The Little World – Aardman

N0te: last week was grim here on HAW. This week is not  – this week is fun.

This post and several others will be springboarding on the back of real artists – the Aardman animation studios. I’ve been to see an exhibition devoted to their work and methods and I cannot praise them too much.

The exhibition was going on in the ACMI section of the Federation Square Gallery  connected to the NGV in Melbourne. It may venture to your country or your city, and if it does, it is well worth the price of a ticket. I spent a good two hours going back and forth seeing the exhibits.

Aardman are the authors of the Wallace And Gromit series of clay animations as well a numerous advertisements in Great Britain and the Creature Comfort series. As well, they have done Chicken Run, The Pirates, and Shaun The Sheep. All well worth seeing again and again.

The amazing part of this is the scale of the planning, artistry, and props needed to do this sort of animation. It is not tabletop stuff by any means, unless you consider the sets as individual scenes. The scale of most of the models seems to be about 1:6 to 1:4 and the artistic vision and attention to detail is staggering. I don’t think there is a true Little Worlder who would not be delighted to kick over the traces and build Aardman sets for a living.

Bless them, in addition to getting a look at their artistry, the exhibition had a working animation table and lighting setup that showed me clearly how to solve one of my lighting dilemmas in the Little Studio! I could not have been more pleased.

But here is a taster for the week. All Aardman, all the time.

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Le Coup – Quatrième Colonne

The social cut is so long-standing as to have gathered a set of rules governing its use. They are as useful today as they were in the 18th and 19th century – people may have cars, computers, and cash these days but they are basically the same inside as they always were. If you doubt this get an old copy of Gray’s Anatomy and a scalpel, but don’t blame me if the police intervene.

a. Le coup absolu is a direct confrontation between two people where one does not acknowledge the other in any way. It can be devastatingly insulting and if seen by others, socially demeaning.

b. This form of cut must be deliberate and obvious to the victim.

c. Gentlemen must never cut a lady.

d. Unmarried ladies are not to cut married ladies.

e. The social cut cannot be employed within military or naval circles. While this is not a rule adhered to entirely, the good of the service requires that all instances of it are either suppressed or addressed.

f. Hosts cannot cut their guests.

g. Cuts cannot be done indiscriminately or for light purpose. They could have serious consequences for both parties – if between equals the cut may provoke a challenge and if between disparate classes it might redound badly. Some social cuts destroy careers and marriages.

There is little enough general society these days – the class system having realigned itself around money rather than birth – and the population having grown so much as to diffuse contact and/or interest. People can get fame or notoriety, but it is rare that enough people focus upon them long enough to grant them real respectability. To get this, one must go into the smaller divisions of organisation – the social club, the hobby group, the sporting association. You might even need to go down as close as the family before you find respect or notice.

Thus the loss of social status that someone who was snubbed might have felt in 1850 does not generally exist now. It might still be operating for someone who has been suspected of a major crime but has escaped conviction – they may find themselves refused entry to the social scene they once frequented. People might avoid them in public. They might find that their careers are blighted. The curse of widespread modern communication and the free interchange of information might also mean that they cannot find rest or respect elsewhere. Mind you, Cain had his problems too…

But snubbing, cutting, and general exercise of hubris may backfire. The story of Beau Brummel’s snubbing by the Prince Regent is well documented in Wikipedia. It notes the reasons why it was done and his rather foolish reaction – judge for yourself when you read it. The Prince Regent was seen as abusing his power and Brummel had enough social steam to ride it out. Of course Brummel’s own lifestyle could never be sustained and he was lost to France and debt…but take it as a lesson to be careful who you cut and why. If you do it unnecessarily you do it wrong.

 

 

 

I Have A First Class Sign

I bought it at York Railway Museum in 1995 – really I did. I did not prise it from a British Rail carriage with a pen knife. Not because of my well-known sense of honesty and scruples – because all the signs were already removed long before I boarded the trains. I had to content myself with cutting out squares of the upholstery.

Rail travel is generally wonderful if you are allowed to sit in a First Class seat – you may have noticed this as well with airplane flights. If you turn left upon entering the cabin door most of your worries and discomforts can be made to disappear – though it must be said that they do not go away cheaply. They take a good deal of your cash with them.

But back to the rails. The British are a classified society and make no bones about it. They’ll analyse you in a second by your clothing and in a nanosecond by your accent and shunt you instantly into a niche in their behavioural structure. You should not be upset by this – it is not discriminatory – they do it to everyone and to themselves. And for the foreigner ( even a Commonwealth foreigner ) there can be some advantages to this. We are given a leeway in appearance and behaviour that they do not allow themselves. We are not expected to come up to their standards ( or down to them, as the case may be ) and we can be left alone to do our own colonial thing most of the time. Thus an Australian in a British Rail first class seat will be tolerated by the other passengers to an extent that a similarly dressed local could not hope for.

If we slum it down to the second-class seats it just feels like the Armadale line on a Saturday night, so there is nothing too strange about that. Actually the clothing on the passengers is pretty similar…they might be the same people.

The nice thing about the First Class seats – compartment or aisle – is that a little man or woman wheels a refreshments trolley through at intervals and you can purchase things. There is no ice for the drinks, but the tea and coffee are cold enough as it is. It’s not exactly a Bunnings sausage sizzle either, as far as food goes, but there is a certain mdf-boardiness about British Rail sandwiches anyway. I think the best analogy is the Bunbury Shell cafe after they have turned off the cabinet heaters…

Do you get there faster in First Class? No, of course not – the train arrives all together. Do you get extra comfort? Marginally. Do you get to feel like a member of the upper classes? Only if you exercise a great deal of imagination.

But it is all worth it.

The Regimental Quick March

I have just been listening to the regimental quick march of the Royal Armoured Regiment –  ” My Boy Willie ” – and find it a fine, bouncing tune. There are scores of these marches for all the regiments of the British Army, and I daresay a number of them have been adopted in Canada, New Zealand, and Australia on a brother-regiment basis.

As well, there are just as many suitable tunes in local styles used by the French, Germans, Russians, etc. All can call forth instant response from old service persons who marched to them.

But what of those of us who have never been called to the colours? Can we have regimental marches as well? I think we can – we just need to be inventive with them. Here’s a list of suggestions…

a. The Husband’s Division Of The Household Brigade…”The Slaves Chorus From Nabucco “.

b. The Teenage Regiment…” Drink Puppy Drink “.

c. The Royal Bank Regiment…” The Debt March “.

d. The 5th Mounted Motorists…any slow march you care for…

e. The Self-Funded Re-Tireurs…” Money, Money , Money “.

f. The Microsoft Technical Support Regiment of India… ” The Rogue’s March “.

g. 101st Airborne Virus Regiment…” Some Like It Hot…And Cold…And Hot…”

h. The Dental Corps…” A Bridge Too Far “.

i. Bill Clinton’s Rangers…” Yankee Doodle “.

f. The Canning Vale Lancers…”Goodness Gracious Me “.

g. Noranda Regiment…” We Are Marching From Pretoria “.

Good marching music need not be martial – good parades need not be military. Australia had a fine tradition in the 50’s and 60’s of all-girl marching societies who took part in civic celebrations and national days. Their outfits were sometimes military, and sometimes millinery. There were 30,000 of them at the peak of the craze.

30,000. That’s 30 regiments. The Australian army couldn’t have found socks for that many men in uniform, let alone rifles, food, or an enemy to shoot at. 30,000 marching girls…it sounds like Heaven from this point in time.

Just dealing with the statistics of the thing is mind-boggling. 30,000 marching girls is 30,000 uniforms and they would all have been hand-sewed and decorated as much as possible. Given 30 buttons per uniform makes it 900,000 buttons sewed on. Plus the three that rolled under the table.

