Monday, April 17, 2017

Hastings - Bayeux Tapestry plastic flats from Russia

These were brought to my attention by Spencer last month. I went ahead and ordered a box (reasonable price and shipping) from the dealer in Russia via Ebay.

54mm plastic flat figures based off designs on the Bayeux Tapestry's depiction of Hastings in 1066. A novelty for sure but, now that I have them, maybe not such a novelty any more.

Got them today and here is the opening!

Box came in a padded envelope. Shipping was 5 weeks but ... y'know. I did check up on it last week and discovered there was a shipping number. Opened envelope and there was this nice box with not a lick of English on it. Kind of cool! Scale is apparent in pic.

Open it up like an ancient treasure chest full of treasure!

Figures are in a thin zip lock plastic bag.

A total of 11 figures in the box. No multiple poses, all of them were different. The pack is billed as "King Harold's Army".

I pulled 4 of them for a close up.

They are molded with "opposite" sides? Is that what it's called? Like anatomically correct. Left arms are left arms, right arms are right... etc.

These things are pretty cool and I plan to get more after Enfilade. They also make mounted Normans. I'll even do some kind of game with them.

Here is a link to the seller on Ebay.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Walking Dead – Watching Out of Loyalty

Coming up on the season 7 finale this Sunday and hoping for 90 minutes of explosions and running and gunning and pacts being made and heroics and stuff. It won’t happen and I accept it. I don’t like it but it is what it is and that’s how it’s going to be.

I don’t hate the show, it’s the only show I regularly watch now. I’m going through an “old cranky man” phase and nothing on TV really excites me. My mid-life crisis (I’m turning 46 soon) consists of wanting to learn to do (craft) more things, Viking stuff, losing 100 pounds and getting fit, rationally being able to protect my family, table-top (miniature war toy soldier) gaming, collecting mess kits from military surplus, and getting back out into the woods and camping. Then I want to get a record player and some vinyl.

I still really want to buy a house too but that’s even bigger than my mid-life crisis. Hey… at least I’m not freaking out over red sports cars and 24 year old women and cocaine. I think the above list is reasonable.

Sitting down and burning up 6-8 hours a sitting bingeing some TV show is just not in my wheelhouse anymore. It was but not now. I also just finished (last year) the book The Revolution Was Televised. It is about the Golden Age of TV and, though it’s purpose is not to do so, it turned me off (tuned me out of?) TV today … satisfied I was there for the Golden Age that just happened a few years back.

I saw Deadwood, Breaking Bad, Sopranos, The Shield, The Wire, Battlestar Galactica, and a few other shows on the Golden Age list and I was satisfied. Maybe I was spoiled too. I feel good about those shows and proud that I chose to watch them as they aired (mostly). I just really think the Golden Age is over and the new “norm” is kind of played and lame.

I’m like a TV hipster!!
“I liked The Wire before it became popular…”

So, my problem with AMC’s The Walking Dead is many faceted and a lot of it is my own fault:
1) I love the comic book and I will never be able to not compare the two.
2) The pace is slow. There is too much time spent on exposition.
3) Too much time is spent on showing us emotional impacts of events.

4) I feel pandered too. As someone once told me, “They are opening up your head and dumping into it.”. Tropes are being used to illicit canned emotional responses.

At least there has been less sweaty and bloody Rick Grimes.

I’m still going to watch it though. I still like it. Fear The Walking Dead too but I’m not too invested in that. At least it is not 100% tedious to me like Game of Thrones was, and that is most likely due to the fact I identify as a TWD fanboy and not a GoT fanboy.

I do still have some TV guilty pleasures though – the ABC family comedies. Thirty minutes long and funny, I watch Black’ish, Fresh Off the Boat, and Goldbergs. As for TWD… I still REALLY love the comic books and still subscribe to them and buy an occasional hardcover trade for my bookshelf.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Sea Stories - Flying Fish and Sea Sick

When I was a little kid my Father or Grandma or someone had bought me a book about dinosaurs. I'm not sure if it was a used book or not, I remember it had crayon scribbles in it and one of the pages was torn. Still, it had color pictures of dinosaurs in it. My favorite was this 2 page spread of prehistoric creatures of the sea. It had big toothy things with long tails, long-necked Loch Ness dinos, giant fish eating smaller fish, a Megaladon, and up at the top of the page were flying fish.

My 5 year old brain was blown thinking that a billion years ago there were fish that could fly.
Fast forward to April 1990, I had been on the St. Louis for a few weeks and we were rigging up to go out to sea and sail up to Yokosuka Japan. A three day trip at most. I got a little drunk the night before and handled my first sea and anchor detail well. I was feeling a bit hung over though. I had a watch that night, my first at sea watch, and did not feel well after supper.

