Always Keep A Dead Idol Handy

All your life you have worshipped little idols. Even if the administrators of your main faith – the rabbis, priests, ministers, and mullahs – have cautioned you against it, you have still carried on. Clothing, entertainments, relationships, possessions, arts and crafts have all served as objects of worship at some stage of the game. And they have all fallen by the wayside eventually.

This is called getting older. Some people call it growing up, but that is more of a taunt than a tag-line. Maturity is the best way of looking at it, and if you can do so in a childish fashion you are winning.

The sport you loved, the car you desired, the culture you worshipped…they all pall in time. And this is as it should be. No-one can enjoy a smorgasbord if they just stand at the shellfish counter all the time – they need to move to the breads and the pickled herring and the princess cake, though not all at once…variety is needed, and you would do well to make sure that you get the same variety all the time.

When something falls away from your desire – when it becomes de trop instead of de thing – by all means usher it out of your life. You need not wear fluoro bell-bottom hipsters a moment longer than it takes to get you into bed with someone. Bell your bottom, if you will, but spare us the sight. Get over it – I assure you that the rest of us will. We are all too busy burying our own dead idols to worry about yours.

But keep a memento of the time. If it is only a badly taken Polaroid of you in the 70’s, it is at least a reminder of the hippie days and a talisman against them returning. You need not look at it more than once a decade, but don’t lose sight of where you came from and remember why you left.

Even dead idols have a place on the altar.

Let Me EnterPain You

And I’ll have a real good time, Yessir…

I think that was a line from the hit song ” Hey Big Miser ” but I could be wrong. It had a Shirley in it but I cannot tell you whether it was a Temple or a Bassey. Memory isn’t what it used to be…*

I have been watching the television in the corner of the lounge room for the last few days – in company with the rest of the family. They seem highly amused by it and from the sounds that come crashing out of the speakers set into the rear of the cabinet, there must be a great deal going on. Apparently murder and aliens accounts for about 60% of the culture of the nation, with the rest being made up equally of football, people cooking things while being yelled at, and snide comedians.

In a few weeks I will have worked my courage up to the point of being able to go round the front of the cabinet and see what is on the screen. Up until now the reflected light has been quite enough. I am encouraged in this by my wife who has promised that there are some shows that do not involve gasoline explosions or people break-dancing. I hope to be able to trust her…

In the meantime I shall catch up on my reading. I have just finished a pot-boiler by Emil Zola and had to down a quick book of scientific quotations to quell the nerves. English novelists of the Victorian era are fine workers and I am never so comforted as when I curl up in a warm bed with a fat Trollope, but the French are altogether more dramatic in print than anything on the Dover side of the channel. I guess it is all the red wine they drink.

French or English, the thing I do like about a book as opposed to a moving screen, is the way a book will pause and wait for you to catch up. It may still take you on desperate adventures, but can do it in stages like a county bus. Televisions just whirl you away like a Greyhound in the night and if you cannot see fast, you do not see it all. Plus, I find that most screenplays are aimed at Shetlands while I am riding a higher horse.

*  It never was what it was, even when it was.

A Foot In Many Camps*

The dual citizenship game is heating up.

New Zealand apparently regards anyone who has ancestors or close relatives who were or are New Zealand citizens as ” citizens by descent “. They have put up an advertisement promising them a passport if they register. Many of my friends who have some sort of Kiwi connection are delighted with this. I am going to take leave to be horrified…in a kindly and genteel way.

It’s not New Zealand – that is a wonderful place full of wonderful people – it’s the concept of someone declaring you to be something…in this case a citizen… without you having a say in it. It comes very close to someone declaring you to be something else , good or bad, that you have no say in. Both actions can damage your life, if improperly applied.

In the case of Australians who wish to fully participate in their own nation’s political life, they have the problem of a flaw in the wording of the Australian Constitution that sets a wide prohibition to the ability to stand for election; no dual citizenship, and no hint of it by dint of entitlement or allegiances. Sounds good, but it means that if some other nation says you are eligible for dual citizenship –  EVEN IF YOU DO NOT TAKE THEM UP ON IT – that automatically cancels one of the most basic civil rights here.

That’s a flaw in our constitution. It needs mending…and soon.

Otherwise, the door is open to a number of abuses. A local political party could exploit some nebulous promise of foreign citizenship to deny Australians with New Zealand or Israeli or Greek connections a right to stand. A foreign government could target potential Australian political candidates who they do not want to see in power here by attaching a spurious dual citizenship to them. Even if it proved to be false, it might keep someone out of the hustings during an election. Talk about interfering with the polls…

Nope. Hands off our parliament and hands off our citizens. You’ve got enough on your plates in your own countries. It’ll be up to us to amend our constitution to show this up for the nonsense it is, and to grow up as our own legislature.

