Sunday, December 10, 2017

Flames of War: American Forces in North Africa

I've been rather busy lately, both on and off the painting table. In addition to my nearly complete British 7th Armoured Division army, I've been working on a mid war American army since the new Fighting First sourcebook was released in October. Since I have no self control, I also have a nearly complete British late war army waiting to be assembled and painted. This army will also be based on the 7th Armoured Division and their exploits in Europe along the Western Front, with a smattering of Churchill tanks of the 31st Tank Brigade.

In the meantime, here's an image dump of all of the American goodies I've been working on the past month or two for Flames of War:
M2A1 howitzers and an armored recon patrol

Destroyed M4A1 Sherman objective

Six M3 Lees and five M4A1 Shermans

Command rifle team and five bazooka teams

Armored recon patrol

T28E1 anti-aircraft guns

M7 Priest battery

T30 75mm HMC platoon

P-40 Warhawks

M3 Stuarts

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Gimli; or mourning the loss of a friend

Gimli
On Monday, November 27th, my beloved tuxedo cat Gimli was put to sleep at the age of 11. Gimli, or Gimmers as he was called by our family, was litter-mates with our cat Chet, whom we lost in January of 2015. Gimli was diagnosed with thyroid issues a year or so ago and had been on medicine since then, but within the last few months, the medicine seemed to have stopped working and he began to essentially deteriorate before our eyes. I decided, with the support of my wife, that there wasn't much we could do to extend his life comfortably and that the best decision would be to end his suffering. It was hard decision to make, more so than when we decided to have our other cats Chet and Pippin put to sleep (both of them were irreversibly ill and on the verge of death). Gimli, despite his diarrhea and unrelenting hunger, was still very much himself, though he was starting to fade. I made the call to veterinarian on Friday, November 24th and set the appointment for the following Monday.
Gimli and Chet on their first day home
As I wrote in my post following the loss of Chet, both he and Gimli were brought into our home in 2006 shortly after my now-wife and I started dating. While we initially were only looking for one grey kitten, the lady that we bought them from gave us priority over another interested person if we took the grey kitten and his tuxedo cat brother. We decided that Chet would be "hers" and Gimli would be "mine." While I very much loved Chet and he loved me, Gimli was always just a little bit more special since he was "mine." He was the runt of the litter, and as a full grown male cat, he was half the size of his brother and the size of a female cat!
Gimli as a kitten
Truth be told, it's actually rather difficult for me to put into words how much this cat meant to me. He was the first animal that was truly mine; he wasn't just the "family pet." He was easily the sweetest cat I've ever known. He never scratched or bit anyone and always was friendly to strangers to his house. When my friend would come over to play X-Wing Miniatures or any other games, Gimli would make it a point to sit on top of his game bag! He would also snuggle with any visitor to our house if they sat on the couch, either in their lap or up against them. Of course, he generally slept on my bed with me at night and especially during the day when I was on night shift, either between my legs or stretched out along my side. He also loved to wake me up on the weekends when he was hungry! He would extend his front claws and gently touch my nose or cheek, just enough to wake me up and hopefully convince me to go downstairs and fill his food bowl.
Sleeping in my lap
Losing him hurt. A lot. I cried after I made the appointment and then every day before we took him to the vet. Our young girls both made the decision to be with him for his journey over the Rainbow Bridge and while very sad, they both handled it well. I think the knew less of what to make of me than what to make of what was happening with Gimli. I make no effort to hide emotion from my children, but I don't often cry. Needless to say, I broke down in a bad way and neither of them has ever seen me like that, but I'm okay that they did. My wife and I have expressed to them that there is nothing wrong with displays of emotion from anyone because it's a natural part of life.

