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It’s been a while since I wrote, you know, actual words here – nearly six months, which is my longest gap ever – so I thought I’d make a cursory effort and record the weekend.

It started on Friday, with a day off work and a trip on a whim to Kirriemuir where my Dad grew up and where we visited my grandparents for many years. As with anywhere you haven’t visited in a while, there were changes. The Star Rock shop (established 1833) was still there, but across the road was a railway modelling shop that I hadn’t visited before, and I came out with my wallet figuratively lighter.

The square now features a statue of Peter Pan – apparently it’s a replacement for the one that used to stand in the Glengate, but which got damaged – and the Town House which I remember housing Kidd’s the chemist is now the Gateway to the Glens museum.

The Square in KirriemuirWP_20160916_14_53_03_Rich

Inside the museum, there’s a model of Kirriemuir in the 1600s, which I enjoyed seeing, and the silver casket and illuminated scroll given to J.M. Barrie when was granted the freedom of the town. I hadn’t realised he was buried in Kirriemuir as well as being born there – I’d always just assumed he’d been laid to rest elsewhere.

Kirrie’s other, more recent, famous son has also been honoured with a statue since last time I visited. I had seen the flagstone to his memory in Cumberland Close, but now he stands in effigy opposite the Gairie Mill.


Friday evening was spent pleasurably in the company of [livejournal.com profile] qidane, [livejournal.com profile] tobyaw and Beth.

Perhaps not as rock and roll as Bon Scott, but just as cool in her own way, on Saturday I was on my way home from spending the afternoon with friends in the Whey Pat when I spotted on Twitter that Sydney Padua was in town for a conference of mathematical biographers, and had gone to the Whey Pat shortly after we left. I hopped off the bus again and was able to shake her hand and tell her how much I liked her book (Buy it!). A very pleasant surprise.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

It suddenly occurred to me that a Cavorite Sphere – as developed by Mr. Cavor in H.G. Wells’ The First Men in the Moon – is something that I did not have, and I searched for such a thing.

I discovered that there are two on the market suitable for 28mm. One is relatively easy to find mention of, but is sold in the US and doesn’t seem particularly easy to order even there.

The other I discovered via eBay, and it’s made in the UK by Richard Helliwell’s company Infinity-Engine. This is the one I bought.

I first heard of it under a fortnight ago, ordered it less than a week ago and completed it today – this may be a record! And at this point I wish I’d included a 28mm figure for reference in the picture, as I had to ask the seller for the size and I’ve made it no better for anyone finding this – but you’ll just have to take Richard’s word and mine that it’s the right size. The sphere is about 9cm across, from bumper to bumper, or about 3½” in old money.

The Cavorite Sphere on the Moon - hatch open

It’s a 38-piece resin kit, of which 32 are railway bumpers and one is the Moon’s surface (or a small part thereof). Visually, it’s based on the 1964 movie, which I re-watched parts of in preparation for painting this kit. (If you’re interested in this story, the 2010 Mark Gatiss TV Movie is also worth watching).

Having re-watched some key parts of the movie, the easiest thing to pick up visually was that the Cavorite itself was a yellowish substance painted on to white blinds. The yellow turned put to be metallic and reflective when the sphere was flying through space lit by the sun, so I could have gone for a very brassy look and it would probably have looked great. But the thing about Cavorite is that it counteracts gravity when it’s a) cool and b) exposed. If the blinds were deployed, and we had the brassy look, the sphere would probably not be – wherever it’s meant to be. It would be flying off into space. I thought about having one blind partially exposed, and maybe weathered so that the Cavorite covering is only partial, but ultimately I decided to keep it simple. No exposed Cavorite.

With my dodgy colour vision, I was less sure about the colours used for the rest of the sphere. However, the impression I wound up with was the ribs were a dark metallic colour, the panels surrounding the portholes were wooden, and the other panels of the sphere, where the blinds would be deployed were also dark in colour. I couldn’t decide whether it was a dark metallic colour or something else, but then I caught a hint that it was a dark red.

Now, this could be entirely my imagination, and if you watch the film you may see something else. As I’ve mentioned, my colour vision is dodgy, so if you see something else you’re probably right. But having seen it, real or not, I was caught up by the idea and decided that the majority of the panels were to be painted Burgundy. It’s not so far-fetched after all – burgundy was a popular colour of the period and not a million miles from the “Purple Lake” colour used for some railway carriages, so it fit in reasonably well with the railway theme of the bumpers.

