Thursday, 20 November 2014

The Tumultuous Existance of Whisky the Ghost

Whisky was a bad ghost.

That’s not to say he was cruel or annoying, like those ghosts who wait until you’re just about to fall asleep before starting to stomp around in the attic. Or the ones who like to stay just at the edge of your vision, then run away when you turn to focus. Those ghosts are just mean.

No, Whisky was just not very good at being a ghost.

He tried his best, but it never quite worked out. He would make areas of the house inexplicably cold, but forgot that it was summer so his hauntees were actually quite appreciative of it. He made ominous noises but more often than not this just brought on a coughing fit and he had to excuse himself. He would hide in cupboards in preparation of a quick fright, but the anticipation would start him giggling and he would have to go lie down a while.

Whisky came to the conclusion that perhaps he didn’t look that scary, so perhaps he should try being a poltergeist instead and throw things around. This didn’t work out.

As it happened, this wasn’t the biggest blow to his confidence.

Deciding that being a traditional house-ghost wasn’t working out, Whisky attempted a change in career. He had always had an interest in performing, so he considered a possible start as an actor. Now, Whisky had never formally acted, but he had once pretended to be a bed sheet for several hours. He was especially proud of that, for it had been so convincing he got  thrown into a washing machine for cleaning. The subsequent dizziness lasted only a few days.

Sadly, it wasn’t enough.

Convincing himself that they were looking for more experienced actors, Whisky kept searching. To his delight, he was offered to join a travelling spiritualist as part of his act.

It was around this time Whisky learnt he would get terrible stage fright.

After being fired Whisky decided that, perhaps, he should stick to what he knew best: haunting.

There were issues: what to haunt? The idea of being part of a ghost-ship appealed to Whisky, but he suffered terrible sea-sickness. He tried to join a ghost army re-enactment group, but deep down he knew that no-one cared for them as much as they did a real ghost army. He tried to play haunting music in the streets of cities, but failed when he realised he didn’t know how to play any instruments.

For a brief time Whisky  haunted a graveyard that wasn’t claimed by any other ghost. His joy at being part of such a traditional haunting location gave way when he realised he wasn’t very keen on being at such a spooky location, and at any rate the skeletons were always causing a racket.

He left the graveyard and the skeletons, and went into the wilderness. He hoped to find some hikers or campers to scare. Perhaps he would become a local urban legend - a strange piece of folklore spoken in whispers to scare children and visitors.

Instead he just got lost.

In the end, Whisky took up residence at a castle. Not a particularly well-known castle, for all of them (especially the ones that got visitors) already had a resident ghost and, well, they weren’t keen to give up such a nice job. Instead Whisky found a quiet, out-of-the-way ruin, usually unknown and rarely visited by anyone.

It wasn’t a glamorous role, and it was unlikely it would lead to him become a part of local folklore, but it was  a job he could do. It didn’t have any skeletons, and he could run to some (mostly intact) room if the weather got particularly bad.

And if any wanderer, any explorer, any person wanting to visit should come by then, well, Whisky was very confident in his abilities to make ominous sounds, to be seen out of the corner of his visitor’s eye, to find a hiding place from which to jump out with his best, most frightening cry of “boo!”

And then he decide not to do any of that, and instead run away and hope that the visitor would go away. Because Whisky wasn’t very good at being a ghost.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Is That a Star Trek Thing? Part Two

Construction on the Mini-Millennium Falcon continues to go well until we hit one fairly important snag. You see, the instructions clearly state that we put the engine in first, then build the ship around it, but I’m not sure that’s a very good idea. Kan Konstructions is very safety conscious (only one work death in one-and-a-half construction efforts), and we’re slightly worried that having an active engine that could rip a hole in the fabric of reality around a worksite is a bad idea. So we built the whole ship in advance, then realised we were in that ridiculous situation where you have to fit a sofa through a small door. Except instead of sofa we mean engine-that-could-rip-a-hole-in-the-fabric-of-reality. So we took it all apart and went by the instructions, assuming Denmark knows best.

And you know what? It’s now only two workplace deaths.

After that, work went fantastically quickly, though there was some confusion as to why we went to all the effort of building interior-parts of a LEGO model only to cover them all up.

Denmark knows best.

