Saturday, June 10, 2017

Paint Table Saturday: North West Frontier, Rolls-Royce cars, their famous mascot and some young ladies

Well, it always cheers me up when I finish a few figures, although it's nothing compared to Eric the Shed's complete French Chasseur brigade this week!  The six figures I finished yesterday completes the two 12 man units (plus the Sikhs which I have done already) of infantry I need for my initial The Men Who Would Be King force for the North-West Frontier; with just a mountain gun and crew to complete.  I have painted 82 figures this year. so far, which is my best total since 2014 and equals the amount of figures I did in the whole of 2013.  I hope I can keep the momentum up.

The question, now, is what do I do next?  I should really paint some more Confederate Infantry and I have some already started but as I only have the three Sikh gunners and the mountain gun to finish to complete the British force I am going to do them, I think.

 One of the Facebook groups I belong to is The Great British Hobbit League and looking at everyone else's Lord of the Rings figures is making we want to have a go at painting some more, if my eyes are up to it.  What I need to do is find some part painted figures to finish, which I know I must have somewhere (Men of Gondor?) but sitting behind my monitor for years are the trolls from the first Hobbit film.  One of these is well on the way so I may do something on that.  Talking to Guy today, I told him that they are releasing the Lord of the Rings Battle Companies rules in a book this year (they were only previously available on download).  Guy and I had a number of good games using these rules but I was amazed when he said that maybe we could have a game over the summer.  It would be fun to play some of these again! 

On the left the Director of Brooklands tries to recruit Charlotte into the team of volunteers at the museum while my mother in law and the Old Bat both know she is too lazy to get up in the morning

I've got a tricky work situation (don't worry I'm not going to go into tedious details) which means that I am waiting to do something but can't proceed until the client gets their contract signed.  So having expected to be working flat out this week I had rather more time than expected and could go with the family and the parents in law to the start of the Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts Club 60th anniversary tour of Britain, at Brooklands.  

My parents in law with Prince Michael of Kent 

My father in law has an old Bentley, of course, but is also a member of the RREC as he used to have a Rolls-Royce.  Anyway, he gave a speech to the members at their dinner this week, along with Prince Michael of Kent, who was there on Wednesday to send them all off to their first stop in Dorset.

The first Silver Ghost starts up the hill climb.  The lady in the passenger seat is frantically hand-pumping fuel to give the car the required boost.  They just made it!

Rather surprisingly, given some of these cars are more than a hundred years old and they are due to make a two week tour of Britain, they had a hill climb competition for the Silver Ghosts.  The Brooklands (it was the world's first purpose built motor racing circuit) test hill is very steep indeed but more than a dozen Silver Ghosts got up it.  

You're not going to make it!

The only failure was a lovely car driven by an American.  "Don't change gear on the hill", advised my father in law.  The American changed gear on the hill.  The car stopped,  He threw his wife out and tried to get going again. The car started to slide backwards.  They had to undertake a controlled backwards descent on the brakes (Silver Ghosts only have breaks on the rear wheels).  

Prince Michael of Kent drives R562 to Beaulieu

One of the Silver Ghosts, R562, had done the 2000 km Alpine Challenge back in 2013 (a hundred years after first completing it) which involved going over a host of Alpine passes including the dreaded Stelvio Pass (the second highest pass in the Alps, at 2757 metres) which the Giro d'Italia riders had struggled over a few weeks before.  Prince Michael of Kent drove it down to Beaulieu Motor Museum for lunch.

Eleanor Thornton with a tiny model of herself

It was the mistress of the second Baron Montagu of Beaulieu. Eleanor Thornton, of course, who was the model for the Spirit of Ecstasy radiator ornament.  Lord Montagu met Eleanor in 1902, when she was a secretary at the motoring magazine he edited.  

