Thursday, September 24, 2009

One Year Ago

It's Charlotte's first birthday today. It really doesn't feel like a year since she was born. Luckily though, we have the photos to prove it. What a trip she has given us so far. I don't know what else to say about my daughter really, other than I am grateful she chose me to be her father, because she is awesome beyond anything I could have imagined beforehand. Even when she is being a baggage.

Her mum is awesome too just quietly.

September 2008
October 2008
November 2008
December 2008
January 2009
February 2009
March 2009
April 2009
May 2009
June 2009
July 2009
August 2009
September 2009 (at someone else's first birthday party).
Happy Birthday Babe!

Monday, September 21, 2009

It Lives!

Spotted yesterday. That was quick.
Note the 'wet paint' sign. Nice.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Film Festival Wrap Up #5

Moon (2009)

And finally we get to the final film (which was actually the first) of the festival, which I saw way back on July 18th, with Notkate and the Judge (which sounds like some sort of 80's TV cop buddy show).

Moon is based around the character of Sam (played by Sam Rockwell - must have made getting into character easier. In terms of screen time he is the only major character) as he nears the end of his three year shift tending a helium mining facility on the moon. He has spent his three years alone, devoid of physical contact with any other human, companionship provided only by video links with his wife and child, and the ever attendant robot helper (charmingly voiced by Kevin Spacey, and thoughtfully and cleverly constructed as a prop). He has become a little eccentric during his time alone, but his stint is nearly over and he is looking forward to going home. At which point things start happening which suggest he is perhaps not as alone as he has been led to believe...

And thats about all I can say about the plot without giving anything away. The viewer learns more about Sam's situation as he does, and little clues and hints that all is not as it seems abound for the attentive, as well as some nice bits of subtle humour. There are also some nice low key references to classic sci fi films and TV.

Sam's moonbase world was brilliantly realised, grimy and grungy and instantly believable, and pretty much instantly informing the viewer that while Sam is technically an astronaut, he is also an employee with a difficult and tedious job to do, with any glamour long since gone. I enjoyed the use of models for the external scenes rather than CGI (perhaps in homage to classic hard Sci Fi predecessors like 2001). Good model work always looks good, whereas rubbish CGI is like an elephant in the room.

The film is well paced, with key plot points dispensed sparingly and only when necessary (hints aside). Things play out slowly, but not so slowly as to cause loss if interest, with a genuine suspenseful 'what happens now' feel by the end of the second act. Another thing I liked is while the film has some proper points to make, it delivers them simply and effectively, a reflection of the feeling that the film doesn't take itself too seriously.

Recommended for those wanting a low key but engaging and suspenseful watch, executed with intelligence and style.

NotKates summation here (link)
The Judges sermon here (link)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Disappointment and Springy Triumph

Since the last time I posted about the Ian Curtis mural here (link), this has happened:
The fuller story is here (link), but this is kinda disappointing, and smacks of someone in the council trying to make their mark. Can anyone else say 'over zealous'?


In the meanwhile, here is a picture of a truck on my parents street covered in Kowhai flowers, demonstrating that spring is indeed springing. That and I thought a truck covered in flowers looked pretty cool.

And finally, Charlotte has now acquired a free standing capablility, here demonstrated at the first birthday party of one of our antenatal group babies.
Coming soon: Walking........

Sunday, September 13, 2009


A couple of posts back (link) NotKate asked how I dirty the models up to make them look scruffy and used.

There are a variety of means, ranging from simple to complicated. but in this instance I used the very basic technique of fine black powder brushed into the lines between panels, around areas people would walk on the real thing, around the edges of removable panels, and around exhausts and vents etc. The effect is to highlight and simulate areas of wear and tear, and make the model look like a miniature replica of a real life object, rather than a few painted pieces of plastic. Well applied weathering like this can make or break a model. Weathering is a tricky process to learn though and not all modellers do it. To little is always better than too much in this case. Some models get finished in states that make them look virtually unflyable. You wouldn't apply heavy weathering to a model of Air Force One. Something like a US Navy carrier based jet you can go to town on, since they spend most of their working lives outside in corrosive humid and salty air, get paint repatched at random, and are used pretty hard. Aircraft at war often wind up very dirty as well, since the maintainers often have better things to do than worry about the paintwork. Certain paint schemes require heavy weathering, since the real life subject was never clean when it wore that paint or markings. I saw a model of a jet used during the first gulf war at the show last weekend. It was very nicely finished and painted, but looked completely wrong since it was nice and immaculately clean. The real thing it was depicting was absolutely filthy with sun faded and peeling paint and grime and stains everywhere.

When applied to a matt surface the powder adheres itself quite nicely. To keep it intact and not leave fingerprints whenever you touch the model usually another clear matt or satin coat is applied. This both seals the powder on and evens out any variations in tone between different paints, decals and the powder, giving a nice uniform tone to the finish, which in itself is more realistic.

Like I said earlier, you weather a model to make it more realistic. Very few aircraft stay pristine for long after being painted. Fluid leaks, exhaust and propellant stains, sun, and general use all combined to degrade the finish.

Here is a French CN235 light transport aircraft I found at an airshow earlier this year. In addition to utility work, it is also used for maritime patrol and based in New Caledonia. So in addition to tropical sun the finish is also exposed to lots of humid salty air, and winds up looking like this:

For reference, the paint surrouding the roundel and code on the fuselage (52 O ID) is the original colouring for the whole aircraft. The roundel marking itself is showing signs of wear; the yellow ring should go all the way around. The weathering for my Skyhawks was a little more subtle. Here is a period shot of one of the aircraft I modelled. Little points to note are the stains around the fuselage and tailplane, some of the panel seams being visible on the lighter areas, and the gunsmoke residue around the cannon muzzle just ahead of the wing.
And here is the model from about the same angle for comparison, with the powder application hopefully gently highlighting the same areas:And that should be the last post about modelling for a bit.

Normal service shall resume shortly.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Power Build Aftermath, Competition Result

Listening to: Pearl Jam - Live at the Gorge 22 July 2006 Disc 1. Or rather trying to over the noise of our front loading, water and power efficient, but quite noisy washing machine.

Gah, finally got around to updating this thing. Apologies readers for the laxity in posting, but over the last week I have been either too busy (Attending the Model Expo and IPMS National comp, and the big bookfair on Saturday and Sunday), too tired (Sunday and Monday nights, recovering from the weekend), or too sick (sprained my ankle at netball on Monday night, possibly due to the tiredness combined with still breaking in new shoes, came down with some kind of wierd bug on Tuesday, aches, chills, fever, complete lack of energy etc, which I have only just shaken off today).

So thats the last week in a paragraph then.

As far as the increasingly intense triple build got, after a near all nighter on Friday (I only stopped at 4am when I started to get double vision from the fatigue), the three models looked like this on Saturday Morning at about 0930 (note beautiful early morning sunlight creeping across the table. You'll have to imagine the birdsong, we have a couple of Tui resident in our backyard amongst others). As usual, all pictures can hopefully be biggified by use of the clicky clicky:
Commensurate with the progress, the waste bin looked something like this:
An hour later the models were on the table at the show with their siblings, going on to pick up 2nd place in the 'collections' class in the National competition (admittedly at that level there were only two entries. Those pesky tanks in front of my jets took out 1st).
So here is the terrible trio, fashioned from the anonymous bits of plastic I posted a few weeks ago here (link). These are all in 1/72 scale, meaning if you lined up 72 of the models end to end the line would be as long as the real thing.
First up is TA-4K NZ6251, as it would have looked in the spring of 1970 a few months after entering service. The colour scheme is essentially the same as that used by land based US aircraft during the Vietnam war, which given these were US built aircraft purchased in the middle of that war isn't surprising. The tan and two greens scheme is known as SEA (South East Asia) in shorthand. This era predates slightly the classic Kiwi roundel people might be familiar with. At the time a silver fern roundel was in use. Twin seaters at the time didn't carry squadron markings, as they were rotated between two squadrons (75 and 14) as required. Under each wing the model has a 300gal fuel tank and a unguided rocket pod, with and empty bomb rack under the fuselage.
Second is A-4K Kahu NZ6218 as it would have looked around 1995 or so. The paint scheme was changed around 1985 or so to a grey and greens scheme known as 'Lizard' or 'Euro 1' (likely since it was developed for US aircraft operating in Europe) This was after a major upgrade to the fleet to extend their usefulness, and in addition to the different paint scheme, also has a bunch of aerials not seen on the earlier model, as well as the ability to carry more sophisticated weapons. The model has a Sidewinder air-to-air missile (grey) and a Maverick air-to-ground missile (green) under each wing, with a fuel tank on the centreline.
And finally, the last of the trio represents the fleet as they are now, covered in a spray-on latex/plastic protective coating after being retired in 2001, and moved to outdoor storage in 2007. This one doesn't have an identity as it represents the whole fleet. It was a big hit at the show, and I got a lot of postive feedback from it. Some suggested it should known as 'The Helen Clark Scheme', which while good for a cheap laugh, ignores the fact that by now the jets would look like this anyway, politics aside. If they hadn't been retired in 2001 they would have had to be grounded by 2007 or so (at the latest) anyway for technical reasons (they were originally scheduled to be replaced by F-16's in 2000). I modelled this scheme more as a joke and for fun than to make any political statement. That and it is about the easiest paint scheme I've ever done.
With the three new additions, their particular section of the shelf is now looking rather crowded...
Meanwhile, in other show news, this was my first time competing as an IPMS (International Plastic Modeller's Society, or as Fi and Kirsten put it 'International People who Make Stuff') member rather than a 'civilian' (for lack of a better term) as I entered the same event two years ago (linky).
This time around I was eligible to enter stuff for the National competition as well as the general show competition.
There was some excellent talent on display, and while I had quiet hopes for a couple of entries, didn't really expect to come away with any results.
So I was kinda thrilled when I scored a few placings at the National level, plus another for the more general comp. I had about half a dozen entries that didn't place (including a couple that I thought were better than some of my stuff that did place). I'm not sure if the relatively small size of the competition had any bearing on the results, but they are what they are, and I'm happy to take them and run!
Biggest result was the Hustler I blogged about a little while ago (link) picking up 2nd in its class, with another of my models (the slightly out of focus F-105 at the bottom of the shot) picking up 3rd. I'm still getting used to the notion that I just placed 2nd and 3rd in a National competition. For my first serious entry its kinda trippy.
Doesn't mean I am necessarily 2nd or 3rd best in the country in this scale class, but I am 2nd and 3rd best of those who turned up for the comp in 2009. If you don't enter you can't win....
Gaining a 'Highly Commended' (de facto fourth I think) in one of the General show classes was this Hunter model I built for my father a few years ago. The particular subject of the model has a connection to dad, and the backstory made for a nice display (as well as the custom built case) that also got people's attention. As a club member I worked the shoe on both days (basically attending a model table, answering questions and making sure nothing got broken), and it was quite interesting watching the public check out the various displays.
I took this MiG 25 that I built several years ago to the show on a whim to help make up the numbers. I was quite surprised when it got a 3rd placing in one of the general show categories.
Also taken to the show on a whim was this P-47 Thunderbolt, which gained a 2nd in class in the National competition, which was a surprise since I thought I had registered it in the general section....
And as I mentioned earlier, the Skyhawks gained a collective 2nd in class at the national level as well.
So yeah, still not quite sure to make of all this, other than it feels pretty good :)

Friday, September 04, 2009

Power Building madness

Since last time, Skyhawk number three now has a first and final coat of noxious green (although Federal Standard colour FS34079 is technically listed as 'Foliage Green'. Meh it was my least favourite RNZAF Skyhawk colour scheme anyway, it will be a pleasure to cocoon it.
Skyhawks one and two in the meantime have since been decaled and dirtied, in a process we modellers call weathering. Its a realism thing. Operational aircraft don't stay clean for very long.
One day left of the power build, then its showtime. Will they be ready? They should be, but we just don't know.......:)