Its been two weeks since I last made a post on this site. Have I been away, been abroad, been missing in action? No. Not really. I was here all the while but I was trying out a ‘working break’ that is an effort to cut my workload down while still being at work. How to do this you ask…well its not complex.
Essentially I wanted time to spend with my children and my wife as the weather here in Scotland finally and I do mean finally began to heat up and it meant time down the beach in Girvan and trips out and about. I work long hours and answer many hundreds of emails a week along with organising several projects and a dozen other tasks a day. On top of the wargaming company workload I have this website and a blog and the Notables Yahoo Group too along with other online profiles to update and interact with. To have a ‘working break’ I organised two weeks where I continued to do the office work but not the additional tasks such as this website. Call it working to rule instead of working on rules if you like.
In the last two weeks I have attended two large outdoor events, the Mauchline Holy Fair and the Girvan Lowland Gathering. I have had guests to stay, helped a long term and dear friend and her friend move house, written about ten thousand words of fiction, read four novels, watched half a dozen anime movies and listened to several new and older albums. I have spent quality time with the greatest lady in the world (my wife!) where she reminded me why she is still my number one after sixteen years together and I had the pleasure of learning that my middle son came third in his sports day at school and my eldest son came first at his (hence the image above).
What has been most interesting though is the concern from several wargamers and others for me. Why have I been so quiet, am I all right and so on. Let me say I am fine and what I have been working on will be happening later this summer. Thank you for your concern one and all!
Lastly I have decided that I can no longer keep up efforts to maintain my tabletop wargamer blog. So instead of putting it on hiatus I am going to end it totally. This will be in another post shortly.
May Day is one of those days in the year when things seem more possible than not. What do I mean by this? Well simply put that on this day depending on what you believe its time to:
Smash the Capitalistic System
Go on Strike
Celebrate a Pagan God or two
Dance around a Maypole
Lick the dew from the morning grass
Run about kissing random people
While I may have done some of these things (not telling you!) it did put all me in the mind to suggest a ‘free postage’ weekend at Alternative Armies and 15mm.co.uk. Its a holiday weekend in the UK so I think across four days, Friday to Monday, it will do a lot of bored and itchy wargamers good to know they can cash in on my ‘urge to splurge’. It will be interesting to see the results.
As for the image in this posting, that is what will be on the two websites and associated email campaigns too. I knocked it up…like it? I am no artist, not like Mr Jackson or Mr Croes but I like it plenty. Its like me…blunt! :-)
As I noted in my Salute 2013 posting last week upon my return to Girvan I managed to buy some furniture which I had been after for some time. While none of you will be interested in the three piece suite or such you might well be keen on the above. A lovely and believe me bloody strong and heavy table. Its not quite six feet by four but it is ideal for office work and for wargaming too. Sitting atop its four solid wood legs is a solid wood top, weighing in at over 75kgs for the whole piece.
I know its a little egotistical to have put all of my own writing and published titles on the table along with my Flintloque miniatures but hey, its my table after all. It will see a lot of use in times to come and it has a lot of potential for underside storage too which I think is vital for wargaming terrain and all the other needed materials therein. The room I work in is nearing its capacity for storage of books and other materials. ’Table of Babel’ well a play on words but also with a more serious intent…who knows just what gaming will be created or taking place on its solid surface. The peoples of a thousands worlds and dimensions many, creatures and robots, Dragons and Orcs.
Also before I am asked, and I will be asked, what price such a table fit for the gods of gaming? Well….let’s say a copy of Slaughterloo is the same price. Bargain!
Following the BBC’s airing of an undercover report from North Korea last night I decided I was interested enough to look around and find out more. Time is limited for me (when is it not!) as Salute 2013 is only a few days away now but I took an hour and found a really great video on YouTube by a film maker called ‘Etherium Sky’. This film maker has produced an excellent, actually better than the BBC’s efforts, travel documentary of his own trip to North Korea. I recommend that if you have any interest in what is likely to be the most secretive and paranoid nation on earth that you watch it. It is well worth an hour of your time.
Leaving aside the ongoing and seemingly constant threats of military action and possible thermonuclear attack upon South Korea and other nations by the DPRK (Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea) the documentary was fascinating to me. I am a big, big fan of the works of George Orwell and to see a state that exists in close to what ’1984′ describes was very interesting. I will not spoil the documentary for you but a few interesting points:
Lack of Technology – The DPRK is almost medieval in many places. A lot of the jobs and tasks in the video looked to me, as a student of history, the way Japan did in the 1400′s. The typical person there has no technology of any kind on their person including a wrist watch or mobile phone.
Failing Electricity Grid – It would be amusing if it was not so criminal but the power grid in the DPRK seemed to fail constantly plunging whole towns into darkness. That is a society in touble, rule one for a modern civilisation…electricity. You try living without it.
Grinding Poverty – You can find out about the famine that killed a million plus, of the food aid that China and other give the DPRK, but in watching this film you also see the hard manual labour most North Koreans must also put up with. I don’t even think it was about full employment on farms or such just a lack of machines to achieve more with less labour.
