How Would Sir Like His Communication This Morning?

Please place the letters on the silver tray in the hall, Jenkins. Printed pamphlets, flyers, advertising catalogues, and real estate notices may be dropped unread into the recycling bin on the way into the house.

Please route the electronic letters to one of my two accounts. The commercial ones may be sent through to the studio address – the personal ones into the private address. The writers will know which to use from the email communications I have sent them originally. Unfortunately there will be a modicum of unwanted commercial material mixed in as well, but I shall institute means by which it can be held at bay.

I do not think I shall be taking the Facebook this morning. Perhaps later in the week, if there is no other pressing matter. Or later in the month.

Likewise, you need not switch on the television apparatus in the sitting room today. I have several books open on my side table in the library and I do not wish to be distracted by the sight of murders or gasoline explosions.

Do dust the wireless, however, as I shall be using it today as I write. I find the old-time radio station and the ABC classical music a soothing way to screen out other background sounds. And I do feel it a good idea to listen to the ABC news at least once a day. Not that the news is all that good, all that often, and the ABC has a decided political bias, but it is as well to know what the weather will be for the coming few days.

Should there be a call on the telephone, please listen carefully to the first few seconds of it. If there is silence, then a hiss, then a confused gabble of sounds in the background, you might be connected to a steam room in Bengal, Manila, or Mysore. The person who tells you their name – invariably a staunchly Anglo-Saxon one given in a strong subcontinental or islands accent – will be from a technical department of Microsoft. They wish you to give them code numbers for bank accounts and credit cards. Please feel free to replace the receiver on the cradle at any time.

The mobile telephone will be another matter. It will ring for only a very short period of time and then go silent. The call will be recorded as missed or the caller will try to leave a message, which will be next to impossible to retrieve. This is normal and desirable.

As far as personal callers, please ask them to state their business before admitting them to the house. Those canvassing for solar power panels may be referred to the roof, which they will then observe is covered in the things already. Those who press for my attention upon spiritual matters may be referred to my religious adviser,  Mr. Thomas Paine. Anyone selling raffle tickets, clothespegs, or books of discount vouchers should be addressed though first the locked screen door and then through the firmly closed main door. ” Goodbye ” is a useful word.

Telegrams? I have not seen one for three decades. I doubt they still exist, though I would welcome one just out of nostalgia. Not a sad one – perhaps one announcing a win in the Irish Sweepstakes. I miss those.

Now, I must to my desk. I have an essay to write: ” Have We Lost Touch With Ourselves? “.  A catchy title, I think, what…?

 

 

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A Very Slightly Grand Tour – Part One

We have all read of the Grand Tour – the coming-of-age tradition for those of the wealthy classes from Western Europe in the 18th and 19th century. France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, and then back again over several months. Sometimes it extended to years if side trips could be made to the Ottoman empire or to eastern Europe. Tourists came back with a wealth of art, impressions, and diseases.

Of course it can all be done very much more rapidly these days, and from anywhere in the world. A quick whisk through all the capitals is no more than a Eurail pass away, and you can cram several cathedrals and palazzi in a day – with time to spare for the bar and the duty-free on the way home. If I wish to meet foreigners and hear the exotic patois of their languages I need not leave the comfort of my own city – they’ve come here these days. A smart-card bus ticket and a day will let me see Europe, Asia, Africa, and parts of South America all spread out over Perth.

But where can I go to tour grandly? If not in culture, and not in pure distance travelled, I think the southwest of my own state is a very good place to start.

It is possible, by dint of grind and caffeine, to use the modern freeway and highway system to circle the southwest from Perth to Bunbury, Busselton, Dunsborough, Augusta, Walpole, Albany, then back to Perth in a day. You won’t get to see all the sights and you won’t have fun, but you can do it. But if you add a few days to experience all the stops the tension goes and the fun seeps back in. Food, drink, trinkets, art, scenery, yokels, it’s all there. And I am looking very hard at adding another factor to the equation: theatre…the theatre of living history.

