The Experiments – Part One

My friends on Facebook have seen a little graphic experimentation conducted on that social media site over the last couple of weeks. It’s time to explain what they saw and why it was there.

It started here on WordPress a few weeks ago when I posted a column about a collection of toys at a model car club. They were tiny replicas of the Dodge that featured in the ” Dukes Of Hazard ” television show. It’s the orange one with the Confederate flag on the top and ” General Lee ” on the side. The column was headed by this image:

Pretty small and awfully fuzzy – I forgot to focus – but sharp enough to trigger some sort of response in the Facebook machinery*. When the column was automatically shared to Facebook the image was replaced with a generic picture of my studio card.

I was pretty sure it was the blobs of pixels representing that flag, as it is so controversial in America. But I was amazed that such a small and innocent picture could get banned. And it raised the question of whether someone sits in an office somewhere tut-tutting and blue penciling everything that comes by  – or if there is a computer program that searches pixel by pixel.

And further – if there is a magic eye censor peering all the time, what exactly is it peering at? Colour? Shape? Pattern? Position? Is it looking at all the faces on Facebook and censoring out the ones it doesn’t like? I determined to experiment by posting a patch of colour or a pattern each day on their main site to see when and if it would be removed. And I didn’t just use the colours of the flag – I used colours that had been chromatically reversed in the Photoshop palette as well.

Note for the virtuous: I do not condone the use of the Confederate flag for nastiness in North America at all – I think it is abhorrent. Outside of that continent it is irrelevant – and I note that nearly everywhere has some graphic design that might be historic but is liable to be used for politics and social behaviour. We’ve got one that’s been seized upon down here:

That’s a Wikipedia image of the Eureka flag first flown in Ballarat during a 19th century gold-digger’s rebellion. It was a small flag and a small rebellion, but recently it has been used for a lot of union politics and pressure groups. It’s not a myth – you can actually go see the real thing in the museum there.

*  Note: If this panel of this WordPress posting is blank on Facebook, we’ll know the graphic censorship extends into the body of the essays as well as the header.

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Dancing Need Not Be A Worldly Thing

Hello.

Good to see you back. You managed to get through the gloom and cynicism of yesterday’s column and decided to try one more time. Hope the hangover’s not too uncomfortable…because the good news is, there is hope.

Not for everyone, mind. Not for the people who are determined to stay on the treadmill. Not for the people who want to trade their life for baubles and bangles ( unless they are belly dancers, in which case it becomes quite a sensible choice…). Not for cowards.

Because this column is going to challenge you to change your choreography – to dance in spite of the world. If you are a spiteful individual, come sit right down beside me here and we’ll begin.

If you’d like to do a certain dance in a certain way, and no-one else will reward, criticize, approve, or profit by  your performance…you are in a fair way to becoming a personality. If you go right ahead and do that dance, you’ll be a professional. If you do not care or notice anything that occurs after your performance, you’ll be an artist.

If your dance is the greatest thing since sliced bread, or just sliced bread, or not quite as good as sliced bread…and you are still determined to do it…good on you. Even if it is mouldy bread you are on the side of the angels… you can make penicillin out of it.

Dance for you. Dance where only you see the performance. Dance until you are satisfied with the steps, the metre, the music. Dance for God, and not His creatures. He’s a better audience…

The World-Travelled Hobby

Coventry, England…New York, USA…Perth, Australia. Well you don’t get ’em much further apart than that – and you don’t get a tale of resurrection in many other hobbies than that of vintage cars.

Oh, there are a lot of restoration services for antiques – businesses that rebuild cellos, escritoires, and clean oil paintings…but few actually go to the extent that car restorers do to get the objects of their affection back to new. The only other example I can think of is the aeroplane restorers and they have an even more difficult task as their end result needs to defy death and gravity as well as time.

Well, the best thing I can do for the Jaguar XK 120 Fixed Head coupe story is to show the sign that the owner placed in front of it. Judge for yourself the dedication of a Western Australian who not only repaired what was left over in California over two decades ago, but converted it expertly to right-hand drive. The only saving grace would have been the fact that there were many more of the XK120’s made as RHD originally that the parts would have been available…but I’ll bet they were pricey.

Beautiful lines, of course, but as they are so reminiscent of the luxury cars of the 1930’s you have to wonder if the designers’ minds had been set in this before the war and they could not retune themselves after. I think some of the construction methods were also in the same category but this might also have been to do with the British unions’ control of manufacturing and trades.

I was most impressed with the security taken to keep the wheel covers in place. Actually, I’d love to see wheel covers return to modern styles and don’t know why they have not. Perhaps the age of elegance has passed.

 

Before Cadillac Were Too Much To Swallow

I do not wish to be disloyal to the Cadillac motor car company or to the greater entity that is General Motors…but Cadillac has been too much for too long. Too big, to heavy, too much over the top in style and construction. This is not surprising, as it was promoted and eventually realised as the most expensive of the GM cars – a vehicle that would capture the imagination and the money of the rich and famous. It’s been outdone in this lately by the excessive offerings of Europe, but for a great deal of time it was the North American Rolls Royce – the one that the newly rich could actually get their hands on.

Wasn’t always so, and this delightful Cadillac Eight attests. There was a time when it was well-crafted motoring but could still be seen to be a normal design. Around the time of the First World War – 1915 –  this was their first 8-cylinder engine. Note the L-head design and the delightful priming ports for the cylinders. This sort of engine has been reliable for a very long time – enthusiasts have discovered examples that have not been fired up for 60 years and have gotten them running in short order.

