Thursday, May 28, 2015

Dieselpunk and Phillip K. Dick's Man In the High Castle


Good introductory article on Dieselpunk, the other era-based-genre punk, from The I have to say I love Steampunk but often wonder why this other great genre has not quite taken off with the same vigor. Sure, we recently got Peggy Carter and Amazon's "Man In the High Castle", a alternate history view of an America that lost WWII to the Nazis, but that's about it. Here's to hoping this catches on in the next few years. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Mata Bruja Crossbow: "Where I am, there are no monsters"

The Mata Bruja "Witch Hunter's Crossbow"

History of the Mata Bruja:

Letter of Provenance
Acquisition #021398-f
Occult Division, Trinity College, London
Mata Bruja crossbow, gold & silver
June 26, 1893

This crossbow was commissioned by Father Juan Battista De Torre in Spain 1845. According to records, Father Battista was a founding member of the Popes Order of Albion, an order dedicated to the eradication of Witches, warlocks, and other consorters of devils likewise. Father Battista ordered this special weapon to be built around a crossbow bar originally used in the Siege of Granada. The cross bar is engraved with sigils from the Mallus Maleficarum, the official witch-hunting guide of the Catholic church and the Keys of Solomon, a Renaissance grimoire. Several reliquaries have been attached to the crossbow. Notably it bears a telling inscription in Latin: Ubi sum, ubi non sum monstra or Where I am, there are no monsters.

Father Battista and the Order of Albion were active in parts of southern Spain and Italy between 1844 and 1858. Recent documents released by Vatican City show him to have been wounded in an incident during religious duties in 1852 in Malaga Spain. He seems to disappear from all public records until 1865 when he gave a lecture at the University of Wittenberg on Sigils & Signs and Their Counters. It is here that Father Battista met a young scholar of theology and the occult by the name of Abraham van Helsing. The two travel together to Bologna, Italy and spend several months there but the exact nature of their visit remains unknown. Father Battista returned to Spain in 1868 and remained there until his death in 1887. When the priests items were cataloged and returned to the church, the Mata Bruja as the crossbow has come to be known was not amongst his possessions.

The crossbow reappears in the public record in a customs declaration as Dr. Van Helsing enters England in 1889. Around the same time, several grisly murders in the northern counties are attributed to witches and unnatural beasts by the local populace. The unsolved murders cease the following year and witnesses claim to have seen a group of men lead by a scholar with a menacing silver crossbow of old asking questions in the area. One cannot be certain that the man described is Dr. Van Helsing or that the crossbow is Father Battistas Mata Bruha but the connection can be reasonably made. In any case, the crossbow mysteriously appears at auction in London during the summer of 1891 being bought by a young woman who placed the winning bid and donated the item anonymously. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Clean Those Dirty Brushes!

If you’re like me, you put your brushes go through horrible abuse and never clean them in any other way other giving them a quick rinse when you're done using them. Yes, you know you should do some maintenance on them every once in a while, but you never quite get around to it.

Last year, I was lucky enough to discover Windsor & Newton Artgel Brush Cleaner. It worked wonders on my beat up brushes. Just a little dip of the brush in the yellowy oily cream, and my brushes where like new again. Ever since,  I've taken my brush care a lot more seriously and ended up saving a ton of money on new brushes.

Unfortunately, Windsor & Newton discontinued Artgel a few months back, which left rationing my last bottle until I found a suitable replacement. After alot of researching of brush cleaners and a few disappointing replacements, I settled on Jack's Linseed Studio Soap and "The Masters” Brush Cleaner and Soap. Both cleaners sell for under $12 online and have 5 stars on Amazon.

I’ll begin with the Linseed Studio Soap. I found a bottle of this stuff in my local art store and decided to take a chance. A lot of paint cleaners use Linseed and the online reviews were pretty good. Opening the little bottle, I had my doubts. It’s pretty thick stuff, thicker than I've seen before. It seemed more like a solid than a gel. At first I wasn't sure whether I was supposed to mix it with anything or just supposed dip my brush into it.

