More episodes from these series: Constantine, Galavant, FaceOff on SyFy, Prince of Tennis, Date A Live, Black Lagoon, Captain Earth, The Assets, Leverage, True Detective, Luther, Log Horizon, Durarara!! x2, Aldenoah.Zero2, & Cross Ange.

+++>>Subsection++Cinematics++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

January has mostly been filled with television and anime (more on that in a moment) but I have been able to watch a few films.

I got a freebie from Redbox and used it to rent The Maze Runner. Overall, I did like it and think the story is great – will also be tracking down these books – but I was mostly disappointed in that I felt it didn’t live up to its potential. It was good, but I believe it could have been so much better.

Mostly though, I was distracted by the comparisons and connections I kept making to dungeons in Legend of Zelda. To me, that’s a definite sign it could have done a stronger job keeping me engaged.

Another good find at the box, Begin Again starring Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley. Nicely done film that got little in the way of attention. Don’t let the presence of Adam Levine and Ceelo dissuade you from checking it out. Very musical in nature and an interesting concept for a story. Great acting and characters.

Don’t bother with A Walk Among the Tombstones.

Also watched: Automata & Chinatown

[[Consumption]]]\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

Five Ghosts. Picked up this graphic novel and was highly satisfied. Good story, fast paced, doesn’t waste time, and builds intrigue quickly. Loved the art. Reminds me of Indiana Jones.

Finished up all the available Alex Verus novels by Benedict Jacka. Remarkably good. I want more. Give me more. Now please.

Looking to start The Arrivals by Melissa Marr next. Update: So far, first chapter, I’m hooked. Very nice. I like books that begin with page 1.

Don’t really feel like literary analysis at this point though, so moving on.

******************Otherwise*******************************************

I’ve been entirely fascinated by Man at Arms the last few days and have watched almost all the videos on their channel.

It’s really simple. Skilled blacksmiths create real versions of movie, TV, and anime weapons. My favorites so far are the scissor blade from Kill La Kill made from real scissors and Elucidator from Sword Art Online. Gorgeous weapons. I like sharp things.

That’s pretty much everything I’ve stuffed in my eye-holes the last month

————-Things Made——————————-Video—————————————–

Speaking of making things. I’ve taken all that visual story-stuffage and churned part of it into something that I call The Good, the Bad, and the Screwy.

First to be unveiled of my many forthcoming video projects, GBS focuses on anime. My friend Max and I watch series both great and terrible as we explore this unusual genre. Pardon the awkward host, I’m certainly not a natural on camera, but that’s why I do it…to overcome my fears and be able to express myself better in person. It’s painful, but I’m making progress. The unfortunate side effect of me being in front of the camera means I’m not behind the cameras…so the show’s just going to be your standard three cameras on sticks. Not very visually interesting…but I can’t do everything. It’ll get better when I’m in my studio and can focus more on content rather than just making it work.

Also, principle photography began Wednesday for the documentary I’m DP-ing for my friend Sean. I’m staying entirely behind the cameras for this one, so it’ll look beautiful. A Ninja on a chicken foot is a beautiful thing.

We’re taking a look at the Vape boom…how it’s risen in popularity so quickly over the last few years, the controversy surrounding it – both legal and health related – and the sub culture that’s sprung up around it. Did you know that they actually hold competitions to see who can create the largest vape clouds? They’re called Cloud Chasers.

We need some help though, to make this documentary a reality. Do you have a strong opinion for or against vaping and would you be willing to share it on camera? Do you know anyone who does? Do you know anyone in a position of knowledge or authority who would be willing to be interviewed for this? Doctors, lawyers, civic leaders, business owners? Do you know anyone who has used it to quit smoking? Do you know of anyone who never smoked before who picked up vaping?

We’re trying to finish shooting this before the first of March for submission into a film festival.

Aside from those two projects, I have a few more things in development…just waiting

++++++STUDIO+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Still waiting.

Months tick by and we’re still waiting.

Great progress has been made…but…

Still.

Waiting….

&&&&& FWD PHOTO &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

Quick update. 5 are in the wild, 1 awaiting delivery, 1 waiting for me to pick it up and mail it off.

I’ve been informed that one has already found its way to a new home…so it’s working…at least sort of. The new people still need to check it in. But it’s working. People are getting the idea and getting on board with it.

…………………The……Skeptic……………………………………………………………………………………

It would seem I set off a small firestorm with my post about “the Skeptic” (as Tim likes to refer to this individual) earlier this month.

It really wasn’t my intent to throw them under the bus, but I do thank you all for honking…your support means the world to me. As does the fact that you value my skill.

