Cape St Vincent prep pt. 5

It’s all gone a bit quiet on here from me lately. There are several reasons for this.

I’ve just finished up at work for 2014 – I had so much annual leave left to take that I’ve got three weeks off over Christmas and New Year. Unfortunately (and this isn’t a HUGE drawback, I’m the first to admit) it does mean an awful lot of panic working to make sure everything is done before the computer gets turned off.

Then, although I finished work officially last Thursday I have been a bit busy. Friday and Saturday were spent driving to and from Swansea to pick up the eldest boy from university. Sunday was spent with the kids and doing a significant amount of decorating and crap-clearance in the house. Monday I went to see The Cutty Sark (for the first time since she was levitated 3 metres higher in her dock than she had been previously – photos at the end of the post) and finished Far Cry 4. Then on Tuesday I popped down to work for the end of season buffet (which turned out to be a full on Christmas Dinner) and started playing Dragon Age Inquisition – and then carried on playing it for 11 hours and 55 minutes… Oops. Today I went to watch my little boy sing in his school’s carol concert, met up with my mum (and played a bit more Dragon Age…).

Anyway, obviously I still have to get ready for Cape St Vincent on 14th and 15th February next year. I think I’ve got my eye in on the ships now, although I might have to either re-rig or order a new HMS Victory as I’m not happy with the amount of “saggy rope” (which isn’t an STD I promise). I did learn a lot from finishing her – it was the first time I’d tried to do anything like it, but maybe I shouldn’t have tested things out on the British flagship… Some annonymous fifth rate hidden at the back would probably have been more sensible. They all certainly look more than the nominal £3 value that NAVWAR charge for the miniatures.

There’s sort of a mini production line going on at the moment. I can’t cope with having more than 5 or 6 on the go at once (because if I do I’ll end up either losing masts or sticking the wrong ones to the wrong hulls…) and right now I’m done with two, almost done with another one and have six more in various stages of completion.

The size variation in ships engaged in a fairly major fleet action might surprise people though.

Here’s a run through from the largest to (almost) the smallest.

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From left to right you’ve got the 5000 ton, 140 gun Spanish first rate, Santisima Trinidad (or to give her her full name, Nuestra Senora de la Santisima Trinidad… It just trips off the tongue…) then a standard 112 gun Spanish first rate, HMS Victory the 100 (well, 104) gun first rate, a 74 gun British third rate and a Brig. There is a smaller vessel believe it or not, the Naval Cutter, Fox.

Santisima Trinidad needs to be rigged and then she’s done, and then the others obviously need to be masted and some more details painted, and the other couple I’ve got prepped are stuck to bases but haven’t been primed yet.

We decided we could show the different nationalities in a few ways (which is quite important, not just for us, but also to the casual observer). First they do have hand painted flags, but you can only see those up close (and only from one side as they lay alongside the mizzen gaff sail). The hulls are different colours, but again you cana only see that up close. The stern assemblies are generally white for the Spanish ships and gold for the British – but you can’t see that from the front. The gun carriages are red on the British ships, but you have to be REALLY close to see that…

So what we decided to do was have a slightly different colour for the canvas on the opposing fleets. The Spanish sails are painted a light grey and left like that. The British are initially painted in the same way, but then have a yellowish wash applied to make them a creamier colour. Hopefully you can see the difference in the image above, but if you can’t it is quite pronounced in reality.

Anyway, I promised photos of The Cutty Sark (which is well worth a visit if you haven’t seen it recently – or ever).

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Back to Front

Last night I finally got to do something I’ve wanted to do for about 20 years – see Peter Gabriel in concert.

I’ve known his music for a lot longer than that. My parents would listen to the odd song, the Sledgehammer video was a standout 80s standard and by the early 90s Us was released (which featured the singles Digging in the Dirt, Steam and Kiss That Frog). Us is my Peter Gabriel album – it’s the one I remember the most. For a lot of people it would be the 1986 album So (which spawned the singles Don’t Give Up and Sledgehammer). For others it would be his earlier work with Genesis.