Next morning a storm brewed up and the seas became rough. Found out my "hangover" was actually sea-sickness. Sea-sick is horrible. This is how I felt:
You are on a carnival ride. You have been drinking a little bit and you just ate a bunch of candy, some corndogs, and a pile of elephant ears or Churros. The ride is really spin-ny and you just gandered upon a guy vomiting into a bucket of greasy pork chops and cigarette butts. You can smell that too. Then you notice you stepped in dog doodoo and it’s all over your shoe. You put your hand in spit.

That sick feeling? It'll go away when you get off the ride, puke, and/or give it some time. You can also move away from the puke, wash your hand of the spit, and take off your doodoo shoe.

Not on a ship. There is no getting off that ride or taking off the doodoo shoe. You also cannot just sit for a second, you've got to work. The sea sickness gets worse too. Like really bad hours into it.

I trudged through my day, other sailors either making fun of me or concerned. I skipped breakfast and lunch but I had a Chief order me to eat supper which I did. I ate some chili mac, a piece of bread, and a cup of red drink affectionately known as "bug juice". I finished and stepped out to the weather decks with my friend Kevin to get some air and a last bit of sunlight.

I lost it all, all that food. I leaned over the side and heaved. Some other Chief was nearby and he came to see if I was OK. My head is over the edge and I'm just letting it all flow out including the red bug juice.

"Oh shit, you're puking blood!!??" yelled the chief.
"No, that's just red bug juice chief." Kevin told him.
"Oh, OK. Make sure he cleans this shit up then." The Chief replied.

Just then, as my head was over the side of the ship and about 35 feet up from the ocean, a school of flying fish, hundreds of them, erupted from the wake of the St. Lou and flew away for about 30-40 yards. Then they dove back into the deep.

I choked out, "Whoa! Flying Fish! **yerch**".
Kevin and Chief look back at me, "Yeah, lots of them out here."
Me, "I thought they were extinct."
Chief, "No you idiot… there's millions of them out here." And he walked away laughing.

I dry heaved a few more times and this is how I learned that flying fish were not extinct. Little did I know this was a beginning of my love/hate relationship with these little fuckers. They would enjoy dying in places I would have to clean them on the weather decks.

This was also the last time I got sea sick while in the Navy. I was fine the next day.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Bouncer Story - Saint Patrick's Day

Saint Patrick’s Day Memories:

It was a while ago, 2005 or 2006. I was single and dating a lot. I met a woman on Craigslist and we decided to meet for a few drinks and get to know each other. She said she liked dive bars so I suggested we meet at The ‘Vern for a few beers on a Thursday or something.

Little did either of us know that we agreed to meet at The ‘Vern on Saint Patrick’s Day night.

First, for the non-native Portlanders, The ‘Vern is a classic dive bar. More the real kind and “Old Portland” than what you see today. It was a punk rock hang out, whatever that means, for a while. It’s not actually called The ‘Vern, it’s real name is “Dave’s Tavern” or something but the TA of TAVERN burned out decades ago and it never got fixed so it’s just called the ‘Vern now. I think it became “punk rock” because the jukebox was decidedly punk over anything else. The place was kept up just enough to keep it legal and even then…

Secondly, I’m not a St. Patty’s day guy. Thought I was but I’m not even a lick of Irish, nor Christian, nor do I care for that stuff. If anything my white side is Scandi/Norman, and if any of my line comes from some Celtic lands it’s as a conqueror and not a native. On top of that I see St. Patty’s as an excuse for people to be drunk dickheads. I will assume responsibility for that though as I am the one hanging around drunk dickheads. I’ve solved the problem by not being a drunk anymore, nor being a dickhead tough guy, or even going out to invite such shit into my life.

So there I am sitting at a table on a first date with some woman I had never met before at the Vern listening to some Dropkick Murphy’s on St. Patty’s day over some PBRs. Her name was Angie and she was pretty and new to Portland and getting out and meeting people. I liked her but I knew right off she was not into me and my kind and I called it right off to make things more comfortable for us. She wanted to hang though and we were being friendly towards each other and I was answering her questions about Portland.

The bartender is a buddy of mine and he’s doing his duty (on top of serving on St. Patty’s day) of making me look cool in front of a lady and spotting me PBRs and saying cool shit about me.

Everyone is being friendly when a group of “St. Patty Day revelers” loudly walks in and is disruptive. They are lead by a “I’m from fuggin New Yowk!” guy who can’t stop spitting. Those guys and Texans are the same. Texans spit on the floor less though.

Some other regulars are at the Vern and the bartender buddy gives me and some of the other regulars The Look. The, “I’ve hooked you up and it’s payback time.” Look. Apparently we’re going to get in a fight with the rowdies. The New York rowdies get louder and tougher. The bartender asks them to tone it down some and this is taken as a great offense and they get more asshole-ish. I’m keyed up and am sure I’m on the floor soon. I do my shot and tell Angie, “Hey, this is going to get stupid. Stay out of the way OK? Actually, you might want to leave.”

“Oh shit!” she says, “are you going to kick those guys out?” Angie asks.

“I’m not sure… I’m waiting…” then New Yawk Spit Dude throws a punch at one of the regulars that was too close and squared off.

Bartender jumps in and so do some of the other regulars and it goes south right off. I wait for an opportunity to grab a dude and throw them out and it comes and I do. Others follow. I end up squared off with New Yawk Spit Guy and we tussle and head outside.

“I’m from fuggin New Yawk Bro!” was his battle cry. We get outside and are locked together like 2 fat bears fighting over mating rights. Somehow I trip him up and he falls down and I back off to make sure none of his buddies are closing on me. New Yawk Spit Guy tries to get up but some other Vern regular runs up and kicks his head and knocks him the fuck out. He then takes off because New Yawk Spit is now convulsing on the sidewalk doing the “I have no idea I’m KOed” thing that freaks some people out. His buddies gather around him and are now calling 911 on cell phones. I back off as I know it’s cops time. Angie is walking down the street on her phone, that was the last time I saw her.

I thought I’d get busted for this one but plenty of people saw the one guy that kicked New Yawk Spit in the head and KOed him. I did not know him. I was scrutinized by cops and told to go home. New Yawk Spit got hauled off in an ambulance and threats of suing everyone were made. Sympathy and empathy aside – fuck that guy.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Bretons and Enfilade 2017

On my bench now are Bretons (mainly for Saga). I started work on them a month ago and putting out about 4 figures a week, all mounted of course as that’s the “flavor” of the figures; So more like 8 figures a week if you break up horse and rider.

Historically Bretons are people from Brittany in what is now western France. They migrated from Briton (Wales and Cornwall) during the migration period and settled there and in Galacia (northern Spain). They kept up their Celtic lineage and a nation grew.

Their “flavor” in Saga is mounted javelin throwing troops. Their Saga Battle Board supports this. Right off the bat you’ve got mounted troops with range capability and special tactics that boost that with some hit and run type special moves thrown in for even more flavor. The range (mounted move of L and shooting attack of M) coupled with some guerrilla tactics every now and then gives them good flavor. The big counter to that is their lower armor.

My interest in them is mainly due to my interest in Normans (their neighbors to the east) and the relationship between the two. Seems most of the time they were at each other’s throats and then in 1066 William brought Rufus with him to England and the Bretons (re)established themselves in Briton after some notable action at Hastings.

Also piquing my interest was to run, yet another, Saga warband. Being a quasi-completionist I wanted to have a faction or 2 for every book in the Saga Dark Ages world. Saga Core I have Vikings and Normans. Saga Varjazi and Basileus I have the infamous Pagan Rus. Saga Raven’s Shadow I have Norse Gaels. Saga Northern Fury I have Scots and will soon have Bretons. That’s how much I like the game!

Further, I can combine my Breton and Norman collections into larger armies for other games I am interested in like Lion Rampant or Hail Caesar. I can also do so with my Vikings and Norse Gaels and Scots. Pagan Rus figures are a bit distinctive in both sculpt and bases (snow) so, aesthetically, not the best to mix with. I am contemplating some future projects with Mongols though so I can get into Medieval era Rus…

On my work bench, currently, are the first 4 of 16 Warriors (or Soldiers as they are denoted on the Battle Board). To speed things up I am doing the 16 figures in only 2 major colors and all the horses will be base-coated in Army Painter’s leather brown primer. The figures are all Gripping Beast thus all metal. I like the “pill” shaped 2” x 1” bases but I have been moving to multi-basing some figures but that is another blog post altogether.

My deadline (we all need deadlines right?) is end of May, Enfilade. I have volunteered to host a fun little game Friday night called “Fight for York” based off the 1069 Harrying of the North by William the Conqueror. Historically there was not much of a battle, probably a lot of little skirmishes with one side being over-powered compared to the other. It all culminated into some pretty actions on the part of the Normans though a lot of evidence currently are indicting that William’s harrying was not as bad as initially thought. After all that William placed his friend (and cousin?) Alain Rufus, Big Breton Guy In Charge, as the Duke of York or something like that. He then became very rich and pretty powerful.

