Wednesday 27 June 2012

Urban Habitation Unit: Recycling Rubbish!

I think this was a salad drawer from a fridge. It's either that or it is some sort of plastic planter. Whatever it's from, it's just the right size for a nice little residential unit. If I played Infinity, I'd be rubbing my hands with glee, I suspect. Anyway, I cleaned it out, as it had accumulated a mass of dirt when I found it out back. What next? Well, I want to detail it, and for that I need a nice surface, so I cut some 0.5mm plasticard into large flat pieces, and layer it all over the flat areas, avoiding the curves. I am now trying to decide precisely how to decorate it. I have some ideas, and in my next update, I shall expound one or two! Until then, folks!

Monday 25 June 2012

Return of the giant industrial fan!

It's back, and this time it's bigger than ever! I've got three fans (of this size) salvaged from dead PCs in our attic. The first is being made into a large cooling tower. The walls are 2mm thick plasticard, wrapped round with 0.25mm plasticard to cover the gaps. I decided to go with a different vibe for this one, having seen Prometheus the other day. So this piece has unusual patterning. It's been undercoated. Watch this space for updates, folks!

Monday 18 June 2012

Innocence, thy name is Pete!

In retrospect, it seems blindingly obvious that reviewing on my blog a famous film shortly after its release will lead to an upsurge in views, but I am not the chap to realise such things before the event. Over two hundred folk visited this blog that day. I thank all of you and especially Ridley Scott! I've been looking forward to this summer, as it contains Iron Sky, Prometheus, Skyfall and the final Batman flick. There's probably a load of other filmage coming out, but I have either failed to pay attention or quite forgotten it. This argues against my capability to capitalise on the financial investments of film studios to the benefit of this wee site! The fact that yesterday's post was directing my readers to look at year-old photographs of my pet rabbit further suggests I might not be a tactical-genius-cum-blog-mastermind.

I see that Blogger have "improved" their security features for posting replies again. Last time they "improved" them by slurring the words so badly together that people couldn't even read 'em! They had already horribly perverted the meaning of the word word by asking people to retype two collections of random letters, which they claimed were words. Perhaps I'm unfair. I don't speak Polynesian or Xhosa or any one of over a hundred current languages. Maybe "topitu" means something in a language I don't know. Anyway, Blogger's latest wheeze is to show a photograph of a house number (presumably nabbed from Google Earth or something - I had heard that some naughty SatNav company was using visual info they had pledged to destroy for other stuff, so this might be that) and call the picture of the number a "word". I asked one mate about this, and he immediately spotted that the plug in the corner with some electrical wiring off to the right was "44". I asked another mate about it, and he said he couldn't see a blasted thing!

I hate being outrun by the march of technology to ever "better" things. I am in some ways a deplorable old stick in the mud. At thirty-one, yes. Quiet, you! Visiting my friend, Mark, the other week, he was astounded that I was using a pen with a nib. They're really nice. I can't imagine not using them. Biros and pencils have their places, but writing without a nib? Madness! There was a debate in the letters page of my newspaper over what to call such a pen. Quill pens have, um, quills. Cartridge pens (such as mine) have, er, cartridges, and the fountain pen is a bit of nomenclature technically reserved for the stylus without either feathers or cartridges. If you've ever read a newspaper's letters page, you'll know that "technically" is all the currency they deal in!

On which note, folks, I promise you a return to regular content this week. I have been accountably, quite accountably, distracted from the regular gaming concerns these last several days. Happily, Blogger lets one prepare a series of things to load in one's absence. The problem arises when one has no time to load stuff up! This week I intend to get several bits and bobs done. Look forward to that, folks!

Saturday 16 June 2012

Who is adorable? Spot!

The other day we couldn't remember Spot's age. We thought maybe two, maybe three. He seems to have been here forever. He is a gorgeous wee fella, Spot. You folk who missed him before should have a gander at his original appearance on this blog, when he was very nearly a literal ball of fluff. "Literal" and "literally" are much abused today, so I hereby assure you that Spot, at this time, was almost Tribble-like in his gorgeous fluffiness! Enjoy our wee bunny! :-D

Friday 15 June 2012

Wonderful Wedding Number Two!