The car is a tourer, obviously, and the sign at the front said that the body is an authentic example sourced from Boise, Idaho. Of course it shows a very great deal of attention to the upholstery and fitments but the casual onlooker might be surprised at what might seem sparseness in a Cadillac dash.

Thank goodness the restorers have opted for authenticity rather than modern convenience. Others are sometimes not so fastidious.

 

What Women Really Want

Okay…if you are reading this you are alive – If you are a platypus or a member of Federal Parliament…or both*…you are excused from having an opinion. The rest of you are going to have to pay attention.

You are going to have to do that dear old pulp-magazine thing of deciding what it is that women really want. ( Note the emphasized italics. This computer program will do that and it’s a lot of fun.)

Lay aside your critical faculties for a moment and indulge in internet mind-sludge. Open your eyes to the side-bar of things that are too good to be true and too true to be good. In a word; wallow.

We’ve been seeing headlines, leaders, paragraph headings, and footnotes for years that ask us to consider what it is that women really want. Then, after asking the question in bold yellow billboard type, the authors of the various pieces have told us what they want. The conventional wording of the essay pretends to put this into the mouths of the female sex, whether the writer shares those chromosomes or not.

The cynical amongst us are starting to believe this sort of journalism is no more that a mask for speculation and political footling – because who can speak for half of humanity spread over an entire planet? We cannot speak for our parents or our children, and frequently cannot speak for ourselves…even if we are the only ones listening.

So, how do you take the question? How do you answer it?

You take it person by person. If you want to know what one woman wants, ask her directly. What she wants may not be in your power to grant, but you can at least make an effort to try to supply any polite social request, and make it a personal thing. If she asks you what you really want, tell her. That’ll bring both of you to a point of actual  human contact.

Leave the slogans and memes to others.

*  Have we told you about the dual citizenship thing yet? The one that spans two or more species? Pull up a nest and sit down…

Am I A Clubman? – Part Five

The last question that you need to ask yourself is the first question you should ask. If you don’t know the answer you can call a friend. If you haven’t got any friends, you have your answer already.

Some people are born clubmen or clubwomen. They are loud, make friends easily, are unruffled, take hearty exercise, eat breakfast, produce bowel movements every day ( frequently at the same time…), and are kind to animals. They can stand for office, scrutiny, the flag, or any other thing that the club needs. They are extroverts. indefatigable, ineffable, and impossible to have anything to do with. You’re soaking in one now…

Other folks are born to be recluses – hermits – loners – individuals  – eccentrics – etc. They are generally distinguishable by the simplest senses – silent to the hearing, invisible to the eye, clammy to the touch, and slightly odorous. No-one has as yet tasted one, and no-one is about to start…

And there’s a lot of people in between. Most of us have aspects of each of these types within if we would only see and admit to them. And most of us can choose a club or organisation to suit our real personality. It might not be a fashionable or distinguished society we move in, but if we find genuine correspondence in a group – that is the one we should join. Here’s a few checkpoints for you when trying to match yourself to others:

a. DO I ENJOY LOUD NOISE? If yes, take up shooting. If no, take up reading. Read about shooting if need be.

b. Do I enjoy working with my hands? If yes, carpentry, model making, and any number of crafting clubs are ready for you. If no, run out on a field and hit a ball somewhere with something.

c. Do I enjoy thinking? Yes? Literary and intellectual clubs, political parties, business clubs call. No? Singing and drinking, eating and dancing are for you, and there are people who will help you do it.

d. Am I artistic? Yes? Go to the art store, spend a week’s wage, take the resultant small paper bag to an art society, and ask for help. No? Gardening’s for you – Nature will make what you cannot, and you can eat some of it.

e. Am I an opinionated smart-arse who wants to best everyone in argument? Yes? Become a member of a debating team or get your own secret identity as a troll on internet forums. No? Have you thought of joining a religious order? Or the Asian version…a religious suggestion?

f. Do I love sports? If the answer is yes, join a sports club. If the answer is no, get a competent surgeon to tear your cruciate ligament for you. The cost of the year’s membership to the sporting club or the operation will be about the same and the hospital is quieter than the club rooms.

Blindsided In The Big Bed

Some Sunday afternoons are dull times…particularly when the weather has closed in and there’s nothing new to see. You sort of languish. So you can understand why I was delighted with an invitation from one of Perth’s belly dance sorority to call at her studio and take some pictures of her class teachers – she said they were to be casual ones for studio records. No need for me to bring the entire lighting suite…

Well, you can’t be too casual. I worked out a good travelling two-light setup with the new camera and packed it into the car. I noted that there were a few cars out on the parking area at her place but whose they were didn’t register. I walked to the front door and rang the bell that didn’t seem to ring. Just as well someone was going by the hall at time and saw me waiting patiently on the doormat.

Well, I was ushered in gracefully by Belyssa and directed to go set my camera and lights down. She’s got a big, purpose-built, studio space in her home that has an exotic theme – it looked like there were plenty of spaces for a decent posed group once the others arrived. I asked, in a professional manner, how many were to be expected.

And that was the signal – Belyssa gave the high sign and they all flooded out of the kitchen. And I was gleefully informed that it wasn’t a professional call-out, but a party given in my honour. And that it was I that was to be photographed…

I take these things well – rarely falling to the floor unconscious. I also take well to a glass of red wine and a plate of snacks and the cheerful conversation of people who I had photographed in the dance business for many years. And there were a number of war stories about theatrical performances and costume embarrassments.

Then they dressed up, and dressed me up, and packed into the spare bedroom set and sat me up at the top of the bed and that’s the last thing I remember. I’m told I had a good time, and I’m prepared to believe it.

I shall never look at Sunday the same ever again.