The only “clever” bit of painting, as opposed to using flat colours, was for the wood panels, where I used a base coat of ochre and a wash of burnt umber to achieve a slightly textured varnished wood colour. I dry-brushed a little silver on the hard edges of the bumpers to give them a bit of wear.

You can attach the hatch open or closed. I chose not attach it at all, so I continue to have the choice. I also chose not to glue the top and bottom halves together, so that I have the option at some future date of scratch-building the interior. As you can see if you click through for the larger version of the picture, the interior is a bit ribbed – you can also see a bit of waviness on the exterior panels, although it’s not so marked. I think the body of the model was originally mastered in a 3D printer, with some details being modelled more traditionally before the whole was cast in resin; which is of course a faster way of producing multiple copies than 3D printing is, at least for now. It’s quite cool to see new technology being used in this way, and although there are detectable artefacts, I don’t think they harm this model, adding to the “hand-built” charm of the fictional sphere.

The Cavorite Sphere with the hatch closedTwo halves of the Cavorite Sphere

Finally just a brief mention for the base. Not used to getting a base in these sorts of models, it was quite nice to do so. Here it is in a photo of its own, where it doesn’t look quite so washed out in the harsh rays of the sun:

The Moon's surface

I decided that the powdery surface was pale, but under the surface – or harder bits that hadn’t weathered away – would be darker, and a combination of washes and dry-brushing in different shades of grey got me there, more or less. These highlighted most of the structure I wanted, but I did try to paint faint impact rays around the centre of the largest crater.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)
The five book sculptures revealed during the week can be seen on the results page and in this BBC gallery. They'll go on show in the places where they were found; the finders get a special cup by the same artist (not pictured).

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.
ggreig: (Unicorn (Modern))
The BBC is reporting that five new book sculptures have been hidden around Scotland for the public to find, with clues being released online each day this week as part of Book Week Scotland.

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.
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)

Well, no Tintin at all actually, but several books with strong links to Tintin and Hergé, including the ligne claire (clear line) style and mid-20th century settings associated with both.

The Yellow "M"Atlantis Mystery

First up are the adventures of Blake and Mortimer, a series of 19 books written between 1950 and 2009, 14 of which are available in English now or will be soon. Created by Edgar P. Jacobs, a Belgian contemporary of and collaborator with Hergé, they recount the adventures of Captain Francis Blake (head of MI5) and his friend, nuclear physicist Professor Philip Mortimer. In a partial reversal of what your character expectations might be, Captain Blake tends to be the cool, calm one, while the Professor has a bit of a temper.

The Yellow “M” was apparently number 1 in the series, and appears to be regarded as a bit of a classic, so it’s a shame I don’t agree. The story of pursuing a somewhat John-MacNab-style villain who pre-announces his crimes is intriguing enough, there’s some weird science, and a nice twist; but it’s all rather clunkingly handled, with an awful lot of excess verbiage, both in narrative boxes and from the characters – I just picked one (of many) largish speech bubble just now and counted 117 words! it doesn’t help that the translation is not really up to scratch. There are quite a number of places where the dialogue just isn’t ringing true, and suddenly you realise “Hang on, this would sound fine in French!” Then a key moment at the end references a previous book – which is fine, except that I thought this was book 1? It turns out it’s only book 1 according to the English publishing order, and that books 2 and 3 actually preceded it in France – not to mention three other volumes that haven’t been published in English at all yet.

It may be of some local interest to Londoners – there’s a lot of chasing around London streets, and I’ve seen it suggested online that Jacobs’ art was particularly  well-researched in that regard. I can’t tell, I’m afraid.

Well, I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was money wasted, but at that point my initial Tintin-tinged enthusiasm for Blake and Mortimer was fading a bit. Luckily Atlantis Mystery restored my faith. The jabber is cut way back, and to a far greater extent the pictures tell the story – and what a story it is! As you can probably guess from the title and the cover, there’s an ancient civilisation with higher tech than us involved and it is just rather a lot of fun. This is far more what I was hoping for, and I didn’t notice any translation issues this time round.

I’ll probably get more of these, but on the basis of the two I’ve read it’s unclear what to expect. Both books despite being written and drawn consecutively by Jacobs himself were of different quality; and later books in the series are by other authors and artists, after Jacobs’ death in 1987. Fingers crossed!

The Rainbow Orchid (Volume 1)

The Rainbow Orchid has been around for over a decade in one form or another, but has been more recently revamped and issued in book form. In fact the final Volume 3 is coming out on Monday (April 2nd). The writer and artist this time (Garen Ewing) is British, and openly acknowledges Tintin’s influence on his work, while making the point that ligne claire is a European style of comic art of which Tintin is only the example we know best in the UK.

