I Love Competition

I really do. Competition brings out the best in humanity, the best in both individuals, and in groups and in whole societies. Competition
put a man on the moon. Competition has put ever higher quality models on the shelves down at the hobby shop. Competition pits hobby magazines against each other, and they compete in three arenas: circulation, material, and advertising revenue.
So why am I responding to Randy Lee's editorial in the May 2003 issue of Model Railroading, entitled "Competition... a Dirty Word?" Because model building is not a sport. Automobile racing is a sport. Baseball is a sport. Ice hockey is a sport. Writing poetry is not a sport. A sport is about performance; the others are about creating.
In this analogy, the designer of a race car is a creator. On the day of the race though, his creation is in the hands of the driver - the performer. His creation could be superior in every way to the other guy's, but if the other guy's driver is performing at 100% that day and yours is only at 93%, you lose the race. If the race were judged, they guy with the best car would win... but the race is raced... and the guy who crosses the finish line first wins, as it should be.
So why would we want anyone to judge our models for us? We don't race our models. Ok, some people do, but that's kind of a fringe thing :-) Most of us built them, create them, to please ourselves, to fill a spot on our layout roster, to recreate our past, or even just indulge a fantasy. We don't make them to beat someone else. We don't make them to score the most points on an arbitrary scale. An NMRA contest has more in common with a Senate committee meeting than it does with a sporting event.
The main purpose of Randy's editorial is to encourage participation in NMRA contests... he has noticed as we all have, that the number of entries is shrinking to the point that sometimes all one has to do to claim a blue ribbon is show up.
He offers a total of five different reasons he sees for this decline, which he separates into the old, or ever-present reasons, and two new ones he identifies. The old ones are, paraphrased: 1) Domination of contests by individuals; 2) Objection to the judging parameters; 3) Not enough free time. The new ones he offers are 1) The downplay of competition in the educational system, or discouragment of individual achievement in favor of mediocrity and 2) The high quality products now available for the modeler.
Certainly all of these reasons are valid, and any one of them might be primary for a given individual. In particular, the high quality models - recently touted by one of Randy's regular authors - have really cut deeply into the concept of modeling as a means to an end. Many of us became modelers because we couldn't buy what we wanted... now that you can, fewer people will learn to build models. Overly simplistic explanation, but it essentially describes the phenomenon. But let's take a look at the classic reasons, which have become cliche's and I love to take a closer look at cliche's.
Now quoting Randy directly:
"1) There have always been modelers who have dominated contests. While some modelers have been discouraged because they felt they could never compete with (insert name here), others have used that person as a benchmark for excellence."
Every one of us knows what a contest prima donna is. There are guys who build only for the contest, and if there is no award, they don't show up. But this statement is built around the notion that winning the contest is all important, and if a win isn't possible, why show up at all?
The NMRA says that modelers who don't win can learn something from the judge's scores and comments. Is that so? Interesting theory, and maybe someone out there has actually experienced this. From what I've seen of the NMRA judging process, any critique, points off, or commentary from the judges is likely to be VERY old news to the builder of the model. Suffice it to say, we all judge outselves and others' work whether we do it out loud or not. I am not a trained NMRA judge, I don't know what much of their criteria is. It's actually kind of a boring read. But I can tell you this... I can look at Dave Hussey's SD39, and in about 20 seconds it's fairly obvious to me that it's a better model than anything I ever built. I have nothing to be ashamed of, and if I want to learn something, I'm going to look at Dave's book of pictures and drawings he made for fabricating the model, ask him questions, etc... that is 100 times more valuable to me than a judge's comment that I could have had five extra points for scratchbuilding the pilot faces and that I got 3 points off for orange peel on the gray paint on one side.
This feeds on into the next cliche', again I quote:
"2) There have always been those who object to how the judging is done. The perfect way to judge a modeling contest will never be found."
Certainly a true statement. I've listened to the debate year in, year out about model contests... judges play favorites, judges who love color will never give an award to an old black Pennsy diesel no matter how well done, too much emphasis on scratchbuilding, too much emphasis on prototype conformity, not enough emphasis on prototype conformity. Same for photo contests. And any other form of "creative competition" in which the winner is decided subjectively rather than by a clock or a tape measure.
But, I submit that there IS a perfect way to judge: DONT. The result of judging has always been the same, and will remain the same: A winner, multiple losers, and more arguments about the judging process.
The third reason, having to do with available time and resources, is a fact of life but also variable on an individual basis. Today baby boomers have more money than time. As we begin to retire, that situation will be reversed. And it will be interesting to see how we use our time then.
The basic premise of the editorial, to encourage people to stretch themselves, take some chances, challenge themselves to build better models - that's great, and I agree totally. But to mandate a connection to the NMRA contest process, or to imply that avoiding the contest is somehow cowardly, or indicative that we are all just happy, politically correct mediocre modelers, is way off base.
I know this, because I've been to many regional weekend prototype modeling meets, none of which have judged contests, and these meets attract dozens of modelers and HUNDREDS of fabulous models. Randy doesn't come to these meets, or feature them in his magazine... although he does usually visit the RPM display at the NMRA nationals. The other magazines all cover these meets, at least some of the time, and often send a representative and in one case even co-sponsored a meet. Randy, you are just plain missing the boat if you are looking for all the good models in the NMRA contest room!
I don't know if my theory about the dwindling contests is correct, I only know my own reasons for not participating. That, and the inescapable fact that when the contest element is removed, all kinds of modelers, from beginners to the very very best bring out their wares to share, in a relaxed atmosphere. More like a lodge than a library... more like a lounge than a morgue.
Randy Lee, put yourself to the test. Come to Cocoa Beach. Or Naperville. Or La Habra. Or Savannah. Or Cleveland. You're the only one suffering, because you're clinging to the past. Model building isn't a sport. Of course if you come to a meet and bring your camera, you're going to have to choose between upwards of 500 models as to which to feature in your magazine... there won't be any blue ribbons to tell you which ones are "best", you'll have to decide that on your own. Like the rest of us.
Andy ----------------------------------------------------------- http://www.duckcreek.org - Pre-Interstate Urban Archaeology -----------------------------------------------------------
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"Andy Harman"

