Category Archives: WTF???

My Dinner with Mugato

The following excerpt is from my forthcoming book, Domo Arigato, Mr. Mugato, soon to be available at fine booksellers everywhere.

From a small part in a popular 60’s science fiction show to the entertainment tour-de-force he is today, Mugato has been a giant on stage and screen over the last five decades. I caught up to him in London, where he was in the midst of a two-month engagement at the Southwark Playhouse. His portrayal of Torvald in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House has been called a masterclass in the Stanislavsky method.

AP: Mr. Mugato. It’s truly an honor. Thank you for meeting with me.

M: Please. Call me Mugato.

AP: Thanks. Sorry, I’m just a little nervous.

M: Don’t worry. I don’t bite. Not anymore, anyway (laughs).

AP: Do you mind if we talk about Star Trek?

M: Why would I mind?

AP: Well, it’s just that some people have said…

M: That I don’t like talking about it? Nah. I’d like to think I’ve done better work, that’s all.

AP: Of course. But…

M: Ask your questions, kid.

The role that started it all…

AP: Do you remember how you got the part?

M: Right place, right time, I guess. In ’67 I was working as a caterer in the Hollywood hills. Serving drinks, wiping tables…you know. One night I was working a party at Roddenberry’s house. He must have liked my look, because he told me to come to Desilu the next day. Couple of hours after that, I was tackling Bill Shatner on planet Mongo, or wherever the hell they were that week (laughs).

AP: And from there a star was born.

Mugato and Lucille Ball.

M: Not quite…I got offered a lot of parts after that, became the toast of the town. Everyone wanted me around. I was Hollywood royalty. But then came the seventies…

AP: Right. The blacklisting, because of the war.

M: Well, they didn’t call it that, not officially. Everyone was still raw from the fifties. But, Jane (that’s Jane Fonda; I call her Jane) Jane and I sure as hell couldn’t get any good work once everyone found out how we felt about the war. If that’s not a blacklist, I don’t know what it is.

AP: Still, you managed to find work…

M: Sure. My unique look gave me an advantage. I’m lucky. I’m a humanoid, apelike creature with a lethally venomous bite, so obviously I can play just about anything. It’s tough to typecast me, so no one ever tried. Melvin hired me, then Russ…it was an interesting time.

AP: You mean Melvin Van Peebles? And Russ Meyer, right?

M: You got it. Mel gave me that part in Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song and Russ gave me the lead in Watch It Jiggle.

AP: Do you regret any of those movies?

M: Nope. Both gave me the chance to show my range as an actor, and Russ helped me understand that I like boobs. (Chuckles).

AP: About that…over the years you’ve been linked romantically to Raquel Welch, Uschi Digard and Serena Grandi, to name a few. But the most persistent rumor is that Carly Simon’s famous song, You’re So Vain, is about you. Is it?

M: I dunno. We dated for a while. You’d have to ask Carly. Anyway, I don’t kiss and tell.

AP: In an April, 1987 interview with Cinema Verite, Stanley Kubrick claimed that the five greatest actors of the last 100 years were Olivier, Welles, Streep, Day-Lewis…and Mugato.

M: I saw it. That was kind of Stan to say.

AP: What do you think?

M: I mean, I’m flattered, but I think Bobby D and Marlon got screwed (laughs).

AP: Yet you never worked with Kubrick, even though it’s rumored he had you in mind for Private Pyle in Full Metal Jacket.

M: Yeah…Stan thought I’d be all over that because of my not-so-private stance on Vietnam. But I was ready to move on from that. I was doing a lot of coke at the time, too. That’s probably what cost me the lead in Children of a Lesser God earlier that year. Still, Bill Hurt did ok, I guess. So did D’onofrio.

AP: That brings us to the nineties…

M: Yeah, look…not to be rude, but I have a curtain call in 10 minutes. I do mostly theatre now. Back to basics. But remember, I didn’t get my start in the theatre. I’m doing things in reverse. Make sure you write that in your book.

AP: OK, one last question?

M: Sure.

AP: Why don’t you go to Star Trek conventions?

M: You’re kidding, right? (sighs). Look, I was practically a kid when Star Trek aired. Bill, De, Leonard…they were ok to me, but I wouldn’t call them my friends. Jimmy Doohan and I once ran into each other over at Pink’s, getting hot dogs. That was years later. By then I was a bigger name than him. But hey, Jimmy was all right.

