Sunday, July 24, 2016

Spaceships by Tim White

I've just got back from Botswana after an eighteen and half hour journey, more on which later in the week.  Too tired to do anything today but while surfing the internet this afternoon my eye was caught by a click bait article on the Star Wars sequel novel Splinter of the Minds Eye by Alan Dan Foster. This was written as the story of a possible low budget Star Wars sequel before George Lucas realised he had a major hit on his hands.  Foster, because he did a lot of film novelisations, was regarded as a hack writer by the 'proper' science fiction community but I enjoyed several of his books when I was. admittedly, a teenager.

Monument (1974)

I used to read almost exclusively science fiction from about the age of eight, much of it more advanced reading age wise than my age at the time and there is no doubt it helped me in my English lessons at school, despite the derision it was held in by teachers (especially by the time I reached senior school and the books' reading age started to dip below where I was supposed to be).  I grew out of science fiction by the time I was about seventeen, when I discovered how to explore a much more exotic fantasy world; girls. 

Yes, it's that Gary Chalk, of wargames scenery and Battlecars fame, mentioned as a contributing artist!

Anyway, then as now, I have always had  a primarily visual, rather than a literary, sensibility (much to my sister's despair) and the mid seventies saw a burgeoning of UK science fiction book cover artists. At about the same time, New English Library launched Science Fiction Monthly (1974-1976) a broadsheet loose leaf magazine which featured novel cover art in big poster sized reproductions.  It was through this that I became familiar with many of the artists of the time like Chris Foss, Bruce Pennington and Tim White.  Although Foss (who, amusingly, did the illustrations for The Joy of Sex) was the master of the massive floating bricks style of spaceships I found White's work much more atmospheric.  He really did create whole worlds in his paintings.

Stopwatch (1975)

White was born in 1952 and he studied at Medway College of Art. In 1972 he started working at a number of advertising studios while doing fantasy and SF illustrations in his spare time.  In 1974 he got his first book cover illustration commission, for an Arthur C Clarke novel and became a freelance illustrator shortly afterwards.  His pictures from this period were very accomplished, given he was still only in his early twenties.

Icerigger (1975)

Back to Alan Dean Foster and it was his cover for that author's Icerigger which really was the definitive science fiction cover for me at the time.  It really stood out on WH Smith's bookshelves and it was probably the first book I bought on the basis of the cover alone.  Unlike Foss, although he was, of course, an able illustrator of the human form (especially beardy men and hirsute women) whose SF pictures rarely included human figures, White often depicted people in his paintings which gave them a human scale.

The Legend of GX 118 (1974)

All of these pictures appeared in Science Fiction Monthly and I think I had most of them up on my wall at some point. They really are some of my favourite SF illustrations of spaceships ever.

Wandering Worlds (1975)

I've always toyed with the idea of some sort of science fiction wargaming, especially as I read lots of SF and hardly any fantasy fiction but while I have played Warhammer and Lord of the Rings I have never played a SF game, although I have bought some Warhammer 40000 figures in the past but just didn't like the figures very much.  It was the Spacemarines flared trousers that put me off, primarily.  Still, maybe one day!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Tour de France Food and Wine Stages 3 and 4: Memories of delicious things

A much delayed post on some Tour de France linked food and wine on my food and drink blog here.  I am travelling with a teetotaller and now haven't had any wine for a week!   Feeling twitchy.
 The hotel is full of fashion models, for a big show in town but they only seem to drink water and not eat at all.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Off to Africa for a couple of weeks...

No posts from me for a bit as I am off to Botswana for two and a half weeks. Never been there before (or South Africa, where I have a meeting on the way out) but I gather, as Africa goes, it isn't too bad.  Still, an eleven hour flight on one of those double decker Airbuses then another hour back to Botswana after a change at Johannesburg.

I'll probably want to paint Darkest AFrica figures when I get back!

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Paint table Sunday: Cavepeople and Mexicans

I got on with my cavegirls a bit today and you can read about them, my favourite dinosaur book and an interesting experience with a schoolfriend as a result of looking at it.  All on my cavegirl wargaming  blog.

I have also shaded the skin and jackets of my Mexicans and done the shading on the trousers of half of those I have under way too.  More arrived this week though so they will need basing, except I have a more than two week overseas trip starting on Saturday.  Just when I was getting back into painting too!  

