Damn You, World Leaders!

I used to have a pretty good corner on the local cynicism market when I worked behind a retail counter. I could size up a customer in four seconds and predict what would come out of their mouth…And make the rest of the staff laugh until they were ill into their paper lunch bags or the till.

Now you have blown this to pieces. No longer can I shock or amuse when you have topped nearly everything I ever did, and continue to do even worse each day. I cannot possibly compete with Trump and Trudeau, and now even Boris Johnson is doing it in his retirement.

Boris. A man burdened with the name of a cartoon Russian spy name, plus a body and  head of hair that was God’s gift to cartoonists, thinks the moslem burqua is a bad look. You couldn’t write this stuff and sell it to the Three Stooges – they’d turn it down as too slapstick.

I’m not in favour of the garment as such but then my objection is that it is too much confined to the one sex – if the males of the tribe were similarly swathed and hidden I would say fine. Or ditch the black lump look and substitute exotic and bright colours and designer patterns. If they must make themselves look like a bolt of cloth at least make it the fancy stuff.

But back to the world leaders. I think we miss out on a lot of good stuff by being Euro and American-centric in the news coverage. I’ll bet there are some wise and wonderful statesmen ( oops, statespeople. Sorry, Justin. ) in the various dictators, theocrats, plutocrats, autocrats, and kleptocrats of the other continents. We just need to have them on the telly regularly. And not just when they are being tried – before that, when they are reviewing the troops or beating the recalcitrants.

 

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Entertaining Sweet Poison

I have been reading a well-known web comic strip for a number of years – it is delightfully drawn with a number of quirky characters. The Sunday colour is magnificently done – Disney or Pixar at their best could do no better. The story lines some years have been as much fun as a Ghibli movie.

But every strip is attached to the artist’s personal life in some way – and some people’s personal lives take roads that I do not wish to walk. The case of Al Capp and Lil’ Abner is one such. I loved the strip, and still do when I see old repro books of it. So many of its characters are standard figures in my life – I knew the doubles for Mammy Yokum and Marryin’ Sam. I know the double for Joe Blftsxk right now – and I steer clear of him. I am still looking for Moonbeam McSwine…

Pogo by Walt Kelly was another. I collect such examples of his books and strips as I can find as they have a real echo of my childhood and youth about them. Kelly may have had his foibles, but he drew them into delightful creatures and amusing story lines without being crude or derivative. I don’t think anyone pulled or pushed Kelly in the political arena.

The current web comic artist has adopted political attitudes that are being pushed. I don’t think it’s affected his image work, but I do think he has set up a series of straw men and paper tigers to destroy for the benefit of other people’s opinions. In doing so he has lost mine.

I’m a mollusc when it comes to running away – a veritable bivalve. I shall not pull his plug until the end of the year. But if he continues in the way he has trended to…I’ll need to find another strip to replace him.

Breaking news: I have just canned the strip. And searched extensively for another to replace it – webcomics can be a very minimal artistic experience. But I’ve found one. It has a different world in it, but isn’t preachy. It is a funny comic strip.

Home Six – Bed

I live at home.

And for eight hours a day I live horizontal next to a wife and a cat. We have a big bed, and if we are decent about it we need not impinge upon each other’s territory. The cat developed the habit of getting into bed by coming to my side of it and jumping up onto my bits, but I countered this by doing the hockey protector pose when I heard him enter the room and the worst that happens now is a bounce and a thud. On occasion he has tried to lie starfished onto my entire side of the bed but I pick up the blanket and sheet and roll him off.

We have also discovered that you can get a marvelous pad for the top of the mattress that means Mrs. I want to roll around like a pig in a fit can do so without disturbing Mr. for God’s sake lie still until I go to sleep. It has prevented divorce, suicide, homicide, and worse.

The only down side to a very large bed is very large fitted sheets. They cost a lot, and sometimes do not fit as well as the makers would have you think. Oh, the top bit always covers something but putting on the bottom stretchy bit is like fighting a giant squid in a diving suit. And you’re not allowed to use a knife.

Bed is often taken as euphemism for sex. Fine. That’s always a good thing, provided everyone agrees. But also consider that a bed is also a bed. It can be a great comfort even if there is no-one jumping on your bits other than the cat.

