Friday, March 25, 2016

Easter wishes...

Hopes of a long weekend of painting have faded; with demolishing my sister's shed being the order of the day today.  Anyway, from 99 years ago is this rather bizarre card showing the Easter Bunny being being accompanied on  his delivery  round by a German and an Austrian soldier. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Blood Eagle

Very excited about these new rules.  More on my Dark Ages blog.

Sunday, March 20, 2016


So, at last I have finished my first four Lucid Eye Neanderthals, which are destined more for Lost World pulp gaming rather than anything prehistoric.  Steve Saleh indicated that he was working on a set of rules, Savage Core, to cover the different Lost World type figures in this range but I haven't heard anything about it lately. These are very good figures and are easily the nicest 28mm Neanderthals I have seen.  They are also some of the heaviest 28 mm figures.  I have three more underway, who are wearing even more fur and are almost Neanderthals in cold weather gear.

Neanderthal illustrated in 1909

Over the last century the representation of Neanderthals has changed from the early more ape-like reconstructions to ones which look much more human as scientists discover that they are more like us than previously thought. 

As illustrated in 1915 by Charles Knight

Likewise, from being shown as naked figures wielding sticks at the beginning of the twentieth century there is an acknowledgement today that they were much more sophisticated tool users than originally thought, even building boats and dwellings.

"I say, young lady, do you fancy a bit of inter-species miscegenation?"
"It'll cost you a bear's tooth necklace and a pair of boots!"

Now, Neanderthals were bigger and had larger brains than our immediate ancestors, leading novelists like Jean Auel to posit that they had certain mental abilities, like primitive telepathy, that we have lost.  There are people, therefore who argue that Neanderthals were actually superior to Cro Magnon man and that them becoming extinct rather than us was rather like the victory of VHS over Betamax.  The idea that Neanderthal is a synonym for primitive brutishness is now well out of favour. I like the idea of the superior Neanderthals interacting snootily with our more basic but also more numerous ancestors.  The biggest change in our views of Neanderthals over the last five years or so has been the discovery that they interbred with humans. As recently as 2006 scientists said this was very unlikely. 

Or perhaps it was this way around

Now, however, it has been shown that Europeans and Asians have significant amounts of Neanderthal DNA.  In the past, some scientists said that this came from, perhaps, just one incident of Neanderthal/human interbreeding.  That there was one Neanderthal man, perhaps, who had an inexplicable  fancy for protruding-chinned, flat forehead females; like a man today who fancies Reese Witherspoon. Only last week, however, a new study indicates that interbreeding was more extensive than previously thought. So, perhaps Neanderthals didn't so much die out as were assimilated into the people that would become modern humans.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Paint Table Saturday March 12th 2016

 Prehistoric beauties!

Good grief, two Paint Table Saturdays in a row!  The Old Bat and Guy have gone to a classic car show at Brooklands but given we have had some sun I thought I might splodge some paint on a few figures.  Splodge being the operative word as I have just had the first of four laser eye procedures to fix some leaking capillaries in my eyes.  The doctor said I might lose some vision but I was still able to paint to an OK standard  as long as the weather is bright. 

Anyway, an hour or so on the beautiful Lucid Eye Neanderthals and I now have three which should be completed tomorrow!  I wish there were some Neanderthal women to go with them.  Some lady friends have commissioned me to write an erotic version of The Lost World and. currently. Lord James Hoxton, Edmund Molloy, Professor Challenor and Professor Somersby are surrendering to the muscular charms of some Neanderthal ladies on a lost plateau, when not fighting off shockingly feathered dinosaurs.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Paint Table Saturday, March 5th 2016

My first proper paint Table Saturday post since last August and while the bright whether of the last couple of days did not continue, it was still light enough for me to get some base colours down on my 1864 Danes.  I had painted some colours on one figure previously but realised that the greatcoats needed to be more blue-black than navy blue so have mixed a much darker shade, similar to the one I used for my Victorian policemen.  The officer is the only one displaying his jacket, which was the lighter shade of dark blue and you can just see the difference between the two colours. Unusually, I used a brand new Windsor & Newton Series 7 size one brush to get these colours on, rather than my usual 00 or 000. It sped up the whole process without losing much of the accuracy, which isn't so important at this stage anyway.  Having lost all of my 1864 reference pictures in the great disc crash I spent half an hour searching again for them, although I am still a few short but I think they might be on the Schleswig-Holstein Wars Yahoo group.

