Friday, 28 February 2014

Books and Stuff - Feb 2014

A regular round-up of my book news.

What I've been reading...

Ted Allbeury, A Choice of Enemies
Giles Foden, Ladysmith
Constantine Pleshakov, The Tsar's Last Armada



What I've bought...

Nicholas Leach, Harwich Lifeboats: An Illustrated History - £1.99
Patrick Moore, Guide to the Moon - £1.00

Ted Allbeury, A Choice of Enemies - 50p
Patricia Highsmith, Ripley Under Ground - £1.99
Anne Tyler, Back When We Were Grown-Ups - 50p
Anne Tyler, If Morning Ever Comes - 50p
Anne Tyler, The Tin Can Tree - 50p



What I've been given...

Kathleen L Scott, Dated and Datable English Manuscript Borders c.1395-1499

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Wednesday Welcome and Those Crazy French!

First the welcome to new follower Ed - I can't see a blog listed for you: do let me know if you have one, and I'll link to it.

Secondly, just a mention of an interesting website I've been reading this evening - BigBadBattleships - on French warship design, 1850-1916.  Pre-dreadnaughts are an interest of mine (some of them make aeronefs look sensible).

The Jemmapes (1892)

The Masséna (1898)
The Bouvet (1898) - tricky getting aboard!


I've Not Been Well...



But there are some consolations...


Monday, 24 February 2014

The Old West Comes Into Town

For my latest submissions to the Analogue Painting Challenge, I went Western.

First were three 28mm figures from Artizan Design - their 'Pinkerton Detective I' set.  These are the first Old West figures I've painted and (like all Artizan's) proved to be a joy to work on.

 


Born killer?
I went with the classic bluff duster coat look - it's hard to imagine that these figures were supposed to be done any other way.  That being said, I was tempted to convert the guy with the glasses into Prof Calculus for my Tin-Tin league!  Another time... 

I see the dude in the blue suit as The Boss - it seems to me he could be quite at home as a rancher, saloon-owner or hired gun.  The other two certainly have a professional killer vibe about them.

In contrast to the Artizans, the figures I chose for the Casualties Bonus Round were of inferior quality.  These resin casts were the Dead Men's Hand 'Lawmen Casualties'.

I should have been able to tell from the shop photo...
I was disappointed with both the poses (which were quite unnatural) and the modelling.  The sitting figure (which had sold this pack to me) was alright, but he has the strange thing going on with his left foot that the prone figures are suffering from.  They at least seem to have and concept of Heath and Safety - they've taken the sensible step of putting their heavy-duty mittens on before sticking their right arms in the path of a steamroller.

In the end I went with the seated figure for the bonus round (the other two will be submitted later).






He came out much better than I expected, and I think looks much better alone.   As I said in my submission, I think there's some pathos in the character that ties in with the idea of him being left to die alone on the range...

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Buster Keaton - Documentarian?



The other week (Valentine's Day actually) The Wife and I watched Buster Keaton's 1926 film The General.  As many of you know, this is frequently cited as one of the best films of all time: I've seen clips of the set-pieces, but never sat down and watched the whole thing.

One of my more annoying habits is that after watching a film or tv programme, I go onto the 'net to find out more about it.  I was surprised to learn two things about the film.  The second is quite interesting, so stick with me...

The story is a relatively simple one:-

Johnnie, our hero is a railroad engineer in pre-Civil War Georgia.  He has two loves - his engine, 'The General', and a fetching air-head.  When news of the outbreak of war comes, Johnnie contrives (though a number of amusing antics) to get to the head of the queue to enlist.  He is turned down on the basis that he's more use to the South as an engineer than as a soldier (though the recruiting officer doesn't tell him or anyone else this).  Despite getting back into the queue a few times more, Johnnie remains a civilian.  The air-head and her family refuse to have anything to do with him until he's in uniform.

The war progresses, and the Yankees come up with a plan to steal a train and then take it north, destroying bridges. etc, on the way.  Having cut the route for the relief of besieged Chattanooga, they will then meet up with the Union Army with a trainload of supplies.