Later that evening while watching our favorite show, Jeopardy!, my six-year old daughter leaned over to me and said, "Dad, I wish Gimli never got sick and I really wish he hadn't died. I miss him." I replied, "Sweetie, me too. I miss him so much that I can't even really explain it, but he's in Kitty Heaven and I'm sure he knows how much we miss him."
March 7, 2006 - November 27, 2017

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Let's Talk About Nazis (In Scale Modeling)

Scale modeling has a problem and that problem is Nazis. No, not these doofs, but the ones our grandfathers (or in some cases, great-grandfathers) fought in deserts of North Africa, the mountains of Italy, and on the shores of France. Now, I am by no means the first person to have taken note of this and I'm sure I won't be the last, but it's really been wearing on me lately and to be honest, it all came to head last week with this:
Pardon my language, but what in the actual fuck? I was bothered on a few different levels about this. For one, the piece is titled "Ein Führer" and the engraved brass plaque is adorned with swastikas. Second, the piece was heaped with praise and "heart" reacts with not a single comment challenging the reason behind the subject matter (in fact, one person open professed "love" for Hitler). Similar subjects like this are common on forums and Facebook groups; not a day goes by without someone posting an heroic-looking large scale figure or bust of an SS commander, Fallschirmjäger, or grenadier of some sort, not to mention the endless supply of Tiger, Panther, and other tanks along with a healthy does of Luftwaffe fighters. To me, the figures and busts move beyond the normal rationalizations that modelers have for building Nazi German stuff, like "it looks cool" (immature and up to personal taste) and "they had the best stuff of the war" (just not true), and into idolization. Any attempt to call people out on this shit is usually countered by some variation of the "clean Wehrmacht" myth that the Wehraboos love to spew across the internet (also popular: the Rommel myth). Does this mean that anyone who paints a bust or large scale figure is a Wehraboo? No, probably not, unless a disproportionate amount of their work is dedicated to the subject (or you know, they paint... Adolf Hitler). Even still, I feel that tanks and airplanes can be viewed in a largely sanitized way considering they're inanimate objects. Figures and busts veer into an uncomfortable area to me; they're much too personal, often because they tend to portray their subject in an heroic light. I'm sorry, but there is nothing heroic about an SS officer.

Where does this leave us? Well, let me plainly state that I have no real problem with modeling Nazi German equipment. I've personally done a 1/100 scale Tiger I and I thoroughly enjoyed it and it's currently in my display cabinet (I would also like to point out that it is not based on a known tank from a real life unit). I think the occasional armor or plane model is perfectly fine, but I also think it's important to remember what these machines are: instruments of war, often built by slave labor, and used in service of a perverted government that waged a war of extermination against its enemies, both real and imagined.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Showcase: Blue Leader X-wing (Bandai 1/72 scale)


Bandai 1/72 scale T-65 X-wing in Antoc Merrick's Blue Leader livery. Completed with Mr. Paint and Alclad lacquers; Tamiya and Vallejo acrylics; Abteilung 502 oils, Mig Productions enamels and pigments.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

My (Belated) Five Year Anniversary

It recently came to my attention that my blog celebrated its five year anniversary in early May. I'm not really sure why I even started this blog other than I had seen other miniature wargaming-focused blogs and thought it would be best to emulate them. Plus, I really enjoy writing. In my younger years, I wrote a lot. I focused on English and literature in high school and loved creative writing. I wrote short stories and one-act plays and even kept a journal for a while. Combining my old hobby with my new hobby seemed like a no brainer. In reality, I probably had no business starting something like this back then; my painting was nowhere near the level of quality that warranted having a blog dedicated to it. Yet, for some reason I trudged on, occasionally writing or posting a picture for the remainder of 2012.

I lost interest towards the end of that year in both this blog and the hobby in general. It mainly had to do with the amount of stress from my job, which I quit in May 2013 to start the job I currently have. I slowly started painting again and by early 2014, I was writing again. 2014 was also the year I decided to start taking commissions and when I broke into legit scale modeling after learning about the Fine Molds Star Wars kits. For most of 2014 and 2015, I was pretty focused on the hobby and the blog. I wrote 99 posts in those two years, which was the most I've put out in that span of time. I slowed down a little in 2016 (seriously, what a shitty year that was) but I have picked up the pace again this year and have almost matched my writing output of the previous year by July.

