Riding The Horse – Part Two – Lifting The Lid

The Business Of The Hobby Explained

The need for a hobby is felt by many in the community – they are the lucky ones amongst us. Those who have no need are generally in that position through overwork, impecuniosity, or cultural pressure.

If you have literally no time left out of a day that sees you scrabble for food, shelter, security, or health, you are a poor, unfortunate creature. If you have enough of the basic needs but cannot stop yourself grinding for more, you are a rich, unfortunate creature. If you are prohibited from seeking any pleasure outside of the grind, you are a slave. The fortunate thing about these three observations is that the poor may become rich, the rich may become wise, and the slave may become free.

In all three cases a hobby can alleviate many of the pains of life. The first person may feel harried by need – the second by greed – and the third by oppression. If these states are not addressed by fortune, the person needs an ally, and the hobby can be just that. Hobbies can be secret or public, cheap or expensive, long lasting or transient. They can be taken up with the minimum of equipment or pursued with every accessory and machine that science can make. They are truly flexible things.

Benefits of a hobby? Well, the hobbyist can always retire into the sanctum of their pursuit and place the distressing world at a distance. Their sanctum may be a place, a group, or just a series of thoughts. Hobbies are portable things, and the mind of the hobbyist can carry them into business meetings, waiting rooms, and dungeons with equal facility. It costs you nothing but attention to open the internal hobby library door, sit down at the mental desk, and review the plans for your next project. Caution – do not do it while driving.

A hobby can make you a calmer person – and in some cases a more considered one. This may be possible even in the more bellicose pursuits like martial arts. A person in control of themselves is more likely to be able to control the situation that they are in. If you have confronted problems in your hobby – and surmounted them – you are much more likely to be able to do the same with other troubles.

A hobby can lead to increased self-esteem. While self-esteem taken to the extreme makes for Idi Amin, lower levels of it are good. When you succeed in your hobby – even by a small amount – you feel better in yourself. Others may not care whether your model airplane flew and landed perfectly, but you’ll be admiring your skill for years to come…and rightly so.

A hobby can make you more observant. Very much more so…ask any scratch-builder and you’ll find that they look at everything…everywhere. Shapes and materials that escape others come under keen appraisal for use in their model building. That means they look at the whole world more sharply – a good thing. Their minds speed up.

But you get no crops without manure. There are down sides to hobbies that we will discuss in the next essay.

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Riding The Horse – Part One – A New Series

A Definitive Guide To The Business Of Hobbies.

This is written in response to a lunchtime conversation with a good friend – a person with whom I shared membership in a hobby club. We’ve moved on from that club, but have fond memories of it.

I’m currently juggling three hobbies myself and pleased with each of them in its own way. He is between engagements, as it were, and casting about looking at the why’s and wherefore’s of a new hobby. Hence the discussion and a series of essays from me. I’ve sent them to him prior to publishing them here and I hope they have proved helpful. So let’s begin…

The are are few animals more useful, more extensively used, or more expensive than the hobby horse. It has been ridden since at least the Middle Ages by many western and a few eastern cultures. The parade has been for religious, folkloric, magical, or sexual purposes and has happened through the year. You can see hobby horses in the circus, the pantomime, and the Christmas Pageant with equal pride of place. Oddly enough, no-one wants the job of cleaning up after them…

 But you can also thank the hobby horse for giving a name to pursuits that help us all live a better leisure life. The hobby presumably gets its name from the fact that most of them are deemed unnecessary, costly, wasteful, and fun. People pursue them much as they would ride a wooden horse down the street – with a great seriousness and a sore arse crack.

This series of articles is presented to help the hobbyist make sense of the whole affair – to make good choices in what to take up and why.

Part One: The five classes of hobby.

Leisure time comes to us all – even the galley slave has times when the ship is in dock and the hortator is off having a drink. Something has to fill that time. That is where hobbies come in. There are five general classes of activity that fill leisure time ( Note: sleeping, excreting and urinating, and eating do not count. They are active pursuits necessary to continued life. Some people compress them into one span of time, which is a lot of fun to see if you are out of splash range.)

