Friday, January 10, 2020

A 24-hour build

I recently shared a Facebook post from a group of modelers who organize an annual 24-hour model build, this year planned for the weekend of January 25. Their objective is "to get together with friends or by oneself and completely build a model of your choice wholly within a 24 hour period. It is a challenging endeavor but highly satisfying to complete successfully.”

So — Gary, John, Chip, Jeff, Carver, and George — I’m in! I’ve joined the Facebook group to participate.

I’m nervous. I’m a notoriously slow modeler, usually completing only four or five models per year. I’ve often looked to the Christmas and New Years holiday as an opportunity to crank out a single model, but I’ve never been successful. Doing that in 24 hours seems incredibly daunting, but the enthusiasm of this group has inspired me.

Having joined the group, I had to select a model for the build. I really do want to finish the model in the required timeframe, so my choice is crucial to setting myself up for success. After thinking it through, I came up with a few criteria.

  • The model has to be relatively small; the fewer the parts, the better.
  • I like using pin washes, so to avoid having to spend too much time rescribing any raised panel lines, the model would ideally have engraved panel lines.
  • The paint scheme should be relatively simple. Masking, painting, and touching up three or more colors would be very time consuming.
  • The aircraft cannot feature much, if any, ordnance, which would be a big time suck.
  • Most importantly, the model had to excite me. The prospects of spending this time on something less won’t keep me engaged.

I’ve selected the very old Monogram 1/72 A-1E. Yes, it has raised panel lines, but rescribing them shouldn’t be terribly time-consuming, particularly given that the remainder of the kit is very basic. I’ll use Caracal decals for an all-blue AD5, so painting and masking time will be minimized. I built the model back in high school, so there's a strong nostalgia factor for me as well.


I’m excited about this challenge! Anyone care to join the group? Click here to join the Facebook group.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

2019 in review

What a year. Whatever we scale modelers might expect, there’s always something that takes us by surprise, and 2019 was no exception. HK released an unexpected 1/48 B-17G, Miniart released a series of 1/35 Grants, and we finally got our hands on AMK’s looooong awaited 1/48 F-14.

That said, some things seemingly never change, well, at least over the course of two years. Two trends that I wrote about in 2018 continued into 2019 — sexy female subjects and egg planes and all their offshoots. I’m anxious to see if that will change in 2020.

January


The influx of female subjects continued with many manufacturers introducing sexy figures in every scale imaginable. Right out of the 2019 gate, Nutsplanet introduced a new line of female busts with many more following through the year, most of them fantasy oriented.


Reedoak showed off this 1/48 figure of Miss Santa, posed on the intake of an F-14.


ZPLA jumped on the bandwagon with its 1/20 scale Girls in Action series.


Miniart released another variation of their weird ball tanks, this one with training wheels.


On a more mainstream note, Airfix’s announcement of a 1/72, new-tool Buccaneer was very well received by modelers, particularly on Britmodeller. Before the end of the month, Xtradecal announced a new sheet of Buccaneer S.2 markings.


February


In 2018 modelers were giddy when the remains of the USS Lexington were found. Nearly a year later they got equally excited when researchers found the USS Hornet.


March


RMG Resin Models released a 1/35 "modern toilet," and there was substantial discussion about toilet variants on Armorama. I shit you not.


April


Meng set the hobby on fire when they announced a new tool 1/35 Sherman, because, well...we didn’t already have enough of them already.


AMK assured us that their F-14 Tomcat was still coming.

And a small corner of the interwebz went berserk when someone suggested using cinnamon rather than pastels to represent mud. Seriously, this actually happened.


May


Not content to let a trend from 2018 die, Hasegawa announced four 1/24 scale female figures (Companion Girls Figures and Fashion Model Girls Figures) at the 2019 Shizuoka Hobby Show.


And Northstar Models teased a new line of naked figures, though I don’t recall them having been released yet.


June


The appetite for cutsie, egg-like models continued with Scale75’s release of toon figures of Rocky Star Cooper, Otto Von Lokimerg, and others.

 

July


Asuka left me scratching my head when they released a model of a tiny hamburger. Fess up guys; who's had this on their wish list?


Then something huge happened. Tamiya announced a new-tool P-38 in 1/48!


August


The month kicked off with buzz from the IPMS National Convention in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Tamiya offered a number of their new 1/48 P-38s via a raffle/sale, and quite a few of them found their way onto eBay, selling for over $100…never mind that they would retail for $50-60 just a couple of months later; I wonder how many of those early, overpriced kits were actually built before the kits became widely available. Also at the show, Eduard sold out of all their new 1/48 P-51D kits they'd brought with them.