The thing that really got me interested was watching the Secret World Live concert video in about 1994. It was an amazing show, and I will always remember the roster of musicians on it. David Rhodes on guitar, Tony Levin on bass and Manu Katche on drums (and Paula “Where Have All The Cowboys Gone” Cole on backing vocals and standing in for Kate Bush on Don’t Give Up).

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Now it’s fair to say that things have slowed down a little bit over the last twenty years, so the show isn’t quite the same, but the Back to Front gig at Wembley Arena last night was still incredible. We were sat quite a way back, but with a decent angle on the stage so we got to see the lighting and video effects pretty well. Peter Gabriel’s voice is as distinctive and powerful as ever even if he isn’t digging under a tree, riding a bicycle or emerging from a phone box on stage any more. He introduced the concert and it’s format at the beginning. Part 1, the acoustic stuff with the house lights still up. Part 2, the more electronic part of the back catalogue and then Part 3, the So album in it’s entirety.

At the start of Part 1, he also introduced the band. Tony Levin, David Rhodes and Manu Katche.

Big grin from me at the back.

And as well as the musicians, most of the songs were there as well. Secret World, Digging in the Dirt, Biko, and then the So album, Red Rain, Don’t Give Up, Sledgehammer and finishing up with In Your Eyes.

It’s interesting that the arrangements of the songs were the same as they were in 1994 (even the dance moves were the same) but I guess if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Special mention really shoud go out to Jenny Abrahamson who was one of the support acts, one of the backing singers and had the unenviable task of standing in for Kate Bush on Don’t Give Up. She smashed.

Anyway, now I have a choice… I can either add the photos and videos I took myself last night, or I can add some professionally taken photos that are actually in focus and taken from a reasonable distance… I guess you can look up those professional photos for yourself if you want to, so you’re stuck with mine.

The video is a selection of bits from Parts 1, 2 & 3 – Secret World, Digging in the Dirt and Sledgehammer, so it does transition through them (and they are not complete songs – my phone memory kept filling up through the night!). The wife has In Your Eyes which I’ll try and post some time soon.

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Black Friday

Although I’ve been seeing images from the US every “Black Friday” for a few years now, it seems ridiculous to me that the UK is now following a similar trend.

It’s not a British thing – and I don’t mean by that that we’re too reserved, or “better” than that (the images coming out of UK stores on Friday certainly illustrate we’re no better at all) – The whole idea of Black Friday is connected with Thanksgiving, and that is quite simply not a British holiday.

Apparently it moved to this side of the Atlantic when British Amazon customers noticed that people in the US were getting better deals. Well so what? I dare say that all over the world, at different times of year where specific cultural or national events are being celebrated that their prices are different as well.

I was told fairly early on that “it’s not [insert supermarket name here]’s fault if people are like that”, but actually it is. Some people are stupid and they will go crazy if they think someone is getting a better deal than them, BUT… Those supermarkets are the ones who set the policy, decide on the deals, the availability of stock, the promotional and marketing methods used and then fail to manage the activities of shoppers in their stores properly once they have whipped people up into a frenzy. There is a HUGE argument for personal responsibility, common sense and decency, but the stores themselves are creating the situation in the first place.

And it’s not one particular chain although Tesco always seems to get more abuse in situations like this. Just look at the “horsemeat saga” (or the “2013 Meat Adulteration Scandal” as it’s otherwise known) where meat other than was specified on packaging was found in the products of Burger King, Waitrose, Makro, Findus, Nestle, Birds Eye, Sodexo and Tesco. Aldi and the Co-Operative group meanwhile, cancelled contracts they had with the same supplier who passed the products on to a lot of those companies listed.

There have been videos, photos and news reports of people acting Black Friday Bonkers in all of the main British supermarkets and a lot of other retailers, particularly electronics retailers. Websites have collapsed under the strain (and I dare say a few shop assistants have as well).

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Now all of that said, my own experience of Black Friday was a little different. Yes, I went to a large 24 hour supermarket, but only to have breakfast and a mooch around – and everything was calm… No one was fighting over a TV or trampling on their fellow shoppers. And the breakfast was great (even if we did actually witness the bread catching fire in the toaster… I had fried bread instead). Apparently from midnight they had been letting 5 people at a time into the areas of the store that contained discounted items and everything had worked perfectly.

Then, after breakfast we drove to a large designer outlet centre where, apart from there being an awful lot of traffic, again everything seemed pretty calm. Yes, there were discounts. Yes, there were lots of people. Yes, some stores were managing queues outside (whether they seemed to need them or not… There is that peculiar British thing that we do whereby there’s an urge to just join the back of a queue for god only knows what reason because there must be something worth queuing for at the front). That said, we found a parking space, did our shopping (and some people watching) and went home. Now I don’t particularly like that sort of place at the best of times, but it didn’t feel any worse than normal.

My memory of Black Friday will be driving through the sunny Kent countryside on single track roads listening to Sam Cooke and having a day off with the wife on her birthday.

I don’t think we can expect anything to change in the future. Amazon said they had their busiest day on record in the UK on 28th November 2014 and that sort of money talks. It is, however, entirely down to the stores to manage the activity in a more responsible, sensible manner. I’d love to see the risk assessment that was obviously prepared (as is required by law) in advance of this little fracas.

Most of this sort of behaviour seems to have been happening in the larger cities where the police have been called to assist by both shop workers and customers and arrests were made.

Now while I think it’s all a bit ridiculous, we should bear in mind that in the States, Black Friday caused its first death in 2008 when a 34 year old shop worker was trampled to death. Despite the fact that his colleagues tried to help him, the customers hindered the process and still refused to cooperate when the police and emergency services attended.

Later the same day two more people were shot and killed at a Toys R Us store…

Happy Holidays.

It’s a Far Cry from Jutland

Two things.

Thing 1. I have been painting.

Thing  2. I have been playing Far Cry 4. A lot.

I’ll start with thing 1.

I based and started on five of the Cape St Vincent miniatures the other day and got a fair way into them. If you can’t quite remember, this is where I left them…

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But this is where it’s going to get complicated with the masts and (potentially) a lot of rigging. So I started off with one. One of the British first rates. I started by test fitting the masts and assembling the mizzen mast with it’s gaff sail. Then they were base coated, painted and glued into place. I wasn’t particularly happy with the colour of the canvas at first, but I’ve managed to end up with a tone tonight that I’m a lot more happy with. I also washed the decks (and I don’t mean in a bilge pump, scrub the decks kind of way) so they have a bit more depth. Tonight I’ve tidied up some of the details, painted the stern assembly (roughly) and painted the base (again roughly).

So after a couple of night’s work I’ve gone through these stages.

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It’s starting to look acceptable. I still want to lighten the hull a little bit, add some of the standing rigging and colours and then add some detail to the base. It’s a huge step from what we’ve been used to painting; the much smaller scale, much lower detail 1:3000 WW1 and WW2 ships for Victory at Sea. It took me a while to get into my stride with those as well though, and my more recent attempts have been to a much higher standard than the earlier ones. Below is the Regia Marina battleship Littorio I painted for one of the club’s members.

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So onto thing 2…

Far Cry 4.

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I had played some of the earlier Far Cry games, but I suppose they’ve really been on my “must complete” list since Far Cry 2. Far Cry 3 got a bad press for the main playable character, but I (and a lot of other people) thought it was amazing. It was a fully realised world with a cast of interesting characters, a good upgrade system, solid physics and a tough learning curve that meant you always had to try just that little bit harder.

Far Cry 4 takes what it’s predecessor had and turns the dials up to 11. I’ll admit I wasn’t that keen on promotional fluff for the game. The lead bad guy, Pagan Min struck me initially as a bit more of a cartoon character than anything else, but he’s seriously f**ked up. The weapons, the missions, the flora and fauna of the fictional Himalayan setting, Kyrat are so well produced that it’s very easy to lose yourself in for a few hours. So when I’ve been waiting for washes or basecoats to dry, that’s what I’ve been doing.

Here’s a little bit of gameplay I recorded last night. If you’re not familiar with the mechanic, the camera is used to tag targets so you know their locations for when things get shooty (or stabby, or grenadey, or molotov-cocktaily).

When things go right you feel like you’re invincible, but more than once I’ve been sneaking into position and JUST BEFORE TAKING THE FIRST SHOT – been attacked by a tiger, or an eagle. Or worst of all… A honey badger…

It’s good fun, it’ll make you think and question your in-game decisions and it can be played co-operatively.

Sonic Highways

I always planned to write a post about this, but for reasons which will become clear by the end, it has definitely bumped up my to-do list a little bit.

Dave Grohl is a man who has been a part of my life in a loose sense since I first heard Smells Like Teen Spirit on a crappy clock radio in my bedroom when I was 14. It was part of a broadcast on Radio One about the change that was happening in rock music at the time and was being played alongside (I think – we are talking over twenty years ago here) Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and the Stone Temple Pilots. I don’t think I understood then how much of a big change it was – I was still happily listening to Def Leppard, Metallica and Iron Maiden. Looking back on it now, the Seattle (and wider) grunge music and then the post-grunge bands have not just influenced music, but also the world in a lasting way.

I’d watched Dave Grohl’s film, Sound City, earlier this year and was impressed. It’s a good music documentary, but also a history documentary. The interviews were insightful, the description of that studio and the method of making a record there, the focus on the mixing desk and the fabric of the building was a bit of an eye opener. And the history of the studio – the range of music it had turned out over the years…

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So when a new TV show, Sonic Highways popped up on BBC iPlayer a few weeks ago with a picture of Dave Grohl plastered all over it, I was intrigued. Without doubt it has been made (in part) to promote the new Foo Fighters album and tour dates in 2015. I don’t really mind that. You get the show for free, you don’t have to pay for the record if you don’t like it. It does give people an easy way in, the songs are instantly a little familiar and there’s a connection with them lyrically. It’s like everyone is in on the secret a little bit. In part it is similar to the Sound City film, but rather than looking at one studio and the music that it influenced, it’s looking at 8 studios, in 8 cities, and ALL of the music that influenced them and that they went to on influence themselves.

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We’ve had 5 episodes so far featuring Chicago, Washington, Nashville, Austin and Los Angeles. In each city the Foo Fighters have set up in a studio, interviewed producers, promoters, artists, engineers, musicians, DJs, singers, family members and more and then written and performed a song in that place that reflects their experience of the city (whilst still making it sound like a Foo Fighters record). It has not, importantly, been focused on one particular type of music, although you could argue it is limited somewhat to the influences of the band themselves, but they have fairly wide ranging backgrounds as it turns out. We’ve seen the local histories of blues, country, punk, disco, rap, gospel and the history of BIG record labels and small homegrown, gluing their own record sleeves together, labels. It has shown studios in people’s houses that do everything a studio shouldn’t do, but still sound amazing. It’s covered people I’d heard of, people I’m ashamed to admit that I hadn’t and every episode has finished with the performance of the track that’s made its way onto the Sonic Highways album with a little local collaboration thrown in for good measure.

Out of watching the programme I’ve rediscovered music I had forgotten about or discovered music I hadn’t known about, probably the most interesting outcome has been the fact that I have changed my opinion on some music. I’m never going to be a country and western fan, it’s simply not music that resonates with me – and why should it? I’m from south east England, not Nashville. But I have a bit more appreciation for the people involved in that part of the industry now.

In particular it has introduced me to Austin City Limits and some of the recordings that had been made for that show over the years. I’ll only post one, Tom Waits, On the Nickel.

Tom Waits is one of those musicians / actors / poets who has been on the fringe of my awareness I suppose. But what a performer.

Anyway, it’ll probably be released on DVD and Bluray, but if you want to watch it (and I would strongly recommend it even if you’re not a fan of the Foo Fighters as it’s about music, not them) it is still currently on BBC iPlayer and there are more new episodes to come.

The reason this has all bumped up the to-do list is that my wife has got me and my step-son tickets to see them at Wembley Stadium next year.

SQUEEEEEEEEE!

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Cape St Vincent prep pt.4

I am having an unusual evening tonight (hence the witching hour post). The wife is at work overnight and I’m trying to find things to do to entertain myself.

There has been some film watching (Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker and How to Train Your Dragon 2 so far) and now TV watching (Outcasts – another sci-fi series that never made it to that all important second series) and it will probably finish up with some more Pile of Shame clearing as I work my way through Thief, but it has also involved painting.