First type is the sport or action type. It is entirely possible to devote all your hobby time to golf, horse riding, jogging, or fishing. And a dozen other active pursuits that break a sweat and an occasional ankle. This satisfies a basic human instinct to fight or hunt –  often moving the urges into safer, if less useful, channels. Age can wither some of these pursuits, so people are wise to choose them according to actual physical ability.

Second type is the making type. Whether the making is jewellery, wooden furniture, hot rods, or dolls clothes is immaterial. There is a basic human instinct to turn something out with the hands and eyes and you are well advised to give into it – something will come out of it in the end.

Third type is the collection – of anything. Humans collected shells and pebbles when there were no tools and everything else thereafter. It is a basic instinct. Some collections are of practical value, some promote monetary increase, and some are just the magpie’s eye operated by a human. It doesn’t matter which – the quest must always be unfulfillable to be of any hobby value.

Fourth type is the artistic expression hobby. Writing, photography, drawing, painting, sculpture, poetry, singing, dancing, dressmaking, etc. Whenever you pour passion – whether that be fierce or gentle – into anything that is less useful than an Allis Chalmers air compressor, you are creating art. You won’t be able to drill rock or inflate earthmover tyres with it, but it is art nevertheless.

Fifth type of hobby is the socialising hobby. The Mensa or Probis club. Kiwanis, Lions, Rotary, Elks, Moose, RSL, CWA, Shriners, etc. etc…the list goes on and on of clubs that bring people together with some avowed purpose but are thinly-disguised attempts to start a social group that will cohere. In most cases they will succeed if people really want to be either friendly or fiendish. There is scope for both approaches.

In the next essay we will deal with how to analyse yourself and see which hobby will suit you best.

Did You Know…?

Did you know the following facts?

  1. The best way to spread a computer virus is to sneeze onto the keyboard and press Command> Enter.
  2. Only malware properly registered with the Central Bureau Of Mis-Information is allowed on Russian computers.
  3. It is easier to hack a Windows 10 computer than it is to hock it.
  4. Many of the keys on the standard qwerty keyboard do nothing at all – they are just there because the key maker wants a greater profit. Stand up for your rights. Spell ” through ” as ” thru “.
  5. You cannot recycle a French mime. No facility on Earth will accept them and you will just end up having to store them in your shed. Marcel Marceau ended up behind the paint tins and old motor oil in a Bordeaux garage for decades.
  6.  No-one has ever successfully impersonated you. Even you are rather suspect and most people think you are doing it poorly.
  7. In China women hold up half the sky but their percentage of success in holding up traffic in Winthrop and Leeming car parks is far greater.
  8. Iran was not responsible for the 1883 explosion of Krakatoa in the Dutch East Indies. But I’ll bet they wish they were…
  9. No Canadian hockey team has ever won in the Pakistan League. This is because the Canadians insist on wearing skates and heavy padded uniforms and the Pakistanis are clothed in team jerseys and shorts. Also the games are held on grass, and not ice. Bad translation of the rules has always been blamed.
  10. You cannot touch your ear with your elbow, but you can touch those of other people. This leads to criminal charges.
  11. The term ” Public Service ” was first used in 358 BC when the Egyptian Execution Office was set up in Room 45 in the Pyramids. People lined up and took numbers in the waiting room. They are currently calling N0.28…
  12. The term ” Baker’s Dozen ” was invented to steal bread from bakers under threat of torture.

The Ballad Of the Etruscan Snot Pencil

They often say that practice makes perfect. I think rather that it makes for inchoate fury – if you are not careful. I propose to calm the situation and make it worse.

The term “practiced upon ” is one from the 19th century – used to describe someone who was being imposed upon – or worse – who was being mocked by a group of people for their amusement. It appears in the literature of O Henry, Mark Twain, and countless others. The stories feature some tenderfoot to the west or unfortunate country fellow brought into the salons of the East  who sis et upon as a figure of fun and told any number of tales. Initiation rites are imposed and the basic humour is always the native savaging the newcomer.

