Why Brexit?

I have been pondering for some months about the whole Brexit situation – as an outsider before they voted, I could only speculate about the issues and frame of mind of the pro and anti voters. But as it seems to have been decided in the affirmative, I can concentrate more on the question of why. I’m still and outsider, but the question is now…Why did Great Britain vote to end its connection with the European Common Market or European Union? Here’s some possibilities:

  1. The new formation of a European army was a timely reminder of the last few times the Europeans have formed armies under Napoleon, Hitler, etc. and of what Europeans would like to do with their armies. There’s only one tunnel under the Channel but there’s always the Channel.
  2. The trade and farming regulations from Brussels that prevent some British farmers from working their land for produce and profit are a thorn in the side.
  3. The ready supply of illegal migrants camping in France and other places with an eye to getting to the UK and disappearing is a daunting prospect.
  4. The continued prospect of propping up spendthrift regimes and dole bludgers in the sunnier climes of the Mediterranean is a particular annoyance to people who live in the damp climate of Wales and other rural portions of the UK. They might as well spend the money on parish cases at home.
  5. Why not?
  6. The French have hated the English since the time of the King Henries. In the last century they dragged them into two world wars, and left them to play the last one out by themselves for years. Then they supplied De Gaulle to make it all better. The French idea of better may not be the same for the rest of us…
  7. The English do not trust the French or Germans. Or the Italians, for that matter.
  8. The loss of the Empire and the colonies was traumatic. But there was still the Commonwealth. With the EEC and EU experiment, a lot of the Commonwealth interest drifted away. If they Brexit the European door shut, they might re-open the Commonwealth door.

There’s no new political insight in there, but it does go some cynical way to supplying reasons. If it proves a bad idea – like the First World War or convict transportation – you can always blame the Manchester Board Of trade and the Admiralty. Or Trump and the Americans. But don’t blame them too hard in case you need Lend-Lease and Spam again.

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Riding The Horse – Part Six – The Collector’s Edition

If anyone ever meets you on the road and tells you that the only reason they collect something – whether it be stamps, coins, or matchbook covers – is for the investment value of them, you must treat them like Buddha. You must kill them. Because they are either telling you the truth or a lie…and neither one is acceptable.

The collection urge is a basic part of the human psyche – and there are studies that show it to be something that other animals do as well. Unfortunately there have not been enough funded studies employing perpetual students that have concentrated upon the animal part of it – we still do not know why crows and magpies collect junk bonds. But as far as people go, everyone has a latent collector inside them.

The classical collections involve art, antiquities, coins, postage stamps, china and porcelain, and silver and gold objects. These have an intrinsic value in themselves  – with the possible exception of outdated postage stamps – and can be turned into a current in the income stream of the collector. Of course most turn out to be money sinks, but that is the nature of the con game.

The actual objects to be collected is immaterial – it is the amassing of a group of them that forms the gratification. If they can be supported by specialist shops, publications, scholarly works, fairs, and auctions…so much the better. Sometimes they run afoul of laws, as in the collection of weapons and firearms, but that’s never stopped any keen enthusiast that I’ve ever met. The man with the working anti-tank gun is ample evidence of this. In any case no real collector lets anything – money, law, or good sense – stand in his way. The only irksome part for him may be the necessity to keep the collection hidden.

Can there be too many things in a collection? Not according to the collectors. Can the collection be too wide in scope? Again, no. Can it be too narrow? Well, I met a proud collector who concentrated his efforts upon a toy plastic boat that was produced as a promotional giveaway in the 80’s and he has found enough variants in it to base his entire happiness upon. All the items look the same until he tells you the minute history of them and lets you examine them carefully with a magnifying glass. At that point you wish you were a gun collector…

Can the objets de collection be too expensive? Well they can be so for the average person, and that for a number of reasons, but for the unlimited budget person, nothing is too dear. They are the explorers after El Dorado that poison the land for all the rest – they elevate prices and depress common sense in any field they enter. And yet. And yet…

Remember our first paragraph. In every collector’s heart is a small section that really does want their beloved collection of dried goat udders to be the secret desire of a fabulously-wealthy sheik…who will pay an enormous price for them. This small portion of the heart is known as the Jesse James valve, and it flutters in the presence of loose money. 

