Tuesday, September 29, 2009
The Anthologist (Fiction, 2009) by Nicholson Baker. Baker attended my alma mater, Haverford College. [Haverford's cheer at sporting events: "That's all right, that's ok, you'll all work for us some day", typically as we were losing...badly]. Baker is a bit of an acquired taste, but is a marvelous writer. His books tend to be unusual. One novel takes place in a father's mind while his baby takes a nap. Another takes place over the course of one phone call. Yet another takes place as a man rides an escalator.
From The Anthologist (page 50), on the art of writing - "...you can choose to tell the truth or not to. And the difficulty is that sometimes it's hard to tell the truth because you think the truth is too personal, or too boring, to tell. Or both. And sometimes it's hard to tell the truth because the truth is hard to see, because it exists in a misty, gray non-space between two strongly charged falsehoods that sound true but aren't."
UPDATE 10/1/09 - Finished The Anthologist last night, and I would describe it as what I would consider to be fairly typical of Baker's work. I don't read Baker for plot or characters for the most part. What I do read him for is those keen observations, the nuggets, that are peppered throughout. As it turns out, the quote I included above in the original post is a good example of what I mean. Again, not for everybody, but I like him.
Admiration because they dreamed, then planned, and are now actually doing it. It's all about execution, as I am often reminded at work these days.
Trepidation. Knowing that they are out there, I have spent a little bit of time on the national park service website reading about camping/hiking the Grand Canyon, and have come away with an appreciation of exactly what they will be dealing with. I did not know that the Grand Canyon is 7000 feet elevation, making it 2000 feet higher than Denver, which means very thin air. The September daily highs are still in the 90's, and it gets hotter the further down into the canyon you go. Big hole in the ground. That means down is easy, getting back out is not so much so. Dehydration. Nutritional issues. Difficult climbs. Physical exhaustion. I think the NPS website does exactly what they want it to do - install a sufficient amount of respect for the forces out there that are far greater than us.
Jealousy. The smallest bit. I know that I am certainly welcome on any of these trips, and it is my choice not to be there. OK, maybe a medium amount. Still......it does sound like fun. OK, a bunch.
Be safe guys. And take plenty of pictures. (For anyone reading this that finds this of interest, I encourage you to follow my link and pop over to Dave's website for his recaps after October 6...).
Saturday, September 26, 2009
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,--I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!--and, If God choose,
I shall love thee better after death.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Sonnets from the Portugese XLIII
Think about it. "I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach". And "I love thee with the breath, smiles, tears, of all my life!" We should all be this fortunate.
Nature's first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
Nothing Gold Can Stay
And some are just beautiful in their simplicity.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
I suppose that everyone has a band, or bands, from their earlier days that hold a special place in their heart. For me, more than any other by far, the Moody Blues are the soundtrack of my adolescence. I was reminded of this over the last few days. The same long car ride that spawned the "Living Life" post also touched on people you would most like to meet (hey, we were driving for 9 hours!...I could blog the rest of the year on subjects we talked about...and just may do so). Thinking about it briefly, in the musical celebrity (still living) category, my answer was Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues. My response was pretty much met with a blank stare. Clearly someone's musical upbringing had deficiencies that I would need to address. But I digress...
I bought a brand new PC recently, and have an obscenely large hard drive, so I downloaded the iTunes app and am uploading CDs. With the Moody Blues conversation fresh in my memory, my first uploads were the collected works of the Moodies, with the intent of burning a CD of some of my favorites to share with my under-educated friend. With a healthy dose of missionary zeal, I began poking through the catalog to create a playlist that would fit on one CD. Sounds simple enough. What I didn't count on was getting caught up in a slow stroll down memory lane. And fitting a life's memories on one CD isn't that easy.
Circa 1982. Moody Blues at the Spectrum. Opening act - Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Trouble. My first Moodies show. I have two primary memories from this show. One - my heroes on stage live and in person and me at the ripe old age of sixteen right there in the audience - woo hoo! Two - holy mackerel!, who is this Stevie Ray Vaughn guy! And can he really play behind his back like that!? Channeling Hendrix or something. Brother Dave's blog has a reminiscence of his Aerosmith concert, a seminal event in his musical life. Mine was similar, but without the bottle throwing and show cancelling...sorry Dave! (Actually, my first concert was a John Denver show at the Spectrum with my Dad, but that is a story for a different day...thanks Dad). This tour is for the Long Distance Voyager album, which contains The Voice, one of my favorite songs, and the song that has lent its title to this post.
