REMARKS 01/07/01 - 02/09/01

Last modified: Monday, December 31, 2001 2:07 PM

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02/09/01- Adding a new character to a genre collection can be like adding to an established landscape. Planning makes it an easy fit but kinda rules out buying plants just because they look kewl. I've been known to start figure projects without a clear idea of what they'll be, but as the project progresses, the figure's character gets defined. Such has happened with both the Lilith & Livia demon gal characters, who started out vaguely as a nod to COOP's naughty Devil Girls. They've evolved to become actors in the ongoing "Primal World" drama. Turning dolls into "characters" is a nerdy thing to do; it involves giving them a more fleshed-out and integrated backstory than is necessary when making them in isolation with the idea of just making kewl stuff. But it's fun and provides some direction with regard to costuming. It also helps decide what other figures get made in the future. And since adding new ingredients stirs up the world, it affects whether older figures need to be revised. It's a slow, storybook approach to the hobby, which turns the process into "play". The alternative to this would be a more productive, workhorse approach. Instead of making one figure at a time, make five and outfit them similarly. Or work on five separate projects, completely unlinked thematically. Or make a prototype and then produce copies. Or start with a pre-written story and produce from it. If you're not approaching it haphazardly from the ongoing play aspect, you're more apt to dive in with a direction and just make stuff. I guess that would make you a "serious" customizer: That doesn't hold much appeal for me these days. So the between-projects time is often spent lazily rearranging the story to accommodate the new additions, thinking of what I'm going to make next, and working on old figures to fit revised roles. In simple Disney-esque style, the figures are grouped according to the old standards: protagonist, antagonists and neutrals. It ain't great literature, it's just fun. It's play time. Now if I could just get motivated to make the armies of extras and some giant dragons... wonder if I can work the Medieval stuff in somehow?

 

Hey: Hong Kong 2001 Action Figure Show/Competition. Check it out, especially & ... I concur!


02/03/01- BETWEEN PROJECT COMMENTARY: Four years at it and I'm still trying to figure this stuff out... This "Remarks" section is a repository for between-project thoughts, miscellaneous ideas, and opinions/rants that don't fit in with the flow of project articles. There's a lot of rambling that goes on in those too, but conceptually, projects are self-contained, single-topic entities: I usually wait until I have enough new on-topic material to add to a project article before updating it. There's also a long lag time between projects. Why am I saying this? This section's stature is getting "upgraded" (in my own mind). It's a continuation of and sidebar to the regular project articles -- Granted, these "Remarks" topics aren't formally indexed, but the quirky "Search" Java application picks up a lot of stuff that even I didn't know was in the site!

EMAIL: The other conceptual "pathway" that I'd like to establish is using the Guestbook as a substitute for e-mail feedback. I'm really bad about answering e-mail-- When I'm at the one place where I can access the messages stored on my hard drive, there are lots of other things I'd rather be doing! The guestbook has some advantages: I can access it from anywhere without having to manage multiple inboxes; questions of general interest can be answered for a wider audience; and it eliminates that polite (but often pointless) back & forth of replying to replies. I'm not opposed to the idea of e-mail though. If you don't have a Photopoint site and want to send .jpg attachments, you can use my new e-mail address. I'd love to see your unique custom creations and will gladly host them in this webspace. (By the way, the "@" symbols on the "WASSUP" page take you directly to the Guestbook or Search page without going through the guestbook archives or pre-search warning page.)

MONDO SLEAZE: Well, I done it. "Livia Gets the Bone" has my first pics of really strong sexual innuendo, without any redeeming commentary or captions. The title is the only thing that ties it together as a gag, and while you can't really see anything (other than the boobs), the posing is straight from a XXX newsstand. Just shows you what you can do with limited articulation and sleazy photography, huh? I increased the contrast & decreased the brightness to give it that reddish tint because the unadulterated pics looked even more pornographic. Anyway, I thought I should throw out a bone for those who suffered through the text-heavy main article. Believe me, I did not enjoy posing those figures like that; the debbil made me do it!

CASTING: I rarely mention or use casting techniques anymore. Recasting is one of my big rant issues, and I think it's bad thing that the Internet aids in the proliferation of it. It's sort of like bomb-making; I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with the information, it's entirely how you use it. The lure of lazy bucks makes it too tempting for some folks to steal other people's work, and justify it with all sorts of rationalizations. But this isn't a rant about that.

In the context of this being a non-commercial website-- I assume you're here as a hobbyist: There are a lot of appropriate uses for casting, and situations where it's indispensible. Casting is great for making uniform copies of repeating detail. It's also requisite for making stuff which requires the particular qualities of the casting material-- general purpose resin is light, fairly strong and paintable. Flexible and clear resins extend the palette of unique possibilities (even though they're more difficult to use). Low melt temperature metal casting has its own special applications. If you want to make copies of your own work for sale or to give to friends, there's no substitute for casting techniques.

Casting can be fun and gratifying, but it can also be a multi-step hassle that's both kind of expensive and potentially hazardous. If you don't do it very often, chances are that you'll discover that your half-used containers of resin have gone bad-- and gunked up your mold if you don't test it first. Sloshing resins during mixing is dangerous since it's like sloshing around a lot of thin Superglue. That's something you don't want to get in your eyes! I've had stupid near-mishaps, I don't particularly enjoy casting, but mainly I hate that resins go bad during a fairly short shelf-life after opening. I've wasted bunche$ of it because I use it only when I absolutely need to. Which isn't very often.

Fact is, you can do a lot of modelling without casting when you approach projects as unique creations-- this is the bread & butter of the hobbyist. As I've discovered, head-making doesn't require it. Most detail looks much better when you assemble it out of component parts. Grinding a knife blade out of brass is more immediate and looks better than one cast in resin (or pewter). There are usually at least a few alternatives for making thin parts, like thermo-forming styrene. If you're not doing it for production, you have the luxury of taking your time to create really neat & unique stuff by other methods.

Ultimately though, the needs of the project rule and casting does offer some really creative and unique possibilities which are seldom explored. It's a shame that casting is usually envisioned by the hobbyist only as a way to make paintable duplicates-- it's rarely appreciated for the potential and qualities of the casting medium itself. Sometimes you just have to write off the old resin and buy new. But while you're at it, you might want to look outside the box and be the first one on the block to come up with something new and unusual.


01/31/01- Durnit... I knew I should have waited. I've changed my mind about some of the Livia figure's decorations-- removed the horn rings and replaced the knife with a dagger, plus a few other things. They're minor changes, but I hate the way going public "freezes" stuff. For all purposes, the project's done and has coasted into that laid-back phase where I can leisurely goof around and take care of little details, like tailfur & toenails. (And get a daily fix of "Miami Vice".) It's also a time for thinking about what's next. One of the things I'd considered wasn't really a separate project, but an accessory-- something like a Dragon watchdog/pet for Livia. Sculpting the head was fun, and it's a neat sculptural idea, but then there's the effort and time required to sculpt the rest of it, versus working on a new figure. You've got to be in an obsessive mood to do justice to a subject like that...

I was in a well-stocked comic shop today (they had a few comics, but a ton of figures) and was thinking about getting the Clayburn Moore "FAKK2" (not 12") figure that I'd previously thought looked great... Now it didn't, which is fitting for what's turned out to be a disappointing media property. (Hype really sucks, huh?) What did attract my attention was Devilman Lady. She looks a heckuva lot meaner than anything I've ever made! I haven't kept up with it, but the first Devilman made-for-video releases were kinda lame (Go Nagai's Cutey Honey series was much more interesting). Maybe there's more and maybe it's gotten more interesting? At any rate, the Devilman Lady figure is neat, and for me, especially without the baggage of its video tie-in mucking things up.

There were a number of other Devilman series figures, including one with a subtle translucent torso, through which you could see hints of the ribcage-- very wicked! If only that figure were actually slightly attractive. I can't seem to bring myself to buy homely figures; even the Species & Borg Queen designs, though grotesque, have a kind of weird beauty.

The sheer amount, variety and quality of figures being released to the comic store market is astounding. You don't get an inkling of it visiting a mainstream Toy 'r Us. The Clayburn Moore Vampirella figures are great. Todd McFarlane has released some really varied stuff, not just the Spawn stuff, but properties licensed from everywhere and everything. There are some really kickass stylistic Alice and Wonderland figures too. Plus there's all the stuff from Japan-- and all the robots/mechas. And the prepainted cold-cast resin statues. Jeez Louise! I don't know how long the market is going to sustain this plentitude since in a recession, paying utility bills probably takes precedence over buying toys. But toy buyers are a strange breed, so you never know. At any rate, it may seem like the 12" figure market is big potatoes if that's what you're interested in, but that's kind of like tunnel vision: The major action is apparently in the smaller format figure market. Unfortunately though, they don't seem to be designing them to stand anymore.

Let me plug my three favorite English-speaking 1/6 scale figure modellers again: Francis Tavares, Scott Baker and Ransome Chua. Francis is a really productive wizard; he's created even more historical figures; but the thing I'm still salivating over is his Sturmgeschutz! Not only is he a master tailor, but he's got a full compliment of other talents working for him. Scott has given his site a makeover recently. He's pretty busy with real world stuff so doesn't crank figures out-- but he makes ecclectic stuff like armor (as in historical medieval) and two-headed figures (!) It's good fun and he always does a great job-- plus he's getting more into real metal suits, so it'll be fun to see what that results in. Ransome is some kind of design whizkid, so his site always looks good (if you catch the nbci host at a good time!). He's also a terrific figure modeller who's delved into less-travelled areas of historical customizing. He takes a pronounced modelling-roots approach to his work, and shares a lot of informative tips. Check out their websites!

Finally, here's a bumpersticker idea: In reverse type, "CAUTION: BAD BRAKES". Apply to front bumper. (It never hurts to post a disclaimer...)


01/27/01- I'm happy with way the "Livia" project is turning out... 'Bout time there was something new here, huh? I didn't post it in smaller updates because there really wasn't much to see, and there were a lot of revisions. The articles get really confusing when I do that. An "in progress" image I mentally stored was the first time I assembled the figure to see how the articulation worked-- she had a small blob for a head and it looked baaaad. Frankly, I'd rather wait and show the stuff when it looks better. It's less embarrassing that way.

I'm particularly pleased with the way the extra weight on the figure looks. It's not dramatically different, but to me it looks more sexy and makes my other recent figures look kind of anemic. Variety is good though, and if all my figures were built like that, I'd probably be going on about discovering how good thinner figures look. Actually, it would be kewl to have the whole range of body types, including "normal" people with reasonable-sized chests. If only I were interested in making 'em...

Hmmmm... my projects seem to be increasingly more uh... naked? I swear it's not nakedness for the sake of pornography. As I've said before, I'm responding to what the manufacturers are doing; as their turf expands, mine contracts, and this seems to be the final frontier. I'm less shy about showing things that I wouldn't have shown before, because you can't do naked figure projects without showing flesh. The commentary which accompanies the pics should convince you that this isn't a porno site; porno sites generally have very sparse text. (Ironically, search engines tend to pick this site up before some porno sites because there's so much text here for them to index.) Instead, this is a contrarian and iconoclastic approach to mainstream Joedom-- For the most part, this site is about what Joe isn't. Joe is wholesome and doesn't hang out with naked demon women. Joe is a toy for kids; this site is for adults. It's irreverent too-- Joe's an "action figure" but I sometimes call 'em "dolls" (because that's what they are... Political Correctness aside). As such, the website isn't meant to appeal to the masses --that would make it mainstream, right? So I'll assume that the few dispossessed souls who deliberately expose themselves to this don't mind seeing the flesh...? I know, I know... folks just come here to read the articles, right?

Totally unrelated to customizing: The energy crisis in California is troubling, even for this Texan. Most of that situation is the result of their poor implementation of deregulation, but there's a bigger and more universal issue underlying it. As our civilization has progressed and prospered, we've developed an addiction to greater comfort and luxury. New, must-have products require their pound of energy, which is in addition to all the other must-have products we already own. Have you ever counted the number of LEDs, pilot lights and wallwarts in your house which draw power when everything is supposedly off? Houses used to have window-unit air conditioners and space heaters. Modern houses have central heating and air-conditioning. Modern houses provide climate control for areas which we may only occasionally stroll through, which is a great convenience. However, energy prices have increased alarmingly recently-- if you've got the dough, it's a minor irritation. If you don't, you run the heat or a/c less and may not be as comfortable as someone with an old-fashioned space heater and window a/c unit. Some of the price increase may be the result of artificial shortages, but fossil fuels are nonrenewable. The writing's on the wall-- the more we use, the less will be available in the future. Perhaps the price of solar power will someday come down; inevitably, the price of fossil fuels will rise above it even if it doesn't. There's a scary scenario that arises from this. If our lives get too uncomfortable because we can't afford to power all the gadgets we've bought, we'll bitch. Politicians don't like our bitching. Politicians ultimately control armies, which act in our national interest. You can figure out the rest. Yes, it's a scary scenario, but I don't think energy prices are going to go down real soon. In the meantime, put that muscle power to good use-- exercise cycles can be adapted to charge batteries and run Dremel mototools.


"...Better call the plumber. The snake's too short..."

 

01/07/00- DOMESTIC LIFE Wow. This is now jimbobwan.com. It just started working. Woo hoo! I'm tired. It's been a hassle moving to this new webspace, but I think it's now under control and mostly everything's working okay. I've moved the Tripod-hosted material ('98 San Antone convention & Halloween '98) to this webspace, so now it loads more reliably. So far, I haven't noticed any loss of speed versus the Flashnet site and I hope it stays that way. I don't want to move again. My advice to you regarding changing ISPs: Keep all your Internet stuff organized. There are probably lots of places like Ebay, Pay Pal, listservers, etc. that have your e-mail addie, and that will need to be dealt with. If you've got a website, there are probably lots of free services that you've set up accounts with. I have messageboards, chatrooms & guestbooks that I'd totally forgotten about!

I had planned to work on that "Bull" figure this weekend (so I could move on and start working on green ladies), but you know the story. He's not really that bad, but I can't show some of the off-the-wall stuff that I think is really funny-- like the fact that he can be equipped with Dremel tool bits...Henshin Cyborg's got nothing on him! Truly deranged stuff.

I should have some pics of Yellow Submarine's WWII German armaments soon. I've been really curious about these since they're reputed to be more detailed than Dragon's stuff. I thought Dragon's MG-34 was the bee's knees-- It's absolutely amazing what these companies are producing. I don't want to get too depressed thinking about it though. I want to believe that I learned something valuable while slaving over my FG-42 (and -groan- Kubelwagen). Yes-- I bought Dragon's KW, and it's really nice. I was tempted to buy 21C's but held back for Dragon's, despite the considerable price difference. Why? I've only got so much space left and anything that gobbles up a big chunk of it needs to be special. I imagine that this mentality eventually befalls all long-time collectors. Yep, we're sick puppies.

The 1/6th scale toy market seems to be going like gangbusters, and the quality, quantity, and variety is unprecedented. Customizers are taking a beating. It seems like it could go on forever, or at least we don't forsee how that might change. Of course, it's difficult to believe that eToys.com is in the dumper, as are many other large Internet-based businesses. Supposedly unthinkable stuff happens. While the 1/6th scale market is strong now, what happens when folks run out of space and money? 1/6th scale stuff is far more vulnerable to this problem than most other toy lines since it's so big. Are enough newbies discovering the hobby at a sufficient rate to sustain it? Will we be able to sell them our old stuff to clear room for the new stuff we're addicted to? Will they even want the old stuff? Joes usually don't "stop working" and need to be discarded and replaced. So they go into storage. A smart man would invest in storage building manufacturers.

Still, it's interesting to think about Joe collecting in the post-Golden Age world. As collectors become more selective about what they buy, manufacturers and distributors get hurt. How would they react? Would they scale back production of new items and repackage old inventory? Would some drop out to concentrate on other lines? Would after-market sales of out-of-production items pick up? Would customizers return to fill the need for variety?

In the meantime, enjoy these days of plenty.

 

"...scratch a little lower and over to the right..."

 


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