Wednesday, April 30, 2014

War memoirs

Those of you who enjoy reading military literature will be interested in an article in a recent issue of The New Yorker (the April 7, 2014 issue). Titled, "Home Fires," it's a look at some of the recent memoirs that have been written by American soldiers who've returned from the Iraq war.

Its author, George Packer, looks briefly at the motivation that drives young men to enlist during wartime and how a select few write about their experiences. It offers several suggested reads for those of you seeking a better understanding of what it's like to fight in Iraq.

Here are the books mentioned in the article if you don't care to read it in its entirety.

Redeployment, by Phil Klay
Thank You For Your Service, by David Finkel
Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting, by Kevin Powers
Dust to Dust, by Benjamin Busch
My Life as a Foreign Country, by Brian Turner

Packer also recommends a 1968 collection of stories by Tim O'Brien titled The Things They Carried, as well as his novel Going After Cacciato.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

You should be entering contests!

We're well into the 2014 contest season here in North America with IPMS and AMPS contests throughout the US and Canada. A few weeks ago I attended Mosquitocon, IPMS New Jersey's contribution to the local modeling scene, and next month I hope to visit Noreastcon on Long Island. I'm sure many of you have been enjoying contests as well, but...are you entering your models in the contests?

With the Big One, the IPMS USA National Convention in Tidewater, Virginia, just over three months away, I thought this might be a good time to talk about why you -- without exception, each of you reading this -- should be entering contests.

Show us your models

If you need only one reason, it's this one. People want to see your models. Really, we do. Have you ever traveled two or three hours to go to a contest only to find 50 models on the tables? I have. It sucks. Although these events are centered on the contest, the main reason for entering your models is to share your work with other modelers. The next best thing to building models is looking at them, so the more models the better, right? Look, most of us who enter contests know our models won't be competitive; we know there are visible seams, misaligned parts, glue marks that the judges will find within 10 seconds of their inspections. That was exactly the case with the Hasegawa F-117 I took to Mosquitocon. Major issues. As I'd expected, it didn't place, but a couple of guys complimented me on it, and that meant as much to me as an award.

So friends, I'm asking you to pay it forward. Enter your models. We really do want to see them!

Support the club

I think we've come to take contests for granted. They seem to magically "happen" every year, like Mosquitocon. Or Blizzardcon. Do you know how much money it costs to put on a contest? A club has to lay out thousands of dollars for a local contest. Much more for a regional or the National Convention. That's a big investment, which the club can only recoup if modelers and vendors attend. And then there's the hundreds of man hours of the volunteers. When a contest shows signs of decline, particularly in terms of contest entries, there's a strong likelihood that the show will be discontinued. I've seen it happen here in the Northeast, and I bet you've seen it where you live, too. That's bad for the hobby. It gives enthusiasts few opportunities to engage in the hobby.

Every time you enter a model in a contest, you make a small contribution to the show's success and viability so that you and others can continue to enjoy the models, vendors, and the opportunity to meet up with friends in the future.

Competition does not spoil the fun

I shudder when I hear someone whine, "Contests take all the fun out of the hobby." If I hear that one more time I'm going to stick a rusty #11 blade in my ear and carve out my eardrum. Seriously, how weak-willed do you have to be to let a contest affect your enjoyment of the hobby? I'll be the first to admit that, even though I enter contests with no expectation of winning, I feel a twinge of disappointment every time I don't. I've never been a competitive all. As a kid I hated playing board games with my cousins. I never played competitive sports. But whatever disappointment I feel quickly passes, and my friends always appreciate my work for what it is. I know it's painful to be judged, but you are bigger than the opinion of three strangers who, for just that one day, are deigned to pass judgement on your model. Man up! Share your models and support your local clubs.

As we look forward to the contests ahead, I'm begging you, don't take contests too seriously. As much as I enjoy the hobby, it would be less fulfilling if no one ever saw my models in person. Contests play an important role in the way we should engage in the hobby, so I hope you'll find a way to enjoy the experience, too.

P.S. If you agree with me even a little bit, please share this on Facebook, Twitter, email, or in your local club newsletter to encourage others to enter contests.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Squadron's new flyer

By now you've probably heard that Squadron is moving to a paid subscription for their monthly flyer, and you've also probably heard -- and contributed to -- the subsequent chatter about the value of the flyer. Is it worth $10 per year?

I just received my first issue (received unexpectedly, without having subscribed) and thought I'd do a quick review of sorts, for those of you who haven't received one, and offer my thoughts on its value.

At first glance it looks like Squadron's old flyer, with 64 pages, all color. It differs in several respects:

  • A three page feature by Jef Verswyvel show's his build of the Encore 1/32 Blue Max Pfalz. It's a very good article, as good as anything you'd see in FineScale Modeler, and includes 16 in-progress photos and three of the completed model.

