Sunday, December 12, 2010

2nd Annual Fleet Review

A few years ago when researching color for my miniature of Graf Spee I discovered the King George VI's coronation fleet review. Last year, I saw a short clip of aerial film, which I've not been able to find again since. Seeing that many ships in one place at one time was . . . breathtaking. And I decided, I've got a decent harbor and a couple of hundred ships and boats. Maybe I should have a fleet review. I recall it was about this time of year, as I got a December order in the middle of the thing and incorporated them into the review, just to see how they'd look.

Well, this year, just before my birthday, I decided to make it an annual tradition. And this time I was smart enough to take pictures. So I present to you my own Second Annual Fleet Review. I wish I could show you just how impressive a sight it is to see the masts of two hundred miniature ships fading to the horizon when you view them from eye level, but it's hard to take it in with a camera, and the flash creates a contrast that obscures all but the nearest ships.

So this oblique view will have to suffice.

(The harbor isn't in the loveliest of surroundings, what with the warehouses, factories, and barracks.And the lighting isn't great, since it's underground. Further, the brown water is a bit unsightly. I suppose I could dye it blue, or even just lay out a sheet, but the review was rather impromptu, as you can see. The next will be more elaborate, no doubt.)

Further, I took bird's eye views of the different nations that constitute my own private fleet. Here is the US Navy contingent:

The Royal Navy is, of course, also quite well represented:

The Imperial Japanese Navy is also quite intimidating:

The French Fleet is a good bit smaller and still somewhat more drab, not having benefited from the modernizations that other fleets have been afforded:

The Italian Fleet is, at least, colorful:

The German Fleet is, of course, a shadow of its Great War glory, but at least it's here:

(The Russians, Greeks, Turks, Chinese, and Brazilians, for instance, haven't even made it yet.)

To finish things out, here are a few Norse and Swedish merchantmen, and some representative tugs, lighters, barges, and harbor craft. Oh, and two small floating drydocks:

I hope you find this fun and enjoyable. I've certainly had fun building the fleet. I'll try to follow up with a more serious post in the near future.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Fierce winter wind

Mist and snow, driven on parallel winds,
Swirl in front of me.
Like frozen
Fire the delicate white tendrils
Twist around my
Feet, bright in the headlights of
Oncoming cars.
Dark against the grey road. Lost in their own
Terrifying midnight shadow when the impromptu
Caravan has passed.

They burn with their intensity, these
Greedy jewels that glitter in the dim grey
Light of porches and parking lots.
They are chips of the
Eternal, shattered in some
Medieval examination and found

And I wander among them, one more
Fragment blown on the
Fierce winter wind.

11 December 2010

Friday, December 10, 2010

Am I gay?

I'm sitting in my car crying to the end of the first act of Nutcracker. And I come in the door spinning like some kind of freak. If I didn't like girls so much I'd question my own sexuality. No wonder all the kids at my middle school were so darn certain I was gay.

On the other hand . . . Tchaikovsky did write some very good music. Maybe if I were gay I'd also be rich and famous. (And somewhat more talented than I presently am.)

Yeah, it's been an emotional and goofy year. But I' do like Pyotr Illyitch. And all those folks that insist that Brahms is salvation and Tchaikovsky (or Wagner) an untalented hack can go suck it. Don't get me wrong, I like Brahms too, but I'll tell you what, I'd much rather play (or listen to) Tchaikovsky. Which means half my professors will now officially hate me.

And oh yes, there is a point to Christmas. It's not Christmas without mice and little girls having whacked out acid trips. And I officially like cultures where fairy tales are for grown ups. (For the curious, Russian opera is also replete with fairy tales. Fairy tales with big hairy men that sing really low and gardens full of lithe exotic princesses . . . And dwarves who keep their magic in their beards. It's just that kinky.)

But then Russia always did fairy tales better than Disney. Better music, better stories. Just . . . better.

Ladies and gentlemen, it's the holidays, so go out and crack some nuts. And dance!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Courage to Cut and Paste

So I'm wondering if there's anyone else roundabout that builds 1:2400 gaming miniatures. I really enjoy modifying Panzerschiffe models to make them look both more accurate to specific prototypes at particular times (Usually early 1942) and a little bit more presentable. (I like the price of Panzerschiffe, and for gaming minis, they work great, but as a modeler I can't stop myself from fussing.) I thought I might start off by describing one of the more interesting conversions I've done.

