Friday, 11 October 2019

MG RX-78-2 Gundam Ver.3.0 [WIP: Upper Body Completed]

With various sub-assemblies comprising the Upper Body now complete, I can finally put together the first meaningful series of photos of the RX-78-2 Gundam. Up until now, one couldn't really see a coherent end product because the individual sub-assemblies had been showcased in isolation. That changes with the assembly of a fully painted and decaled Upper Body section. It's a major milestone for the mecha of which there are roughly two; the other being the Lower Body. Apart from the mecha itself, there are the Core Fighter and yet to be painted weapons as well as standalone pilot.

Master Grade RX-78-2 Gundam Version 3.0: Upper Body [Completed]

Prior to this milestone post, it felt anticlimactic at times because the end result of a particular sub-assembly couldn't yet tell a complete story. For that I apologize. For you see, these blog posts is partly an outlet for me to showcase my work and partly an online repository of work-in-progress processes for self reference purposes. Add to that my need for order and structure in a project and you'll often get staid posts. On the flip side, it does offer a somewhat detailed look into the hows and whys of each step, which may be helpful to some modelers. That's my hope anyway.   

Sub-assemblies of the Upper Body all painted up with decals applied, and awaiting assembly

I almost hate to bring attention to this issue but there is a specific section on the Grandpa Gundam's Upper Body that displays a major FUBAR on my part. Instead of leaving it well alone despite things not being perfect, I decided to try and fix an issue and made it worse. Now I'm not going to reveal what the FUBAR is yet but I'm pretty sure you'll catch the eyesore from the photos below. In the unlikely event you cannot find my mistake, I will point it out to you at the end of this post.  

For the first series of photos, the RX-78-2 Gundam Upper Body was placed against a blue background
An acrylic stand was used as a temporary base to prop up the Upper Body for the photo shoot
Sticking out from the Ransel/Backpack like two slim, cylindrical pods are the Beam Saber Hilts
Back view of the RX-78-2 Gundam Upper Body, against the blue background
Even without any weathering, there is already a lot of things going on in the Upper Body
A bit of Gundam trivia: the round, hollow elbow joint that allows its metallic innards to show is the Normal version that was first installed on the mecha; a Magnetic Coated version (non-hollow) was subsequently installed to improve performace
Extended arms served mainly to adjust the Upper Body's center of gravity thus preventing it falling

A darker background was utilized for the next series of photos you see below. If could be just an optical illusion but I felt the black background somehow made the details on the Upper Body 'pop' just that little bit more. Perhaps it's stating the obvious but I guess one's eye would tend to focus on the details if the background is just empty black space with nothing to offer visually.  

RX-78-2 Gundam Upper Body against a black background
Details seem to 'pop' a little bit more when the Upper Body is up against the darker background
Upper Body has a nice combination of neutral, primary, metallic, off-white and pure white hues
Both the Beam Saber Hilts stuck on top of the Ransel/Backpack can be removed ...
... and have clear red parts - mimicking activated sabers - stuck on them (to be shown in a later post)
Back view of the RX-78-2 Gundam Upper Body, against the black background
RX-78-2 Gundam's Upper Body will eventually connect to the Lower Body comprising its waist, legs and feet
All in all I'm pretty happy with how the Upper Body turned out with the exception of one thing (see below)

So did you spot the eyesore that I saddled the Upper Body of the RX-78-2 Gundam with? Carefully observe the red-colored lower right section of the Upper Body (lower left when looking at it from the Front View; see first photo). See it yet? Ouch! Right? I had tried to remove the sticker decal in order to reposition it more accurately. Despite knowing to avoid doing this, I had in my arrogance felt I could somehow make it work. Well, I couldn't. Removing the sticker decal resulted in the decal losing its adhesiveness. To make it stick back to the Upper Body again I had tried using Super Glue - a horrible face palm moment. Long story short, both the paint job and decal were badly damage. And on that frustrating note, I end this week's post and wish you a great weekend ahead.

