Sunday, 27 June 2010

The Last Post

First things first - I'm not going to be updating this blog anymore.(1)

Regardless of how I came to be in this position, the point is, I've realised that this blog, much as I have loved writing it, is too unwieldy to be used for anything really.

It falls between too many stools; not nerdy enough to be a nerd blog, not anonymous enough to be confessional, too silly to be taken seriously, too serious in parts to be properly funny.

I'm going to leave it where it is - there's some writing I'm really proud of on here, but it's all too squodgy & intermingled to really make me want to keep on with it.

But: I still want to write, and occasionally cheer you all up, and show off models and things.

That's why I've set up some new blogs. I feel a blog is like a book; you can draw a line under one and say "It's finished now" for good or ill.

So, the Blog is dead. Long Live the Blogs.

The new blogs are: -




1.)Ahem.

Regular readers may notice it has been some time since my last post. Rather than give you the prosaic & dull list of why I haven't been writing, I've just decided to give you a list of things which might be true, and you can just decide which one you like the most.

So, I haven't been able to blog for the last six months because:

A.) I was incarcerated in a tiny windowless cell, chained to a radiator and beaten day and night by hooded men demanding to know where Don Eduardo Monteaz was.

B.) I started fighting crime under the Super-hero name "Dr.Miracle".

C.) I wrote a best selling Self-Help book entitled "Lie yourself thin", made a million dollars and toured the US. I arrived in Las Vegas in a $60,000 Cadillac; but, after only one night on the craps tables I left in a $180,000 Greyhound bus.

D.) I lived among the Chapultec Indians in the Argentine, and learned their ways, becoming an indolent, chubby yet powerful Shaman. Tlaloc is now my God.

E.) I travelled back in time to 1955, and spent my time writing the great american Novel. I am in fact JD Salinger. And Marty McFly. "Back to the Future" is, in fact autobiographical.

F.) I found a beautiful girl who I'm in a lovely relationship with, have secured my housing, and have a steady & regular job with a decent firm.

Most of you who know me well will be saying, "Well, it's definitely not F".

Friday, 18 December 2009

Everything changes - everything stays the same.

Hiya all,

it's been a busy few weeks since my last couple of posts. Still, as the year draws to a close, I'm struck by how much has changed, and how much has stayed the same.

When I started this blog, almost a year ago, it was my stated intention to:

  • Get a job.
  • Get a nice place to live.
  • Get a lovely girlfriend (1).

I did get a couple of decent jobs - I've made documentaries, carried on jobbing at Auntie, written articles all over the place and I've been the managing editor of a magazine publisher, but as usual, a combination of bad luck and bad decisions have derailed that for the moment. While the CV and portfolio look considerably more exciting, I still don't have an actual job.

This is not unusual in the Media at the moment. In Scoop, in 1938, Evelyn Waugh said "Every year in Newspapers is a year of Crisis" - it, like most things Waugh wrote, seems like a comic exaggeration at first, and then slowly it dawns on you, as you understand the milieu better, that it is horribly true.

With 2,000 jobs vanishing from the BBC, and both London free papers going down the tubes, there are literally thousands of unemployed journalists chasing about four jobs. Newspapers - a funny business - one day you're writing them, the next day you're sleeping under them.

That said, I almost got a job at the Economist the other week, and have multiple inf0-digits in multiple delicious sticky media pies(2), but, in short, I have just as much of a job as when I started the blog... i.e. none. Well, almost none.

I've dusted off a collection of old business ideas, thinking vaguely of starting my own magazine; in short, I'd like to be able to sing I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more, and mean it. Equally, the book I chose to write (Second Brightest Star) has ground forward in all this free time I've had.

Also, I'm involved in a couple of documentary projects, which I can't talk about, although excitingly one of these enabled me to score a Flak Vest on the BBC recently. My wardrobe now has the entertaining division of : White Tie, Black Tie, Highland Formal, Ceramic reinforced bulletproof vest. Willard Foxton, a wardrobe for every occasion.

Hopefully, one project or other will come to fruition, and I'll just be able to loaf around on a bed made entirely of Caviar and Diamonds.

