29 October 2015

Majtap (Monopoly Conversion)


Growing up as first-generation Canadians with a Macedonian heritage meant my cousins, my sister, and I swam in both cultures, and this was most apparent when it came to the respective languages, English and Macedonian. There were many words, phrases, and expressions that were hilarious to us kids when we playfully translated back and forth between them. The greatest, most perfect example of this is the phrase "igrate majtap" (pronounced "EE'grahteh MYE'tap"), which translates as "making fun of" or "taking the piss," but literally means "playing...majtap" (we didn't know that "majtap" simply meant "joke," and it didn't matter, because we correctly inferred it was some kind of mockery we were "playing at"). At our many family gatherings during the 1970s and '80s, whenever an adult would overhear us laughing and mixing the languages, they would assume it was at their expense (and sometimes it was) and accuse us of "playing majtap" which, to us, sounded like a board game of some kind.

Last December, at my uncle Kiro's funeral, my cousins and I were reminiscing about those many happy times in our childhood when our families would get together and we would all inevitably "play majtap." Somebody (maybe it was me) suggested it was about time we made a Majtap game for real that we could actually play. My mind started racing, trying to figure out gameplay and practicality. Remembrance of my uncle and being with my family took precedent, but the idea had planted itself firmly in my brain.

My Aunt Magda and Uncle Kiro
(click the picture to read a bit about them)

On the long drive home by myself, the idea of making an actual Majtap game was now an inevitability when I realized that a) I didn't necessarily have to invent a game from whole cloth; I could just piggyback gameplay and much of the parts from my own Monopoly set and customize various aspects of it, and b) my cousin Bob's 50th birthday was coming up in August, giving me a good eight months to develop this project and see it through to my satisfaction.

I wrote a bit about Bob's scale modelling interests in my post about my own return to modelling, but I owe much more to him than my desire to build miniatures. Other than the love and support our families have given each other over the decades, I make special note that Bob (Kiro's son, by the way) had introduced me to some great comedy. In the '70s during sleepovers, I'd stay up late with him watching early Saturday Night Live (maybe only getting half the jokes) and SCTV. Add to that his own sense of humour, and I find it easy to see the origins of my own sense of humour (further nuanced by my earlier interest in Bugs Bunny (basically Groucho Marx) and The Flintstones (basically The Honeymooners), and my later interest in Monty Python, Douglas Adams, George Carlin, Al Yankovic, and Wayne & Shuster (among many others).

I had some mild frustration in that the best and funniest person who could help me make this the best Majtap game ever was Bob, and he was the one person I had to keep it a secret from in order for the birthday surprise to be effective. But I think I managed pretty well on my own.

I'm in blue; Bob's holding the TV Guide.

With each aspect of Monopoly I thought of changing to reflect some Macedonian and/or familial inside joke, the more excited about the project I became. This would be a game many members of my family –maybe even other Macedonian-Canadians– would find amusing, but it was all for Bob, so there were many jokes specific to him in this one-of-a-kind game. The kind of wordplay used here only works, or works best if you speak both English and Macedonian; if you feel out of the loop, I apologize, but this blog post is for posterity more than anything (and explaining a joke is often the shortest route to rendering it unfunny).


The game operates exactly like Monopoly and is similar to the various official variations. The four railroads are replaced by the four Macedonian Orthodox churches in Toronto, Markham, Ajax, and Mississauga; the utilities are replaced by Bob's Barre Shop (roll those Rrrrrs!) and West Hill Fence Co. (Bob and I put up fences with Kiro in the '80s); instead of going to jail, you get stuck in traffic; both times you have to pay tax are now "bolshet" and "free parking" now urges you (via patois) to simply not worry about it; and the dice, money, and houses & hotels all remain unchanged from the original game.

I designed the game in CorelDraw and printed everything at a Staples. I peeled away as much of the original Monopoly board sticker as I could, then sanded down the rest to give me a good surface to spray glue the new printed board onto.


The most primal form of playing majtap for us is the patois of mixing Macedonian and English words, alternately, smoothly, and for comedic affect. Thus, the game mixes both languages all over the place, but especially in the Chance and Community Chest cards. I also altered the Monopoly guy in Photoshop to more resemble Bob.

I printed these on regular coloured paper (they didn't have coloured card stock), glued them onto coloured construction paper (for firmness), then cut them out, but I was too close to the time of the Big Reveal in August to fix the typo on the yellow card at left, above, that somehow slipped through my many proofreads.


My initial plan for the property cards was to simply use actual Macedonian city/village names, but, by the time I got around to designing this part months later, I had a breakthrough that was funnier and truer to the spirit of "majtap" overall. Among real place names like Skopje and Bitola are names like Vashtrumi and Lazhgo-Gjore. Again, I won't explain, just take my word for it.

I printed the fronts on colour laser paper and the backs in black and white on card stock, glued them together and trimmed them for near perfect Monopoly-style property cards.

dried chick pea (lebleb).
Middle row: baked beans with hamburgers (gravche vo tavche);
bean soup (graf); stuffed pepper (piperka polnata); maznik.
Front row: Turkish delight (lokum); kebap; cabbage roll (sarma); zelnik.

