Hoards For The Hordes

I shall no mention toilet paper in this essay. It is a subject I put behind me.

I have been a hoarder in my time. The objects I collected were books, large format cameras, and model airplanes. I say were, but in two cases, the process is still going on – the large format cameras have long been disposed of to fund digital equipment. that is a story for my photographic column, so go there and lurk…

The concept of the hoard is actually complex. The computer’s dictionary defines it as a stock of valuable objects that are hidden away. This is partially true for the model airplanes but not at all for the books. I have them prominently on shelves and dive into them all the time. I lend them out and sometimes they are lent on or purloined by those who have received them. They are a resource, but a fluid one.

The value of both these forms of collectible is possibly something that you could calculate, but I’ll bet any figure you set on them would be wrong. Goods are only worth what people will pay for them and my experience of people who get secondhand books or plastic models is that they try to pay mere pittances. So it is not a hoard of potential gold that I hold. It is a source of pleasure.

And that probably cancels the name ” hoard ” and the negative connotations. No one buys and I do not sell. I am in no different position than a state art gallery that exhibits for pleasure and edification. Of course they have boards and accountants that probably slaver and gobble over the rise in price of whatever they hang, but they rarely sell to anyone else.




Adapted From The Novel Of A Different Name

With an entirely new plot. And characters that the original author would have been ashamed to think up. Now brought to you on any screen that will take it by an actor who cannot get hired by anyone else other than himself.

If you thought that ” singer-songwriter ” were the most frightening words in the English language, let me horrify you further.

” actor-director “.

Or worse…

” actor-director-producer “…with their own studio and the backing of a semi-religious organisation. Let us hope the film is about the making of sausages because with a business and artistic model like this one can certainly expect the wurst.

I am accustomed to seeing real writers lured to Holly, Dolly, or Bollywood to churn for the studios. Churn out novels, scripts, re-writes, butter, stomachs…whatever. They have long wailed their piteous complaints about it as they pocketed the cash and we’ve seen some reasonable novels and a funny movie made about it. But so far we haven’t an actor-director-producer-studio combination with the nerve to admit their sins that clearly. It needs another Spinal Tap fake doco to put the put the wunderkindern and wunderaltern in real perspective.

Or at least CGI them smooth…


” Educating The Public “

Or ” How I learned to justify my hobby by pretending it was educational “.

I am a hobbyist. At any one time I am deeply engaged in some expensive pursuit that does nothing whatever for the rest of mankind…but pleases me thoroughly. It has been model boats, ships, cars, old-fashioned firearms, dress-ups, studio photography…etc, etc, etc. No money has been made through these activities but no-one has died, either. I have largely been kept off the streets and the local retailers have benefitted.

The various activities have always been designed to please me – and to some extent have done so – and haven’t been too injurious to the environment. They have been – in the words of the philosopher ” innocent enjoyment “. That should be the whole of it…but people being who they are, this is rarely satisfactory…we are constantly trying to justify our fun by pretending that it is educational for the public. Here’s the flaws in that:

a. It isn’t. Watching you run a toy train through a plaster landscape doesn’t make anyone smarter…unless they were primed beforehand to see a specific detail of your layout. You cannot preach to the congregation – only to the choir.

b. The general public is fed on the production of the television and at the lowest pressure of that, as it is. You cannot compete on any level of stupidity with ” Big Brother” or ” Celebrity Chef ” no matter how low you sink. Do not try.

c. Your presentation of anything is a secondhand, thirdhand, or hired hand performance. What you learned from a book – flawed as it was – will become worse when you do it. You Are essentially inbreeding information that will not improve the species.

d. The public doesn’t participate in the benefit of what you do…and there is a real, real benefit for you. They also do not participate in the expense. They are just there to jeer, and you are generally not allowed to insult back – they are the great public, after all. You can be on a hiding to nothing from the start.

So. So what to do? How do you justify your hobby?

