Review: The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History

Posted January 14th, 2016 by Devin and filed in Review

The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in HistoryThe Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John M. Barry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“The Great Influenza” could be used as a text book for a class on the flu virus and the history of the medical community’s battle against it. It took me a while to get into the book, as the first 100 pages deal with the establishment of the modern doctor and the systems that were put in place in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to train the modern physician. Honestly this bit was a little dry for me; not because it wasn’t interesting, but because it’s not my main area of interest in this topic.

I’d honestly hoped for more of a “life on the streets” tale, as entire cities such as New York and Philadelphia were effectively shut down during the height of the epidemic in late 1918. During that time, thousands died every single day, and bodies were stacked on porches and sidewalks to be collected much as they had been during the medieval days of the Black Plague. There’s a bit of Continue Reading »

Brooklyn Navy Yard Museum and the USS Maine

Posted January 5th, 2016 by Devin and filed in Modeling, Photography

2015-11-25 12.40.50Recently I finally got some closure on a project from some years ago. I made it out to the museum in Building 92 of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Part of their collection is a large scale model of the famous battleship USS Maine. A model that I helped build.

Back in 2010 a friend of mine, ship modeler extraordinaire Gary Kingzett, asked me if I’d like to assist him on a build for a museum. My odd work schedules over a 5 or 6 year period allowed me the freedom to travel to his home and workshop in northern New Jersey. Material for the ship’s hull was a large sheet of poured urethane resin, known as butter board. I’ve put some photos in the Continue Reading »

Non-Spoilery Thoughts on The Force Awakens.

Posted December 18th, 2015 by Devin and filed in Review

star-wars-force-awakens-official-posterI loved the movie. I walked home in a daze after seeing it. Now, 12 hours later, maybe I have a little perspective to write about what I saw.

There’s lots of talk of nostalgia in regards to Star Wars. As someone that saw the original Star Wars in 1977 as a 7 year old, nostalgia for these films is big for me. HUGE. The Force Awakens has this in droves. Just as the original Star Wars pulled from various Sci-Fi serials and samurai films, this film pulls from the original trilogy. Make no mistake, this is an original trilogy film, not a prequels film. There is action, depth, a lived-in-world feel, and humor. This film is funny in the same way that A New Hope was. The snarky banter and sarcasm is fantastic.

It’s not perfect. I can see where some come from saying that parts of the plot are recycled from the original trilogy. That’s true. Do I care? Not in the least. The parts that are recycled are done in a way that they make logical sense (in as much as military theory in a fantasy setting can make sense) and the themes that we’re familiar with that are here again are mostly used because they are EFFECTIVE. The biggest issue I have with the film has to do with the hardware. I love Star Wars ships, I became a model builder because of these movies. In this movie, I wanted more. This is something I’m only now realizing, though, because while watching the movie, I was too enthralled by the performances and chemistry between the characters to care about the ships.

And those characters. Finn and Rey have fantastic chemistry together. They just belong in this universe. Poe is fantastic. I want more. And Adam driver. He commands every scene he’s in, a wonderfully flawed villain. Sorry, R2, but I have a new favorite Astromech in BB8. There’s one scene with him (her?) that I still bust out laughing every time I think of it. And from the original movies, Han, Leia, Luke, Chewie, R2 and 3PO are back and have never left. They’ve been living in this universe, waiting three decades for us to get back to them.

The Force Awakens has brought us back to that galaxy far, far away, and it’s a wonderful trip. Enjoy the ride.

Swingline Stapler on eBay

Posted December 9th, 2015 by Devin and filed in Modeling

2015-12-08 17.18.27

After a long hiatus, I’ve finished a red Swingline replica. You can find it on eBay here:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/201481414203?ssPageName=STRK:MESELX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1555.l2649

The actual stapler on auction is pictured above.

Book Review: Capital Navy

Posted October 13th, 2015 by Devin and filed in Review

Capital Navy: The Men, Ships, And Operations Of The James River SquadronCapital Navy: The Men, Ships, And Operations Of The James River Squadron by John Coski
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

To say the Naval history of the American Civil War gets short shrift in most accounts is a massive understatement. Indeed, most people with a casual knowledge of the conflict have little idea how big of a role the Navy played in the ultimate Union victory. Some can name the Battle of Mobile Bay, know there was a battle between two ironclads named Monitor and Merrimack, and are aware that there was a blockade. That is usually considered the bulk of it, whereas the truth is that the naval units of the conflict shaped it profoundly. In Capital Navy, John Coski takes a look at a little known aspect of this in his study of the Confederate’s James River Squadron, stationed just outside of Richmond on the James River.