Still, until then, I have just enough cash saved from the ahem, "good times", to keep my lovely, lovely house in Belgravia, for the time being, at least. It still amuses me that I live somewhere so charming, and yet am basically penniless. "Penniless yet Presentable" could be on my business card, like a 17th century gentleman who has spent his enitre inherited wealth on a fabulous selection of exquisite wigs.

Much like said 17th century gent, my social status is such that I'm regularly invited to big rah rah rah events. It is strange going to "I'm in the Meeja" type launches of things(3), where people will give me things like Mirrored business cards while we eat tiny canapes made of champagne and the hearts of rare snow leopards, with basically enough money for the tube fair home in my pocket.

Still, there's a ticking clock on the property, the social life, generally everything else. So, still have a house, but there's a sword of Damocles hanging over it the whole time.

As for a ladyfriend...well, I've tried. Back at the magazine, I literally astounded some of my staff with my willingness to go on grindingly bad date after grindingly bad date. Still, they were, in the most part entertaining. The "Cheese Festival" girl, The Fox news producer and the "Mind if I Tweet this date?" girl (4) are all right up there in the classic dates like "The Knife Girl" and "The Snake Collector".

I met quite a few lovely girls who just weren't interested in me, or lovely girls who live in far off places. I went on a date with a Baroness. A real live hot Baroness.(5) I dated ladies from 4 continents. I increased the all important figure of "How many?" by 5%. Still, nothing long term, nothing serious, nothing to compare with one of my close friends from university, who announced her engagement this evening.

So, in short:

  • No Job.
  • Have a nice place to live, until March.
  • No Girlfriend.
Well, one out of three isn't bad is it? Ahem.

Still, back when I started this blog, the one thing I said I could always rely on was my Toy soldiers, and they have excelled themselves this year.

Remember when I said I was going to the big gaming (tm) thing this year? Well, I actually did really well, coming 25th in the UK, was the top player using Mechanised Infantry and qualifying for the Grand Final, which is held in Nottingham on the 13-14th of March.

So, in short, I will be spending my thirtieth birthday playing with toy soldiers...fitting. This is probably not the ideal way of achieving any of those goals up above, but fuck it, there's more to life. Like playing games, having good friends, watching films and having adventures.

What follows below is a big report on exactly how I pulled off qualifying. Civilians, fear not, it's been edited for your consumption... still, if you don't want to hear me gush about little lead figures, best to stop reading now. In fact, here's a false ending.

Anyway, hope this finds you well,


Willard

Right, still sure you want to read this? Sure? You could watch a video about kittens instead?

To take a leaf from the book of the excellent Mr.Ben Brooks -

health warning

Those with a serious aversion to geekery of a toy-soldierish nature should not read any further - click here to watch video footage of a kitten fighting with an electric toothbrush instead. Or, alternatively, if not a girl from the 1950s, click here for a trailer for what may be the finest movie ever made (6).


Right, just us nerds left, or maybe the occasional curious civilian. Debaters, please note, I missed the Oxford IV for this, and regret NOTHING.

Preparation

Well, I'm assuming you've read my earlier post about the army I've been playing for ages - the one which relies on mechanised infantry, and about how that had (apparently) become flavour of the month, and how that made me unsure of using it.

I had a Grand Plan, which involved me painting up an all new army, probably consisting entirely of wave after wave of teenage conscripts riding quasi-phallic underground drilling machines, taken in sufficient numbers I could conceivably bury the enemy under their corpses, or alternatively an exceedingly small high tech army consisting of elite Buck Rodgers style rocket men, armed with laser pistols, riding in big shiny gunships.

Sadly, this went rapidly out the window as I realised that running a magazine AND trying to meet ladies devoured all my time, and then when i lost my job, I realised I need to spend money on things that weren't model soldiers. Things like rent and bills. You know, unimportant shit like that.

So, I feel back on the old army, and decided to stay true to the way I'd used it for ages, with a few new school tweaks. Essentially, it consisted of 7 armoured personnel carriers (little tanks), 55 men riding in the little tanks and 3 main battle tanks (big tanks). The 55 men riding in the tanks were armed with a mix of rifles, flamethrowers and light anti-tank guns - basically, nothing excitingly sci-fi. The tanks were armed with cannons and machine guns, with the occasional flamethrower mixed in. Nothing excitingly sci-fi.

