Realm of Battle Sector Imperialis COMPLETED!

Off The Top of My Head

So it finally happened.  Over the weekend I took two days and completed the Sector Imperialis Realm of Battle board I started 2+ years ago!

Again following on from our lord and savior, Duncan Rhodes, I used the techniques he detailed to complete the painting!

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Using pre-printed gaming mats is easy and fast, but for drama and detail it’s hard to beat this board.  Tt’s flexibility (six tiles that can arranged in various ways) and aesthetic are hard to beat.

20170219_185348You can see the tiny bit of Nurgle’s Rot I added to the open sewers for effect.

20170219_185514In Rhodes’ terrific tutorial he suggested using washes of varying colors to add character to the road.  This worked VERY well.  Here you can see the colors he recommended, Nuln Oil, Agrax Earthshade, and Athonian Camoshade with Dawnstone drybrushed over it.  You can also see the gutters.  They have also been washed with all three and finished with some Typhus Corrosion.  A bit of Typhus Corrosion was also added to the detritus in the gutters to unify the look.

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Other than Skavenblight Dinge, which was used for all the road and stone sections, my Leadbelcher stock took a big hit.  All this metal…  Here the metal floows and mechanical components are displayed.  All were washed in Nuln and drybrushed with Necron Compound.

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These bronze sections are some of my favorite pieces.  They were based in Balthasar Gold, washed in Nuln Oil, drybrushed with Necron Compound, and detailed with Nihilakh Oxide.

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One of the crypt sections and one of the eagles I wanted a marble effect.  They were based in Ceramite White, washed in Drakenhof Nightshade, and drybrushed with Prixati White.

If you’re thinking of painting one of these beware…you’ll get through some paint, this handful got me through about half of it:

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This was a great project and one I may be detailing and changing periodically as I use it.  It’s a great central piece and if you have one a fun project!

Die Hard: Yes it IS a Christmas Movie

Well it’s Christmas again and what does that mean?  It means it’s a time of stress (some fun), greed (some generosity), and food (some gluttony.)  It also means it is the time of year for the eternal debate.  A debate that has raged for nearly thirty years and still can stop a conversation cold whenever it comes up.

But fear not, I have the solution supported by incontrovertible evidence and will finally put this debate to bed forever.

What topic could be so important and cause so much consternation in the supposed season of joy?  There is of course only one topic it could be:

Is Die Hard a Christmas movie?

I have the answer.  It is without a doubt “YES IT IS A CHRISTMAS MOVIE.”  And here’s why:

  • Christmas is INTEGRAL to the plot: Unlike other less-debated films (such as Lethal Weapon) which take place around Christmas time but the season isn’t integral to the plot, the fact that it is Christmas in Die Hard is the reason behind all of the events of the film. This theory is proven as the answer to a single question: WHY was John McClane in Los Angeles to begin with?  He wasn’t there to win his estranged wife back.  He wasn’t there just to visit his kids, not even to visit them on the holidays.  No he specifically states he was “invited to the [Nakatomi] Christmas party by mistake.”  So not only is he there to celebrate the holidays with his family he’s specifically at Nakatomi  Plaza because he was invited to the office Christmas party.  Simple as that.  No Christmas.  No John McClane there for the heist.  If he’s not there there’s no story.  Some might argue that this doesn’t make it specifically a Christmas movie and that this is more just set up.  I’d respond that the same could be true for my favorite Christmas movie of all time, A Lion in Winter.  Henry II lets Eleanor out for Christmas.  Some gifts are seen, some food is eaten, but it’s more about the interactions and machinations of the characters.  But it is undoubtedly a Christmas movie.  And so is Die Hard.

  • Music: Love it or hate it Christmas music is iconic and has a very specific sound and feel.  From bells to choruses, Christmas music makes for a holiday atmosphere.  And Die Hard is loaded with Christmas musical queues. What’s the first song you hear? Run DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis” (Argyle wasn’t bullshitting, it IS Christmas music.)  Even outside of the licensed music, the score is often accompanied by holiday bells, often used either ironically or to demonstrate how the holiday has influenced the events.  One fine example is the musical queue when it is revealed McClane has taped his gun to his back using Christmas themed wrapping tape.  Even the last musical queue is Christmas music.  “Let it Snow” plays while millions of dollars of negotiable bearer bonds and office paper drift down from the ruined façade of the plaza.

