Sunday, June 30, 2013

Noteworthy Blog # 7: Anatoli's Game Room

(Image:  Evolution of a Miniatures Painter)

Wargaming is an international hobby.  It has always been so, but it took the advent of the internet to instantly connect gamers from all across the planet to each other.

One such international connection is Anatoli's Game Room.  Hailing from Skane, Sweden, Alexander Kawczynski (aka "Anatoli") plays and reviews an ecclectic mix of games ranging from historical to horror--and everything else in between.

There are a lot of gaming blogs out their in the blogosphere, but few of them can boast of having followers numbering in the triple digits, in Anatoli's case--468, along with winning the Stylish Blogger Award.

Anatoli's Game Room, has accomplished both.

In addition to reviewing and playing games, Anatoli creates his own gaming movies, like this cool silent horror film

What I also like about Anatoli's site, is his take-no-prisoners war movie reviews.  I'm grateful for knowing which movies to avoid and the ones worth watching.  These reviews also include foreign films that are probably unfamiliar with us Yanks.  Being of Polish descent, (my maternal grandmother and her siblings emigrated to America between the two world wars), I'm very interested in checking out Czas Honoru

Anatoli isn't the only one who likes this Polish production:  The series has averaged 7 out of 10 stars on IMDb.

I stumbled across Anatoli's Game Room, via The Miniatures Page, where other great gaming blogs can be discovered.

Thanks Anatoli!  And keep up the good work!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Father-in-Law's Korean War Service

(Image:  Me, Rex and Janet at our wedding)
A couple of weeks ago, my father-in-law, Rex, passed away.  He was initially admitted to the hospital for severe headaches.  The doctors figured out these were caused by fluid buildup within his skull, but were unable to determine the cause, nor reverse the buildup without the continued use of a catheter.  The only thing that could be done was to keep him sedated.  Finally, my wife Janet and her siblings decided to cease treatment and Rex died shortly afterwards.
Like my own father, Rex was a Korean War combat veteran.  Back when I was getting to know Janet and her family, I asked if he could specify where and when he saw action.  He merely waved his hand in the air and said, "Right from the beginning and we went all up and down the peninsula." Until, I found out later, he was wounded by shrapnel sometime before 1951.
From what I know of the Korean War, I figured this put Rex "in theater" shortly after the initial North Korean invasion through the Chinese intervention.
While Janet and her family dealt with the funeral arrangements, I pieced together Rex's wartime service by compiling information from family photos, military records, a Western Union telegram and my copy of The West Point Atlas of American Wars, Volume 2 (1959)
What I discovered was nothing short of amazing.
Rex was assigned to Bravo Company of the 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division.  At the time, I was frustrated that none of the personal records, along with a 1949 "local boy does good" article from the Spokane Herald (now Spokesman Review) mentioned, was what battalion this particular Bravo Company was assigned to. 
But now that I think of it, in the US Army companies were often labeled in alphabetical sequence; with Alpha, Bravo and Charlie assigned to the regiment's first battalion, with Delta, Echo and Foxtrot to the 2nd, etc.  (Typically there were 3 companies to a battalion and 3 battalions to a regiment).  So I'm going to assume Rex was in the 8th Cav's First Battalion (1/8).
The Western Union telegram opened with the typically ominous line: 
Dear Mr. and Mrs....we regret to inform you that your son...
Fortunately in Rex's case, the sentence concluded with:
...was lightly wounded on 1 November 1950. 

When I showed the telegram to my brother-in-law Tim, he quipped, "What exactly does "slightly wounded" mean?  I can't imagine any parent receiving something like this."

Neither can I.

However, lightly wounded or not, Rex's DD Form 214 (which is still used today), clearly stated that he received no wounds due to enemy action and therefore, no Purple Heart Medal.


Tim and I looked at each other:  Hmmm.  Friendly fire, maybe?

Looking at family photos we learned Rex was part of Bravo Company's 60 millimeter (mm) mortar team.  Initially on occupation duty in Japan, the 1st Cav was rushed over to South Korea to help plug the gaps in the Pusan Perimeter.  Rex, suffering from a broken wrist, missed the initial deployment, but rejoined Bravo Company afterwards.

