Sunday, April 4, 2021

The best April Fools' box art of 2021

 There was a time when people could be pranked on April Fools’ Day. I remember falling for the announcement that Tamiya was planning a 1/48 B-17G. We’re all too smart for that now.  It takes a brilliant mind to pull off a legit hoax...or an embarrassingly gullible mind to believe it.

So the day has become an opportunity to have some fun with each other, and the democratization of Photoshop has made it easier to create box art for the things we might like to see.

Here are some of the best of the tomfoolery that I noticed this year.

The members of the Facebook WingNut Wings Fan group were particularly creative, with convincing box art for kits that maybe, possibly, might have, could have been real if the business were still in operation.




One was clearly unbelievable, as well done as it was and as profitable as it would've been.


Airfix is always a popular target of April Fools' pranks, and 2021 was no different.


Finally, this post from the folks at Quinta Studio convinced at least one follower on Facebook that it was real.


Tom Anyz got into the spirit, too.


The best pranks turn out to be legitimate products, like Bandai’s cup of noodle soup kit last year. These bizarre releases will always be the source of most amusement throughout the year. Let's see what the remainder of 2021 holds!


Wednesday, February 17, 2021

When Facebook flags your post

A handful of guys in the hobby have recently expressed their frustration with Facebook flagging their posts, indicating that they violate their standards. 

In one case a photographer friend who shares images of aircraft was warned about his content (I don’t have any other details), and he’s decided to leave Facebook.

In another case, a Dragon 1/35 Sherman was flagged because it goes against the company’s Commerce Policy on weapons.

A deep dive into those standards that I think are at play in the latter case finds an explanation of Regulated Goods, which includes a prohibition on firearms, content that, "Attempts to buy, sell, trade, donate, gift or solicit firearms, firearm parts, ammunition, explosives, or lethal enhancements between private individuals, unless posted by a real brick-and-mortar store, legitimate website, brand or government agency." If you’re reading this, I think we all agree that identifying a scale model as a firearm is a huge and unreasonable leap.

Here’s the thing. Facebook’s policies and standards are written by a committee of highly paid executives, consultants, and lawyers...but, if this article from 2019 is still accurate, they’re enforced by 15,000 off-shore contractors in eight countries, and each flagged item is studied for roughly 15 seconds. The employees' performance is evaluated based on average review or handling time, so it’s easy to see how someone can nonchalantly flag something incorrectly to keep their time low.

Facebook generally allows users to request a review of the flag and removal, but if you’re denied again, a few minutes searching Google confirms that many removals don’t permit additional appeals. 

So what do you do if your post gets flagged and an appeal is not offered? I suggest writing a physical letter to Facebook’s Vice President of Content Policy, Monika Bickert. Here’s the address:

Facebook, Inc.
Attn: Monika Bikert
1 Hacker Way
Menlo Park, CA 94205

I suggest this route because I’ve had great success in the past with contacting senior management directly. Senior-level executives typically have a dedicated team of employees who are responsible for responding to direct inquiries. For example, ten years ago a letter to Delta's CEO allowed me to rebook an airline ticket that otherwise would've been nonrefundable.

Your letter should politely but clearly make your case, for example:

I’m writing to ask your assistance with an item that was incorrectly flagged as violating Facebook’s standards or policies.

I recently posted this item, which was flagged.

<Insert screenshot here>

I believe this was flagged in error. 

Example reasons:

This is simply a scale model, a miniature version of an airplane or tank. It measures less than 12 inches and is not capable of flying nor firing any form of live ammunition. You'll find scale models like this in museums around the world.

Or

This is a photograph of an airplane or tank. It’s intended to capture a moment in time for historical purposes, just like thousands of other images currently available on Facebook. It does not promote violence or war in any form. You'll find photographs like this in museums, libraries, and historical archives around the world.

One of the Oversight Board’s principles is Accessibility. The Board’s charter states:

"Individuals will be able to appeal Facebook and Instagram content decisions to the board. Anyone whose content is selected for review by the board will have the opportunity to share a statement explaining their position."

Unfortunately, my content was not formally selected for review by the board, so I’m taking the opportunity to proactively appeal myself. I ask you to take a moment to review this item and make it available again to my Facebook friends and followers.

Thank you for your time and for your efforts to keep Facebook a safe and fair medium for sharing content.

Why go through all this effort? Because we need to recognize that human error plays an enormous role in erroneously flagging content, and more importantly, that we hold Facebook accountable for the policies and standards they’ve published.

I know a lot of you are fed up with Facebook and many have chosen to leave. I understand the frustration. For those of you who choose to stay, I hope you’ll take this extra step to ensure our model-related content remains accessible.

No matter how you feel about Facebook, remember what a friend told me several years ago:

If you’re not paying for it, you’re not the customer.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

The box art of 2020

 Let’s take a look at the box art of 2020.

