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ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Royal Navy 50 foot Picket Boat (from HLBS)

For Christmas, my sister gave me a Royal Navy 50 foot Picket Boat (from HLBS) in 28mm scale, and I spent time over the New Year period painting and assembling it.

Prow of the pinnaceThe boat is a steam pinnace. “Pinnace” has a couple of possible meanings but in this case means a smaller boat carried by a larger ship for use as patrol boats, for ship-to-shore operations and as a defence against torpedo boats – the pinnace would be fast enough to respond to a torpedo boat, and was armed with one or more gun (a Hotchkiss 3 pounder in this case) that would allow it to respond at range. The other gun, not present on my model, might be a Nordenfeldt or Maxim machine gun mounted on the roof of the rear cabin.

This type of pinnace was in use from 1880 right up until the Second World War, with 620 in service during the Great War, so excellent for a steampunk setting.

The kit mouldings are very crisp and clean, mainly in resin with white metal for the finer details and fine plastic rod for the hand rails. The main thing required for painting it was a steady hand (never really got the hang of masking tape), though patience came in handy too while applying several layers of white paint to get a decent solid finish. The only thing I’m a little dissatisfied with is the rear cabin, which is a bit dark in colour and I feel I could maybe have done better there. Good enough though, and I’ll leave it.

An aft view of the pinnaceI had a few minor issues with the parts. The shoulder rest on the Hotchkiss 3 pounder doesn’t have an obvious place to attach it. I checked images of similar guns on the Internet and settled on a location to fix it; I then had to break it off and try again when I discovered the gun couldn’t pivot due to the shoulder rest hitting the top of the engine house. One of the stanchions for the handrails broke (recoverably). One of the cowl vents doesn’t sit comfortably in the space left for it, and some of the instructions could have been clearer.

Finally, I wondered whether the scale was quite right everywhere, as the spaces to be occupied by anyone operating the gun or steering the vessel seemed extremely cramped.  This might be just economy of space on an efficient working vessel, but in particular the space at the wheel is very restricted. Over all the issues were all relatively minor though, and didn’t distract from a very satisfactory model.

As far as colour schemes are concerned, I aimed to make it look more Victorian than 20th Century (which would have featured more light grey). I also went for black rather than blue, so it’s a perfectly normal pinnace; blue would have identified it as an Admiral’s barge. Picket boats such as this don’t seem to have had a lot in the way of individual markings – not even a name – so that helped to keep the paint job simple. If I ever feel brave enough, I may add a bit of coal dust around the coaling holes (the black circles on the deck amidships) using weathering powder, but as a working navy vessel I’m assuming it would be kept pretty spick and span most of the time.

There’s a surviving pinnace of more or less this pattern which is believed to be the last remaining naval steam boat in the UK. Steam Pinnace 199 was built in 1911 and now belongs to the Royal Naval Museum in Portsmouth. Steam Pinnace 199 was an Admiral's barge, so you can see the blue colour previously mentioned. There are a couple of interesting videos on YouTube:

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

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:




ggreig: (Western gentleman)
Must-watch official prequel to The Day of the Doctor, the 50th anniversary episode:

ggreig: (Western gentleman)
More of Andi Lothian's memories of promoting two Beatles' tours of Scotland just as they became famous; a twenty minute interview with The Courier. Andi's a great story teller; I recommend watching this.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)
Apologies for posting something to do with politics rather than something substantial from my own life again, but this is worth highlighting: a debate at Abertay University between the SNP's Stewart Hosie (unless you're from Dundee, you're probably saying "who?" right now) and Labour's George Robertson (former UK Secretary of State for Defence, and Secretary General of NATO).

Even if you're not interested in the issues per se it might be worth watching this to see some really effective debating as Stewart Hosie turns a pre-debate 59%/21% vote in favour of the Union into a post-debate 51%/38% vote in favour of independence; a swing of 25%.



They both make historical errors in the course of the debate. I don't think that pre-Union Scotland, although it did have a Parliament, could be described in modern terms as being democratic (as Stewart Hosie claims). On George Robertson's part, he conflates Vidkun Quisling and Lord Haw Haw into one person.