I had a lovely time in Cullen the other weekend. Almost everyone reading this will be scratching their heads, muttering to themselves, "Where? Did he mention this in a previous post?" Cullen is a teeny-tiny place in Scotland, where my friend's family live, and where she and another friend got married. I stayed in the charming Norwood Guest House in the town, which is run by an absolutely charming couple. I admit I was attracted by the name, since it brought to mind Sherlock Holmes! I am happy to report no sinister lumber-yard fires occurred during my time there. I shall spare you the details of the drive. Suffice to say that on the Thursday I got up around midday, collected two friends from Manchester Piccadilly about 21:40, reached Cullen at about 07:30 on Friday morning, and finally got to sleep an hour later. I went through four cans of Red Bull.

The town itself is beautifully situated on the slope of a hill, facing out to sea. There's a lovely little harbour, and a sea wall against which the sea was epically dashing itself on the Sunday. But let us return to the Friday. After a nap of a few hours, I met up with everyone - it was quite the joyful reunion of folk from the old alma mater. I was especially pleased to see and catch up with Sarah and Jack, whom I hadn't seen since university! Jack was the Best Man, but isn't a man, and arguably her name isn't Jack. If you don't understand, you clearly aren't an alumnus/a of Lampeter! We chatted for ages, and had a grand old time. On the Saturday we all met up in the town square, where TJ, the groom, led us on the picturesque trip to the beautiful church. It lies some distance from town, I learned, because the aristocrats decided they'd move the town so the church was more secluded. Friendly bunch, eh! There was a minor emergency before the wedding, with Sarah sending her tights to the bride via Dave. I drove Dave over to save time, but he couldn't recall Caroline's parents' house, so someone got Sarah's tights through their letterbox. I think Sarah recovered them later!

The church itself is quite old. The heart of Robert the Bruce's wife is buried within, and the Ogilvie-Gordons are buried there, too. Anyway, everyone was there in good time for the wedding. I am happy to say that I recognised the tune of one of the three hymns, if not the words: the peril of being the wrong religion is that we all have different hymns. Although I keep finding myself singing unfamiliar things when I'm at the 10:30 instead of my usual 8:35 am Mass on Sundays. Digression over! The bride looked lovely, and the groom the very picture of a distinguished gentleman! The priest put everyone at their ease, and a harpist played her instrument in accompaniment to Caroline's arrival and at other points. There then followed an abundance of photography, within and outside the church. Smiles abounded!

Following the ceremony, there was a wee pause of half an hour or so, and then we adjourned to the church hall, where a lovely spread had been put on for us. So considerate had Caroline, TJ and their families been to my peculiar vegan needs, that there was more choice I could have hoped to enjoy. I was very grateful. There were little favours and boomarks for all the guests, which was handy, as I was able to slip mine into my copy of Catch-22 later on. Following the meal, there was a break while most of us got changed into more relaxed clothes and ambled up to the Cullen Bay Hotel. As befits a celebration in Caledonia, a certain amount of Scotch was imbibed, including a 1974 cash strength one, which was utterly heavenly! Around midnight, I think, we all trundled out en masse, and ambled in an approximately homeward direction, a day well spent!

On the Sunday I had arranged with Dave to go for a walk, but shortly before we were to set out, the bride and groom arrived, so we cancelled our plans, and had a nice afternoon chatting with them. Later on, Dave and Maz and I went for a stroll around the clifftop paths which Dave had earlier reconnoitred. It was very pretty, and not too cold, despite the wind sweeping in off the North Sea. On the Monday, we did get to go for the walk. What we thought was five miles turned out to be more like seven or eight, and only two of us remembered to bring water! The sun was quite hefty, and I managed to catch some despite repeated applications of factor 30. It's great being ginger, really! We saw the ruins of Findlater Castle, which left me a little confused. The castle, although it was tricky to reach on foot, was overlooked by the surrounding cliffs, rendering it not terribly defensible, I should have thought. Historically, it was taken following a siege. The castle's main purposes appeared to have been to monitor the sea approaches, and to provide a nice spot for a picnic. If only we had brought one!

On the Tuesday, we left about 9am. The bride had prevailed on me to take a few things they had no space for themselves. This meant I wasn't driving back to the bottom of Cheshire, but to Milton Keynes. There's a nice church just down the road from me. I am going to have to start persuading my friends to have their nuptials there so I'm not driving off to Wales and Scotland again. ;-) We stopped off at home so I could pop my washing in the machine and get a change of clothes for the next day. I caught up with Sam's chap, Erik, who hadn't been able to make it to the wedding, but unfortunately got caught in a foul-up heading home, adding two hours to a two and a half hour trip. I got home on the Wednesday night about half eight, having driven 1,210 miles, I think, and my brain was pretty much mush! It was a delightful occasion, but if I visit Cullen again, I'll take the train to somewhere nearby, I think! I hope you enjoy this small selection of photos.