You don’t. You tell the truth to yourself – it is a study for yourself – an intellectual pursuit – a game -a collection or workshop or encampment for you alone. You will pay for it, do it, learn from it, not learn from it, or be disgusted by it in turn. Do not try to hang anything on anyone else – good or bad. Just do it for you. You’ll appreciate it all the more.

I’ll Tell You A Secret

But I won’t realise I’m doing it.

Just follow my posts on Facebook that ” share ” other messages. I will post them thinking I am telling you a great deal about the state of the world. In reality I’ll be telling you a great deal about the state of me.

I may not actually be a great deal…or even in a great state. But I will have provided either enticement or warning by re-posting whatever has come lately to my attention. You can agree with me, in which case you enter into the Blessed Lands Of Joy…or you can disagree with me, in which case I get to damn and blast you. To be honest, I prefer the latter to the former as it gives me more opportunity to vent my spleen. You can build up a lot of pressure in a spleen these days and any opportunity to release it is welcome.

Of course, things may change. I may become happier. I might find love, or at least sex. I might find $ 20 in an old coat pocket. I might lose 10 kilos and fit into my jeans. In the event of any of these, I will start to share happier memes and I expect you to like them just as much as you did the nasty ones.

Otherwise there will be trouble. I many not know where you live, but I do know where you socially post.

Funny Is Dangerous

I have discovered that funny is dangerous. Bit late, I hear you say, but remember that I was brought up on funny that had great timing and pauses between gags. And no bad words. Funny that wasn’t drunk at a pub.

Now I’m not talking about making fun of others – mocking them. We all know that’s dangerous when done in the wrong way or to the wrong person. There is even danger in doing it with the attention of the wrong audience. Instant retribution can erupt, the clockwork  of delayed revenge started, or one’s personal reputation demeaned. In some cases this is just punishment – in others it’s something gone horribly wrong. There are times when something genuinely is just a joke.

Now you cannot prevent yourself from falling down a fire-belching crack in the earth when it appears under your feet. If you are from New Zealand this may be during a morning trip to the grocers – you either perish shrieking or climb out and retrieve your string bag. This event is so common as to account for the laid-back nature of a lot of Kiwis.

But you can stop yourself from the fate by looking carefully at a map, noting if any streets are marked ” Fire-Belch Lane “, and then planning your shopping elsewhere. Smart money plays the odds. Equally so, you can plan your comedic sallies with an eye to where they go. If someone is a notable Basilisk, treat them with seriousness. Save the yoks for those who know how to smile.

I’ve misread maps before and ended up wrong. The comeback after a failed joke can be a cold journey – rough and comfortless. But you can come back, even if it is just yourself and your string bag. And you come back with information that you can mark on your social map. ” Here Be Dragons ” is knowledge that is hard got, but very valuable.

Do Not Click On This Link

If you do, you will be unhappy. You will lose time, money, or patience with humanity. Or all three. It is known as the Imperfecta…and unlike multiple bets on horse races, it is extremely easy to win.

If you have read this far it shows you have a desire for either punishment or humour. I like to craft my jokes so that you cannot have one without the other. In this I am aided immeasurably by the social media outlets. They allow me to step in a tilt someone’s mental bowl of soup off the table into their lap.

I am not alone in this. Just today I clicked on an innocent picture of soldiers preparing for an army exercise in one of our suburbs. I imagine it will be the infantry – and I would not be surprised if they pop off a few blank rounds while skulking through the paddocks. The horses agisted around the area may object, but the local dogs will have a good time. If it turns out to be the artillery exercising I’m going to get a bucket of popcorn, a big orange drink, and enjoy the show…

However – the Facebook post that warned local residents ( probably with a repeat in the local press and over the television ) drew forth a number of trolls from other parts of the country who were able to conflate the army exercise with the current state of Covid 19 lockdown in Victoria, vaccines, sheep, and new world order conspiracies.

