Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Stories that Make the World

In 2004 I took some courses at the University of Idaho that changed my view on life. Before then, I wasn't in a good place. I had bombed out of school in a big way, going from a 4.0 GPA to a .02 GPA in one glorious flame-out of a semester. While my story didn't hit the rock bottom you see on television or in the movies, it nevertheless sucked and I knew it wasn't me. But in 2004 my life turned around. I got back into school and met some very great people who saw me through to the other side. It was good times...

Anyway, I'm sure you're not terribly interested in my past so I'll get back to the topic. In 2004 I took a course from Dr. Rodney Frey, an anthropologist who has worked closely with the Coeur d'Alene Native American tribe to preserve their native language and to record the oral traditions of the tribe's elders. Required reading was a book called Stories that Make the World, which delved into the origins of the world as told since the beginning of time. Whether you believe the stories or not isn't the point. The compelling aspect of the whole book is that you get to glimpse how this tribe ties the landscape into their oral tradition. These stories are told as the listeners actively or retrospectively look upon the landscape. The land itself is how these stories are stored and recounted for generation after generation.

Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
The truly remarkable thing of the oral tradition being tied into the landscape is that it gives a people a real sense of position in the story. They are there and living history through the story, so that they might tell their children and continue the tradition. Thinking back, I have done much the same thing, as I'm sure you have as well. Some examples are when you drive by a house you used to live in and suddenly all these memories come rushing back. Or perhaps you feel much the same connection when you visit a historical site that is well preserved. But, at least for me, this had always been a secondary sense to me. After taking this class and learning about the area I had lived in for years through the memories and landscape of the Coeur d'Alene people really opened my mind. I'll be the first to admit that I am no expert on this sort of thinking, but it really made an impact on how I am tied to the land in which I live.

Wow, so theres an unqualified philosophy lesson for you! Anyway....

I remember several years ago when Microsoft activated its "terrasever". It was a one terabyte (!) hard drive filled with satellite imagery of the world. I thought that was the bee's knees, until Google Earth came out. Since then GE has been developing into an information giant. You can flick across the digital globe as easily as you could a physical one, yet not have it take up nearly as much space on your desktop! Then something uncanny occurred a few years back, you could upload photos and website links and tie them to a geographical spot. Suddenly, the globe could tell you stories.

A few years ago I started using Google Earth as my notepad. When writing a book, I use Google Earth to record all of my notes into one place. You can save folders, create layers, and color the location pins to help keep your story straight. The first time I did this was while I was writing Hell's Highway and A Bridge Too Far. I found it difficult to remember where certain units were positioned and how they moved. So I set up a Google Earth file with all of the individual pins and notes.

Since then I have used Google Earth to map out most of my history and topics of interest. I thought that perhaps people might find them useful too for either wargaming or academic projects. So, as I complete these files, I will post them here for people to download and use. Feel free to let me know of any inaccuracies and I'll see to getting them fixed.

So here's my first one on the Oosterbeek Perimeter during Operation Market Garden, September 1944. I have not touched this file in years, and I apologize that its not as complete as it could be. I'm currently working on one for 'ghost planes' of the Sahara, as I've recently been inspired by the sands of the deep desert! Hopefully this one will be a bit more comprehensive and interesting!

Thanks for reading and go download Google Earth!

Also, you really should read Dr. Frey's Stories that Make the World if you are interested!

Download Google Earth here ...
Download Oosterbeek Perimeter (Operation Market Garden, 1944) ...

Instructions: Download and install Google Earth. Then click the Oosterbeek link to download the .KMZ file. Google Earth should automatically read the KMZ file as soon as you have clicked on it and take you to Oosterbeek!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Bit of FoW Nostalgia

I've been busy painting up my Early War German army for my Blitzing Blitzkrieg project, a Liechte (Light) Panzerkompanie. I've got most of the tanks done, its just down to the infantry, motorcycles and guns. I figured that I would use my old pioneers for the infantry since the uniforms were the same. Or so I thought... When I pulled them out to have a look I noticed they have a lot of Mid-war characteristics, chief among them the splinter helmet covers. Oh well!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Warmachine Update

Well, the truth is that I play all sorts of miniature games. I'm a big fan of small skirmish-sized games like Warmachine and Malifaux. I've also got into Dystopian Wars in a small way (done some painting, but no games yet).

But recent excitement among friends has been focused (no pun intended) on Warmachine. I've got both Cryx (undead) and Pirate mercenaries. My Cryx collection is pretty limited so I thought revisit my Pirates instead because I've got a lot more of that, giving me more flexibility in games.

This weekend I've been doing some repainting and touch ups (these were among my first 28mm models, after Confrontation). While my camera skills are lacking and I'll have to wait until next week to borrow a better camera and a light table, I thought I'd post up some pictures of some of my older models to get you caught up on my Pirates.

Shae
First off is Shae, my warcaster. For those of you who might be unfamiliar with WM, a warcaster is the general of your army. He possesses archane abilities which allow him to control warjacks, large steam-powered robots. Shae is a tidy pirate, meaning he keeps up appearances. So I've given him a jacket based on 19th Century British Royal Navy colors. The rest of the army's color scheme is loosely based on Shae's.

Press Ganger
Beyond Shae I've got a motley collection of dubious pyrates. This one is from a press ganger unit, which can club enemy troops over the head and recruit them to join your sea swabs. I like this unit a lot for its humor, and I'll be touching these guys up soon so hopefully I'll have some more pictures for you to look at.

Thanks to some friends back stateside, I've given all of these figures planking bases to represent them fighting on or near a ship. I've got plans to eventually make a 4'x 4' seaside port table just for my Pyrates. I've been collecting all the pieces and soon I'll start working on that massive project!

The Marine
Next up is the Marine. I've a substantial amount of modification work on this model. One disadvantage of Privateer Press (makers of WM) is that they usually don't offer variant models, and if they do its for all of the other major factions, as I'm not aware of a good alteration kit for this model.

Privateer Press' Buccaneer
Anyway, the Marine is a Buccaneer Light Warjack. Its realitively light and is therefore cheap in terms of points. So you can have a few in your army if you want. I really like this warjack as it has a lot of character and really looks like the sort of warjack that would be found on a ship.

Here (left) is the original Privateer Press model so that you can compare. I've got another Buccaneer besides the Marine that I've pained up without any modifications, called Union 'Jack (he's got a British jack painted on the side). As you can see, the Buc is armed with a Gaff weapon and holds a net in his left arm. In the game he can toss this net to bind the target and then smack him with the gaff or let someone else have a crack.

I really like the concept of the model, but there is at least one aspect I really don't like. The net does not look natural at all and I find this very distracting. Granted that sculpting a realistic net might be a difficult task, but this is seriously a horrible attempt. So that had to go on my second Buc.

Second, I didn't want the Marine to look identical to Union 'Jack due to the overpowering nature of the gaff. While this works well for Union 'Jack, I don't want it on all of my Bucs, so like with the net  I had to think of what else to give the Marine that would perform the same function.

Finally, the color scheme had to be different to give the second Buc its unique flavor. I went to my books and had a look at 19th Century uniforms and found the Royal Marines'red coats interesting. So that's how this Buc got his name and color.

Furthermore it also gave me the answers to the weapons I should give him. Marines spent the duration of a naval battle in the crows nests and masts shooting down onto the decks of the enemy ship. Therefore the Marine's weapon would be a chunk of mast with torn sails. His 'net' would be a handful of heavy chain he presumably picked up when he boarded the enemy ship. Sorted!

Anyway, that's all I have a the moment. I hope to have more WM pics up soon! Thanks for stopping by!