Collectors are easy meat for the purveyors of dreck – see the back of any woman’s magazine for the porcelain figures of the Royal Plumbers Of Tonga at only $ 256 each in a signed edition. They are also the natural fodder for makers of collection cases, display shelves, storage books, and fanciful catalogues. They can be seen at all sorts of trade shows, secondhand fairs, and repulsive little shops cruising for the bargains. The shopkeepers know ‘em in a minute and it is all they can do from salivating visibly.

Is there any harm in being a collector? No, if you do not go so far down the rabbit hole that you find the subject has collected you. This is the sad fate of several of the gun collectors I know who’ve sacrificed money, property, and good sense to serve their masters…the guns. It is not possible to bring them to their senses, but they are mostly harmless. The fate of many collectors is to find that their friends and family avoid them – at least when they start to talk about The Collection.

The Spam Queue

This column attracts spam. As do all the others I write. So, I would imagine, would a note left in a bottle for the milkman – given the ever-reaching greed of internet pests.

Fortunately there is a program that drives away most of this traffic, putting it into a bin for me to empty periodically. I have learned to give the contents only the most cursory glance before flushing it. Once, within a space of a decade, there may be a genuine message leaking into the cesspool. More often the seepage is the other way. I am prepared to lose one real comment amongst the dross.

Like the Indian scam phone callers, I am at a loss to think that anyone could ever be interested enough in these fraudulent pests to ever respond to them…and I imagine that it would only spark a greater onslaught. Yet, the fact remains that they keep coming. This suggests some profit from it for the criminals and therefore some engagement by the unwary. If there is a trail of anything, it will be a trail of money and stupidity.

It is tempting to go on the hike as well. If others can pick an occasional drachma from the pockets of the unwary, surely I can put my hand in there too. I have been able to persuade people to all sorts of folly in the past, and I hope my skills are still with me. It’s just thinking how to do it…

Will they fall for sending me money directly? That’s been tried by everyone from Nigeria to Nunawading, and unless you have  dewy-eyed kittens marching on Parliament House, you are unlikely to access the right level of gullibility. I can be dewy-eyed but kitten suits are hot and itchy.

I could threaten. If they are frightened of the Immigration Department there is a chance that they’ll pay to avoid deportation. If the Taxation Department is their nightmare I can put on my best Jobsworth manner and impose fines left, right, and center. But I have no need of iTunes cards or anything else that might be duped out of them. It’d have to be cash or nothing, and that leaves the operational problem of collecting it. I don’t mind the victims being dumb, but I don’t want to join them.

Perhaps cajoling would work. I could try to shame them for eating meat, or vegetables, or sugar, or really anything…with the absolute certainty that they will feel guilty about something. It’s just finding out that secret shame and whacking it with a mallet.

I wish I was better at begging in rags. I’ve got the rags, all right, courtesy of a lifetime of never cleaning the wardrobe out, but the thought of panhandling in shopping centres leaves me cold. I don’t like the places all that much when I’ve got money, so doing the urban poor act would be even worse.  I suppose I could send out invitations for people to visit me here at home and I could do it in the lounge room, but somehow it doesn’t sound all that promising.

 

The Children’s Crusade

The Backstabbers Guild Of Australia is on a Crusade. Not a religious one, of course. That sort of thing is hardly our field of endeavour – we are on a quest to find a good use for schoolchildren.

Now, of course there are plenty of people who have already found a use for them -as students, household drudges, scapegoats, industrial slaves, objects of adoration, etc, etc. We are looking more for a way to use them as generators of money. Little pieces of bait, as it were, to attract a steady income.

Drawing upon the history of Children’s Crusades – Nicholas of Köln and Stephen of Cloyes in particular – we are conscious of the need to provide a plausible reason to lure the children way from their parents and homes. Then we need to have a place to send them, and a mechanism to reduce their numbers to a manageable and saleable few at the end of the process. Of course we will not be adverse to auctioning them off in batches along the way – as dewy-eyed innocents or useful idiots most likely. It will be a good thing if it can be done before they start to cost too much in food or transportation.

It’s been suggested by some that this is reprehensible – that using the young and foolish to mask political agendas of the old and cynical is just a vile practice. Possibly, but think of it in this way; if they are roaming the downtown streets looking for trouble, at least they are not at home causing it. And that’ll keep ’em off the lawn.

