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Sword Buyers Digest - September Edition 2015
September 01, 2015
Some of you may have noticed we missed the last issue of the digest.. Things simply got too busy in the last few days of the month and I was unable to meet the deadline..
As you will see in a moment, things are no less busy, and even this issue nearly didn't make it to your inbox.. But clearly it DID - so let's get into it shall we? We have a fair bit to get through..
1. From the Desk of Paul Southren
2. Collectors Corner
3. Bad Sword of the Month
4. Video of the Month
5. Best Forum Posts
6. Project X and Forge Direct
From The Desk of Paul Southren
Last month was a busy one, that is for sure..
In between dealing with a backlog on the SBG custom Katana (which we are slowly but surely catching up on), Project X and a new product line launch (which we will discuss later) - I also had to plan another trip to China starting, well - today! So please excuse me if the digest is a little rushed - it is being written with a half packed bag and an eye on the door!
All of these trips have an end goal in mind for next year - and plans are well underway to take SBG to the "next level" that I think will be of a huge benefit to the sword buying community. Needless to say, each trip is always eye opening and is laying the foundation for something quite special. More on these developments as the year progresses..
In the meantime, I will return you to the regular mix of sword related nuttiness with a movie review by our friend Dan Dacombe..
Collectors Corner with Dan Dacombe
Collector's Corner has returned as a regular part of the SBG Digest. Complaints about this development can be made to whichever spiritual figure you hold in esteem, but they won’t help one bit.
By now (if any of y'all have been paying attention) you know that I have a warm place in my heart for bad movies, especially bad sci-fi/fantasy movies. There's just something about watching some B-List actors and actresses fumble around poorly constructed plywood sets, spouting terrible dialogue and mowing down armies of ragged extras with ridiculous looking sword-like-objects.
The higher the production values of the bad movie, the more you enjoy it.
I just watched "In The Name of the King 2" a couple months ago, which somehow managed to blackmail the incomparable Dolph Lundgrum into playing the lead.
Lundgrum - who is not only an actor but a martial arts expert AND a bonafide genius in biochemistry - trundles gamely along, teeth set in a fixed smile of determination to do his time among his community-theatre reject costars and get his paycheck. And I loved every minute of it! More than half the fun is laughing at how bad the film is.
Of course, that assumes that going into the film you didn't have high hopes. If you want a movie to be GOOD, I mean really good, then seeing it fall flat can be devastating.
Movie Review: The Hobbit TrilogyFull disclosure: I loved the LOTR movies. I took a course in Tolkien's writing in college and read through the whole series (including the silmarillion) twice that year. I still re-read the series (including the silmarillion) once a year.
The Hobbit was my favourite book growing up, and when I heard they were making prequels to the LOTR movies and that Peter Jackson (“PJ”) was involved, I was ecstatic. When I heard they were going to make two movies and show more material than was in the book - including Gandalf's jaunt to the Necromancer's digs, and the White Council driving him out/revealing it was Sauron returning to Middle Earth - I was thrilled. That "sidequest" had always intrigued me, and I never liked how Gandalf didn't bring the reader along for it.
When they said it was going to be three movies, not two, I started getting a little worried.
So I went to see the first film, and I liked it - a lot. The scene of the dwarves singing in Bag-End, the start of their journey, the capture and battle with the Goblins, and especially the riddles with Bilbo and Gollum... all of them brought me back to the book. My inner child was happy.
I wasn't happy with everything, though... for example, I was pleased to see Radagast included, but was a little uncertain about how they portrayed him. I knew that Saruman in the LOTR books spoke derisively of him - a "lover of beasts and birds", I think he says - but we are simply not told very much about him.
Jackson extrapolates the little information we get into a loopy, ridiculous character who rides a sled pulled by giant supersonic rabbits and (it's strongly implied) spends his time alone in the woods eating psychadelic mushrooms and tripping absolute balls.
