I Have A First Class Sign

I bought it at York Railway Museum in 1995 – really I did. I did not prise it from a British Rail carriage with a pen knife. Not because of my well-known sense of honesty and scruples – because all the signs were already removed long before I boarded the trains. I had to content myself with cutting out squares of the upholstery.

Rail travel is generally wonderful if you are allowed to sit in a First Class seat – you may have noticed this as well with airplane flights. If you turn left upon entering the cabin door most of your worries and discomforts can be made to disappear – though it must be said that they do not go away cheaply. They take a good deal of your cash with them.

But back to the rails. The British are a classified society and make no bones about it. They’ll analyse you in a second by your clothing and in a nanosecond by your accent and shunt you instantly into a niche in their behavioural structure. You should not be upset by this – it is not discriminatory – they do it to everyone and to themselves. And for the foreigner ( even a Commonwealth foreigner ) there can be some advantages to this. We are given a leeway in appearance and behaviour that they do not allow themselves. We are not expected to come up to their standards ( or down to them, as the case may be ) and we can be left alone to do our own colonial thing most of the time. Thus an Australian in a British Rail first class seat will be tolerated by the other passengers to an extent that a similarly dressed local could not hope for.

If we slum it down to the second-class seats it just feels like the Armadale line on a Saturday night, so there is nothing too strange about that. Actually the clothing on the passengers is pretty similar…they might be the same people.

The nice thing about the First Class seats – compartment or aisle – is that a little man or woman wheels a refreshments trolley through at intervals and you can purchase things. There is no ice for the drinks, but the tea and coffee are cold enough as it is. It’s not exactly a Bunnings sausage sizzle either, as far as food goes, but there is a certain mdf-boardiness about British Rail sandwiches anyway. I think the best analogy is the Bunbury Shell cafe after they have turned off the cabinet heaters…

Do you get there faster in First Class? No, of course not – the train arrives all together. Do you get extra comfort? Marginally. Do you get to feel like a member of the upper classes? Only if you exercise a great deal of imagination.

But it is all worth it.

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Fashion In Spite Of The Designers

The heading image is a fantasy – at present. It is the result of a conversation with a friend about the dull colouration of modern motor cars and how much we wish there were more exciting options on the road.

I’m luckier than she is – my green Suzuki is pretty bright, and while it is not exclusive, it is a cheery cut above the grey and black suburban tanks that clog the freeways. My standard joke about the green machine is that it is bright enough to allow people to see me even if I do not see them. Here’s a hint – it ain’t a joke…

She’s got a small white sedan – but a sense of fashion and taste that comes of being a model and a dancer. Her Instagram selfies are always amazing confections and I think that she may be the salvation of many a dress shop in the town. So she thought up some ideas for the Yaris.

I took daylight shots of the car and started to imagine it in different garb. She asked for painted hub caps and roof, and then we went on to a bonnet decoration and colour on the side mirrors. There may also be a business logo on the rear window in time.

I suggested that vinyl wraps would be a good way to try this concept on the body panels – if the idea palled, the vinyl would allow a reversal or replacement without affecting the paintwork. Keeping the divisions to the panel lines aids in this. The hub caps are the simplest thing in the world to paint – any competent panel shop could have them done in a day, and I reckon I could do them myself as easily.

I’ve seen lots of cars that have been done as customs or hot rods, but few that are used as daily drivers – certainly few with interesting paintwork. I do hope that this project goes ahead to see whether some style can come to the street.

Raising Your Sights And Aiming Lower

” Low-Brow” is such a wonderfully wrong term…and yet we hear it all the time in publishing, art, and entertainment. The people who use it are generally rather proud of it, and hope to make money by applying it to products, concepts, and events. Sometimes they succeed wonderfully.

The idle philosopher who contemplates it immediately realises that if there are ” Low-Brow ” things , there must be ” High-Brow ” ones as well. And presumably ” Middle-Brow “. It’s hard to say whether there are equivalencies or whether there are exclusive concepts in each division.