The view from my Paint Table earlier this week.  Sadly, not so much light this morning

My reawakening of interest in the period has been due to the fact that North Star are promising to add to their range (lets hope they re-release some of the 1866 Prussians (such as the ones in feldmütze) which are currently our of production).  I actually haven't watched the last two episodes of the TV series yet as I had lost interest in the period but now I need to as my tivo box is filling up because I am not keeping up with my TV watching.  In fact I have just bought the DVD of the series on eBay so I can use it for reference, although the curious colour grading of the show makes it a doubtful source for colour accuracy.

While up to date on  Agent Carter (which I am having to save for Charlotte for when she comes home at  Easter) and Beowulf (it has improved a bit but basically I like the set and Joanne Whalley being assertive) I am way behind on Dickensian, Gotham, Agents of Shield, Jericho and Mr Selfridge.  Having wondered when Indian Summers was returning the question was answered by a poster at Oxshott station this week.

Why does the Legatus prefer fellow Brasenose graduate Olivia Grant to Julie Walters?

Hopefully, it will still feature Brasenose alumna Olivia Grant in slinky thirties dresses (and less) and not so much of Mrs Overall, Julie Walters, an actress whose appeal is lost on me. So that is another series I have to keep up with and The Musketeers must be due back soon, too (I'm very much thinking of picking up En Garde)..

I should really have been listening to Carl Nielsen while painting these figures and writing this post but haven't recovered his symphonies yet in my rebuilding my iTunes library task.  So instead I listened to random Scandianavian symphonies by Alfvén, Stenhammer and Svendsen   The Swedish composers Stenhammer and Alfvén were born too late to be appropriate to the period.  Svendsen, however,while Norwegian, lived for much of his life in Copenhagen and his first symphony dates from 1867. He was not in Copenhagen during the Second Schleswig War, however as he was studying in Leipzig.  Svendsen wrote two (rather good) symphonies but reputedly his wife burned the manuscript of his third in 1883 in a fit of anger (they separated the following year).  Ibsen used a modified version of this incident in his play Hedda Gabler.  Although Svendson didn't have the melodic gifts of his countryman, Grieg, the latter was so impressed with Svendsen's first symphony he withdrew his own symphony, C minor, written two years earlier.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

What's going on...

It's worse than that, he's dead, Jim

Well, it's been over a month since I last posted and even longer since I painted, due to a concatenation of events, as Thomas Hardy would have observed.  

Firstly, my hard drive in the computer packed up.  Fortunately, I had manually backed up nearly everything (the automatic back up had failed) but I then had to repopulate the new drive which took ages.  Of course you can't back up programmes (or if you can I didn't know how) so I had to reinstall things like Adobe, iTunes etc while trying to remember all the various passwords to access my account. Many tedious hours followed.  The other thing is that I had Windows Vista before but the computer people have installed Windows 7 (which I use at work) and I have, shockingly, realised it is actually better than Vista.  In the interim I attempted o use my laptop which has Windows 8 on it and I soon realised that it is actually unusable.  The computer firm I used to put in a new drive said they could take it back to Windows 7 which would be great.

My biggest issue was that Microsoft no longer provides Picture Manager, which I use all the time so thanks to my friend Sophie for helping me locate this.  Worst of all is the process of transferring my music back into iTunes.  Apple don't like you moving stuff from device to device so they stop, for example, you being able to move all your tunes (all 18,000 tracks) and playlists from your iPod back to the PC.  To get the tracks back you have to manually click on each individual music file in the folder so it reappears in iTunes on the PC as a recently added track then you have to drag it to the playlist.  Beyond tedious!  I am nowhere near finishing this process yet, although it has had the benefit of making me listen to music I haven't listened too much before (if at all) as that is sometimes the only stuff in a particular playlist at any time. So, no Sibelius symphonies back yet but yesterday I listened to Swanwhite for the first time.

Secondly, it is year end at work.  Having not had a year end there before I had no idea of the mind numbing amounts of paperwork (electronic, on a terrible database) that needed to be done.  In addition I had a presentation to give and my first webinar to present.  The latter was really odd because although I am used to giving presentations (I have given over 300) it is really difficult when you can't see the audience. I use slides as an aide memoire, not a text and focus on each slide more or less depending on the reaction of the audience.  No immediate feedback made it very odd.  It seemed to go down well and has generated a lot of follow up, which I am having to squeeze into my already over-crowded schedule.

