Friday, November 30, 2012

History Music Videos

Last week, while trolling through the video section of Consimworld Social Network, I stumbled across this Napoleon music video.  I thought it was cute and fun, along with providing a decent thumbnail synopsis of the Napoleonic Era.
My curiosity quickly led me to the Historyteachers Channel on YouTube.  I'm certainly not the first to take notice of this.  The teacher/performing duo, Amy Burvall and Herb Mahelona, have been shooting history music videos since 2008.  Here's some details in Gawker, while ArtTrav interviewed Amy, the lead singer early last year.
While watching these videos doesn't replace in-depth study of a topic, they're fun to watch and are more than just your average internet distraction.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

YouTube Movie #27: Encounter at El Al

(Image:  Israeli Centurion tanks advancing during "Operation Booster")
No sooner had I finished my Tussle at Bordj Toum Bridge session, I had to prepare for game #Two I was running at Enfilade.  This was a modern/Arab-Israeli game, using the rules Cold War Commander.
Since this was another desert war scenario, all I had to do was put away the World War II figures, break out the Arab-Israeli miniatures and re-arrange the terrain.  Once set up was completed, I actually had time to eat some lunch before the players arrived.
As with my first game, I was too busy game mastering to take extensive pictures.  But I did take enough to capture the action (I hope) in Encounter at El Al.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Movie Review: Skyfall

I haven't done posted a movie review in a long time--because--I haven't seen any movies lately. 
While I missed The Avengers and a few other good movies this year, I wasn't about to miss the latest Bond film, Skyfall.
My girlfriend and I saw it last night and both of us loved it.  I like Daniel Craig's portrayal of 007, even as good as the original--Sean Connery.  I know I'm talking heresy here, but what I like about Craig's demeanor is that he truly carries himself as one of Her Majesty's assassins.
The movie as a whole is enjoyable, with homages to past Bond films.  The ending is rather different than escaping the evil mastermind's lair, with a Bond Girl in tow, as the self destruct mechanism counts down to zero.  I liked this movie even more because it deviated from the standard Bond-trope finale.
I certainly give this movie a 5-star/A rating.
Here's what our local movie critic, Brian the Movie Guy had to say about Bond Movie #23. 
A few months ago, I stumbled across gamer-girl Raychul.  Here's her spoiler-leaden video review of Skyfall.  This is actually the first of a two-parter.  Part II is a Best of Bond.  Although, I certainly fall in line with most guys who rate Roger Moore as one of the worst of the Bonds.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Tussle at Bordj Toum Bridge--YouTube Movie #26

(Image from the movie:  Sahara)
 Several months ago, I volunteered to host 3 games in the midst of our annual Enfilade convention.  This was almost a case of biting off more than I could chew, but I must admit I had an ulterior motive.  I wanted to get hands-on experience playing Blitzkrieg Commander, Cold War Commander and Future War Commander
For the most part, I liked all three rules, even though they're more on the "gamey side," as opposed to being more detailed war simulations.  The oddest part about all three rule sets, was granting command elements immunity from direct fire.  I wrote a set of alternate rules to amend this, but I haven't play tested them, so this will be a topic for a future post. 
Gamemastering at my first convention was an intense, yet rewarding experience.  I had to remain completely focused in order to keep the action going and to answer any questions the players had.  So I didn't have time to take my usual plethora of pictures for my standard length videos.  I did manage, though, to compile enough material for three shorter movies. 
The first, Tussle at Bordj Toum Bridge is a three-minute film of the first session I hosted.  I chose a North African battle, which was inspired by an Advanced Squad Leader (ASL) scenario, because I wanted to minimize the terrain changes for the subsequent games I was going to run.  The figures and material used in this game are from my own micro armor and 1/285th-scale buildings and terrain collection.
Now that Tussle has been posted, I'll start working the the next two.
By the way, some of you may have notice I changed the numbers on a few of the earlier films.  When I uploaded Tussle on to my YouTube Channel, I discovered I miscounted and needed to correct the error.  Also, I couldn't find any pictures, real for from ASL to use as a lede image.  So hijacked a photo from the Humphrey Bogart movie Sahara