Thursday 14 June 2012

Prometheus: a review and summary

Avast, maties! Be warned that this review contains the dreaded Spoilers! Ye have been warned, yaar! Now read on, if ye dare!

For quite some time I have been looking forward to Prometheus, Ridley Scott's recently released film. I have heard that it would be a prequel to Alien, that it would be set in the same universe, that it would be set in a different universe and have nothing to do with Alien. Then I stopped paying attention to what I was hearing, and just waited for the film to come out. With a shocking level of inconsiderateness, it came out while I was away in Scotland at my friends' wedding in a tiny town without a cinema. Deplorable behaviour, Ridley Scott, what were you thinking? Thus stymied, I went to see it last Friday, a week later, with my brother and my friends, Berni and Nathan.

We watched it in 3D. It was the first time I have watched a 3D film, which tells you how infrequently I go to the cinema these days. I was a little wary, as Mum watched Avatar in this new "superior" format some time ago, and it confused her eyes. It took about half an hour, she said, before they returned to normal. Happily, I did not suffer from this reaction. Unhappily, I did develop a slight migraine. Happily, some cupboards in the background of a scene looked positively three-dimensional. Unhappily, a sand-storm in the film looked slightly bizarre. On the basis of that score sheet, I shall be dodging 3D in future. Don't let me put you off. I just don't consider a headache to be an acceptable result from an improvement. Call me a stick in the mud!

I had read, before seeing the film, that Fassbender's performance as the synthetic was worth the price of admission alone. This is inarguably true. The character of the android is a joy to watch. He is mature and naive, callous and filled with solicitude for the well-being of others, emotionless and yet filled with pathos, selfish and selfless. He reminded me in some scenes of Anthony Hopkins' portrayal of Hannibal Lecter. In the context of the Alien series, he is a very pleasing melding of the strength and benignity of Bishop in the second film and the single-minded villainy of Ian Holm's Ash in Scott's original. He is belittled and insulted by some of the other characters, yet his humanity seems superior to theirs. There is a pointed (yet blackly comic) scene in which he asks another character, Charlie Holloway, why man created synthetics. On receiving the flat answer "Because we could, I guess." He asks how disappointed mankind would be to hear that reply from their progenitors.

The film opens with a figure in cloak committing suicide at a waterfall. We later learn this is one of the so-called Engineers, Space Jockeys, Pilots who built humanity. He swallows a toxin and dissolves in agony into the pouring water. That could sum up the film: self-destruction and self-sacrifice are the two themes that I perceived most abundantly in it. A long time later a couple of human scientists discover cave paintings all around the world which depict a specific cluster of stars, the system we know from the first two Alien flicks. They convince a dying bloke, an unrecognisable Guy Pearce, Peter Weyland (yup, Weyland and Yutani have yet to unite), to fund their speculative trip to find out what the heck is over in that star system.

Then it's a few years later. Fassbender's character, David, potters round the ship, being a real crowd-pleaser - he demonstrates his superior coordination and his desire to emulate human behaviour, and spies on Dr Shaw's dreams because he's a sinister character and because he arguably doesn't know he's transgressing a boundary. The spaceship is a bit peculiar. I have heard lamentation that it seems more advanced than the Nostromo, the mining ship of the first film. There will always be visual problems when films are created decades apart, and evolving computer technology is one. However, this ship is the privately financed state-of-the-art plaything of the head a multi-billion-dollar corporation, and the original ship was a bog-standard tug. So you can get upset or not, as you please. I didn't find it ruined my enjoyment of the film.

They reach planet LV223, and you sit in the dark cinema, wondering whether that's the same number as in the original flick. No, I had a look and in the original it was LV426. They are in the same system, and have designations apparently 203 instances apart, don't orbit the same gas giant, and this new planet is far more hospitable than the original Stygian (boom-boom!) Acheron. I had a gander at some Aliens wiki earlier, and LV426 (the planet in the original) is one of three planets orbiting a gas giant, according to a screenshot, whereas a screenshot of the new flick shows two moons (including LV223) orbiting this gas giant. So either it's a system with 2+ gas giants with big ol' moons or someone adds a third planet by the time of Alien, and renders LV223 less appetising a prospect for colonisation than LV426. The anal-retentive digression ends here.