One of four bronzes made of  The Whisper by Sykes

In those days Rolls-Rovce cars didn't have an official radiator ornament so Lord Montagu commissioned his artist friend Charles Robinson Sykes to design one for his Silver Ghost in 1909.  Sykes used Eleanor as the model and produced a figure of her holding her finger to he lips.  It was dubbed 'The Whisper' in reference to their illicit affair. 

Sykes Bronze of the Spirit of Ecstasy

These ornaments were becoming more and more fashionable so in 1911 Rolls-Royce officially commissioned Sykes to produce an (optional at first) ornament for all their new cars.  Sykes again used Eleanor Thornton (in rather more clothed form) for the model and the Spirit of Ecstasy (originally called the Spirit of Speed) was born.

Charles Sykes drawing of Eleanor Thornton

Thornton didn't live to see herself becoming a global icon, sadly.  She was travelling with Lord Montagu on the P & O liner SS Persia, bound for India, in December 1915 when it became the first passenger ship to be torpedoed (by the German submarine U38) without warning during WW1. 

The ship sank off the coast of Crete in less than ten minutes and 343 of the 519 on board drowned.  Only fifteen women on board survived and Eleanor Thornton was not one of them, although Lord Montagu did survive (he had his own custom designed life jacket) and his son, born nine years later, founded the National Motor Museum at the family home of Beaulieu Abbey in Hampshire.

Today's music is an example of my collection of limited edition extended versions of some of my favourite soundtracks.  Last week I added the two disc version of James Horner's soundtrack for The Rocketeer (1991), one of my favourite pulp films (although Disney originally wanted to set it in the present day).  The Rocketeer is one of Horner's best soundtracks and the extended version includes his excellent pastiche of Korngold for the scene at the film studio. where villain Neville Sinclair (Timothy Dalton) performs on a set largely inspired by The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) (for which Korngold won the best soundtrack Oscar).

September Morn (1912)

Today's wallpaper distraction is from the same period as The Spirit of Ecstasy and is by French painter Paul Émile Chabas (1869-1937) who was born in Nantes and trained under William-Adolphe Bouguereau.  He first exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1890 and was awarded a gold medal at the Exposition Universelle of 1900. Although he painted many portraits, he was best known for his pictures of women and girls bathing in lakes and pools.  Chabas took three years, working during the summers, to finish his most famous painting, September Morn.  The setting was Lake Annecy, in the mountains of Savoie and Chabas painted the background on location.  He finished the painting one morning in September 1912, hence the name. Who the model for the painting was has never been clear and several women claimed to be the subject.  In is possible the figure is actually based on two girls; one for the body and another for the head and it is likely that she was drawn in the studio not on location.


The painting was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1912 where it won the Medaille d’Honneur, to critical acclaim. What happened next, however, was completely unprecedented and led to the picture playing a significant role in an early American censorship battle. In those days, popular paintings were often reproduced as prints. In March 1913 one of these reproductions of September Morn was being displayed in the window of Fred Jackson’s Art Store in Chicago.  A passing policeman saw it, decided it was obscene, and ordered Jackson to remove the picture from his window. This he did but soon put it back.  Spotting this, the police returned, bought a copy of the picture and presented it to the Mayor, Carter Harrison Jr.   Harrison was a reformer and in 1911 had established the Chicago Vice Commission.