Circa 1983-1984. High school junior/senior. Intermittent girl troubles (what else?). Doing the angst-ridden teenager thing and closeting myself in my room at times, playing certain songs and albums to death (yes, vinyl albums - past 8-tracks but before CDs). Justin Hayward songs tend to be good for that sort of thing. This was back in the day when you could actually grind an album into dust, and oh how I tried. Teenagers today don't know what they are missing - no amount of angst can grind a CD into dust. To this day, there are vinyl albums in a cabinet in my old room at my parents' house that probably wouldn't play because the grooves are worn out.
Work away today
Work away tomorrow
Never comes the day
For my love and me
I feel her gently sighing
As the evening slips away
If only you knew what's inside of me now
You wouldn't want to know me somehow
But...you will love me tonight
We alone will be alright
In the end
Circa 1984(?). Moodies at the Spectrum again. The tour for the album "The Present". The beginning of the period that could best be described as "synthesizers gone wild", and I don't necessarily mean that in a good way. Opening the show with "Sitting at the Wheel", and thinking, gee that's odd, John Lodge can't seem to remember the words to the new song he just wrote. This while sitting in a blue haze of second-hand pot smoke (yes, second hand)...hmm...couldn't help wondering if some of that smoke was originating FROM the stage? It got much better after that. Saw this show with my best friends from high school senior year. We had a Genesis guy, a Yes guy... I was the Moody Blues guy. I remember a highlight of this show as Justin with a keyboard doing a solo version of Running Water. I've always been a sucker for the sappy romantic stuff. Still am.
Time hurries on
Look and it's gone
The changing of the autumn tide
The hopes that live
The dreams that die
If I could have you by my side
I'd give it all away
Circa 1984 and again in '86. Moodies at the Mann Music Center in Fairmount Park. "Nights in White Satin" on a warm summer evening in a semi-outdoor amphitheater under a full moon in the company of good friends. 'Nuff said. One of the great lyric lines ever..."letters I've written, never meaning to send".
1986. The Other Side of Life album comes out and contains "Your Wildest Dreams", which became the Moodies biggest hit ever. Go figure. Nice song but way pop. Can't ever hear this song and not think of a particular someone. I know you are not reading this blog, but you know who you are.
Late 1980's through the 1990's. The days of selling out stadiums have passed and I have the chance to see them a number of times at smaller venues like the Tower Theater. Good trade off.
2000+. The nostalgia years. Most local shows now are at Atlantic City casinos. I remember a show at one of the Trump properties in Atlantic City where I was in the 5th row. I've never been closer at a show. Honestly, some of these shows aren't that great musically, but they do make me feel like a teenager again, and when they get to some of the classic songs, autopilot kicks in and they sound young again too. Having played The Story in Your Eyes and Ride My Seesaw a few thousand times, I'm sure they could do these in their sleep. Maybe they are.
Nights in white satin
Never reaching the end
Letters I've written
Never meaning to send
Beauty I'd always missed
With these eyes before
Just what the truth is
I can't say anymore
'Cos I love you
2009. The Great Regret. I had tickets to see them in August 2009 at the Borgata, but didn't really have someone to go with me and ended up eating the tickets. I spent the couple of days after the show checking out YouTube videos of shows from this tour and realized that (a) they sounded really good, (b) they were mixing in some old songs that they hadn't done in years, and (c) I should have checked out YouTube a few days BEFORE the show! Well into their 60's, I shouldn't be passing up chances to see them while they are still touring.
Anyway, the 19 songs that made it onto the first CD only get me about half way there, so my friend should be expecting another CD, or two, or three...
And nothing stays the same
And life is still
A simple game.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
(Click on each picture for a closer view)
Stage 1 - Base colors
At this point, I am trying to block out the main colors and cover up most of the black prime. In this first stage, a lot of the base work is done with varying degrees of medium to heavy dry-brushing. For the most part, I use Citadel paints from Games Workshop, with a few Howard Hues colors mixed in, especially from their nice range of horse colors. The armor has a medium dry brush of Chainmail, the horses a medium drybrush (two coats) of Equine Brown on one and Bay on the other. The bases have been roughed in with Goblin Green, and the basic clothing colors have been roughed in with a red foundation paint and a light blue.