Like the other naval powers of the interwar era, Britain's first aircraft carriers began life as other kinds of beasties, and being a fan of carriers, I felt compelled to model not one, not two, but all of Britain's early carriers. Furious, Glorious, and Courageous present special problems. All three were . . . similar? . . . sort of? . . . but owing to their different histories they were all quite distinct from one another by the time WWII rolled around.

Panzerschiffe makes a model that's pretty close to Glorious and Courageous, so I started there. Having
already built Curious and Uproarious, Outrageous was the only of the half sisters remaining. (That would be Furious, Glorious, and Courageous. I love British nicknames. As a Yank I'm convinced we'd sink them in a ton for ton fight, but they beat us silly in the funny wars.)

Here you can see a finished Glorious and the model from which she started.

(It's a little hard to see, but if you look at Glorious you might be able to tell that I've filed the foc'sle down quite a bit, lengthened the deck between the island and the AA mount just aft of it, and added masts and supports for the flight deck. The extra length and girders on the fantail are distinguishing marks, so I really wanted them there.)

I will gladly tout Panzerschiffe as a good buy for the price, particularly for gaming purposes (as they're simple, durable, and they generally look pretty good once you paint them up) but they aren't without flaws. This one had some bubbles that created small voids. (Most of their models are fine, but you'll find both voids and odd spherical flash every now and then.)

No big deal, you just get some putty of your chosen brand and fill 'em right up. Sometimes you might want to sculpt a little detail back in.

I don't get too fussy as these are deceptively small. (The finished model is only about four inches long.)

The next step for me was to reshape the bow.

In the process I managed to damage the AA mounts on the fo'csle, so I opted to just remove them and start over.

Now, all of these ships had been refitted at least once before the outbreak of WWII. All had had the bow openings for the "flying off decks" plated over, for instance. The PSchiffe model was still open behind the foreward AA, and the aft hanger doors weren't depicted, so I decided to remove the aft "bulkhead" and make it the plating to seal up the forward end of the hangar

Most PSchiffe aircraft carriers are two part models, though they come assembled. The deck is usually separate from the hull, which is pretty neat as you can then model an open hangar if you wish. In this case it's also useful, as you can remove the flight deck and carve openings into the model wherever you want. The next photo is a bit fuzzy (I really should have checked those before going on with the project. Oh well, hindsight doesn't need the corrective lenses that the camera apparently did.) but you can see the way the models work once the deck is off.

Once that's done the real fun begins. Before reattaching the flight deck I wanted to add details to the fo'csle in places that will soon be hard to reach, so I replaced the AA suite earlier removed with pieces of stock styrene. Other people have recomende brass rod and piano wire, which come in even smaller sizes, but I find them harder to work with and the styrene is quite adequate for my purposes. I uses several shapes and sizes, all from Plastruct at present: primarily .015" and .02" rod and .04x.08" strip. (They're also labeled as .4mm, .5mm, and 2x4mm for those who prefer metric.) I tend to manufacture tops and additional superstructure elements from the strips. The rod serves for masts and sometimes gun barels. I will sometimes shape either the strip or the rod by crushing it with a pair of pliers to give it some truss like texture for radar antenas and cranes and such.

In this case I used strip to manufacture crude standins for the AA positions and .015" rod for the 4.5" barels. I also used rod to manufacture the beams supporting the leading edge of the flight deck. (In reality they were trusses, but at this scale, who's going to quible?) You can see all of this in the next picture, along with some modifications to the Island and flight deck that I'll describe next.

You might well have noticed the two white extensions from the flight deck. In one of her later refits the RN installed a pair of catapults. (It seems to me from the photographs that the trusses really support the front of these.) These altered the rounded appearance of the flight deck, giving it a somewhat more complicated aspect. To start, I cut two square notches into the flight deck. Then I took two pieces of strip a good bit longer than what I needed. I rounded one end of both and then trimmed them back so all I had was the rounded front edge. I glued these into the notches using a little excess CA cement to fill the gaps, which I later filed down. Now the flight deck was ready to be glued back down with the two beams matched up to the catapult extensions. (This took a good bit of finagling with a pair of tweezers.)

