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 These have an intrinsic value in themselves  – with the possible exception of outdated postage stamps – and can be turned into a current in the income stream of the collector.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.

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Riding The Horse – Part Two – Lifting The Lid

The Business Of The Hobby Explained

The need for a hobby is felt by many in the community – they are the lucky ones amongst us. Those who have no need are generally in that position through overwork, impecuniosity, or cultural pressure.

If you have literally no time left out of a day that sees you scrabble for food, shelter, security, or health, you are a poor, unfortunate creature. If you have enough of the basic needs but cannot stop yourself grinding for more, you are a rich, unfortunate creature. If you are prohibited from seeking any pleasure outside of the grind, you are a slave. The fortunate thing about these three observations is that the poor may become rich, the rich may become wise, and the slave may become free.

In all three cases a hobby can alleviate many of the pains of life. The first person may feel harried by need – the second by greed – and the third by oppression. If these states are not addressed by fortune, the person needs an ally, and the hobby can be just that. Hobbies can be secret or public, cheap or expensive, long lasting or transient. They can be taken up with the minimum of equipment or pursued with every accessory and machine that science can make. They are truly flexible things.

Benefits of a hobby? Well, the hobbyist can always retire into the sanctum of their pursuit and place the distressing world at a distance. Their sanctum may be a place, a group, or just a series of thoughts. Hobbies are portable things, and the mind of the hobbyist can carry them into business meetings, waiting rooms, and dungeons with equal facility. It costs you nothing but attention to open the internal hobby library door, sit down at the mental desk, and review the plans for your next project. Caution – do not do it while driving.

A hobby can make you a calmer person – and in some cases a more considered one. This may be possible even in the more bellicose pursuits like martial arts. A person in control of themselves is more likely to be able to control the situation that they are in. If you have confronted problems in your hobby – and surmounted them – you are much more likely to be able to do the same with other troubles.

A hobby can lead to increased self-esteem. While self-esteem taken to the extreme makes for Idi Amin, lower levels of it are good. When you succeed in your hobby – even by a small amount – you feel better in yourself. Others may not care whether your model airplane flew and landed perfectly, but you’ll be admiring your skill for years to come…and rightly so.

A hobby can make you more observant. Very much more so…ask any scratch-builder and you’ll find that they look at everything…everywhere. Shapes and materials that escape others come under keen appraisal for use in their model building. That means they look at the whole world more sharply – a good thing. Their minds speed up.

But you get no crops without manure. There are down sides to hobbies that we will discuss in the next essay.

Riding The Horse – Part One – A New Series

A Definitive Guide To The Business Of Hobbies.

This is written in response to a lunchtime conversation with a good friend – a person with whom I shared membership in a hobby club. We’ve moved on from that club, but have fond memories of it.

I’m currently juggling three hobbies myself and pleased with each of them in its own way. He is between engagements, as it were, and casting about looking at the why’s and wherefore’s of a new hobby. Hence the discussion and a series of essays from me. I’ve sent them to him prior to publishing them here and I hope they have proved helpful. So let’s begin…

The are are few animals more useful, more extensively used, or more expensive than the hobby horse. It has been ridden since at least the Middle Ages by many western and a few eastern cultures. The parade has been for religious, folkloric, magical, or sexual purposes and has happened through the year. You can see hobby horses in the circus, the pantomime, and the Christmas Pageant with equal pride of place. Oddly enough, no-one wants the job of cleaning up after them…

 But you can also thank the hobby horse for giving a name to pursuits that help us all live a better leisure life. The hobby presumably gets its name from the fact that most of them are deemed unnecessary, costly, wasteful, and fun. People pursue them much as they would ride a wooden horse down the street – with a great seriousness and a sore arse crack.

This series of articles is presented to help the hobbyist make sense of the whole affair – to make good choices in what to take up and why.

Part One: The five classes of hobby.

