8.31.2012

Modelling/Painting Work of Late

Haven't done an update on my progress with my "toy soldiers" in a while, so I thought I'd post some pictures since I don't have any other new artwork or prose to put up. I'm also going to be posting these pictures to a Warhammer 40,000 message board a frequent. I hope that as I give occasional updates, this will help me keep track of my progress, and inspire me to keep the momentum up to actually get this army done. I've been working on it for far too long -- but it seems it is much harder to find the time as a self-employed professional and father of four than it was back in university when I was able to crank out an army from assembly to fully painted in a few months.

So, first off, here is some of what I HAVE (mostly) completed so far, namely the first of two platoons of light infantry. I haven't done the bases yet, because I want to do a bunch of them at once to get a consistent look, plus I am waiting for low-humidity conditions to seal them and then add some static grass.


A closeup of the Rough Riders' Sergeant:


Inquisitor Ambro and some henchmen:


What I've decided to focus on for the moment is vehicles. Pictured below are all seven of the vehicles that will be featured in the list I hope to bring to the next tournament hereabouts, if I can actually get it done (famous last words, considering I was hoping to have most of this stuff completed back in June).

So we have four Chimerae, one to carry the headquarters unit, one to carry first platoon's command squad, and then two more for my outflanking platoon. Then we've got three battle tanks to provide the heavy support. Over the past few weeks I assembled them, and this week I added all the bits of stowage, gear, and camouflage netting. The camo netting is just some medical gauze from the first aid kit. The stowage is some 1:35 WWII stuff I got off eBay for cheap from Verlinden Productions. I got the idea to put a lot of stowage on the vehicles from looking at real-world war pictures. I really noticed in those how much "junk" tanks carry around on them.






Closer view of the tanks:


And a closeup of the headquarters chimera, which is done up Inquisition-style since my army is led by an Inquisitor of the Ordo Hereticus. I used Forgeworld Inquisition Rhino bitz to differentiate it from the regular Chimerae in the army. This also features my first-ever attempt with plasticard modelling in order to make the front armour fit:



... And lastly, another shot of the outflanking platoon's chimerae:



Next step: undercoating. It will almost certainly be several weeks before I post any pictures of these vehicles painted, but I hope to get the undercoating done this weekend as long as the humidity stays down (likely a vain hope in this climate).

8.30.2012

Game of Thrones According to H.B.O.


A very good friend of mine suggested that I should watch the first season of H.B.O.'s adaptation of A Song of Rape and Murder A Song of Fire and Ice after we'd had a fair bit of discussion on the books. An episode of Restoration Radio on the work had been bandied about so I decided to give it a whirl. Wow, what a mistake that was.

After watching three episodes, I cannot stomach it any more. For one thing, it's incredibly sexually graphic. I mean full-on pornography graphic. Stuff that still isn't allowed in the cinema except maybe in the most R of R-rated films. For that reason alone I can't watch anymore because (a) it's toxic waste for the soul and intellect, and (b) once one sees such scenes they are seared into your mind -- you can't unwatch that stuff. I guess H.B.O.'s always had a reputation for being a bit risqué, but I naively hadn't imagined things were this bad on the television these days (I don't own one, so it's always a shock to me when once every few years I am exposed to what passes for entertainment on such machines). Of course, we also have gay porn (of the soft variety, versus the full-on heterosexual scenes) and glorification of said lifestyle which, if it was in the novels at all, was only very subtly hinted at.

Even assuming one overlooks this (and perhaps some of my readers are more forgiving than I), the television series is, if possible even more bleak, darker, more despairing, and more perverse than the books. Perhaps the later books of the series were on par with the TV series ... friend who recommended tells me that "George RR Martin is a huge fan and co-executive producer of the show so it seems like he is okay with this interpretation." No doubt! Considering the progression of the novels, I suppose this was his intent all along, perhaps he didn't think he could pull it off in 1996? Some have complained his writing wasn't as good in the earlier novels, so maybe he had difficulty in communicating his vision to the text. Pity he "improved" because as my rather conflicted review of the books reveals, I found the first two novels palatable.

I'm working myself up into a full froth here, because the more I think about and examine the Song of Fire and Ice series, the more I come to dislike it. Here's a spot-on quote from Sophia's Favourite:

... no work—unless authored on a typewriter with a doppelsigrune key—is more blatantly bigot-propaganda than the Song of Ice and Fire books ...

How so? Firstly, the books are downright misogynistic. Even setting aside the blatant rape fantasizing going on in many a scene, the treatment and portrayal of women is absolutely abominable throughout the work. The army of "happy, content" prostitutes featured throughout being one example. I admit, in someways he gets fallen human nature alright, but the women are a bit far in their vindictiveness. I suppose the feminists cheer him on and don't tar and feather him because they think this is an accurate portrayal of how they believe men view women.