  • Themes: Imagery and commentary is all about the holidays. This is muted somewhat by the fact that the film takes place in Los Angeles.  So there’s no snow or wintry scenes.  Since the action is set within the confines of the building.  But there are Christmas trees, presents, and decorations.  Even the characters acknowledge the connection (such as Holly’s rebuke of Ellis’ advances, as she reminds him it is Christmas Eve).  Or when Hans Gruber tells techie terrorist Theo not to worry because “it’s Christmas… It’s a time for miracles.” Even more obvious is McLane’s use of the holiday tape mentioned above, and, perhaps one of the most famous sequences of the film, when he “decorates” a dead “terrorist” with a Santa hat and the iconic phrase (scrawled in seasonally appropriate red writing) “Now I have a machine gun. Ho-ho-ho.”  You couldn’t have these memorable scenes or references in a movie set any other time of year and they make Die Hard the movie it as much as Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman do.

So there you have it.  Case closed.  Die Hard IS a Christmas movie and one of my favorite Christmas movies.  I say that without the least bit of generational snark or anti-establishment sentiment.  Christmas movies are always more than about buying presents, getting home for the holidays, or dealing with family.  Home Alone is a Christmas movie, but it climaxes as a film about a couple burglars who get hurt by a kid while they try to break in.  The Ref is a Christmas movie about a thief hiding out with a dysfunctional family while he’s on the run.  While you were Sleeping?  Christmas movie sure, but it’s more about a woman faking her way into a family (at first…).  Hell even It’s a Wonderful Life is a Christmas movie about the impact one individual can have on the community.  So every great Christmas movie is about something other than JUST the holidays.

Just like Die Hard…which is not just DEFINITELY a Christmas movie, but one of the best Christmas movies around!

2016: Best of List for One of the Worst Years Ever

Let’s face it…2016 has been a diaper fire of a year.  In the face of rampant bigotry, violence, and the worst of the world receiving all the attention and rewards, I thought it would be best to share my superlatives; my favorites of the year 2016.  These are of course my favorites, and even though I’m definitely RIGHT, feel free to disagree.

Best Movie: Captain America Civil War

I have to admit I was suffering severe super-hero fatigue going into this movie.  I’d had my fill of comic book movies and nerd culture and this just seemed to be another on to add on the pile.  Then I saw it and realized, whether you love this trend or not, you have to admire the skill with which the MCU’s leadership is weaving its overall narrative.  From call backs to films not even believed to be canon until now to payoffs set up four years ago, the movie is a masterpiece of culmination storytelling.  It is a wonderfully directed and intensely personal story told with drama, humor, and action in almost equal parts.  While I think Winter Soldier is probably a better made film…I can’t deny I may enjoy Civil War on a pure watchability level more.

Best TV Show: Stranger Things

I’ve resisted most “made for Netflix” series because they truly don’t appeal to me, but a horror-sc-fi-fantasy story set in the 80s?  Yeah I’ll check that out.  Stranger Things reminds me a lot of my favorite British TV shows, Spaced and The Office.  They are short, sharp, stories with absolutely zero fluff and cut down to just the best of the narrative.  At only eight episodes it tells is rather complex story in a simple way and absolutely draws you in.  By far the best “TV show” of the year and one I’ve revisited several times since my first viewing.

Best Album: Level 7 – Miracle of Sound

I’ve got a whole post on Gavin “Miracle of Sound” Dunn coming but his music is kind of the soundtrack to my 2016.  I purchased all of his albums from BandCamp after listening to his YouTube channel and I couldn’t be more impressed with his range and, more importantly, the passion he has for what he does.  2016 was a tough year creatively, and Dunn’s experiences in the year are no exception as vocal negative fans seemed to be the voices shouting the loudest.  Level  7 might be my favorite album he’s done and the “controversial” Fires Fade one of my new favorite MoS songs.  It’ll definitely bring some good music to the end of what was kind of a lousy year.