I would normally avert my eyes but in the case of a few of them the grammar, spelling, and sentiments were such as to suggest professional comedy writers holed-up on a hotel room with the mini-bar open. I honestly cannot tell whether the posters are real or really good at appearing to be stupid beyond belief.

I am hoping that is is art, which I applaud. If it is science, I am gloomy, and if it is life imitating either of the other two named, I am saddened.



Re Tales – Part Seven – The Sale

Every shop has a sale some time. Not the regular sales over the counter of everyday commerce – a SALE that involves vast quantities – of many different things:

a. Time. Even a small impromptu sale that the owner thinks up the last minute before going on holiday involves days and hours of preparation, conduct, and accounting. Fortunately they are on holiday and have left their phone at home. The staff will cope…

b. Advertising. No good trying to get more customers in the door if they do not know where the door is or why they might want to come in. So the retailer spends money with the newspapers, phone book company, on-line IT experts ( the ones that are out of the asylum that week ) and leaflet distributors. The richer retailers use radio and television to blow the trumpet – the more frugal ones just buy trumpets and blow them themselves. 3:00 AM in the car park of the shopping centre is a trying time…

c. Preparation. Re-tagging all the sale stock is a pain. Particularly if you need to re-re-tag it after it hasn’t sold. And you need to be accurate in your pricing. ” Whatever ” is not a price tag that will make a profit for the shop.

Beware of customers who shift full-price stock into the sales bins and then magically ” find ” it and rush to the till. They will then demand to have it for an imaginary price, quoting God and Magna Carta as justification. It is best to have a short club handy.

d. Staff. No-one can stand sales pressure on their own so the wise manager will arrange for extra staff to be present. They may be rostered in on a schedule or just thrown in willy-nilly as the fatalities occur. Warn them that normal meal, break and toilet amenities are suspended for the sale period – if necessary quote Magna Carta. With a bit of luck this regime will seem natural and can be extended to the rest of the year.

e. Old unsalable stock. This is the core of the sale – after all, if it all went out regularly, there would be no need for all the other extra work. Old unsalable stock may be perfectly good, but so far no-one outside of the store’s buyer and the wholesaler have ever thought so. Now is the time to convince others by lowering the price.

Make no mistake about it. People will spend money and buy anything if they think it is a screaming bargain. Discount death and give vouchers for subsequent deaths and people will line up to pay. This is the principle of a great many school holiday motion picture series.

If you have no junk to sell, contact the wholesalers and ask them to take you out to a long lunch and get you drunk. You’ll eventually wake up with loose clothing and a warehouse full of broken cartons of stock from 2003.

f. Accountancy. No matter what you get for the schmatta, you’ll still have to do the paperwork to write it off. A successful sale pays for the accountant’s time – really successful ones are where you trade old stock to the accountant instead of a fee.

It’s Hard To Find A Universal Bad Guy

And this is a real problem for the entertainment industry – particularly the television and movie ones that hope to make money.

The audiences for the visual stories are all over the world today; the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia. And Manangatang. A bid to get them to watch some action thriller needs to have a good guy who triumphs and a bad guy who dies – but it is awkward trying to place praise and blame these days – everyone wants their country/culture/religion to be on the good side. Few accept being cast as villains…or worse – as savages. Even if they have been eating raw human livers until last Tuesday they still want to be seen as modern, cool, and sophisticated.

As a practical illustration, who would you portray as baddies; the Chinese or the Japanese? Depends entirely on which century you’re filming, which decade, which war, or which government. And where you expect to sell the most screenings.

That idea gets even murkier for other countries in the Asian market: Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, or any one of the numerous Koreas. They are all sensitive people who try to be polite and never cause trouble to each other unless they’re sure they can get away with it.

So no Asian villains. Russians? Well, Slavs in general are angered by any suggestion that they are not peace-loving, and they have the tanks and anti-aircraft batteries to back that up with. Plus they may have invested heavily in the film production company. It’s safer to have babushka dolls and balalaika music and let it go at that.