All this fuss and fallout from a joke about a selfie stick.

This individual did speak in ignorance in an off handed remark that really didn’t mean much, except it just irked me. As I believe every other creative was irked. Anyone in a non-traditional field knows this story.

The most important thing I want to come from the situation is to understand that anyone in a creative pursuit has a time ratio of anywhere from 3:1 to 5:1 or more. Three+ hours of behind the scenes work for any one hour with the client. The client is only present for the one hour and believes that’s what they’re being charged for, but that’s not the case. There’s travel, editing, presentation, office work, writing newsletters, and many other things that go into making a creative presence felt, into telling the story.

It’s a hard thing to put in terms people outside these fields will understand, and that’s what I originally wanted the post to do. Educate people.

The Skeptic knows I do good work, like all of you know as well, they just were misinformed of how the world works. Now they know…
%%% [ o ] %%%% SELFIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

I’ve only taken one photo this month, and it was a selfie. What do you think?

Selfie.

Selfie.

Yes. I finally broke down and made a self portrait. I also decided I like the color better since it’s warmer and more lively, despite the purple catch lights in my eyes. I know the popular choice was the B&W, and I was leaning that way, but I’m going with my gut.

I had less than 20 exposures left on the card when I made this. I used all of them, though I used the third from final shot…which I actually didn’t like originally. Take a good look, it’ll be another decade before I do it again most likely. By then those grey streaks will probably be much more prominent.

It’ll do though. I needed something professional looking to convey myself as a professional in my profiles. When you’re asking for help, for connections, and for project funds, supporters want to see a face, not a hat.

 

################ Finally ###############################

The Hat.

It’s my logo, it’s my mark, it’s the thing that has made people remember me.

Everyone recognizes the Hat. Wherever I go, people comment on it, compliment it, and tell me I look like ____________ (fill in the blank with anyone from Indiana Jones to the Undertaker). Even now, five years later, the first remark most go for is “I like your hat.”

The Hat is magical. I take it off, and vanish. I wear it, people smile.

I’ve always wanted a nice Hat. My grandfather wore them with style, and so of course I wanted one of my own. But it had to be right. I’m very particular when it comes to some things. Hats just weren’t in style as they used to be, drastically limiting the selection, and the ones that were made me want to vomit. They were just plain ugly. I needed to find something classic, with a proper brim, that wasn’t a cowboy hat, or something that looked like a goose’s beak.

I looked for quite a while. The fact that I have a large melon didn’t aid my quest, but one day I just got lucky.

Rather anti-climactic, but I found it at the mall in Dillard’s department store. A humble, unassuming black wool fedora, size 2x, on sale $51. It fit. It looked good. And it was practical.

It rained that day. Poured like the Dickens. I put my Hat on and walked out of the mall and haven’t looked back.

I’ve worn it almost every day since. It flew with me to Australia soon after I found it, and I wore it everywhere. It’s been to the UK where it met its nemesis…the bloody Scottish wind. I stepped off the train in Edinburgh and nearly immediately the wind grabbed my Hat lustily and ripped it off my head. I learned then why Deerstalkers were invented and used despite the silliness of their look. The wind in Scotland means business. It’s going to rip away any hat not tied to your head. Yes, I do have a Deerstalker from Tweed. It and my Hat are friends. I also have cashmere wool gloves from my time in the Hebrides. They are the gloves I wear when I need to shoot outside in winter. There’s even a hole in the right index finger for shooting. Warmest, softest, fuzziest, nicest gloves I’ve ever had. Worth every pence of the 15 pounds I spent on them.

The only other place my Hat was not worn, but rather safely tucked away in my vest, was during my trek into the fog of the Golden Gate Bridge to capture Vanish. A wicked wind it was to rival even that of the Scottish Banshee…and a damn forlorn place that bridge is. On a bright clear day, I’m sure it’s a lovely trip, but when the bridge is hidden in gloom, with the wind trying to rip your soul away over the un-fenced edge of the bridge…it is oppressive to say the least, eerily inviting for the wayward…and I did not want it to claim my Hat.

I do own another Hat. Acquired from the North Beach (original) location of Goorin Bros. in San Francisco, this is my Fancy Hat. I’ve only worn it on a few special occasions, and it is not so well traveled. I just can’t seem to wear a hat other than my Hat.

I do highly recommend Goorin Bros. if you are in need of a Hat though, they make damn fine Hats.

I have my Hat. Found it about a year after I got my first camera. Things were coming together. It’s protected me everywhere I’ve gone.

The rest is just another story to tell.

Here on the Roundabout.