Worst box art of 2020 goes to the Dora 1/72 Lysander. I really, really like the kits that Dora has been releasing these last couple of years, but this box art fell short, particularly given how great the model itself is.


Best box art of the year goes to the Takom 1/35 Merkava Mk. 2D. I’m usually not a fan of head-on shots of armor, but this is nothing short of awesome.


If there were an award for most daring box art of the year, I’d have to give it to Airfix for their 1/48 Spitfire Mk. Vb. The plane is inverted! I don’t recall seeing another model marketed that way. Kudos to the graphic arts department at Airfix!


Tuesday, December 29, 2020

2020 in review

Every year provides its share of dazzle, amusement, and head-scratching. 2020 was no exception.

January

You may recall the crazy suggestion in 2019 to use cinnamon to weather armor. Well, this year we saw someone suggest using oatmeal to create water for ship models.


We also saw that the sexy women trend that we noticed in 2018 refuses to die, with numerous manufacturers releasing additional models, such as Armor35's bikini girl. At this point, I'm conceding that this is no longer a trend. It's clear that we're a horny bunch, and we're going to see more sexy women in the years ahead.


February

The Shizuoka Hobby Show, which had been scheduled for May, was cancelled as the Coronavirus took hold in China and other Asian countries. This would portend the cancellation of practically all model-related shows and contests through the remainder of the year.


March

Members of the Facebook Airfix Modeling Club worked themselves into a frenzy after Facebook began deleting photos of models with swastikas. Several members suggested creating a new forum on a different platform, but as far as I know, no one did.

Much of the world locked down for the Coronavirus, but modelers barely noticed as we carried on enjoying our solitary hobby in basements around the world. Rye Field Models kindly included two masks with orders for their kits; not wheel or canopy masks, mind you, but the kind you wear.

April

In one of the biggest disappointments to hit our hobby in the last 10 years — maybe even the last 20 years — Wingnut Wings announced the closure of their business. Kit prices have soared on the secondary market, and fans of the company’s kits expressed hope that some of the designers would find employment elsewhere. At least one has so far, Bryan Wall, starting Beacon Models and promising a range of kits in 1/144 scale.


June

Bandai announced their newest model…of a cup of ramen noodles. Yep. You can’t make this stuff up. Will we see a split in the Miscellaneous category at the IPMS Nats next year for “Food?"


July

A new company named Suyata releases some bizarre, abstract series of military subjects. If it entices newcomers to the hobby, why not?



August

In what is the most game-changing product to hit the hobby since Eduard introduced pre-colored photoetch, Quinta Studio’s released 3D-printed resin cockpit decals. Modelers were immediately impressed by their quality and the ease with which we can now represent cockpits in scale. And that’s one less skill we have to master!


September

Modelers went berserk on AK Interactive when they used video from POW camps to promote their new book, Condemnation: When Modeling Becomes Art and Art is Social Commentary. They apologized a day later, but the modeling community was not impressed. Regardless, the book features some well-executed dioramas.


We lost two significant players in the hobby. Bill Koster was an early pioneer in the cottage industry and helped design dozens of Monogram kits that are to this day exceptionally accurate, such as the 1/48 F-4C/D, F-15E Strike Eagle, F-100D Super Sabre, and P-51B.

Mark Bilas might not be as well known, but he produced nearly 150 decals sheets over the last 10 years, mostly in 1/72 scale, featuring roughly 900 markings. I could be wrong, but I think only Microsoft/SuperScale has been more prolific.


December

One of the greatest aviators of the twentieth century passed away, Chuck Yeager, capping off a year of suck.




Saturday, December 26, 2020

Reflections on the year of Covid

I have to admit, when my employer told me on March 4 that I would be working from home indefinitely, I was very happy. You see, my commute is a lengthy one, about 90 minutes door-to-door, longer in the evening when traffic in the greater New York tri-state region gets heavy. Working from home, instead of returning at 7:30 pm, I’d already be here when I “leave” work at 5. Good times!

The first few months were good. I’d typically be done with dinner and other minor chores by 7, and then I’d spend a couple of hours in the workshop. I made good progress on a number of kits. Then I hit…not a wall, but more of a series of rumble strips. Things got busy at work and, despite working from home, I was dog tired by 7 or 8 and didn’t have the energy to focus on the tedium of model building. I still spent time at the workbench, but more often on weekends than weeknights.

As I sit here in late December, my output in 2020 was very good. 


Dragon 1/35 T-34/85
Italeri 1/35 L6 Carro
Trumpeter 1/35 BTR-80
Tamiya 1/35 Schwimmwagen
Monogram 1/72 A-1E
Platz 1/72 T-33A
Trumpeter 1/48 P-40B

My typical output is roughly four models a year, so it’s been a good year. Except….

No one has seen these models.

