Oh, What to Do
There's a thing that's been going around for several years now, a trend if you will, that makes me wonder a little bit about the hobby. It's supported by commerce and the modeling press (which is, after all, ultimately commerce in and of itself unless it's a blog like this one), that not only supports but heavily promulgates the world of How to Do It which isn't necessarily a bad thing. The problem is what happens when said trend becomes what some folks call a "norm". Move that concept into our hobby, and most specifically into the realm of our hobby that's occupied by folks who have only recently discovered the wonders of polystyrene, and sooner or later you create the world of How to Do It. That's where things get a little strange and where I begin to get puzzled by them.
Let's start this off with a premise regarding what's what and who's who. There have been how-to-do-it articles in modeling magazines for as long as there's been periodicals devoted to the topic. They come with the territory, they're expected, and they're often useful. We used to see the occasional book as well, Chris Ellis' seminal How to Go Plastic Modelling and the follow-up How to Go Advanced Plastic Modelling come to mind in that regard, as do the series of how-to books published by Almark way back when, and by Kalmbach during a slightly later time period. People bought them and learned from them; I did too, but then I learned that there was a far more viable education to be gained by asking questions of the guys in my club who were better at the hobby than I was. Let's call that Perspective.
Nowadays we're flooded with articles and videos telling us what to do when we build our models, or how good or bad something is. There are books covering the broad spectrum of modeling in general, books devoted to some particular aspect of the hobby, and books covering one kit by a single manufacturer and how to build and paint it. There are YouTube videos and web sites that feature videos of one sort or another, and all of those things are just the beginning!
In the old days we had kit reviews. Some were good and some were bad but many of them were valuable indeed because they provided the insight a lot of us didn't have because nobody can know everything, right? They also proved to be invaluable to the new guy or gal because they aided in kit selection. They were basic in the beginning, but then things began to change and nowadays they often include paragraphs of potted history of the airplane or ship or whatever, coupled with a review of the actual kit that tells us how many pieces are in the kit (spoiler alert---I don't care!), what color the plastic is (I really really super don't care!), and how sturdy the box or carton the model comes in might be---I sortof care about that one, but not very much unless the model is going to get to me via parcel post from a faraway county but otherwise---I don't care. What I do care about, and I'll bet a whole bunch of you do as well, is how accurate the kit is, how well-detailed, and how many if any optional parts are in it. Anything else is gravy and, quite frankly, some of that is gravy I don't want on my mashed potatoes at all, thank you very much!
Then there are the reviews/articles/books providing a blow-by-blow of How I Built It by whoever it was who did that. That's a topic that often provides considerable insight into how a particular kit might build up and it can be extremely useful when authored by a competent modeler, but it's also stuff I can usually figure out for myself without paying fifteen or twenty bucks for the privilege.
It used to be that reviews, of both the in-box and How I Built It variety, were the norm in our hobby, but of late folks have begun producing "unboxing" articles and videos as well. It's entirely possible, and perhaps even probable, that most folks enjoy such things and maybe I'm just being a curmudgeon about the whole deal, but I have to wonder about it because suddenly we're back to how many sprues hold the kit's parts and how many parts there are, what color the plastic is, if there's any resin or photo-etch in the box, how the decals look, and if the instructions are any good, all filtered through a largish dollop of opinion regarding how a kit that is yet to be built might or might not build up. Huh?
Anyway, there actually is a point to to be gleaned from all this: Reviews and how-to-do-its can be useful if they tell you what you need to know about the kit, but they can be bad if they don't. Take the KittyHawk RF-101C as an example of that, an over-complicated model airplane with a gomed-up nose that misses the mark accuracy-wise. Those things are all that I personally needed to know to make a decision to pass that one by. None of the other stuff mattered one bit in my own personal quest for an accurate long-nose Voodoo because the pain incurred just wouldn't be worth the gain to me.
With all of that said, I think it can safely be stated that none of the things mentioned in the paragraphs immediately preceeding this one actually matter one bit because none of those formats are going to go away anytime soon. That takes us to the heart of the matter, which is as follows: I have a modeling budget that I try to live within and I'd rather spend the available funds on the things that actually matter to me on a personal level. Those things are basic accuracy and acceptable detail in the kits I buy, while the books I purchase these days are limited to serious histories and accurate monographs and not much else. Couple that with the fact that all reviewers are most assuredly not created equal and you begin to get the idea. The meat is essential, the gravy not so much.
My story, and so on and so forth...
Sometimes We Forget
But the guys who were there never could. Don't believe me? Well, then; consider this: