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.

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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?

Mine Eyes Have Seen The Glory…

Have you ever noticed that whenever Hollywood movies play ” The Battle Hymn Of The Republic ” someone is going to get a well-deserved pasting?

The rest of the movie might have been occupied with the Americans getting slaughtered in great numbers – tanks, planes, and ships blowing up and all – but when the chips are finally down the old Civil War song comes on and business starts to pick up. This has been the case ever since it was written, and I hope it continues in the future.

Make no mistake about it – I am on the side of the US in past and future wars. It was a point of polite contention when I was a guest of the old Confederate Historical Society here in Western Australia, and it is bound to be a factor when in social gatherings in the future. People who point out that I was raised in Canada and am a naturalised Australian citizen and thereby hope to change my mind can go and get knotted – and I am prepared to buy them a Boy Scout manual to assist them at it. I still admire the US and the US military.

It’s not a popular view – at least not in the trendy pink-tinged circles I frequent. Contempt for the American military is a basic tenet of the locals – and I have learned to largely ignore it. For my part I have developed my own assessment of foreign claims to military or historical fame…but have kept them to myself. I shall continue to do so – I prefer to live on speaking terms with my friends.

I also keep my opinion about political figures in the USA to myself – aware that it would be as pointless to air them as it is to listen to others. We in Australia are…to put it bluntly…in Australia…and would do well to concern ourselves with our own governance. We’ll need all our wits about us to remain on good terms with the Asians now that the price of iron ore has fallen and the price of apartments in Sydney has risen…

I wonder – is there any other piece of music – save the ” Marseillaise ” – that is so evocative in a motion picture? I can’t imagine Canadians turning steely at ” O Canada ” though I must say that whenever I heard ” The Maple Leaf Forever ” I experienced an overwhelming desire to beat up on a Quebequois. To be fair, I felt that way when I heard a doorbell. French-Canadians’ll do that you ya.

 

 

The Little World – So Many Chances To Get It Right

And so many times that they have gotten it wrong…

I go to visit major toy outlets several times each year. My visits are frequently when on holiday – both to increase the sense of joy and freedom of the occasion and to find the treasures that are kept away from my local stores. In the past I have been successful in some cases – not all manufacturers send their products to Western Australia, and sometimes the eastern states have goods you just never see elsewhere. But lately it would seem that the chain-store approach to toy and hobby sales has also led to a big-batch sameness in all states. And the stuff they sell to kids isn’t worth an adult buying it.

For instance, I know it is folly to visit Toys R Us looking for decent die-cast models. There will be a few Hot Wheel types and the occasional bargain Maisto but they will be the sort of zoomie model a 7-year-old wants. I understand that they are selling to that market so I can’t ask for too much sophistication. Where I am critical, however, is in the fact that there is a paucity of many other normal toys that could be turned to good use in a collection. An example:

As a child I remember playsets of figurines that came in all sorts of styles. Plastic, mostly, with a few lead soldiers, they were sold by chain stores, dime stores, department stores, and specialty toy stores – much as they are now. But they were sets of REAL figures – real workers, cowboys, soldiers, etc. and could be painted, modified, and set up in more serious modelling dioramas. Nowadays you cannot find these – the figure market has been over-run with transformers, monsters, aliens, and animadversions of everything from trains to trilobytes. I cannot say whether they thrill the tinies but they leave the collector cold.

Likewise the building sets. Apart from the ubiquitous Lego, there are few of the useful building sets left. Brickwork is nursery blocks if anything and mechanical building sets are so specialised as to leave no extra parts for individual thought. You build what the box says you build, and at the price that you pay, you cannot afford to argue.

Well, hope springs eternal, and I’ll be on holiday ( a holiday piled on retirement is an odd concept…) soon and I’ll do the rounds of the stores in Sydney. With a bit of luck the latest container ship from Hong Kong will have disgorged fresh supplies and I can bring home plastic road signs, sea containers, and fences. It would be too much to hope for a brick building set, but you never know what the knock-off factories will have found amongst the old moulds.

Addendum: back form holiday. Exactly as said, but with the interesting news that Hobbyco in Sydney have a complete line of silicone moulding and resin casting kits at a reasonable price. I have a pair of them coming over and will try some detailed part production.

 

The Little World – Not Another Set Of Stickers…

We are all familiar with the term ” Sticker Shock “. It is the unpleasant realisation that things have become far more expensive to buy than ever they were…and than ever we think they should be.

It first came to prominence in the motor trade when the car firms were compelled by law in the USA to put the actual real final price of a motor vehicle for sale onto a prominent place on each car. The flummery and bamboozlement that went on before that with sales talks and commercial theatre still went  on – you were never going to legislate morality, after all – but there was a starting point around which it was required to proceed. A lot of people got a rude awakening when they saw what financing does to prices.

Then there is the fact that prices nearly always rise as time goes on but memories do not let go of the old numbers. The car that cost $ 2000 in 1966 now costs $ 20,000. The rest of the finances may have advanced in step with this, but the client who remembers buying the ’66 Cheapmobile will choke on seeing what the new one costs. And in many cases go right away from the dealership.

The same happens with clothing, cameras, white goods, and furniture. And as much as the sales people may think that it doesn’t matter – that the client will be driven by need back to the store anyway – in some cases that shock will cause an entirely different reaction.

Take the toy ( Okay, okay, model ) car hobby. A good-quality model might have sold for $ 50 a decade ago. Then it went to $ 69, $99, and up as time went on and the affluence of Chinese society increased. Now it is $ 179, $ 199, $ 249 and up. Unless you are still earning mining money somehow, you are not going to be able to laugh off the sticker.

It has caused me to stop desiring every new model that comes out. I realise that I cannot afford them – I can pop for a few good things in the year, but need to spend most of my modelling time making things, and making them inexpensively.

Fortunately this has proved to be a lot more possible than I had suspected. Unfortunately it means that I am not helping the retailer out by keeping the machinery of his sales rolling. And as the machinery slows, there will be fewer manufacturers willing to continue operating it. It is a sad cycle.