Not to allow Eduard and Tamiya to dominate the news, AMK announced that their long-awaited 1/48 F-14D would be in distributors' hands at the end of August. Keep in mind that AMK first announced the kit back in June of 2015, so you can imagine that modelers were…skeptical, one person commenting, "End of August? Which year?"

September 


As if new tool kits of the P-51D and P-38 weren’t enough, HK Models announced a 1/48 version of their B-17. And the crowd went crazy.


October 


October saw armor modelers get WW1-era buses in both 1/35 scale (from MiniArt) and 1/72 (from Roden), which got me wondering why buses aren’t more popular, even in 1/25 scale.



Later in the month modelers freaked out across Facebook and the online forums after a rumor circulated that Rust-Oleum was going to discontinue the Testors line of hobby paints. A quick call to the company confirmed that that was not true. It turns out we can’t believe everything you read on the internet. Who knew?

November


Airfix announced their release of a 1/72 Vulcan, and guess what? Some modelers were excited about it and some were not, so bickering ensued. One forum participant said what more modelers need to say, “I’m not interested in the Vulcan. But I’m pleased to see Airfix still in business and releasing new kits." Amen to that!


December


Remember that 1/48 B-17 that HK announced in August? Well it hit the shelves this month. Quite the contrast to AMK’s 4 1/2 year launch of their F-14, eh? Naturally there was some rivet counting over the kit, but I think modelers generally agree that it’s very nice.

Here’s Flory Models' review on YouTube.


That's 2019 in a nutshell. We modelers remain a passionate group, and our conversations both online and in person are always amusing.

A Happy New Year to all of you! Bring on 2020!

Monday, December 16, 2019

Let’s talk about Top Gun: Maverick

Paramount dropped the second trailer for Top Gun: Maverick this morning, and odds are very good that you’ve watched it. Maybe even two or three times like me.


Paramount’s Facebook post includes 11,000 comments, most of them summed up with, “I’ve been waiting 30 years for this!” But it’s the comments from friends who are aviation enthusiasts that have amused me the most.

"I expect high grade cheese, but it should still be a good time."
"I want to hate this but…."
"But I'll still go see it...Sadly."

I share these sentiments. I loved the original movie, but I was just a stupid teenager then. I like to think I have more refined tastes now, and in fairness I’ve become less inclined to watch action movies in my 50s, because, well…they all seem the same to me.

Nonetheless, why all the apprehension around Maverick? Here are a few theories.

Is it Tom Cruise? A lot of aviation enthusiasts aren’t fans. Even though he's quite the eccentric, he does some cool stuff. He looks great at 57 and has dated beautiful women. He flies his own P-51D Mustang, which he used to arrive to the set of Maverick, and appears in the movie. Are we jealous? I couldn't fault you for that.

Is it the flying? This latest trailer shows an extraordinarily risky stunt, an F/A-18 shooting up precariously close between two other Hornets. Enthusiasts know these types of moves are unrealistic, so it takes away from the reality of the movie. We’re also wondering why there’s an F-14 in the trailer. How they incorporate it into the plot might be the most intriguing part of the movie.

Is it the plot? I imagine the trailer has been edited to appeal to the movie’s original fans, but we see the same, smug Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, now a captain, as well as him racing his motorcycle against a jet taking off, singing in a bar, a volleyball game on the beach, a fight, and a funeral. As I remarked on one Facebook thread, “I’ve seen his movie before.” Did the producers and writers have to include these tropes in Part 2? Probably, if only to ensure that Maverick is familiar and will appeal to the masses.

Is it the characters? There’s an Iceman lookalike, all sweaty as if he’d just come out of that volleyball game, and a Goose lookalike, whose image appears with the chilling line, “…or death.” And a beautiful brunette who we ultimately see on the back of Maverick’s motorcycle. There's an inevitable nod to the aviation community today, with a female fighter pilot.

Here’s the thing. Maverick wasn’t made for the aviation enthusiast. We all know that, but we seem to want something more from the movie. We’ll find out in a few months, because we’re all going to see it.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Five models I did not buy on Black Friday

This is something of a companion piece to an article I wrote four years ago, “Five kits I did not buy at the Nats.” I often see conversations about the kits that we buy, so I think it’s interesting to talk about what we did not buy and why.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone, and quite a few online shops offered a variety of discounts and deals. Some were lackluster (7 percent off -- really?) and others were more enticing (offer me 20 percent and I start looking for my wallet). The traditional highlight of the season, Squadron’s 40 percent sale, no longer excites me now that the threshold for the maximum discount is $500, though in fairness it’s a no-brainer f you and a few friends can compile an order together.