With all of that done it was time to start on the island. From the photos I could find it seemed that a big boxlike extension to the bridge was added sometime in the mid thirties. This was easy enough: I just took two pieces of strip, sandwiched them together, and trimmed and filed them to size. The tripod mast was three sections of .015" rod. I'll usually dril a small hole for the front leg ot a tripod mast or a pole mast so that the rod is actually sunk into the deck just a bit. This gives it a more solid attachment. The trickiest part of tripod masts is the point where the legs come together. Sometimes two legs will meet at a point partway along the third. If they do, some angle cutting is required, but in this case all three attach to the bottom of the lowest platform on the mast. Ergo, no big deal. Cut two more short sections, glue them in place in a tripod configuration, lop them all off with a wire cutter, file them clean, and you're done. The three legs of the tripod even give a fairly good size surface to which you can glue your spotting tops.

Of course Courageous couldn't be quite that simple. The tripod legs end, but a single pole mast extends upwards through several levels of topworks. The easiest way to deal with this was to attach the bottom platform to the top of the tripod and glue a separate pole mast to the top of that. With a pole mast, it's sometimes desirable drill a hole through platforms and affix them to the middle of the mast, which is what i did here with the second platform. The circular top is a piece of large rod filed down appropriately and glued to the top of the resulting structure, which is then glued to the bottom platform all of a piece. I added the spars once all of this had set up properly.

Now we move on to the painting. I confess, I do use a quite unorthodox method to paint my ships. It grew out of the particular stylized way I paint certain science fantasy miniatures which I will not name on this forum. I could go into a lengthy explanation, but I'll save that for a later post and hit the high points here. I first base everyhing in black. After that, I layer lighter colors on top, leaving shadows in the gaps. It's kind of a cheater version of what's called "black lining" in that other science-fantasy world. But everything ends up looking somewhat darker. I've toyed with other techniques for my ships, but I've always ended up coming back to this. As they say, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. So here's what a ship looks like after roughing things in:

You can see four coats layered in together here: the black base coat, the brown for the deck, the medium grey of the superstructure, and the darker grey of the hull itself. After that I add markings and weather everything together with a light grey, finally touching things up one last time by blacking a few things that actually represent open space back out. (Hangar doors, the space under guns, stack openings, and the like.) So the finished product looks a little like this:

Divine transformation. Or at least a pretty solid little gaming model. And it's clearly Courageous and not any other ship. Which makes me happy.

Thank you for your patience. I hope you enjoy this my first effort. In the future I'll talk a bit more about my painting techniques and scratch building Long Island.

The Symphonist

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Butterflies in my Stomach

Have you ever pitched your art to someone else? Nervous business.

Many of you will have previously noticed that I once wrote a ballet.

But the choreographer for whom I initially wrote it decided she had no need of it. So I finally got off my duff and pitched it to a new choreographer. It's a bit more up her alley. Wish me luck.

And maybe one of these days I can do something really hard and write something new.

(I keep trying, though clearly not rigorously enough.)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

I miss you, sis, or the aftermath of cancer

I should really have posted here some time ago, as a number of you have been pulling for me and for my sister, Miriam. Thank you. I really appreciate all that you've said and all that you've done. The fight is over.

I miss you, sis. I miss you already. Rest in peace, wherever you may be. Rest in peace. And I love you.

Miriam Ruth Kovac: 23 May 1976 - 19 June 2010.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Hard Rain

I am like a summer storm that's lost his way.
I would bring sustenance to parched land but
Over eager, I surrender everything at once.

All my hopes, my dreams, my
Hammer down upon the delicate earth.
They wash away leaving a trail of
Longing, of

I have satisfied nothing.

My tears fall and leave the ground


To Kelly

Life as Art

This one's been sitting around a while, and probably needs more polish, but it expresses the mood I'm in right now.