Sorry I've not written much of late; I don't seem to have enough time to do everything I want to do at the moment even without writing, but I'll try to be a bit more visible in future.
ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Back in 2009 I recommended Marina and the Diamonds (a.k.a. Marina Diamandis – the “Diamonds” are her fans, not a band). Since then she’s released not just her first album (The Family Jewels), but a second one too – Electra Heart.

I have to confess I was a bit disappointed with Electra Heart when it came out last year. It has a more conventional contemporary pop style and production than her distinctive earlier work, sounding quite reminiscent of Katy Perry, or a Ke$ha without the rap. This was not really what I’d hoped for after I Am Not A Robot and Mowgli’s Road.

Concept albums have only made occasional appearances since the 1970s. The most notable recent proponents are the somewhat surprising Green Day, whose rock operas American Idiot (2004) and 21st Century Breakdown (2009) fall into concept album territory. Although I don’t think the term concept album was used, it’s always been clear that Electra Heart was intended to be something similar.

The backstory of Electra Heart is that Marina had an unsuccessful relationship with someone who was, basically, looking out for number one. Despite intending not to write stereotypical songs about love, she found herself reflecting on this relationship and writing indirectly about it. The eponymous Electra Heart is a female character with similar attitudes to the ex, who embodies four archetypes: the Teen Idle, the Primadonna, Su-Barbie-A (the suburban housewife),  and the Homewrecker.

As released in 2012, Electra Heart the album in some ways has a difficult sell. Electra Heart the character is not inherently a sympathetic character, although Marina succeeds in establishing a bit of rapport for her. The album starts with a couple of songs that grab you fairly emphatically (the poppy anthem Bubblegum Bitch and stomper Primadonna), but after that the focus is rather lost and the album seems to wander through a selection of competent but ultimately uninspiring tracks. You pays your money, you gets your album, that’s it.

However, there’s another way of looking at Electra Heart. Even before the album was released, on 8th August 2011, Marina started posting promotional videos for the album on YouTube, beginning with PART 1: ♡ "FEAR & LOATHING” ♡, and appearing in character as Electra Heart — usually blonde, with 1950s style fashions and a black heart beauty spot on the left cheek. Two years later to the day, the 11th and last video has just been posted, and it becomes clear that the best way to listen to Electra Heart is not to play the album, but to follow the sequence of videos.

Some tracks that are on the CD do not appear amongst the videos, and some videos feature tracks that are not on the album. For those tracks that are found in both places, the video sequence brings a much-needed structure.




First video only - go to the playlist

Where the order of tracks on the album seemed somewhat haphazard, in the YouTube version Fear and Loathing sets the scene for Electra Heart’s different personas and pre-shadows what’s to come, before we meet the Teen Idle in Radioactive. The Archetypes is a linking track of the sort you generally wouldn’t listen to on its own but it introduces the archetypes by name and emphasises Electra Heart’s alienation. We quickly progress through the Primadonna and Su-Barbie-A as Electra goes through young adulthood and gets married, carrying with her her expectations of how she expects life to turn out. Power and Control depicts a rather cynical battle for control in the relationship, before things start to fall apart as Electra becomes the Homewrecker, starting with How To Be A Heartbreaker.

In E.V.O.L. (released on Valentines Day 2013) a failed relationship leaves Electra hurt and resentful. State of Dreaming is more reflective as she looks back on how she’s been living. Up to this point, although Electra’s had a lot of screen time, she rarely looks straight at the camera. By way of contrast, Lies starts off delivered straight to camera and is a powerful accusation that comes across as very personal. In the finalé, posted on 8th August this year exactly two years after the first part, Electra Heart reviews her life (this is mostly conveyed through a retrospective of the previous videos rather than through the fairly minimal lyrics) before deciding on a fresh start.The final shot shows that the persona of Electra Heart is no more (backed up by a tweet from Marina).

Five tracks out of eleven are not on the album, but two of those are relative minimal atmospheric tracks (The Archetypes and Su-Barbie-A) and one is the conclusion, also fairly light on lyrical content. The remaining two are How To Be A Heartbreaker and E.V.O.L. These do give a more narrative feel to the decline of Electra’s fortunes in the Homewrecker phase, but apart from the fleshing out of this stage of the narrative, the main difference is just in track ordering, and it seems at least possible, if not likely, that the album would therefore have benefited from a bit of restructuring.