In some tales revenge is extracted and the tables turned. In others the whole thing is just a sneer in print. It can also include the humiliation of foreigners in Britain or France on a cultural basis. Most of the impositions of Italy or Middle Europe are financial fleecings. Hence the title of this piece – the business of selling antiquities to a New World rube on the basis of history and unfamiliarity therewith.

Consider: how many times have you been imposed on with drop bears and yowies and sniggering references to Australian things? And how many times have you done it to overseas visitors? And who has gotten all the amusement out of it? Is there any less pleasant feeling than realising that you have stumbled into a nest of native wits and are being practiced upon?

What do you do?

Good manners suggest that you do nothing except excuse yourself at the earliest opportunity and leave. Kindly religious feelings abjure you to forget and forgive. But you always feel that you have been got at. The Guild has a far better suggestion when you detect a sell going on; participate fully.

Most native wits do not know when to stop. If you give them the slightest encouragement they will enlarge upon their jokes until they go from puerile to puffy. They cannot stop themselves from extravagance and bluff – eventually they will arrive at the point where even they feel that it has gone too far.

You must compel them to go further – getting wilder and more obvious until someone in their own group is compelled to prick the bubble. Even then, rise to defend the prime jokester and keep asking pointed and intelligent questions – compelling them to eventually start to sweat and look for an escape.

Then, grasp them firmly in the iron embrace of friendship and steer them round to everyone in the room in turn, telling them to repeat the joke for the benefit of the newcomers. You will be hated as you have never been before, but will never, ever be preyed upon again.

It’s a small price to pay.

Facing The Book – The Experimental Results

The no-Facebook-feed experiment has been completed. One month of not scrolling down the newsfeed – the only contact being Messenger all through August. Now we’re on the 1st of September and here is what I’ve discovered:

  1. I did not collapse weeping or shivering at any point of the month. The hold that Facebook had on me was not such as to constitute a classical physical addiction. There was no cold turkey – not even a lukewarm chicken.
  2. I was as informed about the general local, state, and federal matters as I would have been had I been reading the feed. Radio and magazines filled the void in the month as far as immediate news is concerned. I did not need to read about the Edict Of Nantes on any medium, so I did not need it on the net.
  3.  I did miss out on news of a more personal nature – people nowadays take to the feed to alert their immediate social group and I very nearly missed out on a very important occasion. Luckily I was alerted and the occasion met…but complete divorce from social sites might be awkward. At the very least one would have to take an old-fashioned newspaper and read it carefully for the hatches, matches, and dispatches.
  4. The amount of time that no-feed freed up for other activities was amazing. This is as much a condemnation of myself before as it was of the internet mechanism. After all, I was the one sitting there wasting time – not the makers of Facebook. They were cramming every minute of every hour with what they hoped would prove productive advertising.
  5. Other activities saw a great deal accomplished – models built, tools cleaned, fences mended, essays written, photos taken. The house looked tidier and was so earlier and earlier in the day.
  6. Visits were made to friends physically, rather than electronically. This cost money, petrol, and time, and was overwhelmingly rewarded with personal happiness.
  7. Visitations from people who annoy me were reduced to a bare minimum. I still got Indian scam calls, of course, as these were inevitable. I got a few pamphlets and shill sheets in the post. And there was always the radio advertisement for a car yard and a dental implant surgery that clog up the old-time radio. But I was not bombarded by politics, propaganda, folly, or fecundity all month. A most refreshing time.
  8. I got to sleep at a decent hour. Or as decent an hour as the bastard cat would permit. I want a cat-proof fence down the middle of the bed.