Just to burst that bubble, several years ago, some formula one driver had just won a big American roundy go roundy oval race (Indy 500?) when he was asked by the excited reporter, "How difficult was the race to win.", or something along those lines. To which the driver replied, "If you don't know how to turn left, if you don't have the fastest car and if you get into an accident, it's very difficult to win."
Unless you talking about F1 et al, where the fastest car doesn't always win and the driver's skill really makes a difference.
-- Cheers Roger T.
http://www.highspeedplus.com/~rogertra /
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On Thu, 3 Jul 2003 23:02:11 -0700, "Roger T."

Performance also includes not wrecking, and includes the performance of the pit crew and mechanics on race day, all elements out of the hands of the car & engine designer. It's not the best analogy, but it's all I could come up with. I just feel that what makes competition work is the objective measurement, and the performance in the moment - if a runner sets a new record for the 100-yard dash, he knows he did it for real, and for the most part, it's indisputable. Compare that to the difference between the gold medalist and the silver medalist in figure skating. If one of the judges thinks one of the skaters looks like a girl that once snubbed him in high school, it might make the difference between a gold and a silver. But if an Olympic referee thinks the same thing of a sprint runner, and she wins the race anyway... tough!
I feel that assigning a point value to a creative work is demeaning to all involved, because the universe has yet to produce a single objective tool for the measurement of art. I consider a hand made model to be a work of art, whether it's scratchbuilt or kit built or kitbashed. Very little can be measured objectively. You can check this or that dimension, but how do you assign value? Is a correct cab wall thickness worth more than correct headlight diameter? Does prototype color chip matching (under full sunlight) make up for trucks that don't float on their springs like the prototype? The very idea of someone making up such a list is patently absurd if you think about it for very long, but that is pretty much how contest rules are formed... and amended, and debated... forever.
I have a certain admiration for people who excel at conformity. Winning an NMRA contest is a process of which model building is only a part. The model cannot even be started until the point system is understood, so that every decision can be made to maximize the score, and then of course it must be implemented in such a way that the judges can find no fault with it. In many ways, it's like taking a college course. As every student knows (whether they admit it or not), the object of EVERY class is to give the professor what he wants... even if you could get far more knowledge and valuable experience by doing the opposite. The reward is in the conformity. I resent the exclusive use of the word "excel" by acedemians who limit it to their own conventions. The word means "rise above", not "fit perfectly".
I was saying though, I do have admiration for those who can do it, it's neither right nor wrong just another state of being... and one I don't belong in :-) My daughter is in graduate school right now, on top of nearly full time employment, and being a full time wife and mother. I have looked at some of her work - I type 35 wpm and have been called upon more than once for data entry - and just from looking at the material she is wading through, I know I'd have given up in disgust long before I got to where she is at now. But you know what... I am damn proud of her. She's doing something no one else in the family has done - finished a 4 year college degree, and gone on. I hate to imagine what things could be like for her had she tried to do it my way. Ok, I can imagine, a little :-) It's kind of as bad or worse than what happened when I tried to do it her way, back in the 1970's. I will likely remain a computer programmer, with approximately one year of college, working for very small companies or totally independent (as I was for 11 years), and she'll have a PhD and may end up working in a very large organization, even a government job. Thank God there are diverse people to fill diverse jobs.
So... all that said, I have an admiration for those who have jumped all the hoops and gotten their MMR from the NMRA, or anyone who has dotted the I's and crossed the T's to win the contest. It's just got nothing to do with why I build models.
Andy
----------------------------------------------------------- http://www.duckcreek.org - Pre-Interstate Urban Archaeology -----------------------------------------------------------
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On Fri, 04 Jul 2003 07:45:02 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@notmail.com (Andy Harman) wrote:

Andy's comments were very valid and interesting, but a bit long for a response. Hence, the snip.
I think that one of the (if not THE) biggest factor was missed. That of the individual and his/her approach to modelling, sport and life. Some of us, for whatever reason, cannot help being competitive. To them, it is the raison d'etre for life itself. They can't help themselves, they just have to compete. In just about any sphere.
I have a very close friend, who I will defend to the death (unless it's with his other friends, then we have a great time pulling him to bits.) But a more competitive individual I have yet to meet. Not about winning, though that's added sauce, but competing. The need to prove oneself, over and over again. I bet a psychiatrist would have a field day with him. Doesn't alter the fact that he is still a very good friend, and hasn't altered one bit our friendship over some 30 years. He's just competitive, I don't have a competitive bone in my body.
Competitions? I look at the models (they're always worth looking at) but I couldn't tell you who won. Not unless it is draped with a 3 metre long gold sash, with Imperial Reserve Best-In-Show Champion All-Time of the Universe imprinted thereon, wrapped around it. And then I either:
a> Laugh, or
b. complain, cause I can't see the model for the sash.
But I bet Life's Competitors get a great kick out of entering. Ah, well, whatever rows your boat. I's been here too long to get upset about it.
Steve Newcastle Oz
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(Andy

Bottom line...to each his own, whatever floats your boat, etc. The exact same commentay runs through the classic car hobby. Some go in big time for competition as to best restored/maintaind vehicle, others like to drive them. In the end, its a hobby and each person should be free to do what they wish...including trying to recruit additional contest entries as long as the recruitment is not an effort to demean those that chose not to.
Cheers and celebrate the 4th...America's birthday, a great place to live, debate, and just do whatever pleases you to a degree that no other country in the world permits.
Bill Sohl
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Gee, Roger ... and I was set for a day of fun. At least help me dispel the myth a bit... I'm sure other lands permit other types of foolery that perhaps aren't lawful here, no doubt. Please advise.
It's just the frightfully long lines of folks by the millions that are coming here that begs the question: " Is anyone literally dying to get into your country?" _________ (insert favorite place here)
Regards, Steve Lynch

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things I used to be able to do and now cannot without breaking the law. Mostly to protect me from myself (also known as maximizing insurance company profits).< Being of similar age (a little younger) and keeping with the season I'll give you one. If I lit a firecracker today I would go straight to jail.
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On Fri, 04 Jul 2003 17:37:42 GMT, "Steven Lynch"

I'm guessing he was referring to (among others) his home, and mine, Canada.

I hate to argue about something like this on such a significant day for you, but take a look at this http://www.cbc.ca/news/america/finaldata.pdf poll, especially pages 25-29.
The full report is here http://www.cbc.ca/news/america/index.html
By the way, Happy Independence Day. I hope you have as good a time as I had on Canada Day.
Kent
--

Kent Ashton | http://members.shaw.ca/kjashton -personal
snipped-for-privacy@shaw.caNADA
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It's the, to paraphrase, "Just to do what pleases you......no other country permits".
That's just not true. There are many other countries that have the same freedoms, some more in fact, than the U.S.A. does.
Heck, at least in Canada and the UK you could freely be a member of the Communist Party, illegal in the U.S.A. I gather.

into
Millions?
Mainly starving people from Mexico looking for a better life. If Mexico bordered Canada, they'd be flocking here to.
Anyway. None of this really matter.
Have a great fourth.
-- Cheers Roger T.
http://www.highspeedplus.com/~rogertra /
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It was never illegal to my knowledge, but 50 years ago if Joseph McCarthy heard about it, he'd have you over to a pig roast, and you'd be the pig. It's never been illegal AFAIK, but at some times more than others, extremely frowned upon.
Jay Modeling the North Shore & North Western C&NW/CNS&M in 1940-1955 Due to spam, all e-mails except those from selected addresses will be refused. Thanks for your understanding.
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I make a statement it's a bubble...? <G> Aren't the economic reasons a major freedom in and of itself (in comparison to some other locales?) I sure agree with the last statement below as I watch it erode along with you.
Roger is right, let it go.... In fact, shame on me for getting off trains and starting this mess.
Best, Steve Lynch www.trainsarefun.com www.NYandW.com

