Monday, 28 July 2008

Happy in the haze of a drunken hour

Such was my state last weekend, when I scarpered back to my parents' bit of the country for my cousin Paul/uncle Terry's combined birthday shenanigan. It was okay, I suppose. I spent the first bit of the day drinking in the conservatory with Paul's grandfather, whom I don't recall ever meeting before. He entertained me with tales of how his Jewish friend was too fat to join the RAF, how the happiest time of his life was when he was a tailgunner in a Lancaster bomber shooting down Germans, why he doesn't trust Muslims, the way that "The Continentals" have ruined meat for the rest of us... then Dr Sister arrived, allowing me to get on with the serious business of getting quite inappropriately hammered. By the middle of the afternoon, Dr Sister, Neil The Boyfriend, my dad and I had seemingly managed to relegate ourselves to the Naughty Step at the foot of the garden; slightly removed from the rest of the party, but still close enough that we could dive in and grab delicious snackums from time to time.

Meanwhile, two great events have occurred in Sam's life in the last month. Firstly, he has shaved off his beard ("What a strange sensation; I can feel the wind whistling through my chins"), though for some reason retained a ridiculous moustache. Secondly, he has bought a new car. Well, new to him, anyway.

Clearly, the first of these two crucial developments is of little interest to anyone other than Sam himself. The second, however, is somewhat more significant to Matt and myself, as will soon become apparent. Sam's "new" car is the majestic 1988 Volvo 240 GLT (Grand Luxe Touring), commonly referred to by motoring journalists as "The Swedish Brick". It has a genuine leatherette interior.

And this has inspired Matt and I, to no-one's greater surprise than our own. You see, Sam has gone out and bought a car that is clearly rubbish, but that he really likes - although in his defence, it is still infinitely better than his previous car; a Ford Fiesta, mostly composed of rust held together with duck tape, which he attempted to run on chip fat for a while. Anyway, this is precisely the kind of irrational heart-over-head decision that Sam can make with ease (because he is a buffoon), but that Matt and I are far too sensible to ever make - as much as we might like to. What we both need is an excuse to be as dumb as Sam, and buy rubbish cars that we love, but that we know will be appalling to run.

And so we have decided that for our holidays next year, we shall go on a road tour of the British Isles in our rubbish cars of choice. In a kind of Top-Gear-esque fashion, we have budgeted ourselves a maximum of £500 for buying our rubbish cars of choice, and will then vaguely bimble about the UK doing "stuff". The finer details (like where we will go and what we'll do) have yet to be be pinned down, but of course we have already decided what our rubbish cars of choice shall be. Mine will be a Mk3 Toyota Supra; a 3l turbo, if I can find one that comes in under budget.

Matt, meanwhile, is wasting work time searching eBay for a cheap BMW 5-series V8 (apparently considered to be "one of the most elegant shapes of its time").

Our intention is to sell these terrible heaps o' crap once we're done with them...

That's the plan, anyway.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

This is Nerdcore

As promised/threatened, here are some pictures of the toys that Matt and I made, all assembled and painted. This is the complete unit of four; 316pts of fear-causin', great weapon wieldin', slightly diseased killpigs.

And this one here is the very first one that we cast.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Red Sparowes

As I mentioned, I went to see Red Sparowes with Zak and The Boy earlier this week. It was a considerably calmer affair than the brutal mauling we received at the hands Johnny Truant, but an amazing gig nonetheless.

There was just one support band, and I'd never heard of them before. The Pirate Ship Quintet are not, as it turns out, pirates; there are five of them though. Their songs stick pretty closely to the standard post-rock template; that is, quiet-loud-quiet-loud-apocalyptically loud (with the option of an additional quiet/loud thrown in at either end); and so in theory there's nothing particularly remarkable about them. But they do it so very well... the songs were epic and captivating, and had that extra something that elevated them above the output so many other bandwagon-jumping post rock wannabes. They left the stage to deservedly rapturous applause.

There was a brief break as the bands swapped over, and everyone tried to get to the bar at once; and then Red Sparowes were up. As per usual, their instrumental soundscapes (documenting, among other things, the catastrophic economic disaster that was The Great Leap Forward) were accompanied by black and white film images projected onto the wall behind them, providing a focal point for the band and adding intensity to the music. It's hard for me to adequately describe just how fantastic seeing this band live actually is; so I'm not going to try. You'll just have to go and see them yourselves.

Or watch this.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Rated G

On Thursday, Matt left the relative safety of his White Supremacist Command Bunker and came round here so that we try our hand at casting miniatures.

I feel compelled at this stage to point out that this was not some sneaky attempt to save money on the cost of buying toy soldiers; nor was it a zany get-rich-quick scheme. No, as you might expect it’s far geekier than that. I decided that for a particular type of creature in my army, rather than use the standard model I would ‘convert’ my own, using parts of a current model, the majority of an older out-of-production model, and a bit of scratch-built putty sculpting goodness. The problem with this is that I need four of these beasts, and getting hold of that old out-of-production model (a Chaos Dwarf Great Taurus, if you must know) is both tricky and expensive – you have to wait until one turns up on eBay, and then be prepared to pay between £25 and £40 for it.