In September, 1950, MacArthur executed his amphibious flank attack at Inchon and chased the shattered remnants of the North Korean Army all the way up to the Yalu River.  So the war looked like it was just about won--despite the reports of Chinese forces massing near, on--and even over--the China-North Korean border.

As I scrolled through the 8th Cavalry Wikipedia page, I spotted this sentence under the Korean War Section, third paragraph: 

At 1930 on 1 November 1950 the Chinese attacked the 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry, all along its line.

The link contains enough detail to paint a grim tactical picture.  Basically, all three of the 8th Cavalry Regiment's battalions were isolated and surrounded by elements of the Chinese Communist Forces (CCF) 115th Division and 116th Division near Unsan.

To commanding officers and staff manning various field headquarters, the surprise offensive by the Chinese looked something like this...

...but to the GI's fending off Chinese infiltration and human wave attacks, the situation was considerably more up-close and personal...
(Image:  Chinese troops assaulting a hill)
...way too personal.
During this battle, which lasted several days, the 8th Cav's sister regiments, the 5th_Cavalry Regiment and the 7th Cavalry Regiment--of Little Big Horn fame--tried, but failed to break through to their beleaguered buddies.  1st Cav commander was left with no choice but to order the 8th Cav's survivors--growing smaller by the hour--to break out any way possible.
In other words:  You're on your own fellas.
Under such a chaotic tactical situation, with friendly units firing into an area containing a mixed bag of friendly and enemy forces, it's entirely possible Rex, along with others, may have suffered from friendly fire. 
Although there may be other, more mundane explanations for Rex not getting credit for his wound.  Janet recalled her dad saying in-passing, that he turned down the Purple Heart. Also, the US military is infused with an arcane bureaucracy, just like every other governmental department.  This requires every "i" to be dotted and every "t" to be crossed--in triplicate.  If not, then the paperwork gets rejected. 
Regardless of the lack of proper documentation, I impressed upon my in-laws that Rex didn't just "see some action" while in Korea:  He was yanked out of the cushy garrison duty in Japan, only to find himself having to "E&E," (Evade and Escape as we call it now), through enemy lines--while wounded--several months later.
The only veterans who may claim to have survived a worse ordeal would be the Marines "advancing in a different direction" from"Frozen Chosin."
For the Chinese Communist Party's Propaganda Department though, chasing the "foreign devils" out of North Korea was quite a feather in their collective revolutionary caps.
(Image: Chinese propaganda poster)
 One of the items Janet "inherited back" was a picture she gave her dad, similar to this...
...of the Korean War Memorial.  It's now on our fireplace mantle in honor of both our fathers.
At Rex's funeral, the small honor guard played taps.  I'll end this post with something a bit more jaunty and befitting a cavalry trooper--Garryowen.
Say hello to my dad for me, will you Rex?
(Image: William M. Henkle, cica 1951)

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Books & Brews with C.C. Humphreys

A few nights ago, I drove up to Third Place Books (Ravenna) to attend the finale of Chris Humphreys' "Books & Brews" Tour.  This event was to promote the re-release of his Revolutionary War novel, Jack Absolute

I read and reviewed this book nearly four years ago, shortly after meeting Chris at the PNWA Writers Conference. 

Despite the typical rush hour traffic and intermittent rain, I arrived at Third Place Books with 15 minutes to spare, barely enough time to order--but not eat--dinner from Vios Cafe, before Chris showed up. 

About eight of us gathered in the impromptu auditorium set up by the Third Place staff.  Two of my fellow attendees were local authors Terry Persun and his daughter, Nicole--both are very active in PNWA

I tried not to munch on my souvlaki too loudly, as Chris discussed the origins of the character Jack Absolute, his writing/researching processes and most of all--reading excerpts from his work.

Most writers describe themselves as introverts and tend to shy away from public speaking.  Sometimes in a manner similar to a vampire reacting to a crucifix.

Chris, on the otherhand, has been an actor, practically since birth.  (His father and all his grandparents were actors).  So Chris doesn't just read from his books--he performs!  The voice inflections he employs helps the audience distinguish who's doing the talking during dialogues.  He can employ accents and dialects without sounding hammy--like I do when I'm involved in a role-playing game.

Even if you don't buy any of Chris's books--but I highly recommend that you do--it's worth checking out whatever venue he's attending, just to hear him read.