The short version is that those guys and me…we only worked together long enough for me to attack Kirk and then get disintegrated. There wasn’t much chance of a recurring role after that happens to your character, and I was in demand elsewhere. I guess I’ll always be grateful to Roddenberry for giving me my shot. But I took it and managed to do pretty well. I managed to make some decent coin in this business, and I’m not looking back. Those conventions are just…sad. Anyway, thanks for dropping by, kid.

Thus, for a brief time, I had been in the presence of a master of his craft. I still had a million other questions for Mugato, but that was undeniably a dismissal. Regretfully, I shook his three-clawed paw and took my leave.

Monster May(hem) is winding down, and I’m happy to say I still have one more contribution to make, most likely on the last day. But…it’s my big ‘un this year, so if all goes well I will be happy indeed.

Be sure to check out all the other participants. Harry posted some pictures of his completed High Elf Dragon, Matt made the most terrifying (and clever) monster of all, and Ken completed a couple of Displacer Beasts that look great! That just leaves His Crow-ness, and I have faith he’ll deliver by the end of the month. (But even if he doesn’t, he’s been up to some pretty impressive Dr. Who gaming and diorama-making over on his site. You should go there and see.)

Blogroll

Roger, aka Dick Garrison, from Rantings From Under the Wargames Table

Dave Stone from Wargames Terrain Workshop

Matt from PMPainting

Coyotepunc from Coyotepunc’s Creativity

Ken from Blue Moose Arts

Jeremy, aka Carrion Crow, from Carrion Crow’s Buffet

Harry from War Across the Ages

You can find links to all these blogs (and others) in the sidebar as well!

Scary Times.

I, like many others, am working from home for the foreseeable future. Everything is so uncertain, it’s quite stressful. I worry about friends, loved ones, and, to be honest, myself. All any of us can do is what the doctors and scientists (note I did not say politicians) tell us: stay at home, flatten the curve, and wash your damn hands.

The general consensus among gamers is that this is a prime opportunity to work on all those projects you’ve been saying you would, if only you had the time. Well, now many of us have more time than we know what to do with, although there won’t be much gaming going on (at least none that involves other people).

Atom Smasher from Tabletop Minions put up a pretty good video about this. He also suggests it’s a prime time to play with new techniques and to develop some skills you may otherwise not want to spend valuable hobby time doing; such as learning to sculpt (I hate green stuff). It’s worth a watch.

My problem is loss of focus. It’s just too hard to think about anything other than what’s on the news lately. I haven’t painted a miniature in months; all my time is either spent watching TV or playing The Witcher 3; which is a huge time-sink that greatly helps me to tune out. The problem is that although it’s fun, when I’m done playing it I won’t have anything to show for my efforts other than fond memories. On the other hand, if I actually get off my ass and do some hobbying, I may have a completed project or two when this is all over.

In the meantime, we are left with some sobering decisions. Most miniatures companies are small operations, and many are not full-time enterprises. They’re being hurt especially hard by the situation worldwide. As many of us are living on reduced income, how feasible is it to support the hobby industry, much of which is struggling right now? One position is that we should save what we can to weather our own tough times, another is to throw a few bucks at your friendly game company to support them.

True, it’s not like most of us don’t have a ton of unpainted lead already; and that may be justification enough not to buy anything new. But I say, if you can afford it, spend a little. It might make the difference between a company being able to survive and one that’s not around in a few months. If your FLGS is still open (mine isn’t), this goes double for them; brick and mortar places are going to be among the worst casualties of forced closures.

I’m still not sure what I’m going to do. I have a few options. I’m waffling between what I think would be the most fun and what I think would be the most practical. With that in mind, I’ve constructed a strategic plan to weather the storm:

  1. Make a list of all the projects you’re considering.
  2. Rate them from 1-5 (5 being best) in the following areas: Fun, Gaming Potential. (If you don’t like my categories, then choose your own). This will give you a total score between 2-10.
  3. Total your scores. The highest scores are the projects that will most likely be the ones you want to do.

