Fake news, flaky reviews (calm down, its just a parody)
Thanks to the runaway global political gravy trains that are behaving like mammoths on mescaline and an incandescent media which thinks it’s all such a laugh, (no, the blood stains and grease wont come out in the bath) we have a contemporary phenomenon called 'fake news'. Like most things these days, it’s not an entirely original idea.
“See how our tireless workers smite the imperial weaklings' 1/32 scale B-17 with ease”
In the good old bad old days, fake news was simple propaganda. A dirty bomb of a word, it was largely confined to posters, newspapers and an occasional pompous gentleman on a news reel invariably telling us made up stuff. It wasn't all that clever either.
It exhorted us to do better, try harder, use less and projected blunt images of blood stained bogeymen. All of which have been replaced today by the thinly veiled creeping social media tide, which tells of dark forces at work and of an internal menace to our collective perception of ‘freedom’. Who you gonna believe, eh?
As an interesting aside, did you know that the slogan “Keep calm and carry on” was never seen by the public in Britain during the war? (JSTOR, August 20, 2018)
Fake news like good old school propaganda, is still the manipulation and conflation of fact with fiction, it just has an ‘always on’ function now and there is mountains of the stuff.
But hang on, what the actual flip. . ? This is a ‘modern adventures in model photography’ blog, not some deranged sociopolitical soapbox rant, what’s your point here young feller me lad?
"Can you tell your plastic from your trash. . ."
Err sorry, kit reviews is where I’m going with this tongue in cheek, ever so slightly mischievous Wednesday waffle number 4.
Can we really trust reviewers to tell us the unadorned truth? Are they the real deal or are they off their tits on the freshly inhaled contents of a new kit box?
Essentially, can you:
Tell your plastic from your trash,
your culture from the crash,
the stripper from the paint,
the sinner from the saint,
the ladder from the snake?
Caveat: Before we go any further, this is a satirical poke at our rapidly disintegrating and inherently corrupt world. Its also a sideswipe at an addiction to consumerist marketing spin, the hands of commercial greed, and our (at times) unwitting complicity in all of it by taking the word of self appointed 'expert' strangers at face value.
So, don’t growl at me if your sensibilities are offended when your favourite reviewer’s ego takes a metaphorical Aichi Val amidships, it’s meant to be a bit of fun; and I’m a sensitive lad who doesn’t take kindly to red faced shouty men with no sense of humour. . . (don't test my patience).
"We're the ghosts of Tommy Vance and John Peel, it's Thursday, it's seven o'clock, it's Top of the Pops!"
In a flimsy parody of an iconic British TVs popular music show, here’s my febrile five reasons why I think that most kit reviews are ever so slightly dodgy and not really that much use other than providing some variable entertainment value to this monochromatic mid grey hobby.
Number 5: The Arctic rolls - "Mardy bum"
The long awaited new release from the self-styled purveyor of gritty kitchen sink sincerity is straight in at number 5 this week. The catchy lyrics quickly give way to a chorus of jaw-droppingly obvious, repetitive ‘gen’ about the stunning similarity of the kit to the real thing.
In a world where mediocrity is the new gold standard, this review is the equivalent of your old mum giving the family a treat by nipping down to Iceland for something a 'bit different'. It's got a budget yellow ice-cream wrapped in a bit of sponge carpet underlay vibe to it. And there's never enough jam either.
These reviews suck the will to live out of me via my retinas, yet I still watch in the hope that there might be one of those subliminal nudity frames or that the reviewer will set light to one of their farts (anything to break the unremitting self-aware dullness).
I mean c’mon, get a grip reviewer-person, I too have opposable thumbs and am capable of opening cardboard boxes and looking at grey plastic through cellophane. . . You promised me a Vienetta of a review with your fancy intro graphics and then delivered some partially thawed thing that's been living at the bottom of the fridge for three months. I want my life back.
Of course, I'm being a tad unkind. . . and also a bit jealous that their review sample is so new it’s positively embryonic. If we all look closely, we can see the sprues are still steaming like some Uruk-Hai warrior that has emerged from its birthing pit under Mordor. (Either that or it’s the bastard child experiment of renegade privateer modellers with access to military grade gear and a low pressure Frankenstein moulding machine in a damp bunker south of Tomsk-under-Lyme. . . I feel an idea for a screenplay coming on).
And these reviews usually come with a caveat too: Which goes something like: “of course, my example is a pre-production test shot without decals or instructions, which I obtained from my sleeper cell operative, so I can’t really say if it will actually have wings and bombs and shit".
What they’re really struggling to form into a coherent monologue is the fact that they have been instructed by the supplier that upon no account are they to try and glue the thing together. Luckily for them, the lack of instructions is a get out clause, and a double whammy for us styrene voyeurs.
Go on admit it, you are just showing off like the first kid on the street to get a Raleigh Chopper.
“My old bike may be shit, but at least my mum didn’t go on the game to buy it for me”
But hey, by now it’s too late, I'm in it for the long haul (all 20 brain numbing monotone minutes of it) and can’t switch off because he just might say something profound, light that fart or do a dance.
Ultimately I feel cheated. This sort of review leaves me feeling hollow inside like a mid-week Findus crispy pancake, frozen chips and a slice of partially defrosted arctic roll dinner. I could have been using my blindingly fast and excruciatingly expensive fibre connection more constructively by watching old Pathé News footage of the real aeroplane doing aeroplaney things.
Verdict: Not so much ‘space cadet glow’, more ‘cry of a tomcat and a kick in the balls’.
10% fur coat 90% no knickers.
Number 4. Twisted sisters “I am, I'm me (you're in your space and that's ok)”
Get your eyeliner on and join my gang! Up five places to number four is the styrene equivalent of spandex and platform stacked tomfoolery. Scarily self-indulgent and a bit too tightly wrapped, this one is more menacing than the man with the self-taught cardboard closure opening skills and thinks nothing of getting his case-hardened nippers out to prove it. "Do ya wanna watch me touch. . . err no thanks".
Removing bits from the sprue gates and taping them together in a mock build ritual can, I am told, only be done by card carrying master modellers who’ve spent at least thirty years hunting the Matchbox phantom panel line digger in Worsley Mesnes.
The End User Licence Agreement on this one says that by engaging with this review, I am acknowledging the risk of being exposed to gratuitous styrene posturing with the reviewer staggering around all wide-eyed and exaggerated moves in the model equivalent of a Garry Glitter video. But to be honest, it’s not so much glam rock, more Blackpool rock.
What is really, really annoying about these reviews, is the obsessive compulsive photocopier sections where a slightly dodgy 141% enlargement is used to ‘prove’ that the kit is fatally flawed.
In a bid to be taken seriously, our hard-wired analogue reviewer says he has a ‘mole’ in Design HQ and they have it on good authority that the real reason the new 1/144th Boulton-Paul P.92/2 is really three scale feet longer than the real thing is because the pattern makers belonged to the Situationist school of model making and spent their lunchtimes in the Dog and Weasel knocking back half's of Creme-de-Menthe. That and also that plastic was 'thicker' back in the day.
‘The P.92/2: Courtesy of Boulton Paul’s ‘Manchester spice boys’ design team. Their first effort at a British Zerstorer (after seeing a child’s drawing of an Me 410).
Of course to prove this obscure (but curiously possible) assertion, ‘Our man in Havan…er Huddersfield’ has a special photocopier that has had its scanner unit calibrated just for up-sizing plans from a book that was printed on baking parchment in 1943, so he knows his dims are accurate to within half a microns width of a graying hair from his compacted nut sack.
Verdict: Get a life or at least move out of your mother’s basement flat before her cats eat your entrails.
90% Fake blood, 10% fleshy fingers
Number 3. Coldchips “A sudden rush of blood…”
We are counting down to something approaching real life authentic model reviewing and straight in at number three this week is this winsome ditty of a model world-changing review. Our man of the people is down with the hipsters. . . his review 'oozes feeling in a desperate search for meaning'.
This lyrical gangsta says read my words and "Feel the reality of modelling life as I bring it straight to you from a gritty model expo hall". He says authenticity can only be gained by following the trials and tribulations of master modellers and their stiff bristles on the demo tables. he knows what he knows because he's watched tasty geezers whittle perfect replicas of 1/144 control columns from the shin bones of ocelots while dishing out withering doses of sarcasm to the amateur punters. That my son, is a review borne of experience. You can't buy this sort of wisdom, now sit down and shut up.
But I digress, this review is already on the hard stuff. It's a Methyl Ethyl Ketone fuelled Gonzo journo ride into an alternate styrene universe. It's a “this kit is so freaking awesome it built itself with the aid of model elves while I slept off the free crate of Sapporo and ten pickled eggs” review.
It's immaterial that the reviewer got lost on his way home from the last model shop in Deptford with his 'a bit late to the party' review sample and ended up snorting Toilet Duck with Karen from the Dog and Weasel in a bin behind Tesco's. His modelling prowess and connections to the styrene underworld allows him to build models remotely by osmosis. He can think the review into your 'ead and make you believe you heard it first from him. "You talk so hip you're twisting my melon, man".
Verdict: "Is that a Supermarine Attacker I see before me?
33% XR3 convertible 33% cough syrup 33% mental health disorder.
Number 2. Lynrd Skinhead “Sweet home St.Albans”
Re-entering the chart this week at number two is an epic never ending slide guitar solo of a review and if pulling the wool over my eyes with random factoids about Kelly Johnson (which go on for a fortnight) and flashy displays of hammering on and pulling off one-upmanship isn’t bad enough; then the Mr. Angry approach is the psychotic flip side of another mostly harmless (unless he's been at the runny glue again) info-lite review.
“But wait there’s more, call now for free insults!”
Bubbling under the top spot like a bottle of nearly flat Irn Bru, these reviews are slightly shy of coherent, unsanctioned by the makers (who must inwardly cringe at these diatribes and then nervously check their sales projections). Like a spider on meth, they are all over the place. Often delivered by the lurker of a freestylin’ tell it like it is forum which seems to have thrown the internet rule book on the bonfire, they plainly give and expect no quarter. These rebel yell reviewers also seem to take a perverse delight in telling me:
“I’m gonna abuse the kit and you’ll bloody well thank me for it. Don’t you know who I am? Now bend over while I taunt you a second time”
Starting with the caveat that the kit was obtained via their very own wallet, (so it’s going to be a truly independent opinion piece, and largely independent of lucid thought too) here is the first warning sign that they fully intend to turn up the trash-talk feedback to 11.
They then proceed to ooze vitriol in barely concealed animosity towards everything from the inaccurate box art and the ‘flimsy’ battered cardboard (it’s not the manufacturer’s fault that our mendicant reviewer has already pissed off the local postie) to the fact that it was made in some unpronounceable (to them) place east of Lowestoft.
The repercussions of this ‘lone crusader for excellence’ is a potential global styrene incident. He's carnage incarnate and can be a bit of a bigot to boot. And because it’s produced on the Yangste Delta (by people on a monthly wage that wouldn’t buy you and I the froth on an orange choca-mocha frappachino); our resin averse racist from another time and relative dimension in scale modelling naturally assumes that the styrene will fail his test of righteous western supremacy.
What's worse is if the fledgling kit maker actually sent their new product to this florrid faced chancer in the mistaken belief that it will get their kit a bit of exposure. . . The embryonic model company has, in reality inadvertently stumbled into the demon’s lair. Grendel is about to disprove the marketing mantra that 'all publicity is good publicity' and dismember their new born based on nothing more than a skewed notion of where the ‘best’ kits came from in nineteen sixty-weird.
Verdict: Nope, get in the sea, you’re a flipping disgrace.
15% boiled pork product 85% oedipal complex
Number 1. T - Wrecks: “Model guru, is it you?”
This weeks brand new Number 1 is a welcome return to the charts for a rock god of the model world.
Like the gently decaying yet still grimly touring rock and rollers of his youth who need the pension funds, this guy has been building kits since Godot was a boy. But unlike the allegedly immortal Jagger and co, he doesn’t dare try the moves anymore in case a bit of wee gets out.
They're a stretched sprue, stringy glue vet with the minor burns to prove it. They actually hate Spitfires but still love the attention of their disgruntled old skool (we don't do no resin round 'ere) cronies when they wax lyrical about how Revell got the glazing wrong behind the canopy (they read that at the same place I did when writing this) and that the Tamiya kit aced it, but they won’t build one on principle because they resent spending the cash to look flash. And besides, they should, by dint of being around since like you know, forever, get these review kits from the mighty T for free.
Some of their vitriolic review content makes sense and for this novice, much to learn there is from our Yoda, but then the bitter recrimination and animosity seeps in again and it all turns to custard. "Leave 'im Frankie, 'es not worth it, just relax!"
Deep down, they really doesn’t give a toss if they're not perceived as the font of all knowledge anymore, they've been there have the 1986 t-shirt from Donnington and don't need to prove it.
Verdict: “Stop it now! Go to the naughty step and think about what you’ve just said”.
99% full colostomy 1% gives a toss.
"I am the god of hellfire and I bring you. . ."
So to put not too fine a point on it, it’s really a foregone conclusion. You might have gathered that I think reviews are (mostly) not much use to me.
Why? because despite what those special people think, I don’t need a lecture on the contra-rotating primary drive ratios of a Westland Wyvern or the deflection angle of the ventral strakes on a Tomcat's arse when viewed from the oblique reverse angle (oh please make it stop!) and despite what they say about its shape, form, detail and the maker’s back catalogue of previous disasters; I am going to buy the kit regardless because:
“We wants it. We needs it. We must have the precious!
Yes, but wicked, tricksy reviewers keeps it from us!”
In my slightly edgy and jaded opinion, the kit review and its 'curled up British Rail ham sandwich' writer is a creature from a previous age. I willingly accept that latest release can be (in some experten's considered opinion) an elephantine parody of the prototype, or it can be achingly beautiful in its styrene raw exactitude despite a ridiculous price tag that would feed my family for a week.
I just don’t give a rats winkie.
I am obligated to get one (or three for the stash) and if it is a bit pants, maybe work on it when I grow the f*ck up and get some man skills. Besides, I more than probably won’t be building it any time soon anyway, it's just too damn pretty in its primordial state.
So while I am contemplating the obliquity of the eliptic wing and the Kantian styrene sublime (whether having another cup of Dilmah and an extra Tunnocks wafer will negate the epic-ness of the unpainted cockpit sub-assembly), what do I do about all of this pointless havering and fra
Are you and I ultimately doomed to be faced with yet more episodes from the styrene wasteland of pointless singular opinion? Well not necessarily:
Similar to the only known real cure for Twitter is to switch off and form our own conclusions based on a splendidly isolated authentic experience.
Ultimately, that all-star stellar reviewer from the planet Styro isn't building the kit for me, or you either.
Let’s get back to basics
There were no red-faced blokes in badly fitting Ts in my youth (there were, but parental advice was to hurry past their house and don't make eye contact) telling me Matchbox employed ex-grave diggers to do the panel lines, or that Airfix rivets were the scale equivalent of my mothers cupcakes. So why should these denizens of the cutting mat camera shot hold sway now?
Here's what I think.
I want a simple to read plain English review with a standardised format which says the kit has been assessed for:
value against an existing or similar product
the definition of detail (not photographed at 5 times life size)
the diversity of materials (resin PE etc.)
the quality of styrene (hardness/softness and ease of cutting)
fit of main components
clarity and packaging of clear components
quality and diversity of decals
its market share (does it fill a space in the endless ranks of Bf109s?)
It also needs to be visually stimulating and:
clearly photographed for relevant and interesting details to illustrate the text.
And cut the waffle!
Live in the now, live in the now. . .
Ahh the lure of a utopian tomorrow! As they stand, reviews (the overweening, the partially bad or the terminally ugly, whether paid, free or part-sponsored), aren't going away anytime soon, and are ultimately the marketers best friend and a free ride to our combat fatigued bank balances.
In the mean time Mr. Reviewer:
“You know your green from your red You know the quick from the dead So much better than the rest You think you’ve been blessed, But we know you”.
Kia kaha, go well (and profuse apologies to Peter Gabriel).