Saturday, July 04, 2015

Paint Table Saturday July 4th


Last Saturday

Well, I did manage to get on with some base colours last weekend as you can see if you compare this with last week's shot.  Unfortunately, it is far too hot in my room to paint at present so I will have to hope it is cooler this afternoon when the sun moves around (although then you lose the light, of course).  Big artistic decision today is as to whether I paint the shirts of the 64th Foot white (quick) or an off white (slow).  I can then paint their belts plain white so they show up better against the shirts.  Of course the belts were buff and then pipe clayed white so buff might work for those too with white shirts.   Hmm!

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Hot in the city...but only for men!

Yesterday at Waterloo

So, it was the hottest day in London for nearly ten years yesterday and it highlighted yet another inequality between men and women in the workplace. 

In every job I have had, it has been a requirement for men to wear suits, long sleeved shirts (my friend Bill wears short sleeved shirts to work in the summer but he is an actuary) and ties. Now, admittedly, people in my new office are not wearing ties during this hot spell but as soon as we have a meeting with external clients, inside or offsite, the tie has to go on and the jacket has to be worn. So we trudge out onto the baking streets this week to find what? Women dressed as if they are off to the beach! Now, I admit that I am now across the river from the City but hot pants and cotton vests (tanks for North Americans) as appropriate work wear? Thigh, shoulder and back revealing sun dresses? Plunging necklines? It is not only inappropriate it is, much more importantly, not fair! 

Episode 3 of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.  The first depiction of the Peninsula War on TV since Sharpe

Why can’t I wear shorts to work instead of sweltering in wool trousers? Except I would not, as shorts should not be worn by any man over the age of 25 and by no men with really hairy legs, on account of the fact it looks disgusting. As a wargamer I often look at the clothes soldiers used to have to wear in hot climates in the past and think: What on earth made their leaders think that this heavy clothing would contribute to an efficient fighting force? But a suit, shirt and tie is, in effect, the uniform of many men working in Britain. Not IT people, of course, who seem to have managed to gain an exception on the basis of being the possessors of arcane knowledge. They are like your curiously dressed wizards in your otherwise conventionally clothed fantasy army. Yet women, somehow, have managed to get an even more relaxed exception, merely by dint of being women.

Women are quite capable of wearing a suit to work, although I will even grant them an exemption from wearing a tie, which really is a ridiculous historical throwback. Interestingly, when I worked in a City law firm it was notable that the more formally dressed the woman was the more junior she was likely to be. Lady lawyers tended to wear plain skirts and blouses. If you saw a woman in a pinstripe suit (sometimes with trousers, sometimes even with a tie) she was almost certainly going to be junior support staff. But the point is, if men are expected to wear suits then women should do as well! 

Lloyd's Underwriting Room

When I worked at Lloyd’s of London, the Underwriting Room had a strict dress code of suits and ties. One summer, just after moving in to the new building in 1986, we had a particularly hot spell. The Room, at the heart of Richard Roger’s iconic building, was, to all intents, a greenhouse in design. There was a problem with the air conditioning. It got hotter and hotter. Now, of course, instantly, all the lady brokers (known as brochettes) appeared at work in tiny, wafting dolly dresses. The lacy tights (then very much de rigeur) all disappeared and we were presented with acres of bare legs. As an aside, how is it that women always know when the weather is turning hot, and adjust their clothing for work accordingly, even if the heat suddenly comes on half way through the day? The answer, of course, is that they look at the weather forecast on a daily basis. I don’t look at the weather forecast because the result makes absolutely no difference as to what I have to wear. Anyway, back at Lloyd’s a memorandum from the Chairman was circulated immediately, reporting complaints from Underwiters (all male at that time) about the abbreviated clothing and pointing out that the Room had a dress code which was, and I quote, “suits with ties for men and the equivalent, whatever that is, for women.” The Chairman was totally baffled about how to define what women should wear. It should have been clear. Suits for all. Case closed. But, no, women got away with it again. The next day a few flimsy jackets or lightweight cardigans appeared over the tiny sundresses but the bare legs and (often) low cut tops remained. At the time I wondered to my girlfriend (who also worked at Lloyd’s) why anyone would complain about underdressed women? Her answer was that it depended on the women; some of whom (like her) looked better underdressed than others. Really, though, I feel the reason was jealousy by the male underwriters. Jealousy caused by women being able to wear much more temperature appropriate clothing which happened to be business inappropriate.  Also, it is not so much the situation regarding what they wear at work that gets men frazzled so much as what they can wear to work as we struggle in 100 degree heat on the Underground, slogging along baking streets and overcrowded trains on the way home.  Having walked the one mile from my office to London Bridge station last night I found it had been closed due to a fire alarm.  I then had to walk nearly another mile to Bank Station when the temperature was still around 34 degrees (94F). Waterloo station (which has a glass roof) was appalling too but not for women in tiny shorts and tops.