My projects are:

  1. Gaslands Cars/Terrain : Fun: 3 Potential: 5 Total: 8
  2. Old West Miniatures/Terrain: Fun: 4 Potential: 3 Total: 7
  3. Wargames Factory Shock Trooper Army: Fun:3 Potential: 2 Total: 5
  4. Clan War Miniatures: Fun: 4 Potential: 0 Total: 4
  5. Old School Miniatures: Fun: 5 Potential: 0 Total: 5
  6. Spaceship/Dungeon Tiles for Gaming: Fun: 1 Potential: 5 Total: 6
  7. Star Trek Miniatures: Fun:3 Potential: 5 Total: 8
  8. Warhammer 40K Orks: Fun: 3 Potential: 0 Total: 3
  9. Warhammer Fantasy Empire: Fun: 3 Potential: 0 Total: 3
  10. Space Hulk: Fun: 3 Potential: 2 Total: 5

A quick look at the totals, and the things with the highest scores are Star Trek and Gaslands, both of which are already on my desk, followed by Old West miniatures and scenery which has been a project I’ve put off for a long time. Since it also has a decent potential for gaming, this looks like it’s going to be my main project. Because I’m kind of Trekked out at the moment, I’m going to finish up what I’m doing and devote most of my attention to Old West stuff.

BUT: the project that would be the most fun for me would be a return to some Old School Miniatures. Although I never paint these with the intent to game with them, I do enjoy the nostalgic aspect of painting stuff I painted as a kid. So I think I’ll do some of these, too. The project that would be most practical (but not much fun), is the construction of gaming tiles. This may have to wait, as I don’t have an inkjet printer that I want to drain dry, and I don’t have any 2-ply cardboard. It would be a good project to do while doing other things, if I only had the materials. Bummer.

I have some other projects in mind. This shit happened right as I was trying to get my Star Trek RPG off the ground, and I’m not ready to abandon that just because I can’t be in the same place as my players. I’m going to attempt to keep the game going through Roll20.net. Perhaps I’ll be able to find some new players that way, too!

The Search for Carrion Crow…

Shortly after his most recent blogpost, dated August 19th, my friend and co-miniatures enthusiast Carrion Crow mysteriously vanished from the blogosphere. He left behind no trace.

After several weeks with no sign, I grew concerned. After a month, I was in a full panic. I dispatched search parties to find him. Only one man returned; bloody, disheveled, incoherent and clearly mad. I barely had time to press some cold water to his lips before he gave a final shudder and died. I marveled he was able to make it back to me in such a state.

Upon looting his corpse, I found a dog-eared and ratty notebook in his pocket. Amid the scribblings and diagrams of an unhinged mind I was able to piece together the following theories as to my friend’s whereabouts:

  1. He is currently leaping about on the planet Barsoom, sword in one hand and the willowy, slender waist of a beautiful Martian princess held tightly in the other,  a wild smile on his lips and the love of battle in his heart.
  2. He is currently trapped in a neon, digital reality, where he is forced daily to duel Bruce Boxlitener with illuminated discuses.
  3. He is in an extra-dimensional, mythical city preparing himself to battle an ancient dragon so that he may absorb and channel its power, making his fist “like unto a thing of iron”.
  4. He is travelling through time portals in the company of a band of robber dwarfs, who are fleeing a superior being from whom they have stolen the map of Time itself.
  5. He is being held against his will in a remote coastal village, where he is under constant threat of being pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered.

One of these is almost certainly true. Personally, having come to know the Crow’s ways over the last couple of years, I feel strongly that it is #1. Thus, when I look skyward at the red planet, it is with no small amount of envy.

May you return safely and in your own time, my friend.

What the F–k?????

I am a fortunate man, in that I have a man-cave wherein I keep all manner of things that make me happy. Naturally, I spend an unhealthy amount of time there. It’s called my basement, and pretty much every day after work until about 7:30-8:00 pm, that is where I am most likely to be found. I can also be encountered there between 5:00-7:30 am most weekdays, almost all day (and often night) on the weekends, and at sporadic times in between. Because my basement does not have a bathroom, I am required to visit my house above sometimes.

Here is an example of one of the aforementioned things that make me happy. It is a glass curio case, made by Ikea. I have 6 of these in my basement. They are full of my painted miniatures. From time to time I regard them critically. From time to time I remove them from the cases and play games with them. Often I take note that I have a shitload of miniatures and should probably stop buying more. But that’s another story…

Last night was a pretty typical evening. I painted for a while and went upstairs at the usual time, returning to the basement around 11 to put my cell phone in its charger.  All was well. Then I went to bed.

This morning, at around 5:30, I descended into my basement. My bare foot encountered something on the floor. I bent down to retrieve it and discovered it was a small piece of glass, roughly cube shaped. Channeling my brother, I scratched my head and muttered the title of this post aloud.

Then I turned and scanned the room.

This is what I found.  Upon this discovery, I exclaimed the title of this post aloud.

It seems that between the hours of 11 pm and 5:30 am, the door to one of these cases shattered. My question is: how?

The door is completely demolished, as you can see. It seems to have spontaneously exploded. For the life of me I cannot figure out how or why.

I do not have any offspring, so the rambunctious antics of children are not to blame. I do not have any pets. Neither did anyone break into my house overnight to smash the door of a miniatures display case and then leave my house without stealing or disturbing anything else. There was no reported seismic activity that I am aware of. Neither was there a temperature or barometric pressure change in my basement severe enough to cause glass to shatter so completely. I have not had reason to open this case in at least 2 weeks, more like a month.

It just broke. Overnight. Spontaneously. And it left a pretty huge mess.

No, I did not hear it shatter, but that’s hardly surprising as I sleep a full two stories above my basement, and the basement door is always closed. I have yet to assess the damage, if any, to the miniatures in the case.

Do I have a poltergeist?

 

Games Workshop: WTF?

Like many FLGS’s, one of the local stores I patronize regularly has had to come up with inventive ways of competing with online discounters. This place has loads of old lead, including lots of GW stuff from the past 10 years or so, still new in the box. His compete strategy is simple: if you buy anything other than GW, he gives you a gift certificate for 30% of the purchase value towards anything in the store aside from GW stuff. For GW stuff, he gives you a $20 gift certificate for every $100 you spend.

That’s a pretty good deal, I would say. Or is it? It sure is as far as the non-GW stuff goes. But for the GW stuff, I’m not so sure.

Let me explain.

I recently accrued $100 worth of GW purchases at the store, so I had a $20 credit burning a hole in my pocket. I don’t buy any of the new stuff, since I never play the games anymore. What did I buy? Lots of individual regiment boxes for armies I don’t play, mainly for use in skirmish games and as cannon fodder for my AD&D game. For example, I bought a unit box of Empire Swordsmen for $30 there (I told you he has a lot of stuff still new in box, priced according to when he ordered them…in this case I’d say about 8 years ago or so.) I also bought a bunch of metal miniatures considering he sells all his old metal GW stuff for half price.

Well, I now have a gaming table that I’m hoping gets a lot of use. I have a couple of armies  for both their games, but like many gamers I always consider more. So yesterday I went to the store, thinking I might plop down a decent chunk of change on a battalion box, either for 40K or WFB. Why not? He has some battalion boxes from 8-9 years ago still on the shelf, and they’re priced accordingly as low as $90. Take $20 off that, and it’s starting to look like a deal, depending on the army you pick.

I looked at all the battalion boxes he had for sale for both games, and let me tell you, there’s a huge difference in what you get for what you spend, both across armies and across time.

He had two versions of the Empire Battalion box. (Since I already bought a box of swordsmen, I considered getting a battalion and having an Empire army ready to go.) Both versions contained 20 State Troops, 10 Handgunners, and 8 Reiksguard Knights. One also came with a Cannon and crew, the other came with 10 Greatswords instead. The Cannon was the cheaper choice: it was $90. The Greatswords cost $105. (This is the current version available on the GW website.) Maybe a little expensive, but not a terrible deal, considering you get over 40 miniatures per box.

The best deal I found was a Skaven Battalion, which contained 40 Clanrats, 20 Plague Monks, 2 Rat Ogres with Handler, and 2 Rat Swarms with Handlers for $115. These are the old syle Skaven, not the new ones. But with over 60 miniatures, it’s not a bad deal.

But these are either old WFB Battalions, or they’re the exception. The newer ones have fewer figures. and they cost more. And they changed the game itself to favor more miniatures and bigger units.

As far as old 40K Battalions went, the ones with the most miniatures for the money were the Tyranids and the Tau. I don’t want or need more Tyranids, and I don’t know anything about the Tau. Maybe if he had one of the older Tau codices there I would have considered buying it since it was priced at $90 and included 10 Fire Warriors, 3 Stealth Suits, 1 Battlesuit, 1 Devilfish Tank, and 12 Kroots. But I’m not buying a new codex for $45, and I don’t even own the latest version of the game.

This month GW released the new Eldar models, and everyone is outraged at the price hike. The Eldar Battalion is especially egregious. You get a total of 17 miniatures: 10 Guardians, 5 Dire Avengers, a Viper Jetbike, and a Wave Serpent tank. For $115. Now, GW will have its fanboys who think this is “really a good deal for what you’re getting, especially given the quality of the models”, but that’s just bullshit. And yeah, you get a tank. Big fucking deal. See the Tau above. 15 troops does not a Battalion make. They used to sell WFB regiments of 20 miniatures for 30 bucks! I know: I just bought some!

