Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Finding the Best in a Tenuous Situation

It's 4.35 am.

I hit the sack early thinking, okay, voice-over in the morning, have to be there at 9.00, booked for two hours, get an early-ish night, wake up fresh.

Doesn't happen. As is all-too-often the case these days, sleep is interrupted, not by outside noise (actually the peaceful sound of a long and sustained rain shower at the moment), nor by the need to relieve myself (a new wrinkle in getting older, I have noticed).

What happens is the inner alarm goes off as my subconscious reminds me that the industry I have devoted much of my life to (acting) is slowly going down the gurgler, and that the voice-over I am doing in the morning is a mere shadow of the workload I used to do.

Now, compared to the problems of others, this is a small and probably meaningless hiccough. Many would see it as such. And I agree. I so very much agree. I always believe that things will get better, that change is around the corner, "Onward and Upward" is always my call to arms.

I know, I just know deep down where I keep my deepest beliefs, my warmest memories and my coldest fears, I know it will get better.

But sometimes, just sometimes, when the rent is due, when I am reminded how old I am, when I see the latest offerings from networks and studios out for a quick buck at the expense of taste and talent, when I see that a 15 year old barely-talented boy, famous for a haircut and being discovered on Youtube, is writing his auto-biography, or a woman herself hardly out of her teens, who feels she needs to wear a meat suit to be noticed, is complaining about how hard it is to earn millions and be a superstar . . . sometimes a touch of despair creeps in.

 Where do I go? How do I dispel this feeling of pointlessness and insignificance? Strange to say I go to something even tinier than me.

All I need to do is look at my boys.

Can't say it makes me feel that all is right with the world. I doubt that anything could do that. Not that I'm not hoping.

But I look at something like this and realise that within that world, specifically my small corner of it, there are good things, things to be cherished, things of which I can be justly proud, things I have worked hard to achieve. And all the petty injuries, failures and defeats, the panic and despair, all the regrets start to take a backseat. They don't disappear altogether (again, nothing could achieve that), but they don't have quite the significance they had when they managed to wake me from a well-earned slumber.

For a while I can enjoy the results of my work, and I am reminded of other achievements, acting performances that have pushed me beyond the expectations of my peers, painted figures that came together with clarity and painting skill in a moment that was unexpected, a scene in a script I was writing that reduced me to tears or had me laughing a deep belly-laugh that caught me by surprise.

And right at that moment, I know things will get better.

Here endeth my very personal discourse.


CBW came to me with a box of Perry War of the Roses archers. Now CBW is a willful young man, he doesn't hold with the "GW is the only range of figures to be used with WH or WH40K rule sets", oh no. Don't get me wrong, he loves the GW figures and Forgeworld, and all the other eye-openingly expensive figures that we all drool over in our own special ways. But he also understands the power of a well-earned buck.

So he came up to me one day and said "Turn these into a Dogs of War unit, I reckon they'll come up a treat." He used a sobriquet for me as he always does, but I won't embarrass myself by repeating it.

His request prompted some thought. The Perry box set is full of plasticky goodness, 40 figures all told, 28 archers, 10 polearm troops and 2 command in the configuration I eventually chose. And all for less than $30 AUS.

Now, I'm not going to compare prices, but that's not too damn shabby.

And, at the risk of repeating myself, this is what I came up with:

Same pic as above, but I didn't think you would mind too much.

Here's some more:

Now you will notice some interesting details. So I will go through them. First: all the bows are strung. Have had problems with plastic bows in the past when it comes to stringing them, too delicate, easily warped. That is until I found quilting thread, available from any haberdasher apparently, thin, strong and doesn't fuzz when paint is applied. Works like a charm.

Second: basing, stole this idea from Dave Taylor (thanks, Dave). Normally, GW basing is in singles and in some instances it makes sense, space marine squads, small units, and so forth. But if you have a large unit, what is the point? So long as you can remove the requisite numbers for casualties, how they are based is of no real concern.

This is how I configured the basing:

Nine files across and four ranks back. If you do your maths, it comes out to 36 figures, but I'm only using 32. Nine figure frontage, four figure side, gap in the middle. Or you can say that the unit has 36 figures, they are still straggling in. Justify it, who cares?

And I made a simple movement tray out of card and a length of square model-ship timber. As you can see plenty of individuals, a couple of threes and fours and a nice big command stand, suitably foliaged and displayed. The bigger bases give the modeller a chance to create little individual vignettes that will compliment the larger grouping.

