Homage to Catalonia – George Orwell

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“I have the most evil memories of Spain, but I have very few bad memories of Spaniards. I only twice remember even being seriously angry with a Spaniard, and on each occasion, when I look back, I believe I was in the wrong myself.” – George Orwell.

I have been a long term reader and fan of Eric Blair (George Orwell) ever since I was a teenager.  Not the Orwell of 1984 or Animal Farm but rather the earlier man of essays and of books such as Road to Wigan Pier and Homage to Catalonia (not to mention the sublime Down and Out in Paris and London).  Time permitted me to read Homage to Catalonia over the last week during a time of great joy and a friend’s wedding celebration.  It is a book well worth reading if you are interested in several different aspects of life, politics and writing.  It is auto-biography, it is a war memoir, it is a social account and it is a man’s take upon the Spanish Civil War.  Read Orwell and learn about the workings of the world.  Here are some thoughts and if you want to get a copy of this book it is very easy (not the first edition above!) it can be had for pennies from bookshops and elsewhere as it has been in many editions.   My own is in the bin now, water damaged and smelly it was due for composting.

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Orwell went to Barcelona in 1936 to report on the Spanish Civil War. He was so struck with the progress of the workers’ revolution there, the camaraderie and the hope, that he decided this state of affairs was worth defending, and enlisted with a militia unit. His unit soon went to the front, where it stood nearly idle for several months and did little fighting. The unit returned several months later to what seemed like a different city, in the throes of inter-party fighting as the Russian-backed communists attempted to take control of the war effort. Orwell’s unit returned briefly to the front, but while he was hospitalised (due to a bullet caught in the neck,) its members were declared illegal, and he was forced to flee the country.

Most of us are more familiar with the Spanish Civil War through Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls. Unlike that novel, Homage to Catalonia paints an affectionate portrait of a brave, but naïve, effort that was doomed from the start by international intrigue. Orwell’s affable co-combatants are poorly equipped, crawling with lice, and little interested in fighting, which is lucky because they’re left on an immobile front where if the food isn’t great, the cigarette ration is at least adequate.

This book is indeed an homage, to a brief time in a small place where equality was real, but fleeting, and to the people who were there to live this hope. It also shows us the moments when Orwell became disillusioned with communism, leading to his best known works. (It may difficult for us to imagine, but we need to keep in mind that in the 1930’s, the violence and cynicism of the U.S.S.R. were still widely unknown, and there were many active communists all over the world.) Thus, this book, in addition to being highly enjoyable, is vital to understanding a mindset now remote and alien to us, and a time we mostly know nothing about.

The power of this book is in its indictment of the foreign press and the hypocrisy of international communism. Each did its part to muck up the war effort and betray the people it purported to defend, and Orwell explains as clearly as possible the complex international forces that wasted the war effort and opened the door to fascism in Spain.

Well worth reading and in case you wonder…the world is not so different now.  Be careful what second hand accounts you believe.

GBS

Collectormania 2014 Glasgow

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I had a great day on Saturday from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed late on after watching the taped new episode of Dr Who.  Among the highlights I can share with the public the brightest was my trip to Collectormania 2014 in Glasgow.  Its not often I get enough time together to do something like this but the trip had been planned for two weeks and I was raring to go.  Why you ask..well for the chance to meet two childhood heroes of mine and the chance to get some new t-shirts too.

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I got the shirts and as you can see above it was a smaller sized event, nothing like Salute at Excel in London, but that was good for me.  It meant that there was virtually no que to wait in for an autograph and it meant that you could actually spent a bit of time talking to the person too.  Sylvester McCoy is a really nice person and it was great to be able to speak to him.  I did not mention the seventh Doctor once rather it was more a meeting of two men from the former region of Strathcylde.  However for my good lady the star of the show was Dirk Benedict who took a real shine to her!  After that he was quite happy to talk about the A-Team and his time as Starbuck too.

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We got our autographs which my eldest son who came with us found quite funny.  For you see I put no stock in religion or celebrity or anything else that is beyond my normal grasp as a Man.  I take each on its own merits but actually conversing with these two put a grin on my face that he found amusing!  I might well go back next year.  I missed Sophie Aldred as she was only there today and not Saturday.  Shame but there is always next time.

So I will finish on a last picture of my good lady with The Face Man as he was and still is known.  Hands off mate…she’s mine!

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GBS

Going for 100 on Prog!

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I am about to re-enter the realm of fiction.  No, I don’t mean that I am going to cease to be a real person.  I mean that I will be creating new content for Alternative Armies, 15mm.co.uk and The Ion Age.  While there will be more on this as it happens what it does mean is that I will be looking for listening material.  Some people can write while listening to the radio or to recorded audio books but I simply cannot as the voices get confused with my own if you follow me.  So what does that leave as I do like to listen to something as the hours pass.  It leaves music.

I have a large collection of music on CD and on Vinyl and as MP3’s as well.  Last week I saw a magazine for sale that caught my attention.  You can see it above.  I really like Prog Music and since the magazine had a count down of the top 100 albums in this genre a plan was hatched.  I am going to try and get all one hundred of these albums and listen to them essentially in order!

There may be blog reviews of some of them or the better ones but this is more of a mission statement for me.  As it turns out most of these albums are fairly cheap and I have just purchased a download of number 100 on the list.  What is at this barely made it position?  Its the 1980 album Drama by the band Yes.  Find more about it HERE.

I will let you know how it ‘prog’ resses!  Ha!

GBS

Graduation Glasgow University 2014

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I was invited to Glasgow University on the Wednesday of this week to be a part of my sister in law’s graduation from the university.  I was honoured to be selected as tickets are rare and it meant I would once more be able to walk the halls of my old haunt and enter the illustrious Bute Hall for the ceremony.  By an odd coincidence it was twelve years to the day after my own graduation from the university in exactly the same ceremony but this time I was able to see it from the outside without the gown and the mortar board.

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The programme of events. We were lucky with a mild and dry day and it was really fantastic to see all the smiling faces full of accomplishment.  I will admit it was a lot of deja vu  on my part but I will avoid going into details.  I had not been back to the university since 2002 but I keep in touch with letters and email.  Its a place that holds and radiates its five hundred years of scholarship and its formed the minds of thousands who have shaped the modern world.   I have done a lot since I graduation not least the public work I am known for but I have gotten married, bought two homes, had three children, travelled, wrote, thought and fought the good fight.

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A view of the side of Bute Hall to give an idea of the scale of the stone work.  My sister in law Kirsten Loy was the star of the day and trust me it only seems like yesterday when she applied to go to university.  While some might argue the benefit of further education I can tell you from my perspective that you go in one person and come out another better one more suited to the rapidity of the world now and better to deal with it.   So congratulations and I am so proud of you.  I wait to see where you go now!

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I will end with the above photo of Kirsten on the left and my good lady on the right.  I am so lucky to be part of a world of such beautiful and talented women.

GBS

Rest in Peace Rik Mayall and know that I will miss you…

I was going to do a blog post this evening about how the build of the mighty new Alternative Armies website is now complete and that preparation to move over to the new site will begin soon.  I was going to do a blog post about it being only 100 Days until Scotland must choose to be in this union or become an independent nation once more.  I was going to do a blog post about the great success of the latest Ion Age early supporter offer or about the great reception to the re-mastered Sabre Jet Flyer for Laserburn or even about the massive efforts we have been going to for project Darkhelm.  But no.  I little piece of my world died this afternoon for my comedy hero of my entire remembered life is dead.  Rest in Peace Rik Mayall aged only 56.

Its not a big tribute.  Its just what I feel.  On the odd occasion where it has gotten a little dark for me in life the comedy programme of Rik kept me going.  I know literally all the lines of Bottom dialogue off by heart.  I own four copies of Guest House Paradiso in an effort to support him.  I have seen him live on tour.  I own all the Young Ones, all of The New Statesmen, the movie Drop Dead Fred and even the little known Filthy Rich and Catflap and the Dangerous Brothers.  Since the 1980’s and boyhood I have adored Rik Mayall.   Hell in the last blog post I put up there was a still of Ade Edmondson leading it, that is how much its on my mind most weeks.  I had hoped for another series of Bottom, of another Tour.  Really anything but no chance of that now.

I do not yet know what happened to Rik but it must have been quick and that is something.  Time will tell.  My thoughts are with his wife and three children.  Enjoy these video links:

No more work for me today.  Email will have to wait this evening and instead its going to be a DVD and a few beers.  Anarchic comedy one last time before it becomes legend.

GBS

Pioneering with The Ion Age

The Ion Age is continuing to grow in infamy (I like that word more than fame, it suits the world just now rather well) and today I saw my first ‘conversion’ of our miniatures.  Above you can see some Shia Khan Pioneers in 15mm scale turned into Galafraxian Black Guards.  Yes those are eye stocks!