Best Video Game: Doom

Where did this come from?  After years of grey-brown “realistic” shooters id software treated us with a return to classic form in Doom.  I love everything about this game.  From its classic-style shooting (no reloading!) to its marvelous silent protagonist I can see myself wasting hours of time in this game the way I used to waste hours of time in the classic Doom 2.  Whenever I have just time to kill (it does happen sometimes…) I definitely don’t mind punching demons’ appendages off for a while.

Best Time Waster: YouTube Creators

I’ve been a YouTube fan for a while, but this year I found myself turning to it more and more instead of “traditional” media.  From classic favorites like Homestarrunner and AVGN, to Jim Sterling, Angry Joe, RedLetterMedia, and the Nostalgia Critic I found more entertainment having YouTube creators as the background of my day-to-day life than anything else.  Got some drawing to do? Let’s put on a Co-Optitude marathon!  Sitting down for some reading?  Cinemassacre’s last full Monster Madness ever is going on!  It shows the best of egalitarian art, anyone with ability and creativity can become a popular public persona, the established organized structures be damned!  The quality content available on YouTube now is remarkable.

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Most Surprising Entertainment: The Spin-Off Doctors Podcast

I’m a huge Jim Sterling fan and love his Podquisition podcast.  Despite this I’d never listened to his second podcast, the Spin-Off Doctors (aka “The Movie Boys…”) before about a month ago.  I listened to the Warcraft episode and was hooked.  I’ve listened to every one of them since then and they accompany me everywhere, work, the car, the gym, everywhere.  If you haven’t listened to Jim Sterling and Conrad Zimmerman analyze the various entertainment enterprises that spin-off from popular video game franchises you’re missing out.  Their Pixels episode alone is epic!

Best Personal Growth Discovery: Bodybuilding.com

I was introduced to Bodybuilding.com’s programs this year and they have reinvigorated my desire to exercise.  Admittedly after years of boxing, running, or BeachBody programs I was a bit burned out.  These have been a great find and having excellent company and having a blast while working out has been extra motivation!  I recommend Jim Stoppani’s Shortcut to Size or Kris Gethin’s Muscle-Building Trainer.  Intense programs that really get results!

Best Cultural Event: Guns N’ Roses – Not in this Lifetime Tour

Much like Doom this kind of came out of nowhere.  From rumors that started last year a full blown tour no one thought the original line up of Guns N Roses would ever reunite for even one show let alone a multi-continent, months-long tour.  Their show in Nashville was terrific and, despite my personal predictions of implosion, their tour in South America is still going strong with a Japan tour forthcoming.  It was a childhood dream to see my favorite band live and, while I saw Axl with the new GnR a few years ago, seeing most of the original group together at the absolute top of their game this year blew my mind.  By far the event of the year!

That’s my positive year-end review.  I may do a negative one as well…but a list of all the things that pissed me off this year may never end.  It may prove cathartic though so we’ll see how I feel in the coming weeks!

Better than it should be: Men At Work

Growing up in the 90s often meant watching whatever was on TV.  There was no streaming service, no YoutTube, and no OnDemand viewing for most of us.  We generally either picked a channel that fit our mood and watched whatever came on there.  As a result we saw a lot of strange and obscure films that were never big hits but made an impact on us because A.) they were all we had and B.) we grew up with them.

In retrospect a lot of these movies are dreadful…we might have loved them at the time but upon rewatching as an adult we regret not keeping them consigned to our memories (I’m looking at you, Mortal Kombat.)  Others, however, remain entertaining and can even improve as we watch them with a more mature eye.  These movies are what I like to think of as “better than they should be,” they work in spite of all the elements that would normally mean they shouldn’t.  There are tons of these wannabe classics and I thought I’d share some of my favorites.  Starting with one of the most unusual: Men at Work.

Title: Men at Work

Release: 1990

Director: Emilio Estevez

Starring: Emilio Estevez, Charlie Sheen (pre-public drugs n’ whores meltdown), Keith David (a.k.a. “the best thing in the movie”), Leslie Hope, et al.