IMG_5999I could have assembled some more, but I’m already building up a collection of small polythene bags with a collection of masts inside and I don’t want to overly complicate matters if I can help it… So I decided instead to start painting the five vessels I already had based with bowsprits fitted. There are two Royal Navy third rates and one first rate and two Spanish first rates – including the two flagships, Victory and Santisima Trinidad.

Below is a step by step, but in brief I started with a black base coat. The Royal Navy were then painted with XV-88 and the Spanish with Mournfang Brown which were then both drybrushed a slightly lighter shade. Decks were painted with Zamesi Desert and again highlighted. FInally hammock covers on the siderails and canvas were painted with Ulthuan Grey and then highlighted.

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The description and step by step photo is as much reference for me as it is for anyone else – I’m going to have to replicate this for another 53 ships in the next two and a half months, so it’s worth righting it down now (especially as they seem to be coming out ok).

They’re still pretty scrappy, and there’s a lot to do, but they seem to be taking the paint fairly well so far. The hulls need stern and bow assemblies painting, the decks need washing to darken the recesses and have the guns painted, the strakes on the Spanish vessels need to be black as do the water lines on all five. Then the mast can go on and finally they can be rigged – an unpleasant necessity. Oh, and then the bases need painting. Just like with 28mm infantry miniatures, painting the bases is normally left to last and it’s normally the thing that brings the model together. Bit too early for that at this stage though.

On the plus side these five models represent nearly 10% of the total we need to have prepared for the 14th February next year. There have been some noticeable casting faults, but nothing I’m going to scream and shout about for £3 a model.

And in other news…

I sold a Stormlord on eBay yesterday. It’s all packaged up and ready to be sent to its new owner in Bristol tomorrow and it has already funded the purchase of a new coat, a Christmas jumper (because the wearing of one is mandatory at a party we’ve been invited to) and a copy of Far Cry 4 – which I’m looking forward to immensely. I might list some more stuff on there at some point. It clears the shelves and makes a bit of money which can help to at least part fund my growing list of hobbies, so it’s normally worthwhile to have something on there.

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Pile of Shame

I have one, the kids have one each and if you’re a gamer, odds are you have one as well.

A Pile of Shame.

The ever growing stack of games you (for one reason or another) didn’t finish… And don’t think you can hide your shortcomings by selling or passing on the titles you “just never got around to finishing”, because the fact that you haven’t got that all important trophy or achievement for completing a game is still there for all to see.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare was particularly annoying because I finished it on the normal difficulty and it didn’t give me the trophy for completing it. It didn’t give me the trophy when I completed the last level for the second time and sat through the end credits (that’s ten minutes of my life I’m never going to get back). I had to redo the whole campaign (on a harder difficulty setting just so I got the extra achievement for that as well…) before it eventually unlocked the trophy.

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Now there’s some games I’ll never finish, mainly because I’m now no longer able to due to them being on last generation (or earlier) formats, and I’m a bit gutted about some of them. Especially as for every game I lost interest in, there is probably an equal amount that I got stuck RIGHT AT THE END – and didn’t push myself to do the last little bit.

Mirror’s Edge, Killzone 2, Remember Me – all games on the previous generation that fall into that category. But I’m building up a list on the current gen consoles as well. So I thought I’d revisit them before the slew of festive releases bump the older games even further down my priority list than they are now. And I’ve started with Thief. It’s a good game, the story was good, the levels were cleverly designed, the character acting was solid – It just got taken out of the PS4 in preference for something else (I can’t remember what) and never made it back in. But it’s back in now and I’ve re-started it from the beginning. I’d got a fair way through the title, but as it’s been months since I played it, I thought I’d best start it all over rather than jump in two thirds of the way through and not remember how to actually play it.

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Then after Thief I’ve got Wolfenstein, Diablo, Bound by Flame and a few others to get through. Not to mention the games I haven’t even got yet – Assassin’s Creed Unity, Far Cry 4, Dragon Age Inquisition

Fair play, I do have a tendency to finish games I like, but you can’t exactly shout about completing a Call of Duty or Battlefield campaign when they only clock in at 5 hours… (and that’s on “hardened”). Tomb Raider was a good single player campaign, so was AC4: Black Flag, The Last of Us and loads more on previous gen.

So what’s on your pile of shame and what excuses are you using?