Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
ggreig: (Western gentleman)

God help us! The Iguanodon's loose!

A tranquil street scene – just before the populace become aware that an Iguanodon has escaped from the Zoological Gardens.

There’s a Highland company called Antediluvian Miniatures that have started producing proper miniatures of dinosaurs, taking into account the very latest scientific thinking – of the 1850s. As yet their range is small, but includes the two most iconic early representations of dinosaurs: the Crystal Palace Iguanodon and Megalosaurus! (Also, not included in this post, but I have to mention them – three intrepid adventurer figures including Shug McClure, Raquel Scotch and the finest of all: Professor Peter Cushion, adjusting his monocle and preparing to fend SOMETHING off with a furled umbrella.)

I should also mention that Antediluvian Miniatures have a very cool t-shirt, featuring their mascot Professor Buckland.

The real Crystal Palace IguanodonsThere’s a good chance you’re aware of the Crystal Palace dinosaurs, if not, then Wikipedia and other places are your friend.

The Iguanodon figure isn’t a perfect replica of either of the ones at Crystal Palace, but it’s more like the one standing upright.

The Crystal Palace dinosaurs are often given as an example of how scientists of an older generation got things hilariously wrong, especially the Iguanodon with the horn on its nose (now known to have been a thumb-spike), but the Iguanodons actually show a greater humility from Sir Richard Owen than our caricature allows. The two Iguanodons are different, with the one that Antediluvian have taken as their inspiration standing upright, while the other one is more lizard-like, and lounges on the ground with one paw up on a tree-trunk. There was doubt even at the time that these reconstructions were correct – they were just the latest theory.

When painting these two I tried to get something in between the look of the statues and something that could be a real beast, so the Iguanodon is a bit more vibrant than one of my paint jobs would usually be, making the faded shade of the statue look more lively. That’s the current colour of the statue, of course, as that's what I could find in photos; the colour they’re painted has changed over time as well as our theories of what the beasts were actually like.

Iguanodon wandering the Zoological Gardens

I defy you to spot the joins – both the Iguanodon and the Megalosaurus come with separate legs. I did apply a bit of Milliput as filler, but the fit of the moulded parts was really good, to a level that I know must be difficult for figure designers to achieve, judging by the frequency with which they don’t attain it. I was really impressed with these models. The Iguanodon is resin with metal legs, while the Megalosaurus is all resin.

Iguanodon figure inspired by Crystal Palace - right sideIguanodon figure inspired by Crystal Palace - left side

Rather annoyingly, there’s a mould-line that shows up in these photos of the Megalosaurus that’s actually hard to pick up with the naked eye under most conditions. The light in these photos hit it just right – or wrong. It’s also intended to look like a potentially living version of the real statue. The Megalosaurus also comes with scale replicas of the original fossils (not included in these pictures, and not yet painted, though I have some other scale fossils for them to go with).

Megalosaurus figure inspired by Crystal Palace - right sideMegalosaurus figure inspired by Crystal Palace - left side

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

You may (or more likely won’t) remember that about 18 months ago after painting some jolly nice models I made some suggestions for new designs to Nathan Yeoman of Yeoman Models, and he expressed a definite interest in making one of them. For various reasons, I rather lost track of what Nathan was doing until recently I discovered that he’d completed what I’d asked for (in various scales, including 28mm) and it was on sale!

What I’d asked for was a particular feature of Victorian streets that I couldn’t find anyone making a model of – the cabbies’ shelter. These did exist in other towns, but so far as I’m aware the only place they can still be found is in London, where almost a quarter (13) of the original 61 survive. The Cabmen’s Shelter Fund was set up in 1875 by the Earl of Shaftesbury (among others) to construct and run these shelters, and is still looking after them today!

A cabbies' shelter in Wellington Place
More images of cabbies’ shelters

The cabbies’ shelter was built in the road, and wasn’t allowed to be bigger than a hansom cab – so to put it in modern terms, it only took up one parking space of the time. inside, cabbies could take shelter from inclement weather, and nosh on grub provided by a small, self-funding kitchen, all without leaving the cab stand (again in modern terms, the taxi rank).

The buildings themselves are quite distinctive – small, rectangular wooden sheds painted green, but sometimes with quite attractive panelling and fancy roof. I thought of designing a laser-cut model myself that I could have made by an online service, but ultimately I’m glad I didn’t soldier on and carry it through, because what I would have designed wouldn’t be as good as what I’ve got.

The 28mm cabbies’ shelter from Yeoman Models is a five part model cast in resin – four walls, and a solid roof. It doesn’t seem to be a replica of one particular shelter, but takes attractive elements from several of them. Nathan’s mouldings are very sharp, and although by the nature of resin castings a little clean-up was required, it was very minimal. I glued the four walls together with Araldite, and to make the roof removable, I built up a lip to go inside the walls by super-gluing on matchsticks and reinforcing with Milliput.

