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Saturday, April 30, 2011

That Which Does Not Kill You...

    5x7 inches, acrylic on gessoed mat board, painted en plein air at Riverside Park

    I decided early this spring that this would be the year the I would give plein air painting another good solid try.  There is a plein air painting event each June in Beloit, called Edge of the Rock. I tried it with watercolors in 2008, and while I produced a couple of reasonable landscapes, both of which sold, I was frustrated every day by wind, rain, and curiosity seekers.  I didn't have any sort of easel, so I had watercolor paper clipped to boards on my lap, and it wasn't the easiest situation.  My butcher tray palette flew away in the wind, and I had no real way of controlling the moisture level of my paper.  

    So, I decided that this time I would try acrylics, since I have been painting with them quite a lot this winter.  Yesterday was the first warm and sunny day we have had in ages and ages, and I decided to go out and give it a try, but things didn't go very smoothly.   I have been thinking about this for a while, and about a month ago bought a french easel on eBay, what I thought was quite a good deal on some quality used equipment.  It didn't arrive and didn't arrive.  Finally I got an email from the seller saying he was sorry, but he lived in Alabama and his house had a tree fall on it in a tornado!  Of course I said he should attend to his life first, that I could wait.  So, yesterday no easel.  I went looking for my trusty old camp stool, even engaged my husband in the search, but failed to find it - so I trudged to K-Mart and bought a collapsing chair that had been marked down a couple times.  The chair actually was fine, though I was disconcerted to come home later in the afternoon to discover my spouse had unearthed the camp stool from from a dark corner of the cellar.  I have plenty of places to sit now.

    I had all sorts of lists from articles I had saved that had suggestions on what to take along when painting outside.  I have a nice big plastic zippered bag with strong straps for carrying equipment.  I found a big old plastic jar, the sort that might once have held condiments for a school cafeteria, complete with a screw on lid.  I had paper towels, brushes, paint, prepared small mat boards that I had prepared.  I had a little plastic palette with a cover, and my acrylic paints.  I had a sketchbook and a pencil, I had a little viewfinder that I made from scrap cardboard and and old clear plastic transparency.  I felt I had what I needed.  Then I made my mistake.  I added a little flimsy bottle of water for drinking, and on a whim, threw my trusty Canon Powershot camera in the bag.  

    The plan was to head out the the Janesville Schools Outdoor Lab, a nice rolling park-like area with a stream running through it.  But as I stood in the parking lot, then hiked part way into the woods, I could hear what sounded like a large group of elementary students, so I decided to visit Riverside Park instead. Riverside is a lovely old park right on the Rock River, and I found an interesting tree to make my focal point.  So I set up the new chair, and went to unpack my tote bag.  Oops.  The small water battle had leaked all over the bottom of the bag!  My canvas hat was dripping, my roll of paper towels was wet on one end, and then I remembered the camera.  My heart sinking, I pulled the camera out of the bottom of the bag, and saw that the viewfinder had all sorts of moisture behind the screen.  So, I took out the batteries and memory card, and locked the camera in the car, along with the useless wet hat.  

    After that, besides my fumbling around, and struggling some with paint that wanted to dry out on the palette because of the steady breeze, it didn't go too badly.  It has been such a damp cool spring that there isn't much color yet.  Across the river the willows are a pretty pale yellow green, almost like a green mist, but most of the leaves have not emerged.  I had a hard time trying to make the tree in the foreground interesting, and also suggest the woods across the river.  Then there is the issue of painting water.  I think I have my work cut out for me. 

    There is good news.  The poor fellow in Alabama wrote today to say he had shipped the easel, and my camera apparently is still working.  A night in a bowl of rice, and half a day on a sunny windowsill apparently dried out the moisture problem.  I successfully took a picture of our cat, so at least I don't need to buy a new camera.

    Update: This photo of the old willow was taken later, with a camera that was not soaked!














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That Which Does Not Kill You...


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Dwarf Week - Units & Beer

    As we're nearing the end of dwarf week I thought it was about time for some core infantry, but then I couldn't resist throwing a few more interesting things in at the end.

    This is an old regiment of renown, 'prine ulther's dragon company', includes a hero (prince ulther) as well as full command group.  They're actaully modeled with two pistols each as well, if only I could still feild dwarf infantry armed with two pistols, but I'm really found of this unit and they still make a nice rergiment of warriors.