Without having had contests to attend, finishing models feels incomplete. I’m not talking about the competition per se; as I said in a post a long time ago, “The main reason for entering your models is to share your work with other modelers.” I could share photos of my models online, but that’s not the same as seeing models in person and having conversations about them with like-minded enthusiasts. When a friend mentioned this to me a few weeks ago, I saw his point and made the analogy of writing a book without anyone ever reading it. To be sure, there is value — potentially great value depending on why you build models — in the process, but for me the endeavor in its entirety feels incomplete.

With the Covid vaccinations now underway, I’m looking forward to 2021 and the resumption of shows and contests. I miss seeing models. I miss exploring the vendor rooms. I miss my friends.

What’s it been like you for? Better? Worse? The same?

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Facebook insanity

 Many of you enjoy my eBay insanity posts, so now it’s time to expand these lighthearted observations to what I’ll call Facebook insanity. These won’t have anything to do with selling models, rather people’s comments to photos or posts. Like this one.

You’ve probably seen this photo of an F-4S Phantom II with two bombs mounted backward on the inboard pylons. It’s pretty obvious to most observers that it was a joke that the ordnance guys played on each other or the pilot and WSO. But when someone posted the photo to a Facebook group, the responses were more amusing than the ordinance. I mean…ordnance.

One guy asked, tongue-in-cheek, “Are you referring to the really dumb, dumb bombs or the poor guy being eaten by the landing gear?” To which another responded, “I think he’s referring to the bombs.” Yeah, no shit Sherlock.

A former Marine wrote, “Must be Air Force.” Two guys responded, both clearly lacking a sense of humor that exists in inter-service rivalry, responded, “Air Force never used that paint scheme. Try again.” And, “Don’t be a dick.”

Speaking of no sense of humor, another member of the group wrote, “There has to be an explanation for this.”

One guy, who we’ll call Captain Obvious, wrote, “The bombs are mounted backward.” Mind you, this was after all of the other comments.

There's hope in humanity, because some guys got the joke and played along, one writing, “This is for those 90 degree nose-high deliveries.” Another, “Just turn the jet around.” And another, “It’s for bombing things behind you as you pass overhead.”

The next time you get bummed out on Facebook -- for any of the many reasons we get bummed out on Facebook -- click into your favorite group and read the comments.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Getting started with airbrushing

One of the most common subjects of discussion and frustration in Facebook groups — after D-Day stripes — is airbrushing. Newcomers want to know which airbrush to buy, and once they have one in hand, they struggle with its use.

If you struggle, don’t feel bad. Airbrushing is one of the most challenging tasks in our hobby to master, in part because there are so many variables:

  • Your airbrush
  • The cleanliness of your airbrush
  • The paint you use
  • The thinner
  • The paint to thinner ratio
  • The air pressure you spray at
  • Your technique
  • The weather

If you’re new to airbrushing here are a few suggestions based on my experience over the years.


Purchase any double-action airbrush

There are many airbrushes on the market in every price range. And modelers are quick to offer suggestions for all of them. If you’re new, the best advice I can offer is to start with a double-action airbrush in the $30-$50 price range. I want to suggest the Iwata HP-CH that I use, but the $150 price tag is a bit much for a beginner. You can always upgrade as you build experience.

Select just two or three paints

When you’ve purchased an airbrush, your first decision will be which paint to use. It’s easy to be overwhelmed with the choices. You’ll find modelers who are strong advocates for each paint on the market, as well as some who will tell you avoid this paint or that paint at all costs. 

My advice is to but one color from two or three manufacturers so you can use them yourself and choose the brand you like the best. I’d probably recommend:

  • Tamiya
  • MRP
  • Mr Hobby
  • AMMO by Mig

In addition, purchase each manufacturer’s own thinner for now. There are alternatives, but if you’re beginning, best to keep it simple.

Experiment

Before you even think about using your new airbrush on a model you care about, spend a few weeks learning how to spray each of the paints you purchased. Your goal is to simply explore the characteristics of each paint given these two variables -- air pressure and paint-to-thinner ratio.

You’ve probably seen YouTube videos where modelers are pouring paint and thinner directly into the airbrush and mixing by eye. If you’re new, you’re better off building your experience by counting drops of paint and thinner and writing them down for future reference. When you find a combination that works for you, you’ll want to be able to use it over and over. You’re not mixing a lot of paint at this stage, just enough to see how well you can spray the paint. 10-20 drops of paint and thinner will be sufficient for you to apply overall coats of paint and fine lines.

Practice, practice, practice

When you’ve found a paint manufacturer and thinning ratio you like, the next step is to practice on old models. Your goal is to reach a point where you can apply paint to your model with consistent results. When you’re ready to commit paint to a model that’s important to you, the last thing you want is an unpleasant surprise, so taking time to continue to master your airbrush and paint is important.

I hope you find these ideas helpful. Airbrushing is hard, but if you’re diligent and persistent, there’s no reason why you can’t use your airbrush with good results.

P.S. On final thought.... For all that is holy in this world, please, please keep your airbrush clean! A little extra effort after each airbrushing session goes a long way to ensuring your most valuable tool can give you the results you seek.