The corollary of all this is, of course, that women say: “Well it’s easy for men you just have to wear a suit you don’t have to choose different outfits every day for different seasons.” Just wear a suit then! No one is forcing you to carry on having to put yourself through aesthetic agonies every morning. You do it because you want to. You can choose to wear a tiny pair of shorts, sandals, or a sundress to work. Men cannot. IT IS NOT FAIR AND IT IS SEXIST!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Paint Table Saturday 27th June

Today we have the prospect of a group of figures just at the start of the painting progress.  Exciting and depressing at the same time!

To celebrate my new job I actually bought a few figures this week, which all arrived within a day or two. So full marks to Iron Duke Miniatures (Indian Mutiny British left and centre) and Antediluvian Miniatures (adventurers front right).  I am also just starting on a trio of Lucid Eye Amazons (back right).  Other stuff that might get some attention this weekend is behind. 

Lots of ferrying family about today but hopefully some proper painting tomorrow.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

James Horner 1953-2015

As regular readers will know, I cannot paint figures without a musical accompaniment. Mostly I listen to orchestral film soundtrack music and try, as far as I can, to get the music to fit the subject matter. I own a lot of film soundtracks and actively seek out those (often at some expense) which may be more difficult to acquire, due to limited release or the fact that they are long out of production. In the past, “original film soundtracks” were often nothing of the kind with specially recorded arrangements (Henry Mancini was notorious for this) being recorded by, often, much smaller orchestras (Basil Poledouris’ Conan score, for example particularly suffered from this).  There are a number of firms now, however who are going back to the original masters and producing limited edition expanded soundtracks.

One of my favourite soundtracks (and one where I did seek out the expanded soundtrack) is the one from Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (1982); the breakthrough work of James Horner who was tragically killed in an air crash yesterday. Horner was a prolific composer, producing no less than thirteen scores in 1993 alone but amongst the slew of scores for action films, historical dramas and children’s films he composed were some of my all time figure painting favourites. 

So here are my favourite half dozen James Horner scores.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

The first Horner score that registered with me. I went to see this film at university where the Trek-loving lady who accompanied me was delighted at the quotations from the original TV scores in it. Horner nailed the concept of Hornblower in space with his epic, swashbuckling main theme but there was brilliance throughout a soundtrack which I never get bored with.  Director Nicholas Meyer famously hired Horner as he was much cheaper than Jerry Goldsmith who scored Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  By the time Meyer took on Trek again for The Undiscovered Country, though, he couldn't afford Horner.

Good for: Building pirate ships to (oddly).

Favourite track: The Battle in the Mutara Nebula; a tone poem worthy of Richard Strauss (or, stylistically, Rimsky-Korsakov and Khachaturian). 

Krull (1983)

One of those soundtracks where the main theme is so strong that I could remember the tune having only seen the film once on TV.  Many films tried to jump on the Star Wars bandwagon and Krull was supposed to be the fantasy equivalent and a franchise launching (and big budget) production. The film was a flop but Horner's music is probably the best thing in it (apart from Lysette Anthony). 

Good for: Painting 18mm fantasy figures to.

Favourite track: Main title and Colwyn’s arrival. 

The Rocketeer (1991)

This film is a Pulp favourite and was sadly under appreciated at the time. Horner takes on Hollywood in the thirties with some nice pastiches of Korngold, a big love theme for Jennifer Connelly's character (well deserved!) and a stirring main theme.

Good for: Painting pulp figures to.

Favourite track: Main title/takeoff

Titanic (1997)

Part Oirish whimsy and part clanging metal (Horner loved his clanging metal) action cues, the biggest selling orchestral soundtrack of all time (27 million copies) is redeemed by some atmospheric music in the first third of the film, which depicts the doomed ship and always pops into my head when we are leaving Southampton on the Red Funnel ferry to the Isle of Wight!  Oh and there is a song in it too.

Good for: Making model liners to
Favourite track: Take her to sea, Mr Murdoch.

The Mask of Zorro (1998)

After Titanic, something a little different with this score and the successful use of the percussive sound of the feet of flamenco dancers as a musical instrument in their own right.  Zorro's theme is another stonking tune.

Good for: Painting Mexicans to.

Favourite track: The Plaza of Execution

Troy (2004)

Horner was notorious for not only reusing his own themes (but so did Handel) but “interpreting” bits of music by other (mainly classical) composers. So this has a big theme which is, essentially, a retread of Elgar’s Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis.  It is also lumbered with one of those inappropriate songs that soundtrack composers are now forced to add in an attempt to replicate Horner's own success with My Heart will go Awwnnn from Titanic.  

Good for: Painting Bronze age warriors to. 
Favourite track: Achilles leads the Myrmidons.

I have other Horner scores on my system (Braveheart, Star Trek III, Avatar etc) but these are the ones I  listen to the most.  Horner had his detractors and some, in film music circles, were quite vicious but, given his large output, his ability to regularly produce major scores put him at the top of the post war generation of film composers, approaching some of the greats like Williams and Goldsmith and well above hacks like Hans Zimmer.   He could regularly pull out a monster tune in the way that, for example, the much vaunted Alexandre Desplat cannot.

He will be missed.

Sunday, June 21, 2015


Or not...