Premise: James St. James (Estevez) and Carl Taylor (Sheen) are surfers and would-be surf shop owners who work day jobs as garbage men.  They spend their days misbehaving on their trash route, asking each other Trivial Pursuit questions, and spying on their neighbors with binoculars.  After they see what they think is one neighbor (Hope) being attacked by a man, Taylor shoots him with an air rifle.  Their boss, tired of their at-work antics, mandates they have a ride-along with his brother-in-law Louis (David) and the next day they find the man they shot in with the air rifle in the trash, after he was coincidentally murdered by corporate henchmen.  They then have to dodge two cops out to get them, get mixed up in a politics, and stop an evil corporation from dumping toxic waste.

There IS a reasonable narrative explanation for this scene in the film.
There IS a reasonable narrative explanation for this scene in the film.

Why it’s better than it should be:  Sheen and Estevez didn’t make a lot of movies together, especially where they shared considerable screen time.  Their natural familial chemistry plays incredible convincingly (they have a ridiculous fist fight that is spot on how two friends actually fight and contains the dialogue “you’re a stupid man, you’re a stupid little man!”) and since the film hinges on the audience believing in these two guys their relationship is very important.  What makes the movie however is Keith David as Louis.  I’d never seen him before this film and after watching it he was what I remembered most.  A hard-bitten, angry Vietnam veteran, Louis starts out to get Carl and James and the comedic tension he adds is brilliant.  As they get mixed up in the conspiracy and murder his role increases as he refuses to let the guys call the cops, and militarizes their entire investigation into what happened and why.  The film is also full of wonderful vignettes of comedy; the actual air rifle shooting, finding the victim in the trash, the bumbling corporate hitmen, the needlessly senseless police, and the pathetic pizza man.  People are handcuffed together in suggestive ways, a delivery man hostage is taken, and a dead body is dressed up like Richard Nixon.  It is farce at its best.

Favorite quotes:

Louis: Awe, lookie here…someone threw away a perfectly good white boy…

Carl(To two cops on bicycles): What happened Mike, they take away your vroom-vrooms?

Louis: Yeah, cop, I know you, man.  I know what you’re thinking…we got us another crazy n****r here with a gun. Well let me tell you something: human life means very little to me at this point in time.  You see I thrive on misery.  In the jungle misery’s all you got, but things are different back here in the world, or so they seem!  Nobody wants to talk about pain and suffering.  Everybody wants everything to be nice…and civil.  Well okay then!  Let’s be NICE.  Let’s be CIVIL.  And let’s drop those guns before I pull this trigger and change the way you feel about me.

 Louis: There are several sacred things in this world that you don’t ever mess with.  One of them happens to be another man’s fries…  Now you remember that and you will live a long and healthy life.

 Louis: I hate cops… (later) Rent-a-cops…I hate rent-a-cops too!

  Hitman Biff: I think he wants us to kill some more people.

  Hitman Mario: Ok.

James (offering pizza to hostage delivery man): Are you hungry?  Would you like some?

Louis: Don’t give him any, James.

James: Why not, he might be hungry.

Louis: He’s a prisoner, he should be treated accordingly.

James: Have you completely lost your mind?  We’re not soldiers and he’s not the enemy.  He’s a pizza man!

Louis: Back in Fubai, he would have been killed the second he knocked on that door.  I would have snapped his neck like a twig.  And he never would have seen it coming either.

James: Louis, calm down!

Louis: The commie bastard gets no food! (GONG)

Carl: Golf clap?

James: Golf Clap. (both clap softly)

 

 

The Un-Thankful List 2016

So it’s the week of Thanksgiving and, like the rest of the country, except for enjoying a couple days off, I’ve chosen to kind of ignore it as a topic and just do my own thing!

As someone with a wide breadth of interests I find it fascinating how many super popular trends never catch on with me.  I tend to become obsessed with anything that even slightly grabs my attention long enough for it to become a “hobby” (of which I have far too many), but often the biggest or most prevalent of trends, or at least the ones everyone I know seems to be in to for extended periods of time, always turn out to be anti-interesting to me.  So in lieu of being thankful in a post, I thought I’d share a few of the most popular trends I can think of that I simply just don’t get…  If you like any of these things no strike against you!  Like Jim Sterling always says, I wish I could too because being able to enjoy more things would only improve life.  But here’s this year’s list:

  • Pokemon: This one has been around forever and from day dot I never understood the appeal. Gathering Tamagotchi, training them, then battling them is something that just makes me scratch my head as to why it’s popular. Plus it all seems like rock-paper-scissors while you try to increase numbers so your numbers are better than your opponent’s numbers.  It’s also so nakedly commercial even as mercenary as I am I can’t see past it…  Definitely not for me.

