Australian Cynicism

We have often been accused of being cynics in Australia. This underestimates the citizens of this wonderful nation. We are greater than this – we are perfectly capable of being cynical in every country on Earth…with the possible exception of New Zealand. No-one is cynical in New Zealand, though they have been trying to establish a program to breed it for years.

Some have looked to climate, ancestry, ethnicity, history, and any number of other reasons for the national characteristic. It is all very well to score a PhD or a publisher’s advance upon this sort of speculation but the truth is that it is none of these things. The reason Australians are cynical is geography – we are far enough away from the rest of the world that we figure we can get away with it. We cock a snook at the various Kims, Vlads, Donalds, and Angelas…as well as the unpronounceable leaders of Africa, South America, and Canada and it is rarely sheeted home to us.

Oh, mind you, if we are of certain ethnicities that maintain spy networks here and dungeons back home into which our relatives can be thrust, we tend to be a bit quieter…but there are still pictures of Winnie the Pooh and copies of Charley Hebdo magneted onto the refrigerator in spite of official disapproval. They probably get whisked away when a national festival dinner party is held, but they come back afterwards.

Be fair to us – we are cynical about ourselves as much as we are about people overseas. Indeed, there is no topic more dear to the hearts or the sphincters of the Australians than our own national and state governments. Oh, and the local government, too. We’ll cheerfully discuss how much we despise our fearless leaders at the drop of a beer bottle cap. Our leaders hold us in similar affection.

It is known technically as a Mudgee Standoff – we don’t get to keep machine guns in our houses but Bunnings sells rope and there are trees aplenty  with stout limbs, so the checks and balances of the Westminster government are still in force. We were once told by one politician that ” We’ll keep the bastards honest. ” Actually I think that was just a case of someone making a mistake with the punctuation when they reported it. What he really  said was:

” We’ll keep the bastards. Honest… ”

But that’s just me being cynical.

 

 

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A Traditional Russian Easter

Well I am glad to see that traditions have finally returned to the modern political world. And our fearless leaders have finally realise that they must give people what they want.

Recently Emperor Xi of China took steps to correct the unfortunate mistake in the Chinese constitution that might have removed the Mandate Of Heaven from him before he was quite ready to relinquish it. This must give great comfort to his subjects who will now go back to their labours uncomplaining, if they know what is good for them.

And just yesterday His Majesty Czar Vladimir granted an interview to a foreigner in which he reassured her that he was not concerned about Russians interfering in the American elections. Apparently it was the work of Tatars, Ukrainians, and Jews.

Coming as it does at this time in the spring, it means that we can look forward to a real good old-fashioned Russian Easter. There will be masses thronging the cathedrals, incense rising in the air, and the sound of Cossacks riding through the stetls sabreing the Jews. There’ll be something for everyone – either booty, blood, or prime-time television coverage. Who knows what will happen – with the Russian imperial aristocracy you can never entirely rule out miracles or the use of poison gas.

Myself, I just like the decorated eggs.

Your Job Has Been Replaced By A Robot

What is the next thing you do?

Why you go out and attack someone. If you are a low-level employee of a small business, you will have only a few local options – the firm that lately employed you, the bank that loaned them the money for the robots, and Chinese people. This last on the irrational basis that the robots were probably built in China* and they’re all supposed to all look alike anyway…

The fact that the person with the Asian appearance might be a citizen of your own country, born there, and of longer residence than you, may make this seem awkward. Plus if they are not Chinese you look like a fool. It’s even more difficult if you are Chinese yourself and the robots put you out of a job as well. Then you don’t exactly know who to tackle…

Well, here’s a suggestion: whoever you are, wherever you are, tackle yourself. Look carefully at what education you’ve got, whether it can be used to go get another job, or whether it needs to be boosted or replaced. Be honest with yourself, without being brutal. Tell yourself the truth, even if you need to start off whispering it. If you can eventually say it right out loud, you’ll be making progress.