Leisure time comes to us all – even the galley slave has times when the ship is in dock and the hortator is off having a drink. Something has to fill that time. That is where hobbies come in. There are five general classes of activity that fill leisure time ( Note: sleeping, excreting and urinating, and eating do not count. They are active pursuits necessary to continued life. Some people compress them into one span of time, which is a lot of fun to see if you are out of splash range.)

First type is the sport or action type. It is entirely possible to devote all your hobby time to golf, horse riding, jogging, or fishing. And a dozen other active pursuits that break a sweat and an occasional ankle. This satisfies a basic human instinct to fight or hunt –  often moving the urges into safer, if less useful, channels. Age can wither some of these pursuits, so people are wise to choose them according to actual physical ability.

Second type is the making type. Whether the making is jewellery, wooden furniture, hot rods, or dolls clothes is immaterial. There is a basic human instinct to turn something out with the hands and eyes and you are well advised to give into it – something will come out of it in the end.

Third type is the collection – of anything. Humans collected shells and pebbles when there were no tools and everything else thereafter. It is a basic instinct. Some collections are of practical value, some promote monetary increase, and some are just the magpie’s eye operated by a human. It doesn’t matter which – the quest must always be unfulfillable to be of any hobby value.

Fourth type is the artistic expression hobby. Writing, photography, drawing, painting, sculpture, poetry, singing, dancing, dressmaking, etc. Whenever you pour passion – whether that be fierce or gentle – into anything that is less useful than an Allis Chalmers air compressor, you are creating art. You won’t be able to drill rock or inflate earthmover tyres with it, but it is art nevertheless.

Fifth type of hobby is the socialising hobby. The Mensa or Probis club. Kiwanis, Lions, Rotary, Elks, Moose, RSL, CWA, Shriners, etc. etc…the list goes on and on of clubs that bring people together with some avowed purpose but are thinly-disguised attempts to start a social group that will cohere. In most cases they will succeed if people really want to be either friendly or fiendish. There is scope for both approaches.

In the next essay we will deal with how to analyse yourself and see which hobby will suit you best.

Barking Up The Wrong Gum Tree

After a marathon gardening and heaving things about session I piled all the unwanted flower pots, garden furniture, and other backyard detritus into the carport and photographed it on the iPad. Then sent a Gumtree advertisement that it was free to a good home.

The pad went mad, as did the mobile phone. All the eager bods who would take it all…and then I waited. Two callers picked the heavy concrete troughs and birdbath and then a third man arrived with a tray top and danced away with the rest. From a dozen or more phone calls.

I’ve pulled the ad, notified the disappointed, and then received a right wigging from someone who goes by an anonymous name ( always a good clue ) that I had done the wrong thing by giving out my address. I  inconvenienced  him and all the slow vultures who might drive up later and be disappointed.

Clever point of view with free goods or dead mules. First come, first served is the name of the game round here when it is pure takeaway.  That’s how it works with verge shopping and that’s how it works with flowerpot charity.

The Sordid Joy Of Charity

When is charity not charity? When it is extorted in consequence of threats. Then it becomes demanding money with menaces. A police matter…

In this unsavoury category I include nearly all professional fund-raising ventures that bombard the householder demanding money for unspecified people with sufferings that can only be assuaged through the accountant. They are but one stage cleaner than the ragged beggar that bails you up in the street or the thuggish hoodie who tries it on in the shopping centre car park.

Occasionally the organised charities will try it on with co-religion, national identity, or consanguinity. They will play the guilt harp as loud as the strings will stretch. They will try to inveigle you to fund-raising dinners that scour your pockets and then spotlight you to make sure you give out plenty.

Some will send you valueless goods – trinkets, stamps, stickers, or cards – that purport to benefit their poor makers  – and dare you to reject them. Or they will expose a  more ambitious range of quasi-ethnic junk in shops upon the premise that there is some sort of fair trade going on. Consider whether you need the tribal mask or the Australian dollars it takes to buy it. You can buy bread and vegetables with the dollars but try taking that mask to Woolies at grocery time.

But is it all bleak? Is it all hell with heels? Perhaps not.

