Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Dead Dog Days

I've found it very difficult to blog this week.  It's taken all my creative efforts to write two very short posts reminding everybody that the Bloggers for Charity auction is coming to an end (go over, you've only a day left!).

I don't know why this is.  Like many other bloggers it seems, I suffer from long-term depression.  Don't worry - this isn't going to be one of those confessional posts!  My anxiety levels are fine.  I don't seem to be particularly low at the moment, although my sleep patterns have been majorly messed up for the last month or so.  The simplest explanation, I guess, is tiredness - I must admit that I feel mentally drained quite a lot of the time.

'London Jack'

In other weeks I would craft a well-written and amusing re-hash of the BBC dead dog story, highlighting what it says about the British way of things, and ending on anecdote about how as children we couldn't go on holiday without meeting someone Dad knew on a railway station.   Today, I'll stay at posting the pic and link.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Prelude to Battle

The captain took another sip of his coffee and gave a grim smile as he read the morning's report.*  Damn, but this blockade business was tedious!  Weeks of turn-in and turn-out had become months, and now Autumn was here.  Yet there was good news - last night's storm had dispersed the Inner Squadron but, as anticipated, this meant that the Spaniards were taking the gamble of attempting to break out of port.  An engagement was at last in the offing!   
At the moment he was at the rear of the squadron, hampered by being in company with the Admiral, but he hoped to be in the thick of it soon.  The Inconsistent would give a good showing of herself, he was sure.  She was a sweet sailor and the crew were well-trained - fierce as tygers, every one!  Perhaps this was what he needed to Be Noticed and be free of this posting.
He considered the chart again.  Time for a glass of Madeira and to write another letter to his uncle, the earl, about the incompetencies of his superiors...
*The full sitrep can be read here.

The Fun is Here!

The Master table in Curt's garage

Well, Clint has posted the starting positions for his Play-by-Blog game (henceforward PBB) and it's a Break the Blockade scenario.

He's even allowed for the possibility of late entrants to the game.

Ray and I are well to the rear
I'm in the British squadron, commanding a third-rate, HMS Inconsistent (64).  Our disposition gives little to do for the time being but to get used to issuing sailing instructions, but that's not a bad thing!

As I said the other day, I'm new to both PBB and naval wargames.  As Diplomatist Books has a stock of Blood, Bilge and Iron Balls, I've made use of my five-finger discount and tried to familiarise myself with the rules.  I've decided that the best thing was to print out a couple of the ship tokens and do some test runs, seeing how the squadrons can position themselves...

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Naval Wargaming

Regular readers of this blog will know that I have an interest in maritime history.  I'd like to say that this started with the CS Forrester books I devoured while at 6th Form College, but the truth is that, it probably started with Burt Lancaster and Errol Flynn

My first proper job after qualifying as an archivist was to look after records of a large shipping firm that had been deposited at Liverpool University.  It being the early '90s, the university had been given bucket-loads of money to utilise the Internet, so I joined an early listserv, MARHST-L, operating out of the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes.

This was an eye-opener - I was thrown into the company of all sorts of curators, academics and pure enthusiasts waffling on about the sea, ships and sailors.  I had a great time and made several friends I am lucky enough to still be in contact with.  I was introduced to the works of Patrick O'Brien, which just suited my long commute.  As I moved into other jobs, I was lucky enough to always wangle a maritime connection - whaling records, exploration and port registration all featured.

Yet despite this, I never got around to naval wargaming.  Perhaps knowing some particularly high-brow rivet-counters put me off.  I had the image (not uncommon!) of naval wargames involving tiny-tiny ships in a large play area, with people standing around doing calculations with string, chalk and slide-rules (Fred Jane anyone?).

But I knew I was missing out.

I was quite pleased to read therefore that Clint from Anything But A One is proposing a play-by-blog game (with himself as umpire and Fran and Ray as fleet commanders).  So I've sent off an e-mail, and we'll see what develops

One of the things that pleased me was that the proposed rule-set is Blood, Bilge and Iron Balls (though as Clint is going to do all the mechanics he says a familiarity with the rules won't be necessary). This is pleasing because I happen to know that an internet-based book dealer operating out of my spare bedroom happens to have this in stock.  This is where I made my big mistake!  As I settled down in bed at half-past midnight I did that foolish thing of cracking open an unfamiliar rule-set.  Now it's half-past three and I'm having to do a blog post in order to drive out the thoughts of movement, damage control and PBEM that are going through my mind.  

It's not helped be the fact that recently I downloaded some free back-numbers of The Nugget from Wargames Developments - just the sort of thing to stir my mind up when I should be sleeping . O brave new world that has such things in't!

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Book Review: John Scalzi, Redshirts

Though John Scalzi is an established and respected science fiction author, I've not read much of his work.  I enjoyed the one book of his I have read and at the time said I'd keep my eye out for more.  The title I was particularly interested in was Redshirts, which made a bit of a splash when it came out, and I'd heard good things about.  Last week I was pleased to find a copy in a charity shop.

The premise of the book is simple.  Five new crew members join the Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union and soon find things are a little odd: normal procedure isn't followed, the crew - especially the senior officers - act very strangely, and unexplained scientific and medical breakthroughs are commonplace.  More worryingly, the casualty rate is ridiculously high - every encounter with an alien species results in the (often horrible) death of a member of the away team (always a junior member - if a senior officer is injured he recovers remarkably quickly).  Slowly, our protagonists come to the only logical conclusion: that they are extras in a TV show.  Worse than that, they are extras in a badly written TV show.  They may at any minute be maimed merely to create a little tension before an ad break.

Scalzi does a good job setting this up and addressing how the team might set out to change the Narrative.  I must admit though that about half way through I was close to deciding that this was a one-joke story that wasn't going anywhere.  Yet it's more than that.  After the story proper, Scalzi adds three codas, exploring the impact that the events have had 'in the real world'.  For me, this is the best part of the book.

I'd be more than happy to recommend this book to anyone with more than a passing interest in Sci-Fi.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Bumping the Sikhs

Over on Facebook fellow blogger PK has shared some photos from the History Live! event at Kelmarsh Hall, Notts (hopefully he'll blog about it once he's recovered).  History Live! is English Heritage's flagship event where history from the Romans to the C20th is celebrated through displays and re-enactments.  It sounds like great fun.

The photos that caught my attention were those of a group from the National Army Museum's 'War and the Sikhs' project.  This has involved training up members of the Sikh community as living history re-enactors (as the 15th Ludhiana Sikh Regiment, who will be travelling around the country doing educational events commemorating the Sikh contribution to World War I - more details on the NAM website.

The following photos come from The National Army Museum.

The big feller was obviously 'excused boots'!

Other re-enactors are available...
For some reason, Sikh troops have always caught my imagination.  I'm not too sure why - despite being brought up in an area with a large second-generation Punjabi population, I don't know any Sikhs.  Perhaps I read a book or saw a film at an early age which impressed the image of a bearded, turbaned warrior on my little mind.  Perhaps it's because (like highlanders) they're that little bit 'different'.

Anyway, I'm going to bump my Perry Sikhs back onto the painting list.  (I put them on one side when the Analogue Painting challenge started last December, and haven't revisited them since).  It doesn't mean that they'll get done, but it's nice to remember that they're there!

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Thinks That Make You Go Grr! - On Proper Attribution

A nodding acquaintance of mine - Gemma Correll - is an illustrator, specialising in gently amusing comments on life.  Given the number of times I see her work, I imagine she is quite successful - she certainly has a following.  Nevertheless, it's a precarious living (my nephew and several associates are just starting out).

This morning one of less funny her pieces was shared on Facebook by George Takei (which given that he has over 7 million followers is a big thing).  Sadly, the website he found the image on - let's name and shame - have edited the picture to remove Gemma's signiture and url, replacing it with their own (even using the same font and style!).  This is appalling: it is theft of intellectual property.

I know some of my readers who try to make a living out of painting have also had this problem.  Now I'm as guilty as any casualty blogger over this - I try to have a picture for every post I make, and I don't always give the source - but for a business to this is out of order.


OK, after the little rant, a new follower welcome to Ian Drury.

Edit- 23 Jul 2014

Funny As Duck So this is why we got a bunch of e-mails, to clear it up If you look around the other comics on our site you will see we don't remove artists signatures and credit everybody we can.   If somebody else removes the signature before we see/get sent the comic there isn't anyway for us to tell unless we know the artists work, in this case we didn't. The watermark was an auto thing that we stopped using a long time ago. We have swapped over the image on our site to the original.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Welcome And Watson

A warm new follower welcome to Conrad Kinch of the Joy and Forgetfulness blog and elsewhere.