That was about it for modelling – the rest was paint. I’ve left the interior untouched for now, but I may attempt some representative additions in future like the stove from 4Ground. Here’s how it looks when done:

Cabbies' Shelter from Yeoman Models

There’s a serving hatch, if you’re not stopping (or not a cabbie – only cabbies allowed inside):

Figures 020

And here it is flipped 180°, to show the side usually facing away from the road:

Figures 017

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Also from about a month ago, as usual I went round the annual model railway exhibition in St. Andrews (attended by StARLink this time, please “Like” if, unlike me, you’re on Facebook).

I usually take photos of the layouts, as I admire a good model, but I hadn’t taken a 3D camera before. I pointed it at a few layouts but wasn’t expecting great results as it’s pretty point-and-click and I thought it might struggle with scale models. And there were focus problems, and motion blur – but a few came out as the most effective 3D pictures I’ve taken so far, so I thought I’d share the best:

Scale model of the Forth Rail Bridge (3D)

A model railway layout in St. Andrews

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

I’m catching up a bit here, as I actually visited the fledgling Dundee Museum of Transport nearly a month ago. It opened last year in temporary accommodation (it’s eventually going to inhabit the Maryfield tram sheds, which are still standing at the crest of the hill just south of the junction between the Kingsway and the road to Forfar). It’s not going to pose great competition for the transport museums already around in larger cities, but for a small first effort I was quite pleased with it. It took me a couple of hours to wander round taking my time over it.

I was a bit disappointed that the 1950s seemed a bit better represented than earlier eras, but there were still cool things to see.

AnaglyphDundee Transport Museum 3D 003

A 1959 Jaguar XK150 (3D)

Steamroller, Dundee Transport Museum

An Angus council Fowler DNA steamroller (follow link for better pictures of the whole vehicle)

Horse-drawn tram 24, Dundee Transport Museum

A Dundee horse-drawn tram, being restored having spent approximately 114 years as a summer-house in Perth after being sold off in 1900.

Tram 24 in operation in Dundee

The same tram in service in Dundee, some time ago.

Inside horse-drawn Tram 24 (3D)

Inside horse-drawn Tram 24 (3D)

The interior of Tram 24 from a different angle

The interior of Tram 24 from a different angle

There’s also a double-decker Aberdeen Corporation Electric Tram which is currently even more skeletal. It’ll be interesting to visit in a few years’ time and see how the restorations have gone.

A horse-drawn ambulance

A horse-drawn ambulance, and its interior.

The interior of a horse-drawn ambulance

An Ashford Litter, Dundee Transport Museum

An Ashford Litter, in use as a foot ambulance between 1887 and 1921, when this one was last used in Perth to take a patient with appendicitis to Perth Royal Infirmary.

There’s also an Austin J40 pedal car (very posh), a Sinclair C5, and a full scale reproduction of Preston Watson’s first flying machine. You know, the Dundee guy who flew before the Wright brothers hogged all the publicity! (Sadly, alternative facts exist.)

Other vehicles I personally found less interesting, but it depends on your tastes and DMOFT is well worth a visit. I’ll leave you with a couple of pictures of the special guest:

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang's horn

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang's horn

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

National Bow Tie Day 2015

National Bow Tie Day 2015
(in the US, but we’re an international company)

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

I recently bought a 3D camera second hand from [livejournal.com profile] ffutures. Here are a first few shots:

West Port, St. Andrews - from the west

West Port, St. Andrews - from the east

Blackfriars Chapel, St. Andrews

The Scottish Cabinet in Cupar, 6th July 2015 

Interesting to see what works and what doesn’t. There seems to be a greater sense of 3D if there’s something distinctive in the foreground, which is why I actually chose pictures with cars in shot when I had examples without. Things further away tend to flatten out a bit, even if there’s something in the foreground to emphasise the difference – but even in the middle distance, a significant difference in depth can make things stand out. I didn’t notice the pedestrian crossing the West Port in the second photograph when I took it, but she becomes an interesting feature when viewed in 3D. As usual, click through for full size – it’s probably worth it for that second one at least, as the figure is a bit lost in the smaller version.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

I only recently discovered that two companies in Scotland are making “haggis spice” chocolate; dark chocolate mixed with some of the (non-meat) ingredients of haggis. Science demands a taste test!

Coco's Haggis Spice ChocolateChocolate Tree Haggis Spice

The bar on the left is from Coco, a chocolatier based in Edinburgh. The one on the right is sold by Chocolate Tree, a different chocolatier found in Haddington, to the East of Edinburgh. They’re both dark chocolate, with 64% and 58% cocoa solids relatively, so there shouldn’t be a huge difference in fundamental nature. The Coco version is labelled as suitable for vegans, while the Chocolate Tree one “may contain traces of dairy and nuts” as they're used in the same place. However, it doesn't explicitly include any non-vegan ingredients.