  • Game of Thrones: My sister bade me watch this show when it was early in its second season. I watched the first four episodes of season one and gave up on it.  R rated fantasy soap opera designed to shock you in the same way The Walking Dead did with the “no one is safe” philosophy.  I’m not actually shocked by anyone who died because I don’t care about any of them.

  • Internet Overreaction: Wow has this gotten out of control.  Every rumor, every bit of news, every story snippet is met with a wall of people who bitch endlessly.  Now I’m firmly in the Anti-Ghostbusters remake camp, but the internet reaction was ludicrous.  Pro people acting like a movie represented an entire social movement; anti people acting like a film was destroying all pop history.  In the end it’s just a mediocre comedy.  Any time Games Workshop brings out news it’s declared “the worst thing ever.”  Film casting is the end of the world.  The internet is like a herd of retarded gazelles; they panic at the slightest alarm but all run staggering in chaotic directions.

  • Dubstep: This one has faded into the general EDM noise, but it all still sounds like Sega Genesis music to me. This kind of music just makes me think I need to gain a few extra lives in Streets of Rage.

  • Anime: For a period of three or four years I was all about anime.  I watched tons of it and then…well I’d kind of seen enough.  I still love a few, Rurouni Kenshin, Full Metal Panic, You’re Under Arrest, Love Hina…  But so much of it is so…well poorly written while at the same time being so self-indulgently proud of itself I kind of lost all interest in it.  And the way it has worked itself into all kinds of art and media has turned so many creative ideas into a gray hegemony of anime style.  And wow can these writers really not end a story to save their lives…

  • Beards: I honestly don’t know why this has become the guy fashion trend of the 2010s or who started it. It’s almost like all guys who think it’s too “girly” to spend a lot of time on their hair decided they would grow beards instead and spending time working on their beards would be more “manly.”  Then most of them spend a lot of time on their hair too.  An entire cottage industry of shaving paraphernalia has sprung up around it.  It’s like any fashion trend it’ll pass eventually but it is still essentially just doing your hair guys…

  • Online Multiplayer: We all have been online at some point and watched people interact. It is, with possible exception of sitting in traffic, the worst of humanity on display for all to see.  So why not put a competitive element in it as well?  MMORPGs, First Person Shooters, the new MOBAs that are taking over.  I can’t imagine a more aggravating way to spend hours of my life than dealing with virtual people behaving anonymously for competition.

  • Beverage Obsession: This has gone on a long time…but with the prevalence of hispters in the world it’s only gotten worse. Designer coffees, craft beers (I hate that term), wine culture, I’ll never understand spending ungodly amounts of money on things to drink; it just seems so unusual.  I mean there are so many books and Warhammer models to buy, am I right?

  • Ninten-culture: For some reason Mario and the Legend of Zelda get a world’s free pass as cultural icons. When I was at DragonCon you couldn’t move through the vendor hall without face-planting into some kind of Mario or LoZ  I know a lot of it is my generation grew up with it and now we buy products that remind us of our youths…but retro gaming, and hell even Nintendo, was a lot more than two franchises.  No love for Double Dragon, or Dragon Warrior (Quest)?  Where is all the Atari or classic arcade based merchandise (not counting YOU Pixels…)?  Sure love the two retro-giant franchises but not at the expense of the rest.

