Two Wheel 2018 – Part One – The European Peasant’s Vehicle

I am the Sergeant Schultz of motorcycles. I know nothing. Nevertheless, I am prepared to be captivated by the things when they are presented as static objects.. I should run a mile if you asked me to ride one…

Here was the first nest of finds at the WAHRS this year. Someone loves motor scooters, and strange foreign ones at that. Of course, it might be argued that all motor scooters are foreign-built but some are further offshore than others. The Vespa and Lambretta seem to have been a staple of the city roads here in Perth in the 1960’s and I do remember being arrested on a Puch in the back streets of Nedlands in 1967 – 68…but a lot of the others are exotic birds indeed:

Ariel Leader.

DKW.

Heinkel. Yes, that Heinkel…

Rumi. This one almost thinks that it wants to be a motor bike rather than a scooter but the position of the kick starter is the part that baffles me. It looks like it protrudes to a place that cannot be ignored.

The use of a motor scooter in city traffic of the 21st century is both wise and foolish. The crowded roads and short distances needed make it ideal but the unprotected nature of the ride plus the under power of most of them make them nearly as great a hazard as the middle-aged lycra cyclists on the bike paths. I should love one out in a country town or on Rottnest Island.

 

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The Club Rule

The club rule is that the club rules rule. If a club rule has been ruled by the club the rule of the club is ruled, club, rule…club, club, club…

This started out well, but seems to have gone off the track.

We all live by rules. Every day Commonwealth, State, and local statutes govern where we can drive, what we can eat, who we can shoot, etc. For the most part we accept the existence of these and obey or break them as our character dictates. We pay enormous sums to politicians to invent or remove them, and for the most part they do it somewhere else, so we are spared the sight of the process. A blessing.

Today I ran foul of a club rule – a club for people who collect toy cars – by not having my paper membership slip pinned to my shirt when I visited a toy collector’s fair. The punishment for this breach was the loss of a $ 5 bill. I still benefitted from the toy fair as I found several models to help me complete my scale airfield, but the episode of the $5 paper badge rankles.

Even the intervention of the club president did not sway the jobsworth at the entry desk. Apparently that paper badge and the unwritten club rule has more power than he does. A daunting prospect.

Well, I shall make sure that I have the badge prominently displayed on my person in the future. Laminated to a large metal tag and possibly slung around my neck like dogtags. I wonder how many more fiscal rules have been written into the club book?

One good thing. They never do get my name right – even when they presented me with a trophy for an exhibition model last year they spelled it wrong…but the paper card is closest that they’ve gotten yet. I live in hope.

The Little World – The Measure Of A Diorama

You all know what a diorama is – a miniature set with scale plastic models. But did you know it was a historical thing too? Apparently one of the original definitions was of a scene  that was meant to be viewed through one peephole and that had lighting effects that changed as you looked.

Well, you could do that today with the plastic models, of course, but it would require a good deal more design skill than most people possess. I include myself in the most people. I can manage pictures of a scale set when I make it for one purpose, but I never restrict the viewer to just one angle . People are free to see the thing from all sides.

This may be a mistake – the older artists may have had the right idea about it all. I believe Vermeer made dioramas to help him with some of his most famous paintings…or maybe the paintings helped with the dioramas.

Most of the works that I see at the model exhibitions are model-centric. The builders do a splendid job of a central figure or a plane, ship or vehicle, and the surrounds are merely to shore up or show up that model. They may be very well done, with superb weathering and accessories, but they are a stage set or enlarged plinth for the model.

The other approach is one that is seen sometimes in museums. If they need to depict a famous scene or battle , there may be anywhere from dozens to thousands of models employed, but they are subservient to the overall impression or story that the diorama tells. It’s rare that you see it from all sides – the only one I remember was a Waterloo set depicted in one of the castles somewhere in England that was on such a scale and in such a large room that you could walk all around the thing. I’d been a re-enactor in one of the Waterloo years and was able to make more sense of it than a casual visitor.

I often recall this, and other Imperial War Museum dioramas, and think that it forms a good basis for judging our own efforts. LIke the railway layouts that are very well done, a good diorama can stand on its own with no models visible – or at least none that dominate the viewer’s attention. Then it really becomes a Little World.

Hold Me Close – Stab Me Deep

I am somewhat amused to see that Bette Midler and Donald Trump do not like each, though I am not surprised by it. Even if they shared the same political affiliations – which I take it they do not – there would still be ample cause for them to be at each other’s throats – the chief of which is they are both overbearing…and do not appreciate it when they cannot dominate each other. As it is, they both have a very good thing going in their animosity – it assures them of a place in the news sheets and the social tweets. And they both want to be in all the news all the time.

This closeness that they do not admit sharing is also seen in many other arts and crafts – dancing has it, painting has it, sculpture has it…as does any other art you care to name. I can find you collectors of model cars who would stab each other with a 1:43 scale Morris sedan if they could get away with it. Rivalry, angst, bitchiness, treachery, and deceit can be found everywhere.

It can be petty, like the person who falls upon spelling or grammar errors to score points. It can be serious, like the glaring matches that break out at amateur dramatics between sets of parents. It can be useful…though frequently useful only in starting an even bigger fight. And sometimes it can be profitable.  Send me $ 15 in used notes and I’ll tell you how…

I used to be horrified when a friend betrayed me. Then I discovered that after the world had come crashing down around my ears it could be set back upright – and frequently looking a bit better – within days. And the terrible act was somewhat of an inoculation – no-one could ever do exactly the same thing again. Oh there would be new betrayals to conquer, but that particular one was a dead issue. One less person and/or circumstance to worry over.

Is this to be taken as an encouragement to be horrible to others? No, you should still be as kind as you can to everyone. But it does put a lot of the things we see into perspective, and if it helps us to genuinely shrug off a hurt, it is valuable.

 

The Little World – eCon – omics 101

I have generally stopped cruising eBay for hobby products now that I am retired. I have time to visit our local hobby stores…at least the ones that will let me in the door…and can look forward to an interstate trip now and then to fill in the big spaces. Plus the economics of retirement mean that you need to do more with less. Fortunately in scratch building this can be quite possible.

But I still do venture into the electronic souk occasionally if none of the local sources can supply something. It is the same principle that I apply to photography gear; my old employers first, then another local shop if possible, and the net if necessary. I do not cavil at the tiny purchase of accessories from Chinese suppliers – I’ve purchased machined metal brackets and lens hoods for very small prices and have been pleased with the service and quality. A net purchase of a Chinese electronic trigger system for flashguns was done on the basis that it looked quite unique. So it proved to be, and has been very useful as a lightweight accessory.

But a recent eBay session looking for a model airplane kit has opened my eyes to the nature of some of the dealers. I wanted a small model of an RAF trainer. A chap in England had one, and as it was unbuilt, it would have been perfect. The original bagged Airfix kit was worth 50 cents when it was fresh.

He wants $ 100 for it…And that is in real already-assembled money…

That kind of return places it in the sort of category that used to be reserved for Fabergé eggs or Bugatti motor cars. One can only hope the Police have been alerted in case there is a theft. Bugger the Crown Jewels – rally round the Airfix kits!

I daresay I’ll see more of this if I go to local trading fairs as well, so it is not just the English chap. I used to fancy I could tell the shonkies by the look of them but either my eyesight is getting worse or they are starting to shave more and dress better.

Featured Image: the new Airfix Tiger Moth kit I bought at Hobbytech for $ 14.00. A sensible and acceptable price and no postage to pay.

The Little World – Well Hush My Mouf’

Having recently written a post about contests amongst the model collecting society, you can imagine my feelings this week upon being presented with a trophy for the best rookie entry into the annual display…

I was taken aback, but pleasantly…I now have a large perpetual trophy to display for the year and a smaller one to keep forever. I’ll not get a chance to be a rookie again, but this will keep me on my mettle to present something good next time. Fortunately I have several something goods already made so I am ahead of the game. Still, there are so many more vignettes of life that can be modelled…no time to waste.

One thing that will have to be thought out…the size of baseboards for dioramas is a limiting factor in what can be done. In my preferred scale – 1:18 – there is only so much that can be put onto the surface area of a standardised 1000 mm x 820 mm baseboard, and unfortunately that is the largest size that can be carried in my little Suzuki Swift. A Lotto win might yield a larger Suzuki van, but I am not going to buy one for just this purpose.

I think it is time to go see what the model train enthusiasts do when they make layouts for public display. They must have similar problems and will have evolved strategies to cope. I realise that they work in smaller scales, but they do have larger pictures to draw, as it were.

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?