Monday, February 28, 2011

Oscars 2011

Just a quick note about the Oscars, as it is really late, and my original post fell-through due to an image-management issue...

We have held an Oscar party every year since returning to Edmonton, with the possible exception of 2002 when Glory was born (within a month of the Oscars).  Even when we had first moved into the house (again, within the month of the ceremony), a handful of diehards called to tell us that they were enroute with wine, so an ad hoc party was called immediately

Bruce won with 11 correct predictions, and everyone had a great time.  A lot of people bowed out due to roads or weather, but we had enough for critical mass (certainly more than when we moved in).  The pot luck went well, with our sweet and sour pork providing the mass, and a lot of other thing (like Pete's prosciutto and goat cheese wrapped asparagus and Ellen's spaghettini with sun dried tomatoes and peppers and feta!), and it was a good crop of movies this year even if none of us saw all the ones we wanted too.

I really regret not seeing The Social Network in theatres, and I wish it had won Best Picture.  Don't get me wrong, The King's Speech is a great flick, but my big objection is that it's an easy film to make: it's an uplifting, feel good period film about someone overcoming adversity in spite of complicating family factors.  The Social Network is a movie about two lawsuits over a website that has absolutely no right being as engrossing as it is, but there you go.  Aaron Sorkin's screenplay was the one Oscar I would have been choked about had it gone to someone else, as he effortlessly rolls between three storylines and doesn't really villainize anyone.

I was very glad to see Inception get a few awards, although I would have liked to see Hans Zimmer take home a statue for the immense score.  The Social Network's  score by Trent "Nine Inch Nails" Reznor was a good second choice for me though.  Aaron Sorkin's acceptance speech was one of the night's best, although Randy Newman's was really good as well.

Natalie Portman was the only nominee I saw in the Best Actress category, and Black Swan was the best film about a descent into madness since Ken Russell's Gothic, so I was glad to see her win.  I was disappointed that her director Darren Aronofsky didn't get more props (to make a movie with that many mirrors and steadicam shots and not give away a shot of the cameraman?!?), and I still think The Social Network's David Fincher deserved the trophy more than King's Speech's Tom Hooper, although I loved his acceptance speech.

We have a macabre game we play during the annual "In Memoriam" roll where they list all the Hollywood types who passed away since last year's ceremony, wherein you have to take a shot for every person who you recognize, but were unaware had passed on.  I ended up taking eight this year, the most of the four of us who participated.  I am pretty sure I had been aware that Dennis Hopper had died, but had completely forgotten (which still counts), but had no clue about Lena Horne (and a couple others).

Monday, February 21, 2011

Valhallan Infantry - "Bom Squad" (Veterans)

At long last, my second squad is done!  About a week behind schedule, but whatcha gonna do when there's an out-of-town wedding, church meetings and a feis all in rapid succession?  Truth be told, I'm happy it's only a week.

A Warhammer 40,000 army list breaks a force into various categories: HQ, Fast Attack, Elites, Heavy Support and so on.  A legal army requires a minimum of two Troops choices, and my 81-man Infantry Platoon will be one of these.  The Bom Squad here, all ten of them, will be the other one.  The Ministorum Priest is an addition that doesn't even show up on the force org chart.

Veterans represent seasoned troops, and while their stat-line doesn't distinguish them greatly from their regular infantry comrades, they have access to much more diverse equipment.  Of the three specialist designations available, I have equipped this squad as a demolitions team, which entitles the entire team to carry Melta Bombs (very effective against vehicles and bunkers) and one member can carry a Demolition Charge (dangerous to pretty much everything else, including the thrower).

This has little to do with tactics and more to do with carrying the theme forward of the Chimera I built with a mine-plough on the front of it.  Even though this squad is more about deploying explosives than removing them, you have to hope there would be some shared skill-sets there, right?

This squad required a bit more conversion than I am normally wont to do, beginning with these re-purposed tank crewmen.  A previous edition's rules allowed these models to escape a wrecked tank, and if you got them off the board, you diminished the amount of points your opponent got for killing your vehicle, forcing him to expend shots at a unit with no real combat effectiveness.  Hardly sporting, so this rule got left behind in later iterations.  I decided that using them as regular Guardsmen would not only round out this squad nicely and give it some visual distinction, but since two of the crew only had laspistols and needed conversion, it also gave me an excuse to use some of the cool looking wire-stock lasgun carbines from the vehicle crew sprue.  I added a Melta Bomb (with the big D-handle, magnetic limpets and danger stripes) to the one crewman because you don't want someone saying, "Well, if I had known they carried Melta Bombs..."