Interestingly, although both bars are meant to evoke haggis, different haggis recipes vary, and so it is with these bars. The only seasonings both have in common are – salt and pepper! The Coco bar also includes clove, nutmeg and allspice. Chocolate Tree’s bar, on the other hand, includes rosemary, coriander seed, mace and thyme. For anyone expecting spice to mean chilli – no, sorry, that’s not what haggis is about (at least now that Nahm-Jim is no more). It’s a milder spice experience.

Both bars have a similar aroma, though the Chocolate Tree bar’s scent is stronger and more exciting.

On price, the Coco bar is £4.00, while the Chocolate Tree bar is £3.50.

The Coco Haggis Spice chocolate is smooth and has a distinctly dark chocolaty taste. The spicing is subtle; after eating several pieces I noticed a slightly warm after-feel, but it wasn’t a major part of the initial taste. In fact apart from the dark chocolate taste, the main thing I got was the odd salt crystal. The salt did seem to act as a bit of a nucleus, so that was the most interesting bit, but for the Coco Haggis Spice bar I would say the emphasis was on salted chocolate bar, with haggis spice rather soft-pedalled.

The Chocolate Tree Haggis Spice chocolate gives an immediate hit of spices, unhampered by a milder chocolate. I’m confident I can detect the rosemary and coriander seed. I’m less confident of my ability to distinguish mace and thyme anyway, so that’s OK. Maybe a more sophisticated reviewer would get those too. I also get occasional salt, though the salt’s contribution is much lower-key than in the Coco bar. Finally the Chocolate Tree bar gets extra brownie points because 8% of the bar is pinhead oats. That’s enough to give a little bit of random texture to nibble on, and a little bit of flavour; and of course oats are a key ingredient of haggis so it’s entirely appropriate.

I didn’t expect a big difference between these bars, but I was surprised. The Coco bar is a perfectly good chocolate bar and in isolation you would not feel disappointed about having bought it. If chocolate is what you’re really looking for, with a hint of something else, then it may be the one for you. For me though, the Chocolate Tree bar was a clear winner: nice chocolate, distinctive spiced flavour, pinhead oats for added interest, and finally- it is just a little bit reminiscent of haggis (in a good way – sorry if you find that hard to imagine!)

The Coco Haggis Spice bar is OK. But I would actually recommend going out of your way to try the Chocolate Tree Haggis Spice bar as it’s a bit special. The only thing I can find to complain about is that I ordered a different bar at the same time, and that one was past its best before date when it reached me (the Haggis Spice has a year to run). The bar’s fine, but it does just give me a little pause over customer service. I would ignore that though, and try the Chocolate Tree Haggis Spice.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)
I've only seen reports of this in Scotland so far, but it could potentially apply anywhere in the UK.

The method of registering to vote has changed since the Independence referendum last year, and although people who were already registered to vote were supposed to be carried over into the new system, there seems to be some doubt as to whether that has occurred.

Two MSPs have had to re-register and supply documentation within a week proving they are who they say they are, despite being registered at their respective addresses for about 30 years each. I went through the registration process this morning and was told that I was not on the register, despite having been registered at my current address and voting in every election for over 20 years.

There seems to be some doubt as to whether its a genuine issue with registration or poorly designed systems that are causing a degree of false alarm. However, either way, I figure better safe than sorry - make the effort to make sure you're registered.

You can register online, and read the UK government's information about the change.
ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Edit: I didn't know when I posted this earlier, but today would have been Roger Delgado's 97th birthday: #HappyBirthdayRogerDelgado.


I’m not a costumier. My skills stretch to sewing on the occasional button so, when attending Gallifrey One in Los Angeles, Roger Delgado’s Master was an easy choice for me. Although he does occasionally appear in extra-terrestrial garb, he’s mostly associated with smart dark suits, and as I mentioned last time, I’ve always fancied having something with a Nehru collar. The creative bit for me was constructing the Tissue Compression Eliminator, and [livejournal.com profile] msinvisfem helped me by applying black and white hair dyes from Manic Panic. Apart from that, everything was purchased.

I tend towards dressing in black anyway, so enjoyed putting together an ensemble that unashamedly emphasised it. The suit was by Alvin Amario, and ordered from eBay. Although the Nehru collar went through a bit of a revival in the UK fifteen or twenty years ago, it’s a bit tricky to find on the High Street these days, particularly when your High Street is in St. Andrews or Dundee. The suit’s light and comfortable, and although I had to settle for an oversize waist on the trousers, they were OK with a belt. Underneath, I wore a matching shirt from Bargear in case it showed (but I don’t think it did). I should probably have worn a shirt with long sleeves, but I’m not a long sleeve person – I’m just not comfortable with them.

