The Curse Of the Graphic Memory And The Art Library

People often use the cliché that what has been seen cannot be unseen. Like all clichés this it true, trite, and trash at the same time. Lots of things once seen are never seen again…and the effort to find them uses up whole afternoons.

Some people search for lost keys, sunglasses, and such. They go through all the conventional search patterns, from methodical to frantic, and most times the offending object eventually does turn up.

I search for images that have been seen in art books, catalogues, monographs, etc. The field of endeavour is constrained – my own library – and the books in it very rarely go anywhere. But I suspect the wretched things of passing the images to and fro between themselves to subvert me. I go looking for a perfectly remembered picture in the most logical book there may be – a catalogue or biography of the artist – and it is not there.

In the past I have then gone to the next most logical place and then the next, but I’ve finally come to realise that this is fruitless – the pictures have flitted and I might as well just start at the A section and look at every page. No sense trying to second-guess it. The sensuous nude is as likely to be on page 567 of a book on compound steam engines as it is in the pin-up magazine.

I’m sure there is a digital solution to this all…some type of sorting and cross-referencing  program that lets on talk into a tiny microphone and get the exact thing desired instantly. This must be possible – it works when you want a hamburger sandwich and some french-fried potatoes.

Perhaps I need to hire a minimum-wage librarian. Or buy a better-quality brain.

 

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The Authentic Fake News Site Vs The False-Flag Rumour Forum List Meme

If we were asked to characterize the social media that we use – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. – in terms of food, what would we make it out to be?

a. Facebook: A crusty stew with appetizing aromas at the edges – aromas that never actually seem to be there when you search for them. The occasional bubble in the centre indicating heat. And a roiling mass of unsavoury ingredients just under the crust. Cat hair here and there. And unicorn glitter.

b. Twitter: A Pez dispenser. You poke the ornamental head at the top and a hard pellet of opinion is popped out of the screen. Some of the pellets taste like sugar and some of them taste like horse shit. None of them do you any good at all.

c. Instagram: Magnificently plated, superbly coloured, and unavailable to someone like you at this time. Just look and envy.

d. Pinterest: The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence and so is the food. The reason is mould. Subscribe now.

e. The personal blog: Someone’s home cooking. Not necessarily bad, but nevertheless someone else’s pots and pans. Taste at your peril. They may not be a good cook. You may not be a good eater.

If we had been presented with today’s social media news in the 1950’s or 1960’s we would likely have recognised it for what it is – propaganda and commercial promotion. The flimsiest of the flam. Those of us who saw the lies when they came on newsprint and left ink stains on the fingers…or who waded through innumerable cigarette advertisements in magazines…react entirely differently to those who have only ever seen a screen. We may not know how to turn that screen on and make it dance, but we know when to turn it off and do our own thinking.

Of course we can be wrong when we do that – original thought can be as bad as the store-bought stuff – but as we use simpler ingredients and have less access to processors, it is likely to be fresher and tastier. It may lack the salt and scandal that is added by unknown hackers but it nourishes us just the same.

Bit riskier when we send it to our friends and neighbours, though. As our own thoughts are unlikely to be covered by the legal indemnities enjoyed by professional liars, we are in danger of being detected and having our opinions challenged. Most of us have no biased reports or dodgy scientific studies to back us up and common sense has long been discredited as a way of living. The best we can do when some other madman challenges our own mania is throw out a smokescreen of kitten and Hitler memes and close the account.

Anyone who either agrees or disagrees with this will be instantly defriended with the prickly end of an emoji.

May Contain…

The following post may contain sex scenes, nudity, violence, drug use, coarse language and reference to people who are dead.

Or not.

I live a life that does not contain much of the above, because I am careful to avoid it. Just as I am careful to avoid soggy egg sandwiches in a service station cabinet, or people with tinfoil helmets on their heads, or families who have the Protocols of Zion embroidered on a sampler in the hallway. I am not stupid. I can recognise trouble before it recognises me, and I am not at all hesitant to light out for the hills.

So why would I watch a television drama that warns me beforehand that just such hazards await me? Why would I consider the lives portrayed on the television screen to be valid models for me? What goodness can they possibly offer that will offset the vile stuff? I am starting to think that it is time to pull the plug and put the telly out on the verge for the council to collect.

T’was not always thus. I loved telly in the 1950’s and 1960’s when our family landed up somewhere that had regular reception. I knew all the game shows, comedians, and serials. As none of them swore, flashed their minges at me, or showed me how to beat up my grandmother efficiently, I was perfectly happy. I even sat through the advertisements in a golden glow. I will admit to a little screen-driven consumerism but it generally peaked at breakfast cereal with plastic frogmen inside.