Two simpler conversions were the vox-caster and heavy flamer upgrade.  Both conversions required little more than some aggressive filing on the backs of the models to accommodate the appropriate backpacks.  I hadn't planned to put a heavy weapon in the Bom Squad as they are generally move-or-fire weapons, and I want this lot moving forward to bust bunkers, flush out trenches and take out vehicles.  There is no model for a Valhallan Heavy Flamer, but when I came across the tanks in another vehicle sprue, it seemed like a worthy improvisation.

The last two members of the squad are carry-overs from the old Schaeffer's Last Chancers set, a 40K version of The Dirty Dozen penal squad.  Demolition Man required no conversion whatsoever, as he not only comes with the demo charge and ubiquitous fur hat, but his lasgun even has a Kalashnikov-style curved magazine.  The Sergeant is the old 'Hero' model, with his weenie laspistol replaced with a plasma pistol for a little more oomph, and I will be treating that fancy sword as a power weapon so he can do more against power armour than just chip some paint.

The Ministorum Priest is pretty much the old Confessor Kyrinov model, a Valhallan special character who longer has any specific rules.  He originally came with an enormous mace-shaped power weapon, but I grafted two chainswords (that's right sissies: a chainsaw sword) to create a two-handed version charmingly known as an 'Eviscerator'.  This makes him a little more dangerous in close-quarters, but also gives him improved armour penetration.  His 'Righteous Fury' rule also lets the entire squad re-roll missed hits in hand-to-hand combat on the turn they charge, but the real reason I included him was for the hat.  How Eastern Orthodox is that lid, am I right?  It seemed like a good fit, and I am thinking of calling him the Archimandrite, or maybe just Father Grigori.

I don't know why these pictures came out so...orangey, but I can't waste any time experimenting with settings while the next squad is waiting.  The important thing is that they are my favourite colour: done.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Lies from the Top

Perhaps it's a bit sad, but given the scope of their responsibilities and the scale of the bureaucracy needed to run a country as big and diverse as Canada, I don't really expect a whole lot from our Federally elected officials, and most of them don't disappoint in this regard.  They balance their duties to the electorate with their desire to get re-elected and rise in power, and if they overextend themselves or overstay their welcome, hopefully another election will sweep them out.

It is fully expected that politicians are going to massage, manage, and manipulate the truth in a manner favourable to their position, and so most of us take information coming from places like Parliament Hill with a grain of salt; sometimes table salt, sometimes road salt, and sometimes those big blue blocks used for deer and cattle. 

I can take salted truth just fine, despite being keenly aware of excessive sodium in my diet, but I draw the line at deliberate, pernicious misinformation and lies coming from the mouths of MPs.  Two recent examples leap to mind:

International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda initially denied altering a document that initially supported but afterwards denied funding to international aid group Kairos.  Instead of rejecting CIDA's recommendation, or ignoring it, or just using ministerial fiat to pretty much do what she wanted to, she ordered the word 'not' inserted into the document, twisting the words and intents of others to suit her own political needs.  When the insertion was detected, Oda initially denied knowing who was responsible, before coming clean a few days later and admitting it was done at her direction.

She is not likely to face any discipline over this, and is, in fact, being applauded by other caucus members for doing a great job with her portfolio, despite having deliberately misled, or in other words, lied, to the House and the public, not once but twice.  That kind of bullshit is going to take a lot more than salt to choke down.

The second one is not quite as topical or as clear cut, but still reprehensible.

Bill C-389 is a private member's bill designed to include gender identity and gender expression to the list of identifiable groups protected by the Human Rights Act, and protecting them from hate crimes.  If this bill is passed, it means that a landlord who evicts a female tenant after discovering she began life chromosonally as a male would be in violation of that individual's rights, the same way he would be for evicting her because she's black, or Chinese, or Muslim, or gay.  A person who beats up someone because they find the idea of them being a post-operative trans-sexual personally repugnant would not just be charged with assault, but also potentially with a hate crime.