I'm sure it's very nice in the summer

Thirdly, I seem to spend most of my spare time driving Guy around.  The other weekend we had to drive down to Plymouth (204 miles) for a university open day. It was so far that we had to stay overnight but at least we got time to look around the city on what was a really wet and windy day.  I had to drag around a load of tedious engineering labs when what I really wanted to do was go to the adjacent Plymouth Museum and Art Galley which had an exhibition on war games (in their broadest sense).  However, subsequently reading the blurb about this it sounded like a load of pinko, politically correct nonsense (like the Imperial War museum these days) so it would probably have just put my blood pressure up.

We had trouble booking anywhere to stay, given Guy had left it until the last minute to tell us he wanted to go but I was unexpectedly impressed with the Jury's Inn in Plymouth, which was five minutes walk from the university, the town centre and the harbour.  It also did an excellent breakfast ,which is a bonus.  Guy has now been offered an unconditional place to do a Maritime Business and law degree there and as Plymouth has an excellent reputation for maritime subjects I wouldn't mind him going there at all.  It does mean that he and his sister would be about 500 miles apart but he seems to think that this is a good thing.  We looked at the student accommodation which was the best I had seen at the many universities we have been around over the last few years.  Some of the rooms even have a sea view.  Oddly, they have two sorts of room which are split between flats of six people and flats of ten based on how outgoing you are; an unusual criteria they discover via a student questionnaire.  Interestingly, the girl's room we saw in the "outgoing" flat had a double bed, presumably based on them being more friendly than their introverted fellows (mathematicians, probably) who had single beds.

On the painting front I have been stymied by the truly terrible, dark weather and, due to some work being done in my study, the fact that I haven't been able to access my paints.  So although I have a number of figures close to completion the paint I need to do so is buried under a terrible pile of stuff.  This has now (sort of) been dealt with and as the Old Bat is working on Saturday I hope for bright light and some painting. 

On the wargaming front I have not been able to get over to the Shed at all so have missed some games of Frostgrave, which I wanted to try.  That said, I think Eric is running it as a tournament so I have missed out on the beginning of the campaign and, anyway, I don't like the thought of tournament play or, indeed anything really competitive.  Most (all) of the other Shedizens are proper wargamers and I would feel uncomfortable playing one to one against them, given my inability to understand rules.  My attempt to paint a female force for Frostgrave has stalled, of course, but I might resume it in due course.

Looking forward to having a go at these!

As regards figures, I withdrew from the latest West Wind ancients Kickstarter as 18mm is really too small for me to paint with my deteriorating eyesight (I have four procedures at the eye hospital over the nest month).  However, I did sign up for Unfeasibly Miniatures Empire in Peril Kickstarter which has three days to go.  Principally I did this for the late nineteenth century Germans which I can use in IHMN but although I am usually resistant to imaginary wars I am very taken with the idea of two armies with pointy helmets.  The period the figures represent has drifted a little and now seems to be early twentieth century rather than late nineteenth century but I have ordered a force of Germans and may add some British at the last minute.

More good news on the pointy helmet front, in that North Star have announced some further figures for the 1864 range.  I had given up on this range due to them just producing Danish Infantry but now they have promised to add some Danish,artillery, cavalry and Prussian hussars.  I still haven't solved the problem of representing leafless winter trees, though.  Anyway, now I can get at my dark blue paint once more I might do a little on them this weekend.  Although I did lose all my reference pictures in the great crash so will have to search for them again.

My 18mm Copplestone Barbarians need someone to fight!

Today North Star have announced that they are taking over the distribution of Copplestone Castings which is very good news.  Mr Copplestone has said that it will free him up "to sculpt new packs for existing ranges and maybe work on a couple of new projects".  I actually thought he had retired and lately all he has produced are a few figures for Frostgrave but he is my favourite sculptor so dare we hope for the long promised 18mm sub-Roman fantasy figures?

Goodbye to all that

Not such good news from Grand Manner who are withdrawing a lot of sculpts in some of the ranges I collect: particularly Dark Ages and also Trojan wars.  I wanted more of the Trojan buildings for Jason and the Argonauts but I really don't have space for any more resin at present. The houses are simple enough that maybe I could have a go at making some but the walls of Troy are a loss.  Sadly, the discount of 15% is not enough to encourage me to pick anything up. He has a lot of new stuff but it is mostly Russian and not of interest to me.

So, let's hope it is a nice bright day on Saturday and I can actually do some painting and don't have to spend all day taking Guy to and from rowing!