It's hard to believe that just 10 years ago, digital cameras were a novelty. It was not very strange to think of dropping off your film at the drug store for one-hour processing, which then still felt pretty new. I remember the funky little Kodak tollbooth-like sheds scattered about town in the vast parking lots of shopping centers where one may find a grocery store, Handy Dan's and Cloth World. Or maybe in the K-Mart parking lot.
These pictures of me and my Memere and Pepere were taken at the long gone Hawaii Kai theme park in Arlington, Texas. It was right next to Six Flags Over Texas, which is still there. If memory serves, Hawaii Kai was originally called Seven Seas and was near the old Arlington Stadium. Anyway, it was a sort of a Hawaiian-themed proto-Sea-World with dolphin shows and luaus. I remember thinking it was really cool, lush and tropical with pretty hula girls putting flowers around everyone's neck. Looking back, it was sort of the '70s equivalent of a Martin Denny record. But to that six year old me, it was awesome.
These photos are interesting because they were originally taken on slide film. My father had a thing for taking pictures on slides. About 12 years ago, my mom found a bunch of slides and I took them in to have prints made. The images you see above are pictures of those prints taken with my iPhone. So I guess by the time they make it to your eyes, it has gone through 4 generations. Not bad, then, I'd say.
I had originally planned to attach this lotion bottle to the mothership. I like the shape, but it didn't quite work, so I decided to turn it into a shuttlecraft. I played around cutting out various wing shapes using card stock from the freebie fliers I pick up at Amoeba. I settled on this shape, cut it out of sheet styrene and glued it on.
I used two Bic pen tips and two spark plug tips from the auto shop parking lot for the boosters/blasters/whatever they are, some other fiddly bits to make a spaceship looking engine, added another layer of sheet styrene to the wing and etched some panel lines in it.
If you look at the top view of the mothership, I'll have the shuttle attached to the port stern. I haven't decided yet whether I'll make it detachable. Ideally, it would. But I don't know that I'm good enough yet to figure out the technicals on that. We shall see.
Having built 6 models out of the box and completing one kitbash where I used mostly parts from one kit and just added a few things to it, I decided I wanted to try my hand at building something from scratch. Science fiction subjects lend themselves particularly well to scratch building since there is no one thing you have to make it look like. Just dig around, find stuff and start gluing.
I thought this toner cartridge would make an interesting shape for the base of my spaceship.
I cleaned under my bathroom sink and found a bunch of stuff I haven't used in years-- bottles of hair product, Airborne fizzy tablets and a toothpick box. Then I found some useless office supplies with cool shapes like the liquid paper pen and tape eraser. I glued them on with a hot glue gun. This is the underside of the ship.
Then I added some bits from a tank model from which I had pilfered parts for my kitbashed ship along with some stuff I found in the parking lots of the auto shops in my neighborhood. I glued them on with cement.
This is the top side, with PVC nozzles for thrusters and more auto parts on the top. Funny story -- one day I was walking in the parking lot of a nearby tire shop, picking up little bits and pieces. I'm walking along the perimeter when I look up and see the owner giving me the stink eye. I walk over to him and show him what I have in my hand and tell him what I'm up to. He said come back during business hours the next day and he'd give me a bunch of junk. I went back the next day and, true to his word, he gave me several handfuls of great, useable junk. I thanked him and he said "that oughta keep ya busy fer a while."
Can apparently be bought at this shop I passed by on another of my late night rambles. I understand taste is subjective and I'm not religiously impaired. But seriously, who would want crutches dude in their home? He's about 3 feet tall.
I took my son and my fair lady to the air show in Chino a few weeks ago. We saw more amazing planes in a few hours than I can name. My mom got him this flight suit and something about putting it on must make a boy feel 3000% more cocky. I was looking at the pictures I took and his face cracked me up.
At the tail of a B-17.
In front of a P-38. The best part is all the pilots kept telling him how cool he looked. I think it went to his head a bit.
I tried to take pictures and video of the planes flying, but my equipment is just not good enough to capture them. And I have to say that while I was most excited by the thought of seeing the Dauntless and Corsairs flying, I came away most impressed by the F-86 Sabre and the MiG 15 flying together. That was truly awesome.
I like to walk at night. But this year has been unusually cold and rainy up until just the last few weeks. So it's nice to actually want to go out and walk for two or three hours. My last few rambles have taken me through Atwater Village.
I stopped for a glass of wine at 55 Degrees before heading home. Don't remember the name, but it was a delicious chilled sparkling rosé. Goddam right I'm man enough to drink a pink fizzy wine and feel no shame.
I've been a science fiction dweeb for about as long as I can remember. So after building a few WWII airplanes, my thoughts began to turn to spaceships. How hard could it be to turn one of these planes into a spaceship? The answer, it turns out, is "not very."
The kit I started out with was this old (I'd guess from the '80s) Revell Germany Arado Blitz. This was a prototype jet bomber which was, as much of the Luftwaffe jet engine program turned out to be, too little, too late. It was an astonishing design. Had it come out a year before, the outcome of WWII may have been different.
Armed with a saw, some glue, some washers, and some patience, I set about transforming the Nazi wannabe death-dealer into a spaceship.
Here she is in her black primer coat. It's like Knight Rider went on a coke bender and mated with Battlestar Galactica.
I wanted to paint it in some bold colors as I was tired of German Grey and Japanese Naval Green. It's a spaceship, so it could be whatever color I wanted. Naturally, I picked something that would stand out against the black vacuum of space.
I really enjoyed the build. And the blue Tamiya paint was excellent. But I made the mistake of using Citadel paint for the garish orange.
It went on like latex and leaked badly under the masking.
So to compensate for the mediocre paint job, I covered her in "Mars dust" which came from the rusty brown pastel in my set of 48 pastels.
Then, using a rock I freed from Point Mugu, I built a stand so that she could always be flying. Up next, a scrappy scratch build. I promise it won't be months...
a long time ago. I showed it to the GF recently and I'm pretty sure she was totally unimpressed.
At the time, I was really interested in the portrayal of women in fashion magazines. The pretentious fuck inside me would like to tell you I was deconstructing something or another blah blah blah.
But what's funny is now, just a few years later, I really don't give a shit.
Except for maybe this one. I thought it was really clever that I cut out her bikini and gave her eyeball tits. And that bush is actually an eyebrow from another picture. I'm sure there was artistic intent there beyond a boner, but I can't for the life of me remember what it was supposed to mean. I like girls, really.
But you'd probably never guess if you judged me from this. God, I can be a real twat sometimes.
My most satisfying build to date. This is the Hasagawa 1:48 Dauntless. Came together like a dream and was a joy to paint. I didn't document the build as well as I should have, but I think the finished product speaks for itself.
I went camping with my fair lady and her twin sister at Point Mugu. It's one of the few places in Southern California where you can camp right on the beach. But the strange thing about Point Mugu is the rocks. When the tide is high at night, the sound of the waves crashing on the shore is coupled with the strange, haunting sound of the rocks tumbling over each other as the waves wash in and out. It's a wonderful sound to fall asleep to. And over time, the rocks become smooth and perfect for stacking.
I'd be remiss if I didn't post a shot of my fair lady. I have a difficult time imagining navigating the seas without her.
Since then, I've come a long way. Marge is nearly finished now, but it's been a bit of a pain to get here. I've made several really awesome cock-ups, all of which elicited much swearing and all of which I've (hopefully) learned from. Let me just say what a huge cock-up it was to not glue on the nose assembly and props before this point. Though my red wing tips and pre-shading came out nicely.
Chrome silver acrylic paint is a bit difficult to work with. Even after several coats, I'm still finding bits I missed. They look fine on first glance and 24 hours later, after you've applied a gloss coat, you can see spots you missed.
The props took several steps of masking, all of which I forgot to photograph. Except this last part, which look like medieval spinning blades of death.
Now those are proper props.
The instructions called for flat black glare repellant on the nose and sides of the engines, but after studying the pictures of the real, restored Marge at the Richard Bong Historical Center, I noticed it was actually olive drab, so I painted accordingly.
Compared to the Spitfire and BF 109-G, there are surprisingly few decals for the P-38.
The decal of Marge and the flags for each enemy plane shot down came out well. But I like how the decal of the faded numbers on the nose. Right now, she looks too shiny, but once I add a bit of weathering, it's going to look really cool.
This model was a tough build for me, but I learned a lot from it. With each one, I learn more. And with each one, I become more interested in the aircraft, their history, and the men who flew them.
Long before I started building 1/48 scale models, I was picking up these 1/144 scale Japanese models at the little Japanese market where I buy sushi and sashimi. They're tucked in amongst the Pokeman and countless other Nipponese collectible figurines I'll never be nerdy enough to know the names of. But I liked them because, for their tiny size, they have an incredible amount of detail.
As you can see here, they come on tiny sprues with tiny parts and tiny decals. They can be fussy and fiddly, but when they're done, they look quite cool. Too cool, in fact, to leave on a shelf to get dusty. So I bought some cheap shadowbox frames at Ikea and started doing this:
I have stacks of old National Geographics and various and sundry travel magazines from the 60s and 70s. I cut out suitable backgrounds, stick some foam core under the model for 3-D effect, some hot glue and voila. A nerdtastic project for my inner 8-year-old. I've made quite a few of these. I'm thinking Etsy may be my only salvation.
I've been finding it difficult to get excited about new music lately. I used to enjoy separating the wheat from the chaff, but it's become too tedious and the payoffs so few and far between that I've fallen into the wretched habit of turning off.
I hope giving my ears a sonic vacation will help as I've long considered my ears a great, unrecognized national treasure. Lately, however, I feel they've been abused; relentlessly assaulted by cheap, disposable music at every turn. How I long to go into a shop somewhere and have it be free of an incessant, pounding soundtrack. But I digress.
2010 was a disgustingly disappointing year for music. Two of my favorite bands, Belle & Sebastian and The Books, released crap records. What's strange is, the two bands couldn't be any more different, yet they both took five years to make equally utterly disappointing records.
I was especially disappointed with The Books. Pop bands are bound to leave a turd in your sink every now and then. Call me naive, but bands like The Books just aren't supposed to do that. Especially after waiting five years and being titillated by what seemed a genius move-- signing to the Temporary Residence label.
There are very few labels from whom I'd buy a record sound unheard. Temporary Residence is one of them. But after the Books incident of 2010, I could be forgiven for thinking they were losing their edge.
I bought Burning Off Impurities by Grails when it came out and though I liked it OK, I always thought of it more as a sketchbook than a fully-formed statement-- that this was a band with what you might call "potential."
However reluctant a curmudgeon I might be, old habits die hard. So when I saw the new Grails record on Temporary Residence, I bit. And I'm happy to report it's a vast improvement over the previous record. The vision thing seems to have coalesced around the kind of post-rock-soundtrack-for-an-as-yet-unmade-film thing that I'm such a sucker for. Full review coming after I listen a few more times.
This is my grandfather, Reginald Paquin-- a.k.a. pèpére, a.k.a. Pip. He died when I was 11. He was more of a father to me than my biological father ever was and I can only hope I live to be half the man he was. He was in the Air Force all his life. I'm not sure of the date of the photo, but it must have been sometime during WWII.
He brought the two sake cups back from Japan after the war. He hollowed out the .50 caliber bullets and turned them into salt and pepper shakers. Before he died, he got really into making doll house furniture. We are kindred spirits in many ways and I am unable to express how deeply I miss him. I couldn't possibly count the times in the last few years I wished he was here.
I have so many questions I'd like to ask and so much I'd love to tell him. But more than anything, I wish he could have met my son, his great grandson. I can imagine the way he would smile at him and the stories he would tell. I can hear his voice, clear as if it were yesterday, when he thought something was cool, he'd say it was "real George."
Pip was in the 43rd and 101st bomb wings and worked on B-52s. He was stationed at Carswell AFB when he retired and when I was young, I was on the base every other weekend for church and breakfast at the NCO Club. I still remember seeing the B-52s lined up on the runways and remember hearing them scream and rumble overhead.
Turns out there's a B-52 at the March Field Museum about an hour from here in Riverside that was stationed at Carswell in the '70s. So I took the boy to go see her.
It's a little hard to wrap your head around just how big these birds are. They're huge. They were also so well-built that many of them will be in service until 2020, making them the longest-serving planes in military history.
Getting the entire plane in the frame close up proved to be impossible. But the boy sure did love seeing it after reading about it for the past few months. He's on this bigger is better kick right now, so he was happy to see this giant. But for me, I just couldn't shake the thought that maybe, just maybe, Pip had touched this exact bird.
The P-38J Lightning is the Ultimate Fighter Champion of WWII. The historical significance of this stunning-looking plane cannot be understated. It was one of the few planes to see action on both fronts of the war. In the Pacific theater, Major Richard Bong not only scored the best last name ever, but also shot down the most enemy aircraft of any other fighter pilot of the war. He shot down 40 Japanese aircraft in his P-38, which he named "Marge" as a tribute to his wife.
The Revell 1/48 model of the p-38J has proven itself every bit the tough customer as the plane herself. Not only does it come with 3 build options (Bong's fighter bomber, the "night fighter" version, and the "Pathfinder" photo recon version.) I've opted to build Major Bong's fighter bomber. And my problems have been numerous.
But first, the joys.
This is the first cockpit I'm actually kind of proud of. While not spectacular, I think my dry-brushing technique has come a long way. No one would ever mistake it for the real thing, but hopefully, the skilled eye could tell it wasn't painted by an 8-year old.
The wings and fuselage came together with few problems, but I noticed a few gaps that I filled with putty. The real problems began when I decided I wanted to hang her from the ceiling, like she was flying. This model was definitely built to have the landing gear down. While it is a plus to not have to paint the landing gear, closing the landing gear bay doors proved problematic.
I shoved some paper towels up inside for support and hope to be able to pull them out with tweezers after the glue dries. We'll see.
Assembling and masking the canopy was a bit of a hassle as it is 5 pieces which don't seem to fit together all that well. I'll have to shove more paper towels into the cockpit so as not to ruin my awesome paint job. In this picture, you can see the putty I used to fill in the cracks. I still need to file it down.