Book Review: “Pacific Crucible” by Ian W. Toll

Posted November 8th, 2017 by Devin and filed in Review

Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942 by Ian W. Toll
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Overall a very enjoyable book. Toll covers ground that I’ve read many times before, but his telling is more compelling and readable that a lot of other titles. One of my favorite parts of the book is a framing method used early on that tells of the purposely long train trip that Admiral Nimitz took across the US, on his way to San Diego and then a flight to Pearl Harbor to assume command of the fleet. The scenes with him and the single orderly that accompanied him are extremely well drawn, even novel-esque.

Keeping with the personal tones and involvements, one of the more compelling parts of Toll’s narrative is the day-to-day life of the US Navy sailor in a steel warship in tropical climes. The heat, exhaustion, cramped quarters, poor diet. Continue Reading »

Movie Review: Dunkirk

Posted August 7th, 2017 by Devin and filed in Review

My brief review of Dunkirk. In short: amazing. The story, told from four tight points of view, are shown in different time sequences. Over the course of the film, you get two people’s story of their time on the beach over the period of a week, one POV where you spend time on a small boat over the course of a day, and finally, one POV from inside the cockpit of a Spitfire that lasts one hour. The three timelines are cleverly cut together, and while it took me a couple of scene changes to figure out what they were doing, in the end it works brilliantly.

The cinematography and sound are beautiful. Dialogue is sparse and at times the film seems to go on forever without anyone speaking. Gunfire sounds like it’s coming right at you, the drone of marine diesels and aircraft engines that, meshed with Hans Zimmer’s unceasing soundtrack – literally, the music does not stop for an instant — creates an all-encompassing background dirge. One of my minor quibbles with the film is that I’d have liked to have some moments without the music, but seeing as the film isn’t about respite, even for an instant, it’s fitting as-is.

The acting is first rate. Cillian Murphy is as good as ever. Tom Hardy, as always, owns every scene he’s in, even though here most of his work is done behind an oxygen mask in a Spitfire’s cockpit.

This isn’t a typical war film. Continue Reading »

2017 IPMS Nationals Photos

Posted August 1st, 2017 by Devin and filed in Modeling, Photography, Travel

I made the trek to Omaha, Nebraska, last week, to attend the 2017 International Plastic Modelers US National Conference. It was the first time in many years that I didn’t compete, but I did see plenty of fantastic work on the contest tables.  I’ve posted my photos here:

http://njipms.zenfolio.com/p610049940

The 2018 show will be in Phoenix, Arizona.

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Model Completed: Battlestar Galactica

Posted May 7th, 2017 by Devin and filed in Modeling

I’ve added a page for the Moebius Models Battlestar Galactica model that I finished a few months ago. Overall a fun build, and I’m really happy with the result. That’s really the only problem with building commissions for others (as this model was): If it turns out really well, then it’s really hard to turn it over at the end of the project.

As with all of the other Battlestar Galactica series ship builds in my gallery, this model now belongs to a private collector. One of these days I’ll build something Battlestar related and actually hold onto the thing.

Photos and such are HERE.

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Gulliver’s Gate

Posted February 20th, 2017 by Devin and filed in Modeling, Whatever

gulliversI recently realized that, other than updating my biography, I hadn’t made official mention on my website of my new job. As of September 2016, I have been working as a model builder at Gulliver’s Gate, a new edutainment attraction opening in Times Square this year. My daily duties involve 3D CAD design, 3D printing, assembly, and painting of models for the exhibits. To say this is my dream job is an understatement. For an idea of what to expect when we open in April, check out the Gulliver’s Gate website.

Model Completed: Ironclad CSS Atlanta

Posted September 19th, 2016 by Devin and filed in Civil War, History, Ironclads and Gunboats, Modeling

title2Here’s another that’s been done for a bit, but is just now getting added to the website. A simple kit, easy build, fun project.

Added to the Model Building page, and can also be reached directly HERE.

Model Completed: Bell Airacobra P-400 “Air A Cutie”

Posted September 11th, 2016 by Devin and filed in Modeling

title2Finished this one up earlier this year. The Eduard kit is one of their earlier ones, yet still went together great. Had some issues along the way, mostly due to outside forces, but now she’s all done. Added to the Model Building page, and directly linked HERE.

