Taxes, Funding and Books

Been a bit quiet the last fortnight here. I’ve been a bit busy !

The latest Order Of the Stick book arrived, which took a day to read through, some nice new additions making it a hefty volume.

That was a pleasant change from setting our Council Tax Precept (in the absence of our chairman), filing my own tax return, and securing funding for our local community shop project – all bone dry subjects.

I have however, been doing some more scenery (more of which to follow), and starting the project to paint some 80 Bolshevik and Chinese Cavalry, plus a BUF version of the Quadricycle of Death. Oh, and a Mordheim session yesterday which will aslo be up shortly.

Snippets 1 & 2

Snippet 1:

I finally got around to watching The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – Extended edition.

The extra 17 minutes are distributed through the first half of the film. There are new scenes of Bilbo when he is both very young (smacking Gandalf with a toy sword), and very old (with Frodo). There’s also more scenes around Rivendell including the one I’ve linked to above.

What do they add to the film ? Well they’re more whimsical and certainly slow down the otherwise frenetic pace of the film. They also add more character to Bilbo, Elrond, and rightly or wrongly more comic relief from the Dwarfs.

Initially I was surprised as some of the actors in interviews had said there wouldn’t be extended versions of the films, but hey ho, they’re releasing an extended version of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug as well in a couple of months time. I hope that includes things like the Thrush and the Ravens.

Snippet 2:

Sadly, Peter Hopkirk who wrote so many great books on the events in central Asia during the late C19 and early C20 passed away last week.

The name of Peter Hopkirk will long be associated with the “Great Game”, the cloak-and-dagger struggle between Britain and Russia for control over swathes of central Asia that raged through the 19th century.
The vast and sparsely populated regions stretching from the southern reaches of Russia to the northwest frontier of India had fascinated him since he read Rudyard Kipling’s Kim as a boy. However, Hopkirk was no armchair historian. He was an intrepid traveller who adeptly shrugged off the region’s ever-watchful authorities to piece together his rip-roaring histories. In his now classic accounts Foreign Devils on the Silk Road and Trespassers on the Roof of the World, he expertly evoked the lives of the fanatical archaeologist-adventurers who dug up and carried off the contents of ancient Silk Road libraries buried beneath the desert and the mapmakers who illicitly scaled ice-clad Himalayan peaks disguised as horse-traders or religious men.

When Mark Copplestone started his Back of Beyond range, Hopkirk’s books were the gateway to many other books that I now have. I knew very little about the region and its history during the RCW – much of the White Armies under Kolchak et al was poorly served in the literature compared to the AFSR under Deniken and then Wrangel in the south.

Hopkirk was on the Ministry of Defence’s required reading list for British soldiers who were deployed to Afghanistan.

This led me on to many more obscure texts picked up in enjoyable days browsing dusty shelves in the book shops of Hay-on-Wye, and it made me a confirmed bibliophile.

“It’s extraordinary to see how history is repeating itself,” he said of the current situation in Afghanistan. “Some of the players are different, but the Game goes on. Perhaps my books should be read as cautionary tales.”

Sad we haven’t learnt from some of these lessons. :-/

BoB: Russian Roulette

Got a new book that’s just come out:

Its mostly an update of Peter Hopkirk’s “Setting the East Ablaze”. It concentrates on the spies as opposed to the more wargame friendly stuff. The numerous disguises and efforts of the mostly british agents to keep one (or two) steps ahead of the Bolshevik Cheka et al, should give good scenario ideas for “Hunt the spy” type games.

It develops a lot of the threads of a lot of the more central Russian events as opposed to the events in Central Asia, so from that perspective is a bit disappointing. However, for aficionados of the RCW its still a good book.

The Hastur Cycle

Following on from my recent book acquisitions of The King In Yellow related stories, I dug out my coy of The Hastur Cycle. This book is a collection of stories on Hastur, The King In Yellow and Carcosa. it’s part of a series of books Chaosium produce in support of their Call of Cthulhu RPG, mostly edited by Robert M Price.

Entitled as: Tales that Created and Defined Dread Hastur, the King in Yellow, Nighted Yuggoth, and Dire Carcosa”, it has the key stories written by H P Lovecraft, Ambrose Bierce, Robert W Chambers et al.

