First Order Stormtrooper

Model Building

Got this for Christmas. Bandai kits snap-together and sometimes there’s fussiness getting the parts to click together completely. I had to be careful not to break something by using use too much force.

It’s all about the painting.

The generic figures are an opportunity to break out and not paint the model like it is on the box. I’ve played enough Star Wards Battlefront to know that camouflage increases your chance of survival on the battlefield, plus it offers creative leeway. As I painted, I imagined a planet this guy would be suited for. Probably the Star Wars equivalent of Slovakia.

If you can’t fix it, feature it!

What I’d forgotten is that Bandai plastic doesn’t hold enamel paint well. I sprayed on a basic coat of Model Master “Light Earth” and it started to come off merely from handling the parts during assembly. I used that as a head start on the weathering process, highlighting the chips, dings and scrapes. “Olive Green” and “Hull Red” acrylics from Tamiya completed the pattern and I sealed the figure with Testors “Dull Cote”.

At 1:12 scale, the figure doesn’t take up too much room in the display case. It’s already up for sale at my Etsy shop.

Elon Musk Will Make America Great Again

News & Events
SpaceX launch from Cape Canaveral

Last night, I watched a Falcon 9 rocket launch from Cape Canaveral. Even from 100 miles away, it was an impressive sight. It was SpaceX’s 23rd launch of the year and the 100th flight overall for the workhorse Falcon 9. The booster returned to Earth, landing on a SpaceX recovery drone ship. The name of the ship is “Of Course I Still Love You,” which is what you would expect from Elon Musk, the brilliant eccentric who, more than President Trump, could Make America Great Again.

The United States is at its best when it has a frontier. How the West was won is still the stuff of legends. But we ran out of frontier over a hundred years ago, and we’ve been decaying ever since. America has since turned toward navel gazing, guilt, insecurity and scrolling through Instagram. Half the country doesn’t like where this is all going. They see no need to tear down statues and announce their preferred personal pronouns. These seventy million voted for Trump and his pledge to Make America Great Again.

.In his last State of the Union address, Trump declared “America’s manifest destiny in the stars.” But Trump is a real estate developer. Until he can build a hotel on the Moon, it’s merely an applause line from his speech writers. And Trump will be gone as of January 20, 2021, leaving it up to someone else to carry the flag to other planets.

That someone is Elon Musk, a guy smarter, richer and, yes, more ambitious than Trump. SpaceX has some epic projects underway. One is to return humans to the Moon. The SpaceX website describes the Moon’s surface as “inhabitable” and promises “an opportunity to gain valuable experience for missions to Mars and beyond.” The Mars mission will start with a visit to the surface, the literal first step toward the goal of making Mars inhabitable on a large scale. There is also talk of asteroid mining, with quadrillions of dollars of metals floating out there in the asteroid belt for anyone to claim. Exciting stuff.

A renewed manned space program is what the red states want but haven’t embraced yet. The solar system is big enough for every go-getter, maverick and pioneer on our planet, a place for people who work with their hands and aren’t afraid of a hard solar cycle’s work. Mars is for future homesteaders, ready to claim their own land without ever being accused of stealing it from the native inhabitants. The asteroid belt is for the prospectors and strike-it-rich types looking for a gold rush in a vacuum. It’ll be the ultimate space western. And, when the star dust settles, we could be a multi-planetary superpower.

Take it way, Elon:

“You want to wake up in the morning and think the future is going to be great – and that’s what being a spacefaring civilization is all about. It’s about believing in the future and thinking that the future will be better than the past. And I can’t think of anything more exciting than going out there and being among the stars.”

Covid 19 and the Coming Children’s Book Slump

Books, News & Events

The Wall Street Journal has an article today titled A Covid Baby Bust Is Bad News for These Businesses. The article focuses on businesses that will feel an immediate impact: the makers of baby products such as diapers and formula.