    Here we have a regiment of classic longbeards.

    This unit of warriors isn't so much a unit as a collection of metal dwarfs that don't have a specific home, still it seems other poeple like it as it always gets commented on, of particular note is the dwarf on stilts that I use as the units standard.

    Now we get to the beer part of the post, the renowned brewmaster joseph bugman in various forms.  On the left the origanal Bugmans bar bugman (theres now a newer version throwing a chair that I've yet to acquire) and then moving left the 4th ed and 3rd ed versions (I actually have units of rangers from the same ranges to acompany both of these).  I think my favorite is the 4ed. one in the middle.
    
    And finally bugmans cart transporting beer to all the imporatnt places, although with a drunk driver by the looks of things.

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172. The Insatiable Moon


    At the end of each month I appeal for help in tracking down movies I've yet to see (see the update coming on Sunday).
    Well, I'm glad to say I've been able to catch up on this fabulous film from New Zealand thanks to Simon Kinnear who writes for Total Film. Cheers, Simon.
    And, in a week of blog surprises and, dare I say delights, this was another movie which had the feelgood factor.
    And yet the premise is so unpromising. Basically, it surrounds a group of people with mental health issues, particularly one who thinks he is the second son of God, and their battle to keep open the boarding house where they live.
    Yet in the 171 previous movies I've seen this year, only the very best have compared to the outstanding standard of acting here.
    This is a story which digs deep into the world of prejudice against those who don't quite follow the norm and makes one examines one's own thoughts on those with mental health issues.
    The undoubted star is Rawiri Paratene, who plays Arthur, a rather less selfish individual than the one of the same name I watched played by Russell Brand last night.
    This Arthur goes around with a smile on his face and trying to extol joy to the world, thanks to believing he has a line to the Almighty.
    Of course, no-one believes him but then it dawns on them that if he is just incredibly well-meaning, where's the harm?
    Arthur is one of a group of men, looked after at the boarding house by a grump with a heart of gold, played by Greg Johnson.
    The co-habitees are too many to list but every single one of them is so totally believable I had to look up to see if they were not playing themselves.
    Director Rosemary Riddell has done an amazing job on  a comparatively low budget with a movie which is never melodramatic and keeps a wonderfully even pace.
    If I were to make one criticism, I think the end, and particularly the very end, add a schmalz which seldom exists in real life.
    However, I would heartily recommend this and, by giving it 8.5/10 have given it a chance of appearing in my running top ten tomorrow.
    PS Thanks again, Simon




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172. The Insatiable Moon


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BLU-RAY NEWS: MAY THE 4TH BE WITH US!

    So, it looks like May 4th is going to be the big STARWARS.COM news day for the Blu-rays. Here's hoping its a big trailer with some deleted scenes snippets!

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One From The Archives: 04/30/04 King Diamond/Nile/Black Dahlia Murder/Behemoth @ The Quest, Minneapolis, MN

    04/30/04 King Diamond @ Quest, Minneapolis, MN
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One From The Archives: 04/30/04 King Diamond/Nile/Black Dahlia Murder/Behemoth @ The Quest, Minneapolis, MN


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Friday, April 29, 2011

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World’s Smallest Camera Developed By Awaiba


    These days, it seems like every one want to make things thinner and want to make things smaller. And it actually doesn’t get much smaller than the Naneye camera. The world's tiniest camera at just 1mm wide, 1mm long, and 1.5mm tall, it's smaller than a typical match head, and it lives on a single silicon chip.

    Portuguese image sensor developer Awaiba created the small camera, named the NanEye 2B, for use in the medical industry. NanEye 2B draws only 1.8 volts of electric current, and can take "clear and sharp" 250 by 250-pixel pictures. As you may have guessed, this Lilliputian digital camera won't be striking stores anytime shortly; instead, it will be put to use delving into human bodies in the name of science.

    Awaiba sees the NanEye 2B being used for a range of medical purposes, including dental imaging and medical endoscopy, and it could even be used to give surgical robots a boost.

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April 2011 New York City Views by Kevin H.

    A co-worker of mine, Kevin H., (that's him in Times Square holding a hot dog with everything on it) just returned from his first-ever trip to New York City. He and his wife spent a few days in the city on business and when not bogged down by that, managed to tour the city and cram in all kinds of sight-seeing in just a few days' time.

    While there they managed to snap quite a number of photos (250+), which, knowing I'm a big NYC kind of guy, he so kindly burned them all on a disc and gave it to me earlier today - I told him maybe I'd share a few here, he said, "Go for it!" So here are a few highlights...thanks Kevin, glad you loved NYC - I told you you would!















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April 2011 New York City Views by Kevin H.


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171. Arthur


    I confess. There are some films that I only watch because of everyfilmin2011. Arthur is one of them.
    Having seen the trailer, I just couldn't imagine it improving on the Dudley Moore version I liked so much.
    On top of that, its star is Russell Brand.
    Any blog follower will know, that I just don't get the smug, middle-class jerk with the mockney Cockney accent.
    However, by its end I felt about Arthur pretty much how I felt about The Dilemma a couple of months ago - it wasn't as bad as I feared.
    The Dilemma is a good comparison, actually, because I can lump Brand into the same unfunny comedian category as Vince Vaughn.
    I reckoned that The Dilemma was my favourite Vaughn performance and so too is Arthur Brand's best, in my eyes.
    That is, of course, not to say that either are good films. In fact, I see no good reason to have made Arthur at all.
    The first one was perfectly fine, thank you very much.
    Moore was miles better than Brand as the English playboy billionaire, Liza Minnelli had no match in the new movie and Helen Mirren just didn't have the arrogance, nor the comic timing of John Gielgud.
    But they did make it, so it meant that, because of everyfilmin2011, it had to be seen.
    And, thanks to the Royal Wedding, Friday night in Cineworld was pretty quiet, thank goodness.
    So what does this new Arthur get up to?
    Well, just like the old one, he drinks too much and gets into all sorts of well publicised scrapes.
    His mother (a splendidly gruff Geraldine James) wants him to marry Jennifer Garner, a woman who she thinks will keep him on a tighter reign.
    Arthur, though, fancies poor tour guide, with a heart of gold, Greta Gerwig.
    A myriad of farcical situations ensue, many which were little more than a rehash of the original, although I did chortle three times.
    The script improved as it went on and Brand did melt me a bit by the end but I was still left wondering  what the point was.
    Thus, there is no way I can give it more than 5/10.

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171. Arthur


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170. Rubber


    It is by far the weirdest film I've seen this year and by the end of 2011 I doubt I will have seen anything more bonkers than one which surrounds a tyre which blows people's heads off telepathically.
    But it is not like we weren't warned.
    In one of the first scenes from Rubber, a sheriff turns to the camera and tells us this will be a "homage to no reason.''
    In other words, don't try to work it out because it won't bare scrutiny.
    Yet Quentin Dupieux has succeeded in creating a movie which is so utterly surreal that it demands attention.
    And, on the grounds of its stunning originality alone it cannot be labelled one of the worst movies of the year, as some critics have suggested.
    Indeed, there are certainly similarities to some of David Lynch's work but even Lynch could not have come up with something quite as off kilter.
    In fact, however barmy its plot, Rubber is well made. It is a good-looking picture which uses the backdrop of the American outback to decent effect.
    Shall I outline the storyline? I'll give it a go but I fear it may be incomprehensible.
    A group of people are gathered on a hillside and given binoculars are told to look into the distance.
    It transpires that they all understand they are watching a film but it soon becomes clear they are not only part of the movie but an integral part of the storyline.
    Anyway, we pan from the crowd to a tip where a tyre is half-buried.
    Suddenly it comes to life, lifts itself upright and after a few false starts off it rolls.
    It gets a thirst for killing by running over a plastic bottle and then a scorpion but when it tries to crush a glass it fails.
    Somehow it develops psychokinetic powers which enable it to think the glass to be smashed and later uses the same ability on living creatures, including humans.
    Told you. No sense whatsoever.
    But, strange as it may seem I am not going to try to disuade people from seeing Rubber. It's less than 80 minutes long and while it will leave all viewers head-scratching madly, it is still worth a look.
    That said it can't get more than 4/10.
    After all, it is a film about a psycho tyre and I haven't lost my marbles even if Quentin Dupieux has.

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Dwarf Week - The Engineers Guild

    The fifith day in my Dwarf Week and today a quick introduction to some of my models form the engineers guild, this is a very brief look as I have a lot of artillery in my collection.  Way back in 4th ed I used to feild a LOT of artillery typically taking my entire 25% allowed and almost always 4 organ guns (they were 65pts back then), nowadays I play a lot more agressivly and whilst obviously still feild some artillery, now at 2000 I would normally only feild a couple of pieces plus a gyrocopter.  The new edition has made artillery better, but its also made dwarf infantry a lot better, and I'd rather kill things with axes than guns at the moment.
    

    To start off an old 4th ed. special character the guildmaster of the engineers guild burlock daminson, complete with robotic steam powered arm, its shame hes been got a rid of, I thought he was a bit different to the other very bland kings/runelord characters we often get for the dwarves.

    Here is a selection of engineer models, the one on the left from 6th ed when engineers became heroes, the other two are a lot older.

    This is my favorite artillery piece in my collection, the origanal flame canon.  I used to play someone who got very upset when it killed his high elves because he said it was too tiny and too stupid looking to cause that much damage.  What I love about it is the crew, the way they look as if they know its going to explode at some point.

    Here we have two dwarf war machines that no longer feature in the game at all, on the left is a swivel gun, a form of light canon.  Then on the left we have an old dwarf flame thrower, a real shame that they decided to limit them to skaven only.

    Now we get to the most important war machine the dwarfs can feild, the frankly awesome gyrocopoter.  Why is it awesome, (not its stats certainly), its because in an army when everyone can only march 6', this boyo can fly 20' and thats an important ability to have.  These have won so many games for me causing havoc behind enemy lines, blocking marches and making suicidal charges to send people off in the wrong direction, I absolutly love these guys.  Never leave home without one.

    Here we have the humble canon, the battle of skull pass version.  The models ok, but not brilliant and the crew are a little two dimensional, but you can get these very cheap off ebay.  The dwarf canon has got a lot better in the new edition as it now cuases D6 wounds indstead of D3, which has changed my opinion of them completely and with the new trend of feilding big monsters in warhammer a gun that can potentially kill most of them in one shot is pretty niffty.

    And finally the even more humble bolt thrower, these guys are very cheap and whilst they don't reliably hit, when they do hit the right target (say bretonnian knights in lance formation) they can do a lot of damage for the measly 45pts they cost.

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Dwarf Week - The Engineers Guild


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Should coaches be held accountable for horrific fouls?


    Should coaches be held responsible for horrific fouls? Paul Gardner feels so, and after Colorado's Brian Mullan's 10-game suspension for his vicious tackle on Seattle's Steve Zakuani, is the main topic of his column in Soccer America.

    So now we know. Brian Mullan, for his horrific foul on Steve Zakuani, gets a 10-game suspension. A sentence that will, no doubt, set off an earnest debate. Has the MLS Disciplinary Committee been too harsh on Mullan? Or not harsh enough?

    There is always going to be a feeling in these cases that it would be fair, and justice would be nicely done, if the aggressor were suspended until the opponent he crippled is ready to make his comeback.

    When I say “in these cases” I’m not referring to cases of incidental, or accidental, injury -- but only to those where there is evidence of either intent or blatant recklessness. In Mullan’s case, I cannot see how there can be any doubt. Forget “intent”, which is almost impossible to define. Intent to go in hard on Zakuani? Definitely. Intent to break his leg? No, not that.

    Where Mullan is abundantly guilty is on the charge of recklessness. MLS decided that his foul was “reckless, egregious, and showed utter disregard for the safety of his opponent.” This is baffling, because although it sounds like a heavy judgment, it uses words that, in the FIFA rules, apply to non-red-card fouls.

    Rule 12 defines “Reckless” in this way: “Reckless means that the player has acted with complete disregard to the danger to, or consequences for, his opponent.” The problem being that, for such behavior, the rules stipulate only a yellow card, not a red. The severity of the MLS decision therefore, presumably, hinges on the word “egregious” -- a word that needs a definition in this context.

    We know the non-legal meaning of the word, and presumably that is what we’re dealing with here -- something flagrant, particularly bad. But evidently not bad enough to warrant a really lengthy suspension. Satisfying as it would seem to make the aggressor’s punishment fit his victim’s suffering, there are obvious difficulties in applying such a sentence. Anyway, how do you compensate for the pain, for the hospital stay, the mental anguish, the recovery therapy?

    But ruling out some form of punishment linked directly to the suffering of the victim still leaves plenty of room for heavy punishment. What’s wrong with a season-long suspension? Or 20 games?

    One wonders how the figure of 10 games was arrived at. Probably it is a compromise -- in which case it is a poor decision. As a compromise between those who would like a lengthy suspension, and those who might be satisfied with the minimum 1-game suspension, 10 games does not sound right. It is too close to the minimum. Twenty games is more like it -- a harsh penalty for a particularly atrocious piece of thuggery. The addition of a fine is no doubt considered necessary, but it has to be meaningful -- the nugatory $5,000 assessed against Mullan is hardly likely to send a stern message.

    But the punishment should not stop there. It is considerably irksome to see that Mullan’s foul is considered to be his responsibility, and his alone. If his assault on Zakuani were an isolated incident, totally at odds with the way that Mullan normally plays, then, OK, a case can be made for his sole responsibility.

    But that is not a sustainable argument. Mullan spent most of last season -- certainly in the games he played after joining the Rapids late in the season -- charging about the field with formidable energy. A sight to delight those coaches who believe that work rate and commitment are the qualities that really matter in this sport.

    Maybe so. But another way of looking at Mullan’s frantic activity was with considerable apprehension. The way he was playing -- to take but one example, but a pretty frightening one, his awful foul on Guillermo Barros Schelotto in the playoffs against Columbus -- strongly suggested that trouble was brewing.

    I would find it difficult to believe that anyone was actually surprised that Mullan had climaxed his hyperactive style by committing a dreadful foul.

    Colorado coach Gary Smith can no doubt tell us why Mullan has been allowed to continue playing in such a reckless way. Then again, do we really need to ask that of a coach who has, in his midfield -- in addition to Mullan -- Jeff Larentowicz, Jamie Smith and Pablo Mastroeni?

    It comes down to just that, a matter of style, or a lack of it. How ironic -- not to mention farcical -- it is to recall that when Smith took over at the Rapids in 2008 he told us that it was his aim to have the team playing like Arsenal. Instead, we’ve had a team where aggression takes the place of style, a team that its own players openly laud as being “blue collar” -- something diametrically opposite to what Arsenal represent.

    I do believe that coaches should share responsibility for their own players’ conduct. They do, after all, get plenty of criticism when their tactics go wrong, and they get plenty of praise when they get things right. There is not much doubt, then, that the modern coach is viewed as having a great deal of influence on the way that his team plays and on the way that his players conduct themselves.

    At this point, we run into the same obfuscation that surrounds a player who commits a dangerous foul: that of intent. The players will heatedly deny that they intended to hurt anyone -- and we should assume that they are telling the truth. But the accusation is not of malicious intent, it is of recklessness.

    Similarly with the coaches, we should believe their denials that they ever send their players out to kick opponents. But, again, that is not the accusation. The charge here is that a physical style of play has been chosen, and that physical players have been recruited to put it onto practice. Beyond that, it is probably inevitable that physical players who have been enlisted to be physical will, at some point -- even without having to be actively encouraged -- become overly physical. From which the virtual certainty of injuries arises.

    But the proponents of the physical game never feel any responsibility for the mayhem they may create. Another of Smith’s highly physical players is Tyrone Marshall. He has pronounced what happened to Zakuani as a freak accident. This ridiculous verdict comes from a player who, when he was with the Los Angeles Galaxy back in 2007, produced his own “freak accident” -- a tackle that broke the leg of Dallas forward Kenny Cooper.

    When a coach, like Colorado’s Smith, decides to play a physical game, he needs to take into consideration the likelihood of physical play becoming dangerous play, and to take steps to ensure that his players don’t overstep the mark. In Mullan’s case it seems pretty clear that Smith did not do this.

    His defense of Mullan is frankly pathetic, praising him as “very committed” and then rolling out the tired and irrelevant “he didn’t intend to hurt Zakuani” line. One might wonder -- has Smith looked at the replays? Or has he heard Mullan blandly stating that he’ll probably make this sort of tackle again?

    When teams playing physically cause injuries, the coach, as the mentor, must share the responsibility. While I do not think Mullan’s 10-game suspension was harsh enough, I also believe that it is quite wrong for him to be the only one to be punished, because Gary Smith should have been alongside him in the dock.

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Should coaches be held accountable for horrific fouls?


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