The material varies in style, with so many authors including Arthur Machen and Ramsey Campbell, and include poems and play scripts as well as more conventional short stories. Karl Wagner’s “The River of Night’s Dreaming” will make you think twice when watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Essential reading, and the stories are in a sequence charting the development of the mythology behind Hastur and the King In Yellow, and even includes James Blish’s stab (at insanity) at writing the play of The King In Yellow in “More Light”.

Rehearsals for Oblivion (Act 1)

Given the distraction of supervising the builders (overgrown children with power tools), I ordered and read another book of short stories on my favourite subject The King In Yellow (me).

This was a much richer set of stories than in “A Season in Carcosa“.

The stories reference oscar Wilde’s Dorian Grey, Gehenna, WW2.

Have you ever seen a flower drip blood, or watched the sky grow black and rained dead fish ?

Broadalbin (by John Scott Tynes) in particular reminds me of the Angel episode Are you now or ever been, set in a weird hotel.

People come here when they’re looking for something. For some of us, it takes a while to find it.

Melonia.

I spotted a scarecrow, it was a bulky, low figure whose assemblage of rags flapped in the wind.

Eerily, we’ll have scarecrows in the AVBCW game on the 8th March…so maybe a SAN test for all the players who have heard of the King In Yellow ?
😉

Also it includes “The Adventure of the Yellow Sign” featuring Sherlock Holmes & Dr Watson, and of course Holmes has read (part of) the iconic play and keeps it next to de Quincy’sConfessions of an English Opium Eater“.

Helpfully (?) translations into several more foreign languages are provided for the title of the play.

Gaze not too long on the Pallid Mask,
Or the Yellow King, for mercy ask.

This is a must have book.

Hastur la vista baby – A Season in Carcosa

Typically, having ordered some more books about He Who Shall Not be Named, the True Detective series broke.

KIY A Season in Carcosa

A collection of short stories and poems its a good book by Miskatonic River Press. Many of the authors are the usual suspects but some are new. Lots of good allusions to the source material. The annoying thing is that there is an over abundance of overtly Parisian and contemporary American material. This is something Ligotti et al avoid adeptly.

Still a good read and as you can see I have strewn with post it note flags for shout out quotes.

One of the most interesting partds was actually the Introduction that the editor wrote outlining his criteria for stories. One that was mirrored in one of the stories:

Not dreaming, but in Carcosa.
Not dead, but in Carcosa.
Not in hell, but in Carcosa.

The title, is a quote from one of the stories, read carefully, and don’t read the second act..

BoB: The Czech & Slovak Legion in Siberia, 1917-1922

BoB Book 1001

New book arrived, just published by McFarland.

It covers the Czechoslovak Legion during the dying days of WW1 and more particularly WW1. The author has obviously used personal reminiscences of friends and family of the legion. The book is chunky and has lots of photos I have not seen before. These are non-combat photos but nonetheless very handy when modelling/painting the legion and understanding its history.

The development of the Legion during WW1 is detailed, and its subsequent involvement in the RCW is covered. There is nothing new in that narrative, but it is very useful to have the individual frustrations of Czechoslovaks detailed. It fleshes it out and adds more personal insight. The Legions role in the RCW is covered again offering no revelations but a host of detailed events and personal experiences. The growing gulf between the aspirations of the Allied intervention, the Whites and the Czechs is however much more detailed than I have read before.

The prolonged agony of retreat is detailed well and tallies with all the other versions I have read/seen. The Legion certainly did not get treated well either by its Allied overseers (Gen.Janin) or its nominal comrades in arms the Whites. It held on to the end, defending Kolchak and the bullion, before evacuation. However Gen.Janin comes out as the unfortunate middleman, damned if he did, damned if he didn’t. Kolchak’s light wanes further with more witnesses commenting on his dissolute regime.

The book covers not just the legion but the RCW in general. Sadly, I wish it had stuck just the legion. T The text also suffers from repetition of phrases such as various towns being repeatedly described as “…began to resemble Omsk…”. It also jumps around the timeline too much, so you do have to have a very thorough grounding in the RCW and in particular events in Siberia to keep a track of what is going on. There are many details of what the Legion did behind the lines (esp its organisation). There is a paucity of information as to its military activity, uniforms, equipment and front line engagements. This is more a social and political history.

Overall, it is a valuable addition to an RCW library, however, it is really only for those with a thorough grounding in events in Siberia and not for wargamers interested solely in military Orbats.

As you can see from my picture (scan) of the book, it has lots of great items of info that I have marked so I hope this doesn’t come across as a negative review. Rather this is a book for the serious RCW enthusiast.