The train they take is the General - grabbing it while the crew and passengers are on a scheduled fag-break.  Unfortunately, the air-head has gone back to get the lighter she left in the baggage car and thus is also captured.  Johnnie sets out in pursuit, first on foot, then in a hand-cart and eventually in another train.

He arrives in the Yankee camp, rescues the air-head (he doesn't tell her that he didn't know that she was there) and takes the General back.  Eventually, he warns the Rebs of the approaching forces, wrecks the supply train and wins the day.  He is commissioned and gets his girl.

One of the most expensive effects ever...
If you want to see it, here it is courtesy of YouTube -




So far, so good...

So on looking up the film, I found that the acclaim it is held in was not felt at the time.  It was a minor flop at the box-office - one critic said is wasn't funny enough to be a comedy or thrilling enough to be an action movie (I must agree that he has a point).  It cost Keaton his independence as a film-maker, and he never recovered financially.

The second, more interesting thing, is that the whole thing is based on a true story and follows it quite closely!  This may not be news to those of you who know about the American Civil War, but it was to me.

Andrew's Raid (the Great Locomotive Chase) took place in 1862.  Most of the events depicted in the film happened, even the chase by the engineer on foot, then hand-cart then train.  Fortunately, the air-head seems to have been a Hollywood embellishment.  The raiders failed to inflict any major damage.  The were captured, executed as unlawful combatants and (most) awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.

The real engineer was William Alan Fuller.  For his exploits he was indeed commissioned, into a newly formed railway militia.  He died, a Georgia hero, in 1905.

The General survives and is preserved at the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History in Kennesaw, Georgia (the site of her capture).




Monday, 17 February 2014

New Follower Welcome

A warm Diplomatist welcome to The Lord of Excess.  His lordship has a whole slew (an excess even)  of blogs:-



I'm not really taking the piss - honest!

On the painting front, those of you who expressed a desire for more 54mm colonials are in luck.  This morning The Wife has given me instructions to have some Zulus ready be Friday...

Sunday, 16 February 2014

WIP Sunday

Well, I missed Paint Table Saturday 15: not because of any time constraints, but because I hadn't actually done any painting since the last one.  That being the case, I thought I'd devote this afternoon to painting and actually got quite a bit done (or started).

So here's my table earlier today...


By this stage I'd based the Old West casualties for the next bonus round in the Painting Challenge and started putting together the 54mm Dr Who figures I got the other week (I'm going to do a full post on these once I've finished them).

A Tobsen flier - I can make one of
those!
Since then the casualties and the Dr Who guys have been primed.  The Pinkerton figures just need varnish and tufts.

I finally got around to adding the final touches to the outhouse and fences I made last year and I've made a start on a scratch-built flier I've been wanting to try since I saw the build on LAF.

So where do I stand on the Analogue Painting Challenge?  I haven't submitted anything since the last bonus round (a fortnight ago now!).  I think I'm alright with the next lot of bonus rounds - I've wasted the extra week for the casualties round, but the favorites round is more or less sorted.  I've got a couple of ideas for the Last Stand round, one more ambitious (for me!) than the other.  If I have time I'll do the more involved one - the only problem is that it's one that other people will also be doing.  But hey, so what!

I must also remember to do the piece for my entry fee!

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

News from Oathsworn Miniatures

Several of you have made favorable comments on the Oathsworn Miniatures I received the other week and expressed interest in the various reports I gave of the progress of the Kickstarter.

The latest (and last) update from Oathsworn is of sufficient interest to reproduce it here - partly as an example of something done well and also because there are interesting things promised for the future.  If you're not interested in the Kickstarter, start reading at the pictures.

Kickstarting Oathsworn... 
First of all, I'd like to say a big 'Thank you!' to all of our backers. We've run two kickstarter projects, and they have both been successful - and a lot of that is down to you; so thanks everyone! So looking back at the project we have just completed, what went well, and what would we do differently? 
Well, right at the beginning, we had to decide what models to sculpt for the project. We'd asked backers of our first Kickstarter what they would like to see... by far the most common answer was 'More dwarfs!' After that, there were a fairly large number of people who wanted Halflings. But we also felt that it would be good to try and expand into other types of fantasy figures. So we did a mixed set - mostly Halflings, but with a few Dwarfs, Monsters and other odds and ends. 
This was probably a mistake. We ended up with fewer backers than for our first Kickstarter, and a slightly lower funding total. But we had a lot more figures which needed moulding... With hindsight, I think keeping the project more focussed would have been better. I think we should have stuck to a single race. 
Also, because there were so many different things in the project, it got quite expensive. A Completionist pledge, with a dragon and overseas shipping came to £125; that's quite a big chunk of money from anyone's hobby budget... 
One other thing that was a mistake was the blacked-out images at the start of the project. The idea seemed good - you could see some of the figures, but would need to keep checking back to see the others as they were revealed. It also meant that we had regular updates to post, and pictures to send to the various forums and blogs. At least, that was the idea; instead it seems that many people had a look at the project page on day one, couldn't see a lot, and never came back... 
Also, I think the project went on too long - four weeks is a long time to keep people's interest going, and we had a few drop out in the third week. 
Postage was also a bit of an issue - international postage has gone up a lot... for example, the last batch of 23 parcels cost £468 to post; more than £20 each, plus packaging. And when our highest P+P level was £10, that hurt a bit! But we'll keep trying to absorb the cost as much as possible, because I think P+P costs can really put backers off; very few people realise how much it actually costs. 
And the final mistake - resin bases! Now, don't get me wrong, I like resin bases - I don't even mind the effort involved in drilling and pinning figures to use them. The mistake was offering them as a free upgrade. If they had worked the way we planned (as a thin insert to plug into a plastic base) it would have been OK; but the thin inserts kept warping, or just snapping. So we had to make the full resin bases. They took a lot of time and money to do... we've worked out that for the same amount of time and money we could have sculpted two more figures, and given them away free to every backer! And we are pretty sure most of you would rather have had a couple of free figures instead... 
So those are the things we did wrong... what did we do right? First of all, I think our projected delivery date was right - we'd originally hoped to have the figures delivered before Christmas, but decided we ought to set the delivery date for February, simply because a lot of the production process is out of our hands. And this was a good thing; getting the master casts cleaned up and ready for production moulding took a lot longer than anticipated. Then of course the casters had other commitments to fulfil as well, and pretty soon Christmas was upon us. On top of that, we had several thousand resin bases to cast (thanks Jo!). So as it worked out, our February delivery goal was about right. 
Secondly, I think we did pretty well with the communication - we kept on top of the updates, and tried to respond to as many comments as possible. I need to start using the Facebook page as well though... I never remember to use Facebook! 
I also like to think that I did the sculpting pretty well - there were a few things in this project that I'd never tried sculpting before, but I was reasonably happy with the way it all turned out; there are a few bits that I would do differently, but nothing major. 
So what lessons have we learned from it all? I think we need to do shorter projects, with fewer figures, and more focus. And try to run one every 2 to 3 months. That way, if a project doesn't appeal to you, you can ignore it, and there'll be another along in a couple of months. 

We also need to make resin bases a paid add-on... ; 
I also think it would be useful to have more control over the casting process; Jo's working on that at the moment... 
What have we got planned next? Well, the first thing is to get our webshop up and running... thanks to our two Kickstarter projects, we've got the beginnings of a fantasy miniatures range. So we need to have the figures available for sale on our website. That's our priority.

After that, Jo is going to be having a go at casting... we've bought an old spin casting machine, and a little melting pot, and we'll see whether or not it is something we can do for ourselves. If it is, then that should speed things up for us a lot in terms of delivery. Fingers crossed!   

 Next, we will be launching a new project - some more dwarfs (after all, my plan is to eventually have 1000 different dwarf sculpts - and we've only got 22 so far!). We seem to have a mix of backers; some want miniatures just to paint, some to use in role- playing games, and others as part of armies for tabletop wargaming. So the next dwarf project will feature 2 sets of figures; 8 to 10 dwarfs who run a brewery, and 8 to 10 dwarfs who form a unit of heavily armoured tunnel fighters. The first set is aimed more at RPG / skirmish game fans (like Jo); the second set is more for the army builder types (like me!). 

This will be a short project, probably 10 days to a fortnight long. I expect we'll launch it in late March.



Around the same time, (maybe even at the same time!) we'll be launching another small project - just for one model. It's not really anything that fits in with our usual models, and is more just something I really want to try out. For a long time, I've been fascinated by Norse mythology - I've sculpted various Norse gods over the years... and now I finally want to try doing it properly, and making a range of gods. So, I'm going to have a go at launching Project Pantheon - starting with a sculpt of Odin riding on Sleipnir, his eight-legged horse. Size-wise, it's a bit bigger than other Oathsworn stuff (which is all 1/56th scale, if you were wondering). The Odin figure will be about 40mm tall, but I think as a god he should be an imposing model. He'll also need to be a multi-part kit, because it's a complicated model. I have no idea whether this project will be successful or not - that'll depend on whether or not there are enough Norse god fans in the Tabletop Gaming community... but then that's the beauty of Kickstarter, we can see whether people are interested before we spend too much money! If it is successful, I'd like to have a go at Thor, Loki, Heimdall, Hel and all the rest...There's a very early WIP pic below.   
In the longer term, we are aiming to launch our first game. This will be a tabletop miniatures skirmish game, a similar concept to Games Workshop's old game, Mordheim. So about a dozen models per player, and a campaign system with experience points and skills, extra equipment, stuff like that. That way, we'll cater to the role-players and the wargamers in our gaming group! ;)

Originally, we were thinking of a generic fantasy skirmish game, but that idea has a few problems; firstly, we'd need a much bigger range of figures to make it work, and secondly, we'd need to do a massive amount of playtesting and balancing work to make sure all the races worked together properly. So we've settled on a game set in 14th century England, so all the characters will be human, but with fantasy elements. Basically, all the superstitions, religious beliefs, devils and witchcraft are real in the game. The game takes place in the lost medieval town of Ravensrodd; which gives a very cool, real-world setting. The town was devastated by storms, and became a haunt of vagabond bands of looters, thieves, pirates and mercenaries before it was finally destroyed by the Grote Mandrenke, the 'Great drowning of men' in 1362. In terms of miniatures, there'll be lots of human fighter types, plus some of the weird stuff - plague victims, the possessed, religious fanatics, witches etc. There will also be sprues of add-on parts - weapons, pouches, shields etc. As a project, there's a lot to do, and we will just be working on it between other things - so it could be a long time before we get it finished.


 
Anyway, that's the current state of Oathsworn Miniatures. If you read all that, well done - it was a lot of text! 
Once again, thank you all for making our first year as a business successful; we really could not have done it without you!
cheers,
Michael and Jo
Oathsworn Miniatures

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Stroke Awareness

My sister visits an elderly lady a couple of times a week to chat and help here with shopping and other errands.

Because there is a history of strokes in our family and because she hast been on a couple of awareness courses, this morning my sister was able to recognise that the lady in question had had a TIA (a 'mini-stroke') and get her help.

Knowing something as simple as the acronym FAST can save lives.


If you want to know more, there's information sheets on TIAs and strokes on the website of the Stroke Association.

And that's my public information announcement for the day.

I'm off for a fish...

By Popular Demand...

Further to yesterday's post...


Monday, 10 February 2014

Diceni - 4 May 2014

Last year I was a little gutted to hear that we had had wargames show here in Norwich - gutted because I found out the day after it took place!

As you can see, the weather is so good in Norfolk in April
that you needn't worry too much about wrapping up

Apparently, even without me there, the event was a sufficient success to ensure that Diceni II will go ahead.

It will be on 4 May 2014 (yes, 'May the Fourth...') in The Forum, Norwich.

There is a website at http://diceni.co.uk/ (as yet without any information) and a Facebook Page.













I know at least two followers who will be pleased that Boudica is the mascot of the show - Loki, because the few clothes she is wearing are liberally checked, and Tamsin becaus she's a striking redhead.


Sunday, 9 February 2014

New Follower Welcome

A warm welcome to DeanM, who has signed up as a new follower.

Dean has a blog at WAB Corner where (as some of you will have guessed) he records his efforts with Warhammer Ancient Battles.

As one of his current projects is Samurai  based, here is today's gratuitous picture...


Saturday, 8 February 2014

Paint Table Saturday


It's Paint Table Saturday again - for a list of who's participating around the blogosphere, go over to Sofie's place.


I've not managed much painting since this time last week.  Currently on the tray are some rocketeers from Hydra Miniatures and some Pinkerton detectives from Artizan.  You may also spot the casualties, as yet unprimed.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Art for Facebook's Sake

There is a small chain going around Facebook as follows
The idea is to occupy Facebook with art, breaking the monotony of photos of lunch, selfies, sushi and sports. Whoever likes this post will receive an artist and has to publish a piece by that artist with this text.
I've never been sent pictures of sushi, but I get plenty of whippets (which I subscribe to) and bats (I've a friend whose a big fan of demonstrating that bats are lovely), and LOTS of American politics.  But spreading art around the world is a grand project, so I'm happy to participate.

Gary Amos nominated Raphael for me.  Not the turtle, but some old painter on the basis that he painted popes and dead bishops.  I was hoping to present the Madonna with Ferret, but that turns out to have been by Leonardo: instead there is this:-


This is Cardinal Tommaso Inghirami a humanist scholar and poet who was appointed Prefect of the Papal Library in 1510. There are two copies, one in Florence and the other in Boston.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Painting Challenge - Heroes Bonus Round


For the 'Heroes' bonus round of the painting challenge, I submitted an image of the famous statute of 'A Aranha' that dominates the Praça dos Heróis in Capital City.  He is, of course, captured in his penultimate moments, urging his men to victory in the final battle against the os federais.



I wasn't sure what the figure is - it came in a lucky bag deal from North Star.  He looks vaguely Crimean or naval brigade in NZ to me, but I've chosen to see him as a liberator of his South American nation who fell in the final battle against the oppressors.  He turns out to be from the command pack for North Star's 1866 Prussians, so I wasn't that far off as to period.

He cries out for a pigeon or two, but I couldn't bring myself to do that - instead the cat has chased them off.  The plinth I botched together from some foam sheets, and I'm afraid it shows!

I'm currently working on some retro rocketeers and Pinkerton detectives.  I'm also considering re-thinking my Last Stand entry, having seen that Mr Awdrey is working on that staircase on  Khartoum.  Yet he says he's going to do it with a twist - any bets on a Zombie Gordon?

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Books and Stuff - Jan 2014

A regular round-up of my book news.

What I've been reading this month...

Giles Foden, Ladysmith


What I've bought this month....

Patricia Highsmith, The Talented Mr Ripley - 50p
Patricia Highsmith, Ripley's Game - 50p
Elmore Leonard, Rum Punch - 99p
Seicho Matsumoto, Inspector Imanishi Investigates - 99p

Iris Butler, The Viceroy's Wife: letters of Alice, Countess of Reading from India, 1921-1925 - 50p
George Orwell, Decline of the English Murder, And Other Essays - 50p
Trevor Royle, Crimea: The Great Crimean War, 1854-1856 - £1.00
The Wonder Book of the Navy (c.1920) - £1.00


Paint Table Saturday #13




It's that time of the week again.  To see who else is contributing to Sofie's big idea, head over to PTS HQ.


Nothing exciting to report here, I'm afraid.


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