Whereas 1kg of mouldmaking RTV-101 silicone rubber only costs £20…

The mould itself was fairly easy to make. The complicated/exciting/hazardous bit would be the actual casting process, which is obviously why Matt was so keen to have some involvement. The initial plan was to use the uber gas barbecue that Dozer liberated from The Pub to heat our white metal in an aluminium watering can that was conveniently lying about. The watering can seemed like a sound move because it had a nice long spout, which would make the pouring of molten metal into the mould a bit easier.

We hit our first snag when the spout of our can fell off, it having been merely soldered on. Oops. Not to worry, we had a back up plan.

It is commonly understood that most problems can be solved with the careful application of a hammer; in this instance we used it to mash the edge of an old milk pan into a slightly more precise poury bit. Needless to say, by this point we were both quite intoxicated by the heady rush of barbecuing and metalwork, and were feeling quite exceptionally manly… but then it started to rain, so we had to retreat indoors before we had a chance to take our tops off and start doing weights.

The metal we used for the casting came entirely out of my bitz box – a kind of scrap yard of old toy soldiers, spare parts and offcuts. Matt insisted on checking through it all and removing the most choice bits of eBay fodder before it got melted. A tablespoon was used to skim the slag off the top of the liquid metal. I don’t expect this to be of interest to anyone; but I am a puerile engineering geek, and it pleases me to be able to use the word ‘slag’ so appropriately. I’m sure that dog breeders experience the same joy with the word ‘bitch’. The twats.

The mould was contained in an old soup tin, and the whole thing was then heated in the oven so as to prevent the metal from immediately solidifying on contact. It seemed as though all our efforts were in vain, though, when the mold started to brim over a bit sooner than we expected. We figured that a lump of metal had set in the mould and stopped the rest of it from filling, and dumped the whole thing into a sink full of cold water to let it cool off.

Because the mould had expanded slightly in the oven, we had to cut the tin away with clippers. Which is when we noticed that the channel cut into the bottom of the mould to allow air to escape had filled with metal… had it worked after all? We held our breath in collective anticipation.

With the tin cut away, all that remained was to carefully pry away half the mould, and see if our new toy had all of its fingers and toes, so to speak…

Huzzah! We had successfully played God, sinned against toy soldiers, infringed on copyright and made our own Dragon Ogre Bull Centaur Thing. Here is a poor photo of the final outcome, pictured alongside the original model (left), both in the shadow of the potently inspirational liquid that fuels all such manly DIY exploits.

All the green bits of the original were sculpted from scratch; the other colourful bits are just from where I was too lazy to strip the paint off of the various components that were used to construct this monstrosity. It still doesn’t really give a good idea of what the finished models will look like; arms, heads and additional bits of armour from more readily available sources will be added to finish them off. Perhaps I will put up photos of them when they’re done…

In other news:

  • I went to see Red Sparowes with The Boy and Zak earlier this week. They were amazing. Report to follow.
  • Charlie Cat came back to visit for a couple of days. We had an impromptu tea party in the front garden in her honour. She continues to rock, despite the photographic evidence of her wearing a tea cosy on her head which might suggest otherwise.
  • Dozer’s motorbike got stolen, and subsequently recovered a few days later by Joe and myself from an alleyway less than 100 yards from our house.
  • I caught Mouse eating a fly the other day. Urgh.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Drink first, ask questions later

This is precisely the kind of reckless attitude that leads to a chap drinking shots of absinthe with Dozer, Sam and Ultimate Fighting Rich at 1am after drunkenly stumbling home from a splendidly face-melting gig.

No, I will not ever learn.

The gig in question took place at The Croft, and first up were local nobodies The Truth About Comets. They kicked out a confused montage of all their influences, but played well, and seemed quite unperturbed by the fact that their meagre audience was insistent on standing at least 20ft from the stage at all times. Derivative metalcore can be contagious, don’tcha know.

Then came Ella, another local band – albeit a tad more established. Less derivative, more forgettable. Moving on…

Throats were splendid. Crazed death-punk-thrash-screams were interspersed with dark, groove-laden grindcore jams, which acted as a counterpoint to the… yes, I am just talking nonsense now. But I maintain that they were splendid.

Not as splendid, however, as the mighty Johnny Truant. I last saw these guys some five years ago, touring in support of Isis, Cult of Luna, and, er, DJ Speedranch (ahem). I seem to remember arriving late, and having to squint at them from the back of a sold-out LA2 in London as they completed the last half of their set… This time around, things were different. The five of them wandered through the crowd to the stage, picked up their instruments, and proceeded to annihilate all that lay in their path. My memory’s a bit hazy from all the booze ‘n’ that, but I believe that the entire planet was destroyed.


It was all very cathartic. Punishing, but cathartic. The next gig is Red Sparowes, on Monday; until then its all painty-painty drink-drink. Anything to drown out the sound of thinking.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

stupid brain

Man, I had a weird dream last night.

As is the way with these things, the precise details disappeared straight out of my head with the arrival of morning and some groggy semblance of consciousness, but I do recall that it had something to do with the assimilation/extermination of the human race at the hands of some very ordinary-looking (yet deeply sinister) beings. A bit Bodysnatchers-ish, I suppose… I was being pursued through a house, consumed by despair and regret and on the verge of giving up all hope; when suddenly I was rescued by my dad, who somehow transported me back in time with him. We ended up in a pleasant little pub next to a canal, in a city full of WW2 Nazis in odd flying machines.

And then I woke up.

That last bit may well have something to do with a Trailer I recently watched for a forthcoming film called Iron Sky.

The rest of it makes no sense at all.