There are those who think hate crime legislation is redundant, ineffective or frighteningly close to 1984's concept of 'thoughtcrime', and that is understandable; after all, it can be difficult to prove intent in a lot of these cases.  That said, I still believe that there should be a difference in crime between someone who punches a guy in the face because he spat on his shoes and someone one who does it just because the victim is black.  Anyone who wants to argue the bill's merits in that regard should be encouraged, even if I think they are out to lunch.

The ship has pretty much sailed on hate crime legislation though, and despite occasional difficulties in applying it, most Canadians seem to think it worthwhile, and it appears it is here to stay.  This means that those opposed to Bill C-389 have to seek other means to defeat it, and disinformation is once again the weapon of choice.

Among (small c) conservative pundits (and some big-C Conservative ones as well), Bill C-389 is being presented as 'The Bathroom Bill', and the Marthas and Henrys of the country are having their indignation button pushed via the notion that sexual predators will be able to cross-dress and legally lurk in bathrooms of the opposite gender.  This letter, forwarded by Saskatoon MP Maurice Vellacott to his colleagues in Parliament asks the reader to
"Imagine a young girl - your daughter or granddaughter - goes into a washroom and finds a man there. How is the young girl to determine whether or not the man in the bathroom is a "peeping tom," a rapist or a pedophile? It is unconscionable for any legislator to purposefully place her in such a compromising position. Furthermore, if the young girl reacts negatively to the man's presence and he turns out to be a transsexual, she could potentially be charged with a "hate crime". "

I also like the author's helpful definition of trans-genderism as the "belief" that "one can be a man on the outside, but a woman on the inside, or vice versa," implying that there is some dispute over its legitimacy.  In fact, trans-genderism is a recognized psychological condition appearing on the DSM-IV since 1994.

This kind of boogeyman argument is both disappointing and infuriating.  First of all, there is nothing preventing predators from cross-dressing now and lurking in these bathrooms.  Secondly, there is nothing preventing male predators from going into male bathrooms even as we speak and preying on children there!  Thirdly, the implication that trans-gendered people are potentially more dangerous to children than other groups is not only wrong, it's offensive; check the statistics and worry more about straight people who are not strangers to their victims.

Before a person can be considered for gender re-assignment surgery, they have to spend a year or more living as the gender they wish to become, identifying and dressing in a way potentially very different from how they grew up.  Killing this bill tells these individuals, 'well, I guess you can use our bathrooms, but you'd better not let us catch you.'  If we all kept the cubicle doors closed, would this even be an issue?

Why is this such a burr under my saddle?  I don't know any tran-gendered people personally, so it's not like I have a dog in this fight.  I know a lot of people find the topic a little, you know, discomfiting.  Icky even, and you know what?  Fine.  Feel awkward.  Be icky.  Own it.  Admit it.  But don't treat people differently because of it. 

When some jackhole lets that icky feeling turn to anger and beats up a stranger because of it, don't pretend that that it's not a hate crime.  Don't let people tell lies linking the trans-gendered to pedophilia without some kind of evidence to back it up.  If you hear people talking this kind of harmful nonsense, call them out on it, right then and there.  Don't allow hurtful lies to be spread in your presence if you are able to help it.

I want to live in a Canada that is free, tolerant and inclusive, a country that works harder to protect those who need protecting.  Tran-gendered teens are worse off than gay or lesbian teens, even more at risk of bullying, assaults and suicide.  How is protecting a disempowered group like this not a Canadian value?

It's kind of funny; I only know about Bill C-389 because James, my church's minister, brought it up at last night's council meeting.  Like me, he thinks Christians should called to challenge comfortable assumptions, and to fight against injustice and untruth wherever we find it.  Maurice Vellacott is a former pastor who obviously feels called to a different sort of action, which I find disappointing, but hardly surprising.  That's a whole different kind of 'lie from the top' that I'll not get into now; suffice to say, I can't picture a lot of other denominations lobbying their representatives to support this bill.