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

School Daze and not being nice

Facebook occasionally sends you odd bits of information about your 'friends' and today it notified me that Mr Nick Futter (proprietor of Boot Hill Miniatures, whose lovely Mexicans decorate the top of my page) went to the same school, Hampton, that I did.  I haven't met Mr Futter, although it is not beyond the realm of possibility in the future, as I believe Eric the Shed is a mutual friend.  Anyway, I dug out some more of his Mexicans to have a look at and may try to get some paint on them shortly.  This will also give me the excuse to update another of my neglected blogs, Americas Wargaming.

Looking up my school on Google, to find a picture of it for this Post, I discovered that Daniel Pemberton, composer of the soundtrack to Prehistoric Park, which I featured in yesterday's post on music I listen to while painting prehistoric figures, also went to my school!  The school produced a number of quite well known musicians, including Paul Samwell-Smith, who, the year after leaving the school, formed The Yardbirds with another Hampton pupil, Jim McCarty.  Murray (One Night in Bangkok) Head was also a pupil as was Brian May of Queen.  On the classical side, renowned harpsichord player Thurston Dart also went to Hampton and he must have been there at about the same time as my Uncle Wally in the thirties. Swashbuckling actor Tyrone Power's father (also called Tyrone Power and also an actor) also went to Hampton.

This picture of the school was taken in 1949, just over ten years after it was built.  The previous school building was down by the Thames but in 1938, when my uncle was there, they moved to this new building just over a mile away.  No need for removal firms, they made the boys carry all the furniture from one site to the other,  The depressing thing is that this picture was taken much closer to the time when I started there (1971) than any of the modern shots of the buildings I looked at.  This is almost exactly how it was when I went there (another floor for the library had been added over the one story library at bottom right) whereas today there have been a  huge number of large additions.  The air raid shelters in the bottom right of the grounds (bottom centre) were still there when I started although they were later demolished to make way for some tennis courts when I was there.  The school my daughter attended is just out of shot to the right.

This shot gives an idea of the size of the playing fields (shaped like a number one).  If you were too uncoordinated for football and rugby, like I was, you did cross-country, which involved running around the perimeter of the field,which was just about a mile.  A very easy option for the non-sporty ,although this was about three quarters of a mile further than I liked to run (I ended up, to my surprise, a Southern Counties ranked 400m runner). Inevitably, bringing up the rear during cross-country would be myself and my friend Brookbank, walking and talking about wargaming the Western Front with our Airfix figures.  

I have visited the school a couple of times fairly recently, as my daughter had careers evenings there when she was at the school.  Oh how she laughed at the pictures of me in the school photos from 1972 and 1977, still on display in the corridors.  This shot of the school today shows the English department on the left which was built in the last year I was there and the language department (white bit) built as a second floor a few years before that.  I often had French lessons in the dark and depressing Upper Tower Room with my nemesis at the school, Boyo, the French teacher.  He wasn't really called Boyo, of course, but he was Welsh and I couldn't understand his English let alone his French.  I hated French, even more than I hated Maths and Physics and that is saying something.  To this day I cannot understand how on earth anyone can learn a foreign language.  It just seems impossible to me unless you are very, very young.  I am afraid I (unfashionably) genuinely believe that some people process certain subjects better than others because of the way their brains work. Maths, languages, art and music need some innate gift, I think.  I have always been able to draw from a very young age, for example. I have no problem in drawing a proportional representation of a figure from memory but I just can't learn languages. I was top of the year in History and English and second from bottom in French.. Just looking at the pictures of the tower bring back all the horror of French verbs.  I suppose that one of the things that held me back was that in the trendy early seventies we weren't taught English grammar so learning foreign grammar was impossible.  What on earth is a past participle, anyway?


I do wonder if it is the same part of my brain that fails to comprehend languages that means I cannot understand or remember wargames rules. Or maybe it's the bit that controls Maths.  Someone on The Miniatures Page (I think) was asking the other day if being good at maths helped you win at wargames.  Some people claimed it did.  But anyway, my actuary friend Bill would say that there is a big difference between maths and arithmetic.  Maybe it's incipient dementia.  All the tests for dementia are not, as you might thing, memory tests but are non verbal reasoning tests.  Gaming, it seems to me, is non-verbal reasoning and I am not a reasonable person.  This is why I hate boardgames as I can't understand the appeal of games with no figures!