For footwear, I wore my usual brogues, but with black jacquard spats from Gentleman’s Emporium which I’ve had for a while. Spats are disappointingly hard to get hold of, but they’re an ace item of clothing. They look smart, they can be unobtrusive (I’ve worn dark spats in public and at work without comment, although the day I don the silver ones I expect people will notice) and they’re remarkably comfortable, snuggled cosily around your ankles.

I covered my hands with military dress gloves from Southcombe in black cotton. Delgado’s gloves seem to be leather and I could probably have worn the leather gloves I already have, but I thought cotton would be less bulky and warm, while still looking smart.

Was it successful? Judge for yourself:

You? The Master? I'll be The Judge! )
ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Or, Reinventing The Torch.

In Doctor Who, the Master’s signature weapon is the Tissue Compression Eliminator, which kills by shrinking the target to the size of a doll (the scale of the doll is, for some reason, never specified). It’s mostly used by the Master as played by Anthony Ainley in the 1980s, and in those stories takes the form of a thick rod with a bulb at the end that opens, crocus-like, to fire a red beam.

However, it made its first appearance in the Master’s very first story, Terror of the Autons, in which Roger Delgado’s Master wielded a rather more stylish version resembling a cigar, and fired by pressing with the thumb:

The Ainley period Tissue Compression EliminatorThe Delgado period Tissue Compression Eliminator

Knowing I was going to be attending a Doctor Who convention and would be expected to dress accordingly, it occurred to me – before last season’s revelation about the Master – that a) I had the beard for the part and b) had always fancied a jacket with a Nehru collar. A bit of hair colouring would convert my largely white beard to the original Master’s two-tone badger-style goatee. Couldn’t do much about the hairline.

What I couldn’t easily accept, adapt or get hold of, however, was the Master’s TCE, so I thought about building one.

The Core

My first thought was to buy aluminium tubing and telescope short sections of it together, but it proved difficult to find sizes guaranteed to telescope and although the prices were reasonable for the amount I wanted, minimum order amounts were – less so. I headed out to the nearest hardware store and inspiration, of a sort, struck. Toilet roll holders – the sprung, plastic sort – would do the job for a few quid.

I bought a handful of black ones on the spot to experiment with, and ordered some silver ones from eBay. The black ones were noticeably better quality, but using a silver one as my base would give me a much better finish for the sliding section than I could possibly have achieved using paint. I also found I could fix some if its issues by opening up a big enough hole in the larger end to work the weedy spring out and replace it with a stronger spring from one of the black ones.

The Circuitry

Having found something that could form a good base to work on, the next thing to consider was what to put inside it if I wanted it to appear to work. Well, electrically that’s not hard. What I would need would be a power source, and something that would light up when a switch was closed. It’s a torch!

Circuit diagram for the Tissue Compression Eliminator

With appropriate circuit board to mount them on, I could fit seven LEDs (arranged hexagonally, with one in the middle) within the diameter of the toilet roll holder. A bit of browsing at Proto-Pic turned up what I wanted; a 1" circular protoboard. I did have to trim it down a bit to fit, but it gave me a good starting point. I also got some Super Bright Red LEDs. I already had resistors to hand, and a small selection of switches which happened to include a suitable one.

The circuit couldn’t get much simpler and was easy to throw together on a solderless breadboard just to check everything worked. Then the tricky bit was to work out how to wire it up in practice, cram it all inside a toilet roll holder without breaking anything, and provide a way of activating the switch.

Building The Shell

It was obvious the LEDs would have to be mounted inside and at the front somehow. However, a single toilet roll holder was neither long enough to represent the TCE, nor would it be possible to mount the LEDs inside its broader half – there would be nowhere to attach them, and that space also contained the spring. Even if that hadn’t been the case, it would have been very tight and might have necessitated cutting down on LEDs. This is where the black toilet roll holders came into play.

By cutting the bigger part of a black toilet roll holder to a suitable length, and then sawing a slit along it, it was possible to prise it open and fit it as a sleeve around the silver one. This again gave the right colour without the need for painting, and it made it possible to extend the length of the TCE with a double skin – an inner, un-slit tube simply stacked on the front of the silver one, and a slit sleeve embracing them both. The slit tubes would require filling later to cover the gap, but again a good structural foundation was in place.

With the idea for the extension of the muzzle established, the problem of where to mount the LEDs was solved, as they would go inside that rather than the body of the main holder.