I’m tempted to say that there are, using the motor car as an example. And further – that there are genuine examples and fake ones – theatrical representations, if you will. And we are such weird and weak creatures that we all play along. Here are some examples:

 

a. Real low-brow. A Cadillac fallen upon hard times in a foreign land. The heart of darkness in white and rust. Let us hope for a resurrection one day.

b. Faux Low-brow. The overblown graphics of what might be popular culture.

c. Real High-Brow. The one-of-a-kind preserved exclusive car that once defined the social status of the owner…and for that matter still does.  A social strainer.

d.Faux High-Brow. Harmless – rather pretty, but susceptible to exposure and the scrutiny of judgemental people.

e. Real Middle-Brow. As average as a beige Dodge. Or in this case a beige Toyota. Honest, if plodding. A car that we might all resort to if we had to leave town surreptitiously. The modern Australian equivalent of the Nash Rambler in North America.

 

f. Faux-Middle-brow. An abandoned Musso in the airport car park. It is not healthy to run away from your troubles too much…

It’s Art If I Say It Is

You need not go to the State Art Gallery to get your fill of interesting sights – if you go to car shows they are laid out for you all over the floor.

Art? I don’t mean the tattooist’s stand or the airbrush stand or the tin sign stand. I mean the actual devices that the enthusiasts have made throughout the year and brought for exhibition. The 3-D actual hardware that has more to it than just function.

Two cases in point are the Sailor Jerry truck and the bike rods at the 2017 NSW Hot Rod Show. Plenty on plenty of the classic rods and customs there, and the occasional little gem just parked quietly.

Why are these art? Because they are something that some did to please themselves – things that need not be the way they are but for the inner expression that they provide. Practical? Not really – but deeply pleasing to all who see them

a. The rod bikes. I’m sure you can ride them, and I’m sure you don’t want to. The angles, curves, mechanisms.and finish are all so different from the average run of treadlie that they have gone from being transports of people to transports of joy.

I have no idea how long they took to make, but I’ll bet they took a fair length of time to think up.

 

 

 

b. The Sailor Jerry truck. Now this is purely a commercial enterprise, and a striking one at that, but someone in the agency was clever enough to link the distressed paint scheme rod to the spiced rum and the whole thing just swings. Presumably the advertising truck has been carefully treated so that it does not actually hole out or fall apart before they get all the rum sold.

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 Plates

I used to be scandalised by things on a regular basis. I’m talking about pre-social media days…when there was less scandal to cope with, and you could get right down to it on individual cases and do a thorough job of indignity. In the last 5 years this passion for outrage has dissipated. I can still spark up at people being bad mannered to no purpose, but I rarely react to inanimate objects.

Just as well – the special plate craze has flourished in Perth over the last 20 years and there can be some pretty extreme ones. But I’m happy to say that the examples I found at this year’s WA Hot Rod Show were charming, silly, or just plain fun. No more comment – just a few views of the name badges of the cars.


 

The Casting Crouch

I see that there is yet another flurry of outrage about a caucasian actor in Hollywood being cast to play an asian character from a comic strip. Of course there is outrage – I should expect no less from the entertainment press. They are doing their job and doing it well…

Fortunately this problem has been headed off in the 2018 re-make of ” Gettysburg ” as the studio has wisely decided to cast Wesley Snipes in the role of General Robert E. Lee. Statues are being prepared now for erection in the southeastern states in time for the summer season.

I’m not so sure about the Goldfische Studios casting for the re-make of ” Midway “, though. I am all for inclusivity but the planned use of Judy Dench and Ellen DeGeneres as Admirals Yamaguchi and Nagumo seems a little risky. And filming aboard a Caribbean cruise liner docked in Florida seems a poor substitute for the AKAGI and the KAGA. Might work  for the SORYU but not if they leave the cocktail decorations up.

Personally, I’m hanging out for ” Peanut “…the musical about George Washington Carver with Johnny Depp as the lead character. It’s a sure Oscar. Oscar Meyer…