There were other things, too. The White Orc being a primary antagonist, the heightened feeling of urgency (usually because they were no longer journeying but being chased by orcs at every opportunity), and the fact that everything felt a bit "expanded" - the camera lingered a little too long on everyone's faces, the sweeping landscape shots were just a bit too long.
But even with all that, I still liked it - wanted to like it, so bad. So I bought the extended Blu-Ray when it came out, waited the required year to save up enough for more 3D movie tickets, and went to see The Desolation of Smaug.
And I hated it.
I tried really hard. I tried really, really hard to like it. But the film went from an almost-faithful reproduction of the book (in film one) to an awful, confusing mess that had orcs crawling over every inch. The river barrel scene turned into a running battle between orcs, dwarves, and a Legolas who has become almost cartoonishly flexible. Seriously, why does every elf suck but him?
And Tauriel. Oh, sweet and fluffly Morgoth, Tauriel.
I get it, ok? I GET IT. There were virtually no female characters in the Hobbit book. It's not written in an inclusive way, and could potentially make girls feel like they aren't welcome to go on amazing adventures with the fantasy version of a hairy biker gang.
That's a problem, yes, but it's a problem with the time the book was written in, not with the book itself. It's like getting upset with Mark Twain for using the N-Word in Huckleberry Finn, or with Patrick O'Brien for not putting outboard motors in Master and Commander. The Hobbit’s unfortunate absence of female characters is a product of the culture in which it was written (mid twentieth century british academia). Full stop.
So was Tauriel a mistake, you ask? Yes and no. I’m actually not against the inclusion of Tauriel per se. I just think they could have done a better job of it. Stories need strong women. Just look at how successful the new Mad Max was – strong female characters are a recipe for success in all kinds of movies. But Tauriel’s problem is not that she is a female character, or even that she wasn’t in the books – her problem is that the entirety of her character's existence (who is supposed to be there to connect with female moviegoers as a strong woman on equal footing with the male characters) revolves completely around the romantic interests of those same male characters. That’s WORSE than no female characters by a long shot – she’s just an object to be interacted with. Not helping the problem, PJ. Not. Helping.
Deep breath... Deep breath... It's ok, Dan, it's ok. There's one more film left. The third LOTR movie was the best, they can still turn this around.
So. I bought my ticket, and went with a buddy to see the final Hobbit movie. And I'll be honest, friends, I didn't dislike it.
I loathed it.
I loathed almost everything about it, from start to finish, and if Paul would let me I could write 5000 words on the subject. As it is I’m leaving my recommended word count absolutely in the dust for this article, so I’d better wrap things up shortly. We wouldn’t want things to DRAG ON TOO LONG AND FEEL BLOATED OR ANYTHING. Suffice it to say that after returning from the theatre that night I started shopping my as-yet-unwatched Blu-Ray of the first Hobbit film around, looking for someone to take it off my hands.
Despite the changes made from the books the LOTR movies stayed true to their spirit - they simply took an unfilmable trilogy and made it filmable. And it worked - almost unbelievably well. But the changes, and additions, and extrapolations from obscure references into massive series-destroying macguffins (THOSE FRACKING SANDWORMS) did more than make it a "more watchable film" - they made the Hobbit trilogy into a bloated, confusing mess that bears almost no resemblance to the soul of the story it was apparently spawned from.
My wife asked me if I would go see the third Hobbit movie a second time, but with her. I responded thusly:
I would rather debate Shakespeare with an infinite number of monkeys;
I would rather cosplay as Jar Jar Binks;
I would rather have a laproscopic colonoscopy operated by a team of enthusiastic but poorly-coordinated first year medical students who all suffer from poor vision and crippling inner-ear disorders;
I would rather watch a Kevin James movie than go and see it again.
So that’s it, friends. That’s my rant. If you liked the movies then more power to you – I won’t blame you for it. But as for me, when my kids want to watch the Hobbit movie I know exactly what I’m going to show them.
Also – just FYI – that Blu-Ray of mine is still for sale…
Bad Sword of the Month
It is a Chinese Dao!! No wait, it is a Fantasy Katana - with a Sinbad style blade with pre-added stress points to break off a shard off the thing at your enemies, surprising them utterly and leaving them stunned and bewildered with your sword buying choices..
