Calloo, Callay…

Today is St. Valentine’s Day. A commercial celebration of a person who apparently was murdered under Roman governmental decree. Also a person who is said to have cured blindness and deafness by the laying on of hands. His murder is reportedly to have been because he advocated one religion when the government of the time wished the population to participate in a different one.

I have very sensibly purchased a card full of saccharine and a gift full of sugar. I shall give it to someone, who will not, I presume, murder me. It was not a cheap card but you have to be sure with these things. I am still allowed to treat with deity on my own terms, but dealing with the loved one requires a little more circumspection. Heaven can only throw thunderbolts during storms but the wife can do it no matter what the weather.

If this sounds cynical, it is. But it does lead to a number of questions for the student of superstitions. Is St. Valentine’s Day valid for people who are not of his religion? There are lots of us in lots of different divisions of faith…but we all have sweethearts – if we’re lucky – and the commercial pressure is on to promote romance, flowers, jewellery, and confectionery. I don’t think the sellers of canned lovey dovey will check to see if you are the right sort to follow a saint.

I don’t mind romance, love, sex, or anything else that fills up the hours between breakfast and late-night cocoa. I’m up for anything as long as it doesn’t involve teenage music or strobe lights in the eyes. A quiet exchange of expensive cards is fine.

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The Major Shop – Retail Clothing Part Nine

The big retail shop – Coleworths, Flyers, Getar, Big Letter, etc. exist in every major Australian city – indeed they have branches in multiple locations downtown and at shopping centres. In addition to white goods, manchester, and bargain bins full of toilet brushes, they sell clothing. A lot of it.

Many people stock their wardrobes exclusively from these stores, and can live comfortably by doing so. The goods they buy are generally reasonably well-made, reasonably well-fitting, and reasonably priced. But there is one disadvantage for the shopper: they will look like 250,000 other Australians each season. If they are frugal shoppers they will look like this more cheaply, but one season out of synch.

I can sympathise with this – I am equally well dressed, but in many cases the season is Winter, 1962.

The buyers for the big stores wield tremendous economic power in the clothing business, as they have very big purses indeed. And they are canny – they are always trying to achieve the perfect purchase…the garment that sells out completely on the last day of the season, leaving room on the shelves for the next attraction. But with this skill comes  responsibility. They are going to make the country look the way they buy for at least the next year.

Sometimes they get it right, and we all look decent. Sometimes they get it wrong and we all look like prats. And sometimes they get it disastrously wrong and we look like grubby, smelly prats. If you doubt me, I mention two words: nylon shirts.

I do not mind the clothing from the big stores, inasmuch as I buy anything. Their underwear does not chafe and their sweatshirts are good for at least a year. But I always pray that the designers and buyers will have done their job whilst sober. We have had far too many years when every garment has a logo printed on it somewhere and cannot be worn decently outside of a football stadium or tractor pull.

The Outlet Store – Retail Clothing Part One

Our city has a fairly new set of clothing stores located on industrial land adjacent to the domestic and international airport. Heck, it might be Commonwealth airport land that has been sold off or leased to the new occupiers.

In any case, they are a set of shops that bill themselves as direct outlets for fashion goods – clothing shoes, accessories, and probably a lot more. Their opening day was apparently grand – in the sense that the crowds going to visit blocked the highways around the airports and prevented people from getting to their planes on time. This also happened when a big Ukrainian cargo airplane came to visit Perth a couple of years ago. We’re sometimes starved for amusement of a weekend…

I am not one to decry initiative and hard work – nor to put a brake on trade. And I recognise that new clothing is a good thing. But looking into my clothes closet and set of drawers that hold more cloth than I could ever wear, were I to live to 100, tells me that shopping for more would be folly. And I wonder how many people are in the same boat? Not just old coots like me…young coots  as well. How many new shirts is enough?

If you are a profligate, the answer is ” too many “. If you are not given to washing and mending what you do own, you are going to be the natural prey of the retailer. Likewise if you have a mind that can be swayed and swooshed by every new fashion that the makers would like to be paid for…well, your wallet is open to their fingers.

And it doesn’t matter whether the clothes you buy are at a discount factory outlet or the twee-est boutique in town. You will still pay as much as you can for as long as you can whenever they apply the electrodes or air their advertisements.

What Font Are You?

I have a peculiar habit to confess. I go to book stores and look at things in the Graphic Designer section. Yet, I am not a graphic designer. Those of you who look at the heading images of this and other columns I write have discovered this a long time ago. I can cut and paste and assemble a billboard, but my taste in colours and letters is woeful.

Yet, there are people in the world who can do this design thing well. Their pages are a pleasure to look at – if sometimes a little painful to read – and they can make a living doing this for clients as well as themselves. Hats off to them.

But back to the fonts. You’ll have some in your computer or tablet – particularly if you’ve got a writing app or a photo-editing one. There is a standard Adobe and Apple font book with dozens of variations on the Roman letters and Arabic numbers that are our standard English symbols. You can buy the use of extra fonts and sometimes get them as downloads from directories. I’ve got Retro Font and  Script Font books that allow me dozens more choices. Sometimes the computer doesn’t like them and refuses to use them, but mostly it is clear sailing.