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Book Review: The Hobbit--An Unexpected Journey Visual Companion

While traveling over the weekend, I grabbed The Hobbit--An Unexpected Journey--Visual Companion at a local Fred Meyer, which was selling them for 25% off.  (As I write this, I find out it's even cheaper on Amazon). 
The actual movie hits the theaters on December 14th.  (Which by the way, will only cover about the first third of the novel).
I'm now in the process of reading the The Annotated Hobbit, in order to re-familiarize myself with the story I read in my junior high school days.
So why bother buying the Visual Companion?
I wanted to see how Peter Jackson would portray Thorin and Company.  When I finally see the film on the big screen, I want to enjoy the story and the action--not sitting in the dark, trying to figure out who's who among the thirteen dwarves.
This is where the Visual Companion comes in.  It's a coffee table type of book that I read in about an hour (and I'm a slow reader).  It's lavishly illustrated with movie stills and a fold-out map.  Also included, are several pages of biographical sketches for all the important characters, along with a plot synopsis and descriptions of some of the good, bad and ugly creatures of Middle Earth.
Two of the reviewers on Amazon, call this a "promo book" for the upcoming movie (but still gave it a 4 and 5-star rating). 
I'm inclined to agree with them, because promotional aspect of the book definitely worked it's magic on me.  I'm even more excited to see the film than I was prior to reading it. 
I'm also inclined to give this book another 5-star rating.  True, there are more detailed works like The Tolkien Companion and The Atlas Middle Earth.  But neither of these fine books will give you the visual references you may need, when you see the film for the first time, or even the eleventy-eleventh time.
For those interested in a behind-the-scenes look, there's The Hobbit--An Unexpected Journey Official Movie Guide.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Redshift Tales #1

A few months ago, the folks at Comic Life put out a Version 2. I bought two copies right away and downloaded them to my PC and laptop. The new version has some cool templates and features, but there is a noticeable learning curve after being so use to the initial version.

I finally found some time to do some serious playing around writing the other day. As an opening test, I wrote this vignette, Tales from The Redshift Chronicles: Carnage in Cortona Park. (You can also click on Redshift Tales #1 under the Studio Pages tab).

This was based on an actual gaming incident this past summer. During a session of my Star Wars Role Playing Game (SWRPG), the good guys were chasing a high-powered bad guy through a city park. One of the players tried to shoot said bad guy, but rolled a "1" on a 20-sided die (d20). In the d20 game system this is considered a fumble, which can have disastrous, or hilarious consequences, depending on which side you're on.

Fortunately for our hero, the result "only" turned out to be a burned-out powerpack in his weapon. However, despite being safe from immediate harm, this single malfunction jeopardized the entire team.

I took some liberties with the dialogue, primarily for the sake of space, but I like to think I captured the spirit of the banter that ensued.

I'm not sure if I'll use this new Comic Life version for Breakout from Bongolaan and other full-length graphic novels I plan on writing. For now, I'll toy around with the program and post vignettes, especially comedic ones, when my muse inspires me.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

All Up In My ----------?

(Image from:  Denver Westworld)
 Normally, I keep my comments about the daily sad state of affairs to my current events blog, Station WTFO.  However, since the Petraeus Affair contains a literary element, I thought one of the funnier aspects of this sordid tale deserved a spotlight here.
The title of Paula Broadwell's book is, All In: The Education of General David Petraeus.
However, that is not the title 7News came up with for it's 5 O'Clock News Show two nights ago.  In the frenzy to get the progrram on the air, someone in the station snagged a spoofed title on the internet and added it to the broadcast.
So instead of seeing the All In graphic, viewers were treated to the title:  All Up In My Snatch.
Who says there's no poetic justice in the real world? 
I wonder if the general-biographer affair will drive up book sales?  (The comments on are all over the map).
All joking aside, this scandal is no laughing matter.  Issues of compromised national security and dereliction of duty may be involved.  Today's breaking news is that Ms. Broadwell may have a significant amount of classified material on her computer.
A big no-no in both the intelligence field and within the literary community.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Book Review: Grimm Fairy Tales, Volume 2

I finished Zenescope's Volume 2, of their Grimm Fairy Tales within a couple of days after reading the first volume.  This volume garnered similar reviews on as Volume 1 did:  Seven reviews, 3 x 5-star, 3 x 4-star and only 1 x 3-star rating.  The last rater specifically wanted an issue without, what he called, the pornographic cover.  Unfortunately they got the "porno-cover" anyway.  The title image on this post, is the same one on my copy of this volume. 
As to pornographic--well...

...the cover and gallery art is indeed riske--to say the least. 
However, as I mentioned in yesterday's post, the stories within, are not porn parodies of the original Grimm Brother's tales.  The artwork is indeed eye-catching, but the stories themselves are hard-hitting, morality tales as well.  So I'm giving this one a 5-star rating, just like I did for the initial volume.
In Volume 2, Sela Mathers returns, attempting to intervene on those heading down the same wayward path as the characters in the actual fairy tales.  In the first volume, Sela was mostly successful.  After hearing/reading an appropriate story, those stuck at a moral crossroad, usually made the correct turn.
Not so in Volume 2. 
The following tales...
...are a shade darker because, most of the people Sela tries to help, make the same wrong choice--just like the characters in the folk tales did--and suffer dire consequences as a result.  Some realize their mistake--but too late to avoid the impending retribution.
At the end of the book, the story Timepiece, gives us a glimpse of Sela's life and a foretaste of adventures that lay ahead...
And speaking of glitz & glamor, the Zenescope announced an animated series is coming out, at a date yet to be determined.  They're still accepting donations...
In the meantime, here's a sample of what we hope to expect, in this movie trailer

Monday, November 12, 2012

Book Review: Grimm Fairy Tales, Volume 1

Okay, I admit it.  The reason why I picked up Zenescope's Grimm Fairy Tales was because of the cover art.  But I didn't limit my purchase to Volume 1.  I was impressed enough to buy the box collection containing the first 6 volumes. 
(There are now 10 volumes--and counting--along with spin-offs).
Despite cover and gallery art like this...
...the stories are not riske parodies of the classic tales compiled by The Brothers Grimm.  Yes, the women are beautifully drawn, but each story is darker and truer to the original, than many may have heard nowadays as children, or seen in a Disney animated movie. 
This first volume contains the following stories, originally published as individual comics:
...which I don't think any amount of "Disney Magic" can clean up. 
Each story is connected to today's world, thanks to the intervention of Sela Mathers into the lives of people faced with similar dilemmas, as those in the fairy tales.  (Apparently, Sela becomes something of a superhero in later volumes).
The book is available, new and used, on  There are eleven reviews, most of which are 4 and 5 star ratings.  Most of the complaints deal with quality control issues, especially from weak bindings.  (I don't have a problem with mine--yet).  Others didn't think some of the artwork was up to par.  Meanwhile, the four 2 and 3 star raters felt the stories fell flat or were unimaginative.
Since I admire good artwork and any un-sanitized version of a fairy tale, I give this book a 5-star rating.  The sexy cover art should be a reminder, that these aren't the versions you read to your children at bed time...

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Studio's 25th Movie: Clash at Heraclea

Were you ever involved in a project you grew to hate? 
Well, my latest YouTube movie Clash at Heraclea, turned out to be just such a project for me.  Oh, not because of the substance of the movie, but as a result of the torturous process of publishing it. 
This movie sat in my laptop file for over two years.  The big reason was due to "Life getting in the way." Primarily in the form of:  Enrolling in a writing course, getting divorced and moving to a new home.
However, I exacerbated things by starting other projects like my Star Wars Miniatures game and my Star Wars webcomic.  (In which I've fallen behind in both, but that's for another rant post...).
When I "rediscovered" Clash at Heraclea in my file, I thought it would be easy-peasy to finish-up where I left off.
Boy, was I so wrong.
Every time I tried saving the file, I got a pop-up window warning me that this program was already open by another user.  (Huh?).  Several hours of work disappeared, until I found a way to work around this issue/glitch.  I ended up with 8 versions of the movie until I finished the final edit.
I wanted to complete this film, because I feeling rather silly producing the prequel The Road to Heraclea,  back in December 2010 and not completing the subsequent movie.
More importantly, my friends Adrian and Dean put in a lot of hard work painting their figures and hosting a great game.  I wanted them to be--finally--recognized for their efforts.
So now that you've read through my rant post--or more likely, skipped down here to the bottom--here is:

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Pass in Review: AT-43 Star Troopers

A few of weekends ago, I went on a spending spree at two game stores, which I recently posted about. 

At the Hobbytown store in Wilsonville, OR, I ended up buying four boxes of AT-43 figures.  While I like pre-painted miniatures, I felt the Rackham products were a bit too pricey.  "Were" being the operative word, because the company went into liquidation a couple of years ago.  (I guess other gamers thought their figures were too pricey too).

This was, however, unfortunate because they made excellent quality figures.  They're now offered discount prices from sites like The Miniature Market and on the discount shelves in some retail stores, like Hobbytown.

I didn't snatch-up the packages right away, but spent over an hour pondering whether or not to buy them.  This was not because the figures were lacking in quality.  On the contrary, they're awesome looking.

My major concern was whether or not I could integrate these with my 25 millimeter (mm) Star Wars Miniatures.  The Hobbytown staff, while helpful, weren't sure if the AT-43 figures were 25, 28, or even 30 mm. 

I didn't have access to the internet, nor did I bring any of my Star Wars figures for a comparison.  With the "clock ticking" (I had to pick up my girlfriend from work), I decided to buy four of the box sets, all from the "U.N.A."  (United Nations of Ava).

So, without further ado, here's my latest sci-fi figure purchase:

The first set I decided on was the U.N.A. Star Trooper Squad.

This consists of 6 x troopers with assault rifles, 1 x trooper with a "Volcano Machine Gun," and a Star Trooper leader.
Rifle squads often need additional fire support, so I selected the U.N.A Star Trooper Attachment Set.
Some, (or maybe all?) of the troops, bearing the following weapons can be added to the basic squad:  Missile launcher and flame thrower, along with another Volcano Machine Gun.  A medic and/or engineer can also augment the squad, along with another officer/NCO.
All these figures have detachable heads that can be swapped out with triple-lens helmeted ones.
Troops wielding heavy weapons is one thing, but they're still foot-bound infantry. 
What about mobile firepower? 
As with Star Wars, the AT-43 universe seems fixated on "mechs" or "walkers."  The only two I found at Hobbytown were two "Fire Toads," Mark 02 and Mark 03.
At 50% off I couldn't pass these two up.  Now that my troops have mech support it was time to answer the big question:  Are these figures compatible with my 25mm Star Wars Miniatures? 
These U.N.A. troops bear a passing resemblance to Rebel Hoth troopers, so when I got home and conducted my photo-shoot, I dug out the appropriate Star Wars Miniatures for a direct comparison...
..."Dang!"  The AT-43 figures are visibly larger than the Star Wars ones, even when looking at them from a distance.  By the time I was taking these pictures I had access to the internet and confirmed the AT-43 figures are, in fact, 28mm. 
 But then I started thinking:  Maybe the mech/walkers can be integrated with the Star Wars figures?
Before answering this question, I placed a U.N.A. soldier and a Fire Toad side-by-side, for an initial comparison:
Then I placed a Hoth Trooper next to the Fire Toad: 
Hmmm.  Not bad.  In fact, I think the size ratio seen in the above photo is more appropriate. 
I mean, mechs SUPPOSE to be BIG, right?
So this purchase wasn't a total bust. 
I may buy a squad of "Red Block" infantry as opponents to the U.N.A. which will give me a couple of small forces for 28mm-scale games.  More importantly, I'm seriously considering obtaining more AT-43 vehicles for my sci-fi collection--especially if they're offered at discount prices. 
After some more internet snooping I came across pictures of "O.N.I" vehicles and figures (some are conversions):
They appear to be more suited for police/security/riot control than heavy combat.  However, they have that Aliens look that sci-fi gamers love--which is why these vehicles are almost impossible to find.
Just what I need--another quest for out-of-production game material.
I guess I'll be watching eBay more closely.