Which brings me to the second aspect of bigotry: the overwhelming anti-medieval and therefore anti-Catholic bigotry that is part-and-parcel of portraying a medieval society as such a vile thing. And especially religion. One doesn't see much of religion or clergy in the first two novels, beyond a few hypocritical references from certain characters. But, I asked Sophia's Favourite if I'd missed anything; allow me to quote you his fulsome response:

Those two themes are plenty, but what about the David Brin-style Socialist Realism? I mean how Martin's portrayal of non-"democratic" systems is the sort of vilifying propaganda generally associated with totalitarian regimes. I didn't find it that surprising—liberal ideology is still an ideology, and all ideologues will pull the same tricks given half an excuse—but I was a little surprised that an allegedly literate public let him get away with it.

Just for example, Martin's nobles are, each individually, and with only a few (doomed) exceptions, worse than Giles de Rais or Elizabeth Bathory, whose bad behavior certainly seems to have excited comment in their societies—but in Martin's? No, that's just how all nobles are. Of course, all the historical aristocrats Martin could claim as a basis for his portrayal were excommunicated and/or jailed and/or executed; the only person who got away with asmany personal or hired killings as the typical noble of his setting, is someone Martin shares at least 75% of his political opinions with—Che "personally shot more than 300 farm-boys" Guevara.

I think I missed that theme as I enumerated the examples of Martin's bigotry because I just take this one for granted. I expect to see this sort of stuff in any modern fantasy work after Tolkien, although it must be said that Martin takes it up several notches. I can't add anything to what the my ever-eloquent colleague wrote above (hence why I quoted him in full).

About the only good thing I can say about the television series is that it's got a great soundtrack.

And, yes, I need to get more of my own writing done and be part of the solution rather than just complaining all the time. Fear not -- I have three short stories on the go right now that I think I can realistically get done within the fortnight. Only problem is I think I might put all three into the anthology rather than post them here.

8.28.2012

5 Most Ridiculous Spacecraft in Film

 
I'm not a big hard-sci fi guy at all. To the contrary, I was never that good at science and bored to tears by most of it. But I do love space; I suppose I'm more of a fantasy fan. But, I have to admit that objectively most, if not all, space ships in Hollywood film are patently absurd when one considers the requirements of a real space vessel and especially the problem of moving huge ships across vast distances (problem in terms of energy and fuel!). Just for fun, here's a little list of the five mos ridiculous space craft in film, in my view (N.B. that many of these are from films I really like, so this isn't a rant or complainy post by any means!)
 

5. U.S.C.S.S. Nostromo -- The mining tug from one of my favourite films must be on this list because of the overlarge air shafts and other huge open spaces in it. Perfect for the suspense that makes the film great, but problematic for a real space ship. Still and all, I think the Nostromo isn't too "out there" and many things are reasonable about it. Certainly more reasonable than in most films. So it gets #5 on the list.



4. V'Ger -- I'm all in favour of gargantuan space ships, and my favourites are all eye-wateringly big, such as Star Destroyers which weigh in at 1,600 meters (5,200 ft) long, or Retribution Class Battleships which are estimated to be over 8km long. But V'Ger from Star Trek: The Motion Picture dwarfs those: the novelization of the film specifies the craft as being seventy-eight kilometers in length and displacing six million times the amount of space as Enterprise. I rate this as the #4 most ridiculous space craft because it is stupidly huge just for the sake of being stupidly huge, as far as I can tell. Probably interchangeable with #3 or #4 on the list, but we don't see any of the ship inside and at least some of the huge areas seem to hold some big stuff.


3. Elysium -- The Elysium is the "Noah's Arc in Space" from the film Pandorum, which I quite enjoyed. But the ship itself is ridiculousness and suffers from the same problem of the Nostromo: it seems to have been designed solely to accomodate the horror aspect of the film. Thus we have chasms, and air vents that a human can crawl through (although at least they're a bit more claustrophobic). But the huge chambre housing the cryo-pods is probably the most egregious part of the ship design -- a room so big with such a high ceiling it barely seems like a room, and with pods randomly spread out in the floor, popping out at random. Very effective for making it the hunting ground for the creatures, but not so effective for actually trying to reach another planet. The waste of fuel and other consumables for such a room renders it nonsense. Also generally huge for dramatic effect, allowing the baddies to create places like this:


2. U.S.S. Cygnus -- As I'll expand on in another post, the U.S.S. Cygnus from the little-known Disney film "The Black Hole" is a darkly gorgeous, truly awesome spectacle of a star ship. One of my favourite space vessels ever in film. But, I have to admit that on the whole it's design is absurd. Most obvious case-in-point is the crew quarters pictured below. Each crew member has a little 10x10 room through each of those doors, with a massive hallway in-between whose only purpose is aesthetic. There's a LOT of that on the Cygnus, which makes it easy on the eyes in all its gothic glory, but a little silly. It's also rather internally inconsistent since the other ship in the film, the Palomino, is more realistic, and the aesthetic of the Cygnus jarrs harshly with the regular astronaut jumpsuits its crew originally wore -- although it meshes perfectly with the black habit-like garb of the crew post lobotomy. I think it edges out the Elysium for ridiculousness because it's all purely for atmosphere and because of the incongruity with its own "universe".



1. Space Prison MS-1 -- I give fist place for most ridiculous space vessel to the prison from recently-reviewed Lockout. It beats out the others on the list because even if its layout were somewhat reasonable, the fact that cryo-prisons (in space, no less) in and of itself makes no sense at all, makes it a most ridiculous space vessel in film. But on top of that, it has the requisite air vents people can crawl through, a hideously huge room to hold the prisoners' cryo tubes (no idea WHY they did that), and overall way way more space by way of hallways and rooms than is necessary for the relatively small crew needed to watch over their frozen charges. And how it gets blown up is idiotic too ... the ridiculous police attack craft have to fly inside of it and plant a bomb to blow it up. That was so dumb I can't even comment. And in general way bigger than it could ever need to be. Overall just goofy, but it was a fairly goofy film to begin with (in a good way; again, I actually liked it despite the most ludicrous space vessel in film -- huzzah for not being a hard sci-fi guy, meaning I can overlook such peccadilloes).



Dishonourable Mention: Prometheus ... film was such utter scheiße that nothing from it deserves formal mention in this list. But as I mentioned in my review of the film, the U.S.C.S.S. Prometheus is rather absurd, especially the completely extraneous basketball court. When the crew is asleep, why on earth would you have such a waste of space on the ship other than for Michael Fassbender to show us his "mad android skillz"? I will stop now before I go on another anti-Promethus rant.

8.23.2012

Star Wars Good for Young Girls?


I want to stress that I am not holding myself out as some sort of authority -- I'm just a Catholic father sharing my thoughts at the request of a reader. So here we go; first with some general comments that apply to all six of the films. They all feature what in my view is mild fantasy violence -- blood is minimal, and what constitutes violence is usually bits of coloured light flying around knocking people down, burning holes in walls, or blowing up spaceships. I may be more permissive than other parents when it comes to violence, but I have no concerns with my children seeing this sort of thing even at preschool age. As a point of comparison, the violence is much more mild than that found in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films.

The language in the films is clean, and the fact that it takes place in a fantasy world means there is no blasphemy of any kind. I can think of one instance where the word "hell" is used, and that's about as coarse as the language gets. There are no sex scenes; there is a bit of relatively tame kissing and in general (with exceptions noted below) the immodesty is no worse than one would observe in her day-to-day travels and is generally better.

The only real concerns may be over "New Age" themes with the Force. Again, perhaps I'm more permissible than others, but I am not overly concerned with this since it tends to be fairly mild, and in the prequel trilogy is made less mystical and more junk science. Also, in a fantasy world, I think children will be able to understand that it is fantastic and not real,  just as they can understand they can't be Gandalf when they grow up. So, in general, I think that Star Wars is safe for children but I would not recommend all the films.

My correspondent asked specifically about the appropriateness of Star Wars for a daughter, so as I look at the specific episodes I'll focus on how femininity is portrayed. It seems to me that, given how much female nature has been obscured and even perverted in modern society, we must be a little extra vigilant as regards our daughters in what may seem "small things".

Episode IV - A New Hope

On the whole, I consider A New Hope to be good, clean fun. Princess Leia is a feisty but still feminine character who relies on the heroes for protection and inspires them to good feats. Her costumes are also at their best in this film. The tale is a basic "good versus evil" plot with very little moral ambiguity. Recommended.

Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back

Okay, Princess Leia wears pants for much of the film which I'm not crazy about, BUT she is still her regular self, a strong-willed princess. Also, when living in a warzone on a planet that's all ice, I think this is what anyone would wear, and when she has the opportunity (on Cloud City) she gets into something more becoming. She doesn't fight on the front lines and proper roles are maintained. Again, more basic good versus evil. I think this film is to be recommended as well.