Peter Weyland's hologram appears to give everyone a strange pep-talk, and to make us sympathise with David, the dream-invading creep: "He's the closest thing I have to a son, but he has no soul." Meredith Vickers, Charlize Theron, has a huffy moment of growling at the two academics. Shaw makes some baffling speech about how she believes the Engineers made us. It's impossible to know what to make of this. One of the other characters says she's throwing out centuries of Darwinism, and she responds "It's what I believe." It's never made clear just what the Engineers did: a) create all life on Earth (unlikely, since it would require a timescale too vast to conceive), b) interfere by patching proto-human DNA with their own (which doesn't fit with the later idea that human and Engineer DNA is exactly the same), or c) something else. I assume it's a combination of poor writing and some strange reference to the squabbling in America over whether evolution or Creationism is the One True Path. It mildly irritated me to hear the scientist dude who opposed her "crazy theory" calling it Darwinism, when Darwinism is obsolete and has been replaced by more advanced models of evolutionary theory. That said, I can see why you'd dodge a five-minute pencil-sketch of the evolution of evolutionary theory in your film.

So they fly down to the planet, which has huge mountains that make Everest look cute and tiny, and they spot a row of structures: a semi-spherical dome topped with a crested ridge, and with a wall encircling all but a small entrance. They land at one, and everyone (except David) appears to have forgotten the others exist by the film's end. I recall a line of at least three, and probably more, stretching beyond the capacity of the eye to see. There has been a lot of complaining that the ship's captain only asks whether the atmosphere is safe for the ship when they are already in it. It has been widely declared that he should have had a spectroscopic analysis run while in orbit. Frankly, I'm prepared to tolerate something that is clearly only a cinematic convenience.

Everyone's filled with the desire to explore this place and find out what's going on, so off they zoom. They get inside and discover that the atmosphere is strangely breatheable - handily allowing the actors to take off their huge bubble helmets. David has no sense of self-preservation, and doesn't care about the others, so starts poking at controls on the wall, replaying CCTV holograms of giant creatures fleeing something and opening doors to sinister chambers with big heads and worrying-looking jars that evoke Alien eggs. Shaw collects the decapitated head of one of the giants, who have been dead for a couple of millennia. Two dudes sensibly decide they are freaked out, and elect to return to the ship. Foolishly, they didn't pack their Tom-Tom, and so when everyone else flees back to the ship from the giant sandstorm a few minutes later, they are still wandering forlornly around the innards of the complex.

The sandstorm exposes a slight problem with 3D: the fragments closest to one are inevitably blurred, no matter that one looks at them carefully. Pretty minor problem, I guess. Dr Shaw drops the head, and her boyfriend, Charlie, and David have to drag her back to the ship. They poke the ol' noggin with some electricity so it thinks it's alive, and it begins to melt like the dude at the start of the film. Everyone is amazed that it looks like a giant pale human head, except Shaw, who is very pleased, as its DNA precisely matches human DNA. I began to get confused, then wrote off this impossibility as film shorthand: the DNA for a pallid, twelve-foot tall muscled, hairless race doesn't really seem likely to be exactly the same as ours. We share something like 95% of our DNA with bananas, so I presume it's this sort of closely proximate connection that the scriptwriter ineptly wished to convey. Charlie is disappointed, and so he gets drunk. David, back to being sinister, extracts some sinister black oil (very X-Files) from one of the jars, which he picked up. He has the aforementioned chat with Charlie, then asks "What would you be prepared to do to find out?" When Charlie says he'd do anything, David contaminates his booze with black oil. It's a really charmingly pointed bit, that. David really does seem to ask Charlie's permission to experiment on him. Charlie, despite insulting David for not being human, doesn't realise that human idiom is a bad idea when dealing with something inhuman, and seals his own fate.

Charlie goes to see Shaw, and upsets her by making light of the Engineers' ability to create life, which reminds her that she's infertile. Quite why he is disappointed, angry and upset is unclear to me. The only real explanation seemed to be that he'd hoped to meet the Engineers, and yet they all were dead. Given that he is an archaeologist, spending all his time studying extinct civilisations and so on, he might have got used to this by now. Perhaps he gets drunk at the start of every dig he goes on. Meanwhile, the two dudes who had wisely decided to flee back to the ship, and foolishly got lost, find that weird alien lifeforms have oozed out of the jars. The biology dude tries to charm the sinister dianoga-like thingy, and his bearded, hairy companion freaks out. They both die. Come next day and the folks on the ship head out to look for the dudes. Charlie falls ill, so they drag him back to the ship. Vickers, terrified of infection by some alien madness, flames Charlie, who deliberately forces her hand by walking onto the ship. Shaw is understandably upset. She wakes up a bit later, and David tells her that she's three-months pregnant with an alien monstrosity. She beats up some folks and abuses a silly surgical machine to have the baby removed.