Nothing can make maths fun

I have recently discovered a waste of time website called Quora which winds me up nearly as much as The Miniatures Page.  People post (usually inane) questions and forum members attempt to answer them.  The other week someone asked how they can get their children to enjoy maths and I posted to the effect that you can't and it's a horrible subject anyway.  Now, Quora works on a voting up or down system and I had noticed that most of my answers got one or two upvotes (not that I care) at most, while other people's got dozens, hundreds or even thousands.  My Maths answer got no upvotes so I assumed there were lots of mathematicians looking at the question (as you would expect).  I then posted an answer on another subject that got hundreds of upvotes. What was the difference?  I realised that Quora users like positive, happy answers.  "Hey, that's cool you want your children to learn about maths! Here are some games") etc.  I began to realise that I am not a positive, happy person.  This is also a discussion lurking around in the edges of the Brexit debate. "Hey, let's all just be nice to each other!"

I hate, happy, positive people because I think most of them are fake.  I have always been grumpy, because I  realised, at an early age (probably when I was at school), that most other people are self-centred and horrible (even if they pretend to be nice) and will do you down if given a chance.  This may be a variant of my pessimistic/optimistic personality.  Always assume something will go wrong because in the remote event it doesn't, it will cheer you up (at least, until the next disaster!)

No one looks happy at the American masters - probably because they realise that all their opponents are horrible

Again, on TMP this week, an American was giving his report on having been to his first UK wargames show (one of those northern ones, I think).  This brought forth a discussion on the differences between US and UK shows as regards participation games, with the Americans wanting to go to shows to play games.  I can't think of anything I would hate more than playing a game (where I wouldn't be able to understand the rules) with people I don't know (who are probably horrible, of course).

Speaking of games, I am sick of my favourite TV programmes (like last weekend's The Musketeers) being cancelled for football.  I also can't have my dinner with Eggheads today as Guy is watching the football.  I hate football nearly as much as I hate Maths.  It is just completely soporific most of the time and the whole culture around it is just ghastly.  I read an article once, at a time when football hooliganism in Britain was even worse than it is now, by an American psychologist saying that they had less crowd trouble in US sports because there are more opportunities for cathartic moments (i.e. points scoring) and that if you play a game for ninety minutes and no one scores of course the crowd are going to be wound up.

So, I have decided to keep posting negative things in the happy, world of Quora just to wind people up.  They need regular doses of realism amongst all the supportive, positive, lets be nice to each other hogwash.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Cavegirl wargaming blog updated.

My cavegirl wargames blog was one of those I had not updated for years (actually, just over two years) but as my cave people have got me painting again I thought I would use it to record my progress over the next few weeks. 

I have also written a post on the music I listen to when painting prehistoric figures. 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Paint table Sunday- prehistorics!

I got another forty five minutes painting done today (I don't seem to be able to concentrate for more than that time now) and did some more work on my cavegirls and a trio of cavemen which I found in a box but hadn't started.  Given I was out and about most of the day it was nice to get anything done, really.

As soon as I saw Mark Copplestone's cavemen and (especially) cavegirls I knew I had to have them, even if I wasn't quite sure what I would do with them. I'm not sure when they came out (certainly around 2005 if not before - before this blog, anyway).  Unusually for me, I painted most of them (above) straight away leaving just the three male figures in the top picture.  I then went and bought another set of cavegirls which I am working on now

Steve Saleh Neanderthals versus Copplestone cavemen "We want your women!  And pigs!"

Even more unusually some of them actually saw a game, when I took part in a game of Steve Barber's Prehistoric Settlement at Guildford, organised by Matakishi.  This was a very good game but I realised that Copplestone didn't make some of the key figures you need for a game (such as archers, for example).  This isn't really a problem as there are some old Copplestone sculpted barbarians around somewhere which would do.

Should have brought a bigger spear

You also need several civilian figures (such as berry pickers) but the old Steve Barber ones were pretty horrible and only 25mm as well, although recently he has brought out some rather better replacements.  The Copplestone Terror Bird is considerably larger than the Steve Barber one but that doesn't matter for a Lost World scenario, especially as paleontologists can't agree if Phorusrhacidae (you can see why the name Terror Birds caught on) overlapped with humans at any point.  They did, at least, originate in South America, so plausibly (not that I should be worrying about plausibility but I do) could be on our Lost World plateau.

Anyway, I am wondering whether the new Tribal rules might be worth picking up as it has extra rules for the stone age and doesn't seem to require many figures.   I doubt that they have rules for wild animals, such as sabre tooths, but a Stone Age supplement is in the planning stages.  Now where did I put the mammoth I bought at Salute two years ago?