Episode VI - Return of the Jedi

Return of the Jedi is probably the most problematic film of the whole series if for nothing else, the notorious Princess Leia "slave" costume. More problematic for boys, perhaps, but still not a good thing. Among the many issues I have with Return of the Jedi, I think that it the portrayal of Princess Leia is in some ways not true to her character in earlier films and more of a "warrior woman" which as everyone knows I'm not a fan of. I certainly don't think it's a good role model for young girls. I'd skip this episode or regard it with a lot of caution.


Episode I - The Phantom Menace

As mentioned previously, I don't hate Episode I the way most do. I think especially for children it's a fairly decent film. Queen Amidala's portrayal as a gentle, ladylike figure who is concerned for her people and takes a leadership role (as befits a queen) to free them from the invasion of the Trade Federation makes for a good feminine role model. Her wardrobe a little over-the-top but generally pretty good. She gets involved a bit in the fighting but doesn't give that "Xena Warrior Princess" vibe at all. I think this film is pretty safe for young girls.


Episode II - Attack of the Clones

I only saw this film once and honestly can't remember much about it, other than that Queen Amidala's wardrobe is fairly atrocious (especially when it gets conveniently ripped Captain Kirk-style to expose her midriff). Aside from that, it is just not a great film. I remember that watching it felt a bit like watching someone else play a video game. Not particularly engrossing or worth watching. You can watch Episode I and skip to Episode III without being lost plot-wise at all.

 Episode III - Revenge of the Sith

Revenge of the Sith is probably the darkest of the Star Wars films, and this is mostly where I'd stress caution, plus also one scene where viewers are treated to sights of Hayden Christensen naked from the waist-up. I think the portrayal of female characters is okay, although we are starting to get into the Xena-style warrior Jedi-esses, which I believe was in Episode II as well.

Those are some very brief thoughts on this series of films which is one of my favourites.

8.22.2012

Caprasia Brocard/Vanessa Redgrave


Probably due to the fact that I grew up with television and computer games, and have always been really "into" movies, I find it helpful to "cast" actors as the main characters that I write. Over the years I've found that my best characters were always ones that I was able to visualise being portrayed by a certain actor or actress as I wrote.

Caprasia Brocard is one of my favourite characters in Call to Arms. She is an Old Loyalist under the care of Varas Solabius when he crash-lands on Voystra. She is a secondary character but an important one who is an inspiration to virtue and valour in the main protagonist of the tale.

Even to her creator, Caprasia's been a bit elusive and I've found my beta readers tend to find her a bit opaque and uninteresting. I've been struggling with the re-write, and one of my biggest issues has been with difficulties envisioning her. I think I may have finally found who I've been looking for in Vanessa Redgrave after watching Mary, Queen of Scots during my vacation.

 
She has the bone structure I had in mind without the seductress' eyes of Eva Green, the previous "front runner" for this role in my mind's eye. Caprasia Brocard needs to be more stately and dignified, and I think Redgrave has the look for.

On a side note, with reference to the film that inspired this post, I wouldn't say it was a great film but it was interest to me to see how far gone things already were in 1971 in the film-making industry. Already sodomy is being propagandized and the soft-core gay porn between Ian Holm and Timothy Dalton is really something I wish I'd never seen. Although reading some brief encyclopedia entries, the film seems to have been decently accurate in portraying the key events -- in which case Mary Queen of Scots was likely THE stupidest woman to ever wear a crown. If there was a wrong way to do something, she did it, and if she's made even one fewer colossal blunders in her time, James I of England and VI of Scotland would have at least ascended to the British throne a Catholic.

8.21.2012

Scientific Proofs of Creation/Young Earth


I promised "Johnny" some links to scientific proofs of creationism a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, the vast majority, if not all, of the English-language resources in this area come from Protestant sources. In my view, this is due to the Catholic Churchmen's surrender to liberalism and the world at Vatican II, such that Catholic scientists seem to assume -- along most of the "mainstream" -- that evolution, the big bang, and other theories are tantamount to gospel truth. I've discussed my issues with such thinking here.

It's really a matter of doing Google searches to find sites like http://www.earthage.org/youngearthev/evidence_for_a_young_earth.htmhttp://www.creationism.org/heinze/index.htm or http://www.icr.org/

The Transapline Redemptorists of Papa Stronsay (as they then were -- they now go by the name "Congregation of the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer") at one time ran a series of articles in their newspaper "CATHOLIC" refuting evolution. This would have been back in 2004-2006 when I used to subscribe to that publication.