Thursday, 3 October 2019

500th Post Special: My Top 10 Studio Albums to paint and draw to; a Spotify experience

Access to Spotify has allowed me to relive my 'youth' by streaming music I had on cassette tapes and compact discs. The former has gone the way of the dodo bird while the latter is nearly there if it hasn't already. That some of the artists here don't even make my Top 10 favorite artists list isn't a discrepancy at all. Because for me there is a marked difference between the totality of an artist's body of work and a sole studio album that just works on every level, every song. Even so I do regret not including one particular band as one of my favorite artists; they come in at No.6 in this list.

Before we start here are some ground rules as to what type albums are allowed on this list. First and obvious condition is album tracks should mostly be recorded in a studio. Secondly, each artist is only allowed to appear once in this list. And whilst the occasional cover song is acceptable, the album should comprise mainly of original songs. Finally these albums have been more than the sum of their brilliance in music alone in that each has coincided with a few milestones in my life. So without further ado and in no particular order, here are my Top 10 English Language Studio Albums:

No.1: Oasis - (What's The Story) Morning Glory
(Creation, 1995)

Stuck in a biochemistry research lab late into the wee hours day after day in my final year of uni brings back fond memories only because of one thing. Oasis and their sophomore album (What's The Story) Morning Glory? Liam Gallagher's irreverent vocals coupled with the band's guitar driven wall of sound made for a compelling listen, over and over again. Liam's brother Noel was a songwriter who had a decent set of pipes himself. Putting aside the sibling discord that continues to this day, this album was a musical roller-coaster ride that I still listen to repeatedly till this day.   

No.2: T'Pau - Bridge of Spies
(Siren, 1987)

At a time when pop music was my world, the music of T'Pau perhaps epitomized all that's good of this oft derided music genre. In general, pop albums tend to lose their appeal upon repeated playback as the hooks that make you fall in love with the music quickly will in turn, ironically so, make you tire of the song just as fast. But Bridge of Spies is different in that it's one of the very few pop albums that has sustained my interest even after all these years. Moreover the group's name is inspired by a Vulcan character in Star Trek, my favorite sci-fi universe. What's not to love about that.

No.3: Norah Jones - Come Away With Me
(Blue Note, 2002)

For a calming effect, there is only ever going to be one singer for me ... Norah Jones. My years in the financial sector was easily the most stressful work-wise. Through it all, listening to the bluesy, jazz and folk influenced album of Come Away With Me was a soothing balm to my then shattered soul. Coupled with her mellow voice, Norah Jones has a way with song phrasing that just melts the troubles away. Her debut effort was a joy to behold and it remains a firm favorite in my albums playlist. Most notably she is the only solo artist to have made it to my top ten list.  

No.4: AC/DC - Let There Be Rock
(Atlantic Records, 1977)

To me, every AC/DC album with Bon Scott at lead vocals was a rock masterpiece. Now I'll admit their first album sans the late singer at the helm was their best ever album. But overall I still prefer the band's body of work during the Bon Scott era. And of all the albums ACDC produced with him as the frontman, Let There Be Rock was arguably the best of the lot. Bon Scott's drawl was the voice of Rock music. In my opinion, no other singer can compliment lead guitarist Angus Young's insane riffs so well. Are there better singers? Sure of course. In tandem with ACDC's Blues/Hard Rock, no.    

No.5: Paramore - Brand New Eyes
(Fueled By Ramen, 2009)

As we grow older we tend to cling to the music of our younger days; seemingly unable to embrace new sounds in a big way. Technically this isn't actually music of my youth seeing I was already on the wrong side of my 30s by then. Brand New Eyes made the list seeing that Paramore was the last band I took to in a big way and that was nearly a decade ago. This is an excellent album. In it, Hayley Williams showcases vocals that are full of attitude and emotion while accompanied by a tight band with forceful sounds arising from quickfire beats of her fellow band members' guitars and drums.