Having been cut open by a laser for an emergency Caesarean, and stapled shut again, she then spends most of the rest of the film hauling heavy weights, getting into fights and running at high speed. I had heard that the Caesarean scene was unwatchable. That's untrue, unless you're particularly squeamish. If you are particularly squeamish, why are you watching a Ridley Scott film set in the Alien universe? You aren't, are you? You're watching something gentle and unworrying. So there's a nice thematic link here with the first film. In Alien the facehuggers, resembling in part the female genitalia, attacked people, and in a sense raped them, making them gestate a monster. In this film we see David practice a form of date-rape on Charlie, by taking advantage of his drunken state. Then Charlie and Shaw have consensual sex, leading to her pregnancy. The character has always dreamed of pregnancy, being infertile, and yet on realising her dream it becomes instead a nightmare.

Now it turns out that Peter Weyland was on the ship all along, wanting to find from the Engineers a cure for being old. David has discovered that one of them survives in a stasis pod, and takes everyone to meet Mr Tall, Bald, Muscled and Pallid. Shaw doesn't seem to feel like stating that she is vexed that David murdered her boyfriend, and made her womb into a laboratory to make a monster. She has a more mature attitude to the foibles of machines than I do. I shout at my car when it mucks up a gear change. I would take it very amiss if it were to impregnate me with a toothy alien squid-thing. I'm not sure why she doesn't shout at Peter Weyland. Maybe she's tired. Having your belly cut open can take it out of you, I know. It was all I could do, having lost my appendix last year, to hobble slowly to the end of the road and back, taking about three or four times as long as normal. I respect these future scientists and their awesome staples.

Vickers turns out to be Weyland's daughter, which has been hinted at throughout the film. First, when Weyland refers to David as his son, not his child. Second, in scenes when Vickers has attempted to stamp her authority on the mission and in particular on David. Third, in scenes when she clearly seeks parental approval. Her heartless, cold-blooded and yet wrathful nature makes an interesting (albeit brief) comparison with David. Peter Weyland made himself a synthetic monster of a son, and made his real daughter into a monster through neglect and so on.

So it's off to see the wizard. They wake the sleeping giant, and he cheerily tries to murder them all, then takes off, intent on using his deadly cargo of bio-weapons to annihilate all life on Earth. The human captain and his officers agree with Shaw's estimation that preventing this is a cause worth dying for, and, after ejecting a lifeboat, do a kamikaze run into the giant vessel, sending it crashing back to LV223. Vickers flees off the ship and to the lifeboat, but the Engineers' immense vessel rolls on its rounded edge and squashes her. I came home the other day in my car, and there was a rabbit in the yard. He ran directly away from me. I was driving exactly where he was hopping. Rabbits have an excuse for being silly about the way things roll: they have yet to invent the wheel. When humans do it, it's silly. Run sideways, for pity's sake!

Shaw, having sprinted, fallen, got up, sprinted and so on for several minutes, now rushes over to the lifeboat because her air is low for no readily apparent reason. I (generously) presume a deleted scene exists in which her air canister is damaged in her flight. Reaching the lifeboat, she scrambles in just in time, and is aghast to find the baby monster has turned into a giant toothy squid. It's really not clear why nobody bothered to secure this critter before popping off to see the pale stasis-pod dude. Come on, Mr Weyland, what's the point of looking for a cure for old age when you're going to get eaten by Squiddy the Pale when you come back to your ship? David helpfully tells Shaw over the intercom that the Engineer, annoyed about being knocked out of the sky, is coming to kill her. Happily for her, Squiddy and the Space Jockey have a battle reminiscent of that King Kong versus Tyrannosaurus Rex fights from the classic '30s film, and she slinks off. Folks have complained that there is no reason for David to tell her, but that ignores the fact that David is throughout solicitous for human welfare until it gets in the way of Weyland's plans or David's interest.