Mayor Harrison and his wife in 1913 

Mayor Harrison agreed that the picture violated the municipal code, which banned the exhibit of “any lewd picture or other thing whatever of an immoral or scandalous nature.”  They prosecuted Jackson, much to the outrage of the local artistic community. Despite testimony from local worthies that the picture was immoral and shouldn’t be viewed by children under fourteen the jury, after only thirty minutes deliberation, unanimously acquitted Jackson who immediately presented each juror with a copy of the painting, which they all gratefully received. This decision led to numerous shops displaying the picture so that the city then had to specifically forbid the display of “nude pictures in any window, except at art or educational exhibitions.”  Needless to say this just increased interest in the painting. The city appealed but in May 1914 the First District Appelate Court ruled that the picture was not indecent, although they made cutting comments regarding its exploitation. Only two months after the initial Chicago controversy, in May 1913, a similar furore took place in New York. Tipped off, it is said, by a school teacher, Anthony Comstock, the head of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice entered the Braun & Co art dealers’ showroom where September Morn was on display in the window. He ordered the removal of the picture. James Kelly the salesman on duty, informed Comstock that the picture was “the famous September Morning”.  Kelly allegedly replied that “There’s too little morning and too much maid.”  Kelly’s boss then later ordered the picture back into the window where it remained for five days, whilst the gallery expected the return of Comstock any day. In the end Braun & Co took the picture down themselves as the crowds it was drawing were interfering with normal customers and they'd sold all their prints anyway. The manager of the gallery wrote an incensed letter to the New York Times and arguments raged about the picture all over America.  In December 1914 the students of a college in Ohio publicly burnt copies of the picture, along with other erotic literature and other questionable (by their standards) pictures.

Ann Pennington 

All of this just generated huge publicity for the picture. Millions of prints (some estimate as many as seven million) were sold and it was reproduced on postcards, bottle openers, cigar bands, umbrellas, watch fobs, chocolate boxes and many others. A song was written about it, there was an onstage recreation of it in the Ziegfield Follies (by the petite, 4’10”dancer Ann Pennington) and it was even the subject of a Broadway musical. It is also generally believed to have been the first nude picture on a calendar to go on sale.  Chabas himself never made any money from all these reproductions, although he did sell the original to a Russian collector, Leon Mantacheff, for the not inconsiderable sum of $10,000. It is now in the Metropolitan Museum in New York because the Philadelphia Museum of Art had turned the picture down because it had “no significance”.

Hugh Hefner prepares to test his 'It's all art' argument using the Playboy Playmate of the Month for January 1958 and September Morn

Twenty-one years after Chabas’ death, September Morn was set to be involved in another indecency trial, oddly, also with a Chicago connection.  Hugh Hefner had been publishing Playboy there for just over four years and the authorities had constantly tried to stop him. His Playmate of the Month for January 1958 gave them another chance to have a go at him. Rather naively, Playboy thought that because a mother gave permission for her daughter to pose and because she accompanied her to the photo session, no-one would care that college girl Elizabeth Ann Roberts was only 17 at the time (some even say 15 or 16 -it does look like her mother claimed she was 18).

Roberts.  Not very old at all, really

Her pictorial's title of "Schoolmate playmate" probably didn't help and a local newspaper wrote a column condemning Playboy for having someone so young appearing in the magazine.  As a result, both Playboy and Roberts' mother were charged with 'contributing to the delinquency of a minor'. Hefner planned to defend himself using the fact that the model for September Morn, which had been deemed not indecent in Chicago some forty years before, was also believed to have been a teenage girl (fifteen years old, Chabas once said, although his comments were not necessarily reliable). In the end ,Hefner didn't get the chance to rail against censorship in court, as the case was dropped for lack of evidence. Playboy had learned its lesson, however, and immediately insisted all its models had to be 18 years or over (at least when the magazine appeared on sale - several more seventeen year olds were photographed for the centrefold in ensuing years) from then on.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Paint Table Sunday: Wargames websites, Cycling and Ugly People

Well, it's Paint Table Sunday again (although I missed last week's) rather than Saturday.  I had a bit of an epiphany Saturday morning in that, as I hadn't even started my PTS post (I usually start it on Friday), I thought, why not actually do some painting rather than sit and write rubbish?  

This I did and, as a result, I only have a few stages left to do on my next six Artizan North West Frontier infantry.  The figures are even varnished now (I let the paint dry while I did my post on Molly Peters so I just have to shade the base, varnish that, do the metal work and the static grass. I also painted the faces on my Sikh gunner for the mountain gun, which will complete my TMWWBK force. Then it's back to some more Confederate infantry. 

