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”

Friday, November 1, 2019

Has the Soup run cold?

Cripes, I can’t believe it’s been more than three months since my last post! Time sure flies, especially as you get older. Suffice to say, I’m still here and periodically share random thoughts or photos on my Facebook page. Despite my lack of writing, I’m still seeing people liking my Facebook page and commenting now and then. All appreciated!

So what’s been going on?

Injury!


At the end of August I ruptured a tendon in my right hand, which required immediate surgery to repair. That put the kibosh on all model building activities through September, but now, in the middle of what is expected to be a three-month therapy regime to regain full use of my thumb, I’m just dexterous enough to handle knives, sandpaper, and airbrush. I don’t think I can do any precise painting at this point, but at least I can spend quality time at the workbench. I've resumed a couple of projects that were in progress, like this 1/72 T-33.


Conversations


Much of my silence is simply a reflection of not having much to say. Even in my personal life, I’m not one to talk just to hear my own voice, so I tend to take that same mindset to Scale Model Soup. I want to add value to conversations about trends and products, and I haven’t felt passionate enough about anything to do that.

The IPMS Nats


For the third year in a row I did not attend the IPMS Nats this summer, and I was particularly bummed after hearing all the positive reviews of the show. I’m not sure I’ll attend next year’s convention in San Marcos, Texas, but I could be enticed to go if a few of my friends will be there. The Nats is always a source of excitement and inspiration for me, so not having attended has sapped me of some of my enthusiasm for the hobby.

Speaking of conventions, the AMPS 2020 convention will be in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in May, but my presence there is also at risk. It’s my wife’s birthday week, and there’s a good chance I’ll have other plans. As they say, “Happy wife, happy life.” Frankly, she supports my hobby, so missing a contest is a small price to pay for all she does for me.

Here I am, nonetheless, looking for that spark, that incentive to write new content for my blog. Maybe with winter around the corner and outdoor chores behind me you’ll hear from me more frequently. I have a couple of articles in the immediate queue, so don't give up on me.

Until then, as figure painters say, keep your brushes wet!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

When real life is as silly as a model

I often make fun of egg planes and their tank and ship siblings — I’m referring here to Meng’s World War Toons tanks and Warship Builder vessels — because I find them, well…silly. But if they float your boat and keep you excited about the hobby, more power to you.

I was surprised to discover this photograph of an actual Navy vessel on Reddit, which looks a helluva lot like an egg ship.


Most readers didn’t know what it is, so Reddit user Emanking2000 explained:

"I operated one in Pearl Harbor, we used it to open and close the security’s gates you see floating at the entrances to Naval Bases. I’m sure it has other purposes that I am unaware of. But it is extremely versatile. The prop can operate at 360 degrees which is nice when pulling a heavy gate in wind while close to obstacles like rocks, piers or shore lines. They are slow as hell but fun to spin in circles when it’s choppy out. Just don’t let Chief see you trying to buck your shipmates off."

I found a picture of another boat from another Reddit thread.


From what I can tell these are more formally referred to as port operations small tugs. They look about as much fun to drive as a Smart Car, but I’d certainly take one out for a spin. Who knows. Seeing one in person could inspire me to build an egg of some sort!

You can read the entire thread on Reddit here.



Thursday, April 18, 2019

We visit Mosquitocon 2019

Once again the boys at IPMS New Jersey did a great job putting on the first show of the season here in the Northeast. Here are some of my favorite entries in the contest.

My favorite entry in the show was this 1/350 Pegasus Models Moon Lander, a concept vehicle from Wernher von Braun. Perfectly constructed and painted.


This 1/48 Wingsy Kits A5M4 Claude has an impeccable finish using decanted Tamiya AS-12 spray lacquer.


No one is better with an airbrush on 1/72 aircraft than Dario Guiliano. This Tamiya Corsair and Tamiya Fw-190 were amazing to see in person.



Amodel models are not the easiest to build much less turn into a masterpiece, but the modeler of this M-50 is to be commended not just for his effort but for the outstanding result.


I have the utmost of respect for ship modelers and their ability to manage such fine, detailed parts. This 1/350 USS Lake Erie, converted from Dragon's USS Mobile Bay, was beautifully assembled.


Incredible conversion of a '25 Ford chop top coup built from spare parts.


Here’s a 1/25 AMT 1970 Chevy Camaro with tons of details — scratchbuilt fender flares and rear suspension, detailed engine, custom food and scoop, and a finish to die for.



This B-24D shared the category my AC-119K was in and deservedly took first place.


An excellent Airfix 1/48 P-51D with Eduard cockpit, wheels, prop, and spinner.


This eye-catching vignette of a Dragon 1/72 M4 Sherman was incredibly well done. The groundwork even included sand the modeler gathered from Utah Beach.


I’ve always enjoyed the Miscellaneous categories in contests, and this year’s Mosquitocon contest was no different. I really liked this scratchbuilt 1/8 scale Hurst Jaws of Life.


See you next year!

Saturday, March 9, 2019

More base ideas from The Container Store

A few years ago I gave you some creative ideas for bases and mentioned The Container Store as a potential source of items you can re-purpose as bases. I recently visited my local store and noted several items that are currently available. Many of them can be used exactly as purchased, or you can paint them to make them more suitable for your latest model.

Stackable bamboo drawer organizers come in a variety of sizes, and when flipped over and a suitable surface applied (such as sheet plastic or a mirror cut to size), provide a 1-2 inch high base for any model. A bargain at between $3 to $8.



These display cubes come in only two sizes, 6” x 3 1/2” x 6” and 9” x 3 1/2” x 9”, but they’re perfect for armor, vignettes, and small dioramas. They come in brown, white, and black finishes.



These lacquered storage boxes come in four sizes and seven colors, and you can use the box itself for a base (think of the pedestal-like bases popular in European contests) as well as the lid; just flip them over! These cost between $8 and $20.



These accessory trays are similar to the lacquered storage boxes but are more shallow and without lids. Available in three sizes, they’re probably most suitable to small aircraft and armor.



While you’re in the store, keep an eye out for Novus’s polishing products, which you'll need for polishing aircraft canopies. They’re available individually in 8 oz. bottles and as a 2 oz. set.



Remember, the base you use can either complement or detract from a great looking model!