Cooking Classes For The Tasteless

We are always being bombarded with the phrases ” Good Taste ” and ” Bad Taste ” but the people who scold us about these things never seem to be able to offer a practical way to differentiate the two. Often it amounts to waiting until something goes from one to the other – and there are instances of some things switching from one camp to the other several times within a century. You need to have some way to predict which side of the fence you should be on when it blows down.

Here is the current BGA guide to Good and Bad Taste:

a. Name calling is always in bad taste unless the name is really quite clever or trendy and you have a position as a sometime journalist with a small suburban paper. As no-one really reads the thing before they wrap cat scraps in it, you can use it as a platform to be as rude as you please.

b. Bullying is similarly in bad taste. The unfortunate thing is that there is no direct opposite to the word ” bullying ” that can be praised as good taste so the campaigns to stop it can be a little weak. It’s hard to tell someone to take to their tormentors with a fire axe and make it sound like good taste…though it may be good fun.

c. Beige is nearly always good taste and nipple pink nearly always bad. But here again real life can be maddening – at one stage of the Second World War the British experimented with painting some Spitfires ” Nipple Pink ” as a form of dawn camouflage.

d. Nutritionists and health writers are fond of telling us that anything fried is in bad taste. Cooks, on the other hand, frequently fry things and make them taste very good. A case of reality being falsely advertised or vice versa.

e. Comedy is often in bad taste – and jokes in good taste are frequently so weak as to expire before any resuscitation can be attempted. They are greeted with fashionable silence. The cry of ” Quieter and Sadder ” may come from the back of the hall…

f. Anything that involves excretions is in bad taste – the equipment, the occasions, the produce. Just a bad idea.

g. Kittens and puppies are nearly always in good taste. Small owls and otters as well, though the latter may leave damp patches ( see (f.) above. Use your discretion and have a cloth handy.

h. Self aggrandisement, boasting, skiting, bragging, and generally arrogant behaviour is in bad taste until one becomes media promoter, entertainment celebrity, or political candidate. Then it becomes a good idea, if not exactly good taste.

 

Somewhere There Is An Artist…

And this clothing is covered in little burns. His skin as well. Because he is an artist in arc welding.

Of course there are some arc welders who do art that involves massive iron gates or sculptures or railway bridges. Whoever did this tractor can move into their ranks – and I must lift the studio hat to him for bringing it to the hot rod show.

Really there is nothing that can be said that is not to be seen – save the fact that the Thor mannequin with the big hammer might not have been needed to get the attention of the show goers – the tractor does that all by itself.

For my part, the most impressive part is the blue and white license plate. Mr. Saywell did something that many other builders at the show can never do – got his creation over the pits and legal to actually go on the road. I would have liked to see the inspector’s face when it rolled into the licensing centre…

Note: if any construction sites seem to be missing an inordinately large amount of rebar, we can put them onto a solution to the puzzle.

I’d Have Joined The Amish, But I Couldn’t Get The Batteries

The business of being a super-hero is a popular thing these days – from the mainstream Superman, Batman, and Spiderman to the more esoteric Tick, Dog Welder, or Squirrel Girl – everyone has a secret desire to don a suit and fight crime. Actually, some of the suits are a crime, but that is something I’ll leave to Edna Mode to sort out.

In my case I have to adapt my ambitions to my resources. I have not got big muscles or eyes that send out laser rays  – not even the ability to cloud men’s minds with a hypnotic gesture. The best I can do is grin and bear it and get revenge later. ( Revengeman? The Nemesis?  Schadenfreuder? All possibilities…) I need to reduce the idea of super to a manageable commodity.

I can write. That I’ll admit to. It was not always thus, and I daresay it will go again one day, but right now I can spit out copy like a teenager regurgitating pizza. I can fight crime and injustice by writing biting little articles and slipping them under the doors of the guilty. Or I can slip them onto WordPress and hope that the veiled references are going to work.  I regret that no-one will let me near the keyboard controls of the scoreboard at the sports stadium…

Or I could promote myself as The Backstabber. I’ve been the head of the Backstabber’s Guild of Australia for decades and there is no-one more qualified than I to tell your friends exactly what I found out about you with one simple credit check. I wonder if I could have a super-hero costume with a cape?

No, Edna? Well, you’re  the boss. Not too tight around the shorts, please – I have no ambitions.

CatskillMan? Only if I can work with a snare drummer at the supper show. Tish-boom…Try the veal.

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.