Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Two cheapskates, 30 models, and a van

This is the first in series of articles about the IPMS National Convention experience, leading up to Scale Model Soup's attendance at the Loveland Nats in August.

It was the summer of 1984. Vanessa Williams surrendered her Miss America crown after appearing in Penthouse, the Soviet submarine K-278 Komsomolets submerged to a record depth of 1,020 meters, and Ray Parker's "Ghostbusters" was at the top of the Billboard charts. As for me, I was 16 and full of hopes and dreams that have long since been squashed and ground into a fine dust. I had been a member of IPMS Ocala (Florida) for a couple of years and had heard about something called the IPMS National Convention, so when the guys talked about its being held in Atlanta, I was more than a little interested in going.

I was earning $3.60/hour at Kash 'n' Karry, so money was tight. Going by myself was out of the question. I had to rely on the generosity of a club member to extend an invitation, but with most of them making a family vacation out of the trip, my options were shrinking. Lucky for me one of the members was single and had plans to go, and he invited me to tag along. Unfortunately, like me, he was short of funds, too, so he told me we’d have to “wing it” in terms of accommodations. No problem; I was young and free of any standards, so I would manage. If teens just two years older than me could backpack through Europe, surely I could make an eight-hour trip to a city just one state away.

Jim showed up Thursday morning to pick me up…in a white van. Yes, a creepy white van. The kind of van usually owned by ne'er-do-wells. I wasn’t sure whether it would make the trip (in fact, I seem to remember it overheating on the return leg), but again, young and adventurous, right?

Fortunately the trip to Atlanta was uneventful, and on entering the convention hotel parking lot we immediately knew we were at the correct hotel when we saw guys walking around with their arms full of models. To this day, when I arrive at a contest I eagerly look for that first guy to confirm I'm at the right place.

Inside it was like Christmas morning. Everything I’d been enjoying about the hobby for the last few years was multiplied by a factor of ten. What I remember most about the contest was the quality of the models. Not to take away anything from my friends in my old club, but the models in the Nats were far beyond anything I’d seen before.

Models were everywhere, from the contest room to the vendors room. In fact, the hotel couldn’t accommodate the many vendors that had arrived, so a dozen or more guys were stacking kits in their hotel rooms, and the attendees were walking down the halls going room to room to browse and mingle. I remember there being a ton of bargains, which is rare these days. I think I went home with 30 kits and probably spent less than $100 on them. Yeah, times have changed!

Those hotel rooms were the closest we got to fine accommodations that weekend. Jim and I wound up sleeping, you guessed it, in the back of his van. He parked in a remote spot of the hotel parking lot, and we saved ourselves $200. Looking back it was incredibly strange, but teenagers do all sorts of crazy things without thinking twice.

Several months later I was surprised to see in the IPMS Update (the forerunner of the Journal) that I was caught in a candid shot in Atlanta. That's me on the right, with my giant, old lady, flower shopping bag my mother had given me. No, I will not be using that bag in Loveland!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Modeling at its most lifelike

I suspect most of you are plastic modelers, building aircraft, armor, ships, cars in various scales. You may not realize how much raw talent there is in the world of figure modeling. These are the guys who frequent the annual MMSI show in Chicago, MFCA in Pennsylvania (you may recall my brief report about this year's show), and the World Expo, which is rotated around the world every two years. Let's set aside their sick skills with paint and look at an incredible example of sculpting.

Korea's Sang Eon Lee has been sculpting and releasing a regular series of resin figures, mostly 20th century subject matter, such as this Waffen SS Infantryman bust or this one of Winston Churchill. But his most recent release may be his best yet, this bust of Douglas MacArthur. I can't imagine the the talent required to replicate a likeness this precise. I hope you appreciate it as much as I do.

Friday, July 19, 2013

A perfect Fokker E.II

I've written about my struggles with rigging in the past, so it should be no surprise when I say how much I admire modelers who excel with aircraft from the early years of aviation, particularly World War One.

It was quite fortuitous, then, that while watching a really good show on The Military Channel about WW1 aviators that I saw Dirk Polchow's Wingnut Wings 1/32 Fokker E.II on Hyperscale. It is in my opinion nothing less than a perfect example a modeling at its best. That the model is inherently delicate only boosts my admiration of Dirk's skill.

I could probably list 20 things I like about the model, but you're just as knowledgable about these sorts of things as I am, so I'll leave it to you to study the photos and sit in awe with me.

If you want to see in progress photos of the model, hop over to WW1 Aircraft Models.

My thanks to Dirk for allowing me to use the photo above.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The beauty of miscellanea

miscellaneous, adj. - 1. consisting of diverse things or members; heterogeneous. 2. having various traits; dealing with or interested in diverse subjects.
First, a bit of self-disclosure that you may not be aware of. I'm an oddball. I don't fit in anywhere. I was born in New York but grew up in Florida. I'm neither liberal nor conservative. I can be a bit of a yuppie at times, but I'm part redneck, too. I prefer bruenettes but somehow always find myself dating blondes. I like all types of music (except reggae). I watch WWE Raw on Monday and Glee on Wednesday. I'd like to own a Smart Car as well as an Aston Martin DB9. Labels don't stick to me. I exist everywhere. And nowhere.