Does a favourite font tell us something about you? Can it tell you something you had not acknowledged? Deep psychological questions, indeed. You’ll have to dredge your own mental pond – I’ll show you my favourites:

You can make your judgements accordingly. I do use whatever the books or computer font store might suggest for specialized signs. There are enough variants that you can letter out decals for model airplanes in period style and make lots of faux-historical images.

What A Wonderful Lot Of Things…

Socrates was said to have watched the procession of a rich man through the market place with all his goods accompanying him and to have remarked:

” What a lot of things there are that a man can do without . ”

I think he was quite right, but as he was a better philosopher than I, he could manage his acquisitiveness better. In my case I still have desires for some goods and services. These can be got or not, and that can affect my happiness. Soc would possibly frown on this but he isn’t round my place all that often.

I might get his approval regarding riches in another way – I find as I grow older that I can become curious about the possession or use of things but can satisfy that curiosity without actually having the goods – or at least without having them long.

I test cameras out as part of my writing job – also lenses, accessories, lights, etc. This is on a weekly basis as I try to find topics to write about. I’ve had some pretty expensive gear pass through my hands for a week at a time – and have been able to see whether the reality of it matches any part of the advertising hype. There is a responsibility to return it undamaged, of course, and the expectation that I will say something nice – or at least encouraging – about it. I’m relieved that I do not have any obligation to like it or desire it for myself.

And there are many occasions where I do not. I compare it to the equipment I normally use and in many cases find it to be less useful, comfortable, or practical. I can heave a great internal sigh of relief as it goes back onto the storeroom shelf and tick it off my ” desires ” list. Not exactly Socratic practice, but the result is the same.

Sometimes it works the other way, but my purse has the final say and it most often says ” No “.

Note that this is just one division of consumer goods. Other things like clothing, furniture, art, etc. do not even get a look-in. I am warm and dry in clean clothing, inside my own house and that is all I want. I do confess to a small desire for some of the fancier motor cars, but I suspect that if I were to drive them they would not really live up to their price. My Suzuki does.

And as far as the other appurtenances of wealth – gold, jewels, expensive food and drink, exotic travel, entertainment,etc…I am absolutely in line with Socrates.  These items pass my personal radar without registering a blip.

Small confession of sin: I do like book stores. And hobby shops. But in these I restrict my desires to the economic goods and leave the expensive ones for others. And I have just as much fun with what I can afford.

One Of My Better Ones

I have ideas, you see. Well, it’s only to be expected – I’m retired and my mind is not required to worry about other people’s money or health – so I’m free to fret about my own.

But I don’t.

I have long realised that mostly it all proceeds on an even keel if you do not go to excess in anything. I’ve even cut down on my moderation. It’s meant a loss in income for the gin joints and the gals of easy reputation, but on the other hand I can spend the money on toy cars and model airplanes. The lady at the hobby shop is starting to wink at me as she operates the till…

Now back to the idea. I have a collection of model airplanes on model airfields. I know a number of flashy females who dance, pose, and generally glam it up all round the shop. So I have decided to combine the two by making the ladies into WWII ” nose art ” on the airplanes. There’ll be an exhibition in June at the belly dancing convention and then I’ll post the pictures on the toy and model photography pages.

Already I have 8 images completed and I haven’t even started shooting the fresh material – good glamour is ageless and older pictures are just as good as new ones when you make them into posters.

Of course, there are sacrifices. I am now compelled to go to the hobby shop and buy more model kits so as to have enough noses for all the girls. I shall have to spend my waking hours chained to the model bench or the studio shooting for the exhibition. I will only take time out to eat, drink, sleep, and read racy novels.

After all, I have a duty to culture, eh?

The Glitter Bomb Parcel

For the one person on the continent who has not seen the YouTube video of the glitter bomb parcel that punishes package thieves, we’ll suspend this column and wait…

Okay. Back again?  Good wasn’t it? You really wanted it to work, didn’t you…including the fart spray?

But did you notice a few things about the thieves? Some were black and driving around in packs, but some were white, driving an expensive car around alone…but still stealing parcels. The couple out for a stroll in the neighbourhood were just getting good exercise…while they stole parcels. The constant factor for Winnetka, Illinois ( where it was filmed ) is that people steal parcels.

Here in Perth I daresay we have some parcel thieves as well – from druggies and vagrants to bored teenagers and hunter-gatherer packs from squalid suburbs. But it may be less of a problem due to less packages being left. I spoke to a friend in the courier business and he detailed some of the problems there can be in actually getting things to the doorsteps of houses that will not allow a close approach – but who still want unattended drops. Some of the recipients sound like they are not thinking the thing through.

Again, there can be some delivery firms – thankfully not the one that my friend works for – that have a cavalier attitude to actual delivery. They may skip up to the door and ring the bell, but run away without waiting for the arthritic or hard of hearing to get to the door. Then the sequence of trying to collect a parcel from some distant depot starts, and you wonder if any on-line shopping is worth the hassle.

I’m lucky, my parcels are generally delivered by a very nice Indian man who waits for me to get to the door and passes the time of day with me as we sign for things. I can feel confident that he does not leave me in the lurch. And I will have no need to develop my own glitter bomb. Though I may make up a few fart spray presents for birthdays. People do appreciate an effort…