I’ve just spent a week and a half off work on holiday (back to work tomorrow). I didn’t get as much figure-painting or modelling done as I’d usually like to over such a period. My house is a bit tidier though!
I did complete one model that I was looking forward to assembling – an imaginative street-vending tea machine, by Infamy Miniatures. Unfortunately, I can’t direct you to a product page, as their store is temporarily closed while they move to a new location.
As Infamy make 32mm figures, it’s a little bit oversize for 28mm, but frankly, not so much you’d really care. It’s a very crisp and detailed moulding, in a number of parts, all of which fit together nicely. As all of Infamy’s Models seem to be, it’s a bit on the pricy side, but… STEAMPUNK TEA MACHINE!
I still need to stick some posters in that advertising space.
Sadly this is a bit out of focus but, moving clockwise around the tea machine, it gives you a look at how it’s powered, and you see some counter-top detail that’s only visible from this angle.
Moving round clockwise again, a look at the boilers and some of the internal workings (because it’s not steampunk without sticking some gears on it).
There’s a stack each of cups and saucers at this end; the pictures I took to give a good look at them were too poor to use, but you can catch a glimpse of them here and in the previous picture.
The pigeon perching on the chimney is an integral part of the model, and I enjoyed painting it. Animals are fun to paint, and there’s a huge amount of excellent reference material only a Google away.
The chap in a pith helmet enjoying his cup of tea, and the other models appearing in these shots, are ones that I’ve had for a long time and not related to the tea machine.
Electro swing is perhaps a bit misnamed – it’s a combination of 20s or 30s-style trad jazz (rather than the slightly later and smoother swing) with more modern instruments and styles including hip hop and electronic dance music. The UK’s 2015 Eurovision entry, "Still In Love With You" by Electro Velvet was an example, though a kind of disappointing one. I was pleased it was a bit different and wanted to like it, but couldn’t convince myself and ultimately it didn’t do too well. We scored a majestic 5 points, only 360 behind the ultimate winners, Sweden.
Happily, the French do it better and msinvisfem pointed me in their direction. Caravan Palace formed about ten years ago, and have just released their third album, <I°_°I>. All three are fun and listenable, and I’d recommend checking them out. Here are their official videos, and it’s also worth skipping to the end where there’s a couple of live performance videos, including a full concert. If you like what you see, they’re currently touring and will be in the UK in December, including a date in Glasgow.
Why <I°_°I>? Watch the earlier videos to find out! But if they’re not quite your cup of tea, try <I°_°I> too, as I think the blend of old and new shifts a bit in the third album.
Caravan Palace – 2008
Panic – 2012
Rock It For Me
<I°_°I> – 2015
Full Concert: Karlstor Bahnhof Heidelberg, 2009
...Space 1992: Apocalypse Suite For Orchestra & Choir, featuring the Cowdenbeath Symphony Orchestra. It's an orchestral version of the album, with the tracks renamed after a quote from each (including track 9 of course, An Epic War Is Fight). It's a decent performance, and interesting to hear that it adapts so comfortably, but frankly I prefer the electric bombast of the original.
Sadly, there are no details of the composition of "the Cowdenbeath Symphony Orchestra" in the credits and the only mention I could find online was in reference to the album, but amongst the small print there was this disclaimer of which I approve:
No unicorns were harmed in the making of this album. However, 5.448 billion humans were terminally harmed in the destruction of Earth during track 10. This was an unfortunate side-effect for which we apologise profusely. Please send any complaints to the Dark Sorcerer Zargothrax at the following address: zargothrax at gloryhammer.com
A thousand years have passed since the events of Tales From the Kingdom of Fife, when Zargothrax, Dark Sorcerer of Auchtermuchty, invaded Dundee with an army of undead unicorns before eventually being imprisoned in a frozen pool of liquid ice, encasing his immortal body in a cage of eternal frost. (“Seems legit”, as the top comment under the relevant YouTube video says.)
Now, in the far distant future year of 1992, Zargothrax is released from his prison of frost by a cult of unholy chaos wizards, and Dundee and the Galactic Empire of Fife must be defended from their evil domination by King Angus McFife XIII (descendant of the original Crown Prince Angus McFife) and the eagle-riding Knights of Crail.
Like the previous album, it romps joyously through a Fife-flavoured galaxy of cheese. It’s a worthy successor, but with more laser-powered hammers, chambers of cryogenetical fire, robots, cosmic rage (of Astral Dwarves from Aberdeen), and eagle-riding Space Knights of Crail.
Stylistically, it’s still HEROIC FANTASY POWER METAL (of course), but as befits a more futuristic epic, there’s a greater role for synthesisers than was previously the case.
The previous tale concluded in the ten-minute Epic Rage of Furious Thunder. This album doesn’t pull its punches either, with another 10 minute epic finale – Apocalypse 1992. I can’t express how accurately this track captures the far-off technological future of 1992 – you’ll just have to listen to it and find out for yourself.
As for me – I’m also waiting, for the physical album to arrive, so that I can find out what the disc of bonus tracks has to offer…
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!
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.
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
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.
Friday 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.
Well, I already knew I was an extremist, as Nick Clegg was kind enough to inform me of it a couple of years ago.
What I hadn’t realised was that I’m practically one of the horsemen of the Apocalypse. According to George Robertson – sorry, Baron Robertson of Port Ellen – Scottish independence would be “cataclysmic in geo-political terms”. Gosh, nice to know we count for so much.
