Pay Today Or Go Away

Every so often the internet gives us a simple lesson in life.

Either it shows us simpletons at large – like the current crop of cultists – or it reminds us of the basic principles of social commerce.

I’ve been watching a website for a year now – an advertising vlog produced by a very pleasant fellow in the UK. He deals in the hobby of building plastic models and has done so on a professional basis for decades. He’s part of a small company that manufactures accessories for the hobby and is part owner of a hobby shop. He’s also a very entertaining and knowledgable speaker – his daily shows are a lot of fun to see.

However, he’s adopted the business model of a subscription for the show – some 40 British Pounds per annum. I daresay it is a small fee for some in the UK, but amounts to the same price here in Western Australia as the annual fee for our own modelling club. That’s a hands-on social group that can entertain us 3 days out of 7 every week. Real participation without advertising.

This last year has seen innumerable changes in the presentation of the English chap’s vlog programs, but the latest one is to remove most of them to a paid-only status…leaving just a few crumbs of free viewing. He wishes us to subscribe, and probably needs the money from the subscriptions. But most of us also need it, and simply won’t pay.

It means we won’t be watching…and over time we will forget that we wanted to. We will go off to other – free – experts on the internet for our entertainment. Or we will entertain ourselves in our local clubs.

Monetising something is a temptation for every internet presenter. You see it with news services and the internet versions of some prestigious journals. But it don’t work. We can get much the same for free, and we go for that.

Entice us with bargains for actual goods. Sell hobby supplies, books, decals, or anything else you make. If the goods are valuable we’ll pay to have ’em shipped. But don’t provide free tasters and then a bill for something that is just talk – we can talk amongst ourselves.

Sad to think that we might have become such misers, but there it is.

The Price Of Crime

I take no interest in screen crime – and only marginally more in the detective novel stuff. There’s a warm spot in my heart for Kinky Friedman, Father Brown, and Hercule Poirot but that’s about it. However I have an intense interest in our local criminals who prey on shops.

I don’t work in a shop anymore – and we didn’t have much shop crime at any time – but I do visit our local hobby store. And their experience with criminals is affecting me.

They are in a nice new set of tilt-up premises along a major highway. They share the complex with a couple dozen good shops. But they seem to be the target for break and enter thieves. Ever since they opened – and that was just a little over a year ago – they have had 11 break-ins at the front of the premises. The thieves want the expensive radio control gear, drones, and other salable goods. Presumably there is a criminal trade in this for the holidays.

Now there is a new determination on the part of the management to resist this sort of thing. They’ve added steel mesh to the front glass window of the store and completely covered the inside with a wooden framework and panelling. It has unfortunately reduced the lighting to the in-store fixtures with no window light to supplement it.

And it has cost – I don’t know how much the previous breakings have netted the thieves or cost the owners – nor do I know the price of the alterations. But I know it all has to be paid for by someone – and that someone is the legitimate customer. We pay a premium price in the cost of goods because of others’ criminality.

Well, let us hope it stops and the economic pressure reduces. I support the shop and hope they will do so well now that the prices can be capped. It is too much to hope that the police will catch the would-be thieves, but perhaps the scum will target someone else now. Or finally achieve their fatal overdose.

A New Column Has been Born!

Fans of The Little World posts here on this column will now have a dedicated channel for their miniature and scale model interests – I’ve decided to open another WordPress free site to take the Little World traffic.

Please go to:

littleworld678590491.wordpress.com

– and see if your computer, tablet, or phone view see the new site. It’s a horrendously complex address, so please bookmark it. I think that the WordPress people want me to buy a paid site theme that has a simpler name and simpler address, but I will just see if this basic opening has merit first.

This column will continue as before, and you can view all the older Little World posts on it just by dialling back into the archives. Please feel free to contact me with advice and consent. And chocolate biscuits.

The Little World – Scrooge McModeller Looks At the Empty Box

I am delighted to say that I have finished another 1:72 airplane kit. It came out pretty much the way I envisaged it and I did not make any major botch-ups. It will take its place in the collection and be duly photographed. All is well.

No it isn’t.

Scrooge McModeller here has just looked into the empty box and counted the number of extra parts still attached to the sprues – variant parts not needed for the aircraft type that was being built. Of course, they will be preserved for use in future projects, and may be glued onto a motor vehicle, ship, or dinosaur as future occasion demands. But that leaves the question of the sprues. Even if you carefully separate, catalogue, and store the useful bits there is still going to be nearly the weight of the finished model in discard sprues – plastic I paid for that is destined for the waste bin. The Scottish ancestors I do not have would have been aghast, if they had existed…

What can you do with the sprues? They are likely to be of wildly different colours and may even be of markedly different composition – at least it feels like that when you are knifing through the plastic. And they are nearly always awkward shapes and sizes – so they are unlikely to be structural parts for future large-scale pieces.

I did envisage cutting off the side pieces and using the long straight bits for paint mixing stick but found that the effort needed to trim them far outweighed the benefit – and the round-section sprue made a poor job of it in the paint bottles. I gather coffee stirring sticks wherever I go for that purpose.

I should be tempted to melt them down again and press them into a new shape if I knew how to heat them up safely and had moulds that would take them. I suspect that the liquidised polystyrene plastic would still not be very runny and that it would not be possible to just pour it into a mould like plaster or resin.

You understand my desire to reuse the sprues is not ecological concern at all – I regularly hunt dolphins with arsenic bullets now that the unicorns are gone – it is parsimony. I hate wasting something that was paid for. You might say that of the cardboard boxes that the kits come in, but I save these and cut them apart for building material and spray platforms so they get full use.

And frugal ideas from the readership would be greatly appreciated.

The Little World – The Big Bench

Some workbenches are sad places – people sit at them and slave away hour after hour, but never enjoy themselves. It’s the same with desks.  Steaming piles of paper in the in-tray and the telephone ringing constantly…Sometimes it is a distinct relief to slump sideways with a sudden attack…

Not for  the Aardman workers – they may have row after row of eyeballs to make, but there is always the delight of eventually having something real look back at you from the top of the table.

Look at what the workshop has been making for Shaun the Sheep. Note that the ears seem to be plugged in on brass tubing – a sensible design, when you consider what a nuisance it is to clean our own lugs. No more poking Q-tips down the hole and twirling them around – just pop the ear off the head, wash it under a tap, and pop it back on. Vincent Van Gogh was onto something after all.

Aside from the mechanic’s red tool box, plastic fishing box, and the state-of-the-art remnant trays from the English equivalent of Red Dot, I am particularly impressed with the turntable on which the  heads rest. It is sturdy, flexible, and high enough to bring the object being modelled up to the point where you can see it clearly. That, and a good strong Planet lamp is all you need to get started. I have no idea what the two white containers at the right side of the table are – perhaps they hold secret modeller’s formulae…

Note on the hand photo that the rubber moulds are made to be self-registering so that they fit back together without needing a precision box surrounding them. I take it that the square channel in the wrist area is a place where a piece of brass tubing can be laid before the clay or putty is compressed around it. I have no idea what the actual material that forms the flexible hands is made of, but logic tells me that it cannot be too soft or the surface would be a constant nightmare – at the same time it needs to bend and stay bent for the animation movements to take place.

And then it is on to the wardrobe room…and the set…and the magic begins.

Little World modellers who have fixed abodes or workplaces are very lucky indeed – if they have dedicated spaces where works can progress without having to be picked up and put away in time for tea, it is likely to foster a calm sense of achievement and artistry. If they are compelled to work in a drafty shed, or in the corner of the dining room upon sufferance the hobby will be a contest at best and a chore at worst. The milieu is as important as it would be for any artist – painter, sculptor, or chef.

But there is a special tip ‘o the hat to those modellers who are on the road. I remember reading a MODEL RAILROADER magazine in the 80’s with an article about an English pop singer who travelled the US with his band, but carried his workshop and current model project with him to the hotel rooms he stayed in and passed the odd time between shows making HO scale buildings. Very good ones, as it turned out – the article showed that he was a master builder. Sort of knocks the sex and drugs image for a burton, doesn’t it?

 

The Little World – The Layout Vs The Play Set

Dedicated readers to The Little World segments of this column are generally pretty sympathetic people. They are model builders, painters, or collectors themselves and are tolerant of the interests of others. But tolerance, like the little tubs of tartare sauce they give out at the fish and chip shop, only goes so far. You usually run out of sauce before you run out of snapper.

I am not suggesting that Little World citizens are going to throw other people’s hobbies out the window entirely – at least not if they are wise – but there may be a certain amount of sniffing and pooh-poohing. And a tendency to see the cracks in the paint jobs rather than celebrating glorious workmanship.

Some of it can be rivalry – some jealousy. Some of it can be meanness, and some of it can be ignorance. None of it is necessary – The Little World is large enough to hold everybody.

A prime example of this is the play set. The Marx Toys tinplate Fort Apache with the moulded plastic cavalry and indians, plus a few cardboard pine trees and a corral fence. Or Cape Canaveral with the horrible out-of-scale rockets and the plastic buildings. Plus the spring-loaded launcher that was surprisingly powerful. I have the scars to prove that.

These play sets were the meat and drink for kids in the 50’s – the big item under a Christmas tree and the main focus of a play session when your friends came over. You were lucky if you knew kids with these sets and a basement to play in when winter snowed you all in. A rec room and a tabletop were all you needed to enter the Little World, and you only had to come back out of it when supper was called.

But there were detractors – and most of them were kids who had the next step up in the toy structure – an electric train. If the train set had a siding, and some structures, it trumped the play set. And it was very rare that the kids realised that you could combine both aspects to make an even bigger Little World. We wouldn’t have worried about scale or appearance, and the perennial problem of figuring out which pieces belonged to whom at the end of the day would have been easier to solve.

Fortunately, in the grown-up Little World, all this can be rectified. We can own the basement or studio, the tabletop ( and it can be a good big one too ) and the trains, planes, cars, figurines, and buildings and we don’t even have to pick up all the toys when supper-time comes. We can leave them out to play with another day. Adult Little Worlders are generally more attuned to scale equivalencies and actual distances than their childhood counterparts, but even so, when a good compromise presents itself, they can invent an excuse for it.

Let’s play…

The Little World – Change Your Focus

If you are a Little World builder you probably have a favourite scale you work in – and if you’re lucky you have a clear vision of a project for it. You might even be one of those super individuals who has a whole chain of work in their mind and who will progress to a logical and successful finish.

Or you might approach your work haphazardly – the most organisation that you can manage is finding the paint brushes before the cat does.

Whichever you are, consider doing your imagination and skills a favour by letting your focus soften for a bit – specifically, change your scale or type of building every once in a while. You’ll benefit from it:

a. You will see the normal work you do in the wider picture of things. If you make cars and decide to make a building, you have a building that relates to cars. If you make ships and build a plane, you now have a whole new palette of colour to work with.

b. Your eyes will change. They’ll change physically with time – rarely getting better – and they’ll change focus as you get interested in new projects. See big, then see small, and you’ll see better when you go back to big.

c. New scales or genres bring you into contact with new manufacturers, new tools, new materials. Everything you learn in one scale you can turn to profit in another.

d. A change in your focus will bring you into contact with new people, too. And that means new ideas. Some will not be good ideas, but that is what you get in any case with normal life. But listen to everybody and look at everything – there is bound to be something useful  about everyone else’s Little World.

e. New scale or new category means new publications, new web sites, new illustrations on Google.

f. If, in spite of it being the most wonderful type of modelling in the world, you find yourself bored with what you are doing…do something different. Go out and deliberately find a new thing to tackle – even if it is not absolutely riveting, it will relieve your ennui long enough to restart your original engine.

g. You might be good at the new thing. Maybe even really good. I’m looking at three trophies on the shelf right now that I never thought I could win.  For a guy who never got one as a kid and never succeeded with radio control boats, it is heartening.