The Little World – How To Survive A Hobby Shop

We are all in danger at some time in the day. We drive a car, fly in an airplane, eat servo sandwiches, tell our spouse that they are wrong…and for the most part we get away with it. No-one hits us on the road or in the kitchen, we do not get food poisoning, we do not crash. We have learned that the dangers are manageable.

Such is not the case for the hobbyist who goes to the hobby shop. There the dangers are multiplied a thousand-fold…few escape. Wallets and credit cards are seen crashed and burning everywhere you look. Survivors are staggering out of the wrecks with armloads of kits. Painters lie in the aisles overcome by fumes – their partners beside them, overcome by the prices of the paint. It is not a pretty sight.

Shoppers in Bunnings, Home Depot, and Spotlight will also know these distressing sights…with the additional horror in the gardening section of bodies sticking up out of the loam. Whatever can be done to arrest the carnage?

Here is a list of precautions:

a. Do not take more than you can afford to lose. Like the casino, the hobby hell will consume every bit of funding that you can find. Leave your credit and debit cards at home. And don’t go to the counter with a child’s piggy bank and a hammer – it just looks pathetic.

b. Wear dark sunglasses in the shop. Hobby goods are marketed on bright colours – particularly the toy cars and R/C aircraft. If you can’t see them very well you won’t be tempted. You might pick up some dodgy paint choices in the finishing aisle if you’re wearing sunnies but use it up anyway and tell people that it is a special camo scheme.

c. Do not sniff the glues. They are addictive. Likewise, do not sniff the kits. If you have to sniff anything, sniff the owner of the shop. They get little enough love as it is.

d. Learn to make a specific list of what you need and go directly to the place it is stored. Select only as much as you need, pay for it at the counter, and run. Do not browse the cabinets. That way madness lies.

Once you are outside you have proved to yourself that you are strong, moral, and not self-indulgent. Celebrate the fact with a double martini and a glazed doughnut.

e. Never give in to the temptation to stock up on anything. If you add just that extra kit or bag of parts you are starting down the slippery pathway that will lead eventually to an intervention. No-one wants to be the person on television with the garage full of Airfix Spitfires and a sneering relative.

f. Know the signs of addiction before you get there. Is the grocery store refusing to exchange balsa wood strips for bread? Has your bank cut up your credit card, ATM card, cheque book, statement, and half the teatowels in the house? Is the bathtub full of glue? You are in need of treatment. You can get a 1:35th scale treatment kit by Trumpeter for a little under $ 40. Where’s the piggy bank and the hammer?

g. Do not sneak kits into the house. Do not sneak empty boxes up into the attic space. One day the plasterwork on the ceiling will give way and your secret will be out.

h. Do not lie to your spouse. Don’t say that you will be going off to have a night of squalid sex with your lover and then sneak around to the workshop and glue things. The plastic smell and the dried glue on your fingers will give you away, no matter how much you douse yourself in perfume.

Advertisements

” Break Not A Jest ” – Or – The Sturmovik In The Teacup

I think I have need to apologise to the shade of General George Washington – I’ve failed to follow his 64th rule for civility and decent behaviour – the one that prohibits ” breaking a jest where none take pleasure in mirth “. I may also have laughed out loud as I did so, which is further sin.

In my defence, it was a passing thing – an odd remark seen on the internet called forth an equally silly reply, and then a series of increasingly hyperbolic posts – culminating in  the heading picture of the Ilyushin Sturmovik and an account of a pilot who uses it to strafe the Oktoberfest grounds just for old-time’s sake. Please note that the picture is an Easy Model 1:72 scale model…$ 14.95 at good hobby shops all over town.

Well I probably would have got away with the joke if the person hosting the thing had not been worried about me interrupting her satirical Facebook page. The page itself is a hilarious send up describing arrogant and entitled people who live in the posh beachside suburbs of our city. Well worth a read – and apparently it has some 1200…or was it 12,000 readers in her data base? I can’t remember exactly how many she mentioned, but it was a lot, and I’ll bet that they all like that bit of good biting satire.

Apparently I also made a blunder when I described the old pilot of the Ilyushin as a Slav. Unbeknownst to me this word is racism, and needs to be apologised for, or so she says. Bit puzzling, that, as the Wikipedia article on the Slavic people lists a great deal of their history and seems to say that they are very nice. This is my opinion too, as nearly all the other people who I have met with some claim to the title seem to be energetic, intelligent, and cheerful.

I am going to have to be much more careful in the future – not about mentioning the various divisions of mankind ( or womankind…) – after all, everybody has to be from somewhere – whether that be from Pilsen or Posen – and no-one need be ashamed by any of it. I mean, I know about the Posen bit – that’s where my Grandmother Elizabeth came from. And the Pilsen was home base to a branch of the other side of the family.

No, what I’m going to have to do is make sure that the people I break a jest with take pleasure in mirth.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go pull through the prop on the Ilyushin. The front two cylinders tend to clog up with oil and Oktoberfest is just around the corner.

The Little World – The Unsalable Product Meets The Inscrutable Market…

If you are nervous about politics, ethnicity, or toy airplane kits, now would be the time to switch your computer to the next page. The rest of you can look on while I open a can of retail worms.

Nationalism, nostalgia, and narcissism are an integral part of the Little World. It is most readily seen in the model railway market – where firms who sell to a domestic market make marvelous ranges of models for their friends, relatives, and countrymen, but only pay the slightest attention to a foreign buyer. Märklin was just this in the 50’s to 70’s…they made superb models of German and European trains and dismal models of US prototypes. This was natural, and the only real puzzle was why they bothered to make a US model at all. It might have been to capture the US military market at the PX’s in Germany, for all I know…

In the die-cast car game there are many Chinese makers making models of US, European, and Asian prototypes for sale in those areas. They make Australian prototypes for Australia, and might indeed make other little ventures for other countries – provided there is sufficient money and buying pressure in those areas. This is as it should be, and my only gripe is that they do not make more 1:18th scale cars and trucks of the small domestic type. I am immune to super-cars and racing types…

But where the real interest in nationalism comes is in the die-cast aircraft market. Most of what sells to our local collectors is Western prototype. The predictable Spitfire, Me 109, Hellcat, Zero are all seen and there will always be a sale to someone of an airliner painted in QANTAS or Virgin colours. Why, I struggle to fathom, but I suspect that most of these go to grandparents stuck for a present.

But there is also a surprising amount of what I would have called unsalable stock in the local die-cast airplane market – the cheap productions of Chinese factories of Chinese, North Korean, Soviet, and other air forces. We might all recognise what a MiG 15 looks like, but very few of us want to have 14 of them in different camouflage schemes in our collection. The F-86, perhaps, but even here the offerings are nearly always of US or German markings and really don’t ring a local bell.

I was pondering on this in the new hobby shop, looking at the multiple shelves of Chinese MiG 15 models unsold, when it occurred to me that I might have forgotten something. The two suburbs closest to the shop – Winthrop and Leeming  – have a very high Asian population…specifically a Chinese one. Could it be that these MiGs are aimed at them? Is this the future of collection? Are they collectors of toy airplanes as well as of local rental properties?

Are they nostalgic for the good old days of fighter battles high over the Yalu?

The Conspiracy

Did you read about Big Oil? And Big Coal? And Big Gas? And Big Cheesecake?

How about Vested Interests? They were the favoured bogeymen of my old uncle Jude, the Montana cattle farmer. They apparently explained anything that he did not like. When it was pointed out that he had a vested interest in his farm, he went all morose.

” They ” of course, are prime suspects in the downfall of everything. The ” They ” varies according to who is doing the complaining. Men, Russians, the CIA, mysterious swarthy immigrants…all guilty of being ” They “. ” They ” are a pretty active and resourceful set of villains, and can be called upon to take the blame in many circumstances. Hard to actually pin thunderstorms or badly fitting sink gaskets on them, but useful for nearly everything else…

Whether it is spraying innocent populations with mind-altering substances like oil from leaking jet engines or poo from the airliner tanks, or smuggling hordes of tiny assassins in Post Paks, the forces of evil can always be counted on for a good topic at a party or public bar. They get more active after the third pint. A nod is as good as a wink to a blind man and tinfoil helmets are proof against most known germs…or is that Tea-Tree oil?  Wear both just to be safe.

PS: Don’t forget the Rumenati – the secret organisation of cows that controls the world…

The Little World – When You Try To Decide

The business of decision in the Little World is a great deal more difficult than it used to be. I do not envy a beginner in the various hobbies; diecast collecting, plastic model building, miniature houses, or r/c hobbies.

What a crock… I envy them prodigiously and wish I was starting out again in half a dozen different fields. With half a dozen separate sources of hobby money, I hasten to add…

The peep at the plastic modellers show was reminiscent of what I have seen in lots of other places; literally hundreds of kits available in any division of endeavour. The days of half a dozen Airfix plastic baggies and one model of the Bismark at the local toy store plus two tins of gloss Humbrol are well surpassed. I was staggered at the number of kits of things I would be delighted to build, and equally at the number that left me cold. The limiting factor would be money and time…no other technical restriction seems to exist.

The scale problem always exists, of course, and is nowhere more painfully evident than on the display tables for general modelling societies. There are wonderful models of all scales jumbled cheek to jowl and they all suffer from it – you can’t really appreciate any one thing unless you see it it concert with others that match it in scale and period. This is not what the exhibitors want, or can achieve, so it is no good me grousing about it. I noted that a society dedicated to a particular scale like the 1/72 ship modellers or to one era like the WWI airplane people do have a much better chance of a coherent show.

But the choices seem to be far more than I as a child would have been able to cope with. I had Airfix, Revell, Monogram, Hawk, and AMT to choose from – now there have to be a couple of dozen major makers to add to that and who knows how many specialist, garage, or wildcat makers. Of course some of them have priced themselves past what a child or sensible adult could ever afford to purchase…but then there are any number of foolish adults ( bless them ) wandering the aisles of the hobby show and some of them are seriously cashed-up. They are the golden hope that buoys the retailers and wholesalers and makes it possible for the lesser fish to have food as well.

How DO you decide what to do? I’ll explore the mindset of this in a future post…in the meantime grab whichever kit is nearest to you on the counter, pay for it, go home, and start cutting into the tips of your fingers.

The Bat Out Of Hell

Every so often I have come into contact with the DeHavilland Vampire and it has always been a memorable experience – this last model exhibition was no exception.

While the bulk of the model expo was chiefly plastic modelling, there was a useful admixture of the R/C scale boats, one tramway layout, and this Vampire. I was amazed when I moved to the tail of it to discover it was a flying model.

It’s real, and a model of a real aircraft. And nearly everything about it is OTT fabulous – from the working suspension on the wheel struts to the turbojet engine buried deep within, to the detail of the pilot. Everywhere I looked the sheer size of it astounded.

The level of detail incorporated was also impressive, though you could tell it was carefully chosen not to make the plane too delicate for flight. I can only imagine that a flying day is carefully selected and the transport, setting-up, fuelling, and flight planning are undertaken with as much care as would be given to the 1:1 jet.

It would be the darling of a RAAF station if it were flown there and I’ll bet you would have to keep the big wigs as well as the tarmac crew back from it with barriers.

This is only the 4th Vampire I have ever seen. The 3rd was a museum piece in the eastern states preserved in a hangar, the 2nd a sad relic propped up on Albany Highway as a soft-drink advertisement.

The 1st was apparently the most impressive, though I have blanked it from my memory. I was being taken round the fairgrounds of the Calgary Stampede in 1951 on the shoulders of my father when a flight of RCAF Vampires came in and made a low pass over the crowd. My folks always told me that the noise was so terrific that I went into hysterics and had to be taken home. And yet years later I survived a Bay City Rollers concert…

The Little World Week – That That That

When you are showing people your little world you should listen carefully for the use of the word ” that “. It lets you know how the venture is going.

a. ” That ” in the singular is fine. ” That is a model of a Spitfire. ” said at a plastic model expo is perfectly fine, unless it is a model of a Thunderbolt. The person using the singular ” that ” may be explaining the display to his child. This is a good thing – young people need to know about Spitfires, Thunderbolts, and plastic models in general. You have engaged the attention of the masses to a certain extent. Let us hope they continue to take an interest. If Pappa explains the difference between Spitfires and Hurricanes and Typhoons to the youngster and the kid asks for all three kits, we are on a winner!

b. ” That…That ” in frosty tones is not so so good. If it is said by an imperious club committee member as they point to your model, you can take it that there is something they don’t like. Not that you are obliged to do anything about it, mind. Just chill and see where the whole thing is going. You can always bite them if they keep on pointing.

c. ” That…That…That…” on the other hand, is a sign that you have succeeded. If it is accompanied by a squeal and a little dance you know you may have become a legend. It means that the viewer has seen your model and it has stirred up some memory or recognition on their deepest level. They cannot even articulate why they like it, but they do. Now is the time to sidle up to them and suggest they buy it for $ 500. If they press their wallet on you, grasp it and run.

Ya never know yer luck in a big model exhibition…