This made me smile among what is now a truly awesome amount of work which I must carry out.  I try not to let customers down and as such I answer every email sent to me and I try to make things run smoothly all the time.   I will be working on Patrol Angis full time as of this week along with an overhaul of the Alternative Armies website.  That will keep me from posting overly much.  I have signed up to follow Allison M the chap who created these images and made the conversions.

The quasi-humanoid, photosynthetic Garafraxians (colloquially called “Chloros”) use heavy armour to protect their fragile bodies during combat.  Their long eye stalks give them excellent depth perception and peripheral vision however, so they generally extend them out of their suits except when in immediate danger.  The suits are lined with red-LED arrays to maintain their metabolism far away from their home star’s nourishing rays.

You can find the original blog posting HERE.  Lastly congratulations to the blog runner…enjoy those coming sleepless nights and demands on your time!

GBS

The Ramp Up to Salute 2014

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There is a week to go.  It might be more than a week in actual time but with the drive down to London to take into account from here in Scotland the Salute 2014 wargame show will begin for me in one week’s time.  Three days away from home and family and my one actual convention in person this year.  Its been a year for re-structuring for the company and that includes our scale of commitment to Salute.  We will be having a smaller stand and no demonstration game this year.  Also since its the first time that my own baby The Ion Age has been in existence at this time of year the whole of the trade stand is being occupied by our fantastic 15mm science fiction range.  That being said we are well under way for new websites, new resin production plant and some of the most kick ass products on the market.

The ramp up to Salute is one of the most busy times of my year and this year is no different.  In fact it looks like its a record year for pre-orders for collection on the day (many of these are from Flintloque players and also fans of Alien Squad Leader) and if it keeps going we might have to leave some of the stock behind here to make room for packages!  I am not overly surprised at the Alternative Armies pre-orders as this is the first time in my involvement in wargaming that a show I attend has no Flintloque at it.  I got permission to make an excellent offer to fans including the expected discount but also a free brand new character miniature.

I have something a little different in mind too and the company will be making several new product releases at Salute 2014 on the day.  These will be new codes which will be previewed just before the show on the relevant blogs and then released during the week following the show.  Meaning those there on the day will get the first look and chance to buy.  In fact the theme for the day is ‘Malig Madness…15mm Space Goblins’ so that is more than a clue plus for 15mm.co.uk I will have the entire brand new Loud Ninja Games range and two new packs purpose designed for the Human Colonial Army template in Alien Squad Leader 2.0.

I would be the first to admit that I am tired.  I work hard, I work all the time but this event stokes it to the maximum.  That being said I am super keen on going as I just love to shake hands and see all the people who make an effort to come along and see us or me personally.  The day itself is also excellent with all of the traders and games put on with a lot to see.  There is no bring and buy this year and I will be interested to see if the attendance is also down on last year.  Over the last two weeks I have seen many more comments online than before about wargamers choosing not to attend.

In any event this will be my last posting here for a while and I will have no time for musing before the big day.  If you are going along pop by the Alternative Armies stand and say hello…I will be the guy with the big smile and the Ion Age t-shirt on.

GBS

Space Raptors come to fruition!

Snapping at my heels for a over a year is what is new to everyone else in the world but is an old friend to me.  The Loud Ninja Games range of Chuhuac or Space Raptors in 15mm and 28mm scale.   You can read all about the now full release of these miniatures through 15mm.co.uk on the blog that I run there or you can go right to the website and see them all there.  As it is those places will show you the product and tell you about it but it will not tell you my own feelings which I am putting here.

Its been a long and at times a bit sore road across more than a year to get the Space Raptors from concept to green to production and then produced in the very large numbers needed for the fulfilment of the funded Kickstarter that brought them into existence.  Every challenge was met by myself and the rest of us at 15mm.co.uk and we overcame them all.  I have enjoyed it all though and so far the happy emails and online forum posts have proved that wargames adore them too.   I have to praise Eli Arndt though who has remained positive and energized about the Chuhuac right from the start and has put the comments of his customers first all the time.   Now that the Space Raptors are on regular retail sale the wider world will get a chance to own them and as of this morning quite a few people have taken up the challenge.  Personally I do not care much for space dinosaurs as an idea and I won’t be gaming with them but it does not matter as you would not expect me to adore every release of the hundreds a year I oversee.  Would you?