There’s a lot of inflated language going round about the independence campaign and it’s daft. Really, if a measly 8.4% of the UK’s population peacefully vote to govern themselves, that’s going to cause the fall of Western civilisation is it? Particularly when what’s being proposed actually sounds a bit like a loose confederation with the rest of the UK? There’s a lot of good will there, if folk are prepared to stop caricaturing independence for a small country as a global catastrophe, and comparing the Unionist cause to that of Lincoln in the American Civil War.
George Robertson’s a coof – if you don’t believe me, watch him comprehensively lose this debate in Dundee last year, turning a 38% margin in his favour into a 13% lead against him. And remember he was involved in determining the Scottish Parliament’s electoral system that was going to help devolution “kill Nationalism stone dead”.
Let’s take his words as seriously as they deserve, at this, the dawn of the Apocalypse. If the world says it’s time to go, tell me, will you freak out? No; with fires in New York, locusts in Detroit, and zombies in Atlanta, you’ve gotta laugh at the zombie in the front yard:
And I really, really want to thank you for reading to the end. ;-)
Xmas is the season of food, and a couple of interesting examples have cropped up in St. Andrews recently. In the doorway of the erstwhile Pots and Pans, a 24 Hour Bakery has sprung up:
“24 Hour Bakery” appears to be a posh term for a hot-pie vending machine, where the definition of “hot pie” extends beyond the Scotch pie once favoured by Pie-Face, to include faux (flaky) bridies, fudge doughnuts and bacon rolls. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, when I passed by it was reporting itself as being out of order. Apparently it sells out fast.
Somehow hot food seems wrong though. In Scotland, winter’s the traditional time for ice cream, as shown by the third image in this BBC photo gallery (a bit of a classic). I think rather than ice cream consumption being prompted by hot weather, a bit of a chill reminds Scots of what they could really do with right now. And lo and behold, Luvians has the answer:
This time, the shop wasn’t out of order, so despite having got drookit in heavy rain earlier on I popped in and purchased a cone, with a scoop each of the Christmas Pudding and Gingerbread flavours. The Gingerbread, which wound up as the upper layer, was reminiscent of Starbucks’ gingerbread latte but a bit colder, and was very pleasant. There was a very slight nip of ginger to it, about right for a gingerbread. The Christmas Pudding flavour was less immediately distinctive, but had a brandied overtone and frequent hints of vine fruit or candied peel.
To be honest, it wasn’t really the weather for ice cream, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. It might be more successful at the Christmas table as suggested by the sign!
OK, how have I not heard about this before today?
Possibly the greatest concept album in the history of the world EVER, Tales From The Kingdom of Fife (buy it!) tells how the proud city of Dundee was destroyed by the evil sorceror Zargothrax and his army of undead unicorns…
…leading the prince of Fife, Angus McFife (noble and true with a heart of steel, natch), to swear vengeance:
Another favourite track is Hail to Crail, which is all about how hard the knights of Crail are, with their riding on eagles and all that.
Turns out that the band Gloryhammer (with a style self described as Heroic Fantasy Power Metal) are a side project spun off from Alestorm, the leading exponents of True Scottish Pirate Metal. Erm, perhaps the only exponents of True Scottish Pirate Metal. Anyway, enjoy Keelhauled:
...and the more thrashy but epic Death Throes of the Terrorsquid. Watch for the pose at the end:
I don’t know whether you’ve posted anything recently? I’m not a very frequent poster of things but it was my sister’s birthday recently and that’s definitely a posting time.
My sister’s an active outdoors person – in fact she works as an outdoor instructor, after previous employment as a reindeer herder – so outdoorsy stuff is good, particularly small things that are easily transported and don’t take up much space. So I found a couple of things that I thought would suit her, wrapped them up and headed off to the Post Office.
I was unaware that Post Office policy has changed regarding accepting parcels over the counter. Apparently you now have to declare the contents, even for domestic post. A friend theorises that this is because even domestic parcels are often travelling by air nowadays; whatever the reasons, I was a bit taken aback (and annoyed – whose business is it really?) and I obviously showed it when the lady at the counter asked me what was in my parcel. She helpfully explained.
It didn’t help really. I looked at the small padded envelope I’d handed over.
I was at first puzzled, then interested, when Spain’s entry appeared. Introduced by Graham Norton as ESDM, they and their sound were kind of familiar, and they started with the sound of Asturian bagpipes. Then the lead singer looked familiar, although I didn’t know her from Oxford where apparently she lived for a time. It didn’t take long for the penny to drop – ESDM were El Sueño de Morfeo, a group I recommended a couple of years ago. Their song, Contigo hasta el final, didn’t grab me as immediately as some of their other work, but seemed OK. They came 25th out of 26, just ahead of Ireland whose entry also seemed a bit better than the voting reflected.
In other news, the entry from Belarus arrived in a Sontaran spaceship:
|A Sontaran emerging from his spaceship||The Belarus entry in Eurovision 2013|
I didn't entirely get my act together on Monday or Tuesday (though I did point out a URL error to the organisers on Tuesday for which they were grateful), but found a few lunchtime moments to solve all the clues on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and was very tempted to request an emergency half day when Thursday's location turned out to be J.M. Barrie's birthplace in Kirriemuir, for a Peter Pan themed sculpture. I resisted the urge though, and the sculpture was found by someone who drove up from Edinburgh. Besides being local, Kirriemuir has fond memories for me because it's where my grandparents lived and my dad grew up. I missed being born there by about a month, as that was when my parents moved down to the Borders.
The first clue will be released at 10.30 this morning.
While I'm still interested by this story which I've mentioned before (and I was pleased to see the famous Better Nation quote in the close-up of the new sculpture in the BBC report), this latest development feels a bit contrived. I hope it does actually have the effect of promoting "libraries, books words and ideas" and doesn't lose its intrigue in the process.