In the future, I’m much more likely to listen to the YouTube version as a playlist than the album as it was released. It’s also an option to plug in some of the missing tracks from the album where they appear to fit in with the narrative. I won’t go overboard with trying to cram extras in, but for my own listening I think Bubblegum Bitch fits nicely just after the introductory Fear and Loathing, seeming to express an Electra Heart maybe a couple of years younger than in Radioactive.

Just as a final aside, given that Marina is Welsh of Greek origin, and has hinted at the relevance of mythology, it’s likely that the name Electra isn’t a random choice – sadly though, I’m not picking up on any references there may be to the mythological Electra.

Unfortunately, embedding these videos is problematic, so I've included Fear and Loathing above, and you can watch the rest as a playlist.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

This is an uplifting video, and it’s nice to see the leaders of our top six political parties agree on something worthwhile!

Credit where credit’s due on an occasion like this, so for those unfamiliar with Scottish politics they appear towards the end after most of the celebs and ordinary folk, and in order of appearance they are:

  1. Patrick Harvie (co-convenor of the Scottish Green Party)
  2. Colin Fox (national spokesperson of the Scottish Socialist Party)
  3. Ruth Davidson (leader of the Scottish Conservative Party)
  4. Johann Lamont (leader of the Scottish Labour Party)
  5. Willie Rennie (leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats)
  6. Alex Salmond (leader of the Scottish National Party)
ggreig: (Western gentleman)

The “Bedroom Tax” protest song I linked to in March has been updated, recorded in a studio and is available on iTunes, Amazon and other online stores. You can listen to the studio version beforehand on YouTube.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Tomorrow (Saturday 29th March) I'll be protesting against the Bedroom Tax in Edinburgh. In my opinion it’s worse than the Poll Tax. If the Poll Tax could be characterised as thoughtless with regard to those on low incomes, the Bedroom Tax by comparison would be vindictive, as it’s targeted on them, and is likely to have a cumulative effect with other benefit cuts.

There are many other locations throughout the UK where something’s happening tomorrow, listed onscreen at the end of this video. You can skip to 2:55 if the song isn't your thing. I hope you enjoy it, and consider coming along:

If you don't know the original version of the song, here it is:

Endeavour

Feb. 26th, 2013 12:35 am
ggreig: (Astronaut)

I spent the first few weeks of January in California. Because I was particularly keen, [livejournal.com profile] msinvisfem and I caught a train into Los Angeles to go and visit this place:

Samuel Oschin Pavilion

We paid more than we needed to for the train, as I made the mistake of going to a window for service in the station rather than buying from a machine. Different train company, as we figured out later, and happy to charge us getting on for twice as much without even mentioning that there was a cheaper and more frequent alternative service.

We got off the train in LA Union Station, found our way outside through the impressive waiting room and walked down the road a bit for the Metro Silver Line (a bus service, despite what it may sound like). We both checked the route signage, waited for a bit, and got onto the right bus heading in the wrong direction.

When we reached the end of the route without spotting our destination, it became clear that something had gone wrong, and a helpful cop who managed to keep a straight face throughout directed us to the correct stance to go back again.

By this time, the generous safety margin that we’d allowed for getting there before our timed tickets were due to take effect was looking a bit shaky. In fact it was worse than that, as it turned out. By the time we’d returned to Go, did not collect £200, and headed out in the right direction for a similar period of time, our safety margin was completely blown and we turned up half an hour too late.

The End...eavour )
ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds has been available to listen to – or even watch – in a number of forms since it was first released in 1978. The latest incarnation is Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds – The New Generation. (This title was enunciated by skilled stunt men and should not be attempted at home – at least, not without taking a very deep breath first.)

Jeff%20Wayne's%20Musical%20Version%20of%20The%20War%20of%20The%20-%20The%20New%20Generation%20(Artwork)

This is a modern re-recording of the classic with, as the name might suggest, a new generation of artists. Probably just as well since Richard Burton and Phil Lynott are a wee bit dead to be taking part this time around.

Instead we have Liam Neeson taking on the Richard Burton role, Gary Barlow standing in for Justin Hayward, and others including Ricky Wilson of the Kaiser Chiefs, Joss Stone and Maverick Sabre. Yeah, we’ll come back to him.

Names such as Gary Barlow may give you pause. Funny how twenty years or so of maturing doesn’t doesn’t translate “boy band” into anything but, well, boy band. (At least Robbie Williams managed to cream off the Angels share…) Hold that prejudice though – he has a good voice, and does a pretty good “Forever Autumn”. It’s nearly as good as Justin Hayward’s.