No.6: The Beatles - Abbey Road
(Apple, 1969)

The Beatles need no introduction. And trying choosing just one Beatles album for this list was almost impossible. Almost. Abbey Road, the band's penultimate studio release (but their final one recording-wise) remains my favorite Beatles album. For me, what tipped this album above the rest was the 16 minute medley of eight short songs toward the latter half of the album. Incidentally, Abbey Road also has my favorite album cover of all time. Inexplicably and unforgivably, I had left The Beatles out of my Top 10 artists list. Back when I did that list, it had been ages since I had access to their entire discography and had forgotten the genius that is their music. With Spotify that's no longer the case.

No.7: Queen - A Night At The Opera
(EMI; Elektra, 1975)

What can I say about this album that hasn't been said. It has that six minute operatic rock song. You know the one. But more than that the entire album just works as a whole. In the years Queen were together, each band member wrote more than one No.1 single. That talent is out in full force in A Night At The Opera. As Wayne Campbell puts it "I think a little Bohemian Rhapsody, gentlemen."     

No.8: Nevermind - Nirvana
(DCG, 1991)

Admittedly I never gave Nirvana a listen when they burst into the mainstream music scene. It would take a completely unrelated incident (see Special Mention below) to eventually point me towards Seattle Grunge. My enduring memory of this album relates to their first hit single. Back when record stores were still a thing, I used to walk by one on the way to school. And on this shop's window were numerous TVs were linked together to make a huge display to play music videos. One day the shop front was just packed with people. All of them watching Nirvana perform Smells Like Teen Spirit. You know a band is big when it can make people from all walks of life to just stop and listen.

No.9: Guns N' Roses - Use Your Illusion I & II
(Geffen, 1991)

Peer influence got me listening to Gun N' Roses when they debuted with Appetite For Destruction. But if I'm honest I never really truly got into GNR until their third and fourth consecutive studio album releases. Although strictly speaking each is an album in its own right, I've always considered them as an inseparable whole. Studying for my uni entrance exams, not doing that well, and feeling just absolutely fed up - I guess GNR music was an outlet for my teen angst. To each is own.      

No.10: Metallica - Master of Puppets
(Elektra, 1986)

I started listening to Metallica right about the time they were entering mainstream music via The Black Album. This was sometime in the early '90s. But as appealing as Enter Sandman sounded, it wasn't the Metallica music I connected with. That came later as I searched their album backlog and came across Master of Puppets. Machine gun riffs, loud and headbanging music - it all appealed to me as I was slowly transitioning from the world of pop music to something heavier. The special mention album below lit the spark but it was the heavy metal of Metallica that made it burn.

Special Mention: Ugly Kid Joe - America's Least Wanted
(Mercury, 1992)

America's Least Wanted is strange one. It's not a great album; it's not bad either. But in terms of epic personal milestones, this album tops them all. Up until the time I got my hands on it I was still mainly into pop and classical music. Weird as it may sound, this Ugly Kid Joe album was an a-ha moment for me musically in which a door to many other genres be it rock, punk, folk, alternative, metal, jazz, blues, etc. was suddenly opened to me. The story of how I got this album is even more unbelievable. You see, my late dad was on a business trip overseas and happened to pass by a record shop. For some reason he went in and asked the owner what do kids listen to nowadays. Well, he was given an album with a cartoon figure showing the middle finger and he still bought it. The rest is history.         

There are of course many albums which have been undeservedly left out of this personal Top 10 Studio Albums list. Some are included in the photo montage above. How many can you name? If you had patiently read through this post until the end then I thank you profusely for having indulged this old hobbyist his trip down memory lane. The next post will be strictly about model kits. Promise.