I took one of my saddest looking brushes, picked up a thick glob and massaged it into the brush. After a few minutes, I cleaned the brush off on a rag, and…my brush was pretty clean! Given that it was filthy and encrusted over to start with, I was pretty impressed. After a few more dips, my brush was nearly spotless except for some deep stains. It did notice that it was a tad dry and strawy at the ends. Perhaps I overdid it with the cleaning. I repeated with a few more brushes and was satisfied with the results. Overall a good cleaning agent for your weathered brushes.

Secondly, I tried “The Masters” Brush Cleaner which comes in a plastic container with an old timey ad on the top. I was a little taken aback when I opened the container and just saw a dry white surface. This was not the gel of Artgel or even the Linseed Soap. Read the instructions and it said to add water so I dipped a dirty brush in water and then into the white surface, lathering it up.

Instantly the white surface began to soap up around the brush and change colors to an ugly dark gray; obviously some cleaning was going on. I continued for a few minutes and then wiped the excess brush cleaner off with a rag. Again, I was very happy with the result. A perfect clean brush. Not just clean in fact, but perhaps I should even say rejuvenated. The bristles were clean and flexible and had a nice spring and shape. A brush I thought maybe only had a few weeks left of life got put in my “good brush cup”.  I tried with a few other brushes and same result with all of them. The brushes all sprung back to life. I have to say that the dry container is a bit awkward to use at first but you can't argue results. "The Master" Soap definitely puts a bit more spring in your old brushes than the Linseed Soap.

These are both great products and I think they complement each other nicely. The Linseed Cleaner is great with the really encrusted brushes that need desperate attention, while the “Masters Brush Cleaner” is better as a regular end of painting session routine. I now usually give my brushes a good cleaning once a week with one of these cleaners depending on the situation; Linseed treatment followed by “Masters Cleaner” for the really problem messes and just regular “Masters Cleaner” for the others, and my brushes look great. Of course, longer lasting brushes equals more money for actual actual paints and stuff.

To browse more brush cleanings supplies check out Amazon's full list.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Assassin's Creed finally goes Victorian!

I've been saying for years that Victorian era would be a perfect fit for the Assassin's Creed franchise--foggy streets, cockney accents, a vast empire as a backdrop and corsets, oh so many corsets. Finally it seems the Ubisoft executives have heard my prayers and frustrated grumblings.

I present two Assassin's Creed Syndicate trailers--and they look awesome!

One for the game and one game play. Come October 2015, come!

And a game play walk-through trailer:

Comment away!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Book Review

You cannot possibly know how happy I am right now. I just received my copy of Osprey Publishing Books, Steampunk Soldier: Uniforms andWeapons

I would be remiss if I didn't follow up with a review and recommendation.

If you remember my earlier post, I was really excited when I learned Osprey had published this book because Osprey has a great reputation among scale model builders and military enthusiasts for their historical military books, of which many are uniform reference books. Osprey’s art and illustrations are always top notch, but given that they've always done dry historical stuff, how would they carry over to the fictional Steampunk, I wondered. Fantastically it seems!

The book is organized by chapters dedicated to the countries one most commonly associates with Steampunk: Great Britain, France, Germany, and the United and Confederate States of America. Happily, I was thrilled to see Osprey dedicate chapters to some less represented nations and cultures that some Steampunk tends to overlook. There’s chapters on Russia, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Italy. There’s even a chapter on Japan, and one on the “Minor Powers”. I was particularly happy to see these chapters because it seems that some Steampunk fans still can’t imagine anything but a Eurocentric Steampunk. Osprey, staying true to its historical roots, is bringing a nuanced world view to their Steampunk coverage.
Confederate Jet pack cavalry 