Stage 2 - Completing the first coat
In this stage, most of the smaller areas that are still in black prime get their first coat of paint. Saddles are painted a leather color, and the rest of the straps, belts, weapon scabbards and weapon grips are painted in varying shades of brown. The exposed face of the one figure gets a layer of Dark Flesh. The red figure gets a layer of brighter red over the darker red foundation except in the recessed areas, which are left darker. The light blue figure's clothing gets a dark blue wash, which settles in the recessed areas, especially the puffy sleeves. The blue wash darkens everything, but this will be fixed later. The Bay horse got a dark brown wash to help define and shade the edges of the harness and other tack. Dark colored horses don't need it, but I find that a light colored horse that doesn't get this treatment is much harder to get look right when painting the harnesses and tack later on.
Stage 3 - Details and clean up
At this stage, the riders are basically finished exept for the absolute final details, which will be adressed in the last stage (stage 5). The face and mustache are painted, leaving some dark flesh in the recesses. I don't enjoy painting faces, and because I don't enjoy it I'm not very good at it. I find that for most figures, a "T" of lighter flesh across the brow and down the nose, with cheek and chin highlighting, when applied over a dark base, looks fine for my purposes. The various browns from the prior stage get some minor highlighting in lighter shades (edges of the saddles etc). Metal details such as buckles, sword hilts and pommels, scabbard decoration and stirrups are painted in bright silver or gold. I generally take some liberties with the use of gold on knight figures such as these. Use of gold on stirrups and the like would have been extremely rare if not unheard of, but it does look nice. Also, the blue figure's clothing is cleaned up by going back over all the raised areas with the original light blue color, leaving the dark blue wash in the recesses. This leaves the shading, but brightens up everything else.
Stage 4 - Horses
I usually base coat the horses early, then do the riders, then finish the horses, as I have done here. At this point, the dark brown horse got a light drybrush of medium brown for highlight, and the Bay horse (which had gotten the brown wash) was drybrushed in Light Bay. The tails and manes were painted black, and the harnesses were painted. Simple colors were painted onto some of the horse tack, specifically the reigns. One thing that can have a dramatic effect on the appearance of a horse, but that I did not take the time to do here, is to spend more time on the horses by painting white "socks", blazes on the nose, etc. There are countless web resources for what horse markings look like, and I would enthusiastically encourage you to seek them out. Most people (me included) tend to treat the painting of horses as an afterthought (as I have done here...).
Stage 5 - Final Details
The horses were finished by giving them both a very light drybrush of light tan, which is more to highlight the edges of the harness and tack, more so than to highlight the horse itself. The manes and tails got this same drybrush to pick out the hair texture. Final bits of decoration were painted onto the horse trappings, and some very basic heraldry was painted onto the shields and onto the red figure's tunic. [Note: I still do have some clean up to do on these figures, as a closer inspection will show. The horses hooves haven't been finished, the red shield needs to be cleaned up, and a few other minor things, but I couldn't wait to write this post. Impatient as always... Maybe I'll post one more picture over the weekend when I am truly done.] I would also note that flocking and finishing a real base on the figure make a huge difference.
For these figures, there is not stage 6, but if these figures were intended to be important leader figures, or more likely if the mood just happened to strike me, I would spend more time on them at this point just adding highlighting and shading, but for purposes of this example, this is what my basic figures get painted like. I would be much more likely to take extra time on a mounted knight at this point if it were riding a caparisoned (cloth covered) horse. Several examples of these are shown a few entries back.
The day after our conversation, on her birthday, my friend went horseback riding for the first time in many years. I am proud of her. She made up her mind to do something for herself, something that she had been wanting to do but hadn't made the time for, and she did it.
One of the more important outcomes of this whole thought process was the reminder that my two daughters, who are at opposite ends of elementary school age-wise, are growing up way too fast. I realistically have maybe ten years left with them before they are well down the path of turning into full-fledged adults, and the prospect of hangin' with Dad becomes totally uncool (for a while at least).
With that being said, here are some of the things that I want to do with the family, some things I would like to do myself, and a few truly bucket list items. In no particular order...