I felt this first volume was a little thin, so you might be better waiting for the single volume edition of The Rainbow Orchid that’s apparently also planned, but that is pretty much my only criticism. I was very comfortable with both the style and the content of this story – it flows nicely, the characters are varied and appealing, and best of all there’s a sense of humour to it that may be the strongest link to Tintin. There are differences of course; the young reporter in this tale is not the hero, though he is a catalyst for the quest the actual hero and heroine find themselves on!

I would whole-heartedly recommend The Rainbow Orchid. You can wait for the single-volume edition, or order autographed and sketched-in copies of the individual volumes from Garen Ewing’s shop.

The Adventures of Hergé

I thought this graphic biography might be a light-hearted and fun way to learn a bit about Hergé, but I was wrong. The artwork doesn’t match up to the standard of the other books reviewed here, and while of course a real person’s life isn’t going to be as tidy as a plotted adventure, this book is very episodic with great leaps between episodes in Hergé’s life. Even within particular episodes, it’s not always easy to follow what’s going on. I’m afraid I’d rather have read a “proper” prose book to cover Hergé’s background. Must get hold of Tintin: The Complete Companion someday.

ggreig: (Default)

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

ggreig: (Default)

Someone has been leaving mysterious gifts in centres of culture – especially libraries – in Edinburgh.

ggreig: (Saint George)


Find out more about Captain Biplane, intrepid airman from a parallel universe, here, or just jump straight into the first episode of Kidnappers from Mercury. Episode 2 is to come later, followed by Green Pirates of Jupiter! The best way to get notified of future instalments is probably this RSS feed.

ggreig: (Moustache)

Precious and the PuggiesOften a bit behind the times, I belatedly noticed an interesting slim volume on the shelves today, by Alexander McCall Smith. The title was Precious and the Puggies, and the subtitle Precious Ramotswe’s Very First Case. But I also noticed it was published by Itchy Coo. What a (hem hem) coup!

I thought I’d mentioned Itchy Coo before, a long time ago, but a trawl through the obvious tags on my LJ didn’t turn up anything, so I’d better explain – Itchy Coo publish children’s books in Scots. The level varies between ABC and teen. Many are written for the purpose; others present Roald Dahl and A.A. Milne in the original Scots (The Eejits, Geordie’s Mingin Medicine, The Sleekit Mr. Tod, The Hoose at Pooh’s Neuk, Winnie the Pooh in Scots).

With such illustrious authors already on the list, Precious and the Puggies still represents a departure. For the first time, Itchy Coo have published a book in Scots about an international best-selling character, by the original author, before it appears in any other language. (Actually McCall Smith wrote it in English and it was translated into Scots by James Robertson, but with McCall Smith’s full support.) It won’t be available in English until later this year, approximately a year after its Scots publication.

This seems to have resulted in mixed reviews on Amazon, as those who knew what they were getting have rated it highly, while those who didn’t realise the book was in Scots have collectively blown a gasket (with the honourable exception of one American, to whom I doff my hat). That’s a bit sad, if unfortunately inevitable.

I’m glad this book exists. But do I like it?

I haven’t read any of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books – or indeed any other McCall Smith, apart from a few snippets of the 44 Scotland Street series in The Scotsman. I’m not grabbed by the kitchen sink style of what I’ve seen, and I don’t know what to think about the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. On the one hand, I’m concerned that an older Scottish white dude – albeit born in Zimbabwe – writing about black ladies in Botswana runs a very real risk of being paternal, Imperialist, or both. On the other, I think imaginative writing shouldn’t be limited by who you are. I guess the acid test is whether the writing is appreciated by black ladies in Botswana. If on the whole it is, then it would be pretty presumptuous of me to have a beef about it. Unfortunately I don’t know how it’s received in Botswana.

So I’m writing from a position of ignorance in a number of ways.

With that in mind, it’s plain it’s not a typical member of the series. Besides being in Scots, it’s targeted at children, it’s quite slim (79 pages) and it tells how the 8-year old Precious Ramotswe decides she would like to become a detective, and how she solves her first “case”, many years before forming her real detective agency. At a cover price of £6.99, I would say, unfortunately, it’s over-priced.

There isn’t much of a mystery about it; the clue’s in the title, and even the cover art rather gives it away, although the resolution provides some reason to keep reading beyond the revelation! The plot’s reasonable for a primary school reader of about the same age as Precious; not too basic, but not too demanding, allowing the reader to concentrate on understanding the Scots. A confident Scots speaker shouldn’t have too much difficulty with the language, and there’s a glossary at the back if you get stuck on a word.

Since there isn’t a single standard written form of Scots as there is for English, most readers will have some moments of hesitancy or doubts as to the authenticity of a spelling or phrase. James Robertson seems to have quite a reconstructionist style, rather than trying to mimic a particular dialect, which may make his prose a little more prone to these doubts. I share them; but a synthesis like this is probably inevitable in a successful written Scots revival, and likely to lose its unfamiliarity.

If the book were set in Scotland, rather than just written in Scots, it would be classic kailyard, and I suspect this is true of the adult books too. This is not necessarily a bad thing – give me any kailyard in preference to The House with the Green Shutters – but does mean that easy reading takes preference over social comment. Some moments of characterisation are quite effective though, and hint at greater depth.

The resolution may leave some a bit uncomfortable – as it did me – with an impression of lip service being paid to some obvious concerns. If you’re buying for your kids, I would recommend checking out whether you think the ending is appropriate first.

This book is an event buy for fans of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency who aren’t afraid to dip their toe into Scots, and would also be a good read for primary school Scots readers. It is a bit overpriced for what it is, and if you’re not comfortable with at least giving Scots a go, you should wait for the eventual release in other languages. 3 out of 5 stars. March 12th 2011. Gavin Greig.

ggreig: (South Park)

If you haven’t already seen @reelmolesworth refer to this on Twitter, you may be interested to know that someone has put up a selection of early Molesworth appearances in Punch that don’t feature in the books.

ggreig: (Simpsons)

I’ve just finished reading The Life of Hon. William F. Cody / Known As / Buffalo Bill / The Famous Hunter, Scout and Guide / An Autobiography, and very enjoyable it was too.

I’m not a great fan of the Western, and nearly didn’t pick this up off the second-hand bookstall, but second thoughts as to its suitability as source material made me have another look. I’m glad I did.

This edition of the autobiography covers less than half his life, as it was first published when he was 33, and perhaps his greatest fame still lay ahead; but it was already a pretty full life compared to some of the folk writing their autobiographies today, and probably contains the episodes of greatest interest.

It’s a great tale well told, though a bit thought-provoking to a modern reader too. Life is cheap, and some aspects of society deeply unpleasant. Bill’s father is knifed then hounded murderously by his neighbours for the views he expresses when asked; he’s considered treacherously liberal for being anti-slavery, even although he’s for an exclusively white state. The persecution continues until his  death from illness a few years later. Bill himself kills his first Indian* at age 11, and makes no bones of scalping Native Americans when they’re killed, or “lifting their hair”. Killings over card games do take place.

The edition I read has a modern (1978) foreword that considers how credible the tale is and whether it was really written by Bill himself or ghost-written. The general conclusion seems to be that it really is Buffalo Bill’s own writing, and that while it may not be a completely reliable account, this early edition is more true than not. (Later editions include embroidered material that may have been added by the publishers.) Some events recounted in the early edition that were once considered doubtful have been subsequently confirmed by independent documentary evidence, and Bill doesn’t always portray himself in the best light: admitting to pocketing a fine when a Justice of the Peace, for example; being unreliable in drink; or shooting his mule when within sight of his destination, at least partly in revenge because it had run away from him.

In role-playing terms, Buffalo Bill is clearly a player character. Reading of his early exploits tracking or evading Indians reminded me of the hobgoblins and the “golden horde” in New Jerusalem, the first role playing game I took part in. In less “heroic” form, there’s an incident in a battle where Bill spots an Indian riding a horse that he admires; so he sneaks forward to pick the owner off and is later given the horse by the soldier who caught it. Oh dear, I thought. I can see a player character doing exactly that.

It’s odd to think though, that the sort of behaviour that would prompt a bit of head-shaking and teeth-sucking in a game, and possible longer term consequences, depending on the GM, is not apparently considered very reprehensible or shameful in real life less than 150 years ago. To be fair, it was a hostile situation and the Native American would no doubt have been a target anyway; but the naked cupidity is a little shocking.

One thing that seems a little shocking now but probably shouldn’t is the number of buffalo slain; although 36 buffalo in a short ride may seem like a lot, it’s not so excessive when you’re shooting to feed an army. There is a reason that the buffalo is now scarce, but it’s not all Buffalo Bill’s fault; and as far as Native Americans are concerned, he seems to have been more inclined to treat them as fellow human beings than many of his contemporaries.