The Sally Ann – Salvation Army to non-Australians – has had some dodgy money practices and some dodgy administrative policies in the past, but they still save bums from the street and still help poor families. The normal Salvationist is not dipping the till. They are still worth crossing the street to put money in the tin. And remember to tip your hat.

Let And Hindrance III

Gosh, time flies. It’s been four years since I last considered this subject, and so much has happened in the meantime; I’ve retired from retail shop work and taken up home hobby shop work, and I’ve officially gotten too old to give a good God Damn.

It’s a little frightening – this new freedom. As middle-aged citizens in employment  we were required to be a pillar of the community and an example to the young. We needed to follow all applicable laws and apply for official permission on the correct forms.  Now that I am 70 years old, no-one looks, no-one asks, and no-one cares. Other people are depressed by this but I am exhilarated. I feel like a kid with a box of limpet mines and a pair of swim fins.

I’ve given up nearly every activity that requires permission – shooting firearms, flying toy airplanes and sailing toy boats, entering prestigious photographic contests, etc. Having had as much success with these things as was ever likely to be, I can leave them – and their lets and hindrances – far behind. And I can be a lot smarter in the next few years about joining into things that require obedience.

Please understand – I’m not an old rebel. I was never a young one, and wouldn’t know how to do it. I am merely a person who is determined to consult their own counsel and take their own decisions. I shall not be a nuisance nor a danger to navigation – but I shan’t be a sheep any more.

The tax people have my complete respect and obedience – monitored and assisted by an honest accountant. The police also have my wholehearted support for civil law – I shall do all I can not to be a scoff-law in any vital matter. I shall be delighted to participate in the political process of my state and nation – but decline to be bullied by friends or strangers regarding my own vote.

Past this – I shall enjoy toy boats, cars, and airplanes – studio photography,writing, reading – interstate trips and whatever local amusements offer – and I shall not ask permission nor take scolding from anyone whilst doing so.

The chief care I will have to take is not to shock those who like to dictate and direct. I do hope my smile will be bland enough – I must go get my copy of Alice In  Wonderland and  practice Cheshire catting in the mirror.

 

” Based On Your Facebook Profile… “

We suggest that you bathe more regularly and stop calling for the Dalai Lama to be impeached. Despite what you say, he was born in Hawaii and has the hula moves to prove it.

We appear to have had all our Facebook information sold to people who want to sell us time-share tea tree multi-level sweepstakes tickets to help starving kittens. I, for one, am keen to participate. I’ve made that clear in the Facebook profile picture that shows me standing next to the howitzer and the vat of warm glue. It’s no mystery, and no-one need apologise for the transaction. Indeed, I have been getting a great deal of pleasure looking at the advertisements that want to hook me up with a Russian sheep.

I’m a little less sanguine about the side-bar that reports the news of the world. If I wanted news I’d buy a newspaper or a copy of Poor Richard’s Almanack. If I wanted science I’d read the Political Review Daily and if I wanted politics I’d read Scientific Zambian. No, what I want from a sidebar is the real stuff – opportunities for online gambling and pictures of leprechauns. I’m a big boy now –  make that gambling leprechauns in onesies.

I admire and respect Mr Zuckerberg for apologising for something that he got caught at…particularly as he owns all the money in the world anyway and he got a lot of it by doing exactly what he’s apologising for. What’s the bet that he’ll make money out of the apology…

I’m thinking of starting a social network up our street. I already know when the neighbours fight and what their favourite foods are – because they cook a lot of them with the lids off and frankly from some of the odours I don’t thing they have a painted wall left inside their houses….

We do not need to share things as we already share cats…or the cats share us. I have a lot of posts I’d like to suggest and a lot of people I’d like to be suggestive to.

I think that we need to chill out for a bit and just regard the social media like Facebook and the others as on-line versions of a Cirque de Soliel. It has plenty of colour, an unpronounceable name for each new show, and a French Canadian who can balance on a bucket. What more could one possibly want?