Loud Ninja Games should be set to grow with the support of the wargaming community across the globe and I look forward to seeing what other madness comes out of the mind of the ‘I See Lead People’ blogger.  Trying to turn an idea in to reality is a challenge even when you have the experience and skill set to do it.  But trying it as a newbie to the industry takes nerves of steel.  For many it does not work out and the hurdles along the way can trip them up.  But not this time.  Oh’ and I made a new friend too.

Well done Eli my friend!

GBS

Terms of Enlistment – Marko Kloos (Kindle) review

It has been a dream of mine for a number of months to get a Kindle and be able to read all of the science fiction tales to be had through that device which are not availiable in paperback form.  Self Publishing, once the hated bastard offspring of the ‘proper publishing house’ is now in its own element.  It’s a digital age and the world has indeed changed.  I wanted to read of that change for myself and see if things ‘rejected’ by some would be good enough to entertain others.  I also know there will be a lot of let down and dross to wade through too but we can all enjoy that together.   This festive season my good lady surprised me with just such a device and once I had it set up my first port of call was to purchase the ebook Terms of Enlistment by Marko Kloos.  Having had two days off I managed to read the whole novel while attending to all the other madness of the holiday.  So aside from being my first non-paper reading experience in hand what was the book actually like?  Read on for my own review starting with a short web lifted synopsis.

The year is 2108, and the North American Commonwealth is bursting at the seams. For welfare rats like Andrew Grayson, there are only two ways out of the crime-ridden and filthy welfare tenements, where you’re restricted to 2,000 calories of badly flavored soy every day. You can hope to win the lottery and draw a ticket on a colony ship settling off-world, or you can join the service. With the colony lottery a pipe dream, Andrew chooses to enlist in the armed forces for a shot at real food, a retirement bonus, and maybe a ticket off Earth. But as he starts a career of supposed privilege, he soon learns that the good food and decent health care come at a steep price . . . and that the settled galaxy holds far greater dangers than military bureaucrats or the gangs that rule the slums.

I began by reading the ‘free sample’ offered on Amazon and this got my attention.  A few pages about Andrew Grayson, a street rat, a potential pointless hoodlum in waiting whose life is going nowhere.  His only chance to get out of the PRC is the army.  The book divides into three main parts and these are firstly the slums and military training, secondly military action on Earth and thirdly adventure among the colonies and a change of pace.  I don’t want to spoil the tale so I will keep it short and loose.  I thought I was reading one novel when I began and another when I finished and do you know what it was bloody good all the way through.  I could complain about typo’s and some editing (the gods know I get them too despite a lot of editing so sod that, it was not enough to spoil the story to any degree) and I could mention the boiler house dialogue in places (some reviewers did but to be honest it made me smile, I like this kind of character speak).  I will mention that the whole book is written in first person perspective and this is no mean feat believe me.  The author does this well and the character grows throughout the novel and you can tell by his mannerisms.   It is military science fiction and the combat scenes work well.  The technology is evident but not overpowering.  Infodumping is there but this is not a problem especially for first person narration.   Characters were well drawn and sparse where needed but rounded where required.  It kept me focused on it.   In short a novel that deserves success and will impress those who want action with a little social-economic thought too.

My opinions were actually mirrored in several of the reviews I read after typing this blog post and that made me laugh.  I will not hide the fact that I should and I could write a novel that would be good for fans of this genre but seriously folks take a dump or get off the can.  Snippy comments by those jade green with envy over another’s success (always success not talent remember that) on forums is just sad.  I tend to avoid comments and leave it with a blog review.

You can read an interview with Marko Kloos on Writers & Artists.  Well worth a read for me as it actually validated my thoughts on self publishing through Amazon to Kindle for the talented writers.  Lastly it also informed me of the authors new work Lines of Departure which is due out late January 2014; its been picked up by an Amazon inprint 47North so in  a way Mr Kloos is no longer self publishing!  Evident to this see below for the new (not designed by the author himself).  He has arrived!

If you like Military Science Fiction then give this a volley of shots.  Its a tungsten flechette of action packed fun that will lift you out of any crummy government apartment in the NAC for a few hours.  I have pre-ordered the sequel this afternoon.

GBS

Visibility wins Peoples Millions Prize

I got an email in my inbox today that made me smile.  I support several charities and don’t talk about it much but one of the ones I enjoy supporting the most is Visibility a charity that assists those in the West of Scotland who suffer sight loss or blindness in their efforts to live a normal life.  With the small support of myself and many, many others the charity won a prize of more than thirty thousand pounds with the Peoples Millions prize.  This will allow them to do so much more excellent work.

Huzzah!

GBS