The Kitchen Is Closing In Five Minutes

Ever been to a mess hall and discovered that you’re too late for chow? Some mess halls run on a very strict schedule – based upon the knowledge that they’ll have to serve out a meal to the next lot of troops at a specified time and they need the dixies back to clean and use again. Bad luck for you if you’ve just been marched up during the hungry interval.

How about a commercial restaurant or bar at about midnight? That’s a reasonable time to shut the hatch as well, as the staff need to clean up for the next day and it’ll be on into the night for them.

But how about a café on a trendy restaurant strip in the centre of town – on Saturday lunchtime? Closing the kitchen at 1:00 and turning the eaters out at 2:00 in the afternoon when they still have hunger and money seems to be a particularly stupid thing to do. Yet it happens all the time here in trendy, cosmopolitan Perth. Eat up and get out and you can admire our decor from the street…

We have been in the habit these last few years of thinking that Perth has become an international city, open for art, cuisine, and commerce. We thought that the days of the 1960’s when 1:00 Saturday saw the shop doors slam shut and the sidewalks roll up were finished. We thought we could get something to eat on Saturday Arvo, without having to go to a pub or the footy. So it might have been during the Café Spring…but we have passed into a different season. Back to the good old days of dead Saturday afternoon.

Well, the coffee pot at home still works, and the biscuit barrel is full. And another lesson has been learned.

Letting The Hooks Do Their Work

We often read about how complex things should be to work well. The endless choice of fashion and fad –  together with tech and toy – will have us doing 5 procedures to maximise our pleasure, safety, or monetary return…and in many cases we will have wasted all the effort. A simpler solution was there on the counter, or in the drawer all the time.

No sphere of activity sees this more than the photographic world – except the self-publishing weblog one. We are continually being bombarded with must-do extra steps. We are looked upon as fools and dinosaurs if we do not do them. I saw one instance yesterday of this sort of built-in confusion but I saw that it has been disabled – and by the people who set it up in the first place. This gives me hope that there may be light at the end of the tunnel and that it is not an oil fire…

The car parks of Perth that are run by Wilson Parking have had a variety of operational systems over the years – from grumpy old men in little hutches beside the gate to massive ticket machines in the multi-storey parks. These machines started out simple, got complex, then more complex…then I stopped going to the multi-storeys because I feared for my sanity. The outside parks got a new wrinkle a few years back – a machine that demanded your license plate registration before it would accept your cash or credit card entry for parking.

I was always having to restart the procedure to key it in as I either forgot a number or hit the wrong key. You could see lines of people doing the same thing and getting frustrated and angry. Added to this the practice of wheel clamping to extort money and the whole idea of going into entertainment or city areas became untenable. I stayed out and so did others.

Yesterday the Wilson outside machine was one of those license plate jobs but they had disabled the function and turned on one that just issued you a ticket based on the time you paid for. The charges weren’t excessive and as it was a pay-wave job your card stayed in your hand. Finally the automatic features were allowed to run unhindered and the experience was good.

Either someone came to their senses or the machine was broken…

The Superstore With No Staff

I rather like superstores. They are impersonal, but if they are big enough you can find all sorts of things to occupy your mind as you search for whatever it was you actually came in for. This is the principle of the giant size – you are forced to search and to be tempted all along the way.

I’m strong – I did not succumb to the plastic flamingos or the in-floor safe. The three hose clamps and spare toilet roll holder – it cost $ 1 – were all that drew money from me. But I was a little nonplussed at the end of the shopping experience to see that the entire row of cashier’s tills had no staff members serving them.

You could go through a cashless self-serve checkout if you wished – thereby saving the hardware firm the price of a person’s wages – or you could go to the trade desk and pay over the counter there. A trade desk that was swamped with people trying to pay money.

Some accountant has thought this staff scheduling up, and probably gloats over it at the end of the month…but if you were in a hurry or wanted to buy an expensive item, you would feel somewhat underserved by it all. Makes you wonder if this sort of thing was part of the reason this chain of stores failed in the UK. They might have been open all hours, but if there was no Arkwright to man the till, no money would have lodged in the shop.

Granville! Ffetch a cloth…