Coski gives a good overview of Richmond as a shipbuilding city before the war, and how it laid the foundation for what was to come. While the city built four ironclads and had a Continue Reading »

54mm Steampunk Sybil Figure Finished

Posted September 27th, 2015 by Devin and filed in Modeling

2015-09-17 21.36.56Several weeks back I attended the 2015 Jersey Fest show here in New Jersey. As part of the three day weekend, I registered to take a miniature painting class, taught by Maya at Morland Studios. For the class fee of $65 you got two figures, one of which is the Sybil, Steampunk Lady Bust shown here, multiple bottles of paint, some high quality brushes, and, not least of all, hands-on training and critique by an extraordinary figure painter.

I used to paint a lot of gaming miniatures. While in the Navy they were the only things portable enough for me to take with me to the bases and aboard ship. I was never very good at them, though, as soft modeling (organic shapes and surfaces) has never been my forte’, I’m better suited to the realms of hard modeling (mechanical items). I’ve always wanted to learn to paint realistic skin tones, Continue Reading »

Book Review: Descent into Darkness

Posted September 24th, 2015 by Devin and filed in Review

Descent into Darkness: Pearl Harbor, 1941-A Navy Diver's MemoirDescent into Darkness: Pearl Harbor, 1941-A Navy Diver’s Memoir by Edward C. Raymer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A memoir of the first year of the war, written by a veteran after the fact. Does a great job of filling in some of the “day in the life” of being a sailor at that time. This is the second book I’ve read by someone stationed in Pearl Harbor, and it’s odd to hear how the place was universally hated by military personnel. It wasn’t yet the paradise it is today. Continue Reading »

Book Review: Into the Storm

Posted August 20th, 2015 by Devin and filed in Review

Into the Storm (Destroyermen, #1)Into the Storm by Taylor Anderson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

INTO THE STORM is in some way pretty much exactly what I expected, and in other ways not at all what I expected. It’s a quick read that doesn’t go too far in to the explanation as to how a WWII US Navy destroyer ended up in a parallel and prehistoric universe — which I like — but deals with the actions of the characters and how they deal with their new reality.

The things I expected and did find in the book are the stock characters that make up the crew. All from varying backgrounds, they all have the typical hard-assed or meek or jokester personalities, that you expect in a book about the crew of a warship. While these generalizations are typical of military books and seem cliche at times, much of is actually on-track with what my own experience in the Navy.

In the “I expected more of this” area, I did expect more action in this book. Of course as this is the first of the series, the world building needs to be done, and here it takes up a Continue Reading »

Book Review: “Pirate Hunters” by Robert Kurson

Posted July 8th, 2015 by Devin and filed in Review

Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate ShipPirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship by Robert Kurson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Robert Kurson’s “Pirate Hunters” relates the story of two shipwreck hunters, John Chatterton and John Mattera, and their quest to find a verifiable Golden Age pirate ship. While a true story, the nature of the search and the backgrounds of those involved make for fact that’s more enthralling than most fiction.

The quest in “Pirate Hunters” is for the Golden Fleece, the 17th century pirate ship of Joseph Bannister, a well respected British merchant ship captain that suddenly turned pirate later in life (broke bad, if you will) and raised hell all over the Caribbean, even fighting off two British men-of-war while his ship Continue Reading »

Book Review: Battleship Sailor by Theodore C. Mason

Posted July 1st, 2015 by Devin and filed in History, Review

Just finished reading this title. A fantastic look at enlisted life in the Pre-WWII U.S. Navy:
Battleship SailorBattleship Sailor by Theodore C. Mason

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mason has done a fantastic job of describing the life of an enlisted man on a battleship on the eve of WWII. His description of arriving at the training command in San Diego in 1940 was almost exactly the same as mine in 1988: the same late night arrival, not knowing what’s going on, finding an open bunk in a strange barracks in the dark, and the following days of figuring out where one belongs in a totally foreign new world.

His descriptions of time in the fleet also show how little the Navy changed in a half-century, with the Continue Reading »