This might, of course, make folk wonder why it’s taken three months for Kan Konstructions to complete the Mini-Millennium Falcon. You see, and you might have seen something in the news about it: the construction yards were attacked and virtually destroyed. A rival franchise, determined to prevent the relaunch of Star Wars, launched an attack upon our humble base.

Which is to say any of the following deaths are not workplace related.

It began with a perfectly realistic explosion in which a Dalek burst through our outer defences. I say defences, I mean Geoff the security guard. I say security guard, I mean that guy we hire in case of sudden Dalek attack.

I gather the troops! By which I mean I gather the construction workers and rally their courage. It doesn’t work, of course - I can’t even think of a decent/mildly amusing speech to put on a silly blog entry, so I’ll be buggered if I can do one on the spot for them.

Now, if some of my readers are of a more gentle disposition, then I urge you to look away from the next few images. They are rather graphic, and depict the horrors of a battle between a gargantuan Dalek and various characters from the Doctor Who franchise. Brave heart, everyone else.

Real Adagio for Strings stuff, there, I know.

The construction crew are lost, and in retrospect I have to question my employment choices. Some of them were utilising some heavy weaponry, which is not appropriate gear for a workplace. Conversely, some were wielding screwdrivers, which is not appropriate for combat situations.

I repeat, however, this does not count as a workplace incident.

We’re down to one man: LEGO Han Solo, the client who commissioned this death-trap of a machine. Brave, charming, determined to prove he can actually shoot first ever since a controversial revelation in the late-nineties, he decides to send LEGO Batman instead.

Scuba LEGO Batman, no less.

It doesn’t work, of course. LEGO Batman has no chance against a Dalek, for that would be laughable. Naturally, LEGO Han Solo knew this for he raced off to the Mini-Millennium Falcon with the final piece. He knows that this final piece will mean, like with saving the land of Pelamar with the final Veetacore piece in Through the Dragon’s Eye, he can save the day and destroy the Dalek menace.

He doesn’t, of course. He just hops onboard and flies into the sunset.

Ignore the hand ignore the hand ignore the hand

Epilogue the First: The Dalek did not get beyond the outer perimeter, being as it was the bookshelves. Between that and the actual construction yards is an awful lot of carpet. Dalek toys, apparently, cannot handle carpets.

Probably shouldn’t have bothered with the whole defence thing, then. You live and learn. Well, I live and learn.

Epilogue the Second: LEGO Han Solo died shortly after leaving Earth’s atmosphere. Apparently cockpits should be sealed from the vacuum of space. Kan Konstructions never were paid for the effort of constructing the Mini-Millennium Falcon.

Total workplace deaths in two-and-a-half construction efforts: 11.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Is That a Star Trek Thing? Part One

Two weeks ago Kan Konstructions received a contract offer from Senff Industries. Apparently one of their clients was looking to have a custom-designed YT-1300 freighter built for them and was having trouble finding a shipyard company willing to take on the task. Usually such starships are constructed by the Corellian Engineering Corporation, so Kan Konstructions contacted them in the hope we might uncover why they had refused this time. The reply:

“Bwahahahaaa, have you even seen the designs? It’s a deathtrap waiting to happen. There’s not even a proper cockpit, for pities sake! The company that builds that monstrosity will be sued into the ground.”

Thankfully Kan Konstructions has no established ethical principles on paper, and we’re sure no-one on the internet has ever been sued, so we accepted the contract.

Fortunately, Kan Konstructions has had experience in creating ships from various franchises, and in fact put on hold our current construction of the USS Enterprise from Star Trek, which is in no way symbolic.

At first I decided I would attempt to construct the ship myself. Now I’ve seen such constructions done “properly,” by “qualified engineers”, where they lay out all the pieces and tools in some sort of "ordered" manner, which they claim will make the process go more easily. I figured I could just get my own engineering qualification and be able to do this myself, but did you know it takes at least six months to become an engineer? I don’t have time for that! So I’m going to do it the way all “real” men do it.

Then I looked at the instructions. I had to find a small black, hingey-like hinge piece. Easy!



Definitely nope.

Alright, so bad idea. But I had a thought! Kan Konstructions used to have a workforce, a fine workforce, one that could construct incredible machines, or would if their leadership had any sense of commitment. But they were gone now, having departed to ventures new. Probably up a hoover. I’m still looking.