I'm sure others have hit on this form of basing, but for a first try, I'm quite chuffed with this.

I call the unit the Bloody Stride or the Red Legs. The back story is simple: troops were raised by Baron Dietrich von Orken-Fleischeberg*, for defence of the cattle industry and abbatoirs developed by the Baron (as his name implies) and studded around the mountain owned by the family, since it was taken from orcs three hundred years earlier by the Baron's noble ancestor, Friedrich ohne örtlich festgelegten Aufenthaltsort**.

Baron Dietrich's youngest son prevailed upon his father to allow him to use the troops he had raised to lead an expedition across the sea to lands reputed to be rich in gold ("cities are made of the stuff, Papa"), and precious gems ("and you tread rubies beneath your feet"). His father agreed to the expedition ("if you will only shut up and let me read the paper"), giving the boy, Wenig-wiener*** by name, a small selection of the less reputable men in his forces and one drunken sergeant called Errol. He also gave him a ship, the "Fliegenschweinefleischrinde" ****. And so armed off they went.

After an uneventful trip, they landed on far jungle-covered shores, inhospitable and smelling slightly of rising damp and kerosene. Before they could get off the beach however, from the jungle burst a horde of slavering . . . Lizardmen! Not wholly expected. The first to fall was Errol, who tried to offer the lead lizards a draught of ale. He went down, his head split open by an obsidian axe, still giggling and singing a song about a feral cat called Tinkles.

The rest of the men turned tail and fled back to the jolly-boats that had brought them to shore. At the very edge of the water, Wenig-wiener drew his archers and halbards together and ordered them to cover the now panicked and disorderly fleeing. Man after man dropped, impaled by thrown axes or hurtling arrows, but the small band gave as good as it got, and the lizards started taking significant casualties, so much so that there was more blood lapping around the legs of the fighters than sea water.

In a moment of respite, as the lizards gathered for another attack, Wenig-wiener ordered the retreat of his men and they all took to the boats. Arrows and spears followed the retreating men back to their ship.

As the pitiful remains of the rear guard assembled, exhausted on the deck, the cabin boy, Lars, pointed out that their leggings were all red. The blood had soaked into their clothes. The significance didn't dawn on them at that point, because they suddenly noticed that not only lizard-filled canoes, but also flying lizards were starting to congregate around the ship. The prudent decision was made to weigh anchor and get the hell out of there.

It was decided later, when they all got home and the story was told, that an added layer of toughness could be given to the Baron's indifferent troops by associating them with the ill-fated expedition and the deeds of the rearguard . . . sort of making his cow-minding troops vicariously hard. All his troops were given red leggings, even the officers' armour had red painted leg plates, and new banners were given to the troops. They showed a tristar of running red legs and the words "Blutiger Fortschritt"*****, and the trumpeter's banner held the words "Stellung in einem blutigen Meer"******.

The Baron took to hiring the troops out to anyone who had the wherewithall, and they were found to be quite effective so long as they stayed in a tight little bundle, were close to water and someone beat the bushes for skinks and geckos.

Wenig-winer was put to work in a meat-packing plant, where he eventually stumbled into a seasoning vat and expired, although it was commented that his skin had never been so tender or fragrant.

Hope you enjoyed. This was quite a long post, but it's now 6.20am, and I am feeling a lot better. Thanks, guys, makes it all worthwhile.


* Basically "Orc Meat Mountain" - whether it is for the victory over the orcs, or because Friedrich had all the captured orcs impaled on poles and planted on the hillside, about 2,000 all told, is unclear.
** ohne örtlich festgelegten Aufenthaltsort - of no fixed abode
*** Wenig-wiener - "little sausage", nickname from his mother, who was singularly unimpressed at his birth.
**** Fliegenschweinefleischrinde - The Flying Pork Rind
***** Blutiger Fortschrit - The Bloody Stride
****** Stellung in einem blutigen Meer - Standing in a Bloody Sea


  1. Interesting tale, but I seem to have missed a detail - what is the significance (or identity) of the skelly on a stick?

  2. On a modelling level, associates the unit with the GW Empire. I thought it was a good decorative piece

    On a transcendental level, did you notice where the skeleton is pointing? The sign gives the hint.

  3. Great job on the mini's Pete. Interesting tale, my mind boggles at the crazy things going on in your head.

    I don't know anything about acting but I don't doubt it'll turn around. I'll start a drive for you to win a gold logo. that should help things a bit!


    Ant (Founder of the Peter Callan for Gold Logo society)