Following on from my rather lazy post yesterday, here's another picture of a shark - rather more highbrow this time.

It's Watson and the Shark painted in 1778 by John Singleton Clark (and copied lots of times since).

Watson is the lad in the water.  From a family wealthy merchants, he went to sea at the age of 14.  He was swimming in Havana Harbour when he was attacked by the shark.  Although he was rescued, Watson had his right leg amputated below the knee.

This didn't hold him back too much.  He was a commissary to the British Army during the French and Indian War and Commissary General during the Revolution.  In 1772 he was a member of the founding committee of Lloyds of London, later serving as Chairman.  He was elected an Alderman of the City of London and was MP for the City from 1784 to 1793.  He was Lord Mayor for 1796/7 and Deputy Governor of the Bank of England.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Add to the Menagerie

Over at the Great Hall, Loki has used Warbases Wednesday to announce a giveaway - with the twist that it's a piece of market research by Warbases', who want to expand their excellent range of animals.  All you have to do is to enter into a conversation about what you'd like to see added and you'll be entered into a draw to receive the five figures that will be put into production.

So far, Warbases' animals have had a distinctly 'Saga-ish' range.  I wonder where else they might go.  Animals are popular in VBCW - I've seen more than one AAR featuring an Empress of Blandings-like pig

Another prospect might be based on the (surprisingly fact-based) scenario in the 1951 book and film (staring David Niven) Appointment With Venus.  It in the Ministry of Ag persuades the War Office to mount a commando raid to prevent the Germans shipping a prize bull (Venus) back to the Fatherland

Alderney Cattle - beloved of Jane Ausen
The pure breed went extinct after the German ate the surviving bloodline
in 1944


But perhaps it would be savvy (you'll see what I've done in a minute...) to slipstream on the Piratitis that's linked to the release of On the Seven Seas.  So what animals do pirates have?

But, wait!   What about...

Monday, 14 July 2014

Shed Shelf Monday

No Paint Table Saturday for me, as I haven't picked up a brush in weeks.  Instead, here's a bit of a round-up post.

Shiny, shiny!

As regular readers will know, I have developed something of a lead-crush for Oathsworn Miniatures.  Back in May therefore it didn't take long for me to decide to sign up for their latest Kickstarter, the first in a projected series of Gods from various mythologies.  As you'd expect,  they've started with the Asgard.

Well this morning a jiffy bag arrived containing Great Odin himself, mounted on his eight-legged horse Sleipnir.

A nice friendly box

with lots of pieces in it

but they look as if they'll fit together

Next up in Project Pantheon will be Freyja astride the battle-swine Hildisvini, which is already sculpted, but they're releasing some more dwarfs first.

Shed Shelf Monday, what's that about?

Last week I picked up some cheap shelves in the charity shop for the Shed of Delights, and I even managed to put them up.  Not super-organised like some, but it's something of an improvement.



But they soon fill up...


Just a pointer to those who might be interested that there's a new(ish) Facebook group for those into Pulp - Pulp Miniatures Gaming.  Quite a bit of stuff to inspire and enjoy there.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Normal for Norwich...

Just to reassure those of you who thought that Norwich aldermen were wakening the Great Old Ones from their slumbers...

A Triton facing off against the Kraken...

...a serpent above the Finance Offices...
...and the Maw of Hell on City Hall.

Finally!  Proof that everything's normal.  A Nellie
leaving church.
The Mayoral Feasting continues

Monday, 7 July 2014

The Norwich Lanes Fayre

This weekend Norwich celebrated a new Lord Mayor and Sheriff

We skipped the Lord Mayor's Parade (with fireworks!) on Saturday because I'm too miserable a git to enjoy watching pasty white youths from stage school pretending they are part of the Brazilian carnival scene or Jamaican street culture.  But on Sunday we went along to the 'Lanes Fayre' (despite the spelling).

And - pathetic break dancing and performance poets (!!!) aside - it was a great afternoon out.  I may go again.

We started in the coffee shop, as illustrators Gemma Correll and 
AnthonZinonos were selling their wares

Sadly I missed these guys....

Visitors come to Norwich from all over...

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