Jews and Muslims? Israelis and Arabs? Well, there you go. Choose your side and whoever is on the other one is wrong…but if you want to sell your film in their cinema you can’t say that.

Of course you can always go the classics: Kaiser Wilhelm II if your audience is into period films and smart enough to tell the difference between Wilhelm and Edward VII. Even there the German audience will boo you out as they know the truth about Willi and Eddy.

Hitler? Good choice. Nothing there to like…but you can’t add him to every film or people will start to realise that you have run out of ideas.

The Americans? Well, you can sell them as enemies to the UK, Canada, Australian and New Zealand, and any other former allies – they’ll accept the idea. Bit awkward if you need them again, but if push comes to shove you can always destroy the video tapes. And blame the CIA. Or General Lee.

Or you can get Mike Myers to be evil. He’s Canadian so it’s easy.

” Unaccustomed As I Am To Public Speaking…”

You can’t beat the classics. When you hear that one you know someone is going to get the beating they deserve. It might be the speaker or it might be the audience. It’s a 50/50 bet.

And it’s a sucker bet if you don’t know the person on the podium – or know how long they are going to be allowed to speak. That intro has been the portal to public speaking hell many times before…

It’s a fraught thing, too, for the speaker if they don’t know the audience. How many of them are good listeners? How many of them are as dumb as a bag of hammers. How many of them are packing sidearms? The speaker will want to know, or at least be closer to the door than they are.

The best bet for a speaker is to be frank, honest, and brief. They need not be funny, unless they’re doing the dinner show in a Catskill resort. And the very best insurance is to present a stock speech – to have done it before. Even if the speaker doesn’t not know what the hell they’re on about, like a Presidential candidate, if they’ve said before they’ll at least recognise the rhythm of their voice…as they lie shamelessly.

And then there is the applause. Speakers often mistake tumultuous applause as evidence that the audience loves them and agrees with them. Nothing of the sort -a big round of applause may erupt for the fact that they have come to the end, shut up, and can be taken outside to be tarred and feathered.

The best accolade for a serious speech is a breathless silence during the delivery –  for a comic one it is someone going into an uncontrollable laughing jag and being carted out of the room by Security. I have observed both from a podium.

And in conclusion…

The Audience

Everyone who presents something to an audience hopes for a good one – but the nature of what they are doing sometimes needs markedly different receptors. Here is a guide to what to aim for.

a. If you are putting out a political message, try to get your supporters in the audience and gee them up to squeal and hoot whenever the television cameras are turned on. It is a technique that is as old as history, and just as vile.

If you can locate anti-aircraft searchlights, line them up on the stage either side of you. Arrange the audience in a large rectangle in front of you. Leave adequate aisles that will allow marching groups to move forward at suitable intervals with banners held high.

Get a good cinematographer to film it for you. It’ll be a triumph…It will…

b. If you are putting forward an altogether more spiritual message, try to have suitable acolytes arranged in pods in front of you, waving like sea grass in a warm current. If they refuse to wave, club them until they do.

Incense, sitar music, and free drugs are also a good ploy. Be mysterious and Eastern. If you are brown, you’re down…

c. If you need laughs – like a drug addict needs a hit – aim for Catskill stand-up in front of an audience that knows the jokes already. Give them a buffet with shrimp and you have them in the palm of your hand. Remember that schmaltz will make everything move slicker.

d. If you can arrange for an audience that is comprised of equal portions of offendable millennials, semi-Red academics, and lapsed Methodists, you can gain notoriety and publicity by reading a phone book. Or a tram ticket. Anything you say will be wrong, and as you are starting from such a reliable base, you can actually say anything you like.

This is the dream audience – you can cast the truth upon them and watch them writhe. You can lie shamelessly to them and get the same reaction. You can stand there silent and whip them with their own tortured guilt.

Knock yourself out.