  • A one-page Customer Showcase gives us five pages of Diego Quijano's Eduard 1/48 MiG-21. You may have seen it on one of the forums or directly on Diego's blog, DQ Scaleworks. If I were inclined to worship multiple dieties, Diego would come in at number two!

  • Magazines are now prominently featured right inside the flyer, which makes sense given that magazines generally contain time-sensitive information. Well, such as it is with the internet at our fingertips. A wise move, though, because many of us still buy magazines despite daily visits to Hyperscale, Armorama, etc.

  • There are several prominent, full-page ads that feature new or upcoming releases, presumably to entice us and drive future purchases. This April edition includes these types of ads for Meng's upcoming 1/24 Ford F-350, ICM's 1/35 ZiL-131, and several of Trumpeter's newest 1/35 releases.

  • Six pages feature new aircraft releases using photos that are about twice as large as what we're used to seeing. Other new releases, accessories, and sale items are featured using the regular-sized images and descriptions.

  • Ditto for armor, but with only three pages featuring the larger images. New ship releases are featured on two pages (Hobby Boss 1/350 Kursk!) One page is used for cars and one for space/sci-fi. The remainder of the flyer shows books and supplies using the old format.

  • The flyer closes with a one-page feature showing Squadron's very first flyer, though oddly the editor doesn't give us a date.

At the end of the day (to use an annoying cliche) is Squadron's new flyer worth it? It's hard for me to be objective because I've been a customer for nearly 30 years and I'm fond of the company. Squadron is a leader in the industry and many years ago set a standard that other mail order shops have sought to meet and exceed (and some would argue that others have done that). Would I pay 84 cents for the flyer? Probably not, but I don't think we'll have to. I have a feeling that Squadron will continue to send it to those who order regularly from them. The gods know my money has played a significant role in the Carrollton, Texas economy for quite a long time!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

A visit to Mosquitocon 2014

One of the signs of spring here in the Northeast is the complete melting of all the grubby snow piles in mall parking lots, but since Old Man Winter was especially bitter to us this year and there are more piles of snow in New Jersey parking lots than rivets on a Trumpeter 1/48 scale jet, we have to look for other signs, such as Mosquitocon, the annual show run by IPMS New Jersey.

Mosquitcon and Blizzardcon (run by IPMS Columbus) are two of the best regional contests I've attended over the years. Both are consistently well attended, have robust contests, and great vendors. 2014 didn't disappoint those of us who, suffering severe cabin fever, ventured out on a gorgeous Saturday to re-engage in our hobby.

The vendors room was better than ever. Guy Holroyd of Linden Hill Imports was back after a long absence. Yellow-Wings Decals made their first appearance at the show (I think it was the first time), showing previews of some exciting new releases. Jeff Garrity of Rare-Plane Detective was back again, anchoring the show with local hobby shop Ridgefield Hobby, both with a great selection of older, hard to find kits. The room was further filled out by many other vendors, professional and casual. There were bargains to be found, mostly from the guys selling from their personal stash.

The contest was as good as ever, with just under 400 models. The 1/72 single engine prop category was probably the largest with some really nice entries. There are some very talented ship modelers in the area, and their work impresses everyone, regardless of what you typically build. I'm afraid the armor category may have taken a bit of a hit this year, as the AMPS convention was held the same weekend down in Virginia.

If you're within three or four hours of Wayne, New Jersey the contest is definitely worth the trip. Keep an eye on the club's web site for the dates of next year's show. See you there!

And now, some of my favorite entries. The most interesting to me was a scratchbuilt, 1/400 scale model of New York's Throg's Neck Bridge. Really cool!

Scratchbuilt 1/400 Throgs Neck Bridge.

Detail of the Throgs Neck Bridge.

Best Aircraft and Best of Show, a Wingnut Wings 1/32 FE.2b by Adrian Davies.

Adrian told me he spent two months rigging his FE.2b and was sick of it by the time he finished!

Beautiful 1/72 Bf-109.

Perfectly executed camouflage on a 1/72 Bf-109.

Nice Minicraft 1/144 Constellation.

Tamiya 1/48 F-16C

Perfectly finished Meng 1/72 F-102.

A 1/72 Fw-190A painted and weathered using the salt technique.

Joe Volz's 1/144 MD-88.

Gorgeous example of Airfix's excellent 1/48 Sea Vixen.

Perfect NMF on an Anigrand 1/72 XA-38 Grizzly.

Italeri 1/35 LVT-4.

Tamiya 1/35 M51 with perfectly done weathering.

Trumpeter 1/35 T-62.

1938 Ford Roadster detailed in 1/35.

Tamiya 1/24 NISMO GT-R.

1/350 USS Indianapolis.

Gallery 1/350 USS Wasp.

Cinart "A Trip to the Moon."