Make It Or Buy It?

I once started an old-fashioned hobby that needed all sorts of arcane things that I had never seen in shops. When I asked the president of the hobby club where to get the things needed he said: ” My Dear Fellow – we make them ourselves. “. And then proceeded to show me how. Over the years I discovered no end of enthusiasts making things in workshops, forges, sewing rooms, and kitchens that had not been seen for centuries.

I joined in with some darkroom and studio work that revived old practices. In nearly every case there were difficulties finding out what to do and where to get supplied of raw materials but in the end most of the projects attempted were achieved. And I found out that in the process of casting, sewing, forging, planing, and general blood-letting we had gained something even more valuable than the musket balls, swords, tunics, and historic photos – we had gained the ability to be a little independent in a coddled world.

Not all of us can make castings in a furnace that we have constructed from river clay – but I know two chaps who can. Likewise I know people who can hand-stitch an entire suit of clothes. I can make leather goods and spray paint. None of us is ever really daunted by a household repair – we might not get round to it for a decade, but that is just laziness – not fear.

We all have reversed the admiration we might have once felt for store-bought goods in favour of those we design and make for ourselves.

If you are a person who is the victim of the shops – if all you wear, eat, use, and do is governed by the goods on offer and the price that the retailer can extract – pause for a moment and think. Is there any little need that you have that can be satisfied by making it yourself? It doesn’t have to be an organically grown steam engine or an entire garden in a week. But start small and make…and use to the exclusion of a commercial product…one thing. Get used to it – get to like it – and get the feeling that there are more things that you can do…

There are.

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The Experiments – Part Four – Final

The heading image placed on this last experimental page is a conventional representation of a one of the flags of the Confederate States of America in the 1860’s. Recently it has become the centrepiece in a storm of controversy in the United States and has been used in a number of deplorable political and criminal acts, as well as for theatrical presentations.

It was also an extremely small part of an image on a weblog column dealing with die-cast toy cars – fuzzy and pixellated though it was, I suspect it triggered a mechanism in Facebook that blanked the image. I determined to see how that mechanism operated. The previous three posts on this column ( go back and read them ) detail the experimental means I employed to see if the thing could be set off again.

If we don’t see an image up there on Facebook today – or if it’s a generalized image of my studio card – we’ll know the trigger mechanism is the entire, coloured, detailed pattern. Every other combination has been ignored. If you do see the flag pattern, then the whole episode was just a flash in the social media pan.

The flag pattern won’t be shown again – not for political or moral reasons – but because it is just not relevant to life and thought here in Australia. And that may be a hard thing for anyone in North America to accept…that this is another part of the world with people who lead other lives. The distresses that the North Americans encounter or engender within their own borders are theirs to deal with amongst themselves. To put it succinctly – it’s none of my business.

Readers can be as proud or as ashamed – as busy or as idle – as high or as low as they wish. No need to howl at me with either rage or approval – my opinion on North American matters is not relevant. The only thing you might care to do is to share some thoughts:

If you can’t see an 1860’s flag on the top of a Facebook post…what other things are you not permitted to see? What price constitutional amendments or bills of rights ? Who decides the let and hindrance of your life?

 

The Experiments – Part Three

The second week saw the reposting of the initial experiments in graphics repeated but with the Photoshop inversion turned off – the colours of the experimental panel are the red, white, and blue of the original flag image.

This may, or may not be the actual colours of the Confederate flag – I’ve never seen an original relic. Logic tells me that cloth dyes of that time would have a lot less purity and the intervening years – plus Yankee shot and shell will have dimmed the things. Even a few years’ flying for a modern flag will show considerable wear on it, and maritime flags worst of all.

Note that there are many modern flags – including Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, Russia, France, Norway, the Netherlands, and the United States of America to list a few –  that use red, white, and blue in their flags. The reason I mention this is that if the censor is electronic and dependent upon pure colour recognition, last week would have gotten a pass-through. This week would start the circuits.

A.SIze, aspect ratio, colour all correct. No response.

B.

There’s the cross again but in pure white. Is this St. Patrick’s cross? Like on the Union Jack? I think it might be. No response.

C.An addition of the blue bars to the cross. No response. Is it too close to the Norwegian flag to get an alarm buzzer? Or is there a real person looking at the experiment – possibly with finger poised?

The last part – the entire flag placed prominently on Facebook with a post underneath disclaiming any political or racial bias – will prove the pudding.

The reaction of Facebook could be several things:

a. No reaction. It was all a gas bubble. I can go back to playing Candy Crush and looking for pictures of cats.

b. Enormous reaction. Immediate removal of all Facebook accounts. Howls of rage from civic groups and all the consequent social furore that can be sustained. I should be sad to lose the facility that Facebook provides, but then I have the example of several friends who deliberately avoid it – they live full intellectual lives nonetheless.

c. A polite wigging from the administrators done by automatic posting a scolding communication. Inviting an equally polite rebuttal, of course. Written by hand…

d. Virtuous unfriending or blocking by Facebook friends who have not read and will not read the actual articles. The one-line judges and the keyboard warriors are the most likely for this. I shall be sad to lose them, but the world is full of consolation.

The Experiments – Part Two

Remember I said I tried out a number of graphic components to see the point at which the Facebook robot censor or real person triggered? I secured an image of the Confederate flag and cleaned it up. Then I deconstructed it and changed the colour in Photoshop. Each day I popped one image on the screen:

A.