I am glad that the era has passed – I do not think that I could cope right now with the sight of 60,000 thighs flashing up and down in unison. It would be a short path to the grave. Smiling all the while, but. And I doubt that the coffin lid would fit well…

 

 

 

The Queen’s Christmas Message

” Greetings to our loyal subjects and to the citizens of the Commonwealth. We are pleased to be able to speak to you again this year during the festive Christmas season. We have been advised by experts that we must not use the word Christmas as it may disturb some of our subjects. As head of the Church Of England we have taken the decision to continue with the traditional greeting and as head of the nation we have decided to exhibit the experts chained in cages at Wapping stairs.

The year past has been a difficult one for the world, but we are gratified to say that we have  survived it. More royal weddings are in the offing and the number of royal scandals has been decreased to the lowest level in four years. This may not have been to the taste of Mr. Packer or Mr. Murdoch but we assure you that it has been a great pleasure to stand the palace spokespeople and lawyers down off speed dial.

There have been proposals put to us regarding abdication and the succession to the throne of the next monarch. We have just taken our pulse and can confirm that this will not be happening today nor any time soon. You may all breathe out again. We would like to make it clear that the Prince of Wales enjoys our full confidence and that he is that way because he wishes to be. We did not play a long-term practical joke upon the nation.

We wish all our loyal subjects and citizens of the Commonwealth a joyous holiday and hope to see them again this time next year. Not lined up outside Buckingham Palace, if you please. We wish to have a little breathing room. “

” Stop Writing Your Blog “

” Just stop it. Get out and do something useful. ”

This is the orders from a well-known English advertising writer who has published a book on creativity. He is able to insist on this because we have paid $ 18 to buy the tiny little yellow book that he wrote and he is not there for us to argue with.

Mind you, the first four pages of this $ 18…errr…I mean this book…have been devoted to telling us that there are no rules. So we’d better obey. I don’t know if there is an or-else to go with it, but at $ 18 you sort of expect one.

Get this in perspective – I also bought a book the same day written by Guy de Maupassant for $ 4.95 and I suspect it might have been better written…

Okay, heavy humour aside, I think our English hack is way off the beam in his judgement of the humble online page. Call it a blog, weblog, column, essay, or what you will, it is a real thing that can do real good or real harm. It may do it for free, or it may garner a little money. It won’t get the advertising agency fee that would feed an $ 18 author but it might just provide an even more valuable thing; an opportunity for someone to write, photograph, draw, and think…and opportunity that they may never have had in the world before.

There are enough vaporous weblogs to fill a zeppelin hangar – enough poetic ones to gag a unicorn. Enough recipe columns to keep us at the stove until Doomsday. There are enough movie reviews, literary sniping matches, and commercial plugs to fill all the rest of our time. And the wonderful thing is that we need not read them all – but we can if we wish. We need not write them all – but if it is late and we’ve got a good idea…

Not all creativity has to be billed at an hourly rate – not every writer has to be the next coming genius in the agency. Some of us use the weblog column as memory, speech, connection, and release. To be frank, we know that most of what we write is only read by ourselves, but the very act of writing it – writing it well, if we can manage that – is enough to make it real.

Oddly enough, we are doing something useful…

What Do You Do When You Don’t Have Statues To Remove?

Why, you remove names! Names of people you don’t like. And you make censorship sound virtuous!

Our localities saw fights between whites and blacks in the nineteenth century – for the most part the whites won. Now the blacks want the names of the regions where these fights occurred to be changed so that the settlers are vilified and forgotten.

They have a problem: there aren’t many equestrian statues of the settlers in question to haul away. No-one bothered to cast them back then and the only thing remaining is a few gravestones and the map names of outlying townships and electoral areas. This must be a frustrating setback to the politically ambitious and the racially virtuous.

No matter – local activists have demanded that the names be expunged and replaced by what they tell us are aboriginal names. History will be smudged over, re-written, or outright traduced…and it likely will be with the blessing of local academics and political opportunists. They would howl at the same thing bring done to European or Middle Eastern history, but they are delighted to be able to do it here.

I’m afraid I have a sad prediction to make – the very people who have cried loudest in the past about spiritual matters and sacred sites will likely take to the graves of the settlers in our local cemetaries with spades. I hope the cops are ready for it, and I hope the shire councils can stand the cost of replacement headstones. Otherwise we all stand a chance of being expunged at the convenience of activists.