It won’t be public theatre – so much of the best living history is played to an audience of the actors alone. It won’t be dramatic theatre – because the WA southwest is not the cockpit of anything. But if it can be done right, it may prove to be as delightful an experience as anything that 18th century Europe could throw up. More plans to come…

Holding Facebook’s Beer

I was mildly amused when a Facebook game came by asking me to score points for admitting to foolish/sad/criminal behaviour in my past. And making it public to the entire planet. I mean, how could one resist the temptation to fill in the little chinks in the information brick wall. I’m just a little surprised they didn’t include a section that asked for sexual fantasies and credit card numbers…

Well, here at the Backstabbers Guild Of Australia we feel that this sort of blatant attempt at coercion is all very well, but should not be done on an amateur basis. If you are going to ask people to condemn themselves publicly, you need to give them more tempting chances. If they’re going down the sewer, make it a big one.

To this end, we have devised the following quiz for social media. There are no points scored, unless you count the knowing looks that people will give you at your next party.

Have you ever…

a. Shot a police cruiser in the grill work with a 17 pounder anti-tank gun from a camouflaged position?

b. Flayed an Albigensian heretic?

c. Written a song about your feelings and then played it to people at a party, accompanying yourself on guitar? All 15 verses?

d. Served week-old warm runny egg salad sandwiches from a service station cabinet to people at a church social?

e. Counterfeited a draft card to allow your underage classmates to buy beer at the local liquor store? Then phoned ahead to alert the local police?

f. Removed a ladder from an attic access hatch while someone was up there and then gone quietly home and had a good dinner?

g. Switched tops on the spray-paint cans in the local Bunnings store cabinet?

h. Put salt in the plaster mix of someone who is trying to invest a casting?

i. Invited a religious caller in to tell you their entire story by using an accent rich in unidentifiably foreign sounds, mixed with blatant grammatical error –  and then insisted that they sit down and drink toasts to your country? Used water tumblers full of hard liquor and cooking oil?

j. If they lasted the course, showed them the Albigensian skin…?

 

The Curse Of the Graphic Memory And The Art Library

People often use the cliché that what has been seen cannot be unseen. Like all clichés this it true, trite, and trash at the same time. Lots of things once seen are never seen again…and the effort to find them uses up whole afternoons.

Some people search for lost keys, sunglasses, and such. They go through all the conventional search patterns, from methodical to frantic, and most times the offending object eventually does turn up.

I search for images that have been seen in art books, catalogues, monographs, etc. The field of endeavour is constrained – my own library – and the books in it very rarely go anywhere. But I suspect the wretched things of passing the images to and fro between themselves to subvert me. I go looking for a perfectly remembered picture in the most logical book there may be – a catalogue or biography of the artist – and it is not there.

In the past I have then gone to the next most logical place and then the next, but I’ve finally come to realise that this is fruitless – the pictures have flitted and I might as well just start at the A section and look at every page. No sense trying to second-guess it. The sensuous nude is as likely to be on page 567 of a book on compound steam engines as it is in the pin-up magazine.

I’m sure there is a digital solution to this all…some type of sorting and cross-referencing  program that lets on talk into a tiny microphone and get the exact thing desired instantly. This must be possible – it works when you want a hamburger sandwich and some french-fried potatoes.

Perhaps I need to hire a minimum-wage librarian. Or buy a better-quality brain.

 

The Verge Collection

Do you have them in your country? In your suburb? The semi-annual opportunity to haul out all the old items that have given up the ghost, or the new ones that you are ashamed of, and let the council haul it all away. Ours is this week and I have created a large little pile.

They specify only good junk – no batteries, paint, or munitions. No old asbestos fences. You are not allowed to throw bodies on the pile. I grumble at this sort of prissiness on the part of the council – in the good old days garbage men would take anything.

But, if you want to lose the old computers, exercise bicycles, Tupperware lids, and floor lamps, you have to comply. You’re not allowed to crowd the verge until the week of the pickup, either.