Speaking of surprising, it's kind of amazing that Bill C-389 passed its first reading (143-135, with 6 Conservatives supporting it!), but it is generally expected to die in the Conservative-heavy Senate, if it even gets addressed before the next election is called.  (By the way, has anyone heard the PM talk about Senate reform lately, or do you think he wants to get a little more Tory Blue in that chamber first?)  Still, that stalwart body of sober second thought has a tradition of following the wishes of the House, and there are a handful of statesmen in there who still love debating principles and values and ideals.  And, hey, it's not as though they have to worry about getting re-elected, right?

If you care about things like justice, and equality, and fairness, you could do worse than to let your MP and the Senate know that you would like them to support Bill C-389.  Me, I like all those things, but the main reason I will do it is because liars, especially elected liars, just piss me off something fierce.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Welcome to the Jungle

As previously mentioned, Island Mike and I will be joining forces at G&G VI for the annual Warhammer 40,000 Apocalypse game.  We will both be fielding Imperial Guard armies, the nearly hapless humans of the war-torn 41st millennium, but with drastically different themes.

While my Valhallan Ice Warriors are very evocative of WWII Russians with their bomber hats, greatcoats and blanket rolls, his Catachan Jungle Fighters have more of a U.S. G.I. feel, with elements of both Vietnam and the Pacific theatre of WWII.  Think Guadalcanal Diary meets Platoon, and you won't be far off.  Incongruously, the wife-beater shirts and headbands of the Jungle Fighters offer the same level of protection as the heavy coats and occasional helmets of my Ice Warriors; a 5+ armor save.  Weird, huh?

A lot of the background describes how the Catachan's native planet is a 'Deathworld', not suitable for colonization as the planet's surface is almost exclusively jungle, filled with disease, carnivorous plants, and predatory insects ranging in size from gnat to caribou.  No one told the Catachans though, or opted to give them a choice, because they are still there, and the ones who survive to adulthood are tougher by far than those bred on more civilized worlds.  Catachan's only export is men, men who fill the ranks of the Guard.

The toughest of these are the veteran squads or 'Catachan Devils', elite long range scouts adept at ambushing with lasguns and snare mines, but opting for the precision and silence of their long blades whenever possible.  Every Catachan carries a 'knife' (some which could very reasonably be called a sword) of his own making and adapted to his fighting style, some with monomolecular edges, others with a hollowed channel inside the blade partially filled with mercury in order to impart more swinging power to the tip.

Even these Devils defer to their commander, however: Colonel "Iron Hand" Straken.

Straken's 'lead from the front' philosophy has cost him dearly in injuries over the years, most notably in the incident where he lost his arm to a Miral Land Shark.  Far too valuable to be cashiered, Straken gets repaired and augmented and sent back to the front to carry the fight to humanity's enemies.
I offered to get Mike this model to use as a commander for his Catachan Air Cav as an early birthday present since I have the option of picking up special orders at the local Games Workshop store and not paying any shipping.  I don't know if he knew I was going to paint it for him, but if not, I guess the Cat(achan) is out of the bag now, huh?  (Canada Post assures me he now has it.)

Old, tired Straken

New and improved Straken
 This newer version is a vast improvement over the older, more two-dimensional original produced a decade ago without being a huge departure.  The bandana, shot gun and trophy skull have all returned, but apparently Straken's last bout of physio therapy included a lot of time on a Bowflex.  Lookit those lats!

I love how anachronistic the wooden shotgun stock and pump look alongside the bionic arm, and the bandolier full of shells is a nice addition as well.  Other cool details include the tooth-necklace around his neck, two different types of grenades, an Imperial Eagle belt buckle and the leg-tie on his holster.

After painting a squad of ten figures all with the same uniform and kit, it's always nice to shift focus to a single character model, and it was also a treat to work on a warmer palette than my Valhallans have with their many shades of grey.  I'm very happy with how Col. Straken turned out, especially when I recall how daunting I used to find the prospect of painting flesh tones.  Plus, the bionic eye meant he couldn't be cross-eyed, which is a plus.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Tough Choices

On February 6, the Edmonton Journal ran a story about a 17-year-old boy who had been shot and killed by a police officer.  The gist of the article was that a robbery suspect fleeing a crime scene had charged an officer while armed with both a bat and a knife.  At a distance of 6-8 feet, the officer shot the teen three times, and despite emergency surgery, the young man died later in the hospital.

