Tuesday, 19 August 2014

We apologise....

&c &c...

So, Sunday consisted of driving to the Excel (familiar to many, no doubt), rehearsing our temporary chorus until 5.30pm, grabbing a bite to eat and then rigging band and lights until 11pm... then home, bed, picking up a LARGE coffee and our bassist at 7am, back to the Excel for 9.30am, sound-checking, hour break for food, full tech run through, half hour break, performance, de-rig, load out, home by 1am.

(And yes, it went really well, barring a glitch in the keys rig which forced us to restart the finale :D)

I love you all dearly, but blogging went rather out the window, not least because one of my laptops was wired into Anne's keyboards rig (check my other blog for the geeky details sometime in the next couple of weeks), the other MacBook was driving the auto cue, my iPad was being my music stand and my iPhone was turned off (3G 'warbles' through the PA, bad!)...

So. Official announcement. We are on vacation till Friday next week (in Germany). I may blog. I may not. Mostly, I need a holiday after the last couple of weeks run up to the performance of Before the Dawn :D While I have a few wargame-related things planned involving writing, a laptop and a comfy chair in a holiday chalet (as well as an update to the show's website), I may elect to drink German beer and play the Firefly board game a lot instead.

Regular blogging at the usual rate will resume around Sept 1.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Wish me luck :D

Last finishing touches to the score (or rather, a vain attempt to add enough crib notes our keyboard player won't forget things!) - wireless headsets are here, programmes folded and boxed.

Off tomorrow for a day of practice, and then the performance on Monday at 4.30pm at the Excel, just after the Loncon 3 (World SF convention) closing ceremony. I hope to manage to blog on both days, but I reserve the right to be terse :D

It will have been worth it :D

Friday, 15 August 2014

Badges, posters, stickers, t-shirts...

...to quote an obscure Dire Straits B-side :D

It's quite surprisingly how easy it is to get decent promotional material these days, for whatever it is you're doing, be it your company, your show, your band or your club. So far this week, I've done t-shirts, posters, show programmes and flyers...

The key thing is to get a decent unifying look and feel - for this, grab the services of someone with a flair for graphic design (yourself, even!) and get them to spend a little time working on a logo, a colour scheme. Have them work out a simply style guide - your body text is always in such and such a font, your logo is this font, this colour, etc., and then stick to it.

I can't overstress this - I'm sure anyone who's been to one of our club WAB tournaments will agree that the unifying design on all the campaign documents really adds to the look, for example.

Check out the image above - that's the basic logo for the show I've been working on: the tower/hill silhouette and red to blue gradient are a constant in everything I've had done, as is is the shade of yellow and the Papyrus font for the logo. That can be stretched both ways - I have a web banner that extends the hill silhouette and background horizontally, and for an A4-proportioned portrait flyer, programme cover and poster the black area extends downwards to provide an area for other text.

The next important step is to work big. What looks good on your screen (at 72 dpi or 'dots per inch') will print with a bad case of the jaggies, so make sure all your images are at a bare minimum 150 dpi. This means (for example) that a 12" wide t-shirt logo needs to be at least 1800 pixels wide.

Back in the '90s, when I was producing CD inlays for various projects and amateur operatic theatre programmes, the printers tended to be massively picky about the quality and format of the source files, and if you couldn't scare up a copy of Adobe Illustrator or Quark Xpress, you were likely to incur extra charges in making your work printable. These days, there are any number of companies who will take a PDF or PNG and work from that, for ridiculously low rates. 1000 colour, single-sided A5 flyers from any number of online companies will set you back well under £50, for example. I've just sourced 50 t-shirts from Clothes2Order for a bit over a fiver a shirt, and companies like Vistaprint will basically put your logo on bulk quantities of any promotional material that takes your fancy.

Someone like Staples will do short run on-demand printing for large (A3 or A2) posters at a few quid a throw, or you can, like me, blow £100 on a photo-quality inkjet that'll do A3. My Brother MFCJ5910DW takes third-party cartridges at something ridiculous like £1 each, and Amazon do some decent glossy A3 paper at 25 sheets for £4 (as part of a bigger order). If you have the patience, it's a great way of doing short runs of posters. And then there's banners...


Here's an offer. If you can wait till I'm back off holiday at the beginning of September, and your club would like a hand with some graphic design, drop me a reply, and I'll see what I can do.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Audio book review - John Julius Norwich, "Shakespeare's Kings"

Or, to give it its full title, Shakespeare's Kings: the Great Plays and the History of England in the Middle Ages: 1337-1485.

I'm loving this - it is, pretty much, what the title says: a review of history from Edward III through to Richard III, and a comparison between history and Shakespeare's retelling of it. "Edward III?" you say. Yes, I was surprised too, but it appears that recent textual analysis suggests that it was at least partly written by Shakespeare (the wide range of opinions on the whole authorship question of his plays aside!).

As usual, I'm listening to it slightly fragmentarily on my commute, which has been aided by a few weekend round trips to Ely for rehearsals. The approach Norwich takes is to cover the historical period of one of the plays, look at the actual history, with reference to contemporary sources, predominantly Hollinshed, and then step back and compare what we know against what Shakespeare wrote. It's a fun and interesting approach, and in addition to being a good history lesson, leaves me wanting to grab a copy of the Complete BBC Shakespeare, the Branagh Henry V and the BBC's new "Hollow Crown" series.

My one gripe: the reader has a slightly forced delivery, and a tendency to pause before... complicated words, or words in... Fran├žais. As it were. Other than that? really enjoying it.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

I may shed a tear...

The BBMF and Canadian Lancs. Together.

Plug in a decent pair of speakers, and turn them up.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

RIP: Robin Williams

Saddened to note the passing of one of the true legends of comedy - Robin Williams - whose rapid fire delivery and wit graced any number of movies and other events, and who had, according to his publicist, been battling severe depression. One of the rare, genuinely funny comics who didn't have to base his act entirely on the modern trend for getting laughs out of a character's embarrassment or discomfort.

There are two things I'd like to note:

First, and most important - depression is a real issue. Jason Manford, in response to Robin Williams' death, posted this, from which I quote:
"If depression can (allegedly) kill Robin Williams, one of the world's greatest funny men, well it can get any of us at any time.
"If the Genie from Aladdin can suffer and the DJ in Good Morning Vietnam can be affected by it, then so can you, or your child or friend or work colleague,"
"Please. Ask for help. If you have no one or if you don't want to to tell them yet, then ring Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 for someone to talk to, or talk to your GP.
"The world needs you even if you don't think it does. I promise, we need you here, now."
Secondly, and on a lighter note (and why I'm posting this, at least in part)...

I never knew Robin Williams was a wargamer! Apparently he was both a 40K player and a Civil War/Napoleonic gamer.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Chain of Command supplements are coming thick and fast this week!

So, remember when I said if you want to scale up a war-game to cater for more players and a bigger sense of epic, take careful note of the rule scale as it pertains to what size of unit it's'optimised for?

Turns out I was wrong. At least in one case.

Herewith, from the folks at TFL, the free "Big CoC" (yes, you may all snigger now) supplement.

It's a free, 12 page download which covers rules and notes to add to Chain of Command to allow you to play big multiplayer games, with each player controlling a platoon sized force.

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