Take This Quiz

In the spirit of the pop-up quizzes that Facebook puts out on a regular basis, the Backstabbers Guild Of Australia is set to introduce a series of fun games that everyone can participate in. Are you ready? Got your thinking cap on?*

Here goes:

  1. What is your favourite food?
  2. What is your favourite colour?
  3. What is the log-in code to your bank account?
  4. How much money do you have?
  5. What is your security password ?
  6. When do you go on holiday?
  7. Where is the spare key for your house?

There. That wasn’t hard was it? And did you have fun?

We’ll be in touch…

*  On yer arse…

 

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 These have an intrinsic value in themselves  – with the possible exception of outdated postage stamps – and can be turned into a current in the income stream of the collector.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

Would You LIke To Donate To The Poor?

A question that is asked at our supermarket and DIY store checkouts every day. Oddly enough, the people or signs that ask it never really know how our spare change is actually going to be routed to the downtrodden – the answer they give when asked is invariably evasive.

It is not a new phenomenon. My parents were sponsors for a Korean orphan in the 1950’s – a young person supposedly named Park Chun Bok. They sent off money monthly to a charity that was meant to be feeding and educating the young person. I don’t know about food, but eventually some education was forthcoming – my folks found out through magazine journalism that the find they were paying into siphoned off about 80% of the money for ” administrative costs “.

Is this the case with all charitable contributions? One would hope not, but still…when you get a begging letter through the post – as I did this week – asking for money to support what is patently someone’s political ambitions…well, you start to wonder. It is at times like this that I wish we had a chip heater for our bath water to use up the spare paper and cardboard.

Do I ever give charity money? Not as much as once I might…but I still have some respect for several organisations. These are pretty self-effacing ones and do not live high on the hog. They just spend the charity money on the poor.

Two Wheel 2018 – Part One – The European Peasant’s Vehicle

I am the Sergeant Schultz of motorcycles. I know nothing. Nevertheless, I am prepared to be captivated by the things when they are presented as static objects.. I should run a mile if you asked me to ride one…

Here was the first nest of finds at the WAHRS this year. Someone loves motor scooters, and strange foreign ones at that. Of course, it might be argued that all motor scooters are foreign-built but some are further offshore than others. The Vespa and Lambretta seem to have been a staple of the city roads here in Perth in the 1960’s and I do remember being arrested on a Puch in the back streets of Nedlands in 1967 – 68…but a lot of the others are exotic birds indeed:

Ariel Leader.

DKW.

Heinkel. Yes, that Heinkel…

Rumi. This one almost thinks that it wants to be a motor bike rather than a scooter but the position of the kick starter is the part that baffles me. It looks like it protrudes to a place that cannot be ignored.

The use of a motor scooter in city traffic of the 21st century is both wise and foolish. The crowded roads and short distances needed make it ideal but the unprotected nature of the ride plus the under power of most of them make them nearly as great a hazard as the middle-aged lycra cyclists on the bike paths. I should love one out in a country town or on Rottnest Island.

 

The Club Rule

The club rule is that the club rules rule. If a club rule has been ruled by the club the rule of the club is ruled, club, rule…club, club, club…

This started out well, but seems to have gone off the track.

We all live by rules. Every day Commonwealth, State, and local statutes govern where we can drive, what we can eat, who we can shoot, etc. For the most part we accept the existence of these and obey or break them as our character dictates. We pay enormous sums to politicians to invent or remove them, and for the most part they do it somewhere else, so we are spared the sight of the process. A blessing.

Today I ran foul of a club rule – a club for people who collect toy cars – by not having my paper membership slip pinned to my shirt when I visited a toy collector’s fair. The punishment for this breach was the loss of a $ 5 bill. I still benefitted from the toy fair as I found several models to help me complete my scale airfield, but the episode of the $5 paper badge rankles.

Even the intervention of the club president did not sway the jobsworth at the entry desk. Apparently that paper badge and the unwritten club rule has more power than he does. A daunting prospect.

Well, I shall make sure that I have the badge prominently displayed on my person in the future. Laminated to a large metal tag and possibly slung around my neck like dogtags. I wonder how many more fiscal rules have been written into the club book?

One good thing. They never do get my name right – even when they presented me with a trophy for an exhibition model last year they spelled it wrong…but the paper card is closest that they’ve gotten yet. I live in hope.

The Little World – The Measure Of A Diorama

You all know what a diorama is – a miniature set with scale plastic models. But did you know it was a historical thing too? Apparently one of the original definitions was of a scene  that was meant to be viewed through one peephole and that had lighting effects that changed as you looked.

Well, you could do that today with the plastic models, of course, but it would require a good deal more design skill than most people possess. I include myself in the most people. I can manage pictures of a scale set when I make it for one purpose, but I never restrict the viewer to just one angle . People are free to see the thing from all sides.

This may be a mistake – the older artists may have had the right idea about it all. I believe Vermeer made dioramas to help him with some of his most famous paintings…or maybe the paintings helped with the dioramas.

Most of the works that I see at the model exhibitions are model-centric. The builders do a splendid job of a central figure or a plane, ship or vehicle, and the surrounds are merely to shore up or show up that model. They may be very well done, with superb weathering and accessories, but they are a stage set or enlarged plinth for the model.

The other approach is one that is seen sometimes in museums. If they need to depict a famous scene or battle , there may be anywhere from dozens to thousands of models employed, but they are subservient to the overall impression or story that the diorama tells. It’s rare that you see it from all sides – the only one I remember was a Waterloo set depicted in one of the castles somewhere in England that was on such a scale and in such a large room that you could walk all around the thing. I’d been a re-enactor in one of the Waterloo years and was able to make more sense of it than a casual visitor.

I often recall this, and other Imperial War Museum dioramas, and think that it forms a good basis for judging our own efforts. LIke the railway layouts that are very well done, a good diorama can stand on its own with no models visible – or at least none that dominate the viewer’s attention. Then it really becomes a Little World.