Note: This is not a push for any political party. It is a call for political independence. And for common sense.

*  But not in many mouths.

 

 

How To Be Correct Without Being Political

As a person who has done his fair share of offending people in his time, I think I am in a good position to advise others on how to avoid doing the same thing. I would hesitate to address friends about this but strangers may benefit from these handy hints:

A. Do not lie to people or about people. Do not lie on people. Do not lie to yourself.

B. Do not tell other people the truth about themselves. This may seem to be in direct conflict with rule A. above, but there is a delicate difference between telling the truth about where the nearest post box is located as compared to how flabby someone’s arguments are becoming. One’ll get you thanked and one’ll get you punched.

C. Do not present ‘ sights unbecoming ‘ to others on social media. These sights may include pictures of you, friends, or family doing things of a marginal nature. The images may amuse you but won’t have the same effect on others. Keep your peccadilloes hidden. Peccadillo sheaths are sold in all good ironmongers.

D. Do not repeatedly press political, religious, financial, sexual, theatrical, mechanical, or moral opinions on others. By all means state your support for triple-expansion steam valves, the Social-Endymionist Collective, or bi-metallism in a clear and honest manner, if you feel that the times have called upon you to do so. Once. Do it once, and all who know you, will know your thoughts. If you have any entrée to their minds, you will accomplish as much with one quiet message, as you could with the loudest and most repetitive tub thumping. And you will not risk driving them away.

E. Do not tell Irish jokes unless your name is Kelly and you come from County Mayo. Likewise any other joke that involves ethnicity or religion unless you are clearly speaking of yourself. Even then, be careful. Your fellow ethicists, co-religionists, or compatriots may be unwilling to laugh with you about your shared heritage – at least where others can hear. Some groups have no sense of humour about themselves.

F. Do not ape another culture. Even if you admire it and think it is cool and good-looking and wise and sexy. People who you might regard as exotically interesting may regard themselves as just home folks. In particular, do not use accents that are not your own. No-one from Scotland ever wants to hear you speaking in a Scottish accent and no-one from Mississippi ever wants to hear you speak in a fake Southern drawl.

If you would like to test this out without getting punched, try the experiment of going to someone in your own ethnic or national group and speaking to them in a parody of your own shared native accent. Their reaction will be real, and that’s what other people will really think of you ” doing ” their accent.

This is entirely separate from trying to learn a foreign language, and attempting to speak to someone in their own tongue, and getting it horribly wrong. No-one is offended with this…with the possible exception of the French…and even they will patiently try to correct your pronunciation. If you are trying to meet others half-way they all recognise it.

G. Do not ‘ share ‘ internet memes that say the nasty things that you really want to say but cannot bring yourself to utter. It is recognisable cowardice as well as offensive. And it leagues you with some of the vilest minds in society.

Well, that should help a little. It is not the complete Emily Post, but in trying times it may smooth out your social picture and hide a few of the creases. Remember that nothing ever truly goes away on the internet, so if you plan you run for office either here or in your other country, be sure that your Facebook and Twitter will find you out. Mind you, you might get away with it for years and at a Senate or White House salary, that makes a pretty good nest-egg.

Citizenship…Getcha Red Hot Dual Citizenship Right Here…!

Australia has laws against duelling. You’re not allowed to face opponents at dawn with a pistol or sabre. Many of us think this is a case of the courts being awfully small-minded and trying to reserve all the business of solving disputes to itself.

The federal government as well, is being mean about people who are also citizens of other nations. They are debarred from holding public office and recently we have seen the start of a widespread campaign to investigate state and federal members of parliament and to call them out about it. Two have picked their hats out of the ring and slunk off.

It has even got to the point where people are worried that the nationality of their parents or grandparents will be invoked to make them dual citizens unbeknownst and thus foul up their political careers. ” Citizenship by ancestry ” may sound charming if you fancy a holiday somewhere and don’t want to stand in the foreigner’s queue at the airport, but it can also be turned rather quickly into a tar brush rather than a rubber stamp if it suits someone’s purpose.

When you start to divide up ancestries and parcel them out you can do all sorts of things.  “Half-Greek ” might still make you liable for the army. ” Half-American ” might make you liable for the IRS. ” Half-French ” might make you liable to be insulted by waiters.

Let’s not even get into ” Half-Muslim ” or ” Half-Jew “, or half of any other religion. No-one who uses this sort of terminology will be doing it for any good purpose.