  • Device Fixation: Did you get the new iPhone? Or see it? Or bitch about what features it has/doesn’t have?  Yeah I didn’t.  I’ve been asked several times “what phone do you have?” and/or “When will you get the new one?”  My response usually is “A Samsung Galaxy something” and “Whenever this one breaks…”  The amount of time people spend staring at little screens is also astounding.  They’re great tools.  I use mine for social media (I take lots of cat pictures), communication, and workout regimens, but to see the number of people with two headphones in everywhere (even in their cars which I’m pretty sure is illegal) or see how many people are constantly staring down at whatever is on their handheld glowing screen at the moment remains a culture shock.  Karl Pilkington said it best, it’s not about people wanting more information or music than ever before, it’s all about having the accessory.  Sing-it Pilkie01.

So that’s my gripe list for the year.  Yeah some of these are probably repeats but it just goes to show how long a lot of these trends have been lingering.  It’ll be interesting to see if any of these finally die off in the new year…or how many will appear on next year’s list!

Doom (2016) – A Return to Form

I would say the game I spent the most time on as a kid was id Software’s Doom.  I played it on 32x, I played it as Shareware (yes, kiddies this was a thing) on my hard-drive-less PC (yes that was a thing too), and I played it on my regular PC when graphics hardware wasn’t even a thing and the most important aspect of getting a game to work was ensuring your SoundBlaster was functioning.

I spent hours on Doom and the best game sequel ever, Doom 2.  After beating both games I spent hours in god-mode just running around blasting monsters.  I’d write my own narratives and, because the player avatar really didn’t have his own personality, I could pretend to be anything as I went from level to level stomping demons.

I never got into Doom 3 but I did very much enjoy Bethesda’s Wolfenstein: New Order and Old Blood.  When I heard they were releasing their version of the venerable first person horror shooter I was excited but tentative.  I couldn’t get into the grim joylessness of the franchise’s third entry and capturing the free-roaming fun of the 90s originals seemed like a tall order in the modern era.

I finally got Bethesda’s Doom (2016) in October and…I love it.  It is as close to Doom as I think we’ll get without just getting graphically overhauled versions of the original games (which I would be for).  How does Bethesda get it right?

Finding an updated take on the classic Doom Marine Armor is incredibly exciting.
Finding an updated take on the classic Doom Marine Armor is incredibly exciting.
  • Mood: Original Doom was fun. It had some brutal imagery and scary moments but it was really a power fantasy.  Your Doom marine could take on hordes of undead monsters and massive demons with a chaingun and a rocket launcher and come through with just gritted teeth and maybe a bloody nose.  The narrative, which was there despite what some critics believe, took place in text crawls between chapters.  This game has a far more “Bethesda” story, which is to say it’s involved and excellent.  But you don’t have to pay attention to any of it.  This incarnation of the Doom marine certainly doesn’t.  The tone is just as power fantasy and irreverent as the original games; except here you can literally rip off demons’ arms and beat them to death with them or shove a mancubus’ explosive cells down his throat.  It’s all done with cartoonish hyper-violence and humor.  It’s brutal and violent but in more like a bloody looney tunes episode than Call of Duty.
I know and Imp, Revenant, and Cacodemon when I see them!
I know and Imp, Revenant, and Cacodemon when I see them!
  • Design: One of the problems I had with Doom 3 was the design. It felt more like Aliens and later Dead Space than Doom.  Everything was dark and cramped.  The monsters just vaguely resembled their origin creatures.  In Doom (2016) as soon as each monster appears Doom veterans will identify them.  Imps, Pinkies, Cacodemons, and Barons of Hell all resemble the original game enough that you get excited when you first see them.  Even the guns, the super-shotgun, the chaingun, the plasma rifle, all show their 90s origins.

  • Game Play: The most important aspect of any game and the one that concerned me the most about new Doom. But it got it right.  Of course it’s updated but the elements are there but you never reload your weapons; if you have 300 shots you can shoot 300 shots.  You don’t hide behind walls to heal; you brutally execute demons or find health power ups to heal.  The camera doesn’t wobble around like a drunk camera operator is in control of your character; it’s static and the gun moves when you run.  It feels like an old school shooter in a modern wrapper.  Brighter colors, faster pace, but with all the junk that clutters modern games stripped out.  The junk that makes them more “realistic” and less fun.

I can’t recommend Doom (2016) highly enough.  It’s a terrifically fun game and is a blast from the past for classic shooter fans.

One footnote, the music is TERRIFIC!