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The Good, the Bad, and the Screwy

New to anime? Want a fresh take? Follow along as we explore the best and worst and most out there Japan has to offer.

New to anime? Want a fresh take? Follow along as we explore the best and worst and most out there Japan has to offer.

We have a new show here at Halfacre Pond.  It involves anime – a topic near and dear to my heart – and broadening my friend Max’s horizons in that regard.

We call it The Good, the Bad, & the Screwy.

If you’ve read some of my posts, you’ll know I’m somewhat of an aficionado on anime, and derive a lot of entertainment from it.

Not all of the entertainment is because it’s good.  Some of it is just so mockingly bad.  I like all flavors of anime because I appreciate breadth and variety of the offerings.  From the intense, gut wrenching action to the light hearted fun and joy to the absurd gags that tickle my funny bone, I like it.

Max is a Toonami kid.  He grew up watching the dubbed versions of the classics like DBZ, Sailor Moon, Gundam, Cowboy Bebop, Trigun, Tenchi, Macross, etc, etc…but that was about it. He likes it, but never really got into it and had a few distasteful encounters that left him soured on it for a while.

Then peer pressure kicked in when I and a few other friends got him to watch Attack on Titan and he loved it.  The door opened a little and now we’ve come upon a grand experiment.

Up first.

Up first.

Max has agreed to watch the first 4 episodes of any 4 anime series I give him each month and give his reactions.

My challenge is to cultivate this list each month, and expose Max to many varieties of anime and gauge his reactions.  I’ve decided the best way to do this is to put a good anime, a bad anime, and some sort of screwball goofy comedy anime on this list…bonus, each month there will be a themed show on the list!

Here’s the kicker… Max won’t know what show is which.  Each month from now on he’ll go in blind and figure it out the hard way.

We’ll try to release a new episode each Friday.  All the series will be chosen from what’s easily available for streaming online.  Watch along with Max as we venture down this rabbit hole.

Enjoy this brief introduction and tune in next week as Max tackles his first challenge :)

How To Be Happier With Your Photos

How to be happier with your photos.

Tough subject.

There are many articles and posts and videos and tutorials about photographic techniques and how to improve and expand your skill set, but there are few that deal with the photographer’s mindset.

Clarity of thought and vision is the path that leads to creating better photos. It’s easy to get lost in the technique and rely on set patterns and caught up in gear and sometimes  you get just a little too comfortable.

When something works, we stick with it, blindly shooting away as we trust our standard settings to get an acceptable image. I’m guilty of this. There have been many shoots where I get things dialed in ‘just so’ to get a usable image and just blank. I press the button, the shutter clicks, the flash fires, things happen, an image is recorded. I’m barely registering the image though and am left wondering later during editing why I have so many of the same boring shot.

Conversely, sometimes the technique and the gear gets in the way. When the set up just isn’t working. For some reason your flash isn’t firing. The light balance is just all wrong and no matter what you do to fix it, things get so far slanted from normal that you feel lost in the woods, staring at the readouts of the back of your camera and the ugly image plaguing you, that you lose all connection with the subject and end up firing away at nothing because you’re so caught up in what’s wrong you can’t see what’s right.

Yes. That was a run on sentence. The reeling you feel in that situation is twice as fast and four times as breathless – seriously, sometimes I forget to breathe.

Neither of these situations is conducive to clarity or creativity.

How do you improve?

Step 1: Slow down and think.

Stop fiddling with settings and take a look around. Put the box down for a moment and really look. Notice shapes and lines and form in the subject of your intended photo. Sit with it a while and quietly observe. As one great article on fstoppers puts it, Linger.

You’re going to have to ignore the itch, the one that tells you you’re wasting precious light when you’re NOT firing away on a shoot.

I know it feels counter-intuitive to take a better picture by not taking pictures, but do it, it works.

Step 2: Breathe.

Sometimes you do forget to breathe. Steady, measured breaths are a good calming technique and helps you slow down and think. Breathing also is important for continued living and all, but more importantly, it helps you focus. Always shoot on an exhale.  You are more steady then and it will help you get the eyes in focus.

How?

It’s something I’ve noticed. I like to shoot hand held and I like to shoot with a shallow depth of field. No matter how good your eyes are, or your auto-focus is, you’re likely focusing on  your subject’s nose or forehead. If you focus on the inhale and release on the exhale, you’re going to sway just enough to compensate for the slight recess of the eyes. I noticed when I held my breath to take a shot, it was just out of tack sharp, but when I exhaled, I hit it.

So breathe, you stay conscious and tend to improve sharpness.

Step 3: Stop relying on gear.

