Friday, February 28, 2014

Jimi Hendrix - Voodoo Child (Slight Return) [Live Stockholm 1969]

I blame Chris Evans [clicky]..  there I was making ready to leave 'Chez Steve the Wargamer' for another day at the grind stone and this came on and stopped me in my tracks....  Stood there grinning like a loon until it ended....  oh man....  first time I heard this was back in 1978 at Knebworth [clicky]*....  my first time there, and my friends and I were just laying around on the grass looking at the sky and this came on*....  thought I'd died and gone to Heaven....  never did see the man, but the first three minutes of the following still make the hairs on my arms stand on end, and I must have heard it hundreds of times..




*1.  1978 - "OH GOD NOT ANOTHER BORING OLD KNEBWORTH" featuring Frank Zappa, The Tubes, Peter Gabriel, Boomtown Rats, Rockpile, Wilko Johnson's Solid Senders. Audience: 45,000

*2.  Shortly afterwards, they played Joe Walsh's "Rocky Mountain Way" which had a similar effect...

PS.  Feel free to tune out for the middle drum solo....

Monday, February 24, 2014

"The Desolation of Smaug" - a review..

One would think that glaciers might move more quickly than I add content to the blog at the moment (and you may well be right), but such is the way when life gets busy...

Any free time at the moment is being spent on the boat [clicky], either working on it or preparing to work on it, and when I'm not doing that I'm eating, sleeping, or working...  so much so that last week I took stock, and decided to step off the treadmill for a while - with holiday booked the current Mrs Steve the Wargamer and I headed for the pictures.

We may very well be the last people in the universe not to have seen it, but I had tickets for "The Hobbit - The Desolation of Smaug", so what did I think (and again what the hell that matters I have no idea, given even my cat has reviewed it before I have! )?

First, and on a more general note, I do recommend going to see a flim at least 3 months after it's been released - the current Mrs Steve the Wargamer and I were two of only ten people in an entire 70 seat cinema - one can only imagine what bliss this is when you bear in mind the abilities of my fellow members of the human race in the question of "how to behave in public"...

Next, I should own up to being a huge fan of the Peter Jackson view of Middle Earth having seen Lord of the Rings and the first part of the Hobbit more times than I can count so I'm hardly objective (though having said that I've never understood why the press/media sends someone to review something they are already pre-disposed to not liking... what sense does that make?)

So this is the second part in the trilogy, and starts off (after a little scene setting) at the point where the party were being hunted by Azog the Defiler and the rest of an Orc party (love the Wargs in these films .. so good)...  Either way, they escape and in looking for somewhere to hide out meet Beorn the half bear/ half man. A really nice bit part, with loads of character - he could have been left out of the film but wasn't so hats off to Mr Jackson.

We then get Mirkwood, and the party get lost wandering off the track, before they are attacked by spiders, and "rescued" by Wood Elves - the escape sequence is almost exactly as I imagined it when reading the book, and was handled in a suitably light hearted way - the Hobbit was always the lighter of the two books...

Tauriel - played by Evangeline Lilly...sigh....
While the Dwarves face these perils, Gandalf and Radagast (the Brown - brilliant part by Sylvester McCoy) investigate rumours of dark doings at the old fortress of Dol Guldur...

Back at Mirkwood, having escaped, the Dwarves pay Bard to take them across the lake and smuggle them into Lake Town - but not before they have to fight off a party of Orcs sent by Azog to hunt them down.

The last part of the film features the Dwarves entry to the lonely mountain - to find what had happened to their families, and other inhabitants. They, or rather Bilbo, also awaken Smaug (the Dragon) who, in the way of Dragons, is sufficiently cheesed off by their attempts to kill him that he takes flight to lay waste to Lake Town - and there it ends....   until the end of this year and Part 3!

So any downsides - none, in my humble opinion..  the better part of three hours flew by...  so there were some additions to the story (Legolas back on the scene? The whole part of Tauriel - for which thanks as Evangeline is lovely! ) but I don't care really - I get to travel to Middle Earth of three hours and that's more than enough...  Best bits?? The grandeur of Erebor, the Orcs/Wargs, the escape by the Dwarves, and the New Zealand scenery...  easily as good as the first part, better perhaps? I rate this one 9.5 out of 10....