Once the hour-long session was over, Chris, the Persuns and I chatted for nearly an additional hour while I got my second copy of Jack Absolute and A Place Called Armageddon autographed for my wife, Janet.

A Place Called Armageddon is very special to Janet and I, because it was the conversation piece that brought us together. 

So while Chris was signing, I ended up hogging most of the conversation telling the tale of how my wife and I met to Terry, Nicole and her boyfriend...

...I started attending a new gym after my divorce and relocation a couple years ago.  Janet started showing up a month or so after I did.  She was training for a triathlon she wanted to run with her son.  As we found out later, we both noticed each other right away.

The first time we spoke, I was on a chest-press machine as Janet walked by and said, "Have a good workout."

I could have sworn I said, "Thank you miss," but according to Janet's recollection I said "Thank you ma'am."

Anyway, he said/she said aside, I thought she was merely being nice, so it wasn't until our second encounter that Armageddon came into play.  A week or so later, was peddling away on a stationary cycle reading this book.  As Janet walked by, she suddenly stopped, did an abrupt right-face, walked up to me an blurted, "How's the book you're reading?"

Now, it's not an every day occurrence that a beautiful woman approaches me and inquires about my reading material.  So I was taken aback by her sudden approach.

My response went something like this:  "(Mumble-mumble)...historical novel...(mumble-mumble)...Siege of Constantinople...(mumble-mumble)...1453 A.D...(mumble-mumble)...written by a friend of mine...yadda-yadda...etcetera, so on and so forth."

Needless to say, it wasn't my best book review.  But she smiled anyway and said, "Enjoy your book and have a good workout."

After this encounter, I made it a point to approach her and say hello.  Then we started working out together on adjacent elliptical machines, which led to a first date a couple weeks before Christmas.  Janet asked me out by inviting me to her place for dinner and a game of Scrabble

Why a game of Scrabble?

Well, somewhere during our Courtship Phase, when I told Janet I was a table-top gamer (as opposed to a computer/video gamer), she was thinking of games such as, Monopoly, Life and Scrabble...

...not the "Blood and Swash" kind of stuff I've played, like War Cry and Battle Lust, Skull & Crossbones, A Touch of Evil or Zombies!!!

Experience with these games however, provided no help for me whatsoever, when after dinner, Janet broke out her Deluxe Scrabble Board and her Official Scrabble Player's Dictionary.

Other dates soon followed.  Then, with just a few hours remaining of the Old Year, our friendly relationship took on a romantic trajectory--and concluded with our wedding.

We got married a few months ago and A Place Called Armageddon had a place of honor at our ceremony...

So buy one of Chris Humphreys' novels and read it in public!
Who knows?  Someone special may walk into your life and ask you about the book you're reading.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Noteworthy Blog # 6: A Gamer's Tale

(Image:  Martian Tripods rampaging across the countryside at Enfilade!
Our Enfilade convention finished two weeks ago, but some folks are already gearing-up for next year.  One of these individuals is Kevin Smyth, who's often been Enfilade's Director ever since I started attending about a dozen years ago.  Even when he's abdicated his Directorship, Kevin's still a linkpin for our orgnization, providing continuity with sponsors and staff members of the facilities we utilize.
Plus he's an avid miniatures painter and hosts unique games everyone enjoys.  His interest range from local and regional history, to steam punk, Space: 1889-type of games (pictured above, although Kevin didn't host that particular game this year).
Kevin's blog, A Gamer's Tale, provides NHMGS members with some insights on what he's cooking-up for upcoming conventions and game days.  People have to pre-register, or get in line early to sign-up for one of his games.  (In all the years I've attended Enfilade, I haven't been able to yet).
And unlike the rest of us blood-thirsty gamers, Kevin also hosts family friendly events, like classic air racing...
...and "Thunderboats."
Although, knowing gamers' penchant for competition, I'm sure table-top fatal crashes sometime (often?/regularly?) occur. 
So if your interested in what may be in store for us Pacific Northwest gamers, be sure to visit A Gamer's Tale.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Program Review: Archer, Season 2

The show Archer, now in it's fourth season, continues to be one of FX's popular shows.  Season 3 is available on DVD, which I bought when it was released, but I haven't watched it yet.
I just finished watching Season 2 and most of the extras last night.  So if you're a latecomer, like me, this review is for you. 
If you are new to the Archer TV series, (this Wikipedia link contains plot-spoilers), it's best to start with Season 1.  Not every episode takes off where the previous one ended; however, there's enough of a story arc, that may seem confusing for anyone who hasn't watched the show from the beginning. 
Season 2 maintained the same raunchy, morbid humor, along with the over-the-top graphic violence the first season did.
Some folks on thought there was a slight dip in quality, due to the repetitiveness of the jokes and gags, which made the idea of re-watching an episode less-than appealing. 
Most reviewers, however, were pleased with the show, as 152 gave it a 5-star rating. 
But was Season 2 as hilarious as the first season? 
I'm not so sure, because what I found most interesting was the character development.  In this season, some of the episodes delved into the backstories of other ISIS members.  Two of this wacky crew, Woodhouse and Cheryl, even had entire episodes devoted to them.  And fans clamoring to learn more about the other characters as well.
Most of the extras on this set are enjoyable to watch.  There's an "interview" with Archer, along with a shout-out-gone-wrong to soldiers serving in Afghanistan; a dream-within a dream, where the image of the actual voice-actor, H. Jon Benjamin is used instead of Sterling Archer; and a panel discussion with some of the actors at the 2011 San Diego Comi-Con
The one extra that can be skipped is the "Archersaurus: Road to Extinction."  This is another dinosaur-substituting-for-Archer episode that, to the best of my knowledge, didn't air.  As a parody-of-a-parody, it doesn't work and is completely annoying. 
Speaking of annoying, the few 1-star raters complained mostly about the quality of the DVD they purchased.  So be sure to order your copy from a reputable company, or store.
One final note:  Even though this is an animated series, it's DEFINATELY not for kids.
As for me, it's on to watching Season 3!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Noteworthy Blog #5: Ironic Mom

Insanity is hereditary--you get it from your kids.

I use to see this statement on bumper stickers and wall plaques years ago.  I almost forgot about it until I started reading Leanne Shirtliffe's blog Ironic Mom.  Now it comes back to me every time I read her latest post.

I don't think that's Leanne in the above picture. However, after reading about some of the antics her twins, "Thing 1 & Thing 2" have engaged in, it might as well be.

Anyone planning on having kids, are in the midst of raising kids, or have had kids fly the nest (until they get hungry and need their clothes washed), should check out Leanne's hilarious insights and advice on parenting.  Because as we all know...  

According to her short bio, it appears that caber tossing and chasing transvestites are skills that just may come in handy while raising your little hellions darlings.

Who knew?

An added bonus for us readers (and Leanne's sanity), Ironic Mom hosts guest speakers of other looney loving mothers who discuss their mental breakdowns creative maternal skills with comedic flair.

For those of you who want something more substantial than a website--like--say--a parenting textbook--well you're in luck!

Leanne's debut book, Don't Lick the Minivan: And Other Things I'd Never Thought I'd Say to My Kids hit the shelves less than two weeks ago.

Order now and your treasured copy will arrive in time for Mother's Day Father's Day!

While I don't recall my daughter ever licking our minivan when she was little, I do remember catching her sandpapering the side of it one day.  She was imitating her mother, who was into woodworking at the time.  Nor was the Sandpapering Episode the only time she played at Momma's Little Helper:  There was the time she slathered a pantry shelf with Crisco, as if it were varnish...

...So I can relate to Leanne's title and I intend to buy the book eventually very soon.

While you're waiting for Don't Lick the Minivan to arrive, I suggest you keep reading Ironic Mom.

Because, at the very least, we want to give everyone the impression we have a handle on this parenting thing, right?

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Enfilade 2013--The Movie

Last week, my friend Joe and I did went on a road trip for a "fly-by" of this year's Enfilade convention. 
Normally, this is a 3-day event traditionally held on Memorial Day Weekend.  (One year, it was held in mid-June due to a reservation conflict with the hotel).  Unfortunately, due to my work schedule, I was able to attend only a portion of the convention. 
But I did walk away with some cool games!  (See previous post).
Since then, I've been busy sifting through the photos I took and compiling them to make:  Enfilade 2013--The MovieStern Rake Studio's 29th movie portrays only a portion of the convention, specifically, the Saturday 2-6 PM gaming period, or Time Block D, for those who attended.