It is heartless and unreasonable to expect the boy's mother to look at the situation objectively, so when she was quoted a couple of days later as saying the situation was "unfair" and that her son Cyrus may actually have been the victim of an earlier robbery, it was easy to be sympathetic.  Clearly, a fatal shooting is not how any of those affected would have liked to have seen the situation resolved; not Cyrus, not his mother, and certainly not the officer forced to make a split-second decision that ended a life.

Obviously there are a number of investigations now underway to determine not only whether or not the officer's actions were justified, but also trying to collate the events that lead up to the shooting.  While I am grateful that these oversight measures exist, the amount of armchair quarterbacking, second guessing and ascribing of nefarious motives to this tragedy have made me angry.   It began with this letter published in the Journal February 7th:

Another day, another police shooting. It seems the Edmonton Police Service has itchy trigger fingers these days, as this past weekend we witnessed the third fatality in as many months by our uniformed officers.  Was this a bank robbery in progress? A drug cartel deal gone bad? A hostage situation?

No, just some troublemaking kids armed with blunt and sharp objects, clearly more lethal than the pistols our officers carry. We all know a knife can be thrown much faster than the projectile speed of a ninemillimetre round.

So of course it was an appropriate response to fire three rounds centre mass and bring this suspect down (as police are trained to do). After all, getting hit with a bat and slashed with a knife is always fatal, correct?

If the police insist on killing anyone who remotely threatens them, they will further erode public confidence in their ability to use sound judgment. If it is their mandate to use firearms in this manner, then why do we have both police and military?

If the use of lethal force is taught and condoned, then wouldn't it be much more effective to have one branch of law enforcement and defence? In fact, why don't we skip due process altogether, and dispense justice at the street level? No need for the court system.

It turns out we don't need a debate on capital punishment, it's already dispensed at the hands of EPS.

Cole Losey, Edmonton

From its sarcastic tone to the idea that the size of the knife the youth carried is somehow relevant, this letter hit practically every hot-button I have, so I wrote a response the following day, and it was published yesterday (albeit with a typo):
Cole Losey's letter (Teen death shakes faith in police, The Journal, Feb 7) is long on indignation and sarcasm, but very short on sense.  While it is tragic when any young person dies from a gunshot, if an armed person chooses to charge a police officer, using their service weapon to defend themselves (and the public at large) is not an unreasonable response.  Growing up next door to a police officer, I remember asking him how he dealt with the responsibility of going to work with a firearm, knowing he might have to use it in the course of his work.  While he agreed that it was daunting, he also said, "I would rather be tried by twelve than carried by six."
This weekend I had an opportunity to talk about the incident with a friend who serves on a police commission outside of Edmonton, and he spoke at length about the 'continuum of force' model that Canadian police services use.  I recalled how the inventor of the taser found it discouraging that a hundred years later, today's law enforcement personnel had pretty much the same options as Wyatt Earp when it came time to subdue a violent suspect: club them or shoot them.

I think is is not only fair but necessary to ask if there was any other action that could have been taken instead of shooting, but if the situation went down as initially described, and a person armed with a club and a blade made a threatening move towards an officer trying to arrest him, then the shooting was simply the natural unfolding of tragic circumstance.

The notion that the officer could have tasered Cyrus instead of using his service weapon is disregardable as the officer was not equipped with such a device.  The idea that perhaps he could have disarmed Cyrus by shooting the weapons out of his hands is utterly ridiculous, a holdover from romanticized western movies.  Mr. Losey's suggestion that an officer should be willing to risk injury or death by grappling with someone armed with a knife capable of removing an eye, slitting their throat, or puncturing their heart, as well as a baseball bat capable of breaking a limb or crushing a skull, is absolutely ludicrious. 

Somewhat more plausible is the questioning of the number of shots, with some critics saying that had Cyrus been shot only once, he would have promptly sat down and become compliant.  We have no way of knowing if this would have been the case in this instance, but it doesn't seem like an unreasonable course of inquiry.  What is unreasonable is asking an officer to take this into consideration in the fraction of a second he has in which to decide whether or not to use potentially lethal force.  The fact is, when a police officer decides to open fire, concern for their target's well-being is not a consideration; they are acting to save their own life or someone else's from someone intent on doing them harm.  Three shots is not an unreasonable amount of force to be used on someone advancing with a weapon less than three paces away; it's not as though the shooter has time to assess the effect of the preceding shots.

