I Hope To Interest Science

I hope to be of interest to science. Not in the path lab specimen jar sort of way, but as an interesting study in psychology. The problem that I have right now is deciding whether I wish to be a shining example or a horrible result.

Good has its attractions. You spend less time in court or on the gallows and history is kind to you. Of course, if you are skilled at doctoring history in the first place you can pretty much please yourself what you do in your spare time.

Evil is a difficult thing to present to others – they always seem so judgemental when you are a mass murderer or sell fat-free grills on the Shopping Channel. The old excuse of being mis-understood has largely gone by the board…when you explain yourself it all sounds so much worse. Best to just destroy civilisation and keep silent about it.

Science has gotten a bad rap lately with the anti-vaccination zealots and the electronic virus conspirators. Even proving mathematical formulae can lead to you being stoned in the marketplace. Don’t mention the sun or the planets…

But I still hope to be given my own place in the species charts when they re-do the scientific classification of the world. I cannot say whether it would be better to be an animal, a vegetable, or a mineral, but whichever I end up being I hope to have a cool-sounding scientific name. One that people can spell correctly.

Re Tales – Part Three – ” I Saw It On A Website. “

In the good old days ( Elvis, dinosaurs) the potential customer would have come in and said ” I saw it in the newspaper. ” or ” I saw it in a magazine. “. Occasionally the special ones fronted the counter and said ” I saw it written in letters of fire in the sky. “. It paid to not doubt them.

Now it is  ” I saw it on the internet. ” What they saw may have been an announcement of a new product or the discontinuation of an old one. Or a recall of exploding bed socks. Whatever, they’ve come into the shop with knowledge of something. The knowledge is valuable to them and it might be so for the shop assistant as well.

If the thing they saw was on the website of the shop where they are, the shop assistant can pray silently that the website had the correct price, image, and stock level for the goods. And that the thing that was shown is still somewhere on the premises.  Even if it is holding the loo door open, at least it exists. Unfortunately there is a gap between what the best IT department can show and what can be plonked on the counter.

If the thing they saw was on another shop’s site all hell could break loose – particularly if the ” shop ” is some vague web address in Kowloon. The customer has taken the internet information as the word of God and any attempt on the part of the shop assistant to explain that it is unrealistic here in Australia will fall on deaf ears.

Unfortunately deaf ears are sometimes attached to loud mouths and angry tempers. These are fine, as long as they can be confined within the head of the customer. Like road rage, let someone else experience it.

No shop assistant is required by any law – of God, the land, economics, or thermodynamics – to match any price that is waved at them from a mobile phone screen. That may or may not be a real offer from a real seller, but it is not a seller who is paying rent on the premises, wages to the staff, or buying paper for the shop loo. The shop price should be fair and calculated to give adequate return to the proprietor for the effort of business – it is most often just that, and any attempt to oyster-knife discounts based on a badly-spelled website can best be referred back to Kowloon.

Or Wuhan.

Elevating Yourself From Savagery To Barbarism

This is not a Horace Greely tale written to raise you from the depths of degradation to the height of grandeur. My readers do not need this, as they are, all of them, grand and formidable. If you don’t believe me, go look in the mirror.

Before you go, look up savagery and barbarism in the dictionary. There are tell-tale signs of both that can also be easily descried. No need to do the entire course of improvement if you are barbarous already. Tattoos and throwing axes are a pretty good indication that you’re in the upper quadrant – burnt sticks and cannibalism are near the bottom. Just above participating in Boxing Day Sales.

No good looking at popular culture for much of this as they have edited out the idea of savages or barbarians as unsuitable for a virtuous public to view. You need to go back in time – if you need a quick reference we can recommend the Osprey series of extremely-expensive-hobbyist-booklets for a biased and unsustainable look at history. Do not adhere too closely to the coloured illustrations, unless you are short and squat, and then feel free to follow Angus McBride’s lead.

What should you do as a savage – what as a barbarian? Well, while you are restricted to sacking Rome or Paris as the latter, the former can pillage anyone. Of course, being a savage, you can make no use of the booty, but that is no barrier to you enjoying a bit of slaughter or torture. I mean, what’s a holiday for if you can’t have fun.


Aspiring Or Perspiring?

My contemplation of the Facebook Follies a couple of months ago was somewhat of a chore – but it had  some good effects.

Oh. I was not less annoyed at some of the postings, but I reined in any comment, and gained some degree of self-satisfaction at that. And there were valuable insights:

a. Those with most to post, had least to say. They dipped out of a dry well, but that didn’t stop them rattling the bucket.

b. There are, indeed, Fellow Travellers still out there.

One might have expected them to vanish with the 1990’s but I think they just went into a grumbling hibernation. With the rise of a moneyed and bellicose Russia they reappeared, blinking in the sunlight. They are probably a little dismayed that the old red flag days were not revived, but they can still travel to Cuba, Vietnam, and presumably North Korea to get some of the thrill of the past. I’ve watched a couple do two-thirds of the trifecta and expect that they’ll be booking for Pyongyang eventually.

c. There are would-be Fellow Travellers who lack the fire, fare, and foresight to ever succeed.

At least they could take some comfort in the thought that they serve as Useful Idiots…if they understand what that means.

d. You can, indeed, be a ne’er do well these days and gain an audience on the internet. Where once you would have been spurned or clapped up in a workhouse or gaol, you can now draw sympathy and a pension on the strength of it all. It is ever the fault of others… and they must be made to pay.

e. And on the bright side, there are genuinely cheerful and amusing people on the social media. They leaven otherwise lumpen fare.

Am I A Clubman? – Part Five

The last question that you need to ask yourself is the first question you should ask. If you don’t know the answer you can call a friend. If you haven’t got any friends, you have your answer already.

Some people are born clubmen or clubwomen. They are loud, make friends easily, are unruffled, take hearty exercise, eat breakfast, produce bowel movements every day ( frequently at the same time…), and are kind to animals. They can stand for office, scrutiny, the flag, or any other thing that the club needs. They are extroverts. indefatigable, ineffable, and impossible to have anything to do with. You’re soaking in one now…

Other folks are born to be recluses – hermits – loners – individuals  – eccentrics – etc. They are generally distinguishable by the simplest senses – silent to the hearing, invisible to the eye, clammy to the touch, and slightly odorous. No-one has as yet tasted one, and no-one is about to start…

And there’s a lot of people in between. Most of us have aspects of each of these types within if we would only see and admit to them. And most of us can choose a club or organisation to suit our real personality. It might not be a fashionable or distinguished society we move in, but if we find genuine correspondence in a group – that is the one we should join. Here’s a few checkpoints for you when trying to match yourself to others:

a. DO I ENJOY LOUD NOISE? If yes, take up shooting. If no, take up reading. Read about shooting if need be.

b. Do I enjoy working with my hands? If yes, carpentry, model making, and any number of crafting clubs are ready for you. If no, run out on a field and hit a ball somewhere with something.

c. Do I enjoy thinking? Yes? Literary and intellectual clubs, political parties, business clubs call. No? Singing and drinking, eating and dancing are for you, and there are people who will help you do it.

d. Am I artistic? Yes? Go to the art store, spend a week’s wage, take the resultant small paper bag to an art society, and ask for help. No? Gardening’s for you – Nature will make what you cannot, and you can eat some of it.

e. Am I an opinionated smart-arse who wants to best everyone in argument? Yes? Become a member of a debating team or get your own secret identity as a troll on internet forums. No? Have you thought of joining a religious order? Or the Asian version…a religious suggestion?

f. Do I love sports? If the answer is yes, join a sports club. If the answer is no, get a competent surgeon to tear your cruciate ligament for you. The cost of the year’s membership to the sporting club or the operation will be about the same and the hospital is quieter than the club rooms.

The Little World – Change Your Focus

If you are a Little World builder you probably have a favourite scale you work in – and if you’re lucky you have a clear vision of a project for it. You might even be one of those super individuals who has a whole chain of work in their mind and who will progress to a logical and successful finish.

Or you might approach your work haphazardly – the most organisation that you can manage is finding the paint brushes before the cat does.

Whichever you are, consider doing your imagination and skills a favour by letting your focus soften for a bit – specifically, change your scale or type of building every once in a while. You’ll benefit from it:

a. You will see the normal work you do in the wider picture of things. If you make cars and decide to make a building, you have a building that relates to cars. If you make ships and build a plane, you now have a whole new palette of colour to work with.

b. Your eyes will change. They’ll change physically with time – rarely getting better – and they’ll change focus as you get interested in new projects. See big, then see small, and you’ll see better when you go back to big.

c. New scales or genres bring you into contact with new manufacturers, new tools, new materials. Everything you learn in one scale you can turn to profit in another.

d. A change in your focus will bring you into contact with new people, too. And that means new ideas. Some will not be good ideas, but that is what you get in any case with normal life. But listen to everybody and look at everything – there is bound to be something useful  about everyone else’s Little World.

e. New scale or new category means new publications, new web sites, new illustrations on Google.

f. If, in spite of it being the most wonderful type of modelling in the world, you find yourself bored with what you are doing…do something different. Go out and deliberately find a new thing to tackle – even if it is not absolutely riveting, it will relieve your ennui long enough to restart your original engine.

g. You might be good at the new thing. Maybe even really good. I’m looking at three trophies on the shelf right now that I never thought I could win.  For a guy who never got one as a kid and never succeeded with radio control boats, it is heartening.


The Little World – When You Try To Decide

The business of decision in the Little World is a great deal more difficult than it used to be. I do not envy a beginner in the various hobbies; diecast collecting, plastic model building, miniature houses, or r/c hobbies.

What a crock… I envy them prodigiously and wish I was starting out again in half a dozen different fields. With half a dozen separate sources of hobby money, I hasten to add…

The peep at the plastic modellers show was reminiscent of what I have seen in lots of other places; literally hundreds of kits available in any division of endeavour. The days of half a dozen Airfix plastic baggies and one model of the Bismark at the local toy store plus two tins of gloss Humbrol are well surpassed. I was staggered at the number of kits of things I would be delighted to build, and equally at the number that left me cold. The limiting factor would be money and time…no other technical restriction seems to exist.

The scale problem always exists, of course, and is nowhere more painfully evident than on the display tables for general modelling societies. There are wonderful models of all scales jumbled cheek to jowl and they all suffer from it – you can’t really appreciate any one thing unless you see it it concert with others that match it in scale and period. This is not what the exhibitors want, or can achieve, so it is no good me grousing about it. I noted that a society dedicated to a particular scale like the 1/72 ship modellers or to one era like the WWI airplane people do have a much better chance of a coherent show.

But the choices seem to be far more than I as a child would have been able to cope with. I had Airfix, Revell, Monogram, Hawk, and AMT to choose from – now there have to be a couple of dozen major makers to add to that and who knows how many specialist, garage, or wildcat makers. Of course some of them have priced themselves past what a child or sensible adult could ever afford to purchase…but then there are any number of foolish adults ( bless them ) wandering the aisles of the hobby show and some of them are seriously cashed-up. They are the golden hope that buoys the retailers and wholesalers and makes it possible for the lesser fish to have food as well.

How DO you decide what to do? I’ll explore the mindset of this in a future post…in the meantime grab whichever kit is nearest to you on the counter, pay for it, go home, and start cutting into the tips of your fingers.