Life as Art

Life is a bit like a piece of music
Where the chords in the middle,
The ones which seem uninteresting,
The little ones, twos and fours that
Resolve nothing

Things move forward for a long time without
Tension, without
There is no cadence to it.
No phrase, no meter, no

But then miracle and

Some little chord gets flipped on its
Notes begin to stack up like
Calls in the middle of the night.
No good ever came from a call at
2 am.

The first notes become crushed under ever higher burdens of
Unresolved dissonance.
And the piece ends there.
Three, four, flat two, five,

. . .

A head with no body. No
No foundation.

We laugh, if we get the joke. Maybe we
Cry out.
Or maybe we scratch our heads and wonder what we missed.

Would that life's final cadence had the glory of
C Major
After the wild hunt interrupted our

Would that life were

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Am I still in one piece?

Holly cow! I'm still in one piece. I made it through. The sister enjoyed the concert. I nearly, well I cried more than once. Kept it quiet and short, but I did cry. Gave my mother a piece of music too, since she's turning 60. (Was a last minute idea. But the right piece was on the program anyway.) It wasn't perfect, of course, as such performances never are, but it was fun, lighthearted, and everyone seemed to have had a good time. It seems that there is now a bit more new music floating around out there. I'll try to post some video or audio soon.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

And for once a good note amid the clinkers

We had our first rehearsal tonight. It went . . . all right. Better than I should expect given that I'm not yet very good at budgeting time for these shindigs. We made it through the ballet in spite of missing instruments. (We had one horn tonight, no bassoons, little low brass, and only timpani from a rather involved percussion section.) We even hit most of the symphony. Granted that in a nearly three hour rehearsal we hit only four fifths of the music from a two hour show. But we'll get there.

There were some sour notes. There were some missed cues. People (including but not limited to me) sometimes got lost in the woods. But we made it out. And we will make it Saturday. I could tell it was a piece I wrote. It looked and sounded like an orchestra. Which is scary good wonderful.

The hall is cozy. It's bright. Everyone there was kind and inviting. We will all fit. Somehow, with the help of good friends, I got a piano, four timpani, nearly thirty music stands, a bass drum, and an easy chair for the guest of honor to the hall. (She has a hard time sitting for two hours in her wheel chair. The easy chair should be better.) More instruments are yet to come, but it will happen. I believe that now. It's a very good feeling. Hopefully there will even be a recording that's not too horrible.

Thank you all for your kind words and support.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Further concert drama

So this concert thing. I grant that I'm a foolish bitch for trying to put together a concert. Arrogant, self-centered jerk of a guy. No doubt. There's no question that my music is unworthy of public performance. That I can't write for horns (already knew that) and that nobody writes symphonies anymore. String instruments are declasse. Classical music is dead. Orchestras are a historical artifact. Audiences are uninterested in new music.

Yep. I know all of that. Every bit.

Not going to try to compete with Beethoven. He's better than me. I like the guy. Not even trying.

But see? My sister is dieing of cancer. It's real honest to god killer nasty brain cancer. Not the play kind. This is for keeps. And well, I'm a poor starving artist who thought that maybe teaching people that Beethoven really is a god might save the world somehow. Seriously. I believed that. So I went back to school. And started starving more. And along the way I learned to write music.


But still . . .

So what do I have to give my sister?

Money? . . . Ah . . . nope.

Stuff? . . . Nope again.

A cure for cancer? . . . Lord but do I wish I had that one.

But I do have symphonies. And a ballet. So I'm giving her a ballet. It's neat. Its fun. And people (real ones, on this very site) like it. To that end I've found musician friends. Still not quite as many as I'm hoping for, but quite a lot more than I feared. Enough to put on a respectable show. More than you'll see in the pit at your average Broadway show, in fact. And of similar quality in many cases. Perfessionals. That know how to play their instruments. And I've begged a truck off a friend. And large unwieldy expensive instruments. And money. And photocopying. (Thousands of pages of that. No kidding.) Did I mention the money?