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I know a guy who collected 1:25 scale model cars, as I was at the time. He showed me a few pieces he had worked on including a dragster chassis with an incredibly detailed cockpit. But no engine, no wheels, no body. He'd go to contests and then shoot off his mouth that the only reason he didn't enter was because the prize wasn't big enough. "If they want to see my stuff, they gotta open the wallet up". I guess nobody could afford it, because I never saw a finished model from this guy. The only competition he participated in was the race to see who could grab the best stuff first at a swap meet.
A few years ago, he sold most of his model car stuff and "got into N scale". Since then he has been buying Kato and Micro Trains stuff by the case. I don't think any of it has ever been out of the box.
I spent a miserable summer addicted to video games. That was 1981. Every evening you could find me playing Space Invaders, Galaxian, or Gorf. The latter had a joystick control, and at some point I had to learn to play it left handed because my right arm was too sore to move it anymore. The joystick had only 3-4 inches of travel, I was moving it farther, which meant rocking the whole machine, which gets a little tiring on the biceps. I made some pretty high scores on those machines. It was probably the worst summer of my life, because I accomplished absolutely nothing. At some point - probably around the time I got thrown out of a bar for punching the Galaxian machine - I stepped back and said whoa, this just isn't worth it. I pretty much haven't played a video game since, but I've occasionally had fits of addiction to computer games, like Tetris... one version we had at a place I worked 13 years ago had the high scores file shared on a network, and I made it my priority to not only keep the high score in my name, but to knock everyone else completely off the top 10 board. Which I did, for weeks at a time. One day I came in and found my name completely gone off the board... thanks to a text editor and an easy hack. We had a good laugh about it, and again I realized... so what? And these games *are* competitive in the sense that model building is not, because they are about in-the-now performance, not a sitting judgment of a creative work.
There is not a week goes by someone doesn't look at me cross-eyed and say, "You never played xxxxxx?" You know what? I have never played Microsoft Train Simulator either. Among the guys I operate with, maybe half of them are into it... but when I come over, it's for the socialization and to run my models, not to play on a computer. TrainSim is the kind of program I'd rather write than use.
Andy ----------------------------------------------------------- http://www.duckcreek.org - Pre-Interstate Urban Archaeology -----------------------------------------------------------
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"If you don't know how to turn left" says a lot. Boris would be driving a Cup car if he was good at turning left.
Andy makes some interesting points. This sport of model railroading wouldn't be what it is now without competition. How many times have we read an article in a model railroad mag that "raises the bar"?
George

into
win
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On Fri, 4 Jul 2003 07:05:47 -0400, "George"

This kind of competition is more internal, and more of a rivalry because if someone "raises the bar", generally everyone knows it. No judicial panel to declare one better than the other.
Andy
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I've seen many races where the fastest pit crew won the race, not the driver.
NASCAR guys always say "the race is 90% set-up, 10% driving", meaning if the car isn't dialed in just right, the driver can't do a thing with it. I've played Papyrus' NASCAR simulator, and they're right. If your set up isn't right, the car won't turn worth anything. The set up also has to match your driving style; do you go gradually into a turn or do you throw the car into the turn at the last second? Decelerate through the turn, or accelerate out? All that plays a part.
Jay Modeling the North Shore & North Western C&NW/CNS&M in 1940-1955 Due to spam, all e-mails except those from selected addresses will be refused. Thanks for your understanding.
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On 05 Jul 2003 22:43:24 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@aol.composition (JCunington) wrote:

That fits nicely with my analogy, because the pit crew is as much a part of race day performance as is the driver. In line with true competition, it's a very much head-to-head, in-the-moment kind of thing. A creative "competition" such as a model contest, the creator isn't even a participant on the day of the actual "event".
Andy ----------------------------------------------------------- http://www.duckcreek.org - Pre-Interstate Urban Archaeology -----------------------------------------------------------
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On Fri, 4 Jul 2003 11:55:14 -0400, "Dennis E. Golden"

This is very true, and because I will soon be entering the design phase for a long-dreamed layout, I will be paying much more attention to layout design and construction details than I have in the past.

