Friday, July 09, 2010

Kids These Days…

I've been really getting into 'James May's Toy Stories'.

This is a show on BBC America where each week, James May takes a classic toy and does something over the top with it. For example, he built a full-sized, furnished house out of nothing but Lego, laid a scalextric (slot car) track around a 2.5 mile real racetrack… and my personal favorite, had a custom 1:1 scale airfix Spitfire model manufactured and then put it together with a class of school kids.

It's the Spitfire model episode I want to talk about.

First of all, Airfix models are something I love to this day. I remember being a kid and drooling over all the awesome airplane and car models at my local hobby shop. I remember sitting for hours meticulously putting them together (then like all kids, playing war by blowing them up with fire crackers).

But what really made the episode interesting, however, was the reactions of the kids.

You see, trying to get a bunch of 13 year olds to sit still for a few hours and put together a fiddly model is bad enough. Trying to convince them it's fun is something completely different.

However, it was fun as hell watching these kids looking really put out because they had to put together a plastic model, but the best part was watching their attitudes change. Your first airfix model is pretty much always work. There's always a point where you've been trying to glue the world's tiniest piece to the world's second tiniest piece with only a tube of contact cement, a magnifying glass and a pair of tweezers…and the fifteenth time it falls off you ask yourself: "Why am I doing this?"

But then you finish the model, the glue dries, you paint it and put on the decals…and it looks really cool. Then, you look at the finished piece and think: I made that.

That was the best part of the show. Watching these kids discover the visceral joy of creating something.

However, there was one part of the show that completely blew my mind.

As I mentioned earlier, James May did something that every kid who's ever made an Airfix model has thought about: Is it possible to make a 1:1, lifesize model?

The answer was yes, but barely.

Now bear this in mind. Even if you're totally not into making models, making the 1:1 Spitfire was a world first. It broke the record for the largest airfix model ever made.

…Which was why my monocle popped clear off my face when two girls got halfway through the big build…and then said they were leaving to go to a Beyonce concert.

Ok, I understand that I might as well be shaking my walking stick and telling the kids to get off my lawn, but this model was going to be put on permanent display at the British Aviation Museum. It was going in the Guinness Book of World records. I know 13 year olds aren't exactly forward thinkers, but given the option of taking my kids to the aviation museum one day, pointing at the model and saying "I made that." Or opening the Guinness Book of World Records and showing them the record I broke…or even showing them a recording of the TV show I was on where I helped break a world record trumps going to a concert.

I'm sure Beyonce will be touring for a while…breaking a world record is a once in a lifetime thing.



Bee said...

I'm rather ashamed at being part of the younger generations at times. Much would have rather built that model than gone to see Beyonce.

Also, this post has just reminded me I have an airfix Tardis sitting in a box somewhere.

Paulius said...

After writing this, I couldn't help myself and went and bought one...An Apache Helicopter (it was the only mildly interesting one in my $15-$20 price range).

Got three hours into it and discovered two very vital parts where missing. the hell do you not notice a frigging helicopter blade is missing before you ship the model?