I thought about progressing with my 1864 Danes as North Star have released some more Danish infantry variants.  I got out the ones I have started and then looked up some more uniform details and realised that I had painted them wrongly, again.  Initially I painted them dark blue and then realised that it needed to be a darker blue so repainted them again (base coat only, thank goodness). Now I have discovered that they are not wearing their (very dark blue) tunics (officers excepted) but greatcoats which were very, very, dark grey (almost black) so I will have to repaint them again.  This is down to paucity of uniform information but I found some on the Lead Adventures Forum. 

Since my little spat with The Miniatures Page I have been looking at the LAF more.  The problem is I find it quite dense.  One of the (few) things I liked about TMP was the news section on the front page and the fact that all new posts in the different sections appeared in chronological order there too.  This is not the case for the LAF so if you have a very wide selection of interests, as I do, you would have to look at every sub-section individually.  I don't have time for this.  The Wargames Website is better in that it does have new products on the front page but because each item has a picture you only get nine at a time.  I don't look at it often enough to keep clicking back pages to find things.  Yet again, the people on Frothers Unite (who wear their pig ignorance like a badge of honour) are joyfully predicting (as they have been for several years) the downfall of The Miniatures Page and, yet again, those on TMP are saying the same about Frothers Unite.  Somebody is wrong!  Fundamentally, the friction between the two is down to differences between US and British cultural attitudes, generally (or a less savoury sub-culture of parts of the two countries) and is irreconcilable, really.  Still, I'm not going to renew my TMP membership in January.

I actually bought some more figures this week. in that North Star announced that as their final stock of Muskets and Tomahawks rules were sold (imminently - they seemed to indicate that they haven't sold well - although obviously well enough to sell out) they would be withdrawing the corresponding figures from their range.  This is odd as you can use the figures in with other rules.  I bought a box of Highlanders (no doubt it was all a cunning marketing plan) as not many manufacturers have modern style ones for the French Indian Wars and one day...  I have to say that firms that withdraw ranges annoy me (I know that they have to make way for new ranges etc.)  North Star, for example sell a fraction of the range of 1866 Prussians that were originally in the Helion range. I also know (because I bought some) that they used to sell Spanish to go with their 1672 range (by a different manufacturer, but completely compatible) but these have now disappeared.  Grand Manner have been withdrawing lots of their resin buildings too and Copplestone's Arctic adventures range have largely gone too.  Trying to explain to the Old Bat that you sometime have to buy in case they disappear is not easy.  "More soldiers!  I need a garden umbrella!" she says before spending £120 on a dress. 

A rare smile from Qintana and a lovely display by the lady on the right

The Giro d'Italia finished last week and saw a great win by Tom Dumoulin, holding off a less than 100% Qintana and Nibali ("are your men on the right pills, perhaps you should execute their trainer").  I should have supported Qintana, really, as he is Colombian but he spends suspiciously long periods not racing on the circuit, holed up in the highlands of Colombia (he is from Boyaca, site of a famous battle in the Latin American Wars of Liberation between Simon Bolivar's Anglo-Colombian army and the Spanish) and also he looks weird.  He looks like a pre-Columbian statue and is about as expressive.

Our man in Ankara

My friend A says I am overly critical of really ugly people, which is true.  Now, people who know me may thinks this is rather indefensible (pot kettle etc.) but at least I used to be nice looking (decades ago, admittedly).  I just don't trust really ugly people in the same way I don't trust very short people.  'It's not their fault!', say my politically correct friends (well, I don't really have any politically correct friends, as if they were politically correct they wouldn't be my friends - I've been deleting more Facebook 'friends' for political nonsense again this last few weeks).  No, it's not their fault but it must effect their personality.  It's like the man from College (I have mentioned before) who thought I stole his girlfriend the summer after we graduated.  When I met him for work purposes decades later (he was a a senior figure in the FCO by then) he was still bitter about it. But then he looked like Plug from the Bash Street Kids, so of course he wasn't going to hang on to a lovely redhead for long.  He married a girl who looked like a tapir, which was still better than he deserved.  I am reminded of the old ITV comedy Brass, where mill owner Timothy West complains that he has to look out from his windows at the hovels of his workers while they get to look at his splendid stately home. 