Australian television was always cruder, weirder, and more touching than the US or Canadian stuff. It had none of the sophistication of British telly. But it did have the local scenery sometimes and it also had access to unknown video fodder from Japan at a time when nothing foreign was seen elsewhere. I am glad I saw it before it changed to colour, and I am also glad that I have seen enough of it now that it has.

The simple act of passing swiftly by it without a second glance is guaranteed to give you at least 4 hours more of hobby, reading, drinking, or sex time in the day. If you are really efficient you can combine all the activities at the same time. Oh, you may have to clean up stray paint spills or untangle your partner from the ceiling fan, but this is small beans compared to the extra time you gain. And the wonderful thing is that you never have to worry who gets killed off in a series – they can all go take their unemployment cheques for all you need care. There are no spoilers.

How about the art telly, I hear you say? The European films? Well, I have seen Spaniards having existential angst and Frenchmen sitting around a dinner table smoking a number of times and that pretty much does it for me. Any further repeats would just spoil the initial low impression. Likewise Chinese dating shows, international football, and Canadian films that have a soundtrack done by Larry Adler.

The Little World – Flat, Flatter, Flattest

No, I’m not referring to paint finish. Flat should mean flat in any case there. Of course it is also mixed in with matt, matte, eggshell, lustre, and a number of other descriptive words. When in doubt, paint a sample.

I really mean the basic necessity for all scratch or kit builders…a flat surface. Some portion of the big world upon which to erect some portion of the little one. It is closely aligned to the other necessity – a right angle. These sound easy enough to do but practice shows how hard it is to get them.

Model airplane builders need a flat base to act as a measurement basis for the curves of the fuselage and the angle of the wings. They need a flat base for the undercarriage, and a level flat base to set up the aircraft. The vertical stations that might be measured on a plan need to rise from this base at 90 degrees.

The model ship builder needs that level ground to also establish rib positions. Unlike the  full-size counterpart, there’s no need to use gravity to slide the model into the water. so you don’t need to build on a slope.

The model architect absolutely needs a level flat base to raise walls and structures. Even if there isn’t a straight line in the building, the thing has to be vertical. Pisa was a mistake…and Gaudi a greater one…

My solution for my workshop has been to use a commercial whiteboard in a frame laid on top of a standard trestle table. It is a smooth Laminex surface bigger than any of the model foundations I use, supported with a 25mm-thick MDF board captured in a metal frame. Glue does not stick to it and when it is truly horizontal everything erected upon it is true as well.

Currently I use a small modeller’s set square for much of the setups, but will purchase a larger metal square in the future. You cannot have enough precision.

Note: the whiteboard is far larger than most building models but the extra room can be used to set up clamps and jigs to hold building components as they set. As long as I do not need to nail to it, I can build anything.

Fantasy For The Prosaic

Can it be that the makers of the fluoxetine medication known as Prozac were thinking of the English word ” prosaic ” when they named it? Given that the word means commonplace, dull, unimaginative, etc. and the drug is used to try to lift people from depression, it seems the wrong choice. I have no experience with depression, but I would have thought a more spirited name would be better…

Well, coming away from that speculation, today I would like to invite HAW readers to imagine what fiction they would read if they do not read fiction. What novel would rivet a person whose normal reading is a price list. If dry-goods clerks were fulfilled and satisfied with life behind the counter…what would they turn to in an idle hour?

It’s almost like the quandary that confidence tricksters are in when they have to figure out how to con an honest man. How do you inveigle away the mind of someone who has a mind that doesn’t want, or need, to go?

Well, back to our dry-goods clerk, or seed store employee – what you need to do as an author or bookseller is to capitalise on the mindset of the prosaic person to provide that stimulus. No good starting your novel out with ” It was a dark and stormy night…” if  the reader is normally home in bed on them, and perfectly happy. Worse – you might get a weather maniac who knows all the air-movement patterns over the eastern half of the continent and who will start up in indignation and throw it back on the remainder table when you try to describe something that is meteorologically impossible.

No – start your story out with lists of sensible things that a normal person would like to know. How to drive moths out of a pantry, or what the drying rate of acrylic paint is in June. Make sure you have correct technical information and do remember your punctuation. Then, after a chapter or two of ways to seal asphalt, you can introduce a girl with a heaving bosom – presumably after a day spent tarring a road. By that time the reader is fully into the swing of things and can accept a little romance – even if it is somewhat sweaty and tar-spotted.