” Half-Breed ” is just foul.

If we must split people’s lives and families and re-combine them to suit our own purposes, let us divide them along the lines of personality. I have always considered that I had a wide view of life but was unable to fully realise my plans. So I might be said – instead of being vast – to be half-vast.

I am content with this. At least half-way…

Note: This writer is a nationalised Australian as of 1970, has definitely given up any other citizenship, and has stamped papers from two governments to prove it. None of the countries that played host to his parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents have ever been asked to grant him a dual, treble, or quadruple citizenship. Indeed, when I visit their embassies they turn off the lights and hide behind the sofa until I stop ringing the doorbell.

 

The Rivals

I am generally out of touch with social networks in my town – and with business affairs, cultural groups, and academic circles. I can be said to pretty much live in an intellectual bubble that is insulated from the rest of Western Australia. I have never been happier.

It is not that I do not welcome social interaction on a personal level – a conversation, a joke, a shared cup of vitriol. It livens up a day that might otherwise be given over to dragging a plough through flinty soil then falling exhausted into a ditch at nightfall. Retail trade was like that…

But being unaware of the world has the delightful advantage of rendering me neutral, by virtue of ignorance, in most of the deadly competitions and rivalries of the day. I can be in the company of people in my old trades – dentistry and retail photography – while they are frostily ignoring each other or cattily circling for commercial information…and I am unconcerned. If I occasionally ask one about the affairs of the other, casually revealing the extent of their spy network and causing alarm bells to go off in the mind of the listeners, it is all innocent. Perfectly innocent.

And then there are the firms that rep for other firms – the agency men. I’m old and I forget things and I cannot be held responsible if I blurt out secrets of the delivery date of a product to someone else in the mistaken belief that they are the firm handling the account. One lens can look very much like another when it is top secret and hush hush.

Likewise, I can hardly be expected to be up to date with all the staff hirings and firings unless someone tells me and generally they tell me only when a coroner’s report is delivered or a trial date is set.

Of course, once I have been entrusted with a secret I am the soul of discretion. Wild horses could not drag the parlous financial situation of ———- from my lips. Who knows, they may trade out of it.

It always pays to play fair.

The Little World – When You Cross the Line…

The line? The line between a toy and a model. And who says that you only have to cross it in one direction…?

I purchased a number of Schleich dinosaurs and animals to help with my studio composites. They are a wonderful toys – well-modelled and painted, and as real as anything you can purchase in the stores. For a person who does not do figurine painting or modelling, they are a godsend. I freely confess to admiring the horses and ponies as much as any 9-year-old girl would.

When I saw a Schleich tank-trailer in the shop I grabbed that, and had a glorious time dirtying it up as a oil tanker. The fact that it is 1:16th rather than my preferred scale of 1:18th is neither here not there – I can position it in studio shots to make it any scale I wish. Far better to be larger and more detailed than the other way around, I find.

Then I googled around to the toy stores in the eastern states and found a Schleich barn. It is a beauty, but up until now has taunted me with a plastic-play appearance, even though it is largely made of wood. One week I set out to remedy that. My only problem was that I had no idea what a barn looked like or what the various bits did.

Oh. I knew that the Scheich horses and cows fit in there – I tried them for size. And I get the idea of putting real beasts under shelter in the northern winters – but the ins and outs of doing it were a mystery. I started with airbrushing the plastic base inside with a varied mixture of dung-brown colour and left it at that. The only other interior bit I felt confident about was to scribe wooden floorboards into the loft. I painted the pulley of the barn lift a rusty iron colour.

The roof came as three pieces of 5-ply in blond wood. I printed out sheets of shingles with a wood-grain pattern onto matte inkjet paper and glued them in rows to the ply roof. And then weathered it with moss stain between the shingles. The theme for the barn is dirt and age.

The external walls remained in their wooden form – I didn’t incise them for boards for fear of spoiling the surface – either it had to be smooth toy or perfect model. The plastic masonry, on the other hand, got some pretty rough stonework painting in matte and then the mossy green as grouting flowed down the channels between stones. Then green moss spray from the bottom and dust from the top with the airbrush.

I also researched period barn stickers with advertisements for suitable rural specialties like Red Man cut plug tobacco and possibly a Dr. Pepper sign. I tried the experiment of making these sorts of signs as stickers rather than decals…. the idea was to make up sets that can be stuck on or removed depending upon the era that the barn depicted. I could not made up my mind whether to have a Pennsylvania hex sign on the end or not…

I can hear the farmers amongst my readership laughing at my amateur efforts but I assure you that when the farm ute and the tractor are posed there it will all look as rural as hell.