My Big Plan is to play a small battle between William and his Norman retinue of knights and archers with his Breton allies. They will be tussling over a chapel that is just outside York against Svein and a group of invading Danes (Vikings) and their Scottish allies. It will be for 4 players and I am providing everything but the skills and gamesmanship.

I reserved my room at the Red Lion Olympia, after my annual tripping over the difficulties of reserving rooms on line and then being advised by many to call it in. I've also signed up for a few games on the PEL but am holding out for a few periods though the longer I do that the more the games I'm interested in are filling up.

Hope to see some of you there and hope to have a beer with you Saturday night if you are so inclined.

Friday, February 17, 2017

What have I been doing all winter?

Dang… going on another 2 months of not posting anything. Why? I could toss down the usual “holidays, bad cold, work, yadda yadda…” and it’s all true but I’ve also been lazy. My brain is thinking “what am I even blogging about and what do my blog posts even add to the hobby and community?” and 2017 has had a few shifts in how my mind works for many reasons.

I have not been getting out into the woods and that poses a problem to me. I like to be in the woods. Small fire, cold day, hot cup of coffee, some meat, silence…. things I love. I live in the city and do not have a back yard even. If I did I could do this in a back yard.

I got pretty unhealthy the past few years. I was closer to 400 pounds than anyone needs to be. I joined Weight Watchers and I am now closer to 300 pounds. I’ve got a ways to go but, so far, it’s been good. My wife, Gretchen, is a huge inspiration and my partner in this journey of getting healthier. As it should be we are a team and doing this together. By the end of 2017 I hope to be at my fighting weight of 250. Then I will reassess my needs and get into some more physical things like martial arts (always a favorite of mine) and more hiking.

A lot of things have helped me lose the weight I have lost already. Gretchen, WW meetings and accountability, my own will. The weakest link in that is my will and one that I found that really helped me was a re-embracing of my warrior nature.*

*I could go on and on about “warrior” culture and the spectrum that term calls up. Many will disagree with my opinions and have their own opinions. For me “being a warrior” is closer to literal. My military service is over but I still feel the need to serve and protect. I am not a police officer either, my charges being my family and my work. After that comes my community. Order of care for me is: Me, My Family, My Work, My Community.

I caught the History Channel show The Selection. In A nutshell – 30 civilians go through an abridged version of BUDs (Seal training). They can drop whenever, it is not a competition. It brought me back to my days in the Navy and my regrets about not trying out for BUDs again after my first failed attempt. I recognized I’ve kind of been wallowing in that failure for a long time. I used to be really fit and capable but I’ve kind of let it go since my failure. I’ve had a go at other things since – SCA heavy fighting, Aikido, Kendo. I just really let it all go though. The show had actual BUDs instructors instructing civies as though it were real training. People dropped left and right but what really lit a fire was the dynamic of instruction and it brought me back to my own experiences.

 The instructors were hard. No kid gloves, they lit into students like you would imagine. When one was failing or gave up they gave very honest and calculated advice and uplifting words. When a student was succeeding they’d try to make sure they didn’t get to big in the head. When one failed the real-world advice would come out.

You did good. What we are putting you through is very difficult. Take what you learned here and use it in life. You know your limitations now just take it one more step next time. Good job.”

 My favorite exchange was:
I am in Hell Instructor.”
No you are not. Hell is a construct of the human mind. You are here, right now, in reality. You have choices.”

Enough about my hubris and struggles. What does this equate to? Am I going to slow my wargaming roll? Nope, not at all. Wargaming, for me, is many things. It exercises my mind in both a sporting and martial aspect. It keeps my “craft” busy with the painting and modeling. It allows me access to people I normally would not be around socially, their beliefs and opinions and the variations therein are important to me. Also I learn from them. What I am exposed to, if processed properly, will make me a better person.

After Ambuscade there was an inadvertent long break from gaming for both I and Spencer (organizer of Ambuscade). Many reasons – as noted above we had holidays, weather, and work. On top of that add political turmoil and the resulting protests. Getting around town and hauling 100s of figures about was getting kind of hard among the shoppers, protesters, and ice.

 Spencer solved that by organizing a few games in his basement and a “big” 6 person game of Lion Rampant using his Celtic Dark Age figures and my Viking Dark Age figures. Came out to over 100 28mm figures per side and we had a rousing battle with the Irish pulling out a last round win. Very fun and exciting.

It’s “get ready for Enfilade season” too and that’s lit a fire under my ass. I’m hosting a game named “Fight for York” using Saga. 4 players, Vikings vs. Normans in a winter terrain, based off the historical accounts of William the Conqueror’s Harrying of the North. All I have to do to get ready for it is finish painting up some Bretons and get some terrain squared away. Other than that it’s all about squaring away the funding for the trip and it’s a go. No Saga Tournament from me this year, I do hope someone else takes up the mantle and hosts one.

Speaking of Saga, Saga is my favorite game I am actively playing.  It was the final nail in the “I’m going to be doing this a lot” coffin in that I played some other historical wargames in the past but Saga was the one that made me get the t-shirt. I do like other games but the ones I actively play now I have some pretty big issues with some parts. Of course, what I am actively into right now (meaning I play them regularly and can muster an army to play from my own collection) is 80% skirmish games and 25mm, the only non-skirmish game I am playing is Warlord’s Pike and Shotte.

Speaking of Pike and Shotte I did pick up a copy of Pikeman’s Lament and am looking forward to a first game of that.

I am interested in other eras and rule-sets but right now, pre Enfilade 2017, I am sticking with what I have. I do hope to explore some other games at Enfilade though.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Happy Holidays 2016

It’s less than a week before Xmas and Solstice is right on us. Just wanted to get this post out to wish anyone reading this a Happy Holidays and I hope 2017 brings you satisfaction with your endeavors.

2016 was a decent year for me. The usual fumbles but also many wins. The fumbles always involve money for me but I am ignorant on finances so that’s the usual.

2016 Wins In War Gaming-
1) I finished a playable English Civil War collection of models. Scots Covenanters – small unit for Pike and Shotte, big unit for Skirmish Level rule sets. I will add to it in 2017.
2) I learned a lot at Enfilade this year, 2016 being my second Enfilade.
3) My war game group expanded.
4) I learned a lot about the hobby of historical wargaming in general. The ins and outs, why stuff is done the way it is, the history of the hobby (in general and locally).

2016 Wins in non-war gaming:
1) Oakland Raiders made it to the playoffs for the first time in 14 years.

 Gift-giving is a thing in my circle and I am hoping to get some new Kolinsky sable brushes. If not I’ll just buy them next month.

Some people call them New Year Resolutions – I like to make myself an oath, a “Viking” tradition for some of them (though I do not follow the modern Asatru religion, I like the traditions). I did not make one last year so I am due. I always try to take my oaths seriously and not be frivolous. I also tend to make them based off self-improvement or knowledge/skill that I lack. I will make this one official here:

In the name of all the delicious things that may fall from the ginger beard of Thor I, Gabe “Rollo” Martin swear to take either Laughing Crowe’s shoe making class or get into Trackers Earth Black Smithing class in 2017.

The pragmatic aspect in holding me back in these is money, as is the usual. The shoe class is $400 and the black smithing class is $1000. I’m not getting a new car in 2017 as rent went up for me in the style of high Portland rent (the city’s problem du jour) but I will try to swing the $400 or $1000. Not sure how but I will try.

Why those and not “world peace” or “to be a better citizen”? Oaths like that are bullshit in my opinion. I like to be useful more than anything else. To me usefulness is the key to both good citizenry and relationships. Why shoes or black smithing though? Why not get better at my weak spots in war gaming (which would be terrain craft)? Well, being useful to me also means being a jack of all trades. I have spent a lot of time at the historical war gaming craft the past few years so it’s time to step back out of that box (just one step!!) and get back into some other skills.

Also, being a child of the Cold War, I fully admit to my paranoia and pre-occupation to the apocalypse. I know, a real disaster looks nothing like Mad Max or The Walking Dead. The whole, “When the shit hits the fan the only valuables left will be beans and bullets…” thing is a total crock. BUT… I still follow that and part of my preps is to have skills like making a Viking turn shoe or hammering out some nails.

I have black smithed before and I have even made a pair of turn shoes (and failed) but it’s always been a try it on my own thing. In 2017 I’d like the most formal training I can get in either.

Next thing I’d like to do is get better at sewing. I know the basics and can hand sew real good but being able to understand patterns and measurements and turn out clothing items on a machine would be a great skill to have and would even be a “legacy” skill for me as my Mom was a professional seamstress.

Looks like I want to be proficient at dressing someone in a sturdy and reasonable outfit – under clothes, shirt, pants, cap, belt and buckle, shoes…