The Engineers are thus exposed to have been not noble progenitors of mankind with the loveliest of intentions, but sinister bio-weapon researchers who sequestered themselves on a tiny moon in case anything went wrong. Something did go wrong, but they managed to avoid it reaching their homeworld by all dying on LV223 instead. It's a nice switch to see the Space Jockeys depicted as evil, given the aura of kindness that the film crew apparently felt about the model in the original film, and given that Shaw starts the film believing them to be kindly benefactors, extending to mankind a hand of helpful friendship. It remains unclear why the Space Jockey at the end intends to cleanse Earth of mankind. Is humanity an unsatisfactory species for preparing a planet for habitation by the Space Jockeys? Is humanity perfect, but the inevitable result of our success is our extermination? Has the surviving Space Jockey just gone crazy because of malfunctioning equipment? Was he always a nutter? Does anyone particularly care? When's the sequel coming out?

David, is pleasantly stoic about having his head separated from his body by the malign Space Jockey, in a scene which reminds us that the humans were poking at the decapitated head of another Space Jockey earlier. He then reminds us of a still earlier scene, by pointing out that there are other alien ships. Shaw then lugs his body about. I know the first thing I thought of on returning from surgery was weight-lifting. Oh, wait, no. No, even sitting up was exhausting, because I had to use unfamiliar muscles so as not to wear out the stomach ones with a hole in them. I'll shut up about that now because we're at the end. So off they fly - the helpful, psychotic, naive robot and the God-loving, somewhat-crazy, PTSD-dodging, superhuman scientist. We cut back to the Engineer, and a proto-Alien chestbursts its way out of him, leaving us even more confused about the origin of the Aliens than we were before we watched this film about the backstory of Alien.

Worth watching? Yes. Worth watching in the cinema? Yes, there's some lovely grand visuals. Does it answer any questions? Er, kinda. Does it raise more questions? Arguably, but since it didn't answer the first bunch it was supposed to, you can write off any expectations about a sequel to this prequel filling in the weird gaps with any sort of conclusive answer. Self-destruction and self-sacrifice as themes? Yup: the Engineer at the start, the crazy folk who undertake a five-year trip (one-way) to look into some utterly unconvincing vague hints that aliens made us, Peter Weyland destroying himself by looking for stuff that "man was not meant to know", David getting ripped apart by the Engineer, the Engineer's own Squiddy using him to birth a new monster, Charlie's readiness to "do anything" to find out more about the Engineers, the Engineers' own bio-weapons killing them, the humans' ship crashing into the Engineers' ship so as to save Earth, the scientist who gets too close to the dianoga-thing and gets himself killed, and probably some more that aren't coming to mind.

Weird stuff about sex and rape and birth? Yup: Shaw gestating Squiddy, Squiddy impregnating the Engineer, the scientist who gets too close to the dianoga-thing having it force its way down his throat, the Engineer at the start killing itself to see Earth with its genetic material. Worth watching in 3D? Not from where I was sitting. My friend, Nathan, said they only really use 3D to have things fly at you in ads. In proper films it's more a subtle background thing. Contrarily, when Mum saw Avatar, she commented on the realism of the depths, when one's got the perspective of the characters standing over sheer drops. So I suppose I should watch that and get another headache before issuing my final verdict. Is the film good? Yes and no. Every film I have ever seen contains ridiculous elements. This is not an exception. I would say that you should go see this film, but I would temper that with the admonition that, having watched Men in Black 3 the next day, MIB3 was better than Prometheus. Make of that what you will.

Wednesday 13 June 2012

Space Thingy: the adventure continues!

I'm not being idle on this front. I have been rifling through dead computers in the attic and have unearthed a veritable treasure trove of fans. I also found an old GI Joe gun, which has some nice surface detail. Trimmed down and glued to a wall it should look quite fetching. The 18" by 18" boards will, by the time you read this, look nicer than they do in these photographs. I mean to have the vinyl netting on one of them at least! The fans, too, look nicer than they do here. Dad smokes a pipe, so as well as the usual dust, these fans have an added coating of tar and nicotine. I gave them a bit of a wash with some soap and a brush and they're nice and clean and ready to become scenery now.

Tuesday 12 June 2012

Lovely weather for ducks!

Since it's summer in the UK, the ducks who live near us have been having a lovely time of it lately. Then on Sunday we had three in the side garden, requesting food in a relaxed fashion. We had a couple of bunnies in the yard and back garden, but they sped off before I could even think of photographing them. I did get a nice shot of an immobile bush, though! So in lieu of grey-brown rabbits, you can enjoy a green-pink bush and some wee ducks.