8.20.2012

Your Bi-Weekly Update #10

Hopefully a few people have wondered where I've been the past two weeks and why there haven't been any posts! I've been on vacation back to my home province of Manitoba, and most of that time without internet or even phone access at the wonderful Victoria Beach. It was certainly a good opportunity to re-charge although I didn't get nearly as much written as I'd intended. However, I did ...

1. Get some serious revision work done on Call to Arms, including writing a completely new chapter to replace a rather weak chapter that had some significant issues that I was unable to work around barring a complete re-write. So I'm definitely a step closer to getting it into print.

2. Also did a fair bit of production work on organizing and getting the Collegium Scriptorum Catholicae anthology ready-to-go. My goal it that it will be ready for Christmas, along with Call to Arms. It will probably be published under a new imprint for True Restoration Press. There will be seven fantasy and seven science fiction pieces in the collection. I am very happy with the quality of stories we've put in there so I am looking forward to seeing this in print soon.

3. While on vacation I dug-up some old work that has sat untouched for over a decade. It struck me as surprisingly salvageable, so with some re-working I hope to have some lengthier pieces available for your Friday enjoyment sooner rather than later. In the mean time, Fridays may be a bit sparse for a bit as I focus on finishing items #1 and 2 from this list.

8.04.2012

Lockout (Movie Review)


Title: Lockout
Director: James Mather and Stephen St. Leger
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Starring: Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace, Vincent Regan
Excellence: 2.5 stars (out of 5)
Summary in a Sentence: A generally ridiculous yet enjoyable, non-serious sci-fi/action film.

So here's the basic storyline, courtesy of IMDB

Set in the near future, a falsely convicted ex-government agent (Guy Pearce) has one chance at obtaining freedom. He must undertake a dangerous mission to rescue the President's daughter (Maggie Grace) from rioting convicts at an outer space maximum-security prison.

I've always liked Guy Pearce. I thought he was excellent in Memento and The Count of Monte Cristo, although his appearance in Prometheus will always be a blight on his record. So I was happy to see him get a leading role and I thought he pulled it off in fine fashion. To me, Lockout hearkened back to the 1980s/90s action films that were full of ridiculous action but also humour. Guy Pearce is a very good actor and here he portrayed a funny, likeable yet annoying at the same time rogue C.I.A. agent sent to rescue the president's daughter.

The plot was essentially the bare minimum to create an excuse for mayhem aboard a giant prison/space station. It could have easily taken place on earth, but being in space gave some opportunity for a few funky space walk scenes. Overall, it was pretty ridiculous -- I mean the prison MS1 was totally outrageous; gargantuan, with huge meaningless open spaces, plus the whole idea of cryo-prisons is fairly ludicrous to start with. The "Low Orbit Police Department" made little sense as well, and their attack on MS1 with what things that appeared like bulky fighter jets was a head-scratcher (surely a society that could build a monstrosity like MS1 could take it down with long-range missiles?).

But this is not a film you take seriously, and it didn't take itself seriously -- so this could all be overlooked thanks to the overall fun of the film and the good action sequences. None of the action was overdone, the way overused slo-mo shots were mercifully left-out, and Pearce took a lot of Bruce Willis-esque beatings. It's definitely a renter, not a film to buy, but it made for an enjoyable 1.5 hours. So I give it a solid 2.5 (keeping in mind that I'm pretty frugal with my stars so 2.5 is actually decent). A solid "guy film".

8.02.2012

The Faith and Reason Opposed Canard


I saw the picture above posted to Facebook. I certainly agree that "science and faith and compatible", but I think that the picture wrongly suggests that if you believe this you MUST accept the "big bang theory". The thing is, it's just that -- a theory. And how could it be otherwise since obviously no one other than God Himself was around at the time to see what happened.

The Big Bang theory does make a certain amount of sense, but, it's unprovable, and furthermore, there IS scientific evidence out there in favour of a "young earth". Just because you ascribe to that theory doesn't mean that you believe science and faith are incompatible. And, frankly, it would be great if there were more open study of such questions. The problem is that the modern-day secularist inquisition forbids a truly open and honest discussion of these things. You must accept evolution or you're a crazy fundamentalist. You must accept the "big bang" or you're a crazy fundamentalist. Et cetera. And it seems to me that we're buying into that mentality a bit when we make memes and videos like the ones above.

Moreover, it seems to me that the reason modern "scientists" and university professors persecute those with "heretical" views is because is some respects they have elevated unproven theories to the level of dogma in some sort of quasi-religion which they call "science" but really isn't. Hence the witch hunt for creationists and others. So the opposition isn't really between faith and science. They frame it this way to stack the deck in their favour. But the opposition is frequently between this pseudo-religion and faith.

Just some random thoughts.
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