Maybe that's why I've always been fascinated by the Miscellaneous category at model contests. It captures all of those entries that don't fit the more mainstream categories. If I were a model, that's where you'd find me!

I'm excited to announce that Scale Model Soup is sponsoring the Miscellaneous category at the IPMS National Convention next month in Colorado. I'm thrilled to have this opportunity to support to the convention and our hobby, and as I'll be attending the show as well, I can't wait to see what odds and ends we'll see in Category 860.

Look for a series of articles about the National Convention here on SMS in the weeks leading up to the big show. In the meantime, take a look back at some of the unusual things I saw at last year's convention.

Friday, July 12, 2013

A convention for every man and his passion

There are two times when my passion for scale modeling makes me feel like a geek. First, when I tell the woman I'm dating about my hobby. Second, when I attend the IPMS National Convention. With the latter only a month away, I ran into a video that changed my view on things.

Have you heard about BronyCon? It's a convention for fans of My Little Pony. Their last convention, held at the Meadowlands Convention Center in New Jersey, attracted more than 4,000 attendees. I think that's more than the IPMS Nats! The show features artwork, fan fiction, music, videos, and celebrity guests. Any fans of Brenda Crichlow among my readers?

I'm all for following your own path in life, so far from me to judge anyone's interests, but these videos made me smile, and I'm sure they'll do the same for you. So if you're attending the IPMS Nats next month and feeling a little self-conscious when an attractive convention hall employee walks by you, just remember this video, and maybe you won't feel quite so self-conscious.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Five questions you need to stop asking

I enjoy reading modeling forums and discussion groups, going back to the days of the old rec.models.scale usenet group. I am genuinely impressed at the generosity of strangers willing to take the time to help others. Two weeks ago I had a pleasant conversation with a kind gent who helped me understand Bf-109 paint schemes, an area I know almost nothing about. What great people you are!

That said, as I move further into my middle years I admit to becoming increasingly grumpy and cranky. I'm easily annoyed by silly things -- people who wear sunglasses indoors, people who laugh a little too loudly, the fact that my laptop takes longer than 30 seconds to boot. It should be no surprise then that my irritability extends into our hobby, more specifically into online dialog. My enjoyment of Hyperscale, ARC, Missing Links, etc. is now somewhat tempered by annoying questions that are asked all too frequently. So in a spirit of middle age irritation and fun, I'm begging you...please stop asking these questions!

When is the new Tamigawa Fruitbat Mk IVc going to be released?

Look, I’m as excited about a number of upcoming releases as you are. There are a few I plan to buy immediately, such as the Kinetic MiG-25. But please, stop asking when they’re coming. They’ll get here when they get here. Go build one of the dozens or hundreds of kits in your stash while you wait. One day in the not too distant future you’ll log into your favorite forum to find that the kit or decal sheet that's been promised has just been released.

What color red/blue/yellow/black is that?

I see this question asked at least a dozen times a year. “What color blue are the ACMI pods on adversary A-4s circa March 1985?” “What shade of white is the underside of the A-6A?” "What paint should I use for the tires on Preddy's Mustang?" Cripes man, just pick a color out of your collection of paint that looks the same and use it. Assuming you’re not colorblind, trust your eye. As an early mentor once told me, “Paint what you see, not what you know is there.” Blue is blue. Red is red. Don't overthink things.

What should I build next?

Every couple of months someone poses this question to a forum community. He lists four or five models and asks us to vote. For crying out loud, man up and pick one yourself! It’s just a model, not a $300,000 house. My advice is always the same: build the model that most excites you. If you find yourself plagued with indifference, you're going to wind up with another half-built model collecting dust on a shelf as soon as something else catches your eye.

Can I do this?

This question really gets me. “Can I apply Maskol over Bare Metal Foil?” “Can I apply a thin coat of lacquer over Polly S Sky Blue?” “Can I use the natural oils from my skin as a weathering agent on 1/35 shovel handles?” I know the internet makes it very easy to reach out to each other for advice and help, but why not try something new or uncertain yourself? Take an old model (or part of a model), build it, paint it as far as necessary, and experiment. You may discover The Next Big Thing and become as famous as Francois Verlinden.

Is N's web site down?

Finally, my favorite...or should I say, least favorite, question. There are people who, when they can’t access a favorite web site, panic and immediate go onto the forums to ask if everyone else is experiencing the same problem. Friends, I’ve worked in the software industry for nearly 20 years, and I can tell you that web sites occasionally go offline, either for routine maintenance or due to a malfunction. Either way, there’s not much you can do about it. The next time this happens, simply walk away from the computer and try again 12, 24, even 48 hours later. Odds are the site will be back up sooner than later. In the meantime, go build a model. After all, that’s what we do.