The Curse Of the Graphic Memory And The Art Library

People often use the cliché that what has been seen cannot be unseen. Like all clichés this it true, trite, and trash at the same time. Lots of things once seen are never seen again…and the effort to find them uses up whole afternoons.

Some people search for lost keys, sunglasses, and such. They go through all the conventional search patterns, from methodical to frantic, and most times the offending object eventually does turn up.

I search for images that have been seen in art books, catalogues, monographs, etc. The field of endeavour is constrained – my own library – and the books in it very rarely go anywhere. But I suspect the wretched things of passing the images to and fro between themselves to subvert me. I go looking for a perfectly remembered picture in the most logical book there may be – a catalogue or biography of the artist – and it is not there.

In the past I have then gone to the next most logical place and then the next, but I’ve finally come to realise that this is fruitless – the pictures have flitted and I might as well just start at the A section and look at every page. No sense trying to second-guess it. The sensuous nude is as likely to be on page 567 of a book on compound steam engines as it is in the pin-up magazine.

I’m sure there is a digital solution to this all…some type of sorting and cross-referencing  program that lets on talk into a tiny microphone and get the exact thing desired instantly. This must be possible – it works when you want a hamburger sandwich and some french-fried potatoes.

Perhaps I need to hire a minimum-wage librarian. Or buy a better-quality brain.



The Verge Collection

Do you have them in your country? In your suburb? The semi-annual opportunity to haul out all the old items that have given up the ghost, or the new ones that you are ashamed of, and let the council haul it all away. Ours is this week and I have created a large little pile.

They specify only good junk – no batteries, paint, or munitions. No old asbestos fences. You are not allowed to throw bodies on the pile. I grumble at this sort of prissiness on the part of the council – in the good old days garbage men would take anything.

But, if you want to lose the old computers, exercise bicycles, Tupperware lids, and floor lamps, you have to comply. You’re not allowed to crowd the verge until the week of the pickup, either.

Fortunately, in addition to the official trucks there is also a veritable army of private scavengers who tour the streets with vans and utes and sift through the piles before the council gets the good stuff. It’s probably illegal, but no-one cares. As long as they observe the unwritten rule of leaving the pile neat when they go, most householders are more than happy to see the stuff vanish as soon as possible. It makes more verge room for the next shift of trash.

I noted today that we lost the garden tubs and the cordless telephone but gained a broken scooter and several coathangers. I cannot for the life of me think why people would add to the pile in the night, but then they might have too much loot on their rickshaw and have to off-load the extra. I once had a prowler leave an untouched IKEA glass shelf that fit my IKEA bookcases – a definite win.

They only do hard goods twice a year, and green waste ditto to a different roster. It is in lieu of giving everyone a tip card and letting them dump their own junk. I think they could up the frequency and people might be tempted to wind back the consumerism a bit. Tough on the exercise machine market and the broken office chair trade, but good for the environment.

” Do Tell Me You Loathe it “

The cartoon is pinched off the internet…in turn pinched from a copy of Punch magazine of the 1930’s. The fun it pokes at Moderne architecture and the pretensions of the owners is dated, but priceless. However, it would appear that with the advent of the social media campaign, satire might now be spread into our era.

We’re currently seeing several campaigns in our social media to do with changes to marriage law in Australia. A questionnaire has been sent to us all asking if we would like to see same-sex marriage introduced. We get to answer yes or no, and the Australian Bureau of Statistics will be making the result known to the parliament. What they do with the opinion count is anyone’s guess.