So, I had it all planned today.  A nice long day's painting, for the first time in months.  That was until I woke up (at 9.40, as I stayed up until 1.15 this morning watching Jurassic Park 2 and drinking Hobgoblin) and found we had no electricity.  A little work on the internet on my phone yielded the information  that it had gone off just after 4.30 am.  Argh!  No tea!  My wife had already discovered from the neighbours that they had no electricity either.  I had just been about to suggest that I go over to check with Miss Special K, the glamorous lingerie model who lives opposite, too.  Foiled again!

Well, the loss of power shouldn't effect my painting, except that I was planning to work on my velociraptors, based on the photos I had taken of the life sized ones they have had at Waterloo station for the last two weeks.  But all the pictures were in my computer.  "That's what comes of relying on technology!" said the technophobe Old Bat.  The UK Power Networks website said that the power would be back by 10.30am.  I contemplated going to Sainsbury's for breakfast (no tea!) but my usual breakfast companion is in California. "Anyway, it probably won't have any power, either," said the Bat, who is usually well out the way on Sunday, working, but has been signed off sick for the next two Sundays, having had an operation.  

"I need tea!"  I said, distraught.  "I need to do the ironing, do three loads of washing and mow the lawn," she wailed.  "It's Islamic terrorists, the Chinese or the Russians!" she declared, picking on her usual most hated list, although even she couldn't put this one at the door of "immigrants".  By 12.20 we still had no electricity.  The Power Networks website had been updated and said that the power would now be out until 17.30pm.  Then my phone ran out of battery. The Bat started to worry about things going off in the fridge.  She is always worried about things going off and is constantly throwing away perfectly good food because it is one day past its sell by date.  She thinks we will all get food poisoning, even though no one in the house has ever had food poisoning.  "Yes, because I throw all the out of date food away!" she maintains, triumphantly.  Actually, I end up eating most of it.  We live in a household where I am hard pushed to think of one thing that all of us eat, so it is completely separate menus for every meal.  

So I sat down and looked at the array of part painted figures on the workbench and vacillated.  I had had it all planned.  I got the base shading done on the dinosaurs yesterday and I wanted to do the patterns on their skin today.  But no.  I decided instead, continuing with the prehistoric theme, that I could finish some Lucid Eye Neanderthals but when I opened my pot of Humbrol 160, to finish off their furs, I discovered that the little that remained in the tin had solidified.  Even worse there wasn't a spare pot in my reserve boxes.   I could finish my Amazon princess, but she needs a jaguar skin shield (well, she doesn't need one but she really, really wants one) and my jaguar skin reference pictures were also in the computer.  I was getting nowhere fast and then had to go out to Sainsburys to get something for Guy's lunch as we couldn't cook his tinned chicken in white sauce (he has limited taste in food, like the Old Bat).  Another hour wasted but I did discover the power problem was just confined to our road, as the presence of five UK Power Networks trucks round the corner demonstrated.  I could have had breakfast in Sainsbury's after all.  Foiled again!

64th Foot

The Old Bat wouldn't let me open the utility room fridge in case it let all the cold out so my planned corned beef sandwich was out too.  So, to the kitchen fridge where I found some "stale" rolls (they weren't really-three days past their sell by date) with "well past its sell by date" cheese (guess what? It was fine.  Still no food poisoning).  After lunch (no tea!) I settled down again to paint.  I had just, for no real reason other than the fact that they were sat in front of me, started to do a bit on my Iron Duke Miniatures Indian Mutiny figures when my friend Bill came around on one of his many expensive bicycles; a Planet X titanium road bike, for those who are interested.  "Planet X specialises in bikes at no nonsense prices", they say.  If you consider £1900 a no nonsense price for a bike, that is.  

Foiled again!

Bill was one of my key tea drinking friends at  college and sometimes takes a forty mile cycling detour to travel the three miles to our house for a cup of tea or three.  "No tea!" I declared, deciding instead that we could go up to the The Bear for a pint of something more interesting instead.  Then the lights came on.  Powerless no longer!  Four thirty pm.  Of course with Bill and I in the garden I wasn't getting any painting done either.

Fortunately, of course, it is the longest day today so we have good light in the evening.  Just enough time to finish my Lucid Eye cavegirl.  More on whom later.  Then I could do a bit more on my Indian Mutiny British.  Except Humbrol 160 (Neanderthal clothes fur) is also British infantry rifle stocks colour.  I couldn't do the next a stage on them.  Foiled again!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Paint Table Saturday

Well it's not all about Waterloo at present (I wish it would all go away and stop me thinking ridiculous thoughts about 10mm or, even worse, 15mm figures) as there is a certain blockbuster film doing well at the cinema too.  I'm trying to persuade my son to go but I think, for some reason, he would rather find a rowing blonde to accompany him.  I do have a friend who I go to the cinema with sometimes but he doesn't like CGI and prefers his films to feature Monica Bellucci (who I literally ran into once, coming out of an Italian restaurant in Toronto).  So, in the meantime, I might have a go at these this weekend.  Copplestone Castings figures.