Plain Jane…

When I was doing private study for photography…well, to make that a little clearer, when I was teaching myself photography by buying magazines and books and going to art galleries to look at photographs…I encountered some iconic images. We all did – Capa’s work, Steichen’s work, Brady’s work, etc, etc. They were all great and good, and wonderful to look at. Occasionally I found great work that was unpleasant to look at – Penn’ s immaculately rendered cigarette butts and rubbish comes to mind. A lot of the photography of the 70’s as well …and a lot of the horrible images were mine. Fortunately no-one ever saw them and if I can trust my rotten processing of the era, they may disappear.

All this is a preamble to say that there are good subjects and bad subjects, as well as the treatment of them. I have had the great good fortune to be introduced to a very good subject during these last ten years – Jane Hebiton Tassell. Here are some of the images that have been generated.

I say generated, because they are all studio shots. Some in the film era, some in the digital, they all bear three stamps; Elinchrom lighting, my imagination, and the skill of a lovely model. Actually, I must be candid – a lot of them are the imagination of the model. I started out thinking that I had all the ideas but I soon discovered that Jane had ones that were better.

That’s the advantage for photographers of getting the help of a professional model. They have control of their body and features and the theatrical skill to portray what they are asked. And a great deal of humour and patience.

I am grateful.

Trailer Trash II

dscf0129aWell, after old man Mangina decided to move in next door to the B/A station – and I can tell you his son, Wayne, thought that was a very bad idea – there was no need to keep the axles on the Rollahome. The left spring stack was broken anyway, so they just jacked it up, tore out the suspension, and let it down on some railroad timbers. Salvatore crawled under the trailer and connected the sewage pipe to the town mains with a flexible hose ( not that he ever told them or anything ) and Wayne ran an electric line in conduct over to the trailer and that was it.

They fill up the propane tank about every 6 months when the delivery truck comes to the station and Wayne puts up skirts every winter and his dad pretty much lives on-site. It isn’t a bad idea when the old man gets a cold because Wayne or Sharon can go over from the station and check on him. He still owns 51% of the B/A anyway so you can’t really keep him out.

It is still useful to park the roll-off truck there when it comes into town. Salvatore made his money in hauling garbage from the RCAF WET DOG station in the 50’s. He still has a stake in the business even now the thing is closed off and just does civilian traffic. He keeps telling Wayne that they need to get a dedicated fertiliser truck for the air seeders but so far Wayne is unconvinced. He reckons they can just haul it in a tarpaulin draped inside a standard bin even if the tarp is thrown away at the end of the season. He suspects that Salvatore wants to buy a new truck and that would blow out the loan something terrible.

What he doesn’t know is the old man doesn’t want a new truck – he wants one of the old ’46 Chevy ‘s like he had when started. Salvatore was a POW in ’42 and sent out to Edmonton to work on farms for the duration. He married Peggy in ’44 and her dad made sure that he wasn’t sent back to Italy. He’s done alright for himself…farm haulage contractor in the 50’s with the old Chevy and then the deal with the RCAF during the DEW Line construction. He opened the first B/A station in town and now Wayne has it as a going concern. And Salvatore was still driving the Scania until he slipped getting up to the cab a couple of years ago and had to give it away to Bruno. But Sal still reckons he has it in him and if he had the ’46 Chevy he could drive that. It is a continuing source of friction at the Sunday dinner table…



And I blame all your friends. And your relatives. And the people in your street. And for a very good reason…

Because I have gotten older and fatter and balder. And my career as a matinée idol film actor has tanked. And my agent says that if I do not get off my ass I will be come invisible in Hollywood. And invisible is the next way-station to professional death. Or real death…

So I am going to come out strong against something. Something that will tug at your heart-strings ( I have long since ceased to tug at the fastenings of your underwear, more’s the pity…). I will become your poster boy/advocate/cause celebrity for something that I cannot ever actually do anything about…and that you cannot ever actually do anything about. But together we will move forward into the broad uplands of sunlit prosperity and/or righteousness. You never had it so good.

BTW, did you see me in TITANIC? Wasn’t I great? I tried to get the lead in HINDENBERG and OBAMA too but the big studios cut me out.