Friday, October 23, 2020

The Captain Is Dead and So Are We

Tonight Mike, Pete, Rob, Colin, and I played two rounds of The Captain Is Dead remotely via Tabletop Simulator. We've won this game in the real world several times, but have yet to beat the PC version. We were wiped out within a handful of turns in the first game, and came within one repair of the engine core in the second before we were overwhelmed by alien firepower. Close, but no cigar. 

Thursday, October 22, 2020

P.E.Island Romance

Here's a cute little gem from the National Film Board: Island Paradise, a straightforward made-in-Canada boy-meets-girl story set on Prince Edward Island. There's nothing truly groundbreaking or special about this short film, but it does feature some lovely footage of the island as it was in the 1950s. And the finale is a bit of a surprise. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The Hell of Hell Is for Heroes

Don Siegel's Hell Is for Heroes (1962) is the bleakest, starkest war movie I've ever experienced, with an ending that leaves you as sick and empty as you should feel after watching a film about possibly the greatest humanitarian calamity of our age, if not all our shared history. Steve McQueen is one of a handful of American soldiers who stumble across an entire platoon of Nazis. The only reason the Americans aren't wiped out instantly is because the Nazis think they're facing a force of equal size. What follows is a hushed cat-and-mouse game as the Americans use a number of clever tricks to fool the Nazis into thinking that assumption is correct. 

It goes about as well as it can, which is to say that one by one the Americans die badly. One man has his hands blown off by a land mine; another has his intestines torn out and lives long enough to scream "My guts! My guts!" for a few minutes before dying in the midst of his comrades, who are completely unable to save him. 

In the closing minutes, McQueen's character makes a last-ditch attempt to save the day by throwing satchel charge into a pillbox. He manages it, but is shot in the back as he retreats, and the Nazis toss the satchel back out of the firing slit. Knowing he's going to die anyway, McQueen uses his dying breath to grab the satchel charge, cradling it like a baby, and roll into the pillbox, killing himself and the Nazis within. 

In the meantime, a platoon of American troops has finally arrived, and the film ends with the battle still raging. Every main cast member is gone; only the anonymous masses are left, fighting over some worthless hills. It's as disturbing an image as I've seen in film, and an instructive one. 

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

The Cabinet of Mr. Earlugari


Here is a cabinet. I painted it brown with red doors and copper fixtures. As you can see, a little red spilled from the door to the cabinet proper. Perhaps it's actually a bloodstain and this isn't a cabinet, but a mimic disguised as a cabinet. Or maybe the cabinet was booby-trapped and injured someone trying to get in. There, now I don't have to fix it. 

Monday, October 12, 2020

Lower Decks, Higher Enjoyment

The first season of Star Trek: Lower Decks concluded a few days ago. Despite my initial reservations at the idea of a comedic Trek--let alone a comedic Trek that would be treated as canonical--it turns out that Lower Decks is my favourite Star Trek offering of the 21st century. 

Lower Decks is the story of four low-ranking officers posted to the USS Cerritos, a starship assigned to so-called "second contact" duties--that is, they fill out the paperwork and perform all the other non-glamorous work of establishing formal relations with new civilizations in the wake of more prestigious "first contact" missions like those carried out by the Enterprise

The four officers are rebellious Beckett Mariner, suckup Brad Boimler, obnoxiously cheerful D'Vana Tendi, and engineering nerd Sam Rutherford. They're supported by a stoic bridge crew: Captain Carol Freeman, First Officer Jack Ransom, Security Chief Lieutenant Shaxs, Chief Medical Officer Dr. T'Ana, and Chief Engineer Andy Billups. 

Naturally, each of these characters has their own comedic quirks. Mariner tends to fly off the handle, sometimes violently; Boimler's ambition gets him into embarrassing predicaments; D'Vana has to endure the stereotypes associated with her Orion heritage; and Rutherford has a cybernetic skull implant that sometimes goes haywire. The senior officers have their own foibles: Freeman clearly has a chip on her shoulder with regards to the lack of prestige of their mission; Ransom is a comedic mix of the less savoury traits of Captains Kirk and Riker; Shaxs is even more prone to violence than Worf ever was; and Billups is a bit of a sad sack. My favourite character, Dr. T'Ana, is a Caitian, the humanoid cat species introduced in the first Star Trek animated series; but instead of presenting as a sexy stereotype, the "feline fatale," as it were, T'Ana is a crotchety, potty-mouthed alley cat. She's clearly good at her job, but has no patience for her patients, as it were. 

The show's humour mixes slapstick, self-parody and referential humour, and situational gags. The writers do an excellent job in finding the humour in the franchise's inconsistencies, logical leaps, and absurdities, poking fun without being mean. There's also plenty of fun to be had in the character interactions and the way they navigate the challenges presented by the A and B stories, a structure we haven't seen since the glory days of 90s trek (TNG, DS9, and VOY). 

