Wednesday, 8 June 2011

The Song of the Model Painter

How very over-wrought. So I hope you're paying attention. I've been thinking about a subject which turns up again and again on blogs: that of audio-visual distractions while engaged on painting. Some prefer the musical distraction while applying the pigments. Rammstein and classical composers seem to have about equal popularity, based on my unscientific recollections. Others lean toward sticking on a film while they paint, with Aliens naturally ranking highly, although some people swear by Alexander, which boggles my mind. Sorry, aficionados of said film, I'll get my coat. Whatever the preferred distraction, there's a list of ten or twenty things that are suitable for providing background noise while one squints. That's poetic licence, chaps; my eyes are flawless. OK, I can't aim what I hit at at any distance beyond six feet, but shut up!

My problem is twofold. I'm sure that back at university I was quite happy painting and what have you with just a little music, but ever since I lived in London I can't seem to get things done without a combined audio-visual distraction. I would like to run through the Laurel and Hardy collection as I stroke my brush over plastic, but they were terribly inconsiderate and produced a large number of very, very funny silent films. What were they thinking? Again, The General is a great little ACW comedy with Buster Keaton, but again silent. Alas! There's a second problem here. I've run through my collection of apt films. Lately I have been cursing the fact that there are only four Alien films. I want something bleakly futuristic and gritty. Blade Runner, you say? I watched it a few weeks ago. Predator? Predator 2? Predators? I've watched them all in the last few months. Star Wars I-VI? Those aren't even gritty, and yes, I have also watched them.

I've been doing my best to catch up on a few films we have, but which I haven't ever seen. It's been a generally rewarding experience, although xXx 2 isn't really going to paper itself to my heart the way Mississippi Burning has done. But tonight - and tonight is not the first time - I know that I want a specific kind of film before I can get down to working. I sawed up a load of wood earlier, and used a hot glue gun to attach two buildings to bases, to glue a load of twigs to bases, replicating a blasted WWI-style former forest (hat tip to the excellent Roundwood's World blog), and to begin work on a hill that's 18" by 10" and tall enough to hide a GW superheavy behind it. Then I sat down to get to work on one of the buildings, and here I am two hours later, typing this, because I just cannot get into the right mood for it at all!

Do I know what I want to do? Yes! I've got mesh standing by, plasticard at my feet, knife and file and glues to hand. All that is wanting is the go command. This is, I suspect, a rather unplanned for conglomeration of my successful therapy and my unsuccessful appendix. I've had vastnesses of free time, much of which I have nobly employed on modelling. So I've gone through most of my collection of films. Not all, I admit. But although I dearly regard Clueless and Lost in Translation and others, they just aren't films to paint or model by. I ended up watching about eight hours of documentaries (in part voiced by BRIAN BLESSED!) a few weeks back, and that consumed my holding capacity for military documentaries.

In a way it's a shame. I rescued a load of old VHS from dying of exposure in Mum's garage the other day, and as well as the unwatchable football matches (unwatchable because watching football is more tedious than painting a bathroom, which I say as a man who'll spend a good [bad?] hour tomorrow painting a bathroom), Bob Dylan videos and state occasions (did anyone else's father record Diana's state funeral? It runs to two tapes, so you've probably noticed it), there is a sizeable cache of military and naval subjects. I picked out one tantalising name, The True Glory, and it turns out to be a well-regarded documentary made from footage compiled by hundreds of Allied cameramen from the D-Day landings to the end of the war in Europe. It's one of maybe a dozen or two dozen (I have yet to catalogue everything) videos covering mainly WWII subjects.

Still, this is what I always planned for as a teenager. Back in the days before DVDs, before BluRay technology was a gleam in a scientist's eye, I decided I'd record a load of stuff off the telly so that when I got old I could watch it again. Granted, I didn't record The True Glory or the 1982 Trooping the Colour with this in mind, but I guess Dad did. I was very pleased the other day to find an episode of This Morning With Richard Not Judy, and even more pleased, on having posted it to Facebook, when a friend linked me to Stewart Lee's website, where the whole run is available to watch. If you haven't seen any of his late night Wednesday shows on BBC2 lately, tonight's is the last.

Er, where was I? Yes. Funnily enough, the things I recorded are pretty much still with us. Friends and Frasier are repeated ad infinitum on C4. Dark Skies turned up on DVD last October - just as I ran out of funds. Ack! Space: Above and Beyond, a gloriously silly and OTT sci-fi romp from some of the X-Files guys, is but a few clicks away for those not concerned with legal niceties. Although I believe that technically I should have wiped my recordings after thirty days, so I'm on thin ice there! :-D But I am glad of a few things. Fortean TV, a short-lived show presented by the absolutely wonderful Father Lionel Fanthorpe, remains in half a dozen or so episodes I've retained. I reviewed them a while ago, and it's as amusing as ever to see recounted the tale of the man who found "a pork scratching in the shape of the Madonna and child Jesus" in a pub with only three people in it, and which was called the Apostles, and located across the road from a church. Or something like that. Amusingly preposterous coincidences the chap had clearly hyped up to sell it to the tabloids. :-D

Of course, these days VHS tapes are falling by the wayside as technology zooms away digitally, while a lot of what I recorded is now superfluous, low quality duplication. Episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The X-Files scattered across numerous VHS tapes can't really stand up to the slenderness of my DVD collections. I've about two hundred and fifty films and tens of hours of TV shows, and they inevitably take up a lot less room than the five hundred and something VHS tapes containing films that have devoured most of a wall in Dad's study. Don't say I should transfer them to a HDD. I haven't the cash to buy the technology to effect the transfer. I've discerned that we must have stopped recording films a while ago, as a stack of the tapes I've salvaged from the garage are repositories for films good, bad and utterly unheard of. Are you familiar with As Summers Die? I thought not. It seems to have snuck its way onto the tape after The Medicine Man, a Sean Connery vehicle you've probably not heard of!

I feel I should attempt to return to my opening theme, and somehow suggest that by finding Garfield and Herbie: Fully Loaded in the pile that I have discovered something to distract me while painting, but that'd be a hard sell given neither's a gritty futuristic film. Terminator V: Herbie Slays Again and Blade Runner 2: Garfield Is Not Real aren't the films on the DVDs. That said, perhaps one of you would like to knock something together. Does anyone have a VW Beetle or a fat orange cat? If not I suppose you'll be stuttering around, needing one of those before you can begin your project, just as I need some gritty sci-fi nonsense to engage my brain.

Until next time, dear readers!

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