I couldn't have a proper Macedonian-based project of this scale, consisting of so many elements, without involving food in some way, because it's such a huge part of our culture, and replacing the traditional Monopoly tokens with some of our traditional foods (not to scale) was simply the best way to do this. I made these all out of Super Sculpey, baked them to harden, painted them with acrylics, coated them with a clear acrylic gel to protect them, then sprayed them with a matte coat to seal and further protect them. I'm quite happy with all of them except for the kebap and the sarma, but they'll do.

I made a game that gently made fun of and humourously celebrates my Macedonian heritage as seen through the lens of my Canadian upbringing and I went all-out, spending months, to make it as excellent as I could...because it would be funniest if I made it as "real" as possible (verisimilitude being a key component of my sense of humour). But ultimately I wanted to create a game that would make my dear cousin Bob laugh, to gratefully pay him back for all the laughs he gave me my whole life, and the doorways he showed me that would lead to my life-long interest in comedy and now a renewed interest in model-making. This game, this glorious Majtap, is a thank you and a celebration, percolating for decades, conceived at a funeral, realized for a birthday.

10 October 2015

U.S.S. Excelsior, NCC-2000 (1/1000 scale model)

The U.S.S. Excelsior was first introduced in 1984's Star Trek III, but, although it appeared again in re-used footage in 1986's Star Trek IV, then again (with fresh, new, exciting footage) in 1991's Star Trek VI, and numerous appearances in Star Trek: TNG as various other ships, a model kit wasn't made available until 1994, the same year a re-dressed and slightly-tweaked version of the Excelsior appeared in Star Trek Generations as the Enterprise-B.

I'd already built the refit Enterprise 1701-A in 1992, and had possibly built the U.S.S. Reliant maybe a year or so afterward...or maybe I built the Enterprise-D next (I can't remember the order or vintage of my builds of the Trek starships), but I certainly built my A-Wing fighter in 1993, so this may have been the second-last model I built in the '90s (the last being the U.S.S. Voyager in 1995 (or '96)...and my last model of the '90s would have been the U.S.S. Defiant, but, believe it or not, I still have it –unbuilt– in its box).

I remember reading a review of ST3 in 1984 in a rather hard-to-find magazine called Enterprise Incidents, which only seemed to appear only a handful of times at the local convenience store I bought my comics and magazines from. In it, the reviewer levelled some harsh criticism of the ship, likening it to a baby's sippy cup (referring to the primary hull's extreme tapered design). I hadn't seen the movie yet, and you didn't get a really good look at the ship in the few pictures the magazine included, but I felt this was an unfair judgement, and I still do.

It was big and lean and designed to contrast its new design and new technology (transwarp drive!) with the decades-old Enterprise. Then Scotty messed up its engines, striking a point for the little guys.

Anyway, I found its sleekness very attractive and the slight Art Deco look was indeed fresh, while still keeping that "Starfleet-clean" aesthetic. Years later, when I saw an interview on the ST3 DVD with its designer, Bill George, talking about the ship, I fell in love with it all over again.

My modelling techniques were quite unsophisticated in the '90s, so the various flaws are obvious, the main ones being sloppy gluey bits all over the place, mediocre hand painting all over the place, and leaving the bare plastic as the main hull colour rather than painting it. 

Black paint from the stand rubbing off on the lower hull over the decades.

I have no idea what that smudge at the front of the saucer is.

This is my favourite angle of this class of starship.

That dramatic notch cutaway in the middle of the engineering hull is a nice callback to the original Enterprise, and establishes a Starfleet design lineage that turns up in the U.S.S. Voyager as well..

Wobbly decals; shiny gluey bits.

More black paint transfer visible here.

Overall, I seem to remember having a fun time building this kit (that's the whole point of this hobby, after all!), despite its tiny size and lack of detail as a result (I wasn't concerned with absolute accuracy at that time; it was close enough).

03 October 2015

Small Pond Shipyard Sci-Fi Project List, PART 1

This is the hub for the first 10 of my Shipyard projects which are (mostly) sci-fi related (including "retro" posts featuring scale models I built in the 1990s –way before the SPS ever existed).
Projects are in chronological order, and new ones will be added as they're completed.

My next 10 sci-fi projects can be found in PART TWO.

To read about the origin of the Small Pond Shipyard click the SPS logo at the bottom of this post.

My automotive scale models have their own hub,
as do my architectural scale models.

Click on the various images to see the build log for that project:

My next 10 sci-fi projects can be found in

02 October 2015

Enterprising Casual Fridays #6

I like Sisko a lot (after Jum Kirk, he's my favourite captain) and figure he wouldn't put up with the whole Casual Fridays bullshit; I think Dax would play along, but defer to Sisko's decision; Bashir would probably love it; and O'Brien, Kira, and Odo would most likely stick to their uniforms, making it a moot point (for the main crew in Ops, anyway). But I bet Garak would love to make them all some lovely party shirts.

See how this whole thing started HERE.