Nonetheless, there were a few sales that prompted me to browse for bargains. I found a few, but I fell short and spent literally nothing over the weekend.

Zoukei-Mura 1/48 F-4C - Try as I might, I couldn’t find a vendor here in the US that has these in stock, so this one was a non-starter.



Zoukei-Mura 1/48 F-4S - Found this at Sprue Brothers. Could have scored one for $60, but it was out of stock.



Trumpeter 1/48 T-38A - I’ve always appreciate the sleek lines of the T-38 and would like to build on in an old school, 1970s white scheme. MegaHobby has it in stock, but I just couldn’t quite pull the trigger knowing that I have too many 1/48 scale models in the stash while my focus has been largely on 1/72 scale. I also learned that the Wolfpack model is slightly more accurate, so there's that, too.



Trumpeter 1/35 BREM-1 - I’ve always had an affinity for Soviet/Russian engineering vehicles. I was thrilled when Trumpeter released their BTM-3 last year, so I've been eager for them to leverage their molds of the BMP-1, T-72, and T-80 to produce respective examples. I was excited to find Trumpeter’s BREM-1 at Squadron, but lo! It was out of stock. So this shall have to wait for another sale or an order from a seller in China or Japan.



Italeri 1/12 Fiat Mefistofele 21706cc - If you’ve seen photos of this model on web sites or Facebook groups, you know it’s an outstanding model. I’m continually tempted to get one, despite it’s heft price tag (around $200), so Black Friday seemed to be a good opportunity to get one at discount. But after a good deal of thought, I decided to wait. I’m not a car modeler, so I’m not sure I can do the kit justice, and, frankly I have many other models in the stash that excite me more. Who knows; maybe I’ll come back to it some day.

I hope you had more luck than me. Happy hunting!

Friday, November 22, 2019

The FTC is not out to get you

Modelers are in an uproar since Andy’s Hobby Headquarters posted a video yesterday about the potential implications of not following the rules of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). This is a law that was passed in 1998 and implemented in 2000 when the FTC issued the associated rules.


Yes, that was almost 20 years ago. Why are we talking about it now? Because the FTC settled large civil penalties with TikTok ($5.7 million) and Google/YouTube ($170 million) for violating COPPA rules. I understand that fines can be up to $42,000, so that got the attention of YouTube channel owners around the interwebs. As Andy's video has been shared, it’s generated outrage by modelers who are quick to make flip references to communism, China, mass shootings, and various anti-government tropes.

So is all this angst in our hobby warranted? As my wife and I like to say around the house, "Everybody calm down."

Here’s the text from the Code of Federal Regulations (Title 16, Chapter 1, Subchapter C, Part 312), which references the phrase “appeals to children” that YouTubers are referring to.
This text is indented."In determining whether a Web site or online service, or a portion thereof, is directed to children, the Commission will consider its subject matter, visual content, use of animated characters or child-oriented activities and incentives, music or other audio content, age of models, presence of child celebrities or celebrities who appeal to children, language or other characteristics of the Web site or online service, as well as whether advertising promoting or appearing on the Web site or online service is directed to children. The Commission will also consider competent and reliable empirical evidence regarding audience composition, and evidence regarding the intended audience.”
As a fan of scale modeling YouTube channels, I can’t think of one that would meet these criteria. There’s a big difference between a video that explains using pigments to replicate mud and a video that uses cutesy characters to paint a storage box.

Maybe I’m wrong, so let’s consider a worse case scenario where an FTC employee goes rogue and unfairly flags a channel or video as violating COPPA. What then?

I can’t find any specific information on the FTC’s web site, but I suspect the penalty process would begin, not with a bill for $42,000, but with a warning letter. A quick Google search for COPPA warning letters finds the letter sent to TikTok, which had 200 million users at the time; there’s no mention of a financial penalty, just a request to make the necessary changes to ensure compliance with COPPA, as well as contact information for an FTC employee. I doubt that a lesser offender would receive anything harsher. I suspect the FTC would allow you to explain the nature of your channel to them to appeal its flagging.

If you’re concerned about COPPA and how it could affect scale modeling channels -- and it sounds like a lot of you are -- the FTC is requesting feedback on the rules until December 9 via this page. The question of most interest to scale modeling content providers is this one: "Does the Rule correctly articulate the factors to consider in determining whether a website or online service is directed to children, or should additional factors be considered?" Give the FTC specific suggestions on how you would more clearly identify content for children vs. adults.