Monday 11 June 2012

Wild West River board

I've got this piece nicely in hand now. I realised that constantly slapping glue and sand just above a carpet was asking for trouble, so I have moved the board up to the attic, where I shall work on it henceforth. I got the second rise to the bridge built up, and made sure it approximately fits the bridge. I'm not securing the bridge until later for a few reasons. I want to make sure I can paint the bridge from every direction, and I want to get it nicely settled into the board. I'm still toying with the idea of making it removable. Who knows? Maybe some reckless cowpokes with nitroglycerine will decide to blow it to kingdom come! The sand has been secured, and I'll probably do a bit more work on this tomorrow. For now here's where things stand. The tiny wee figure stood in the middle of the river is that GW Cadian officer who turns up from time to time in these photos to give a sense of scale. Yup, that's a 2' by 4' board, all right!

Monday 4 June 2012

Iron Sky: a review

Those of us who watched the famous Star Wreck have long been looking forward to this even crazier offering from the same folk. Yes, you're going to see Moon Nazis returning to Earth in order to have their revenge. I shall avoid detailed spoilers. They fled Earth in 1945 and built a base on the dark side of the Moon. I greatly enjoyed this flick. The CGI is very good, especially considering their meagre budget. That sentence means what it says. It doesn't mean, "They did the best they could." It means they did a great job and I'm not entirely sure how, given what Hollywood films spend on CGI! Inarguably, when you have Space Nazis with flying saucers and armour-clad space zeppelins, you need either great models or great CGI. They have the latter. The look of the film is in all respects great.

But what of the script, direction and acting? Well, let's get the bad news out of the way first. If you like or feel sympathetic toward Sarah Palin, you will be very angry with the script, as Stephanie Paul's unnamed President of the United States is a Palin parody. If you feel America is cruelly misrepresented by the media, you will get so angry with the film that you will miss the ending. If you like your films stuffed with big names, again you're in trouble. The only chap I recognise is the delightful Udo Kier, who plays a post-Hitlerian Mondfuehrer (Moon Fuehrer) with restrained glee. If you are no fan of camp humour, then why in Heaven's name are you watching a film about Moon Nazis with Flying Saucers? Get off out of it, as they say down south! The only real question mark I have in my mind is that the film's mad scientist closely resembles Albert Einstein - but he is the stereotypical German scientist, despite his thoroughly anti-Nazi politics. That sums up the problems that some viewers will have.

The benefits are multitudinous. For you visual fans, Julia Dietze, Götz Otto, Christopher Kirby and Monika Gossmann are beloved of the camera. Really, they look great. More importantly than pretty actors and actresses, the script is wide-ranging in its satirical scorn. America and Palin are far from the only targets. I got a bit of a kick out of the name of a British spaceship both because it was a stereotypical name and because the odds against us having a spaceship in 2018 (when the film begins) are so long you could put them on end and be able to see Russia from here in Cheshire. There's an off-the-cuff joke about North Korea that goes down nicely, and a very well done skewering of the fashion industry. That becomes even more pointed when you think about Hugo Boss' involvement with the Nazis.

I mentioned above those folk who feel America is too hard done by in terms of international public opinion. They will fail to see the message in the subsequent part of the film: they will perceive an unfair suggestion that Sarah Palin is a Nazi - weird as that perception might sound to those of you who have seen the film. The actual message isn't that at all. It's a satire of advertising, and the foolishness and gullibility of both politicians and the public. The messages of the film are that greed, a desire for revenge and bigotry are all potentially devastating on a personal level and in a wider sense. We all know that, and one of the ways to ensure we act appropriately is to remind ourselves. This is a very amusing film which clothes some shockingly worthwhile messages in comic clothing that we may better learn them. Plus, it has pretty people in funky clothes and machines. I don't tend to rate films on any particular basis, but I guess I have to if I write a whole blog entry about one! So let's say it's 8 stars out of 10 on a scale where Sunset Boulevard is a 10 and Plan 9 from Outer Space is a 1.5. I'm sure I've seen worse flicks than Plan 9, but none come to mind right now. So check out Iron Sky, folks, if you like your satire, dieselpunk, pretty actors and actresses!