Fortunately, in addition to the official trucks there is also a veritable army of private scavengers who tour the streets with vans and utes and sift through the piles before the council gets the good stuff. It’s probably illegal, but no-one cares. As long as they observe the unwritten rule of leaving the pile neat when they go, most householders are more than happy to see the stuff vanish as soon as possible. It makes more verge room for the next shift of trash.

I noted today that we lost the garden tubs and the cordless telephone but gained a broken scooter and several coathangers. I cannot for the life of me think why people would add to the pile in the night, but then they might have too much loot on their rickshaw and have to off-load the extra. I once had a prowler leave an untouched IKEA glass shelf that fit my IKEA bookcases – a definite win.

They only do hard goods twice a year, and green waste ditto to a different roster. It is in lieu of giving everyone a tip card and letting them dump their own junk. I think they could up the frequency and people might be tempted to wind back the consumerism a bit. Tough on the exercise machine market and the broken office chair trade, but good for the environment.

Free the Political Prismers

Don’t I mean political prisoners? No, though it might be a nice gesture for them, too.  And in some cases it would give them a welcome opportunity to take their turn as the local tyrant and imprison others. A game of musical cells…

What I really want is freedom from the complimentary rainbow that WordPress stuck on my blog page some weeks ago. As pleasant as it might look, and as charming as the cause for which it advocates may be, it is a banner that has little to do with the rest of the writing. It is also a little cloying.

I hope that when the results of the same-sex-Simon-Says plebiscite are announced and the business goes off to the parliament for resolution that the WordPress operators will take it off again. They can bombard their members of parliament with as many rainbows as they like, but I’d appreciate a return to normal* round here. If people want bands of colour, I can make them in Photoshop and string them all over the place.

Here’s one advocating triple-expansion cylinders for French steam locomotives. I think it deserves your support.

 

*  Normal is not a good thing to define as it tends to make the neighbors nervous.

The Authentic Fake News Site Vs The False-Flag Rumour Forum List Meme

If we were asked to characterize the social media that we use – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. – in terms of food, what would we make it out to be?

a. Facebook: A crusty stew with appetizing aromas at the edges – aromas that never actually seem to be there when you search for them. The occasional bubble in the centre indicating heat. And a roiling mass of unsavoury ingredients just under the crust. Cat hair here and there. And unicorn glitter.

b. Twitter: A Pez dispenser. You poke the ornamental head at the top and a hard pellet of opinion is popped out of the screen. Some of the pellets taste like sugar and some of them taste like horse shit. None of them do you any good at all.

c. Instagram: Magnificently plated, superbly coloured, and unavailable to someone like you at this time. Just look and envy.

d. Pinterest: The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence and so is the food. The reason is mould. Subscribe now.

e. The personal blog: Someone’s home cooking. Not necessarily bad, but nevertheless someone else’s pots and pans. Taste at your peril. They may not be a good cook. You may not be a good eater.

If we had been presented with today’s social media news in the 1950’s or 1960’s we would likely have recognised it for what it is – propaganda and commercial promotion. The flimsiest of the flam. Those of us who saw the lies when they came on newsprint and left ink stains on the fingers…or who waded through innumerable cigarette advertisements in magazines…react entirely differently to those who have only ever seen a screen. We may not know how to turn that screen on and make it dance, but we know when to turn it off and do our own thinking.

Of course we can be wrong when we do that – original thought can be as bad as the store-bought stuff – but as we use simpler ingredients and have less access to processors, it is likely to be fresher and tastier. It may lack the salt and scandal that is added by unknown hackers but it nourishes us just the same.

Bit riskier when we send it to our friends and neighbours, though. As our own thoughts are unlikely to be covered by the legal indemnities enjoyed by professional liars, we are in danger of being detected and having our opinions challenged. Most of us have no biased reports or dodgy scientific studies to back us up and common sense has long been discredited as a way of living. The best we can do when some other madman challenges our own mania is throw out a smokescreen of kitten and Hitler memes and close the account.

Anyone who either agrees or disagrees with this will be instantly defriended with the prickly end of an emoji.