All it needs is some speed holes near the tsuba and it's ready to go..! (though where it should go is a matter of debate)..
Video of the Month
Nearly a million views since it went online 2 weeks ago, this video features SBG longtimers BKS swords forging a "Hattori Hanzo" Katana from scratch - using bloom steel (basically Tamahagane).
Best Forum Posts
SBG Forum: Angus Trim - the Novel?
You may know him as a mild manner sword maker. But there are many faceted sides to the legendary Mr. Trim - with published fiction writer the most recent string to his bow (or is that scabbard to his sword..?).
SBG Forum: DIY Gladius Display
Nothing suits a well made Gladius better than a well made sword stand. Here is a unique and rather nicely done design to give you some new ideas..
SBG Forum: How sharp should a medieval sword really be?
A good European sword should be sharp. But how sharp and what kind of targets should it be honed to cut straight out of the box with the factory edge? Interesting discussion.
SBG Forum: Is this business practice acceptable?
When it comes to returns - what kind of limitations on what you can return for what reasons do you think are acceptable. Do you think in this case the manufacturer was right to hold out on a return, or is the customer always right? Interesting thread.
Last month, after much anticipation, we offered a limited release of Project X Japanese from landed stock.. Only problem was, we clearly did not order in enough stock, as everything sold out within the first 24 hours!! Indeed, many people ended up missing out - some for the second and even third time in a row - which is frustrating for everyone..
With demand for these heirloom quality swords understandably so high, Chris Scoggin from Ronin Katana and I had a chat with the Master Smiths and they reluctantly decided to offer one final pre-order opportunity with expected delivery in early December 2015 (we will bring it in via airfreight to ensure Christmas delivery).
Check them out here - along with the full stats and new pics of the matching Wakizashi/Ko Katana hybrids!
The pre-order period will only last 1-2 weeks at the absolute maximum (last time, we could only keep it open for a few days before all the available pre-order slots filled up - this time, with two recent shipments having only just been fulfilled, hopefully we can hold it open long enough for everyone who has been waiting to get a proper chance to get in - but don't bet on it.. If you are interested, best to get your order in ASAP to avoid disappointment)..
This is a brand new offshoot from Project X truly is an industry first..
Despite what some ebayers may claim, real Chinese forges do not sell direct to members of the public. While there are many sellers who claim to represent a forge in China, the reality is these sellers simply shop around at the big forges, getting the best that they can for their customers and passing it off as their own. Big forges only deal in large wholesale orders to distributors with minimum advertising quantities..
Using the contacts we established over the years, and having gained a measure of confidence in who we are and what we are about with Project X, the Mastersmiths and owner of the largest and most respected forge in Longquan - they decided to make an exception…
Here is how it works..
The forge has allowed us limited access to a carefully picked selection of their premium grade swords that, because of how much they cost to import and because they are not "standard" heavily in demand swords like Katana or Longswords, have never been widely available before except in imitation form on ebay and Alibaba, etc (there is a budget, mid range and high end mastersmith version of these swords - be careful of sellers who try to substitute the budget or mid range for the high end stuff!)
These truly are stunningly beautiful pieces. To start, we were permitted four models: the first one, the Proto-Chokuto/Tangdao, is a rare blade style seen in both ancient China and Japan - the Katana's great grandfather as it were with its single edged, chisel tip blade - clay tempered with real hamon and full rayskin wrapped handle.
I mean seriously, just look at this thing.. Once again, mastersmith forged with a folded, differentially hardened double edge - another that I desperately want for myself..!
The only catch is, each of these models will only be available for a limited time period before a new offering is rotated in. So if you see a design you like, you had better secure it while you can as once we rotate a product out of the selection, there is no guarantee it will be available again..
Well, that is all for this issue. Gotta fly (literally)..
Talk to you all again next month. Until then, stay safe and happy swordening!
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