So I recruited a new work-force. They were mostly out of work right now, though a couple claimed they would have new jobs in a month or two, bless. Now, they might look a bit familiar to some, and I did have to check the rules on crossing franchises, but apparently on the internet anything goes, and it seems I should be encouraging them to have less clothes, but never mind that!

They were put to work immediately and, dare I say it, they were better than the previous workforce. I mean, look at this guy:

Alright, sure, I mean he was screaming something about how he had found the supreme piece of LEGO, and how all other pieces of LEGO should be exterminated as they were inferior, but I decided to let his anger issues slide because he had found the hingey piece!

And from that point there was no stopping them.

Within a few hours we had the…does a starship have a keel? Well we had the what-would-be-a-keel-on-a-regular-ship laid down. Actually, that could go to explain why we never did finish the HMS Victory - the model clearly starts with the hull of the ship, with nothing for that hull to attach to. Amateurish stuff - which for the clever minds at Kan Industries meant we got far too confused and had to play some video games a while to try and calm our confused minds. Yes, that’ll do.

So, Senff Industries, we have begun the contract assigned to us, and I am pleased to say it is well under way. I would go so far to say your client will have his custom YT-1300 within a week.

Eh…best make it two weeks. Y’know what we’re like. I’m not saying we’re easily distracted by things and may forget to provide you with regular reports, but that possibly we might be easily distracted by things and may forget to provide you with regular reports. Or…ooh! ooh! OR production might be affected by some nefarious creature with a desire to prevent this diabolical mashing of sci-fi franchises as it reads like some terrible, terrible, fan-fiction.

But what are the chances of that?


Monday, 4 February 2013

We’re all Stories in the End - Doctor Who Paintings (Season One)

Season One (1963 - 1964)
The Doctor: William Hartnell

I decided against putting up Doctor Who season-by-season reviews up. It goes against the nature of the blog, and I feel I rather shot myself in the foot by including links to two far more clever, more entertaining Doctor Who review sites. Andrew still gets stuck with being sent my reviews, however.

So instead I shall contribute to Doctor Who fandom by doing a lot of painting. In an effort to practice and improve my painting skills, I shall attempt to draw one image from every Doctor Who story created, an ambition slightly bettered by my attempt to watch every episode before the 23rd November this year.. The pictures can be a direct attempt at recreating a scene, to simply drawing something original that at least has some relevance to the story. The theory is I have a solid inspirational source, and each painting will help improve my skills.

For the first season I stuck with just calligraphy ink and water, with one exception. I feel it’s appropriate to the black and white episodes of Hartnell’s era, and it’s something I feel comfortable enough using.

001 - An Unearthly Child

I start by cheating. Twice. First because it’s a straightforward copy of my desktop wallpaper (which as I’ve used for so many years I cannot credit the original creator). Second because it fails to acknowledge the latter three episodes of the story (it is sometimes considered two separate stories - an Unearthly Child for the first episode and 100’000 BC for the other three).

The TARDIS trying its hardest to light the unknown was too fantastic an image not to try and copy, and is a nod of the hat to the mysterious opening scene of a police box in a junkyard.

002 - The Daleks

Daleks are bloody hard to get right (at this point a more petty man would make a snide comment about how awful the redesigned Daleks of Matt Smith’s era are, and wouldn’t you know it I just did that) and see below for some awkward tests on my part. This image was a pretty obvious one to do, though it paints the Doctor as far too much a hero. In the episode (and a lot of the early stories) he’s far more willing to bully or antagonise others to get what he wants. In this case it’s getting a race of avowed pacifists to commit genocide against the Daleks.

Which is actually pretty impressive, really.

003 - The Edge of Destruction

The TARDIS goes haywire and the crew begin blaming each other for the problem. Eventually all is resolved and everyone is friends from then on. Not much to draw other than an attempt to get the general sentiment across. It was quite a grim story, with the relationship between the Doctor and his companions very unfamiliar to someone like myself, who is only used to the revived series.

004 - Marco Polo

I gave myself a rule of never spending more than two days on each picture - the main idea is to try and be creative and improve my skills, and if I get stuck on a picture I’ll just get miserable and give up. This one broke the rule someone, as I spent ages trying to work out the various details. While it gives an impression of what I wanted, it’s not quite what I hoped for.