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

"Stormbird" - a review...

So, the mighty 'machine bleu' rolls on [clicky] but I'll admit to not seeing the game as I was working on the boat. I did, however, see an almost machine-like Ireland beat a slightly pedestrian, Wales, and of course England pulled their socks up and gave the Scots a hard time.

Much as I would have liked it the other way round, Scotland have a big problem this year - the wooden spoon that was always Italy's by right seems destined to go their way, as Italy are improved out of all recognition over the last two or three years...

Anyway - I have just finished the latest Iggulden offering (he of the Julius Caesar, and Genghis Khan, series). This book marks the start of a new series based on the War of the Roses a period of British military history which has always fascinated me since I was a youngster and first read "Sun of York" by Ronald Welch..  full plate armour, pole axes, treachery, intermarriage, politics, back stabbing, Warwick the Kingmaker, Plantagents, what's not to like??

In summary then, I was expecting much based on those previous books... but did it deliver? Read on to find out...


Iggulden takes as his starting point the marriage of Margaret of Anjou [clicky] to Henry VI. This was an arranged marriage, and the English hoped it would bring about long truce in the never ending war with France known as the Hundred Years War. In order to bring about the truce though, the English had to offer a significant dowry - they were to hand back the English provinces of Anjou and Maine to the French, an event that I'd never heard of before.

The main problem was that these provinces had been in English hands for many years, and were populated by many English families - in a single stroke they were left landless and forced to leave - Iggulden marks this as the start of the civil unrest that ultimately lead to the Wars of the Roses.

The forced, and opposed, clearance of Anjou and Main (which in turn caused the enraged French to abandon the truce and deploy their full field army and also take Normandy), the arrival of the refugees in England, resulted in the Jack Cade [clicky] uprising and London being almost taken.

With a background of the increasing (mental) infirmity of Henry VI, the increasing confidence in power of Margaret, the opposition of the Neville's lead by Richard Duke of York, this is the basis of this story...

So how did it do in the delivery stakes...?? A qualified thumbs up....

I found the book good overall, but I can't say I enjoyed it as much as his other books..  there are a number of books about at the moment covering the wars with France in the 16th Century, not the least being  "Master of War" [clicky] which I'd just finished, and in my view they are significantly more colourful, and inclusive, than this one....  the period, although tumultuous, is not fantasticaly interesting and the characters seemed a big...  exaggerated....  to me. Having said that, I'll get the next volume (of course), and hope for a return of my two favourite characters Derry Brewer (the Kings spy master) and Thomas Woodchurch (an English archer recently of Anjou).

Steve the Wargamer rates this one 6 out of 10...

Saturday, February 01, 2014

ALLEZ LE BLEUS!!

Hell yes....

So often the other way round as someone else sneaks the last minute win.. this time it was my team... and against England as well...

Now.. if Scotland can do the same tomorrow I'll go back to work happy...

All together now...

Allons enfants de la Patrie,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé !
Contre nous de la tyrannie,
L'étendard sanglant est levé....  etc  etc




National Army Museum events...

Spotted some interesting upcoming events [clicky] at the National Army Museum that might be worth checking if your local... 

First off, Iain Gale (the author - "Four Days in June", the Jack Steel series set in the War of the Spanish Succession, etc etc.) is doing a lecture on the 27th February - the talk [clicky] is on Wellington's Exploring Officers in the Peninsula War..

Now the role has always fascinated me - probably because of the Sharpe books (see left for the excellent Brian Cox as Captain - later Colonel - Michael Hogan, Engineer, exploring officer and spy master for Wellington in the Sharpe series)...  it's a Thursday though, and in the evening, so it's unlikely I'll be able to make it - but I hope they record it!

Then, from just before Christmas, there's a recording of a previous lecture by Peter Caddick-Adams on the Monte Cassino campaign [clicky] - it's very good. Mr Caddick-Adams is definitely a man born out of his time, watch it and you know why I say that..  he reminds me very much of Richard Holmes (who he comments on at the beginning of the lecture, and who was clearly a mentor), and in saying that I can't give much higher praise ...  recommended...