- We have not been on a real vacation in years. We do little day trips and the like, but have not been anywhere of substance as a family since we took Julia to Disney World when my wife was pregnant with Grace. Embarrassingly, this means that Grace has never been on a real vacation. I need to fix that. Grace has been lobbying hard for Disney World, and she should get to see it (from the outside this time).
- Charter a boat out of Rock Hall Maryland for a half day of striper fishing in the Chesapeake. Six of us did this several years ago, and it was a blast.
- Learn how to fly fish.
- Be more creative and adventurous with day trips or weekend trips with the family. As the kids get older, more and more things become possible.
- Take a few golf lessons. I have never taken a single lesson in my life and my game is absolutely mediocre. I would like to take a step back and go over fundamentals with a pro.
- Take the kids to the beach. All kids should have time at the ocean.
- Go hiking with brother Dave, who gets out regularly.
- I spend way more time painting figures than playing games with them. I need to pick up the phone, call some friends, and get some games going.
- As an archaeology major in college, I would to see the great pyramids of Giza, outside Cairo.
- Find a way to play some tennis with my wife, who is a tennis fiend (and was just promoted to a 4.0 USTA rating - way to go Amp!).
- Go canoeing. Dave and I bring this up regularly, but ever get around to it.
- I would like to see the Normandy beaches of France and the D-Day memorials and cemeteries.
- I would like to go on a major fishing trip to somewhere like Canada or Alaska.
- Spend more time with my parents.
- Other places I would like to see: Yellowstone, Yosemite, Italy, Spain, various Civil War battlefields, Provence, Scotland, Navajo/Four Corners country in the American southwest.
- Places I have been and would like to get back to: Salzburg Austria and the Tyrolean/Bavarian alps, Napa/Sonoma California (especially a little slice of heaven called Auberge de Soleil near Rutherford), Waterloo, the Burgundy region of France, the Matterhorn and Zermatt Switzerland.
I will add to this at some point, and hopefully be able to report on actually doing some of these things, but this is a good start.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Gracie has especially taken to fishing, and shows off her pro form below (at the ripe old age of five). For two or three consecutive outings this summer, Grace caught the largest fish (channel catfish). Way to go Gracie!
Monday, September 14, 2009
Friday, September 11, 2009
In addition to painting this stuff, there are some less glamorous tasks that need to get done. Pretty much my entire English HYW army, while painted and based, needs to have their bases tidied up, flocked and then given a final coat of matt varnish. Also, I need to make a whole bunch of hedge sections for the scenarios we are putting on.
My medieval collection is my largest by far, encompassing a number of different sub-periods and scales.
- 25mm Hundred Years War (Old Glory)
- 25mm Mongols and related opponents (Old Glory's Liegnitz range)
- 25mm Wars of the Roses (Old Glory and some Front Rank)
- 25mm Normans, Saxons and Vikings (Old Glory with a few Gripping Beast)
- 25mm Crusaders (Old Glory and a few Perry), serving more as "generic" medievals since I do not have 25mm Saracens or other opponents for these. Because of the horse archer nature of many of these battles, I elected to do the Crusades primarily in 15mm...
- 15mm Crusaders and Saracens (Old Glory and some Essex)
- 25mm Ottomans (c.15th century using Old Glory's terrific Eastern European ranges). I have bought a bunch of figs for this, but it is largely a future project. I have painted one unit of Janissary archers and 3 mounted leader figures for fun, but that's it.
In addition to medievals, I have the following other figures:
- 15mm ACW (Old Glory and Battle Honors). A good number of these.
- 15mm Napoleonics - Fench, British/Allied and a few Austrians (Old Glory and Battle Honors). A good start, but need more.
- 5mm Napoleonics (Heroics and Ros). Tons and tons of these little guys.
- 5mm Seven Years War Prussians and Austrians (Heroics and Ros). Enough to do a moderate sized game.
- 25mm Ancients - Republican Romans, Carthaginians, and related Spanish and Celts. (Old Glory).
- 25mm American Revolution (Old Glory and a few Front Rank). Modest sized armies.
- 15mm WW2 - American and German primarily (Old Glory and Quality Castings/Battle Honors). Modest sized forces.
- 25mm Early Renaissance Italian Wars c1490-1520 (Old Glory). This is another period where I have bought a bunch of figs but haven't painted much, with the exception of a decent sized block of Landsknechts that were shipped off to a contract painting service.