Are you getting a theme here? I even resisted the temptation to make my men veterans, which opinion on the internet maintained I was a fool to not do. You see, in sci-fi heroic wargaming, being in lots of wars doesn't make you a wreck of a man, unable to attend a fireworks display without screaming "THE DRUMS!!! THE DRUMS!!! THEY NEVER STOP!!!!" and fleeing in panic, they make you a super cool badass. Maybe with a couple disfiguring scars, but tough as iron nails, and a bit homoerotic.

Normal Veteran vs. Sci-Fi Veteran

I briefly considered selling out, and cramming my army with all the trimmings - veterans armed with telekinetic mountain blitzers, choirs of psychic apocalypses, nuclear missiles, poison gas - even midgets with Sniper rifles. I could have put in enough Weapons of Mass destruction to make Hans Blix weep, but instead I settled on rifles, machine guns, flame throwers and artillery shells.(7)

Why? Well, it's just more cool that way. I want to use an army with normal soldiers and cool tanks. I can live without all the silliness, and it's more fun to smash ludicrous sci-fi silliness using nothing you couldn't buy in the average Alabama branch of Wal-Mart.

Game one: -

I rock up to Nottingham, getting on a train out of London at the crack of dawn. I sit there, with my stomach grumbling, worrying, not about all kinds of real life problems (e.g. house, job, girlfriend, whether Chuck Norris really "plays his roles for real"), but worrying about thinks like "what if I run into that random army with the evil mindcontrolling winged tentacle beasts?" and then, being one of the most clumsy people in the world, spilling coffee all over my trousers.

I get to Nottingham, and get a taxi to GW HQ, where the tournament is held. One thing that amazes me about GW (the company who make the bulk of the world's toy soldiers) is that they are such a big deal economically in Nottingham, that all Taxi drivers know how to get to their Headquarters. Now, the HQ looks, lets face it, a little bit fascist. If you ever want to go there, ask a Nottingham taxi driver to take you to "The Reichstag".


All Toy companies would look like this if the Nazis had won the war.

I get there, and start chatting to old friends I haven't seen for a couple of years, including one very sweet couple who met and subsequently married after meeting at a gaming tournament. They're lovely, honestly.

Anyway, first game, I'm playing against a charming Italian. Now, Italians have a bad reputation on the Warhammer gaming scene. There were a bunch of Italians a few years ago who were all unbelievably ruthless cheats. Fiends. So, I was a little worried.

I needn't have been - he was a lovely guy using good, balanced army consisting entirely of giant green alien savages with a taste for human flesh. He had a couple of huge swarms of these bastards on foot, a bunch of mobs of them in ramshackle trucks, led by the biggest, greenest savage of all. This is the Green overlord who had made his name by devastating my army's home planet.

It's basically like playing a WW2 wargame and the other bloke picking Hitler to lead his army. Of course, this is Sci-fi Hitler, so he's about twenty feet tall, and has huge crushing hydraulic claws instead of hands. Here's a picture for scale.


Look at the size of the claw! He's clearly compensating for something.

It was very close - the Green alien horde was pretty massive, but I had lots, and lots, and lots of machine guns, tank cannons and flamethrowers. Now, these Aliens are pretty rough if they can get to you, but their usual response when shot with a heavy machine gun is to burst like over-ripe fruit hit with a mallet. The main answer they have to being shot at is to hope you run out of bullets before they run out of scum.

I narrowly lost on points (I lost 67% of my army, he lost 66% of his), but won a moral victory by killing Alien Hitler - I crushed his bodyguard under tanks, torched him with a few flame throwers, then surrounded him with 40 men and then had them all empty assault rifles into him, until I was sure he was dead.

Game Two -

I was playing against another nice guy, and he had an army similar to mine - even from the same fictional planet as mine - except all of his men were Veterans. Tragically, none of them seemed to be in wheelchairs or suffering from traumatic war neuroses. Presumably I'd failed to observe a minutes silence or something.

Now, what's the difference between veterans and regular infantry? Well, aside from the cosmetic scars and homoeroticism, they are much better at hitting things when they shoot, have a much better set of options for guns, and carry a bewildering array of special purpose grenades, including unpleasant and highly dangerous nuclear anti-tank grenades.