The camera does not take the picture, you do. I hate it when people say “that’s a nice camera, it must take really great pictures,” or “I’ve got the latest greatest SuperSLR3500S, it’s mirrorless and takes the best pictures ever!”

-_-‘  Ignorant people irk me.

Point is, before the picture is ever put to the pixels, the image must be made in your brain. You don’t need a camera to make images. To see the world. To know what’s a great image and great composition.

You only need a camera to express to others what you see.

Do this. Walk around without a camera, shut one eye, look at something, and make a picture in your brain.  Do it everywhere you go. Train your eye and your brain to think in terms of those moments where you would take a shot so that when you do have a camera in your hand, the expression of your vision becomes second nature.

Enjoy living in the moment first, work on capturing the moment for others second.

Step 4: Get out.

This should be the most obvious part.

Get out. Get out. Get out.

Quit sitting around like a bump on a log and get to exploring. In fact, you don’t even have to get out, but for the love of all that’s good, get off yer ass and explore the dust bunnies living under your couch.

I’m absolutely shocked at the number of people who bemoan their lack of decent work when they never seek out new photo opportunities.

I’ve been stuck, and am still stuck in some senses, for material or places to shoot or people to work with, but things aren’t just going to fall in your lap.

One day, I was feeling particularly insipid in terms of my creativity and what I was photographing, so I went for a drive. I drove and drove and drove. Then I drove some more. Nothing came to me. I drove for a hundred miles up and down highways and back roads, and round about the one hundred and first mile, I glanced out the side window of my car and saw horses along a ridge in a pasture, with the light just right. I pulled right off the side of the road and snapped a few frames. Here are two.

Serenity Ridge

Serenity Ridge

Hundred Mile Horses

Hundred Mile Horses

 

Step 5: Get over it.

I think I suck. You probably think you suck. Get over it. I have.

It’s true. Most of the images photographers make are not good. It’s a leaden weight around our necks, the tens of thousands of shutter depressions that resulted in sub par images, that drags our confidence down. We only release what’s good or great and hope to goodness the rest stay buried.

It makes accepting praise difficult, actually. Really difficult. Someone says, “I’ve never seen you take a bad picture,” and my neck bursts into flames, and I feel a fraud. I know they’re trying to be complimentary, but all I think is “Yeah, because I WON’T show you the bad ones…they far outnumber the good.”

What I am good at is editing and filtering. I’ve made somewhere in the neighborhood of 80,000 photos in the last five years. I’ve seen every single one, you haven’t.

You just have to accept that bad pictures will be made, it’s part of the process, you aren’t a failure, your camera hasn’t betrayed you, it just happens. Just don’t show the bad ones.

Step 6: The hardest part.

Don’t compare yourself to others. No good comes from it.

You have to realize that you were not in that place at that time under those circumstances with that person’s particular skill set, history, and technique.  So you are never going to make that shot.

All you can do is make your shots. Learn what you like, why you like it, improve your skills, improve your situation, so that you can be in an improved position, to take a better shot. One that’s your’s.

The only person you should compete with is yourself. Progress, not perfection. Am I a better photographer than I was yesterday?

If so, you’ll be happier with your photos.

 

Winter Anime Forecast 2015

To be frank, the winter lineup has left me cold. I have little to no interest in any of the new titles being released, the only highlights coming in sequels to some fantastic series.

Up first: Durarara!! X2

I admit, when I stumbled on the existence of this in the lineup, I got a little giddy. Definitely fanboyed out a bit.  Baccano! and Durarara!! are some of my absolute favorite series due to their off the wall, extraordinary nature and the bat sh!t insane comedy they excel at. I was ecstatic to see the continuation of Durarara!!  

Celty Sturlson - Kubinashi Rider

Celty Sturlson – Kubinashi Rider

The first episode doesn’t miss a beat. It maintains the sharp, fast paced, disjointed storytelling style that I love so much and it starts right off with my favorite character, Celty Sturlson – the Kubinashi Rider.  That’s right people who didn’t watch the first series, the headless horseman is actually a woman and she’s been living in Japan working as a motorcycle courier while looking for her stolen head.

The motorcycle is a horse.

The motorcycle is a horse.

Her flight through Ikebukuro connects us back to the denizens of this strange city nicely, while allowing the story to jump back and forth through events taking place in the intervening time between the last series and this one.

Next up: Aldenoah.Zero2

I wrote about the first series back in my Summer Anime Offerings and it did turn out favorably.  It quickly lost it’s alt history feeling and moved in to an exceptionally well told story. I enjoyed every moment of it. The twists and turns and the struggle. Until the ending.  It was one of those moments all too common in anime. The moment of “WHAT THE F WAS THAT!?!?” that typically never get a follow through to find out what happened. Well this one did. The follow up turned a really depressing ending [HIGHLIGHT FOR SPOILER] where you’re left believing the two main characters died, failed, and everything is lost around into a nice hook for A.Z2.