Reverse of red. No reaction. But a nice colour for a GM car of the 1950’s. This has the proportions of the flag.

B. 

Addition of the PS-inversed blue field of the flag. Rather similar to St. Andrew’s cross on the Scottish flag, though they have a better blue and a clear white. That central colour is the inverse of a deep blue. No reaction

C.

Well, there you go – the PS inverse of the Stars And Bars straight out. If the circuit was going to be triggered by the size, shape and pattern, this should do it. But no reaction.

Note that at no point did I use the comments section of Facebook to mention politics, flags, Confederates, or censorship. I just threw out the images to see what would occur. And I tried to keep myself from coming to premature conclusions about what was happening. Some of my Facebook friends knew what the pattern looked like but at this stage of the  experiment they also drew no final conclusions.

After one week, I switched the colours…

The Experiments – Part One

My friends on Facebook have seen a little graphic experimentation conducted on that social media site over the last couple of weeks. It’s time to explain what they saw and why it was there.

It started here on WordPress a few weeks ago when I posted a column about a collection of toys at a model car club. They were tiny replicas of the Dodge that featured in the ” Dukes Of Hazard ” television show. It’s the orange one with the Confederate flag on the top and ” General Lee ” on the side. The column was headed by this image:

Pretty small and awfully fuzzy – I forgot to focus – but sharp enough to trigger some sort of response in the Facebook machinery*. When the column was automatically shared to Facebook the image was replaced with a generic picture of my studio card.

I was pretty sure it was the blobs of pixels representing that flag, as it is so controversial in America. But I was amazed that such a small and innocent picture could get banned. And it raised the question of whether someone sits in an office somewhere tut-tutting and blue penciling everything that comes by  – or if there is a computer program that searches pixel by pixel.

And further – if there is a magic eye censor peering all the time, what exactly is it peering at? Colour? Shape? Pattern? Position? Is it looking at all the faces on Facebook and censoring out the ones it doesn’t like? I determined to experiment by posting a patch of colour or a pattern each day on their main site to see when and if it would be removed. And I didn’t just use the colours of the flag – I used colours that had been chromatically reversed in the Photoshop palette as well.

Note for the virtuous: I do not condone the use of the Confederate flag for nastiness in North America at all – I think it is abhorrent. Outside of that continent it is irrelevant – and I note that nearly everywhere has some graphic design that might be historic but is liable to be used for politics and social behaviour. We’ve got one that’s been seized upon down here:

That’s a Wikipedia image of the Eureka flag first flown in Ballarat during a 19th century gold-digger’s rebellion. It was a small flag and a small rebellion, but recently it has been used for a lot of union politics and pressure groups. It’s not a myth – you can actually go see the real thing in the museum there.

*  Note: If this panel of this WordPress posting is blank on Facebook, we’ll know the graphic censorship extends into the body of the essays as well as the header.

The World-Travelled Hobby

Coventry, England…New York, USA…Perth, Australia. Well you don’t get ’em much further apart than that – and you don’t get a tale of resurrection in many other hobbies than that of vintage cars.

Oh, there are a lot of restoration services for antiques – businesses that rebuild cellos, escritoires, and clean oil paintings…but few actually go to the extent that car restorers do to get the objects of their affection back to new. The only other example I can think of is the aeroplane restorers and they have an even more difficult task as their end result needs to defy death and gravity as well as time.

Well, the best thing I can do for the Jaguar XK 120 Fixed Head coupe story is to show the sign that the owner placed in front of it. Judge for yourself the dedication of a Western Australian who not only repaired what was left over in California over two decades ago, but converted it expertly to right-hand drive. The only saving grace would have been the fact that there were many more of the XK120’s made as RHD originally that the parts would have been available…but I’ll bet they were pricey.

Beautiful lines, of course, but as they are so reminiscent of the luxury cars of the 1930’s you have to wonder if the designers’ minds had been set in this before the war and they could not retune themselves after. I think some of the construction methods were also in the same category but this might also have been to do with the British unions’ control of manufacturing and trades.

I was most impressed with the security taken to keep the wheel covers in place. Actually, I’d love to see wheel covers return to modern styles and don’t know why they have not. Perhaps the age of elegance has passed.

 

Before Cadillac Were Too Much To Swallow

I do not wish to be disloyal to the Cadillac motor car company or to the greater entity that is General Motors…but Cadillac has been too much for too long. Too big, to heavy, too much over the top in style and construction. This is not surprising, as it was promoted and eventually realised as the most expensive of the GM cars – a vehicle that would capture the imagination and the money of the rich and famous. It’s been outdone in this lately by the excessive offerings of Europe, but for a great deal of time it was the North American Rolls Royce – the one that the newly rich could actually get their hands on.

Wasn’t always so, and this delightful Cadillac Eight attests. There was a time when it was well-crafted motoring but could still be seen to be a normal design. Around the time of the First World War – 1915 –  this was their first 8-cylinder engine. Note the L-head design and the delightful priming ports for the cylinders. This sort of engine has been reliable for a very long time – enthusiasts have discovered examples that have not been fired up for 60 years and have gotten them running in short order.

The car is a tourer, obviously, and the sign at the front said that the body is an authentic example sourced from Boise, Idaho. Of course it shows a very great deal of attention to the upholstery and fitments but the casual onlooker might be surprised at what might seem sparseness in a Cadillac dash.

Thank goodness the restorers have opted for authenticity rather than modern convenience. Others are sometimes not so fastidious.