Don’t try to stray too far from lists. Throw in a basic recipe every now and then. Describe the operation of a useful machine and its maintenance. You may wish to include the odd murder or seduction in case the book gets into the hands of children, but keep them simple and homely affairs.

The best thing about writing for the prosaic reader is the fact that most of the text can be drawn from cook books, mining manuals, and the Amanach de Gotha.

The Little World -The New Wonder Ingredient

Every time you pick up a Readers Digest there is another new drug on the market with a wonder ingredient. It used to be that these were found in petrol and bread…until we found out that the stuff we buy all comes out of the same vat. One tap dispenses petrol, one dispenses bread. You want to make sure you’re on the right end of the vat when you’re making a sandwich.

It is the same with the Little World – every now and then we get a special ingredient to work with. Once it was balsa wood. Then it became styrene. Then we saw ABS, cyanoacrylate glue, and acrylic paint come on the market. Each time the magazines went all out to use the new stuff in any way they could…and it took a few years before the bad uses were weeded out.

My new secret ingredient is foamcore board. Paper or cardboard sandwiching a dense plastic foam. I’ve found sheets of it in my local craft and art stores that run to 3mm, 5mm, and 10mm thickness. There are probably more types available if you know where to look. For my purposes the three noted are fine.

It is easy to cut, yet retains a surprising amount of rigidity. I use a sharp Exacto knife for the 3mm stuff, but a small table jigsaw for the two other thicknesses. As you can draw plans on the white outer coating with great precision using an ordinary propelling pencil, and the sheets present little resistance to the sawblade, you get very accurate parts. It is light to handle, as well, and you can steer the sheets through the throat of the saw easily.

Glueing is mostly a matter of using a white PVA glue – you can’t present the foam core with any sort of solvent cement. It just dissolves the foam and puckers in the paper wrapping. You can use balsa cement on the paper surface safely. The part that pleases me most is that you can force regular dressmaker’s pins through the sheets to hold them together while the glue sets. I leave some in for extra support as well.

Any cutting that you do on the sheet leaves a fine ragged edge to the paper, but you can smooth this very quickly with the emery sticks found in manicure sets.

Like any secret ingredient, you can have too much of it in a recipe. Every structure needs some re-enforcement where the foamcore gets thin…wooden strips work very well. MDF board makes a good base.

And one trick I have learned from the German model firm of Graupner – I make full-sized plans on sturdy paper and then transfer them to the foamcore with a pricker wheel or carbon paper. Done well, the transfer can stack a great deal more usable structure on the uncut sheet than just hacking off a part as you need it. The jigsaw cutting is accurate enough to get two good sides from one cut.

 

The Burden Of Genius

How can you sit there at your computer and read a title like that without writhing?

Who the hell is this bird anyway? What makes him think that he has any genius to bear?What the hell has he ever done?

As much and as little as anyone else. And I hasten to add that very little of it gave any evidence of genius. There was the average number of childs’ and youth’s successes and a hope of greatness that may have been held by my parents, but eventually they probably had to accept that I was just an ordinary Joe. I discovered it in my teens – and I can’t say that I was unhappy to do so…though I think I would have appreciated more brain power as a university student and more business acumen as a practitioner.

Probably the only real genius I have ever exhibited occurred when I discovered I could draw things in the margins of my school books and on pads of yellow paper. This went on to the ability to remember and reproduce line diagrams seen in textbooks, and this in turn to passing examinations based on the false assumption that anyone who could draw well knew the subject.

No. I knew the drawing. Later on in my career I would have to try to translate the drawing – that perfect clinical diagram – to the actual teeth, gums, cheeks, lips, blood vessels, and noses of the patients. Did you know that a high-speed drill will go through all of the above?

One day I was sitting at the dining room table with a pad of yellow paper and decided to test out my childhood ability to draw a circle freehand. After a few goes I got it. Then I decided to put two Disney eyes on it. And a hat. And from there it all took off. I found my own style of cartoon drawing – very crude by the standards of others – but made it serve me as a vehicle satire and jokes. I learned early on to draw myself in cartoon style and then used that as the basis for all the send-ups and pratfalls that poked fun at others.

It was profitable. I drew cartoons for my own profession’s gazette, then for hobby clubs, and eventually for a European toy manufacturer – they paid me handsomely in toys!

I have used the style here in this weblog column as Brother Stein, the sanctimonious Quaker and again for the commemoration of the start of WW1. It is still useful whenever I want to zing one past the censors here or on Facebook.

And the nice part of it – the simple Photoshop Elements drawing section contains most of the raw form shapes I need to continue the style long after my own hands go shaky. All I need to find is a suitable topic and away we go.