Sunday 3 June 2012

Gaming Board: Part 4 and Wild West river board

It's getting grander! As I said before leaving for Wales, my intention with the gaming board I have already constructed (which is a foot and a half long and wide) is to add to it with three boards of the same size, yielding a playing area of 3' by 3'. I don't intend to play any crazily huge games, so that will prove to be much more than I need, I'm certain. So on Wednesday night I trundled downstairs to cut up huge bits of plastic while watching Lewis. Our rabbit, Spot, has a thing for trying to dig up rugs and carpet, mistaking them for grass, doubtless. I told him off and wryly remarked that some day I'd teach him to stop it. A minute later he came over to see what I was doing, and knocked over my glass, soaking the floor. I presume that in rabbit-speak this means, "Some day I'll teach you to stop leaving full glasses where I can knock them down!"

Having mopped up all that stuff, I kept cutting plasticard. I was really pleased to find out that the large piece of 2mm thick plasticard I had ordered was not 48" long but a little over 54", thus perfectly providing the three large bits I wanted. So now I have the three large pieces and can start building them up. I'm going to be in Scotland for several days for another wedding, so I won't be able to do any work until Tuesday night at the earliest. I doubt I'll be back until about 10pm that night! As well as this plastic cutting, I have applied the first coat of sand to the Wild West river board. It is slowly coming together.

Friday 1 June 2012

Wonderful Wedding Number One

Last Wednesday I went down to Wales for my friend's wedding. We met at uni - wargaming, naturally - but since he lives in Swansea, and I in Cheshire, I tend not to see Mark that often. I couldn't turn down this invitation, mind, as I was the (Co-)Best Man! On the Thursday we trundled over to Cardiff and had a couple of games of Flames of War. There was Mark, Jay (the other Best Man), Mark's dad and a couple of his friends, and I - and Mark's younger brother popped in to say hi. It says how very rusty I am that I got outflanked by the same unit commanded by the same opponent in the same terrain in both games I played. Clearly, you do have to tell me twice! We had a nice time, and had a full day.

On the Friday Mark's affianced, Marie, was doing last-minute wedding stuff, so Mark and I got to take care of their baby, Lily. She's usually good as gold, but was teething. I know very nearly nothing about babies, and my dramatic reading of video titles failed to distract her from her primary purpose of crying. Mark was hoovering, and so couldn't help. Thinking back, we really should have done that the other way round. She's very fond of her dad, and doesn't cry if he's holding her. Well, she certainly cries a lot less, anyway! She seemed phlegmatic when Mark popped on The Walking Dead, and lots of chaps wandered about missing bits of faces and trailing their innards. I'm not much of a zombie fan. I heretically find Romero's original Dawn of the Dead something of a yawn-fest. Nonetheless, I quite enjoyed the show. Given my love of wordplay, my favourite bit was the appearance of a doctor called Jenner who worked for the CDC and even mentioned smallpox. Simple things for simple minds!

Come the Friday evening, we trundled out to TGI Friday's, where they kindly knocked up something vegan for me. Then at the end of the meal, as it was a special occasion, they gave Mark a glass filled with cream and three cherries. The idea is that one stands on a chair and tries to eat one cherry. Something got a bit lost in translation, and he ended up eating all three cherries and drinking all the cream! The truly remarkable thing was that his stomach did not then rebel against this alien incursion. I'll draw a veil, as is only proper, over the events of the rest of the stag evening, as is right and proper. Suffice to say that even Mark's ironclad stomach was eventually defeated.

The Saturday was mainly a day of rest, and saw us watch most of the second season of The Walking Dead. When Channel 5 catches up, I shall have to watch the last two episodes, as that is all I missed. The Sunday was the big day, and we all pottered about, preparing, putting on suits, gathering buttonholes and so on. Needless to say, there were hiccups. The bride had the rings at her parents' house, and had meant to bring them over on the Friday or Saturday. Having forgotten, Mark was to pop over on the Sunday to pick them up. But when he got there, only Matt was left in the house,the others having gone out, and they'd not told him where the rings were! Happily, they came with the bride to the venue, Sketty Hall, and we didn't have to come up with some crazy last-minute plan!

The bride looked lovely, the groom very smart, and both were brimming over with happiness. The marriage went off without a hitch, and then we adjourned for the wedding meal. After two very nice courses we paused before dessert for speeches from the Bride's father, Paul, from Mark, and lastly from me. I was a little nervous, but all seemed to go well. Then there was dessert, followed my merriment, revels, dancing and a teeny-tiny amount of drinking! I shared a taxi back to Mark and Marie's place, as they were spending the night at a snazzy hotel. All in all, a lovely time!

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