Now, it is certainly possible that the situation unfolded in a manner different, either subtly or significantly, from what the original article describes, but if I have to make a snap judgement based on what I have available to me, and I have to choose between a weaponized teenage alcoholic with a criminal record who, according to his mom,  "couldn't stand the police", and another person who has chosen an increasingly thankless career defending the public interest with both his time and his body, well, I'm afraid I am not going to find that nearly as tough a choice as the one that officer had to make.  And to suggest that the shooting was racially motivated, and that police officers are laying out death sentences wherever they can without any kind of corroboration is simply offensive.

My hope is that if the shooting turns out be 'in policy' and that the officer is determined to have acted appropriately, the people making these accusations can turn their energies to some very tough questions that we all have a part in answering, like what drives someone to alcoholism at 17?  Even if police officers are imperfect, being human, why is it societally acceptable for people to say they hate the police?  Was there anyone around to tell Cyrus that regardless of provocation, hitting the streets angry with a bat and a knife looking for payback was most likely to end in tragedy, like it did?  If Cyrus had spent the evening in a nightclub, as his friend asserts, did he get in with a fake i.d., or did the doorman just not care enough to check?  Are we doing enough to make sure kids like Cyrus Green have options on a Saturday night that don't involve drinking and weapons?

Adolescence is a chaotic time when a lot of us do stupid things we often end up having cause to regret.  I'm saddened that Cyrus won't get that opportunity, but in the end, he made a rotten choice in approaching a police officer while armed.  That officer made a choice to defend himself, and now the young man in question has had all his future choices taken away from him.

The worst part for me in all of this is that despite the best intentions of everyone involved, Cyrus Green stands a very good likelihood of becoming "a statistic" like his mom feared, or just "one less aboriginal".

There could be someone in your life setting themselves up for a bad decision, maybe with fatal results like Cyrus, or maybe with economic or health or social repercussions.  If there is one lesson we can perhaps take away from this tragedy, maybe it's our responsibility to speak up, to let the people in our lives know that we care about them, that what happens to them matters to us, and that there is always another choice.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Productivity, of a Sort

Most of the wargaming armies I've completed have been finished with the aid of an impending deadline.  Where there wasn't an actual deadline, such as a tournament or a project due for work when I was with Games Workshop, I'd make one up; perhaps challenging a friend to a game with a new army, knowing I would have to put up or shut up.  In the case of my Valhallans, agreeing to team up with Island Mike for G&G VI in May was just what I needed to get started on an army I bought the first piece for almost a decade ago, and got virtually all the rest back in 2007 with my final staff purchase.

The last time I painted an army start-to-finish in a proscribed amount of time was during one of GW's 'Paint Or Die' challenges.  Everyone participating in the pool agrees to finish an army by a certain date, and anyone who does not complete one has to buy a 'battalion box' (SRP $120) for everyone else who has.  Needless to say, it is not the kind of bet you enter into expecting to win, but there is a tremendous amount of motivation to not lose.  Even at staff discount, it was estimated that if only one person missed the deadline, he would be shelling out close to $700 in tiny soldiers.

The two biggest obstacles to completing a an army in a scenario like this, at least for me, are time and gumption.  It is all too easy to either procrastinate, thinking you have more than enough time, or become intimidated, thinking there is no hope, but even when you break the army down into bite-size chunks and can see a reasonable amount of time for completion, it is still easy to succumb to hobby fatigue.  It's important to arrange things in such a way that you never forget you are doing them because you want to, not just because you are obliged to, even if you really are.

I used to arrange my painting and building plan carefully, alternating vehicles and infantry, and even alternating types of infantry where possible, so I wouldn't end up in a situation where I was painting 50 of the same thing for weeks on end.  For my Valhallans though, I did all the vehicles at one fell swoop ( if I can describe almost six months of building and painting as a 'fell swoop'), simply because I never got tired of it.  I was enjoying building and converting and painting the various vehicles I had chosen, and was happy to 'make hay while the sun shines' as my boss Mark Farr liked to say.

