Sunday, July 15, 2007

MN Harlem Line from Trainz

Read about the Metro North Harlem Line just released by Auran in their new Trainz Classics series, here.


Friday, July 13, 2007

The Urge to Create

Every now and then I slow down long enough to think about what I'm doing. It's a human thing. What got me started was a comment by a neighbor made at a recent party. He complained about today's music and how it just doesn't measure up to the classics of Bach, Beethoven and Mozart. He could see no redeeming value in today's music and connected it to some cultures other than the one he thought most highly of. I responded, less succinctly than I am here, that just because I don't like a particular artistic effort doesn't mean it's bad or unsuccessful. My impression of many musicians is that they are serious in their efforts and are driven more by their artistic sensibilities than by popular opinion. I also suggested that the artist holds up a mirror to the times he/she is living in. Sometimes we don't like what we see. If that's the case, don't blame the messenger but look more closely at ourselves and begin to make changes to ourselves rather than demand it of others (no matter how much we may object, we are almost certainly more a part of the "condition" than we care to admit). That's one way to end a conversation!!!

The point I wish to examine is the premise that the artist holds a mirror by which the rest of us can see ourselves. I consider myself an artist, not because I was an architect for many years, or because I have sung in choral societies and played in orchestras and now a band, or that I like to write. Under those terms I never considered myself worthy of the mantle. I consider myself an artist because I have an urge to create. This urge is what ties most of us in the model railroading (including virtual modeling) hobby together.

My urge to create goes back as far as I can remember. Whenever I saw or heard something that moved me I responded by imitating it or building a model of it or drawing a picture of it or humming it. As a child I looked out the window of our 9th floor apartment in New York's Manhattan Island and saw buses and trucks. I responded by making a fleet of buses out of colored construction paper, making a template, tracing it onto the paper; and cutting, folding and pasting the cutout to form a bus. Later I made trucks, which were more complex in form. I placed my wooden wheelbarrow on its side on the end of my bed so that the wheel was in a horizontal position. I then sat crosslegged in front of the "driving wheel" and "drove" my imaginary bus up and down Lexington Avenue (it was two-way then).

I also built one-armed bandits out of cardboard. If someone dropped a nickel in the slot I would drop a pack of Chicklets down the chute. I even tried to make a banjo out of a box and rubber band strings.

When I saw my first wet, heavy snow storm I got out my crayons and drew a picture of a tree with snow completely surrounding the trunk and branches, top and bottom. My father was so impressed he took it to the office to show to his friends. When I began music lessons I made some music manuscript paper and began placing notes on the staff. I then asked my father to play it for me so I could hear what it sounded like. Today I woke up thinking about the urge to create and decided to get my thoughts down on "paper" before I did anything else.

My point is that even a 5-year-old boy is holding a mirror to what surrounds him, and as we know from the old Art Linkletter shows, kids can be notoriously accurate. If my childhood mirror was dominated by buses and trucks it's because my childhood world was dominated by buses and trucks. Now that I live in the country, I notice the men and boys collect tractors, real and modeled.

I want to encourage every model/virtual railroader to recognize the artist within. Being an artist is not defined by an ability to draw, paint, write, sing or what have you. It's defined by the urge to create, whether that be trains or treehouses or sculptures or whatever pleases you. When we follow that impulse we are contributing something of value to society, not that many of us were worried about doing so. After all, enjoying our activity is its own reward. But still, if someone asks why you're still playing with trains, don't be caught off guard. You have an answer.



Saturday, July 07, 2007

Rail Simulator News

Kuju, in partnership with Electronic Arts has been working (forever, it seems) on Rail Simulator, aimed specifically at the UK and German markets. In a recent announcement, the partnership has added a German arm, Deutshe Bahn.

The announcement we're ALL looking for is the one that says Rail Simulator has gone gold. So far there has been no such announcement. In fact, any prediction of a release date is conspicuously absent in this latest announcement.

Meanwhile, Auran continues to move ahead with Trainz. Their new/evolutionary Trainz Classics has gone gold and is slated for a July 9 release. Now that's news we can do something with!