Friday 16 January 2015

Opinion: Politics, Plastic Models and Inferior Chocolate - how we're happy being fed rubbish.

It's not often I go off and rant about things - well, not here on this blog, at least, but something happened in the last week that has sparked me off in a way that even my wife and stepkids can't understand.

There's something rotten going on in our world. I have a strong feeling that it's going to hit the fan soon. One of those gut feelings you don't get often. I can't explain it particularly well, and I certainly don't have all the facts to back things up, but please stick with me as I attempt use a really, really, small issue to explain a worldwide problem:

The Cadbury's Creme Egg

This iconic, flagship product from the now-American-owned British chocolate firm is changing for 2015, and not in a good way. Last week, Mondelez (a part of the Kraft food giant) released a statement informing us that Creme Eggs will no longer be made with Dairy Milk chocolate. Instead, the shell will now be made of "a standard, traditional Cadbury milk chocolate".

"It’s no longer Dairy Milk. It is similar, but not exactly Dairy Milk", said a Cadbury spokesman, before telling us that the new recipe has been tested on consumers and was "found to be the best one for Creme Egg".

If Cadbury had led this change with "New Improved Recipe!", I'd be more inclined to buy into the rhetoric, but the company is unapologetic about this new direction. Read the statements more closely, and you might understand this: "we are having to cut back production costs, and will be changing the Creme Egg's shell to a thinner, cheaper and inferior product - you won't know the difference, and if you do, you'll buy it anyway". Add to this the old 6-pack is now a 5-pack, and yet only 20p cheaper.

Now, we consumers have got used to getting less and paying more, but why? It surely isn't our responsibility to pad the profit margins of the big companies that serve us.



We bought into Finecast for a couple of years while GW told us how great it was (New Improved Recipe!) and sold us extra tools to fix the inherent problems with it (Liquid Green Stuff). Those of us who didn't have much of a choice but use it (LoTR, Hobbit especially) pretended to like it, and even made excuses for GW's inferior resin. Clearly it was a stopgap for better-detailed injection plastics, but we, the consumer bore the costs of R&D. The new plastic is more expensive than the old metal minis, and I mean more than just inflation. GW's latest take on their business model is that they make miniatures - toy soldiers to collect. That they make rules to use them in a game is purely coincidental. And they tell us this with a straight face.



You may have noticed some nasty goings-on in France over the last couple of weeks. People actually killing people because they didn't like something they said, drew and published. Objectionable as that is, that's not the point here - World Leaders joined the millions of people marching to show solidarity. Or did they?

The Independent showed us that the 'solidarity' was limited - the road was closed off, and the World Leaders weren't in the crowd of millions, but in a group selected for a close-up photo opportunity. Propaganda, then.

Israeli newspaper The Announcer photoshopped out the female world leaders from their front page, which is weird, but also controlling the information to their readers. Oh, that's propaganda, too.

Aljazeera, on the other hand has pointed out the hypocrisy of many of these Leaders, who showed public support for murdered journalists and free speech, while simultaneously having varied policies of incarceration and treatment of the press in their own countries.

We are fed crap from the state - constantly being told things contrary to fact. Facts that are spun in new, improved ways to make us believe the lies. Worse still, we may question the lies, but don't do anything about it. We buy into the concept of apathy or defeatism: 

"I won't bother boycotting the new Creme Egg, because others won't, my contribution won't make a difference, and I may end up losing out - I'll try the new improved recipe, and if I don't absolutely hate it, if it's only slightly less good than what I'm used to, I'll learn to deal with it."


The Creme Egg situation is, in microcosm, an metaphor for the current state of our society. We care, but maybe not enough to do something about it - it might be risky, and we might jeopardise our respective freedoms (which are lessening by each cabinet reshuffle, by the way).

We in the West are Luke Skywalker:

"Look, I can't get involved. I've got work to do. It's not that I like the Empire; I hate it, but there's nothing I can do about it right now... It's all such a long way from here" 
What will it take for us to really get it? To understand what we're giving up every day? Do we wait for our homesteads to be burned to the ground, with our own Aunt Berus' and Uncle Owens' smoking corpses on the stairs? Maybe then we'll take action.

But maybe then will be too late.

Tuesday 6 January 2015

Sprue Cutters Union: Old Dog, New Tricks

It's back! The SCU topic this month is:

What New Products/Techniques Will You Purchase/Attempt This Year?

I like to think of myself as a pretty open-minded modeller. I'm not sure I've settled on any techniques that I don't tweak or improve on as I start the next project. Of course, I've started more projects than I've finished, so one 'technique' I'll try and employ this year is 'finishing'. Last year I finished 2 large old projects and 1 large new project. This year, I'll try and up that number.

1. Rust

I have an Airfix Mk1 Ford Escort kit, which I've opened and primed. My wife bought it for me a couple of years ago for Christmas. It's a very basic kit, but it's given me a few options: build it straight from the box; upgrade it to a 'Mexico' special edition racer, or make it a rusted out barn find.

I haven't mastered authentic large-scale rust yet, so I think this is the project to help me graduate. Lots of dirtied-up multi-tone rust with trees, bushes and shrubs growing through the carcass. Easy concept, but quite hard to pull off effectively.

2. Photoetched Brass

I've used PE products for years, but I can't say I've ever really become friends with them. They blunt my tools, dig holes in my fingers, refuse to stick properly and get lost in the carpet. I have a diorama on the go (yes, I know) that I started making for my wife for our wedding anniversary - of course she'll appreciate it, what do you mean? - it's our wedding car, a Citro├źn Light 16 Traction Avant, and I decided to upgrade it with PE and resin parts. Wow, what a faff. Tiny little bits of brass that have created more problems than they've solved. Well, no more. 2015 is the year I beat the oppressive OE regime. In 2015 I will rise up, and I will WIN!

3. Airbrushing

I'm good with an airbrush - I know my way around - but I'm not a master of detail. This may be something to do with my below-par fine-art skills. Linked to #4, this is an ongoing education I shouldn't shy away from.

4. Freehanding

I can sketch with a pencil, but my ability to control freehand paint is limited. I'll be spending time on YouTube and other video tutorial sites to improve. Of course, if anyone wants to come over to South London and give me some free tuition, I won't say no. I make terrible omelettes, but great coffee.

5. Procrastinating

I've read several times that 2015 is the year of putting things off, so don't be surprised if any or all of the above gets shoved to 2016/19 or so.

Being part of the union means sharing the contributions from other members. Being a lazy member (and sneaking this post in while getting ready for a video shoot in Las Vegas), let me direct you to the wheel hub, so to speak:

Thanks again for taking the time to read my blog! Please fee free to leave comments below...

Friday 2 January 2015

Batmobile. The plastic model car you deserve.

I have been in love with model Batmobiles for a couple of decades (and a bit). I bought my first ERTL/AMT kit of the Tim Burton 'mobile around 1989/90, and made a pig's ear of it. Loved the kit though - enough that I bought some more on eBay, once that was a thing you could do. I also bought the optional cocoon, that was originally only available to Blueprinter club members. Awesome.

I have a couple of these in the stash. =)

I also have the same car in 1:35 from Ban Dai - it's meant to be a snap kit, but let's be serious, eh?

Christmas this year also brought me a lovely tin from Polar Lights - inside is the 1966 Batmobile, reissued from the original moulds, using the original tooling. This is exciting, and a pain in the arse all at the same time.


The car, as you may or may not know, was a customised Lincoln Futura concept car, so you probably won't be able to get an authentic-enough 1:1 donor car to 'accurize'. This may have to do for now.

Clipped from frames.

This is what you get in the box - minus the chromed bits (which are currently soaking in coke/dettol/nail varnish remover to strip the nasty chrome plate - it's taking longer than I'd want.)

A bit of dry-fitting shows that the original & authentic moulds & tooling will require me to get a lot of filler and files out of the cupboard to keep the lines as clean as they should be.

Modern kits rule...

I can't wait to find some time to work on this gorgeous car. Once the chrome is stripped, I'll get the Alclad II lacquers out. Gloss black on the whole car, and then shiny silvers and chromes on the brightwork. There are also loads of red pinstripe decals for the details (some of these may end up painted on). A deep gloss varnish with NO weathering will finish the whole thing off before the figures are added.

Holy polystyrene cement, Batman!

The moulding on the figures is adequate - it's not up to the standard of minis we're used to in 2015, but with some carefully applied paint, they'll look ace.

Feel free to leave comments, observations and corrections below!

More as I build... (Happy New Year!)