Now that all the vehicles (or at least, all the ground vehicles) are out of the way and I have 90+ infantry to do, I am varying up the units I will be working on where I can, since the bulk of the army are 5 ten-man infantry squads, and seven out of ten men in each squad are regular riflemen with only 8 or so different poses.

Saturday afternoon, I found myself at loose ends unexpectedly after a late lunch.  The girls had a friend spending the weekend, and my sister had been anticipated that afternoon, but turned back due to the crapulence of the highway conditions from Leduc.  Before preparing lunch, I had put a wash of Badab Black on the squad of veterans which I am painting next.  The wash adds the necessary shading to the white, but it needs to be completely dry before drybrushing another coat of white over top of it, and that usually takes 24 hours or more, so wrking on them was out of the question.

I had already sorted out the half-kilo of pewter that comprised the bulk of my infantry into squads and put them into zip-locks, and thought this was an opportune time to build the next one.  This way, if I slide into a productive painting groove, I don't have to risk losing it by stopping to wash, trim, cut out, assemble, base and prime the next unit.  I got out my files, x-acto knife and superglue, decanted 'B' squad and got to work.  I'm not sure what time it was when I was done, but it was prior to supper.

Obviously, I could have stopped there after dinner, but having let a building jag get ahold of me, I was reluctant to relinquish it, so I put together the next two projects and a command element as well.  Once that was done, I thought it only made sense to glue sand on the bases so they could dry overnight and I could spray them with undercoat the next day.

It took me considerably longer than I had anticipated to glue the sand onto the bases of the forty-six models I ended up constructing that day, but once I had started, I had no intention of stopping until I was done.  This turned out to be a little past 2:30 in the morning, with a 7:30 alarm looming as Audrey and I had agreed to serve communion the night before.

I won't say I wouldn't have enjoyed sleeping in a little more, but the morning was not nearly as discomfiting as anticipated, the Lord's Supper went smoothly and the committee meeting I had to chair after the service was a treat as well.  After lunch, I deployed the spray can and pizza boxes, primed the lot of them, and now my painting projects for the next 5 or 6 weeks are all ready to go.  It's also a bit encouraging that less than a third of the heaping bag of metal I purchased when I left GW* is still unassembled.

* Of the Valhallan army at least; I also have a Space Marine Xth Co. army, an Inquisitorial Witch Hunters army, and an assortment of Warhammer Dwarfs with a beer-drinking theme to get to at some point, but it's probably best not to think of those yet.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Valhallan Infantry - "A" Squad

This is the first of 5 ten-man infantry squads for my Valhallan army.  It has been a long while since I painted an army, so my unit painting chops are decidedly rusty.  Still, I managed to knock these out to a passable standard within about a week, which bodes well for the project as a whole.  10 down, only 40 to go!  Oh, and a platoon command.  And company command too.  Right, mustn't forget the heavy weapons squad.

Suddenly feeling a little overwhelmed...ah well.  Still, 11 weeks until May; plenty of time!

I used pretty much the same camo pattern as I used on my tank riders from Cold Comfort.  It didn't turn out quite the same, but in a platoon of 50, it should look all right.  I need to get more consistent with the Codex Grey and Chaos Black splotches, but it appears I will have plenty of opportunity to practice.  I've also added a blue shoulder flash with a white 'A', so I can tell them apart from the 40 comrades yet to come.

No conversions in this crowd, unless you count the plastic vox-caster so the unit can have comms.  In the new rules, officers can give orders allowing additional actions and such, and the vox-caster permits a re-roll if the initial dice are unfavourable.  Since my dice are consistently unfavourable, this seems a prudent addition.
The basing is a real departure for me, but I couldn't justify having these guys in their scarves and fur hats and then base them with green flock; it just didn't follow.  Glued sand, painted shadow grey and then drybrushed Space Wolf Grey makes a good foundation for the snow flock.  Thankfully I read an article about mixing it 50/50 with white glue in order to get the proper consistency, or I would have needed 6 or 7 applications of the stuff.  I have a huge shaker of it, so that's not a problem, but the tedium!  I already stock that in bulk, and there is no arguing that the snow makes them distinctive looking.

At some point, I imagine I will have to make some scenery that matches as well; they are going to look pretty funny marching around on green felt with snow around their feet.