Planning The Interior

With that settled, the next most obvious decision was that power would have to go at the other end, so that it could be easily inserted and replaced. To power the LEDs, I wanted a 6V power supply. Within the space available, that meant I’d need to go with with several watch batteries, but I managed to get an AAA battery holder that fit nicely inside the thinner half of the toilet roll holder, and found that LR44 watch batteries would fit nicely within that. Taping four 1.5V LR44s into one slightly bigger 6V battery with insulation tape and adding a longer spring to the battery holder to hold them in place solved the power supply problem.

With both power and light source at least notionally sorted out, the tricky bit was how to connect them up successfully, with a switch in between that would be activated by the narrow end of the toilet-roll holder being pushed in.

How To Press The Switch

I had a small press-to-close switch that would fit inside the narrow end, and was about the same width as the battery holder. I could mount it (and the resistor) at the positive end of the battery holder, and hopefully attach some sort of plunger to the far end of the toilet-roll holder that would come down and press the switch closed when the smaller tube was pushed into the larger one.

I considered other alternatives, the main one being conductive paint on the outside of the small tube being brought into contact with more on the larger tube, but whenever I thought about reliability, I came back to the plunger option. Paint would have been very prone to wear and tear, and (as the conductive paint is black) painting over it to restore the silver look would reintroduce connectivity problems and spoil the look.

However, a plunger presented problems too. It had to be long enough to press the switch, but not so long that it would cause mechanical problems by pressing too hard – a tricky measurement to make confidently inside a tube and out of sight. It had to be broad enough to be sure of hitting the switch, and to prevent it being easily knocked out of alignment, but narrow enough to avoid catching on the lip of the narrower tube, and getting caught up in the spring. Finally, it had to share the confined space with the wires connecting the power end of the assembly to the LEDs, without fouling or putting strain on them – or doing the same to itself.

The solution I came up with was to build a plunger that was fixed at one end, but had the other end sprung.

Building The Plunger

In order to accommodate a spring with the least hassle possible, I started with an old modelling paintbrush for the shaft of the plunger. It was roughly equivalent to a piece of narrow dowel, but with the advantage of being already hipped. I measured things out and cut it so that I could just slide a small spring on, and the broad part of the paintbrush would hold it in place. Then I built up each end with Sugru and a circle of plastic card to fix things, provide flat surfaces at either end, and make the plunger robust.

Making one end of the plunger sprung provided a couple of benefits. It allowed for a soft press on the switch, so that it didn’t matter so much if I didn’t get my measurements quite right; and it prevented catching on the lip of the narrower tube from being a problem – if it did occur, the sprung tip would flex slightly until it just slipped in, rather than getting stuck.

The most worrisome part was getting the wiring to share the same space. Ultimately, I just drilled holes through the ends of the plunger for each wire, with enough space to let it move fairly freely, and hoped.

Construction

Parts before assembly - click through for full sizeHaving – more or less – worked  out all the parts necessary, it was time to try to bring everything together. I’ve not done a lot of soldering in the last 25 years, so creating a circular array of 7 LEDs wired in parallel kept me busy for a while, and worried about short circuits, as there wasn’t a lot of space to work with the wire I had. Connecting up switch and resistor on a little piece of protoboard and connecting it to both the battery holder and the wire that would connect to the LEDs was challenging within the space available too. Both of these went well, though, and I used more Sugru to fix the switch assembly firmly in place (and provide a bit of additional insulation) at the positive end of the battery holder.

Where I messed up – though I didn’t discover it until later – was the simplest part of the soldering. While connecting a wire to the negative terminal of the battery holder, I overheated the plastic and managed to break the connection between the metal terminal and the spring holding the battery in place. I tried to keep testing everything was still working at every stage, but I missed this and had some worrying debugging of connections later on with a multi-meter when stuff just didn’t work! When eventually discovered, a combination of conductive thread and paint remedied the issue.

I fed the wires through the plunger, with excess that could be cut back once I knew how much slack would be required to attach the LED assembly but allow the battery holder to be pulled out for inserting or removing batteries, and I drilled some extra holes through the stationary end of the plunger to allow me to fix it in place more firmly with thread or wire. I tried thread first, but it was too fiddly and difficult to get right, so I fell back on aluminium modelling wire – and another layer of Sugru to fix the LED assembly in place and avoid short-circuits!

TCE nearly complete

Finishing The Exterior

As already described, the exterior of the barrel was to be built up with parts of the black toilet roll holders. With a bit of specialist super glue for awkward plastics, these went on firmly and the large lengthwise gaps left by slitting them and the smaller circumferential one between the two sections were filled with black Sugru, which I then rolled on greaseproof paper to try to get a reasonably smooth surface. The result wasn’t perfect, but good enough if you weren’t inspecting it closely. The interior of the barrel was painted silver.