In the meantime, YouTube provides clear instructions on how to set the appropriate controls on your channel. They also provide an explanation to help you determine if content is made for kids.

That's how see this, from the perspective of someone whose closest experience with the law was watching episodes of LA Law in the late 1980s. I'm confident my readers will set me straight if I'm under-reacting to this brouhaha.

By the way, I'd be remiss to say that the Andy's Hobby Headquarters YouTube channel is excellent! It's a great resource for new release announcements and reviews and techniques. I recommend subscribing!

Friday, November 15, 2019

It’s not a seller’s market

I’ve been slowly downsizing my stash over the last year, and I’m learning that it’s not a seller’s market out there. I recently listed a number of models on ARC and Facebook and got no offers. Then I took them to eBay and subsequently realize very low prices. Here are a few examples:

  • Italeri Jaguar with Eduard details, $4
  • Airfix Spit Mk 22 with Eduard details, $11
  • Hobby Boss T-50 PAK-FA with Res-IM details, $8
  • Trumpeter JS-7, $19
  • Italeri Su-22, unsold



A quick search through completed sales on eBay shows that other sellers’ sales have been mediocre as well. Again, a few examples:

  • Hasegawa 1/72 F-4 Phantoms, which used to sell in excess of $30, are now routinely selling for under that.
  • Trumpeter 1/35 armor can often be scooped up for around $20.
  • Trumpeter 1/48 aircraft are selling for under $20.
  • Similarly, Hasegawa 1/48 aircraft are also selling for under $20.

(I’m looking only at auction prices, not the retail prices that professional eBay sellers set on their products.)

I think other modelers are seeing the same trend. I see a lot of models listed on the forums and Facebook that aren’t selling. I’m not talking about the guys listing models at near-retail prices (it's obvious why they don't sell), but those pricing their models at discount. Even well-priced models seem to be lingering unsold for months.

So what’s happening on the secondary market? I believe there are two big factors contributing to the soft sales.

First, a lot of modeler are, like me, realizing that they’ll never build the models they already have, so they’re reluctant to continue buying more, even at discount. Many of my friends share this sentiment, and I see it in discussions online as well.

Second, the cost of postage is detracting from what otherwise might be a bargain. For example, a $25 kit offered at $10 isn’t a bargain anymore when the buyer has to add $10 for postage. (The bigger the kit, the bigger the impact of postage!) The only bargains that can truly be had anymore are found at contests. Even then, I’ve seen plenty of sellers — especially professional vendors — pricing their models above what I’d consider a bargain. And…these are sellers sitting on huge inventories!

I reflect on this phenomenon to warn those of you who are downsizing your stashes to set your expectations accordingly. I also suggest that those of you who are new to the hobby to buy models very selectively; you don’t want to be sitting on a huge stash like many of us in our 50s and 60s and find you can recoup only a fraction of your investment.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Photoshop hilarity

If you’re a fan of Reddit’s Photoshop Battles subreddit, you know how creative people can be. We aviation enthusiasts have our fair share of creative types as well, and their editing of images to absurd lengths often inspires hilarious comments across Facebook groups. Those comments generally come from three types of enthusiast:

  • The Comedian, the guy who immediately gets the joke and adds his comedic input.
  • The Greenhorn, the newcomer to aviation who doesn't quite know what to make of the improbable image he's seeing and isn’t too embarrassed to ask if it’s real.
  • Captain Obvious, the guy who knows the image is fake and is quick to tell everyone. He’s the party pooper who can’t laugh at some innocent tomfoolery, or he’s simply a schmuck who needs to show off his impressive knowledge of aviation.

Here are my favorite Photoshopped photos with a few comments from the latter two groups, spelling and grammatical errors intact, just for the additional laughs.


"Sorry for being a spoil-sport, but, the sole reason why the SR-71 was painted black was for radiative heat cooling. Black radiates heat quicker than white does.”



“How?”
"How did the wing get past the island”
“Is it possible?"



“B52 is not supper sonic.”
"Is this even possible, that a BUFF could break the sound barrier?"
“Photoshopped for sure."



“It's not real...it's photoshopped. even in a steep dive a powered hang glider would never be able to keep up with a C-130 at it's slowest possible flight speed.”
"Obvious photoshop..... Scale is wrong."



“Real or not…it could be real!!!!”
“That is a bad ass selfie!”



“Photoshop”
"Was this a true aircraft or just photo shop?”



“Fake as FU--"
"This pic is so fake. That thing would never fly."



"Totally fake, would never even taxi with those unsyncro'd props crashing into each other!”



“No, it’s fake.”
"that is really bad photoshopping."
“Looks bogus.”
“fake”