RPM was created as an alternative to the NMRA contest in 1985, and I think that it has left many NMRA stalwarts with the impression that's ALL that RPM is, or was - just a rebellion against the NMRA judging system. I wasn't involved back then, so I can't really comment - I've been involved in RPM since 1995, and various other prototype modeling meets inside and outside the nebulous RPM banner, and I've found the interest drifting away from even the popular vote contest. There have been some arguments right on this forum about the popular vote thing being worse than a judged contest because the voters aren't "qualified", or the fact that everybody knows who built what, and it's more of a personal popularity contest. I tend to agree, which is why I have used whatever influence I have to drop the contest completely. St. Louis we had a very small turnout, and only a fraction of that turnout participated in the contest. And for 2002 and 2003 at the national, no contest at all. The Cocoa Beach, Naperville, and Cleveland meets have never had a contest at all, and WPM/La Habra dropped their popular vote contest last year.
There are some RPM-ers who still believe in the contests, and even some who still enter NMRA contests. One of them was totally convinced that there was something I was shirking by not entering my EL SDP45 in the NMRA contest at St. Paul. Of course the implication was, that I was afraid I'd lose. I did a mental assessment one time and I figured in a best-case scenario, that particular model would be worth about 75 points, due to use of commercial parts and some overall workmanship problems. I don't need to go through the process to know I'd lose, normally a national contest winner will pull 100+ points. But suppose I did win? Suppose I won not only the dubious "Diesel and Other" category, but the coveted Best In Show?
So*Fricking*What!
A couple of funny things would happen, like a model that isn't Santa Fe and that was on the cover of a rival magazine would probably get its picture in MR.

Even within RPM, the whole elitist thing is an ongoing battle. I can't control how other people behave, so the only thing I can do myself is to try not to act like an elitist. People on both sides accuse the other of being elitist, and people on both sides behave in such a way as to prove it true. There are even not two, but three prototype modeling factions now, and even though you could attend every single meet this year and not consciously be able to tell the difference, there is still some verbal sparring - yes even when the same people go to all the meets!
There is most certainly an anti-NMRA, reverse snobbery out there, and it's strong and large. I am not part of it, although simply by refusing to participate in this or that NMRA activity, it's easy to be lumped in with them. I've never found the middle of the road to be the broad, easy highway - it's more like walking a picket fence in bare feet. And sometimes you are forced to fall down on one side or the other, and when it happens, I do make the choice without apology. I'd prefer though, that the issue not be forced. This year, for the second year in a row, Cincy Div. 7 NMRA is forcing me to choose between a really good local show I've been doing for over 20 years, with local friends, or Naperville, arguably _the_ premier prototype modeling meet. Last year I stayed in Cincy, with the promise that the date would be moved for 2003. It wasn't, so this year I go to Naperville. Next year, I don't know - I reserve the right to make each decision as it comes. If going to Naperville is anti-NMRA snobbery, so be it... the local organizers have much more to worry about than one guy's schedule conflict. But that one guy is now out of the local loop after 24 years in it.
Andy
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RPM? What does it mean, never heard of it.
wrote:

RR
contest,
the
as
pompous,
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On Fri, 04 Jul 2003 19:08:28 GMT, "Patrick Carcirieri"
It stands for Railroad Prototype Modelers. Originally it was founded in 1985 as Modern Prototype Modelers, as an alternative to the NMRA contest, which strongly favored steam era and scratchbuilding, over modern era and kitbashing (or other construction methods). It became RPM to encompass all eras and scales. RPM is an unofficial organization that primarily comes together once a year at the NMRA nationals to have our own display. The main theme is modeling after the prototype - as opposed to proto-freelancing, freelancing, fantasy, or whimsy. No minimum standard, no dues, you are a member if you say you are. Originally there was a popular vote contest, which was a peer vote - not just anyone could vote, but you had to have entered a model in order to vote. In recent years this had been dropped from most events, but it's up to the individual who runs the meet.
Several other meets use the RPM banner, some don't, but the overall context is the same - they are weekend meets held at various locations around the country, often with a nationwide draw. These meets are sponsored and facilitated by an individual or a small group of individuals. RPM is just a convention TLA (Three-Letter Acronym) do describe that type of meet, and modeling philosophy.
Web site is out of commission right now, I'm working on getting it moved to my own server so this doesn't happen again :-)
Andy
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RPM shows are not judged? Are they just shows and not contests? (Note I am not, repeat not, going to, trying to, wanting to, or any other to, get into the RPM debate again). Just curious.
Of some small note, the model of the month in MR Magazine is no longer around. I wonder if that is just a space saver or part of the same issue?
snipped-for-privacy@notmail.com (Andy Harman) wrote in message

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