It was also a surprise to discover that Rome was not built in a day. It took a month; and then it took three days to fall when Bill and his partner refused to cut the railway company agent into the town they had founded. He set up a competing town a mile away, and spread the word that that was where the railway would pass by. The town that springs up overnight when oil is struck in Tintin in America is an exaggeration; but not so much as you might think!

Historical culture-shock aside, this is a good read and I’d unreservedly recommend it if you come across it as I did, for £2.50. I’d even recommend paying a bit more than that if you want the comfort of a paper copy. The author has an effective and engaging writing style – he tells a good yarn – and he doesn’t take himself too seriously; I didn’t think of “Bison William” myself!

On Project Gutenberg you can find the edition I read (sadly without illustrations), or a later, "revised" edition with some illustrations. You can also find a print copy like mine on Amazon, with many illustrations.

* No intent to offend any Native Americans who may happen to read this by my use of the period term.

ggreig: (Robot Maria)

Lifted from [livejournal.com profile] huskyteer, the 15 Books meme. List "15 books you've read that will always stick with you"; not necessarily the best, just the ones that stick with you, and you only have 15 minutes. There doesn't seem to be a requirement for an explanation, but I've given one anyway. (I wrote my list first, then the explanations, so not breaking the time stipulation!)

Don't break the spine! Open carefully... )
ggreig: (Saint George)

Hmmm. Although the title of the post is meant to refer to HMS Success, I can’t help feeling a little of it rebounds on me; having walked along the beach many times over the fifteen years I’ve lived here, you would think that I should have noticed the destroyer there.

Explore the wreck )
ggreig: (Beep the Meep)

I’ve just finished reading Between the Rivers, by Harry Turtledove. For more detail, follow the link, but it follows the fortunes of a particular resident of the city of Gibil who, among other achievements, manages to set off a war between his city and the neighbouring one.

Maybe it’s just me but I don’t think, if I were a native of Gibil, that I would be inspired to acts of bravery  in the field by the war cry: Forward the Giblut! Forward the Giblut!

ggreig: (Caricature)

[livejournal.com profile] sharikkamur has raised an interesting question about the differences between teaching and training.

Read my response ).
ggreig: (Default)

There's an interesting entry on the BCS oddIT blog telling of a 1981 Isaac Asimov story that invites comparison with the state of the modern Internet - with one very significant difference.

I think have a vague recollection of reading that one.

ggreig: (Vacant Podling)

Better it had sunk. Read the books instead.

October 21, 2007 by
photo Gavin T.D. Greig
The Dark Is Rising (a.k.a. The Seeker)


Better it had sunk. Read the books instead.

Oh, alright, maybe I had better say a little more than that. Here is how not to make a successful movie adaptation: take a series of children's books that rejoice in mixing British legend with modern life, replace the central family with an American one, reduce the mysterious Merriman Lyon to a quipping cipher (though Ian McShane in this role really looks the part for ), and ignore four out of the five books altogether, reducing the best known one to a hammed-up chase through time collecting the magic twinkies. Do not bother providing explanations for any of the weirdness that is going on, rely on modifying the book's trivial betrayal to replace the much more interesting and poignant one, and certainly do not touch on any of the legends that made the books worth reading in the first place.

There's more - for example, the Dark Ages warrior whose entire vocabulary appears to consist of "grunph" is a classic of poetically sparse characterisation (cough) - but you don't really need to know. Just avoid this movie if you ever cared for the books. Even if you don't know the books, you will probably find the movie intellectually unsatisfying if your age has advanced into double figures.

Please may they never get their hands on Alan Garner.


This hReview brought to you by the hReview Creator.

ggreig: (Chair)
Since I don't think my readership overlaps much with [livejournal.com profile] huskyteer's, allow me to pass on her recommendation of goodreads, a sort of LiveJournal for books.

Here's a link to my profile, and I encourage you to join up too - partly to see whether you're reading anything interesting, and partly to encourage me to keep it updated myself.


Apr. 22nd, 2007 11:30 pm
ggreig: (Rune)
Here I was, on a grey Sunday, waiting for the Internet to come and entertain me, when [livejournal.com profile] pink_weasel posted one of the better sort of memes in which people explain some of their interests in response to someone else's query. [livejournal.com profile] pink_weasel has asked me to explain my interests in the Clachan of Glendaruel, Jules Verne, and fonts.

I am strangely interested )

Let me know if you'd like me to pick some of your interests for you to explain.

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