Now where does this lead? That's a good question and one that I think is worth asking. Make no mistake about it: even with my 600+ followers on Facebook, I'm a nobody in the scale modeling community. I pretty okay with that, especially given the vitriol that can stem from something as silly as this hobby. The amount of trolling and outright asshole behavior that goes on in some of these Facebook groups and forums is ridiculous considering this hobby is essentially playing with plastic toys. I don't think I have a particularly unique viewpoint, but I'd like to start writing about more than just what I'm doing and how. There are some subjects that I feel are worth talking a bit more about and there are a whole host of modeling-related topics that should be talked about more than they are. (Seriously, what is up with the obsession over Nazi German stuff?)

Regardless, I'm looking forward to what the next five years has in story for the hobby and my blog. I hope that both my writing and my modeling grows and matures in the years to come like it has over that last half decade. As always, thanks for your time and support!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

WIP: Takom Mk. I Female (1/35 scale)

As anyone who follows my work knows, I'm quite keen on Great War subjects, having already built a Medium Mark A Whippet and a Krupp 21cm Mörser 10. With those under my belt, I felt that it was time to move on to the family of vehicles that spawned the modern tank: the British Mark I. 

In the autumn of 1915, at behest of the Landships Committee, Little Willie, the first prototype of what would become known as "tanks" was built. There are varying stories as to why these lumbering beasts were called "tanks," but it most likely appears to stem from a code name used to deceive the Germans and it ended up sticking. Soon after, in December of 1915, the prototype of the Mark I, Mother, was completed and the first order for 75 "male" tanks armed 6 pounder guns and 75 "female" tanks armed with .303 Vickers machine gun were placed in late-February, early-April of 1916. The distinctive rhomboid shape was designed to help the vehicle cross the ubiquitous trenches that characterized the fight on the Western Front. The armor was relatively thin, ranging from 6 to 12mm, but it was enough to keep out rifle and machine gun fire. The Mark I made its combat debut at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette in September 1916 (as part of the larger Somme Offensive).
Though the kit parts can build up a pretty decent representation of a Vickers machine gun, I thought the addition of some aftermarket brass parts would be nice touch. After a quick search, I found that Aber makes a nice set that has the four Vickers and one Hotchkiss machine guns. I'm not entirely sure the extra effort is worth it, especially for the cooling jacket armor, but the fine details on the muzzle are a huge upgrade compared to the rather chunky kit muzzles.
The main hull, made up of various plates, goes together quite nice using the inside of the track frame as a jig to ensure proper alignment of the parts. Probably the biggest fault with the kit lies in this area: the cab is grossly inaccurate. Mark I cabs should extended the full width of the hull to the track frames; the shortened cab was used on the later Mark IV and Mark V tanks to accommodate the use of wider 26" tracks instead of the 20" tracks of the earlier models. The saving grace is that there aren't that many people overly familiar with these vehicles means that it's something that will unnoticed for the most part. The track frames are mirror images of each other and go together well enough, but the number of rollers can make it a little difficult to assemble. As far as the rollers go, I did no clean up on them because once sandwiched between the outer and inner pieces and the tracks added, they're impossible to see. To be honest, it's probably perfectly fine to leave them out altogether so long as their axles are added (these stick out of little holes along the bottom of the vehicle).
With the hull and track frames completed, I started on the characteristic steering tail. These were a feature found only on the Mark I tanks and were used as a kind of a rudder to help steer the tank in large radius turns. It was quickly found that these were completely unnecessary and were removed from later vehicles. It goes together without much fuss and the large wheels have poly caps so they can be removed for painting.

With a majority of the vehicle completed, the only things left to build are the weapon sponsons and the anti-grenade screen for the top of the tank. I probably won't use the screen because this tank will be painted as D11 "Die Hard," which was damaged just outside of Flers on September 16, 1916. The first Mark I tanks were part of D Company and C Company of the Machine Gun Corps and only tanks of C Company were outfitted with screens.