That’s the problem this album has though. Most of it is nearly as good as the original. Most of it is nearly the same as the original. Ah, what a shame.

There are three possible reasons for a remake. One is to do it better. Another is to do it different. Though The New Generation is a decent effort, and you’d probably love it if you’d never heard the original, it does neither of these things.

So the third reason it must be; to draw in a new audience haven’t been exposed to it before. I guess that’s commercially fair enough, but artistically disappointing.

Annoyances are not major, but there are several. The music develops a judder at a few key dramatic points, and distorted, echoed lyrics at others – both electronic tricks that already feel more dated than the original album. There are additions to the narration that feel pretty unnecessary – is it essential for us to know that Martians don’t have sex? – and, oh dear lord, who thought we needed chirpy Cockney newsboys à la Dick van Dyke, singing “Morning paper, men from Mars, men from Mars!” on Horsell Common?

And if you’ve listened to any Jeff Wayne War of the Worlds material produced in the last fifteen years or so, you won’t be surprised to hear that the voice of the devil Martians is heard in the land! It will be the phrase you think it is, plus a load of unintelligible background muttering. While I liked it the first time I heard the Martians speak (in cut scenes from the 1998 video game), it’s a shame they haven’t learnt to say anything new since then.

Good points include the gorgeous packaging, which could only be improved upon by making it the size of a proper 12” album. It’s a nice touch that the changes to the words are printed in gold, as it saves highlighting them with a green marker. Liam Neeson is not generally my favourite vocal performer. but he makes a fair replacement for Richard Burton and I even felt that he conveyed the emotion of relief at the conclusion better than Burton did (I’ve seen another review say the opposite, so your mileage may vary).

I can’t put it off any longer. Let’s come back to Maverick Sabre. Cool name! Unfortunately that’s the only thing he has over Phil Lynott, who might well have called himself Maverick Sabre too if he’d thought of it. Thing is, though, Phil would have lived up to it, the way he hammed up his Preacher in the original War of the Worlds, to the enjoyment of all. Maverick Sabre’s Preacher – well, I struggled for a while to identify how best to characterise his voice in the role. Is it spoilt child or querulous old man? Thinking of the character, you may think that either might work, but take it from me they don’t. It was on the fourth listening that I nailed it though, when he quavered “don’t touch me!” – he reminds me of nothing so much as the camp German pigs from Shrek! The rest of the album is OK; I am a little disappointed with minor aspects of it, but Maverick Sabre’s part is the only thing I wish just wasn’t there.

If you’re a fan of the original album, don’t get this one unless you’re a completist. It’s good, but ultimately it doesn’t add anything. If by some weird mischance you're reading this and you haven’t heard the original, then you might like either better – probably the one you hear first – but you’ll be down with all the cool kids if you choose to make that the original*.

* Caveat: a wise and cautious reader will check my profile picture before accepting my advice on what’s trendy.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Pollphail, the ghost village near where I grew up in Argyll, and which I mentioned a few years ago, has changed hands again. Sounds as though the buildings may finally come down, having gone uninhabited since being built, thirty five years ago. Unless you count the sheep who took shelter there.

Apparently it became part of an art project late in 2009 when demolition was thought to be imminent. Check out this video for eerie atmosphere with added graffiti:

If you're feeling brave, you can also watch this found-footage short:

ggreig: (Default)

Here’s a further video report from the BBC about the mysterious paper sculptures I mentioned a couple of times around the turn of the year. They’re going on show “around Scotland” although the information about where that might be is underwhelming.

ggreig: (Default)

Some music with a bit of personality, and a story-telling video to match. Although it's definitely a modern piece, the vocals have a drama that reminds me of the early 80s - sort of jazzy R&B with hints of the energy of Toyah or Siouxsie, laid over Peter Gabriel-style funk. Give it a try:

If you're wondering why the name Kimbra seems familiar, she provided the female vocal in Gotye's Somebody That I Used To Know – and if you’re not already aware of that, it’s worth checking out too.

ggreig: (Default)

A proud-looking small dog wearing a Lion Rampant coat

Yesterday I attended the first of three annual March/Rallies that are to be held in the lead up to the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014. The last (and only previous) time that I was part of a public expression of opinion would have been towards the end of the Thatcher government in the 1980s, when I was part of a protest against Michael Forsyth opening the East Sands Leisure Centre in St. Andrews. I’ve nothing against the fine institution that is the East Sands Leisure Centre, I should hasten to add; just the company it kept at the time.

That was an angry protest; very civilised, because it was St. Andrews, and quite small scale, but angry at the things that the government of the time was doing. Although it was also very civilised, yesterday was otherwise a different kettle of fish.

It was a bit bigger, for a start. 9,500 according to the organisers; 5,000 according to a police estimate, but that was apparently made before the march started and certainly not at peak attendance, which would have been at the start of the rally in Princes Street Gardens.

Independence Marchers walking down The Mound in Edinburgh

The main difference, though, was atmosphere. This wasn’t a protest against something, it was a statement of support for something, and the overwhelming mood was positive. At the rally, I listened to about two and a half hours of people giving speeches (interspersed with musical interludes, of which see a couple below), and it was only towards the end of that that we started to get some angry speeches – from trade unionists railing against the current Westminster government. While I could sympathise with their reasons, I’m glad that the majority of speakers were not in that mould. That’s not to say that other speakers didn’t have an occasional dig, but it would be as an aside in a more forward-looking speech.

Another good thing its that it clearly wasn’t about one party. Obviously there is one party which has an enormous presence in this debate, but after a speech from the First Eck there were speakers from other parties and none. Margo McDonald was first up, followed in an order I can’t recall by Dennis Canavan and speakers from Labour for Independence, the Greens and the SSP. Conspicuous by their official absence were the current parties of Westminster government – which is a shame, as there must be some who have an interest in Scottish independence. I hope someone in those parties has the guts to take the sort of stand against their leadership that the Labour for Independence guy has. One journalist came out in support – the chronologically gifted (her words!) and more-than-usually-worth-reading Ruth Wishart.

Anyway, I just wanted to write about the experience of being there, not to change your minds. Having said that, if you want to accompany me next year, that’d be great.

 

Dougie MacLean sang Caledonia for us, which was well received:

 

Rock bagpipes have been done before, but Gleadhraich were rather good at it and moreover come from Carnoustie. Shame I didn't capture their rendition of “My Generation”, which was also highly enjoyable:

If you want to hear "My Generation", Gleadhraich themselves have an earlier performance on YouTube.

ggreig: (Default)

The Royal Company of Archers, the Queen’s Bodyguard for Scotland marched through St. Andrews today. I have no idea why. It wasn’t the best weather for being an archer in.

Some time later, they marched in the opposite direction and some of them dropped in to the Whey Pat for a swift refreshment.

While I wasn’t rude enough to take any pictures in the pub, I was intrigued by the chance for a closer look at their kit. The bow is a traditional wooden self longbow, probably of yew. Each archer carries three arrows, and while they were also wooden, they were more obviously modern, with a plain brass pile, a transparent red plastic nock. Although the arrows being carried had plainly never been used, each archer’s set seemed to have distinct fletching. Whether this was intention or coincidence, I don’t know. Each also carries a short sword, which so obviously resembled a gladius that I was actually relieved to find it described in Wikipedia as “a short gilt-headed Roman sword”.

Behaviour was interesting too; on entering the bar, arrows went straight on the bar. I guess this was a practical thing, as when worn they’re slung at the right side, protruding downwards in front of the body and upwards to the rear. You can see how this might be awkward in a bar situation. I was slightly surprised when they left to hear “Who’s not got a bow?”. Clearly the Royal Company of Archers don’t buy into a more archaic version of the Rifleman’s Creed! It would be interesting to know to what extent Archers kit themselves out, and to what extent they’re issued with their gear. It seems clear that some order their own bows, as they’re quoted as being patrons of Richard Head Longbows, but “Who’s not got a bow?” suggests that, for some, bow ownership is less of a concern.

After all that, here’s a link for anyone experiencing a sudden inexplicable urge to listen to Barwick Green.

ggreig: (Default)

A video report from the BBC covering the mysterious paper sculptures I mentioned last year. Contains pictures of new pieces.

ggreig: (Default)

Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] msinvisfem for the scarf, and [livejournal.com profile] qidane for pressing the video button when I was posing for a still!

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