So, back to my original question: is $20 off already inflated prices actually a good deal? Or has GW’s pricing plan pretty much invalidated what this poor store owner is trying to do? By anyone’s estimation, 20 bucks off is a pretty good deal. Unless you’re paying way too much for what you’re getting to begin with. Not the owner’s fault, but he’s the one who stocks the items and has to deal with the crap from people who hate GW’s prices, who then buy from someone online. As he put it to me yesterday, “People only come to me if I’m their last resort. They need it tomorrow or something like that.”

Despite what you may think, this isn’t really a rant on GW’s prices, although any discussion about GW is bound to get around to pricing eventually (and it’s not hard to see why). It’s a speculation about what the fuck GW is really doing. Let me repeat that: this is pure speculation. I have no real knowledge of GW’s business plan or goals.

For retailers, there are already a ton of restrictions when it comes to selling GW stuff, even online. Recently, I have heard that the War Store has had to stop selling GW bits or risk losing the ability to sell GW at all, which they do for 20% off already, although they are forbidden to show any prices and/or merchandise on the site. How long do you think that will continue? And if the War Store and online sellers are having problems with the restrictions, how much trouble do you think the FLGS owner in his brick and mortar place can ever begin to compete? He can’t, really. Unless he’s a GW store.

Which makes me wonder if GW is actually trying to price the retailer out of the market, so that anyone who wants to buy GW stuff will have to buy directly from GW. it seems like a dumb idea, but is it really? No more wholesale sales to retailers, and they can charge what they want. While they can’t control the secondary market, they can make all the new stuff impossible to get for less than whatever they want to charge. While it cuts their third-party distribution network and limits exposure to their games, they have enough money to open new stores. Seems like a shitty business practice to me, but what do I know? All I know is FLGS owners everywhere aren’t moving GW stuff as much as they should, because most people consider retail too expensive and get it online for cheaper. What if that suddenly went away? Who would benefit?

I’m really trying to figure out GW’s game plan here. It reminds me of something that happened in the mid-90’s, when I was working in a comic book store. Anyone familiar with the crash of the comics market in the 90’s knows there were plenty of bad marketing ideas that capitalized on collectors’-especially new collectors’-unrealistic expectations of the “guaranteed” value of comics increasing over time. Thus there were gimmicky covers, multiple covers of the same issue (buy them all to have a complete collection!), price hikes, gratuitous cameos of “hot” characters and crossover storylines intended to dive sales of shitty books. That, coupled with the decision of Marvel Comics to distribute their own stuff exclusively, meant that Joe Retailer no longer enjoyed the big wholesale discount he got from buying all his Marvel and everything else from a third-party distributor. DC soon followed suit and became exclusive to one distributor, so now Joe Retailer had to order from more places, which means he ordered less from each, which means he paid more overall. To make matters worse, eventually the collectors stopped buying into the crap, and a lot of comic shops went out of business when they couldn’t move the merchandise they ordered two months previously in anticipation of collector demand that was suddenly no longer there.

Shortly before the big crash, though, Marvel started advertising something called “Marvel Mart” in their comics, which was a way for the individual collector to order from Marvel directly. As I recall, it was packaged in a way that implied the comic shop was an unreliable way to get your comics on time and in good condition. Plus, if you ordered directly, you saved money, since it was cheaper than Joe Retailer. Well, comic store owners went ballistic, since it seemed that Marvel was trying to drive them out of business. If I remember correctly, Marvel relented and Marvel Mart went away, mainly because Marvel didn’t expect the backlash from retailers. After all, Marvel comics accounted for something like 70% of comic sales at the time. Take that away, and how can an owner survive? Most didn’t. The store I worked at survived for a time on Magic: the Gathering card sales. Then it went out of business, too.

Much as I love playing other games, for most people GW is synonymous with miniatures gaming, for better or worse.  I have to think that this will hit the wall at some point, but that wall just keeps getting pushed back.

I didn’t buy anything yesterday after all, although I am considering the older Empire Battalion and/or maybe the Tau, if I can find the older codex. I still have two WFB armies I’m working on (which means I haven’t made much progress). I just feel bad for this store owner and others like him, who are really struggling and fighting an uphill battle. To be fair, it’s not just GW’s fault; they just have the worst prices. Amazon sells X-Wing stuff for a lot less than retail, for example. It wasn’t too long ago I considered opening a store of my own. With the current state of the market, I’d be rolling some heavily-loaded dice if I did. I just think it’s sad that the little guy might not be around too much longer.