I had dinner with my old girlfriend from College, K, last Friday week.  I hadn't seen her for twenty years but, basically she hadn't changed and looked very, very fit indeed (in every way).  She still looked great in jeans (the ones she wore at College looked sprayed on and my then girlfriend C had a thing about K's bottom - it all got a bit lipstick lesbian) and her arms were impossibly toned.  She was politely critical of the way I had gone to seed, so with that ringing in my ears ("so you'll listen to K and not me!" moaned the Old Bat) and the example of the Giro I have been going out on my bike most days. I even bought some new cycling gloves to replace my disintegrated ones from the nineties.  Of course three weeks of Italian food and wine while watching the Giro didn't help, really, and I have just bought some Beaujolais to go with the Critérium du Dauphiné, which is on at the moment. 

I have spent the last week catching up on all the TV I have missed while watching the cycling.  Versailles, actually featured a battle last week, although all the French were in blue and all the Dutch in red, which even with my limited knowledge of the period I know isn't right. There were no pikes, either.  However, in the same episode they also had Allegri's Miserere being sung in Louis XIV's chapel, despite it not being performed outside of the Sistine Chapel until a hundred years later, when Mozart transcribed it from memory.  Dodgy history, again. Still, this Friday we had Anna Brewster emerging naked from the bath, so the show is forgiven.

I have bought a lot of music this last week or so (The Rocketeer complete 2 CD soundtrack, The Man Who Would be King soundtrack, The Right Stuff soundtrack,  several CDs by Canadian/Russan jazz singer Sophie Milman and Marvel's Agent Carter soundtrack) but today I am listening to electro string quartet Bond, one of my guilty pleasures, even though they do  sound a bit like that dreadful K-tel Hooked on Classics LP from the early eighties.  When Bond appeared in 2000 they got into a spat with the people running the classical charts who removed their LP from the top as it was too poppy.  This engendered lots of comments from them about the snooty classical establishment stopping wider appreciation of classical music.  This would have been a good argument if they had actually listed the original composers of the works in their CD liner.  But they didn't, so it was hard to argue that you were spreading appreciation of classical music.  At their same time their record company banned them from using this shot of them on their album cover.  Really?  Their own record company banned them?  The picture, did however, appear on the cover of their single so the record company weren't that annoyed but by then the press around the so called banning had seen their sales jump.

Anyway, I was rather surprised to see them appear on quiz show, celebrity Eggheads this week, all looking, well, a bit middle aged.  So far the 'celebrities' on the twenty or so specials have been so unknown they make the cast of celebrity Big Brother look like the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  Basically, they have just been random people from BBC daytime shows no-one watches.  To make up the five the team requires they had bought along David Arnold, the James Bond, Independence Day, Sherlock and Stargate composer.  Good grief, people I have actually heard of, I thought.  Then they went and did what no other celebrity team had done in this run and won the show.  The people appearing on celebrity Eggheads have been, on the whole dismally ignorant,  It makes me despair for the next generation, it really does.  Unfortunately knowledge of popular 'culture' seems to have replaced real knowledge.  One of the contestants this week said he hadn't read a book since he was sixteen.

The Wave and the Pearl (1862)

Today's wallpaper is by French painter Paul-Jacques-Aimé Baudry (1828-1886) who is largely forgotten today but at the time this picture was regarded as one of the greatest nudes of the nineteenth century.  Most of his best known works were murals in Paris but he did a number of reclining nudes like this.  

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Something for the Weekend: Molly Peters 1942-2017

I have done a post on the Thunderball actress Molly Peters who died this week.  It is on my adults only Legatus' Wargames Ladies blog here.