Battle suits and Pinkertons
Each chapter opens with a one page write up of the respective nation’s context in the Steampunk world and then we get to what this book really excels at: illustrations of Steampunk inspired uniforms and their back stories! Yes, back stories! One of the concerns expressed about this book was that Osprey would ignore the art of the back story and just cobbled together Steampunk uniforms and miss out on all the time most fans of the genre spend on lovingly crafting their backgrounds. Not so! Every wonderful uniform image comes with historical background context. It’s from a historical perspective rather than personal one, but with enough detail to help anyone come up with a back story of their own to match the uniforms. Uniforms of the “Queen Courier Service” are included as are engineers, Scot Highlander Battle Armor, German Jagers, and even “Antwerp Rebels”. The end result is that by the time you’re done reading a few of these you get a sense of an entire world of Steampunk and probably more than a few ideas about new backgrounds and characters.

Fighting for Cuban independence from Spain
For me, the book really excels when it gets to the chapters on Japan and the “Minor Powers”. We've got Japanese Imperial soldiers, Samurai Battle Mechs, and Korean militiamen. My absolute personal favorite and one that I must bring special attention to is the portrait of a “Mambisa”, a female Cuban Freedom Fighter fighting for independence from Spain. Being Cuban and seeing Osprey dedicate a section of their excellent book to the nation of my birth warms my heart. More importantly, it excites the imagination by reminding us of all of the untapped opportunities for backstories, costumes, and accessories that could arise from considering these oft overlooked nations and cultures. If you’re not inspired to look at a globe, spin it, put a thumb down and wonder what the Steampowered world would have looked like where your thumb lands, than you need some imagination vitamins.
In short, get this book! You will not be disappointed.

Steam and Boxer Rebellion?
Lastly, I’d really suggest getting the hard cover. I've gotten Osprey books in digital format and the artwork just doesn’t quite impress as having it in your hands. The book just feels great! Apparently Osprey Publishing has a whole “Adventure” series that I've missed out on. Titles include some interesting things about Zombies and Classical mythology like Troy and King Arthur. I’m most interested in what appears to be a Diesel-punk inspired book on Nazi Occult stories complete with face-melting Nazi. Good stuff. Maybe I’ll order that next.

Get Steampunk Soldier: Uniforms and Weapons here for $16.73 and free delivery with Prime. Also, Amazon is bundling this with the Steampunk Bible for $35 so it's a great chance to get two must-have books in one shot. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A MUST-HAVE Steampunk book has just come out-- Steampunk Soldiers Uniforms and Weapons by Osprey books. Why is this book so important? Because Osprey has been making quality reference books for military enthusiasts and model builders for decades. They choose the best artist couple it with great historical writing. If Osprey publishes a book on Steampunk, Steampunk has arrived in a major way. Got mine on the way and can't wait. Hard copy too-- none of that pdf for this one.

"Where I am there are no monsters"

Posting a quick update on a project I started a few weeks ago-- a 19th Century Vampire/Witch hunting Crossbow for all you undead killers out there. Decorated with symbols from the "Keys of Solomon Book". The front says, "Where I am, there are no monsters" in Latin. The piece has progressed a bit since this picture was taken so hope to post further perhaps tomorrow. 

If anyone is interested, the crossbow is the Nerf crossbow as seen below. It's a really nice piece with lots of modding opportunities and I hope to do a few more varieties soon.

Click on the image to buy from Amazon for under $20. Not bad at all.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The absolute best gun for modding to a Blade Runner cosplay prop. It's got sound, lights, and a bargain at $9! Click on pic to buy.

Buy Here!
For anyone who missed it. It's a cheap $9 toy laser gun that looks exactly like Detective Deckard's gun in Bladw Runner. I plan to paint it black, do some slight modding and go the Blade Runner gun. It's got some pretty amazing tech inside--- a sound chip, a few lights, and a simple trigger mech that can be transferred to another gun. Anyway, I'll be posting a more full review when I get a chance on my blog.