Way back in January when this was little more than a feasibility study of sorts I talked to some folks that have a hall. Rather a crucial part of this sort of a show. I said "Hey, I'm a disorganized newby. If there's a question I should ask and don't, please tell me. Here's the date I'm shooting for." And the facility director said, sure, you can use this hall. Got the date reserved. And I asked her if I could hold rehearsals in the hall or if I would need to go elsewhere. She said everything would probably be fine. Asked her how much it would cost. She gave me a price and said she needed to check it with the board. Told her how many musicians were coming. Mentioned large expensive instruments. She said no problem. You can put them here and pointed to a spot. I talked to her a couple of times later, going in to the hall, as e-mails kept falling into the void. (Or at least going unanswered.) She said the price was fine. In March I went in to try to pay it, she said come back later, no rush. Pay it after the show. Asked if the rehearsals would be okay. She said sure, no problem.

So I e-mailed musicians. Told them where we would meet and when. Begged and borrowed things. Generally arranged stuff.

Sent an e-mail regarding unloading and tuning of equipment and instruments.

Wednesday I got an e-mail saying she was resigning her position and needed me to confirm dates and times to pass along to the new person. And here's a contract for you to sign so it's all legit.

Okay. Sorry to see you go, but we all need a change sometimes. Sent an e-mail. Here's the rehearsals and the show. And of course I'll come a little early and leave a little late to set stuff up and tear it down for you to keep it out of your way. And by the way, did you get the e-mail about the loading tuning business? Will it work?

Called her yesterday morning just to check and to let her know I'd be by with the contract. She told me she hadn't gotten any of the e-mail ere my reply to her time enquiry, but said there was nothing at all going on that week so it should all be fine. Talked a bit about the health of said sister, which is, of course, deteriorating. Said I didn't even think she'd be able to make it anymore, but that I'd still tape it for her, since that's all I can do.

Went to print the contract and sign it and what do I find in my inbox?

. . .

Roughly: "Oh god this is ballooning into something much bigger than you said and there's nothing in it for the people that own the hall and I'm not going to be here and the new person won't be here until after you're gone and the board doesn't like this and your sister can't be here anyway you should just cancel!" This four days before the first rehearsal.

How does hell no and we had a deal strike you?

You're worried that your "legacy" in the hall might be negatively impacted. That people might not like you because this crazy musician guy is imposing too much on the hall. Well, who exactly was it that said all of this would be okay? I grant that you thought that my three hour rehearsals would be two hours long. Not sure where you got that idea. Certainly not from me, as I've e-mailed some fifty or a hundred people telling all of them they would be three hours. And why on god's green earth would you think that there wouldn't be set up and tear down time before and after when you yourself told me you would need things cleaned up between rehearsals? Okay, I suppose I might have mentioned that, but it didn't even occur to me as mention worthy. What part of "I'm a disorganized newby and I'm winging it because I've got no choice" escaped you? Why would you assume that a show involving three rehearsals and thirty musicians would be small and uncomplicated? I know you knew about the large expensive instruments. You told me where I could put them. Did you think they would simply materialize? That they would tune themselves? Heck, I asked you about the loading zone. About parking. About the bloody kitchen sink.







You fix them. This show will go on. You will not screw me just because you resigned quickly so you could start the new sexier job more quickly. It's not my problem. A deal is a deal. And as the experienced party getting paid it was and is your job to make sure you know what's going on with the client. If you can't keep track of your notes I can't help you. I've got literally a hundred e-mails to different people (I checked) all saying the same things. I've spoken to you in person four times. I've called you as many. I've e-mailed you quite a lot more. You never responded, but we always talked about the subjects over the phone or in person. I was never under the impression you hadn't gotten the e-mails. Maybe you might have asked.

Bah. Pay for your own bloody mistakes. If there is acrimony between you and the facility's board or permanent tenants that's the price you pay for your sexy new job. I have much bigger things to worry about. Like a sister who almost certainly won't see another birthday after this one. What part of death is forever don't you understand you damned idiot? I can't fix you. I can't fix your problem. Fix it your damn self.

The composer.

Addendum: No. I'm not pissed. Not at all. Why do you ask?

NB: It's not personal. I understand that you have your own life. I'm venting. If you don't like what I have to say or understand that I'm a little upset for good reason, go find your grown up pants. I trust you have some somewhere.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Okay universe, am I not busy enough for you?