What it doesn’t get into is the longer-term effects on children’s books. Fewer children means fewer copies of board books, picture books, chapter books and so on, a ripple that goes all the way through YA.

Plan your careers accordingly.

Book Burning in the 21st Century

News & Events
TikTok screengrab of J.K. Rowling books being burned.

J.K Rowling has a torch-wielding mob after her and and the purpose of the torches is for burning her books. The reasons for the outrage are not what this post are about but, if you want to read Rowling’s side of the story, it’s on her website.

What this post is about is book burning, a practice that, as a way of cancelling those you disagree with, makes as much sense in the digital age as sending a letter by owl.

Manuscripts by Definition.

Page from a medieval manuscript.
13th Century beach read.

Back in the 11th century, every book was more rare than a first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, because all books were truly unique. Every page was hand copied by someone with infinite patience, excellent penmanship and a life expectancy of 45 years. Burning a book would be a huge waste of money.

Still, that didn’t stop some people. In 213 B.C., Qin Shi Huang (the Chinese emperor most famous for his terra cotta army) ordered a bonfire of books as a way of erasing history and consolidating power in his new empire. He also had over 400 scholars buried alive, So, yeah, Quin was a diq.

Johannes Gutenberg introduced the movable type printing press in 1440 and from then on, books became progressively more plentiful. By the early 1920s, the common man could own his own copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise, James Joyce’s Ulysses and T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland. Also, lesser known titles such as Ethel M. Dell’s The Lamp in the Desert and The Autobiography of Margot Asquith.

Book burning Becomes a Thing.

Nazis burning books.
Nazis up to no good.

It was the Nazis who brought book burning into the 20th century when they took to incinerating any text that contradicted Nazi ideology. On the to-burn list were socialist playwright, Bertolt Brecht; Karl Marx, author of both The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital; Erich Maria Remarque, author of All Quiet on the Western Front; and Ernest Hemingway, author of a bunch of books you probably had to read in high school. After the incineration of the Third Reich, book burning was seared into the public’s consciousness as something fascists do.

Book Burning Enters the Pop Culture.

Still shot from the 1966 movie version of "Fahrenheit 451."
François Truffaut’s 1966 movie version of “Fahrenheit 451.”

In 1953, Ballantine Books published Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, a tale envisioning a dystopian society where “firemen” burn any and every book they can get their hands on. Fahrenheit 451 was successful in its day and has sold more than 10 million copies to date, more of which have probably been lost to general wear and tear than flames. The story has also been retold in other media many times since then, most recently in a 2018 film adaptation by HBO. Like George Orwell’s 1984, Fahrenheit 451 became a common point of reference for anyone warning against a totalitarian future.

So Many Books, So Few Flamethrowers.

Now here we are, well into the 21st century, when book burning is nothing anyone need be concerned about. First of all, we have lots of books, tons of books, so many books that people in my neighborhood leave them out on the street to be taken for free .

Cover image of "A Shore Thing" by Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi.

Some of that tonnage is outdated books, Frommer’s Barcelona 1993-1994 is an obvious example, also Excel 2002 for Dummies. You could also fill a fleet of cargo ships with bad books like, well, Das Kapital. And Mein Kampf. Then there’s the inconsequential and ephemeral, A Shore Thing by Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi for instance.

That said, Moby Dick wasn’t given its due until after Herman Melville’s death so keep writing, Snookie.

And we have ebooks now, thousands of which can be set loose on the world in the time it took a medieval monk to dip his quill in his ink pot. A gang of brownshirts could delete books from their Kindles all day and be no closer to their goals when the sun set.

I’m as Mad as Hell and You Can Follow Me on TikTok.

These days, book burning is a way of publicly demonstrating disapproval rather than an effective way of silencing one of the most successful authors of the age. So burn “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” if you want. Burn a hundred. Make a bonfire. Just remember to practice basic rules of fire safety. And don’t burn down a library. That will get the cops after you.