I’d Rather Be Groucho Than Margaret

If you have never seen a movie with Groucho Marx and Margaret Dumont I recommend that you dial up ” A Night At The Opera” and ” A Day At The Races ” and watch Groucho bounce jokes off poor Margaret’s hide all the way through.

You might feel sorry for her or think she gets what she deserves – as she always played the dignified straight lady to Groucho’s scoundrel – but movie histories tell us that she was doing it as a consummate stage actress and skilled professional. Her job – straight feed and timekeeper for the audience’s laughs – is one of the tough ones in comedy. The fact that she did it while enduring the Marx brothers is a tribute to her courage and steadiness.

You’d be surprised how many people in real life have to do the same thing – and many have the even tougher job of maintaining their cool in the face of meanness – not just stage comedy. I saw it many times in my retail shop time and sometimes even had to practice it myself.

I do not mind the high and I do not mind the mighty, but when they combine these two features along with a show of morality my liver starts to curl at the edges…followed, if I am not careful, by my lip. Fortunately most of this behaviour is occasioned by financial consideration – people use it as a ploy to lower prices – and an employee that is subject to it can finally take refuge behind the facts of business – you can’t sell things for nothing.

I’m rather ashamed to say that I occasionally Groucho’d a few people. If I could see that they were doing  a Margaret and playing at being pillars of society I would allow the conversation to run a little way past the end of the tram lines – perfectly seriously, of course – and occasionally they would follow me along until they were lost in the weeds. I could always find my way back by excusing myself to go fetch the manager. I’ll bet the manager dreaded my knock on the door.

Sometimes I even did the Groucho walk when I went off to fetch him. Never had the nerve for the greasepaint moustache or the cigar, however.

 

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The Movie Superhero

The real movie superhero is not the one with the cape – or the sword, hammer, shield, trident, lasso, or cyberarm. It is the adult who pays $ 25 to sit there for 90 minutes and endures gasoline explosions and puerile dialog to please the rest of the family.

It’s not like there is any real choice these days. If the motion picture is not about a franchised line of plastic toys, a 15 year-old’s angst, or a thinly disguised leftist conspiracy, it is devoted to sports. Even the art cinema has reduced itself to hours of French people sitting around café tables smoking and sneering. In most of the cinema complexes the best chance for adult entertainment is watching the popcorn machine in hopes that it will catch fire.

I miss the cowboy movies – and the bedsheet dramas – and the dashing war dramas by people who had actually been involved in the real thing. I miss the frothy Hollywood musicals with the pin-up girls and the bright colours. I miss Donald Duck and Wily Coyote. I miss entertainment.

It’s not all gone. I can still get a laugh out of an Aardman animation…and a few of the Pixar ones as well. I can actually enjoy Bollywood movies – even though it is all nonsense – it has the colour and froth that is missing from a lot of stuff. I can even stand foreign historic dramas, as long as they are reasonably believable in the sets and costumes – what i lose in not understanding the plot is made up in the visuals.

Perhaps the mainstream fare is just too overblown – or too juvenile. Perhaps literature has spoiled me for cinema. Perhaps the thought of $ 25 a ticket – $ 85 if you include a chocolate ice cream cone – is too much for the old wallet.

Pinup For Pinups

Pinup photography has certainly taken off in the last decade here in Perth – I suppose to some extent it has paralleled the growth of the burlesque scene. Perhaps it draws from this as much as it compliments it.

There are a number of fixed studios that cater to the pinup lens as well as a bevy of talented out workers. When they get together with the burlesque artists to run workshops and photo shoots there is a chance for ladies to try a form of visual fantasy that can be utterly charming.

I noted one such a collaboration between a photographer that I worked with in the Camera Electronic shop – Jennifer Villalobos – and one of the award-winning burlesque artists – Miss Lady Lace. Jen handed me one of their flyers for upcoming workshops in 2018 that will set the students in kitchens, tropical settings, at high tea, and in a giant martini glass.. Not all on the same day, I hasten to add…

I wish them all the success in the world – I’ve seen the results from Jen and Miss Lace and they are everything that modern pinup should be. Apparently the prices for the workshops are also pretty darn reasonable.

This sort of thing is very encouraging for the art – far more so than the ” contests ” that circulated a few years ago from the eastern states. They seemed to be ventures designed to harvest money from hopefuls, and I talked to a number of ladies who became quite disillusioned with them. The simple local pinup workshop is a far happier and more straightforward thing. If it whets the appetite of the artist, they can go on to bigger and better things.

My pinups in the Little Studio are also fun – no big martini glasses, but I can do a pretty good line in hot rods…

The Bookstore – A Tale Of Temptation

People have remarkably different attitudes to space and time.

I can spend a happy hour in a dentist’s chair as I spent many happy years sitting beside one. The comfort arises from my understanding of the processes and rituals involved. My dentist may not be having such a good time, as he realises that I know, you know, and that I know that he knows that I know…

I can also spend quality time in a hobby shop, art gallery, or hotel lounge. And be very happy in a bookstore or library.

Bookstores have books for sale that you don’t have to give back. Some of them are swanky places, quirky places, antiquey places, and they have prices that reflect this. Others have less style and more substance, and I can afford to shop there. The secondhand places are the most fun, but you need to adjust your mind to what you are actually seeing. And you need to realise beforehand that there may not be any gems to be found in the overburden of remainders and Mills and Boone novels. Be aware of the sucker shelf as well, and avoid it.

My favourite places are the targeted shops – booksellers that feature a specific area and do not move out into the complete range of literature. Oh, they might be literary places and sell as much Jane Austen and literary criticism as you could cram into a string bag, but in general I go for ones that are not this. I find the transport, military, art, and history shops much more to my taste, though I can always be arrested by a bookcase full of low-priced paperback classics. I admire publishers who are prepared to give me the Dickens for $4.95.

Is there a drawback to this all? Yes. A bookstore holiday in Melbourne and Sydney once a year is a very good thing, and provided that the stores can send the goods by road you can purchase heavy items. I try for a metre-width of new literature on the shelf with each holiday, and have never failed. But you can be hijacked and diverted by finding a book  that cannot be deferred – that must be read as soon as possible, and this is at the expense of time spent doing other holiday things.

Mind you, it does give you a good excuse to prop yourself up in the corner in Young and Jackson’s with a couple of pints or to retire after dinner to the lounge of the hotel where you are staying with a pot of coffee and the new book. If the purpose of a holiday is to bid care farewell, this is as good a way to do it as sitting on a sandy beach.

 

Burning Through The Books Is Not Book-Burning

Book-burning is a crime and a sin. I have long held to this belief and every occasion in history when it has been done seems to me to re-enforce it. I do not wish to be guilty of it at all.

Yet.

Yet, I am awash in books and I have been brought to the realisation that some of them are not good books. Not readable books, not rewarding books, not happy books. Books that perpetuate horrible philosophies and celebrate terrible deeds. Books that encourage the worst follies of humanity. The actual objects are just collections of paper and pasteboard but the possession of them seems somehow wrong.

On the other hand, there are books that are very good – enlightening books, entertaining books, helpful books, beautiful books…that sit on my shelves unread or read only once, long ago, and mostly forgotten. Books that have formed my mind, such as it is, and deserve to be seen again. Sometimes they are buried behind two layers of other books.

What to do…what to do…How to remove the mental weeds and encourage the good thoughts. How to dispose of the unwanted carriers of the former and catalogue the books that have formed the latter. A serious undertaking and one that should not be undertaken seriously…

I shall not burn the bad books. I would not do so to heretics or blasphemers or sorcerers, though bidden to it. I shall exile them. I will carefully separate them from the rest of the library and take them to places of public refuge…and leave them there. Doctor’s waiting rooms, barber shops, train stations, etc. It is the literary version of exposing unwanted infants on a Greek hillside but I shall be ruthless.

The books that are good, but dealing with topics that I no longer wish to explore, will be bundled up and given away to friends who could be reasonably expected to share an interest in their contents. This is not a kind act – God forbid I should be guilty of kindness – as it tasks them with reading, storage, and possible disposal. On each occasion I will be given coffee and biscuits by the friends I visit and will thus have made an overall gain. Mind you, eventually they will realise what I am doing and refuse to answer the doorbell when I call. The ones with big letter slots will still be vulnerable, mind…

The books that are very good I shall re-read and re-shelve as valuable friends. By the time I get to this point there should be space on the bookshelves for them, and the discipline of cataloging them can only be good for my mind.

The Drones – Part Five – The Innocents

Want to know how to get in trouble with four different levels of government at one time in the comfort of your own suburb?

Buy a balsawood airplane kit, build it, wind the rubber band motor inside it, and let it go on the school oval at 4:30 on Saturday afternoon. No matter how deserted the suburb is, before that propellor stops turning and the thing starts to glide into the bushes you will have the school principal, the council ranger, the local police sergeant, and the deputy head of CASA chasing you across the oval. You have offended local, state, and commonwealth rules – mostly by trying to have fun. Don’t be angry at the bureaucrats – they live for this sort of thing.

That’s a $ 29 Guillows kit – imagine how much trouble you can get into with a $2000 electric drone.

And therein lies the sad tale of our society. Logic would say that the open oval would be the perfect place for a youngster to fly the toy airplane or drone he gets for Christmas. But government in all its forms says not, and I’ll bet that they will be running kids and their parents off the ovals all over Australia on Boxing Day. And the kids will be trying to fly from the streets and backyards and crashing, intruding, and losing their Christmas presents all over the place.

Oh, someone will come out with a solution – a sand paddock 50 kilometres outside Perth where they can purchase temporary permission to fly the drones for ten-minute periods ( book your ten minutes by filling in a form at the shire office between 9:00 and 5:00 and have your $ 20 ready ) before being turned off again. There will be a Shire Drone Flying Officer and he will be a serious man.

Is it any wonder that the hobby of drone racing has stalled? Is it any wonder that kids are not building R/C aircraft?

Bring back innocent fun, and take away the impetus for the other sort.

 

 

The Drones – Part One – Hovering For All

I noted a passing reference on Facebook to laws restricting drone operation here in Australia for private operators. I’m not going to say the Facebook posting was sensational and inaccurate – because that sort of thing would be hard to believe of Facebook… but it certainly did stir up a conversation about drone flying. The conversation went on to include other uses of surveillance cameras in our lives.

I have only encountered drones on two or three occasions – in all cases being used for recreational purposes and seemingly being operated in a safe and responsible manner. They seemed harmless enough, and the users kept them away from people as they hovered in the air. One was just a chap playing with it to see if he could fly it, and the other two were utilising onboard cameras to film a crowd at a hot rod show and the Perth skyline at dusk.

The only intrusive part of them was a constant buzz or whir, and even that was much less than a motorbike or lawn mower. I was impressed with the ability of the drone to return unaided to the point from which it was launched. I felt no sense of menace from any of the machines.

But then, I was not sunbaking nude on the Perth foreshore, growing drugs in my back garden, or erecting an illegal shed in defiance of the local council, so I had no undercurrent of guilt to worry me. I also had no sense of political grievance or jealousy in operation. There was more a sense of wonder at the sophistication of the R/C flying – in particular as much of it seemed to be automatic.

But there is a darker side – which I’ll canvass tomorrow. Charge your LiPo cells and stay tuned.