Inaho in action.

Inaho in action.

Nothing is clean cut in this show and everyone has dirt and blood on their hands. To describe it as dark would barely suffice. These characters are broken mentally, physically, and morally in their journey toward their goals. The art remains gorgeous and the conflict between Inaho and Slaine is probably one of the best ever written. You never know what’s going to happen next between them. Taught with dramatic tension and a world at war, A.Z2 looks to deliver quite a few more gut punches before all is said and done.

Continuing Series: Log Horizon 2 & Cross Ange

The other two series I’ll be keeping up with over the winter are Log Horizon 2 and Cross Ange. Not really much to say about them except check them out if you aren’t watching.

Log Horizon 2 (Electric Boogaloo) is the second installment of a “trapped in a video game world” series which debuted in 2013. Players wake up one day trapped in the world of Elder Tale, a WoW-like MMORPG, and must figure out how their new home works. It follows the exploits of Shiroe, a top class strategist in the game with a someone nefarious reputation as “The Villain in Glasses” due to his cold, calculating, ruthless nature when it comes to game play, and the friends he gathers along the way.

Cross Ange is kind of your typical girls with mechs fighting anime. Highly ecchi, good conflict, and it turns out to be another spin on a post-apocalyptic world. There are also dragons.

That’s it.

I only have four anime on the schedule right now.  That’s appallingly short.

To supplement this shortfall of material though, I’m going to start a new project with my friend Max in which I teach him the ways of anime. He’s agreed to watch the first four episodes of four series I assign, and we’ll see how he likes them. We’ll watch what I consider a good anime, a bad anime, a screwball anime, and the fourth will be themed for the month.

Stay tuned for the debut of The Good, the Bad, and the Screwy right here on Halfacre Pond.

The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner – directed by Wes Ball and starring Dylan O’Brien – is an adaptation of James Dashner’s novel of the same name.

I got a freebie offer from Redbox, so I thought I’d check this one out. It seemed to get overshadowed by some of the other young adult literature adaptations hitting the screen last year, and I didn’t hear much good or bad about it. But hey, can’t be worse than Hunger Games, right?

For what it is, it’s a decent film. It’s rather a standard survivor teen series which is far more literal than its ilk in that youngsters are actually thrown into a giant puzzle to be solved ‘for the greater good’ of humanity – no metaphor needed.

The Glade

The Glade

It’s got some good things going for it. The pacing is steady, the action and suspense are tight, and the characters are remarkably well dimensioned and developed. Though “greeny” Thomas, played by Dylan, may be the catalyst for all the changes in the film, I didn’t feel compelled by his character. Rather, I thought Chuck (Blake Cooper) and Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster, aka Peter Pan from Once Upon a Time and Jojen Reed from Game of Thrones) stole the show with their performances.

Banishment

Banishment

It feels most strongly influenced by The Lord of the Flies and the Forest Temple from Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

For some reason, boys stranded in the middle of nowhere with no society to fall back upon will always make pointy sticks and end up re-enacting The Lord of the Flies. At least that’s what the movies tell me.

That’s fairly obvious.

Boy, I could use a Hookshot.

What I like though was the incorporation of the Forest Temple.

That’s how the Maze felt to me, at least.  Like running through one of the many puzzle dungeons from Legend of Zelda. Chuck even at one point tells Thomas it’s dangerous to go in alone. No lie, the maze walls are covered in ivy and he climbs up them to escape giant Skullutlas (they call them Grievers).

Forest Temple.  With HD graphics.

KILL IT WITH FIRE!

KILL IT! KILL IT WITH FIRE!!

MazeRunner_DungeonKey

Dungeon Key & Compass

After Thomas defeats the Giant Skulltula, he retrieves the dungeon key and dungeon map, which will lead them all to the boss room.

MazeRunner_MazeMap

We’ve visited all the rooms! Where’s the f-ing boss room!

Where they discover there are still more dungeons to conquer before they really get out.

 

All in all, it’s a decent movie. Could be better, but it’s not as bad as a lot of the YA Lit adaptations plaguing the silver screen these days.

This one has a good balance of mystery, heart, and adventure to it. I’d watch it again and I’d watch the sequel.

Next up, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials later this year. Fire Temple?

Okay, if the one after that is the Water Temple…might not watch it. Damn Water Temple…

Damn Water Temple

Damn Water Temple