This isn’t just a retiree’s twaddle – I faced business failure in 2007 squarely and had to take stock of myself. I had to think why I’d failed and what resources I still had to start again. I was fortunate in that I had some secondary skill that an employer was willing to take a punt on, but I found out that I had to increase my technical and trade training while on the job to make myself a useful part of the organisation. Thank goodness I read and retained and I could spend spare time out of work testing out the things I needed to know in the day. Thank goodness there were enough sources of information to supply the answers. Thank goodness it worked for 8 years.

The only twaddle advice I can give is to keep yourself lean. I don’t mean physically lean – you can sort out for yourself what sort of body you want to have. I mean fiscally lean. Whatever you do, even in a time of full and fat employment, do not take on debt that is unavoidable. Particularly do not take on big debt. It may seem bearable while you have a steady income, but it’ll bear you to the ground if that income support falls away.

When anyone offers you credit, say thank you, but pay cash. If it hurts to pay cash, it will hurt more to pay credit. If paying cash means you have to go light on possessions and status symbols, take this as a wonderful opportunity to own a good character instead of a shed full of stuff.

And don’t help the robots. Shop at a real physical store that has a real human doing the checkout. Go to the counter and order your burger – don’t punch in an app on your phone that talks to a robot menu. Better yet, ditch the phone, shop at the greengrocer, and do your own cooking.

PS: Better not to attack a Chinese person. They watch Kung Fu videos too, practice all the moves, and they don’t need the subtitles…

*  And then again they probably weren’t. There are a lot of robots coming out of Europe right now. Most of them watch soccer.

 

 

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 Statue In The Park

I have said before that my flabber is rarely ghasted, but this last week has more than made up for it. Leaving aside the North Korean foolishness, and the predictable nature of the unpredictable, we came to the hot summer rioting in the CSA and the subsequent reactions by various authorities.

This sort of clash is nothing new for the place – I can remember it back in the 1960’s, when the temperature rose and some clash set off a riot. I even seem to recall Baltimore losing a couple of whole city blocks to fire in the middle of one of them….though that may have been Philadelphia or Newark. In any case, late summer, before the kids get back to school, is the traditional time for rioting and looting. If you haven’t got a television by August it is your chance to bring one home before the football starts…

The thought of incipient riots has also proved useful for the Baltimore city administration – allowing them an excuse to edit out any of the civic statues that they don’t like on a prophylactic basis. Fair enough, though given what modern sculpture looks like these days, one could wish that they would widen the scope of their concern and pay for the cranes to take away some of the grottier pieces of new scrap iron art.

As it is, I think they could have saved a lot of work and expense by just hiring a signwriter to re-name the existing statues. Unbolt the bronze plaque that says ” General Lee ” and attach a plate that reads ” Malcom X “. Just scrub out ” Stonewall ” on the Jackson statue and write ” Samuel L. ” in its’ stead. Any one else who might be less recognisable could be tagged as Patrice Lumumba or O.J. Simpson, and everyone would be happy.

Not the rioters, mind. You don’t get a free Motorola by renaming statues…

Here in Australia we have seen a most amazing piece of theatre by Senator Pauline Hanson. For overseas readers, she is a politician from Queensland ( and that is fruitful ground for many, many posts…) who rose to fame by hating Asians* professionally. Now that she has achieved a seat in the Senate, she hates Muslims professionally. To express her dislike for them she paraded into our federal Senate chamber wearing a full-coverage burka garment – then tried to argue that she wants it to be banned.

No, I’m not making this up. It really happened. I don’t have that much imagination.

I do not know whether she has any shares in a restaurant, or owns a pick handle, or plans to change her name to Lester. I don’t really want to think about it. I have an old flabber and if it is ghasted beyond its’ rated pressure anything could blow.

I also don’t want to think about who her next professional hate is going to be. I’m not sure if she has done with the Asians, though she’s gone somewhat quiet about them. The Muslim seam will eventually play out, and she may still be digging.

Perhaps we could get her busy removing statues…

*Mostly to the Chinese, though she was prepared to be unpleasant to Japanese and Thais as well.

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?