The butt end, where the battery holder was inserted, was covered up with a cylindrical rubber ferrule (sold for the foot of a chair), which was just right for the job of a battery cap.

Finally, I added a a bit of copper trim – two strips of plastic card covered with Bare-Metal Foil and attached with the plastics super glue. One covered the join between the two sections of black tubing nicely.

The End Result

The completed TCEThe completed TCEThe completed TCE, lit upThe original, on-screen TCE

The final picture shows the original, for comparison.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Interesting music video. Musically hard to characterise; to me it sounds like a blend of computer game, 70s TV theme, sound effects, electronica, and dubstep (you can see how the album it's from is categorised by genre on Wikipedia). The video's steampunk western and both music and video tell a short story - a bit gorily in the visuals, but very watchable.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Chap hop is a blend of hip-hop music with a chap æsthetic; that is, a dandyish steampunk or early twentieth century style. It’s decidedly uncool – and was even before Michael Gove expressed a fondness for it – and furthermore, a fair proportion of it is not especially good.

However, fear not, for a while I ago I ploughed my way through most of it and compiled a list to share with some friends. Here, for your delectation, I present “Chap Hop – The Good Bits”. (If you’ve only got time for one, make it Fighting Trousers, but they’re all worth checking out for different reasons.)

Mr. B The Gentleman Rhymer:


Songs for Acid Edward: a history of 1990s techno, on the banjolele

Just Like A Chap: a more typical example of chap hop

Professor Elemental:


Fighting Trousers: Professor Elemental challenges the upstart Mr. B
(The unseen "Geoffrey" is, of course, the Professor's simian butler)

Sir, You Are Being Hunted: gangsta chap hop; a promo for a computer game of the same name

Sir Reginald Pikedevant, Esquire:


Just Glue Some Gears On It (And Call It Steampunk): chap-hop meets barbershop

A Belated Introduction: Sir Reginald realises he’s being mistaken for Mr. B and Professor Elemental.
Spot the cameo by Glamis castle, and count the knuckles at the end.
ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Wear It PinkFriday was Wear It Pink day, in aid of the fight against breast cancer. Usually my contribution to these things when they pop up at work is limited to that – a contribution – but this time I was marginally more organised than usual. I don’t possess any pink clothing but it occurred to me there was something else I could “wear pink”.

There has to be a benefit to going white…

A while back I decided that occasionally it might relieve the boredom to try a different beard colour; a few people have seen me in blue, but Friday was a bit more high profile. Don’t expect it to be a regular thing, and even less so at work, but if I feel like it…

A bit of research turned up Manic Panic’s Dye Hard as a respected brand that washes out easily. For the pink, as a paler colour than the blue I’d tried before, I actually applied white first (to cover the darker patch remaining on one side of my beard) before applying the pink on top.

The colour combs in easily, and the odd over-enthusiastic application will mostly just wipe off, though it is possible to apply it a bit heavily and wind up with colour on the skin behind the beard. It dries quickly and is good for the rest of the day.

You do have to be a bit careful with a moustache, which should be well-trimmed – otherwise you run the risk of having the colour wash off in drinks, for example. Depending on what you want, you may be best not colouring the moustache. While I went for complete coverage in pink, the contrast between a blue beard and white moustache is quite effective.

The colour also helps with hold once it’s dried, so it’s fairly easy to stay tidy-looking. When the time comes to wash it off, it is really easy to get rid of – a couple of splashes and a bit of a scrub and it’s gone. In fact, it’s so easy to remove I was a bit concerned about being caught in the rain, but I didn’t have any problems in practice. I took the tube and a comb along in case touching up was required, but they weren’t called upon.

Work posted the picture above to the company account on Instagram and I received an e-mail today saying it had got their “best ever response to a picture” – defeating the previous champion, a picture featuring a cute puppy, by a respectable margin.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Atop the Lephinkill Chambered CairnA few hundred yards across and about 300 feet up from where I grew up there’s a chambered cairn. Despite having run around in the woods surrounding it rather a lot, and knowing that there was archaeology up there to be found, somehow I never came across it.

I was back home visiting my Mum and sister recently, and happened to come across a map that showed there’s now a marked route to the cairn that didn’t exist when I was wee. Checking there was enough time before dark, my sister and I set out to go up and have a look.

There wasn’t a path, as such, but the way was clearly marked by yellow circles attached to trees along the way. The natural woods just above the village are birch, before giving way to forestry land. Much of the hill is covered in mature conifers, but the cairn is in a clear-felled belt starting just above the birch woods; so much easier to spot from a distance than when I was wee!