Driving through History: Visits to the USS Monitor, Smithsonian Air, Richmond, Gettysburg and Brawner’s Farm

Posted July 6th, 2016 by Devin and filed in Civil War, History, Ironclads and Gunboats, Travel

2016-06-24 09.32.14

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” ― William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun

William Faulkner famously struggled with the history of the South. Born and raised at a time when Civil War veterans still lived, he didn’t have to walk the battlefields at Gettysburg in order to be able to write his stirring piece on how those days in 1863 have never left us. But once the people of significant events have passed into that same history, no longer to tell their stories, we have to find other ways to touch the past.

Recently, I was made aware that the Mariner’s Museum in Newport News, Virginia, the home of the restoration of the USS Monitor turret and other recovered artifacts, was giving tours of the facilities and the turret itself. See, the turret is kept in a tank filled with water the majority of the time, fresh water and a slight electrical current leech the accumulated salt from metal that spent 140 years on the bottom of the Atlantic. Of course, once I heard of the tours, I made plans, borrowed a car, and drove south on a Thursday afternoon.

The USS Monitor had a short lifespan, yet was a truly revolutionary ship. After careful perusal, I can actually recommend the Wikipedia article on her as a good source for her history during the Civil War and post recovery in 2002. I’ve read a lot about the Monitor during years of model building, general historical curiosity, and research for my New York Times pieces, so I was well versed in her past when I arrived at the museum on Friday morning. I was greeted by Hannah, who took me through the initial parts of the Monitor related exhibits, including a busted Dahlgren cannon fired from the CSS Virginia during the battle the day before her fight with the Monitor, and a full-sized partial depiction of the Virginia herself. Several preserved artifacts recovered from the Monitor’s wreck are displayed, the most impressive of which is the red signal lantern at the top of this entry. The red lantern, the distress signal the Monitor raised on New Years Eve in 1862, was the last thing anyone ever saw of her as she sank. 140 year later, it was also the first thing found of her wreck, spotted laying on the ocean floor, literally rolling in the sand, several hundred yards from Monitor herself. Continue Reading »

Review: Black Shoe Carrier Admiral

Posted May 13th, 2016 by Devin and filed in Review

Black Shoe Carrier Admiral: Frank Jack Fletcher at Coral Seas, Midway, and GuadalcanalBlack Shoe Carrier Admiral: Frank Jack Fletcher at Coral Seas, Midway, and Guadalcanal by John B. Lundstrom
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I initially wrote this review for cv5yorktown.com, a website I maintain about the history of the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (CV-5). Black Shoe Carrier Admiral covers the career of Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher, a man closely tied to U.S.S. Yorktown and her career. He moved his flag to her in early 1942 and stayed with her until her loss at Midway. Lundstrom’s book focuses heavily on the first year of the war in the Pacific, and does so at a very high command level. Unlike many WWII histories, this book is much less of the day to day of maintaining and fighting a ship, and a lot more about the intelligence and decisions that brought the ships to the battles. I have to admit that when I first started reading the book, it didn’t hold my attention too well. I like books about specific characters, and while Fletcher is the man followed in Continue Reading »

Review: What Stands in a Storm

Posted April 12th, 2016 by Devin and filed in Review, Writing

What Stands in a Storm: Three Days in the Worst Superstorm to Hit the South's Tornado AlleyWhat Stands in a Storm: Three Days in the Worst Superstorm to Hit the South’s Tornado Alley by Kim Cross
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s odd, but I have a thing for tornadoes. I grew up in southern Indiana in the 1970s and 80s when Tornado Alley still ran through the area, (did you know Tornado Alley moves about over the years like a wandering river?), and we had no shortage of incredible thunderstorms, filled with no end of tornado watches. Fortunately I and my family never had direct experience with the devastation a tornado brings, but we came close during the massive outbreak in April of 1974. A tornado went right through our area that day, blew a hole in our neighbor’s garage, destroyed a tool shed in our front yard, tossed about the trailer park a quarter mile down the road, and destroyed a few houses a mile away. We weren’t home at the time, were on our way back from town. My mother stopped the car alongside the highway and made us lay down in the back of the station wagon. I can still remember the green and orange sky. That’s as close as we came. We got lucky. Up until my parents moved out of our childhood home ten years ago, you could still walk the woods behind and see trees that had been snapped-off by that funnel cloud all those years ago.

That 1974 Super Outbreak, as it’s called, was the largest tornado outbreak on record, until the 2011 Super Outbreak came along. WHAT STANDS IN A STORM is a story of that Continue Reading »