Tuesday, 28 December 2010

You lot

I have just returned from my Christmas Holidays to find that Blogger has added a wonderful Stats tool. This has told me some interesting things, viz:
- most of my readers are in the good ol' US of A
- weirdly my most popular post is the one about Conrad Veidt due to Google linkage
- although there are a stalwart cabal of 22 of you out there who follow me, I have had a hefty 20,000 hits on this blog since it was created about a year ago

I also discovered by tangential links that my Death Card business cards were nominated as being amongst the top 60 business cards of 2010. Click here to see the list. Yay!

I have added a funky "most popular posts" thing on the right too. I have some awesome posts up my sleeve for the coming weeks, including a mini battle report charting the exploits of my Genestealer Cult and the psychogeography of East London. I leave you with a little WIP shot of something I am working on at present.

Enjoy the dying days of 2010 and see you in 2011.

Bam! Bam!

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Hoplite training weekend

A few weeks ago the Hoplite Association gathered in our secret underground venue (which looks suspiciously like a Scout Hut in Leighton Buzzard) for a training weekend. Reenactment is a seasonal activity with events only taking place in the summer. We gather on four occasions in the winter to drink, tell tales and "fettle" (work on our projects).

Our projects are many and varied, and standing in the main hall one morning I looked about me at the sea of craft tools and realised the room was a Maker's heaven. Tables were heaped with paraphernalia for leather working, wood carving, jewellery and clothes making. The sports hall had our tents laid out as we painted and stencilled bright pigments onto the canvas (although there is scant evidence to describe Ancient Greek tents, we know they had them and surmise they, like the Greek's architecture, would have been heavily decorated) and outside our members sanded down poles of ash wood to form dori (the distinctive spears carried by the hoplites, weighted at the back end to allow a long reach).

This training weekend was special because it marked the 10th anniversary of the society. We usually prepare a Greek feast for the Saturday night using authentic Ancient recipes. This was done again with even more gusto and specialities included a birthday cake (complete with a message in icing in Ancient Greek), and my vodka watermelon (I suspect the Greeks did not have either vodka or watermelons, but they were hedonists and so would have approved, I am sure). All told we had a fantastic time and our creations will mean the society's 2011 season will be one of our most resplendent.

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Thursday, 23 December 2010


I thumbed the radio on my belt to life and whispered, "Does anyone know the code to the back door? It's three digits and starts with a 3." Static. The response "Try 3,5,1" came a moment later. The PIN worked, the door creaked open and I slunk into the room, which turned out to be a toilet. I could see the case I was looking for by the end stall, but it was secured to the door with a cable-tie. My Victorinox made quick work of the tie and I scooped up the heavy box and made my way back out the door into the alley. There was ice underfoot and, as I paused with baited breath, I could hear the footsteps of a guard approaching down the steps which were my only exit. I knew I was trapped.

Thus ran my Saturday afternoon in New Cross in South London. I was part of a heist, the objective of which was to recover some cases from a guarded building. This isn't my normal line of work, you understand, but the aptly named Heist was an Alternate Reality Game (ARG) run by the folk at Firehazard Games. The game began with 12 participants gathering in the comfortable Amersham Arms pub and then being briefed by Casey, the Firehazard rep. We had about 10 minutes to distribute the kit she gave us (including stun guns, wire cutters, duck tape and night-vision goggles - all the real deal) and form a plan. We didn't do very well at the latter, and only really concluded that we were going to split into two teams and simultaneously go in the front and the back.

It turns out this was all we needed. Through good communication and persistence we proved ourselves to be the weekend's best team for we managed to recover all the cases. Our prize was what all burglars desire - a big bag of chocolate coins. I was extremely impressed with the Firehazard management, as events like this are logistically very difficult on so many levels. Most notable were the actors playing the security guards, who struck an excellent balance between letting the players get away with certain things, but being suitably authoritarian when necessary.

I am getting more and more interested in gamification and ARGs. I think they are growing trends possibly indicative of society's increasing ennui towards MMORPGs. I am sure I will be posting more on this topic soon.

The Plan

Our briefing session in the Amersham Arms

Our kit included walkie talkies

The site of the heist

The toilet in which I found the last case

Our swag

Our winning team

Tuesday, 21 December 2010


Below are some photos I took at a secret jewellery sale in London a few weeks ago. My pal G kindly took me to the sale, forewarning me to be careful of what he described as "The Fashion Bitches" who would scratch my eyes out to get in front of me in the queues.

The event was essentially a sale of end-of-line goods, but the fact Vivienne Westwood and Cath Kidston have stalls there meant the place was crawling with fashionistas. I am not particularly familiar with current jewellery design but I could not detect one style which dominated. Some seemed very conventional, some minimalist while the Westwood line was evidently opulent Gothic with some interesting rubber/acrylic pieces in pastel shades.

Folk were coming away with armfulls of glittering treasures and the Westwood table was doing what can only be described as a brisque trade. In the end I was very restrained and picked up a gift for my sister and one or two tiny bits for myself. I also managed to retain my eyes as well, which is always nice.

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Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Dread - or how to get yourself shot

The other week I was tied to a radiator, attacked by men in robes and then shot in the leg. These things happened as a result of a stack of Jenga blocks. Let me explain...

Dread is a role playing game with no dice. It is a character-driven set of rules designed for players to tell rather gloomy, gothic stories. It forgoes the traditional mechanic of rolling dice and replaces it with the need to pull blocks from a Jenga tower. Making sense now? Good, keep up.

My pal JMC ran an awesome short Dread adventure for us and we all loved it. He locked us in a museum, hunted us with acolytes in robes, filled a room with sheep ready for sacrifice and ultimately shot my character in the leg. The pulling of bricks from the Jenga tower is easy at first, but becomes excruciating as the game progressed and the tower is destabilized. It therefore does a wonderful job of building tension amongst players.

I would highly recommend Dread to gamers interested in story-telling and character-driven RPGs. The website for the system is here and I found out about it from this excellent review by The Hopeless Gamer.

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Sunday, 12 December 2010

Bizarre marker

I stumbled across this rather bizarre marker stone on my travels last week. It was one of several in Caledonian Park in London (Google maps link here).

I suspect Mr Darwin was a man with some time on his hands...

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Friday, 10 December 2010

Christmas decorations

I was more than slightly impressed with the enormous ice-cave grotto which I encountered in London's Westfield shopping centre recently. The trompe l'oeil painting on the walls was pretty cool and the whole thing changed colour with cycling lights. Not bad for a country in the grip of recession.

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Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The Grand Anarcho Dandyist Ball

The photos below are from the The Chap magazine's wonderful Grand Anarcho Dandyist Ball. Saturday night left me giddy in a sea of moustaches and debonair courtesy. However, I became slightly nauseous when I encountered the lurid 60s jumpsuit my pal Atters inflicted on the world (see the first pic below). You can see Atters' hilarious Wiki here.


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Monday, 6 December 2010

Saturday, 4 December 2010

The green menace

There are some things in life you don't expect. Some are nice. Some are nasty. Some take the form of giant Egyptian temples buried below the surface of California desert. The latter is not some bonkers Chariot of the Gods lark, but actually the set built by Cecil B. DeMille for his 1923 epic The Ten Commandments. In those days film sets were built to last, so much so that when shooting finished it was easier to bury the structures rather than carry out dilapidations.

I was watching the DVD extras to Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland and came to the sections showing the actors on set. The "set" consisted of a few items of furniture on an enormous green-screen stage. This will be no surprise to anyone who has seen the film as pretty much every shot has some serious digital enhancement. However, it struck me that film making has moved so far that the day-to-day life on set would be wholly unrecognisable to DeMille. Think of the utter mind-bending joy Julia Faye must have felt when she walked onto that 1:1 scale replica of Egypt in 1923 and how she must have relished playing the Pharaoh's wife amidst those exquisitely carved plaster columns. And now think of how difficult and disappointing it must be for Johnny Depp to walk onto a green-screen set today and be greeted by a bloke in a green gimp suit.

Perversely, directors and set designers are less fettered by budget and logistics than they ever were before. Yet I don't think this makes for better films, as the lacklustre CGI-fest finale to AiW (and, indeed, most other blockbusters) shows. You want a winged unicorn to burst out of an cave lit by glowing, animated urinals? Fine. Oh, you want the urinals to change colour? Fine, that'll be $5,000 extra, and we'll throw in some talking rabbits. No one will expect those! Least of all in the California desert...

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Friday, 3 December 2010

Website updated

A quick note to say I have updated my site with a new page of work for Studio McVey featuring my graphics for their newly unveiled Sedition Wars miniature line.

The front of the site has also changed to give my infographics a higher profile..

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Thursday, 2 December 2010

New work from John Blanche #4

This is the final image from the latest batch which John has kindly sent through. Its composition is less radical than the pair I posted previously and it uses the pen, ink and stippling which characterised his work until the late 80s.

Note the surround, with the annotation and page number. John has taken to working on separate sheets and then pasting the finished images in huge, leather bound tomes. With these grimoires he carries on the medieval tradition of the apocalyptic scribe whose vision has been seared by the vistas only he has witnessed.

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Monday, 29 November 2010

New work from John Blanche #3

John has kindly sent through some more images. I was quite astounded when I saw these as they mark a significant departure in terms of composition. These close-cropped and intimate portraits bring the viewer much nearer to the subjects. The delicate treatment of the girl's skin in the first is at odds with the brutal spike jutting from her jaw. The maxillofacial steel is reinforced by the metal spires that rise behind her. We feel rather sorry for this beautiful creature who gazes wistfully across her dystopian world.

We feel less pathos for the woman in the second, who stares coyly back at us. She is a Mother Ship in the literal sense, with her fleet of tiny drones circling about her, perhaps docking via the red-raw maw in her shoulder. These sulphurous, buzzing little passengers reinforce the feeling of decay that surrounds the Magna Mater who proudly bears her cracked spines and charred stubble.

I will unleash another image later this week.

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