I’ll come back to it, and I think I’ll make the shaded borders in colour. Marco Polo is the first ‘recap’ story (audio-only, with still-footage to accompany it as a result of the BBC's policy on destroying original films) and it happened to come with colour photos of some beautiful sets and costumes. As it’s the only recap to have that joy, it’ll be nice to show some appreciation for it.

005 - The Keys of Marinus

A slightly difficult story to draw a single picture for, as it’s one that is essentially several stories mashed together with a common theme. Since that theme was the TARDIS crew being forced to collect important keys that can be used to activate a defensive device, I did a modification of the scene where they realise a shield has been placed around the ship to prevent their access. It’s one of those typical times I spend little time practicing a picture and coming out with something good, rather than my usual ‘lots of planning, rubbish result.’

006 - The Aztecs

And speaking of planning, this is a picture I did with pencil and a permanent ink pen to get some ideas on what to do for this story (I was having trouble picking something, see below). I liked it so much I decided not to risk painting it again as I knew I would prefer this picture anyway. I’ll use the fact it was only meant as practice to explain my sudden inability to utilise perspective. Yes, that’ll do.

007 - The Sensorites

The Sensorites, while a little average, deserves some credit for showing an alien race that isn’t just a violent soldier-race, with a leadership conflicted with what to do with the intruding humans. That said, the cliffhanger from the first episode, with a Sensorite looming at the space-window very memorable. This picture doesn’t quite get that across - he looks like a salesman leaning over and asking “Hellooooo, can I help you?”

It wasn’t the Doctor and his grand-daughter Susan at the final scene either, but as I don’t think I’ll get another chance to draw her (shouldn’t have bothered, mind, it’s a terrible likeness) I modified it a bit. The story did focus a bit more on their relationship, and really drew attention to why the show was incompatible with both characters as long as both travelled together (she wanted to be more independent, he wouldn’t let her. He wanted to travel the universe, but was too protective of her when approaching danger).

008 - The Reign of Terror

It is pointed out this is the Doctor’s favourite period of history. I found it amusing that for the rest of the story the crew are subjected to imprisonment, press-ganging, nearly burnt to death, wounded and, at one point, sentenced to death by guillotine. He never really seems to bring up his love for the period that much afterwards.

I like this picture for I like the way I’m drawing the characters (similar to ‘The Daleks’ and ‘Keys of Marinus’). I do need to learn how to shade the various elements properly though.

Test stuff!

Random doodles and playing-around-with-stuff-ness as I went along.

Focusing on the TARDIS for ‘An Unearthly Child’ was an early decision, it just took a while to work out how I wanted to do it. This was inspired by a scene of the TARDIS from the recent Christmas episode, and I fooled around in colour. In the end I realised I should stick with black and white, and the image needed to be used was literally right in front of me.

Test sketches for ‘The Daleks’, with added ink blotches as I used the paper for testing the brush when I painted the image proper. Recycling!

Two idea for ‘The Aztecs.’ The first one was a bust - it was supposed to be the main antagonist, but by cross-hatching the warpaint under his nose I kept being reminded of Stephen Fry’s General Melchett wearing a hair-net for his moustache and couldn’t stop giggling. I didn’t learn my lesson - a later cross-hatching attempt made it look like the Doctor was wearing stockings.

The second one felt a bit more right for the context of the episode. Barbara is mistaken for a god and, horrified at the sacrificial bloodshed and love of violence by the Aztec people, unsuccessfully tries to change their ways. At one point she and the Doctor get into an argument at her actions, with him claiming, “You can’t rewrite history. Not one line!” He is ultimately correct, as the Aztecs proclaim Barbara a false-god and drive them out. He never quite explains how he can’t interfere here, but could wipe out the Daleks four stories previously.

I abandoned it as I remembered a comment by a friend in which she complained about the pictures having no context. Which is perfectly true - this would be just two people looking at each other. I think it worked for Edge of Destruction, but here it’s too vague without their lines.

Included as I prefer this pencil sketch to the finished ones in ‘Sensorites.’ Susan still doesn’t look correct, though.

And that is all. To season two, which shall have cats, Daleks, Romans, butterflies and more Daleks...

Monday, 12 November 2012

Train Simulator 2013: Newcastle to York: Part Three

Disappointed and with little to do but reach York, I just push the throttle to full and wait until the alarm goes off. It’s not as if I’m in charge of this thing, is it?

But then:

Alright, it’s on a different track but it’s going the same way. It shall be overtaken!

I set throttle to…er, what it was. I double check there’s there’s no curves in the track that may derail me (of course there isn’t) and I just watch through the window.


York itself is probably the most exciting part of the entire journey. I have to slow down (!) and ease the train in slowly. I can take my time as, well, I’m ten minutes early and I can imagine I’ve probably buggered up a lot of my passengers taxi plans.

On the bright side I see David Tennant dressed as the Doctor.

The train is halted, the passengers leave and I get a message congratulating me and telling me another driver will take over me and I should “take a well earnt break.” I suspect management are taking the piss.

Conclusion: This is dull. Incredibly dull. There’s no liking it ironically, there’s no liking it as a good game. I can’t even imagine liking it from the viewpoint of someone who enjoys model trainsets. It’s a rail-shooter without the shooting, and a simulation of pretty scenery without providing the prettiness. Go forwards. Or backwards. If you’re doing wrong then the game will stop you.

Train Simulator 2013: Newcastle to York: Part Two

With a shudder, the train lurches forward a little faster than it did before.

We’re doing 90 in a 60mph zone, and we have a nasty turn ahead. At least I assume it’s nasty - it’s the closest to a 90 degree angle we have to take in this journey, and there’s hardly any sense of speed in this game. I slow a little for the main turns, but throttle it for any other time. I am determined to catch up to this other train that is on my line.

We pass other trains. They toot their horn to warn me I might be going a bit too fast but I don’t care. I toot my own horn back. They don’t hear me, of course, I’m going far too fast. My passengers put up with it as best they can.

    Brave hearts.

We get close to Darlington. This is where we will catch up to the train that is on my track. I urge the engine to go a bit faster, to maybe surprise the enemy before we reach the station. And then something happens.

The master alarm goes off.

I assume it’s the master alarm. It’s bloody loud and it wont shut up until I press it. I’m not entirely sure what it signifies - we’re still on the rails and going only slightly above the speed limit, so nothing is wrong on my end.

And then suddenly the train stops. Brakes to full, engine off. The MAN has overridden my train and taken control. I am forced to a halt outside Darlington just to let this bastard on my line park properly.

I am later granted control of my own engine and allowed to crawl through Darlington. I pass the train I was chasing. I’m sure I catch a glimpse of the driver chuckling at me.

I am granted one pleasure though. I notice a passing train has its lights on and I decide I shall activate my own. I am apparently allowed to choose between standard lighting and red lamps. Naturally I choose the latter.

We’re coming for you, York.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Train Simulator 2013: Newcastle to York: Part One

We depart Newcastle.

Beautiful. Really takes me back. To about 1998 graphics. I realise there’s a lot to do model-wise, but I am literally on a rail! You don’t have to worry about the player derailing the train and using it to travel to the west coast. Make things look pretty!

Given the dull, blocky greyness of it all, I’m more surprised than ever Aberdeen isn’t in it. I put on some music for the passengers, even though that doesn't happen on trains. It's my bloody train!

I have the throttle at full and we’re charging through the countryside at 55 miles per hour! I’m so excited I stick my head out the window!

From now on I keep my limbs firmly inside the vehicle and wonder why on earth that camera angle is featured in the game.

For a while I enjoy the countryside as best as I can before getting bored. I check my objectives (reach York) and wonder when it is when I’m supposed to get there. My ETA says 18:43 (about an hour away) but I know I’m running late. I’m in a 55 mph zone, but then who could regulate me? I’m the only driver in this beast, I have no copilot. I could…I could push the throttle a bit further forward, couldn’t I.

I put it to 100%. When this baby hits 88 miles per hour you’re gonna see some…

And then I hit a zone where the limit is 125 mph. It’s like they knew I was going to do this : (

And then I enter the set of Coronation Street.

I’m dreadfully bored, and I’m only twenty minutes into this ninety-minute adventure. The trees are bland, the scenery very English. There are some nice bridges, I suppose. I pass a couple stations - I really hope I wasn’t supposed to stop at any of them.

I check the route map, and it’s there I notice something. There is another train on the track. Many, many miles ahead of me, but it’s on the same track and heading south.

I don’t know how, I’m not sure if I can, but by heavens I am catching up to that train and overtaking it. On a rail or not!