Monday, 30 September 2019

MG RX-78-2 Gundam Ver.3.0 [WIP: Shoulder Armor, Hands & Beam Saber Hilts]

To complete what Bandai terms as the RX-78-2 Gundam Arm Unit, the arms per se from the previous post will require additional sections namely the Shoulder Armor and Hands. It's these latter two items as well as Beam Saber Hilts that will take center stage in this post. Without further ado, here they are.

Master Grade RX-78-2 Gundam Version 3.0: Shoulder Armor, Arms and Hands [Completed]
Master Grade RX-78-2 Gundam Version 3.0: Beam Saber Hilts [Completed]

In my fist serious set back with the Gundam painting process, I noticed metallic paint chipping easily from the hands. While friction between moving parts played a part, I suspect this was more a case of the plastic type being incompatible with paint. So far most of the parts I've painted were made from Polystyrene (PS) and these had no paint issues. However parts made from Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) like the hands and from Polyethylene (PE) such as the polycaps saw paint chip rather easily. It seems that the paint doesn't adhere well to ABS and PE even with an initial primer coat.    

RX-78-2 Gundam Hands primed and painted on the sprues, which in hindsight wasn't ideal
Parts of both hands connected to the sprue had to be primed and painted separately
Both of the hands before the respective armor panels were attached
Master Grade RX-78-2 Gundam Version 3.0: Hands [Completed]
Paints on both hands chipped easily due to excessive friction between moving parts; another likely cause is either the metallic paint was applied too thickly, not allowed proper curing time; or the plastic type was incompatible with paint  

Thankfully it was much smoother sailing when painting and assembling the Shoulder Armor. I had no issues with paint chipping; none with assembly fit and surprisingly no major problem with the dreaded sticker decals this time. Armor panels on the Shoulder Armor are attached to inner frames with a certain amount of give and freedom of movement. This should allow both arms of the RX-78-2 Gundam a greater degree of motion within the confines of the Shoulder Armor. 

Individual parts of the Shoulder Armor all painted up with decals applied, and awaiting assembly
Core of the Shoulder Armor assembled with only its outer armor panels left to be attached
Master Grade RX-78-2 Gundam Version 3.0: Shoulder Armor [Completed]

At the connecting point between the Shoulder Armor and the Body Unit is an inner frame which allows for upward and downward movement only (see metallic part with a circular hole, photos above and below). As limited as this may be, it should be taken in a proper context together with the greater amount movement allowed by joints on the Body Unit itself, which actually connect to the arms via the circular hole. Flexible panels on the Shoulder Armor lower resistance to movement that rigid armor panels would inevitably have. All in all, this will increase poseable options. 

Part on the Shoulder Armor with a hole eventually attaches to connectors on the Body Unit to form a shoulder joint
Back view of the RX-78-2 Gundam Shoulder Armor
Top down view of the RX-78-2 Gundam Shoulder Armor
Innards of the Shoulder Armor which will largely be hidden from view after attaching to the arms
Insides of the Shoulder Armor is hollow as it will be attached to the arms

Meanwhile, the Beam Saber Hilts were straightforward constructs that didn't take long to finish. As they stand, they will be inserted into specific holders on the Ransel (Backpack). When unsheathed and in the 'activated' mode, an elongated, clear red plastic piece mimicking an energy blade will be inserted into the hilt. It will then become a weapon that the RX-78-2 Gundam can pose with.

Beam Saber Hilts before (top half of photo) and after assembly (bottom half)

So now all the components of the Arm Unit are ready for the next step. They will be assembled into complete Arm Units and then subsequently attached to the Body Unit together with the Head Unit, Ransel (Backpack) and Beam Saber Hilts in order to form the RX-78-2 Gundam's Upper Body. That's coming soon, pictures and all. Until then, enjoy this piece of wisdom from everyone's favorite 'Assistant Regional Manager' i.e. Dwight Schrute ... Whenever I'm about to do something, I think, "Would an idiot do that?" And if they would, I do not do that thing.

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