Isolationism – As a pariah state North Koreans have NO information about the outside world and this is down right strange. Never heard of the Beatles, not heard of Star Wars or seen The Eiffel Tower. We know little about them but they really know nothing about us.
Child Actors – It is worth watching this film if only to see the section in the middle of it with a performance put on including dance routines, piano, violin, guitar and acting put on in PERFECTION by DPRK children aged about 4-5 years. Yes, very young children. Speaking as a father of three and having been to a dozen or more such performances of this age group..you can only get this level of perfection if the threat of failure is dire indeed for the kiddies.
Slight of Hand – A lot of the filming is out of the corner of a window or slyly from a coach or under the arm. Why? Well the regime wants you to see only what it wishes you to see. Taken to the model village, the ideal factory, the perfect hospital and immaculate hotel but not the buildings next door or the stores with empty shelves. It is awful to watch and so clueless to a modern audience from the West who are just not taken in by this attempt at slight of hand. Indeed the idea of perfection for the regime is something from the 1970′s or 1980′s, all pre-digital.
The Military – Everywhere and everything. In fact the only thing that seems to run well in North Korea.
The Glorious Leader Cult – Scary, scary stuff. A mix of hacked down messianic religion and fairy tales about the current, previous and first glorious leader. If the DPRK had any form of free media it would not be able to exist like this. Some of the stories are really wild.
Ideological Failure – The DPRK is a broken state its obvious to all watching this film. The reasons for this are many but what interests me is the idea that extreme nations where dictatorship and military led societies ALL seem to fail; why is this? Lack of investment, a slow down of growth and innovation, public sector meltdown for military spending and so on. North Korea is like any number of such states in Africa ruled in much the same fashion or it can be compared to the Soviet Union of the 1990′s or the Argentina of the 1980′s. As you will all know the more democratic a nation’s name is the less democratic it is likely to be indeed throw in a ‘democratic’ or ‘peoples’ or ‘republic’ and I will assure you the nation in question meets none of its own named qualities.
A pariah state. A place not really of our world. How long with North Korea remain this way…well in my opinion not as long as the glorious leader would like it to. But then what do I know, what do any of us know.
Often I do not have time to read as much as I would like and indeed late March and April is the crux of this time for me with the build up to and the actual event of Salute in London. Salute is the only wargame show which I attend directly along with the company and its a big task all around. So I often listen to audio books.
I have done this for many years but over time the technology to allow this has changed dramatically. Back in the 1990′s it was a big box of cassette tapes which then gave way to a portable CD walkman and in turn a small MP3 player with ear buds. In the last couple of years it has become a smart phone (which can carry about 50,000 cassettes!) and the source of the audio has changed too. I used to use the local libraries and purchase the odd box set too. Then the same with CD’s. But once everything went digital this all changed too. MP3 files for audio books and now it seems YouTube has literally thousands of audio books on it which are essentially free to listen to. This can be done online by going to Youtube.
I own both of Max Brooks books on the Zombie Wars, the Survival Guide and World War Z. Both are excellent and both are unlike the vast majority of cookie cutter zombie fiction. Where the Zombie Survival Guide is a practical manual much in the same vein as infantry training guides and such (makes you shiver to think that it is actually real and has just been popped into our world from some other dimension) the other book, this one, is a diary account like tale of a war finished already. Its evocative, its brutal and while often deeply personal it is also detached from what it is telling you overall. Brooks does a great job in telling you of the end of the world without actually showing it to you in the ‘big picture’. You get it in little chunks from seemingly random people. It works very well.
The voice acting is great as well. If you are a fan of zombie books but are looking for something more than shuffle and bite check it out and do it in a way that allows you to work on like I did while enjoying it. Go to YouTube.
Its been a manic weekend here in Girvan. Not really for me as I remained snug at home all except for Friday but more on that in a minute. But for the rest of Girvan and indeed the whole of South West Scotland the weekend has seen some of the worst weather that the area has seen in many years and me personally since I have moved here some eight years ago. You can look at the news for the full story but essentially high winds from Thursday evening peaked across Friday into storm conditions and when that was combined with snowfall it led to gusting blizzards that caused no end of trouble.
Truck Park Girvan!
Across Friday afternoon one road after another was closed and the snow fell on and on. I decided to leave the office an hour or so early expecting I might have to deal with a bit of snow on the ten mile drive down into Girvan. I was wrong. It was actually the scariest drive of my life to date as a driver ( I have only been driving a year so that is not saying much but read on). As I drove the snow got deeper until I passed a delivery van that had broken down due to stalling. Following this the wind whipped the snow into drifts and a tundra like gale and my view of the road ahead was reduced to little more than ten feet. A mile of this saw a small convoy of vehicles form with me at its midst. I kid you not that about three miles out from Girvan the brakes in the car stopped working, they froze or were packed with snow. I had to use the gears to slow and the handbrake to arrest the increasing number of slips and skids that the car underwent. I picked up a passenger too, a driver whose vehicle had been left at the side of the road, I did not want to leave him out in that. By the time I reached Girvan the police had closed the road to traffic and there were cars parked on the roundabout that marks the edge of the town. I sat in the car for a while watching the weather and waiting for my hands to stop shaking before heading for my house.
I found out the next morning that virtually all of the region had been brought to a halt. In fact Girvan was home to several packed coaches and at least a hundred HVG’s which parked where they could (see the image above). I am pleased to report that the people of the town turned out somewhat in force with tea and hot soup for the stranded and every hotel room was filled. Several people it seemed suffered accidents on the main road down the coast too, but I don’t know more about that.
The weather is now much improved but still windy though the BBC says it might come back again…
Big Can, Little Can
Anyway with the nasty weather out of the way the post I was going to put up was an idle muse about smaller sized cans of fizzy drinks and if they were actually better than the larger more normal size but I can’t summon up the energy so I will keep it short for ‘ya all. The Food and Drink Agency here in the UK back in 2010 introduced legislation trying to make companies reduce the size of their sugary drinks cans to combat obesity. I noted this at the time and ignored it but I picked up a case of Pepsi in this size this week and it came back to mind. You can see the two sizes above, I like diet drinks as coffee makes me feel unwell, but did the smaller can make me drink less? The answer is a cynical no. Typically while working I will drink two cans a day, one in the morning, one in the evening but with the third smaller can I have found this number increase to five or six. This is not due to concious thought, just desire as I type ever onwards with email and such. They are just too small to satisfy. As a result, the equally expensive, but smaller, cans are consumed at three times the rate of the other ones. As I said cynical…combat obesity or just sell more under the old three choices adage…’Reduce Size, Reduce Quantity, Increase Price‘…seems to be the first one to me.
Rumour has it that today a certain Emma is making an honest man of Craig Andrews (editor of Barking Irons Online and Orcs in the Webbe) by marrying him. Being ten years long, long service myself I offer my congratulations to the happy couple and wish them all the best for the future. Craig is a top bloke, I have known him for a number of years now and he deserves all the love that life can offer a man.
‘You can take the cudgel away from my head now my Good Lady…see I said nothing negative about ten long, long years service…. ’
Doctor Who’s Dalek creator Ray Cusick dies aged 84
I learned today that the man who created the iconic shape and form of motion of TV’s most vicious foe had died from heart failure. Ray Cusick may not have been as famous as Terry Nation or as recognisable as Tom Baker when it comes to Doctor Who but his contribution to the series went a long way to making what it was and what it has become in recent years.In a 2008 episode of Doctor Who Confidential on BBC Three, Mr Cusick explained that inspiration for the Daleks’ design came from a lunch with special effects expert Bill Roberts, who was responsible for making the creatures.
“Mr Cusick picked up a pepper pot and moved it around the table before he said: “It’s going to move like that – no visible means.” Dr Who viewers were told on the show that the Daleks had been the creation of a scientist who believed they would help him survive a war on their home planet of Skaro. But the alien race was later responsible for his death. Mr Cusick, from Horsham in West Sussex, leaves two daughters and seven grandchildren.
It is the fiftieth anniversary of the series this year and while this event will not greatly impact on the events planned it will make them a little sadder.
Today is Eve Hallow’s birthday. No one knows how old he is or even if he still lives at all. For in the depths of Saturday night he did emerge from the Crypt to make deathly merriment upon the streets of old Girvan town. Now I only managed to snap this quick photo of him (oddly I took several but the rest of the film was burred or over exposed) but merriment in great store he did indeed have. I witnessed such sights as him raising the dead, placing curses upon cute kittens, eating the crushed road kill from the very gutters while at all times his bony feet at the end of his ever so long legs tapped to a fiendish and yet silent rhythm. Those ladies of the night whose gaze fell upon his ghastly countenance were turned with immediate effect into aged hags as his cackling laugh echoed off the stone walls of the rain lashed streets. I only barely escaped with my life intact by distracting the clickity clack spiderish man with a thrown handful of Flintloque miniatures in the opposite direction.
Praise be to the very elysian fields that it is only once a year that madness descends and the Eve Hallow creature is allowed upon the streets without it being the witching night of Halloween.
Today was a good day for shopping. I don’t mean the kind of shopping where I trail about after my good lady uttering the mantras of ‘that looks good’ and ‘your bum ain’t fat in that’ I mean the kind of shopping where circumstances provide a golden chance to acquire something you want at a great price and without hassle. Well this happened to me today in Ayr at the local branch of doomed HMV store and also in the mail this morning. Below you can see a picture of the haul. Sorry about the lens flare but shrink wrapping does that. I have listed the titles under the image with links to their IMDB pages if you want to learn more about them.
This lot cost me just over thirty five pounds sterling including the postage on the Amazon order for Gazariki which was superb. The others were discounted on the racks, discounted and binned and then with a 25% blue sticker sale on top it was like Christmas at two pounds a pop!
I hope to review each of these films and series in the next couple of months. If anyone reading wants something put to the top of the que just email me or comment.
I am the Creative Manager of Alternative Armies and its sister brand 15mm.co.uk. While my role involves many tasks its primary one is the creation of new titles in the Wargame hobby market and the development of existing titles. Having been doing this for ten years I like to think that I have managed this rather well....
Read all about what I have been doing recently from my postings.