The rules I/we typically play are:
- Medievals - Chris Parkers' Day of Battle, Saga's Medieval Warfare, and home rules heavily modified from 2nd edition Day of Battle. I have played Might of Arms at HMGS conventions and thought it was ok, but don't play it at home.
- Ancients - Saga's Ancient Warfare. I have tried Armati and DBA and found both to be completely uninteresting.
- ACW - Fire and Fury. A bit abstract to be sure, but flows nicely and is easy to pick up and play again after a layoff.
- American Rev - Fire and Fury variant. Also Flint and Steel by Richard Kane from Clash of Arms games. I like these rules a lot and play them at conventions, but I don't know them well enough to run games at home.
- WW2 - Battlefront. Flames of war, aka Buckets of Dice holds absolutely zero interest for me.
- Seven Years War - Koenig Krieg. An oldy but a goody. Will also be trying Saga's Lace Warfare, which I have played at conventions and think is pretty decent.
- Napoleonics - this is a tough one. I love William Keyser's From Valmy to Waterloo, but it is a fiddly game that doesn't translate well to casual players, some of which my crew are. It is more for hard core gamers because of the level of detail and being pretty involved. Saga's Napoleonic Warfare is a pretty good candidate, because it is similar to all the other Saga products, so it seems familiar, and plays easily. A bit abstract at times, but...
A last comment on painting itself. I love to paint, and am decent at it, but lack the time to get large quantities of figures done. In addition to painting my own stuff, I use or have used the following for painted figures:
- Fernando Enterprises in Sri Lanka for excellent quality, reasonably priced figures done in bunches. I have heard mild complaints from a couple of friends on quality variation from order to order, but I have never had a problem.
- GAJO - I have bought a good amount of 15mm ACW and Napoleonics from George and later Craig over the years. I am less thrilled about the painting style that Craig uses now, but the quality is certainly terrific.
- Pretty much all of my 5mm Napoleonics and Seven Years War stuff was painted by Robin Miller, since retired. A great guy.
- As a general rule, I do not buy painted figures off of ebay or other auction sites as I tend to be really picky about my figures and like to have some idea what I am paying for.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
- A unit of Cheshire longbowmen (12 figures), mostly done. According to HJ Hewitt in The Black Prince's Expedition, archers from Cheshire were some of the first "uniformed" troops in western Europe, wearing tunics with split green and white. I am adding one unit of them as they will stand out.
- A unit of mercenary Italian crossbows (16 figures), primed and started. I am using 12th Century Crossbowmen figs for these. They work ok for HYW, and will fit in with a variety of earlier periods as well. These are decent figs that can realistically used from 1100 to 1400 or so. I would use Genoese crossbowmen from the HYW range if I hadn't been too lazy to getting around to buying them. Too late now.
- Two or three mounted banner bearers, to be based singly, not started. I will use French caparisoned knights for these, chopping and drilling the weapon hands to hold flag poles.
- Another unit or two of dismounted French men at arms wouldn't be a bad idea, but I might not need them. These would be easy enough to knock out, as the figs can mostly be dry-brushed for the mail and armor and only the tunics and details need painting.
Here a few English dismounted men at arms for the French to go up against. These are proof pictures from Fernando Enterprises in Sri Lanka, who paint some of my stuff for me. I know, I cheat...
All the figures I am working on at the moment, and most of my medieval figures for that matter, are Old Glory 25mm.
After Fall In, what comes next? I have a few odds and ends of Hundred Years War to complete, some Wars of the Roses retinue figs, and then I need to decide on which major new project to embark on - Renaissance Italian Wars or medieval Ottomans and assorted Eastern Europeans. Both are tempting, and I have plenty of unpainted lead waiting in the wings for each of them. I would really like to do Nicopolis (western European crusaders and Hungarians against Ottomans and their allies in 1396), so maybe I am leaning in that direction. We shall see....
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
The project on the docket at the moment, and one which has a due date, is to finalize the events that I will be running at HMGS's Fall In show in Gettysburg PA in November with my good friend Chris Parker. Chris is the author of the Day of Battle rules set (whose title I have shamelessly pilfered for the title of this blog) for medieval battles, and we will be running a pair of games at the convention based more or less on the battle of Poitiers (the Hundred Years War one, not the other). We need to nail down the orders of battle we will be using, finish painting the last few units needed, and then playtest and tweak the whole affair. More to come...