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.

Trash And Treasure Is Never Treasure

We have all gone to the Trash And Treasure, flea market, retro market, bring and buy, parish jumble sale, or weekend market in our time. Some of us have picked up bargains – the rest have picked up garbage. The really fortunate ones have picked up a bacterial infection and vowed never to do it again.

It is a basic feature of human psychology – that desire for a good buy. If it can be a swingeing bargain or a criminal rort, so much the better. But it does lead us down some dark passageways of the soul:

a. We seek for these El Dorados of dreck in the worst places. Council car parks on Sunday morning when we otherwise we could be asleep in bed or awake in the arms of a lover. It is the unwashed bottom of the top of the morning – either cold and wet or hot and distressing, and we’re out there looking for bargain clothespegs? Sheesh…

b. We deal with people we would avoid under any other circumstances. To a man, or woman, they have the look of wolves fattened on babies. None of them love us, and we do not love them, and the emotions are entirely justified from either side.

c. We do not need what we seek. We do not seek what we need. It is all greed or grot.

d. Just as Quentin Crisp eventually had to admit that there was no great dark man, we must eventually admit that there is no great dark treasure to be found. We can’t even find Quentin Crisp.

e. We do need the money in our pocket that we think we do not need. Just today a letter arrived from the water supply racket telling me that the state government will remove a subsidy they used to give to old people to help them pay for water. The money will presumably be given to mining magnates or their bankers. I now need to save my money for water. I would like to make water on the state government…

f. The things discarded by others were discarded for a good reason. They are ugly, broken, useless, poisonous, sad, or superfluous. What they are for others they will be for us, but doubly so because we spend real money on them. And if we want to resell them we will have to return to the garbage sale and become the persons we bought it from to get even a pittance back. Do we really want to exchange our souls for that?

g. We can live without it. We lived without it until we arose this morning, and we can make it through to the evening without it.

h. No-one looks cool at a junk market. Sellers, buyers, pickpockets, etc…All have a patina of naff on them, that they could have avoided assuming by staying home and doing something useful.

Well, that should make Sunday morning a lot more fun. See you at the markets?

The Sex Lecture

I plan to give a lecture about sex.

Not here, mind. This is the internet and not a place where one discusses that sort of thing. This is an electronic hall of decorum and a temple of digital chastity. The authorities that control the World Wide Web would never allow unseemly topics or unsavoury images to be displayed. I think we can all be grateful for this sort of moral decision.

No, I am going to hire a hall and put up posters on the local supermarket bulletin board as advertisement. I may make a few paper wrap-arounds for the street lamp posts in the town. These, and some cardboard boxes with spray-painted arrows at street corners, should serve to direct the audience to me on the night.

I think it would be best to do it during August when the weather is the coldest. That, and some rain, should serve to control the raging lusts of the people who attend the hall. This sort of presentation can be risky if it is done in hot weather, particularly if there are dark spots in the shrubbery around the back. I don’t want to be responsible for people taking things into their own hands…or allowing other people to take their things in hand…In fact I shall insist on seeing all hands at all times.

It will be a lecture suitable for all ages – from those who have no idea what they can do to those who have no idea what they have done. I will have medical and religious professionals in attendance to cope with any outbreaks of curiosity, and no effort will be spared to provide complete and accurate explanations for swellings and discharges. Daemons, phlogiston, and the evil eye have always been popular. Also fish-net stockings, long gloves, and whips.

No lecture is complete without audio-visual material. To that end we have engaged the services of a trained team of athletes and actors to pose in correct sex postures. Magic lantern slides of this will be projected upon a sheet stretched at the front of the hall. If we get enough interest, the sheet will be horizontal instead of vertical and participants may use the projected images as a form of planning diagram or Twister game.

The charge for admission to the lecture will be modest: $ 15 per person should cover the cost of the entire show and use of the towel afterwards.

I’ll be announcing the venue as soon as we secure the necessary third-party insurance to satisfy the council. This is a nuisance but you know how fussy people are these days about pubic liability.

The Little World – eCon – omics 101

I have generally stopped cruising eBay for hobby products now that I am retired. I have time to visit our local hobby stores…at least the ones that will let me in the door…and can look forward to an interstate trip now and then to fill in the big spaces. Plus the economics of retirement mean that you need to do more with less. Fortunately in scratch building this can be quite possible.

But I still do venture into the electronic souk occasionally if none of the local sources can supply something. It is the same principle that I apply to photography gear; my old employers first, then another local shop if possible, and the net if necessary. I do not cavil at the tiny purchase of accessories from Chinese suppliers – I’ve purchased machined metal brackets and lens hoods for very small prices and have been pleased with the service and quality. A net purchase of a Chinese electronic trigger system for flashguns was done on the basis that it looked quite unique. So it proved to be, and has been very useful as a lightweight accessory.

But a recent eBay session looking for a model airplane kit has opened my eyes to the nature of some of the dealers. I wanted a small model of an RAF trainer. A chap in England had one, and as it was unbuilt, it would have been perfect. The original bagged Airfix kit was worth 50 cents when it was fresh.

He wants $ 100 for it…And that is in real already-assembled money…

That kind of return places it in the sort of category that used to be reserved for Fabergé eggs or Bugatti motor cars. One can only hope the Police have been alerted in case there is a theft. Bugger the Crown Jewels – rally round the Airfix kits!

I daresay I’ll see more of this if I go to local trading fairs as well, so it is not just the English chap. I used to fancy I could tell the shonkies by the look of them but either my eyesight is getting worse or they are starting to shave more and dress better.

Featured Image: the new Airfix Tiger Moth kit I bought at Hobbytech for $ 14.00. A sensible and acceptable price and no postage to pay.

The Little World – The Unsalable Product Meets The Inscrutable Market…

If you are nervous about politics, ethnicity, or toy airplane kits, now would be the time to switch your computer to the next page. The rest of you can look on while I open a can of retail worms.

Nationalism, nostalgia, and narcissism are an integral part of the Little World. It is most readily seen in the model railway market – where firms who sell to a domestic market make marvelous ranges of models for their friends, relatives, and countrymen, but only pay the slightest attention to a foreign buyer. Märklin was just this in the 50’s to 70’s…they made superb models of German and European trains and dismal models of US prototypes. This was natural, and the only real puzzle was why they bothered to make a US model at all. It might have been to capture the US military market at the PX’s in Germany, for all I know…

In the die-cast car game there are many Chinese makers making models of US, European, and Asian prototypes for sale in those areas. They make Australian prototypes for Australia, and might indeed make other little ventures for other countries – provided there is sufficient money and buying pressure in those areas. This is as it should be, and my only gripe is that they do not make more 1:18th scale cars and trucks of the small domestic type. I am immune to super-cars and racing types…

But where the real interest in nationalism comes is in the die-cast aircraft market. Most of what sells to our local collectors is Western prototype. The predictable Spitfire, Me 109, Hellcat, Zero are all seen and there will always be a sale to someone of an airliner painted in QANTAS or Virgin colours. Why, I struggle to fathom, but I suspect that most of these go to grandparents stuck for a present.

But there is also a surprising amount of what I would have called unsalable stock in the local die-cast airplane market – the cheap productions of Chinese factories of Chinese, North Korean, Soviet, and other air forces. We might all recognise what a MiG 15 looks like, but very few of us want to have 14 of them in different camouflage schemes in our collection. The F-86, perhaps, but even here the offerings are nearly always of US or German markings and really don’t ring a local bell.

I was pondering on this in the new hobby shop, looking at the multiple shelves of Chinese MiG 15 models unsold, when it occurred to me that I might have forgotten something. The two suburbs closest to the shop – Winthrop and Leeming  – have a very high Asian population…specifically a Chinese one. Could it be that these MiGs are aimed at them? Is this the future of collection? Are they collectors of toy airplanes as well as of local rental properties?

Are they nostalgic for the good old days of fighter battles high over the Yalu?

Careers Day At The Charnel House

I am always fascinated to see career days, orientation days, and recruiting days at various institutions in Perth. They have always had them at hospitals, universities, technical schools, and government departments and lately they are being taken to major exhibition halls to draw in even more industries. But I think the most important ones are still missing out:

a. The Shenton Park Sewage Ponds are vital to the health of the city. They are a long-term governmental establishment that needs a steady supply of trained staff to operate – especially if they have lost a few to tsunamis in the settling ponds.

But they never advertise. There are no ” It’s A Man’s Life In the Regular Brown Dredgers ” posters at railway stations and even when the schools run career week there are no offers to come on down and paddle a poo canoe. I cannot imagine where they recruit their staff, other than amongst retired politicians and people who have had nasal surgery.

b. There are apparently a number of ” havens “, ” retreats “, ” resorts “, and ” parlours ” where young ladies entertain gentlemen upon an agreed commercial basis. I have no idea what they do there, though I did see a workman outside one of the establishments in East Perth diligently breaking up old wardrobes on the foot path and throwing them over the fence into the premises, so it may involve woodwork…Well, getting wood somehow…

But again, there are no placards on trains or buses advertising for young ladies to work at these places. And many of the buses and trains have young women passengers who are unemployed and would be able to break wood all day, by the looks of them.

c. There are recruiting posters and motion picture advertisements for the Army, Navy and Air Force, and they are exciting to watch. There are equally urgent advertisements for people to train in animation, games development, and media. But no-one asks for a candidate to step up and become a political stand over merchant or bagman. Yet these are just the people we need to facilitate local government. City councils won’t corrupt themselves, you know.

The Little World – The New Shop

I visited the new hobby shop this week – it has moved a couple of miles closer to my house. Probably to be closer to my bank account…

The new premises are larger and more imposing than the last ones, and the highway that they sit beside is one of the busiest in the metro area. I was a little disconcerted to find that you can only approach the car park from one direction on that highway, and that getting there will require some degree of planning, but the work will be worth it – they have a very complete line of goods that the builder needs.

And they are well-placed to serve a section of our city that has no other outlet. All the other shops are way away out in other quarters of the town – a cut lunch and water bag trip in some cases. This one is 4 miles from my door and I love it.

I took them a bottle of port wine to celebrate the opening. I daresay by the end of the first rainy Saturday, if the customers had been cranky and the computers stopped working, they cracked the bottle and drowned their sorrows.

Only one awkward thing for the workers – the cabinets full of goodies have a key lock at the bottom of the glass. Every time you ask to get an accessory out of them the staff member serving you has to get down on the floor to open it. This will tell on their clothing, backs, and knees. It was the same for the Camera Electronic store for the first 6 years of my job there – we fought with the keylocks every day. Once the new cabinets with invisible electronic locks were installed, the task was much lighter.

Too often the design of retail premises is not thought through – the goods are either left unprotected or locked up so tightly that the natural flow of sales is checked. It really is a geometric and operational jigsaw puzzle. As one of the salespeople I found that there were some items that were impossible to display and sell at the same time, and some concepts – like on-counter impulse bins – were so penny-catching as to degrade the whole sales floor. The one thing that I was able to do in my time that smartened up the mess was to institute a system of standardised signage for different divisions. We used Gill Sans for the typeface and A4 for the standardised size. It all worked well.