The show doesn't ignore story in favour of jokes--far from it. To my great surprise and delight, Lower Decks achieves a rare feat: it improves with each episode, thanks in great part to the strength of the stories and the growing confidence and ambition of the writers. It all culminates in one of the best season finales in Star Trek history - a finale with real jeopardy, high stakes, huge changes to the show's status quo, plenty of clever humour, and special guest stars that show up with great fanfare, but organically; their appearance makes perfect sense given the story. 

Best of all, Lower Decks captures the original Star Trek spirit by portraying a future where people care about right and wrong and make decisions based on the greater good for everyone. I find both Star Trek: Picard and and Star Trek: Discovery quite cynical about Star Trek's ideals; their showrunners, to my mind, can't really bring themselves to believe in Gene Roddenberry's original utopian vision, so the Federation we see in Picard and Discovery is corrupt or flawed in some fundamental way. Not so Lower Decks. The animated series isn't naive about the Federation or the difficulties of maintaining utopia, but these showrunners clearly believe that Federation ideals are worth not just examining, but upholding. 

My one complaint - and it does ease off as the season progresses - is that the showrunners lean a little too heavily on references to the old shows. The references are, by and large, clever and appropriate, but they're so numerous that it reminds the audience just a little too much that this is just a show, and so are all the other Star Trek series we love. 

Thanks to this first season, I'm now more excited for more Lower Decks than I am for the next seasons of Picard and Discovery. Not only is the show funny, not only does it feature great characters whose stories I'm invested in following, but it feels like coming home to the grand old days of 90s Trek

Sunday, October 11, 2020

The Black Bookcase

Nothing truly special here, but I'm happy nonetheless. 
 

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Crate Expectations

Two new crates! Yes, two new crates for Earl's insane collection of crates, barrels, chests, and other containers of stuff. But these crates are different; I'm happier with my paint job on these two crates than any other crate or barrel I've painted thus far. 
 

Friday, October 09, 2020

A Treasured Chest


 
Here's a treasure chest I painted this week, notable only because it turned out so much better than similar chests I painted months ago. As you can see, I'm getting better at controlling my brush so that the colours go where I want them to. I'm still far from perfect, but my results do indeed seem to be improving. 

Thursday, October 08, 2020

Three Views of a Red Ruin


 

Here are three views of a small home or office that was ravaged by fire or explosion sometime in the past. I like the grass, rubble, and the texture of the outer walls, but I think the paint is too red, too fresh-looking. I should have used a lighter shade or less paint. Maybe there's a way I can fix it..? 

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

Computer Terminal

Here's a pretty slick computer terminal, if I do say so myself. I'm finally starting to develop the patience and technique necessary to create detail at this tiny scale. Colouring the buttons on the terminal took a very light touch with just a tiny droplet of each paint for each one. I drybrushed the copper plates on the rear of the terminal. 

 

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

The Plot Thickens

This is probably my most ambitious painting project yet. It's a small graveyard with three fresh graves and one established resting place. 

I started by priming the plot and headstones, then painted the ground brown. I then added a layer of dark green, then painted the flagstones and finished grave grey. I added some black paint to the dirt piles to make them look like rich, loamy soil. Then I painted the newest coffin light brown and HAND PAINTED a cross onto it. Sure, it's only two straight lines, but my hand was steady and I think it looks pretty darn good. Next, I painted the headstones grey and glued them in place. Somewhere along the way I painted the rocks a sort of dull silver, but I'm not sure if that really works. After that, I spread glue on the green areas and laid down some grass and moss basing material. Oh, and I filled in the cross on the finished grave (which came premade, as part of the model) with copper paint. Finally, I applied a dark wash to the headstones, dirt piles, and gravesites. 

If I had more room, I'd be shooting these properly with my SLR in my little mini-studio. That'll have to wait until I finish my major COVID-19 project, rearranging my HQ. 

 

Monday, October 05, 2020

Better Bases

Yesterday I spent some time basing and re-basing Donkey Kong, the Ultra-Humanite, and Mr. T the T Rex. An improvement for all three, I think. 

Sunday, October 04, 2020

Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft


Here we have a 28mm scale flying saucer, complete with a grey alien at the helm. You can't see him because after I painstakingly painted the alien and the ship controls, I glued the clear dome to the saucer. Well, it used to be clear, until I fumbled and got glue all over it. Sigh. 

Here's the ship's underside, with the landing gear extended. 

Aside from the dome screwup, which I can hopefully fix with some nail polish remover, I'm reasonably happy with how this turned out. It also looks better on the table than in these photographs, where every flaw is blown up to larger-than-life size. 


Friday, October 02, 2020

Progress

 This afternoon and evening I filled a garbage bag full of junk, emptied a filing cabinet to create space for good stuff that's lying around exposed, and managed to straighten up my office enough to move around with greater efficiency, which should make this entire decluttering project go much faster. Huzzah! 

Thursday, October 01, 2020

The Blackened Tree

Here we have the remains of a tree that's been ravaged by a forest fire, or perhaps a lightning strike, or perhaps some dread fungus. Whatever the cause, I think this tree is convincingly dead and will serve as part of my fantasy forest.