You might recall that I'm organizing this concert thing. Perhaps as a way of dealing with some fairly heavy psychological shit that I'm going through. (Dieing sister, tempestuously altered 12 year relationship, that kind of stuff.) You can probably guess that finding thirty five of your very best skilled musician friends to help you with DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT!!!! is kind of hard when you have perhaps two nearby friends, and neither of them play an instrument. You can probably guess that there are time consuming logistical considerations involved surrounding mundane things like what will people sit on and how exactly does one get a piano into an art gallery.

So maybe you can guess that I'm busy. Fielding some dozen or so complex e-mails lately on the average day. Calling people on the phone. Writing parts. (Did I mention writing parts?) And I do still have a job. And I do still have work to do to get ready for this myself. (Seeing as I have no conductor, aside from myself, which means I'm going to have to make sure I can give legible cues to the bass section.)

So what happens? Oh yeah, assorted and sundry of my friends decide to have mental breakdowns to add to mine. Guys, I'm just getting over my own. I cannot pick yours up and put it back together for you. Call a professional. I'm single, so please don't bitch to me about who doesn't love you and how few decent people there are out there. Suck it up, kids. My office is closed. I'm out to lunch. I'm not taking new clients right now. I'm very sorry.

Maybe this is the psychological addendum to the no more medical emergencies clause I wrote into the contract last year.


Your friendly neighborhood music therapist.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Game on!

Well, I'm in a slightly better place than last time. The show will still happen, thank you very much. An acquaintance even offered to help me find some folks tonight. Still a lot (lot lot lot) of work to do. Still evidence that I am fundamentally insane. But maybe it's at least a useful kind of insane.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

What have I gotten myself into?

Or: Oh lord god I'm losing my mind!!!

Right. So all of you no doubt know that my sister is sick. Old hat. Been going through this for far too long now.

Well, around Christmas, on a whim, I decided to give her a piece of music. I sounded some people out to see if I could raise enough money to make it happen. Surprisingly, they nearly all said yes. So I started asking musicians and they too nearly all said yes. So I've been slowly building this thing ever since. Found a hall. Booked it. Edited parts. Worked late nights. E-mailed friends and acquaintances. Everything seemed to be going fine. But then people started backing out. At first it was one, and then later a second.

Well, it's become a case of two steps forward and one back. And this weekend I worry that the forward steps are disappearing. This is an enormous amount of work. No one is bloody willing to help me organize this and let me tell you what a great bloody organizer I am. I still believe I can do this, that together we can make this happen. Hell, I know damn good and well that together we can make this happen. I need forty people, all told, to make this happen. This is not bloody impossible. It can occur. But damn it, I'm going to slit my own throat out of sheer stress. (And no worries to the psychologists out there. I'm not actually contemplating any such thing. This is hyperbole. I'm simply suffering under too much stress and so I'm venting a little.) (Okay, a lot.)

Oh, please god, help me out here. For once in your god forsaken godlike existence take pity on a mere mortal. After all, without us this would be one boring little rock with no decent conversation to be found. (Yeah, I know. An atheist who prays. How odd is that ladies and gents?) So help me. I don't expect much. I don't ask for much. But I want to give this piece to my sister, and in order to render it meaningful to her she has to hear it. (She can't, in the end, read a score.)

Right. Sorry for the vent. Thank you for your patience. Keep me in mind oh my friends. This must happen and thus it will happen. The show MUST BLOODY GO ON. First axiom of theatre. The show MUST go on. And it always does. No matter how many people get ground into the dirt in the process.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Song of a Laundry Gnome

What's the percentage in
Folding other people's
Underwear to the
Hip-hop beats of
Fast R and B?

What's the arithmetic of
Fluorescent lights, cheap
Beer, and
Laundry soap?

Do the fragrances of stale
Sweat, spilled
Perfume, and yesterday's
Dog urine
Multiply to a sum
So closely approximating
Zero as to justify
Discarding them?

is Pretty, and

I am young, so I'll
Spend my salvaged minutes on the
Dividend of
Stolen pleasure

While mechanisms spin and whir
Washing away the
Strangers' pasts
To the tune of a buck sixty a pound.

November 2009