On the other hand, they do cost more. Lots more. He got seven light tanks full of veterans, I got seven light tanks full of regulars, plus three heavy tanks. Amusingly, while my army is led by a quasi-nameless female Colonel, his army was led by the heroic de-facto ruler of my army's planet - so, I'd gone from effectively fighting Hitler to effectively fighting Churchill (8).

We decided that the game was clearly a training exercise, and christ, we rolled dice like we were firing blanks. I think for the first twenty minutes, nothing really happened, as he drove at me with high speed, and all my guns missed completely. Then, just outside of nuke range, my guys managed to smash most of their tanks, and then cleaned up the remaining infantry with flamethrowers. Hopefully those flamers fire blanks.

At the end of the game, I'd killed 95% of his army, and had lost a couple of tanks - but we still drew, as the specific variant game we were playing required me to actually capture an objective in his half. So, I smashed his attack on me, but got all my tanks stuck in ruins and tank traps and things trying to take his. I was a bit unlucky to only take a draw out of this, but it was a cool game, so I didn't mind.

Oh, and the game ended with my Colonel pointing her pistol at "Churchill's" head, and the other player raising his hands and saying "Pretty impressive - you'll do", which was a highly memorable and fun conclusion to a game.

Game Three -

I was slightly horrified in this game. The other player put his army on the table, and it was...well, it was pretty ridiculous. He had two giant horrible Lovecraftian winged tentacle monsters with mind control powers, 30 or so immortal superhuman killing machines in powered armour, armed with plague weapons, and several giant Terminator 2 style things that could turn into practically any gun they wanted, and a couple of tanks firing nuclear demolition shells.

This army, is to say the least, ridiculously badass. Also, it's totally lacking in any kind of coherent theme, just a collection of models that have one thing in common - they are really mean. Oh, and to make it worse, they attacked at night.

Still, I won this game in the most ridiculous way. You see, I am canny enough to have equipped all my tanks with searchlights. Seriously.

He went first, moved everything closer, failed to see anything. He packed his superhuman plague killers in tight, to get them through a narrow ravine - and of course, I won't be able to see them, there are all these complex rules about locating things at night. They're packed so tight even one tank round could be catastrophic, but I won't be able to see them, right?

My turn, I realise...night fighting...Oh cool, every tank has a searchlight. So, I start lighting up them up with light tank searchlights. CLICK WHUM CLICK WHUM. Three light tanks in, I pick them up. They freeze. BOOM BOOM THWACKOOOM go the main tank guns. Ahem, problem largely solved.

The tentacle monsters advance, into a hail of heavy machine gun fire. Turns out, no matter how many tentacles and eyes you have, 21 machine guns firing 600 rounds per minute will ruin your day. His tanks got wrecked by my tanks.

All in all, I was pleased to so convincingly win against one of "those" armies. To be fair, it's a bit rubbish vs. my army, as my squads aren't really worth mind controlling, and I have enough guns to kill everything he has three times over. I killed everything but one of his tanks, and that had the tracks wrecked so it couldn't move, and I lost five men. Not bad.

Game Four -

This was on the second day. I'd been very kindly allowed to crash in James Torrance's bed, doubtless a dream of any number of nubile young lady debaters. Sadly, he wasn't there at the time, and I was so exhausted I managed to sleep through his housemates' fairly raucous party.

Superhuman, power armoured army, with lots of very quick rocket pack equipped guys balanced by lots of men wearing so much armour they can hardly move. And before breakfast too!

It wasn't a huge problem. I sat there drinking a pint of cranberry juice and eating croissants, like a first world war general. The rocket pack men arrived first, got gunned down, then the very slow heavily armoured suits arrived, and inches before crushing everything I had with their mighty fists, I ambushed them with 12 Flamethrowers, and they obligingly melted.

This only left the two heroes to kill, and they did lead me a merry dance, until eventually they succumbed to sustained machine-gunning. Ha.

Game Five -

A really tough game.

He was basically playing the aliens from alien.

He had 5 Giant Aliens covered in tubes that piss acid everywhere like garden sprinklers full of Toxic custard, an Alien Queen thing bastard with huge spikes replacing all its vital organs, and then far too many little Alien nasties with far too many arms.

Fortunately, I was there to wipe them out, not to study, not to bring back samples. There was a great deal of driving tanks away from roaring monsters, skidding round them, and unloading men to isolate and kill one giant thing at a time.

Occasionally, monsters would catch tanks and eat them, and men would be reduced to greasy stains by acid custard piss. Equally, the little aliens died almost instantly when exposed to burning petrol or speeding lead, and sooner or later, even the big ones dropped when you blew so many holes in them you could use them for fishing nets.

By the end of the game, I'd lost about half my men and tanks, but every alien was dead.

Game Six -

I was up against the Italian player round one - you remember, the one who had Alien Hitler. By this point I was at the top of the 3 wins, 1 loss 1 draw bracket, while my opponent was on 3 wins, 2 draws. Both of us felt we needed a draw to qualify for the final.

Anyway, we both played really, really cagey. I held everything in reserve, as did he, and our units arrived in dribs and drabs - except for a band of savages armed with giant long range autocannons, which he deployed at the top of a huge building, where they could hit anything.

The one really interesting move in the game was when he spun his buggies and ramshackle trucks all the way over to my side of the board, so they could hide behind a building, and still have a chance to get me. I realised he was very close to my board edge...and, in that variant of the game, your reserves can come on from anywhere on your table edge....hmmm.

I brought on two of my main battle tanks, and shouted "GIVE ME RAMMING SPEED!" This led to seventy ton tanks hitting the equivalent of second hand Fiat Unos at a combined speed of about 100mph. Needless to say, there was a great deal of crushing. I also managed to squash Hitler's personal vehicle, meaning he had to get out and run across the open ground being liberally hosed with .50 calibre rounds as he went.

He sent some scum forward, which died, as it had six feet (about half a mile to scale) of open ground to cover.Other than that, I lost the Tanks on the daring commando ramming raid eventually, but not before they caused an amusing amount of havoc. Hitler managed to escape this time, but only just. All his bodyguards died, I wounded him twice, and I smashed his car.

The game ended on turn 5, in a draw. My silly risky tank rampage earned me lots of points for the cost of two tanks, and dominated the course of the game, as the aliens on foot struggled to catch them at speed, let alone kill them. We probably could have played an extra turn, but my opponent looked at his watch with 20 minutes to go and said "I don't think we have time for another turn. It's a draw now. Shall we call it a draw?"

Needing only a draw to qualify, I took the Arsene Wenger route, and gladly accepted qualification in lieu of glory. Had I won that game ( and I'd have had a fair shout at it) I'd have been 7th in the UK.

7th in the UK at Toy Soldiers! What woman could resist that:)

Anyway,

hope this has been an interesting read!

I'm off to the Final in March, seeing if I can get either of the grand plan armies painted by then.


Willard


1.) Well, actually, I think the desire was to "get a girlfriend", but non-lovely girlfriends are a bad idea. I have proof.

2.) Willard Foxton; self-facilitating media node. I wrote that sentence with (almost) no irony, went back to that sentence on the re-draft reading and made it slightly more ridiculous...

3.) In theory, I'm there to "network", but free food and booze is a powerful incentive to turn up to these shindigs.

4.) By the way, I'm on "the Twitter" now, as all self respecting meeja people are - although as far as I am concerned, it's a bit wank, has peaked, and is essentially the 21st century analogue of the Hula-hoop - a brief craze that will evaporate sooner or later.

This view was confirmed when I found my 70-year old mother had beaten me to it. Still, if you want to randomly tune into my thoughts, you can follow me here...

5.)Not Margaret Thatcher, before you ask.

6.)I love that the trailer attempts to warn you, "the roles he plays, he plays for real." The implication being that for this movie Chuck Norris, in classical method acting tradition, actually killed everybody who disobeyed him, kidnapped an old man, and then enthusiastically raped a Chinese woman. Hollywood eh?

7.) I felt resolution 1441 would be ineffective if I had no WMDs. Ha, topical joke for 2003.

8.) The fellow to the left of Alien Hitler is Space Churchill. In space, world leaders fight. Makes sense. I reckon Gordon Brown could take Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Or, at least I'd pay to watch them fight. With hydraulic claws. Snip Snip Klang, Mr.Speaker.

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Writer, Editor, Publicist, Swashbuckler.