I say the birch woods are natural, but given how close they are to the village it’s likely they were managed and coppiced at one time; certainly there are overgrown drystane dykes that suggest the land was once more intensively used. If they were maintained though, it’s long enough ago that it’s not obvious now. Interestingly, birch is generally used for its wood in the UK; there doesn’t seem to be any tradition of the birch syrup that’s made elsewhere birch is common. Having tried Alaskan birch syrup, I can recommend giving it a try; it’s similar to maple syrup, but with a more complex flavour. See the Wikipedia page for other people trying to describe it.

I was peching my way up the hill a bit but was pleasantly surprised my sister (the outdoor instructor) thought I was making good headway. I’m pretty inactive generally, but used to make good speed uphill – a combination of long legs and a knack of not really breaking my stride for inclines when others slow down.

The cairn itself was kind of interesting – not on a world-class prehistoric monument sort-of-a scale, but just because it was plainly something, but difficult for a lay-person to interpret.

Approaching the Chambered Cairn

There’s an obvious mound, as you can see in the approach photo. Once you get closer, there’s obviously structure to it too; but it’s less obvious what the structure is. There are a number of stone-lined pits and what might be walls, but those descriptions make them sound very clear and understandable. This is what the pits looked like:

A stone-lined pitAnother stone-lined pit

In other places, gaps between the stones led into small voids:

Void, with spider guardianInto the Void

It was both interesting to look at, and frustrating because I didn’t really know how to interpret what I was seeing. Are the pits chambers, or cists? Did they have roofs? Were they originally buried? Were they always open (probably not)? Are the bits that are still covered chambers? Is the bit with what might be remnants of a wall a forecourt (probably)? Was the largish white quartz boulder of any particular significance? Well, I dunno.

There are some archaeological notes online, which I didn’t have at the time, and which don’t tally particularly closely with my memory of the site, although the general layout in the description matches. Perhaps if I’d had them with me I would have been able to tie things up better.

On the way back down, we went through the part of the birch woods we spent most time playing in over thirty years ago, and found the last remnants of our aerial runway – a very thin and fragile-looking piece of rope still wrapped around a tree branch, very much the worse for its decades of exposure. On the way back into the Clachan we harvested some brambles.

BramblesBrambles

In some ways, the cairn remains a bit of a mystery, but it’s good to at least have seen it after all these years.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

On Friday, I left work a bit early to attend the final date on Florrie’s lightning acoustic tour for Coffee House Sessions, which I mentioned when I discovered it a couple of weeks ago. I’m not a great gig-goer – in fact the sum total of my previous gig attendance is seeing Runrig in 1989 and Big Country round about 1990. On the other hand, if you’re one of the select acts that play St. Andrews Student Union, as they did*, and I like your music, there’s a reasonable chance I’ll turn up…


Call 911 (Fred Falke Remix)

I like Florrie’s music, so I went along. I’m not quite sure when I first discovered her, but I think I heard Call 911 on Last.FM a few years ago and it stood out. When I followed up a bit and realised that there wasn’t a duff track on the whole Introduction EP, I started to pay attention.


The Introduction EP

Having been drumming since the age of 6, Florrie started work as a session drummer in 2008 before quickly starting to establish herself as a solo artist, now describing herself as drummer, singer and songwriter. Having seen her on Friday, she’s actually selling herself a bit short, as she plays the guitar too, with a nice crisp confidence. Her recorded style is light, but intelligent, anthemic pop, with strong rhythm and high production values.

Given the very produced studio sound, it was intriguing to see that the Coffee House Sessions tour was to be acoustic; just Florrie and a guitar. Although it’s become more of a “thing” to perform unplugged over the last 20 years, not everyone can do it.

Florrie can. The session was quite short; I just sat and enjoyed it so I didn’t keep a note of which tracks were played or how many, but it must have something like six or eight. Definitely included were Left Too Late (a favourite of mine), Live A Little and Radioactive (a cover of Imagine Dragons), another cover I didn’t recognise but worked out later (Budapest, George Ezra) and the more current tracks Little White Lies and Galaxies. The delivery was sharp, confident and above all musical, emotionally complex and expressive. The studio  production may add to Florrie’s music, but she has impeccable foundations and doesn’t need it – with one small exception.


Coffee House Sessions

The envelope of her vocal range is pushed a bit in Little White Lies just before going into the chorus, and it's the one time she sounds a bit weak; the lyric is "My breathing shallows/I can't pretend", rising at the end to the point where her voice cracks. It's an effective musical portrayal of a rising emotional tension when it works, but it doesn't always work live, which is a shame. It's a great studio track, with the blend of a thundering locomotive drum beat and a touch of melancholy that's a bit of a Florrie signature:


Little White Lies

It’s good though, that she’s trying things that test her, and that she continues to be original. The Sirens EP on which a first version of Little White Lies was included is notably a bit experimental, with something just a bit unusual about each track. An acoustic tour is a bit of variety too. Not everything is a hit with me, but the percentage is really high; the only talent I can think of with a similar success rate for my tastes is Marina and the Diamonds. I’m really looking forward to the release of Florrie’s first album in the first couple of months of next year.

And finally – not that this matters musically, but she’s just a really nice person. At the end of the set, with a little time to spare before I had to be somewhere else, I asked for an autograph on a Florrie beermat and we chatted for a couple of minutes. I said the honest but unimaginative sorts of things people say on these occasions (You’re really good! When’s the album out?), and she, who must hear them all the time, was not only charming but offered me a hug before I left – something I didn’t expect at all, being slightly over twice the age of most other folk in the room and probably looking older than that. Particularly impressive after an intensive ten day tour, and three performances that day (the Universities of Stirling. Strathclyde, and St. Andrews, in that order, all in under 6 hours).

I’ve included quite a number of videos in this post, but couldn’t possibly include everything I like. If you enjoyed any of these, check out the rest of Florrie’s back catalogue while it’s still relatively small! The easiest place to do that is on YouTube as florriemusic. Florrie’s also on Twitter and Facebook. Wikipedia is good for track details, and you can buy on iTunes. Finally, check out the adverts:

* For what it’s worth Runrig were ace, particularly listening to them play their version of The Times They Are A Changin’ a few weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Big Country were OK, but a bit samey to listen to for a whole gig, even after the Peace In Our Time album had marked a change in their sound.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Great Martian war from PLAZMA on Vimeo.

Archive recreation for The Great Martian War documentary by impossible factual for History Canada.
Directed by Christian Johnson, (Plazma). and Steve Maher (impossible factual).

Music: "88" by Working for a Nuclear Free City.

http://www.history.co.uk/shows/the-great-martian-war

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Of course I already knew which episode of Doctor Who was on the day I was born; I mean, who doesn’t know their natal episode? ;-) And naturally, it’s a classic…

It’s interesting to see what else was on though; on BBC One, Doctor Who was preceded by Grandstand and Juke Box Jury, and followed by The Dick van Dyke Show and The Munsters, then a film (The Eagle and the Hawk) under the heading “High Adventure”, the Last Night of the Proms, more sport in the form of Match of the Day and an American courtroom drama series, The Defenders. All before closedown at 11:35.

What was on BBC Two is less recognisable today, though I might have enjoyed The White Rabbit (the dramatised story of SOE operative and successful POW camp escapee Wing Commander Yeo-Thomas), with a young Annette Crosbie appearing in the cast list. There’s an archaeology programme the description of which reminds me of the one shown on BBC3 in The Dæmons, but it probably wasn’t quite as exciting as that! There’s also Always On Wednesday, “a master class with Nadia Boulanger”. David Attenborough’s right; BBC2 is not the channel it was when he was its controller. The evening on BBC Two finished rather later than BBC One, with the “midnight movie” for night owls, Cover Up, just starting at 11:15.

Find out what was on (according to the Radio Times) on the date of your choice from the BBC Genome Project.

Florrie

Oct. 9th, 2014 12:52 am
ggreig: (Western gentleman)

As the final date on her acoustic UK University Coffee House Sessions Tour, Florrie is playing the Rector’s Café at St Andrews University on Friday 17th at 5:30pm. You don't have to be a student, and entry is free.

Playing live, yesterday.
The studio version of the same song.

She's been releasing EPs since 2010, but now apparently an album is in the offing. I think it'll be worth checking out. I like most of what she's released so far (and kudos to anyone who can release a song called "Experimenting with Rugs").

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Oh Scotland. I think you’ve made a big mistake.

But you made it clearly, on a fantastic turn out. And while 45% isn’t enough for the change I wanted to see, that’s an enormous percentage that voted not just for a bit of change but for actual independence. It wasn’t half the population, but it’s close. The percentage who want to see significant change short of that is greater still.

And you’ve been promised that change, albeit in vague terms by politicians you don’t think much of, who don’t currently seem to have much of a clue of how to deliver it. The next step is to make sure they deliver, and don’t take your No vote as a blind acceptance of the status quo.

Alex Salmond’s concession speech was a great example of how to continue the positive attitude to change that’s brought us this far.

On a more personal note, I expect the political content of this blog will now go down. You may be relieved to hear that! For me, independence was a project for improving my country that was worth breaking my political silence for. Having got here, I won’t be giving up on that, but it’s now a change that won’t be coming soon. Now, whatever side we were on yesterday, let’s work for a better Scotland within the United Kingdom.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

A short documentary about the role of the media:

June 2017

S M T W T F S
    123
45 678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
252627282930 

Most Popular Tags

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Style Credit

Page generated Jun. 24th, 2017 10:24 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios