Painting minis #1: Getting back into the swing of things

If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you know that my recent D&D obsession has spun off an obsession with painting plastic miniatures. I always assumed such a hobby would be far too frustrating for me, but so far, at least, I’ve found it to be incredibly relaxing. It’s taken the place of building Lego sets as my new “zen” thing—which is fortunate, since plastic miniatures and paint both take up less space and cost considerably less than Lego does.

I haven’t been painting much over the past couple weeks, unfortunately, because my mental health hasn’t been great (when you’re depressed, even doing your “zen” thing can be too much effort, especially if it involves sitting up at a desk, preparing paints, etc.). I managed to get a little bit done today, however—really, just sort of dipping my toe back in a bit, to get myself comfortable with the paints and brushes and minis again—and I thought I’d share.

First up is this skeleton archer, who came with the “learn to paint” kit I’ve been, y’know, learning to paint with. It’s actually an excellent kit, with really good instructions, and I recommend it if you’d like to check out this hobby for yourself. In any event, I think I’m finally done with this one. It’s not perfect, but I could go on fiddling with it forever, and then I’d never move on (or learn to get better).

Apologies for the quality of the pictures; I don’t have a proper macro lens, and also it’s been a long time since I’ve photographed anything.

Not bad for a beginner, though! All credit to the helpful guide that came with the kit, honestly.

I also got a pack of skeletal swordsmen, to further practice the techniques learned on the archer, before I moved onto the second mini in the kit (an orc). I’m not in love with the sculpt of these minis, honestly; the shield makes it difficult to paint the ribs, and the arm is detached from the body. They’ll do for practice, though. Here they are with a base coat on the skeleton parts:

Next up for these ones is to finish the basecoat (swords, shields, and ground), and then to do a wash. Hopefully I’ll get to those this week.

I’m going to try and continue to post mini updates here. Partially because it’s less irritating than posting a million pictures on Twitter, and partially to keep a more easily accessible record of my progress. Also for those lovely folks who contributed to my Kickstarter Kickstarter (don’t ask), this will serve as a test platform for my hopefully coming-soon YouTube series chronicling my painting adventures.

If you have any questions, advice, or suggestions for minis I should paint, let me know in the comments!

Oh, and if anyone feels like buying me the “Layer Up!” learn to paint kit, do feel free.

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New DM looking for players!

Hi friends! If you follow me on Twitter (and I can’t imagine there are that many people reading this who didn’t come here via Twitter, but you never know) then you probably know that I recently, pretty much out of the blue, decided to get into Dungeons & Dragons. I’ve never played before, never even really played any tabletop RPG before, but I’ve decided that not only am I going to try and get a game going, but I’m going to DM it.

I’m excited about this for three reasons. First and foremost, I think it’ll be fun. My new anti-depressant medication seems to be helping and I’m coming out of my shell a bit as a result, and I once again want to have fun-times with friends. Granted, I don’t have very many friends near where I live (and certainly none who would want to or even are able to commit to a regular D&D game), so this will have to be online friends, via Skype, but it’s still a step in the right direction. Besides, I love my online pals just as much as any meatspace pals, so there.

Two, the storytelling possibilities have me very excited. I already have a rough outline of a story arc planned out, one which would span many adventures and last months or possibly years, and I’m pretty pleased with it. But the collaborative and random elements of D&D storytelling are what have me really excited. I want to tell a story with my friends, and I’ll help provide structure and guide things along, but in the end, random chance will have a say in what happens as well. And all of that is very thrilling to me.

Third, since this will be happening via Skype anyway, I see no reason not to record it, edit it, package it, and release it to the masses as a podcast. Even if people don’t want to play, they can hopefully enjoy the story we tell. And maybe they’ll be inspired to start their own game!

So, that’s the situation. Right now I’m reading the rule books, looking over what modules might work well for the plot I’ve constructed (I anticipate eventually going full homebrew with the adventures, but to start out I’ll likely be borrowing heavily from existing D&D published campaigns, just until I get a feel for how adventures should be structured and paced), and immersing myself in all the DM tip blogs and videos I can find (and also inhaling large quantities of The Adventure Zone and Critical Role).

But I need players! I’ve had one person say they’re probably in, but I’d like a party of 3-4 players if at all possible (that seems like a good number to start with; if more people are interested down the line, I imagine by then I’d be an adept enough DM to juggle more players). I am looking mostly for friends or friends-of-friends, as this is my first time doing this and I’d like to be as comfortable as possible (being less depressed hasn’t made me any less of an introvert, I’m afraid, and new people still terrify me). So for now, I’m going to have to limit the people I invite. If we’ve been mutuals on Twitter for a while, or you’re pals with someone I’ve been mutuals with on Twitter for a while, you’re good. You would also need to be able to commit to a regular schedule (I’m thinking either 2-3 hours weekly or 3-4 hours every other week, depending on what people want/can manage), have your own dice, and come ready to role play and have some fun!

If you’ve never played D&D or an RPG before, don’t worry: neither have I! If you’ve been intimidated in the past by all the rules and the math and whatnot, don’t be. Perhaps it was impenetrable in the past (I wouldn’t know, truthfully), but D&D 5th edition has, by all accounts, been streamlined nicely. Looking over the rules, it’s all pretty easy to pick up. And you won’t need to memorize armor ratings or weapons damage or anything like that; your character sheet will have most of the information you need to refer to often, and for combat or more esoteric stuff, that’s what I’m there for. It won’t be hard and it won’t be boring, I promise. I’m sure I’ll fumble and make mistakes, but those can be fun too, and I promise to keep the game moving. Above all, I don’t foresee myself being some sort of rules monster; I’m willing to play fast and loose when it’s called for. Not always; the rules are important. But at the end of the day the fun and the storytelling are what it’s all about.

Also, you won’t need to invest an arm and a leg; I bought all those fancy books up there because that’s what I do, but you can download the basic rules and a character sheet for free from the D&D website. Of course if you want to get the full Player’s Manual, I’m not gonna stop you. It’s about $30 on Amazon. Those other books up there are for DMs and you wouldn’t need them. The only other thing you’d need to spend money on would be dice, and those can also be had for fairly cheaply (I got these, but there are tons to choose from).

If you’re interested, get at me on Twitter. I’ve been tweeting about this a lot, but I figured laying out my thoughts like this, and having a solitary blog post to refer people to, would be better than constantly replying to my own tweet thread.

Let’s have some fun, friends! I may be a new DM, but you are safe in my hands.

2017 in film: Update #2 (February)

Okay, so, I guess I’m only updating this blog once a month now? Oh well, once a month is better than what I used to do. Movie update time!

So, February was a rough month. The new medication I’m on (which I just got a replacement for today, yay!) made me very very sleepy, and so I didn’t get much done, movie-wise or other. I still did better than February of last year, when I watched a grand total of zero movies. Though between this month and last month, I’m only slightly ahead of where I was last year, in terms of sheer numbers. And I’m falling behind in my resolutions.

Let’s see where we are, and where we should be.

 

RESOLUTION

GOAL (for 28 Feb)

ACTUAL (for 28 Feb)

52 new-to-me 8/52 16/52
12 in the theatre 2/12 2/12
52 pre-1980 8/52 14/52
12 documentaries 2/12 0/12
52 directed by women 8/52 4/52
52 directed by PoC 8/52 5/52
52 non-English language 8/52 5/52
All the Hitchcock 8/52 6/52
All the Godzilla 2 or 3/29 2/29
All the Ghibli/Miyazaki 2/23 0/23

 

So we’re actually okay on a couple of these. New-to-me and pre-1980 are well in-hand, and I’m right on-track with Godzilla and theatrical excursions. Everything else I’m falling way down on, though.

So what did I watch this month? The complete list is here, but, in summary: some Hitchcock, some Godzilla, a lot of movies in which Nazis die (no reason), and a couple other bits and bobs. Only three movies were non-English language (Godzilla, Godzilla Raids Again, and Das Boot), and only two (the two Godzillas) were directed by people of color. Even worse, only one film (American Psycho) was directed by a woman. I did not visit the movie theatre this month at all, nor have I picked up a documentary.

Five movies this month (Godzilla Raids Again, American Psycho, and the Hitchcocks — Downhill, The Farmer’s Wife, and Easy Virtue) were new-to-me, and honestly, I didn’t much care for any of them. The tried-and-true classics (Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Rocketeer, and Sneakers) were probably my favorites, although I finally got around to my second viewing of Inglorious Basterds, which was just fucking great.

So! This weekend I will transition to a new medication that will hopefully make me less sleepy, and in addition to getting more writing and research done (not to mention being more productive at work), in March I’m gonna watch some fucking movies, gosh darn it.

2017 in film: Update #1 (January)

So! We’re a month into the new year and ha ha HA HA HA oh my god what a fucking month it’s been. BUT I’m not here to talk about the collapse of American democracy and possibly western civilization, I’m here to talk about MOVIES!

Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke

So, how did I do on my resolutions this month? Okay. Not terrible, not great, but okay. Lemme show you what I mean.

  1. Seven Samurai (1954, Kurosawa)
  2. Dark City (1998, Proyas)
  3. Midnight Special (2016, Nichols)
  4. The Neon Demon (2016, Refn)
  5. The Babadook (2014, Kent)
  6. Rocky (1976, Avildsen)
  7. North by Northwest (1959, Hitchcock)
  8. Princess Mononoke (1997, Miyazaki)
  9. Vertigo (1958, Hitchcock)
  10. La La Land (2016, Chazelle)
  11. The Pleasure Garden (1925, Hitchcock)
  12. All The President’s Men (1976, Pakula)
  13. The Hurt Locker (2008, Bigelow)
  14. Advantageous (2015, Phang)
  15. The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927, Hitchcock)
  16. The Ring (1928, Hitchcock)
  17. The Hunt For Red October (1990, McTiernan)
  18. Deep Red (director’s cut) (1975, Argento)

Dario Argento’s Deep Red

So I’ve got 18 movies there, which in terms of sheer numbers, is actually worse than 2016 (I watched 25 movies in January 2016). In terms of my resolutions, though, I’m actually doing much better than I did last year. 11 of the 18 movies were new-to-me, which puts me well ahead of my resolution to see 52 new-to-me movies this year (and well, well ahead of the rather pathetic curve established last year, when I only watched 21 new-to-me movies in all of 2016). 3 of the films were directed by a woman (The Babadook, The Hurt Locker, Advantageous), and 3 were directed by a person of color (Seven Samurai, Princess Mononoke, Advantageous), which puts me a little behind on both of those, but not cripplingly so. Only two were in a language other than English (Seven Samurai, Princess Mononoke), but I shouldn’t have any trouble getting caught up on that one, either.

I got three movies into my Hitchcock project — North by Northwest and Vertigo don’t count for that, since I’m watching them all in order. Likewise, Princess Mononoke won’t count for my Ghibli/Miyazaki project, which I’m hoping to begin this month, along with my Godzilla project (both of those will quickly catch me up on foreign language films, though I’m going to try and not let them count for films directed by a person of color, just to make sure I broaden my scope in that area as much as possible).

Oh, and I’ve spent 1,944 minutes watching movies so far this year. That’s 32.4 hours, or 1.35 days.

Alan J. Pakula’s All The President’s Men

As for the films themselves? The best was probably Princess Mononoke, which I was fortunate enough to see on the big screen. Even though it was the dub, it was a breathtaking experience (I’d seen it before, but it had been many years). All The President’s Men and The Lodger were likewise great. Seven Samurai, North by Northwest, and The Hunt For Red October are old favorites. Advantageous was a bit dull, and Rocky was a huge disappointment. You can read my thoughts on all these films over at Letterboxd.

As for February, just going to keep plugging along. I have American Psycho and Boyz n the Hood at home from Netflix, and A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night and Creed queued up for streaming. I’m going to try and start both the Ghibli/Miyazaki and Godzilla projects, and continue the Hitchcock one as well.

One note: I may have to abandon the resolution to see 52 films in the theatre, just for financial reasons. I’ll still get to the theatre when I can, but it may be once a month, instead of once a week, at least for now. We’ll see.

Got any films I absolutely must see? Leave ’em in the comments below!

 

2016 movies and 2017 movie resolutions

A new year has (finally) dawned, and you know what that means! Time for metrics yessssssssssss.

I kept detailed records and statistics on all the films I watched in 2016. Unfortunately, I did this in one of the worst years for movie-watching I’ve had in a very long time. I don’t mean the movies were bad; I mean my consumption of movies was at an all-time low, and the variety of films I sought out was pitiful.

Still, before we move forward, it can be instructive to look back, yes? So before I get to my 2017 movie-watching resolutions, let’s take a peek back at 2016.

2016: Not Great, Bob!

I watched a grand total of 78 movies in 2016. Only 21 of these were new-to-me, leaving 57 that were rewatches. The vast majority of these films were watched in January, no doubt in a frenzy of optimism about the new year (similar to what I’m feeling now). You can see below how the rest of the year measured up.

2016moviesbymonth

April spiked due to a Marvel Cinematic Universe rewatch project I undertook for Rogues Portal, and December peaked again thanks to me looking back and realizing, shit, I’ve barely watched any movies at all this year. Otherwise, the numbers stayed pretty low.

I was especially bad about seeking out diverse films this year. Only 3 (The Matrix trilogy) of the 78 films I watched were directed by women, and only 2 (Akira & The Tale of Zatôichi) were in a language other than English. I didn’t keep track of whether or not the director of a film was white or not, but I suspect my numbers there would be nearly as bad. Thanks to poor mental health, I was extremely passive about what movies I sought out and watched this year. It doesn’t require much effort to seek out films by women and people of color, but I was evidently incapable of even that small effort. This isn’t an excuse; poor mental health or no, I should have done better. More on this below.

The films I watched this year were predominantly from this decade; 28 were released in 2010 or later.

2016moviesbyyear

You can see above that the earliest film I watched was from 1942 (Hitchcock’s Saboteur). Indeed, other than Michael Curtiz’s White Christmas (1954), everything from before 1960 was by Hitchcock. Due likely in part to so many of the films I watched being recent ones, the vast majority — 40 — were rated PG-13. 18 were R, 14 PG, 4 not rated. and only 2 (2001: A Space Odyssey and Cleopatra) were G. None were X or NC-17.
7 films were seen in the theatre (2 being Rogue One), and the rest (71) were seen at home.

I spent a total of 10,054 minutes watching films in 2016. That’s 167.54 hours, and 6.98 days. The longest film I watched was the extended edition of Return of the King (263 minutes). The shortest was Hitchcock’s Rope at a brisk 80 minutes. 43 of the 78 films were longer than two hours; 7 were longer than three hours. Only 2 (Return of the King and Cleopatra) were over four hours.

As for directors, Hitchcock appeared the most (6 films). Next was Justin Lin (5), thanks to a Fast & Furious series viewing (& Star Trek Beyond). After that was the Russo Brothers, thanks to the fact that I evidently watched The Winter Soldier and Civil War twice (for a total of 4).

So what does this all mean? Well, like I said above, I was very passive in my movie-watching this year. I stuck with films I had mostly seen before, and mostly unchallenging ones at that. I didn’t make the slightest effort to seek out films from women, people of color, or other nations. I largely stayed in the American white male wheelhouse. And while it’s not as if American white men don’t make good movies, their perspective is just one of many, and one I myself am already intimately familiar with.

So let’s do better in 2017, eh?

2017: Let’s Do Better, Bob!

I had a bit of a revelation this year, while watching the second or third episode of Luke Cage. I realized, with a start, that this thing I was watching wasn’t made explicitly for me.

That wasn’t a bad thing, and it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the show. If anything, it enhanced it. But I felt a little taken aback, and even a little ashamed. As a white straight American male, the vast majority of content I encounter is made, more or less, explicitly for me. Encountering something like Luke Cage and expecting it to be similarly tailored to my tastes and experiences — despite both the creator and the characters being part of an American sub-culture I’m not a part of — was, in retrospect, silly, and a little racist. It was also refreshing as hell. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d watched something — especially something American — that wasn’t aimed squarely at my demographic. It’s a position of absurd privilege, and I felt ashamed for not having sought media outside my immediate comfort zone in a very long time.

So that, along with the sobering statistics we went over above, has led to my ten movie-watching resolutions for 2017. In 2017 I will watch:

  • 52 movies directed by women
  • 52 movies directed by people of color
  • 52 non-English movies

These first three resolutions are all inspired by the shocking lack of diversity in my film-watching from 2016. In 2015 film critic Marya Gates spent the entire year only watching films directed by women. She scaled that back in 2016, but still committed to watching at least 52 films directed by women. Inspired by her example, I see no reason I can’t do the same, not only for women, but for other marginalized voices in our community. The non-English-language movie resolution is to keep me seeking yet more diverse perspectives; even by expanding to women and people of color, it would still be easy to have an American-centric view of the world. I specified non-English-language specifically because it would be easy to count films from England or Australia as “diverse” while still maintaining a western-centric view of the world. Specifying foreign language films should hopefully help me push that box outward a little further.

  • 52 new-to-me movies
  • 52 movies in the theatre
  • 52 movies from before I was born (1980)
  • 12 documentaries

These next four resolutions, again, simply stem from me looking at my habits in 2016 and wanting to branch out. In 2016 I mostly watched movies (a) I’d seen before, (b) at home, and (c) from this decade. I want to change that. I love seeing movies in the theatre, but sometimes it’s hard for me to make the effort to get up and go. This year I’m going to make the effort. And as someone genuinely interested in film history, I definitely need to make a greater effort to look at movies from long ago — not just before 1980, but from cinema’s beginnings, as well. And I’ve also always been terrible about seeking out documentaries, so I wanted to make some slight effort in that regard as well.

  • Every movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock
  • Every movie from Hayao Miyazaki and/or Studio Ghibli
  • Every Godzilla movie

These last three are simply filmmakers or serieses I’ve been meaning to tackle for a while, and never gotten around to. Why not watch all the Hitchcock, Ghibli, and Godzilla? It’ll be fun.

Naturally, a single film can count for more than one category. If I watch The Pleasure Garden, for instance, it will count for new-to-me, pre-1980, and Hitchcock. If I watch 13th, it counts for new-to-me, director of color, woman director, and documentary. You get the idea.

I should add that I’ll be resurrecting my long-dormant Letterboxd account and writing, however briefly, about each film I watch. Follow me there (or on Twitter, where I’ll be maintaining a year-long thread with every movie I watch, with links to the Letterboxd reviews). I’ll also try and post updates here on the blog every month or so, checking in with how I’m doing.

I guess that’s about it! I’m excited — both to have concrete goals to work towards, and simply for all the great movies I’m going to watch this year. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get started!

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Lego Tatooine

I cleared some space and set up my Lego Tatooine diorama again.

img_4527Desert Skiff (9496), including the Han figure from Jabba’s Palace (9516).

img_4528Jabba’s Sail Barge (75020). The Boba Fett figure is from the Skiff set.

img_4529Droid Escape Pod (75136) with Sandtrooper & Dewback from the Mos Eisley set (75052).

img_4533A better look at the Sandtrooper & Dewback.

img_4536 img_4534Mos Eisley. The Jawa is from the Escape Pod set, and the Tusken Raider is from the T-16.

img_4537T-16 Skyhopper (75081). I need to get some clear pieces and build a stand for it, so I can display it with the wings in flight mode (same with Krennic’s Shuttle and, when I get them, the Tydirium and Kylo Ren’s shuttle).

img_4538 img_4539Jabba’s Palace (9516) and the Rancor Pit (75005). At some point I’d like to get a bunch of brown and tan bricks and build a proper desert landscape for this diorama. I’d build the Palace into a cliff, so that the front door is no longer hanging in the air, and the Rancor Pit will be “underground.” Also might build a little pit for the Lars Homestead, if I get really ambitious.

This is all in preparation for next weekend’s big build …

cuxv9pavmaijhhdOh. Fucking. Yeah.

Construction zone

And here’s tonight’s effort. Trying to get the proportions of the face down. I’m going off of Andrew Loomis’s book Drawing the Head and Hands, and this video simplifying it.

2016-06-25

I’m … kinda getting there? More or less? I’m okay on the vertical axis; it’s the horizontal that’s giving me trouble.

Incidentally, 30 minutes is just the right length of time for me right now. Any longer and I start getting bored and frustrated, to say nothing of the pain in my hand from gripping the stylus. Gotta build up those … hand muscles, I guess (I see the joke you’re about to make; it’s okay. You don’t have to make it.).

Learning to draw: part 1 of 765,878,744,634,762,903,741,741

2016-06-24 (4)Comic books are a medium I’m excited by, and would enjoy writing for. I don’t have the money to hire an artist, though. I could try and convince an artist to work with me gratis, with the understanding that we’d share ownership and any (hypothetical) profits down the line, but without a portfolio of completed comics, showcasing what a breathtakingly amazing writer I am, I’m not sure anyone would go for that.

Obviously, the solution is to draw them myself. And to do that, I’m gonna have to learn how to draw.

The goal is to start practicing drawing for 30 minutes each day (hopefully increasing that to 60 minutes after a little while). To keep myself accountable (and for your amusement), I’ll be posting some of my practice sessions on this blog.

So here’s my first session (from yesterday): Continue reading