So…what to do? Now I am free to re-commence my Facebook activity – or curtail it – or close it down entirely. I know the benefits and perils of each course. I think the best decision for me is:

  • Keep the line open. I use the Messenger function and several activities I quite enjoy are carried by Facebook in ancillary groups. No sense cutting my nose off to spite someone else’s face…
  • Open the feed for a limited period of time. And that is an exact use of the language – I shall dedicate a 45-minute period to Facebook during each day. I’ll use that FB-Time to read messages, send out replies, post column links, and read the general feed. But the last-named activity will be kept for the last, after all the others are done. If the earth-shattering news of your lunch is not within the 45 minute limit, I shall never know of it. This last month has shown me that I will never grieve for it.
  • I shall place a number of individuals upon a private notice list. If they break forth into Facebook annoyance again, I shall simply take no further notice of them. They’ll not suffer indignity through this, and neither shall I.

Really, it was so simple – yet it took a month for me to see myself and how foolish I had become with the social media site. Now I can go back to it with pleasure and reserve my folly for other fields.

My New Enemies – Fresh From The Newspaper

Apparently I am the enemy of the young, and they are enemies of me – or so says the Atlantic Monthly. I am considered a minor detonation in the Baby Boom and guilty, thereby, of oppressing them mightily.

It seems as if by being 71 and owning my own home, I have condemned them to listless poverty and racial segregation. I’m not sure if I’m also responsible for Hitler or the Johnstown Flood, but I’m going to read the magazine avidly to see. And that may be the explanation for the article…

Newspapers write whatever they like. And what they like is for people to give them money. They are pleased to receive it from advertisers, subscribers, and people who buy the paper to wrap fish. It is much the same with magazines, though they are smaller than newspapers and the ink they use makes the fish taste funny. Still, they want you to read and look at the ads, and writing garbage is just as profitable as wrapping it.

On one hand I am pretty certain I have not excluded any of my neighbours from Singapore, India, Malaysia, or Watford Gap from settling in the neighbourhood…because they’re here and so am I. None of us that I can recall have burned crosses on the front lawn, though there have been a few suspect smells when someone has not paid attention to the pots on the stove. And first day of winter smells like a forest fire in the Okanagan as everyone in the street fires up their wood stoves.

On the other hand, the thought that I am causing pain and suffering to the millennial generation by denying them their rightful place in Mom’s basement playing a video game is a very appealing one. Just knowing that they are frustrated at not being able to get free stuff is enough to brighten the day. We don’t have much of a lawn now, but I’ll welcome the chance to yell at them to get off it.

 

Either Tell Me The Entire Story Or Keep Silent

This is an essay that will echo instantly with those of you who follow each other on Facebook or other social media sites. Personal, face-to-face, over the dinner table  communicators may also recognise the sentiments expressed.

When someone relates a story, they do so for one of three reasons:

  1. They wish to clearly describe a situation and to obtain a rational response from the listeners.
  2. They wish to instil a sense of sympathy amongst the audience.
  3. They are trying to con someone out of money.

All three of these are valid exercises and we applaud them. What we do not approve of is the vague half-announcement that tells only one DRAMATIC – OMIGOD – OMIGOD part of the story and then leaves the hearers to guess at or plead for the rest. This is known in the advertising and prostitution businesses as the come-on, and it is generally up to no good.

We’ve laughed at the term ” vaguebooking ” for this sort of thing on social media. It can also be done over a dinner table or an office desk. In all cases it is an unfair and unhelpful. But what is one to do about it?

Well, take a leaf from Mr. Literal – the Viz Comic character who takes every single statement at face value…even if it is spoken from the other end of the body.  When someone tells you half the story, accept it and act accordingly.

If they tell you that they are leaving for Peru…because…send them a hasta la vista card. And then wait until you get a postcard in return from Lima. Likely the next message will come from Lismore…

When they post that they just can’t…you quietly accept that they just can’t and move on to talk to someone who just can.

If they cry poor or sad or sick or jailed, do something to help. But let them say it clearly or not say it at all. Social interaction should not be a 19th century guessing game of emotion and sensibilities that’s broadcast to every hacker and hoon on the internet.