The form is simple – yes or no – but from the way people are behaving on the social media section of the internet, I think it should have included a number of additional questions and options:

a. Yes, and I want the ABS to tell everyone on my Facebook list. And I want to get a signed receipt from each one of them to show that they know what I voted for.

b. Yes, but not when I’m looking.

c. Yes, But can we have something in it about the participants not writing their own vows and reading them out to the assembled guests before the bar opens? Please?

d. Yes, but not for certain people on the list I’ve enclosed with this form. Especially not No. 4 and No. 17 on the list. Not after what they said.

e. No, but not because I am a bad person. Because you asked…

f. No, but you can change the inheritance laws if you like.

g. Yes and No. Well, you asked. If you wanted a definite answer you should have made it a lot more vague. Hint first, then qualify that hint. Like a legislative game of ” Clue “.

h. No, but then yes, and then no again. And then yes. That should use up a couple of parliaments, if I know Canberra.

I’ve been watching the informed debate, the uninformed debate, the emotional outbursts, and the cynical jockeying for validation that is Facebook. I know that if I entered into any form of discussion I would be instantly shunned by half the people I know. If I espoused the opposite view I would suffer the same fate from the other half. I would become a social pariah…wandering the cold halls of the internet knocking vainly upon closed doors.

It is the one cheerful image that keeps me going…

Compelling Affection

I’ll start right out by saying that you can’t do it.

Not in a physical, mental, or emotional way. And not in commerce, politics, or religion, either. Not even with a high-pressure air compressor…and you can do a lot of other things with one of those.

Affection may make us happy or sad, but it can only come unbidden. Anything else is the cloying substitute…affectation. Just a few letters different, but a world apart.

I’m dealing with this thought just now while looking at photographs taken recently. I attended an anniversary party for a couple who had employed me as their wedding photographer 20 years ago. The hotel function room was crowded with their family and friends dressed in Hollywood costumes and everyone had a whale of a good time. And the degree of affection felt throughout the room was delightful.

I should wish it on all my friends. If it could be extended further, well and good, but you can’t strain at it. Probably the best plan is to be careful, then civil, then friendly – in that order – when forming new relationships. Let time and experience create the affection if it can.

If you find it necessary to stop before taking the next step, you can do so unobtrusively. You need never regret things you do not say. Certainly it is better to arrive at a state of equilibrium by a slow upward journey rather than a downward one. You get to the same point in your life but with fewer scars and stitches.

The Unwanted Gift – An Exercise For The Mind

We’ve all had it happen – a guest to our house presents us with a gift. Carefully chosen, cleverly wrapped, it is meant to represent the epitome of good manners and show us how much the presenter wishes to be friendly toward us. We open it and find ourselves staring down into The Pit. The present is a problem.

a. It is actually offensive. If you are a member of a religion that disdains pork, a glazed presentation ham is just not going to make it. Even with pineapple rings and a ribbon around the bone.

Staring at it, you need to make some fast decisions. Did the giver realise that you don’t eat ham – that you can’t eat ham? If they have no idea of your dietary laws, perhaps not. On the other hand, if they are normally in the next seat to you at the schul or next rug to you at the mosque, you can be sure that there is an ulterior message. Do you refuse it? Do you fling it? Do you express effusive thanks and say that you will save it for a special occasion? Only you can judge what effect your actions will have on the giver. Good luck.

b. It is gauche, kitsch, trite, and durable. This gift will last for YEARS…and if the person who has given it to you is going to return repeatedly during those years, they are going to expect to see it. Make no mistake – a mother bear shows no greater solicitude and concern for her cub than your Auntie does for that knitted brown sweater with the flower on it. You don’t get rid of the brown flower sweater this side of the grave.

c. It is horribly, horribly expensive. You can see at a glance that the giver has starved themselves and deprived their children to buy it. If you accept it you will be taking away a decade of their working life…can you do it? Should you do it? What will they want in exchange?

d. It is nasty and cheap. The price of a gift should have no bearing upon the gratitude that you express, but let’s face it – we are but human. If it is a gew-gaw obviously picked up in a transit lounge or local servo, and if it still has the Caltex price tag attached, are you obliged to praise it and dissolve in happy tears?

e. You have exactly the same thing on display on the hall table beside the unwrapped present. No-one can object to having another 10 Kg gold bar as a present, but yet another stuffed aardvark is a different matter.

f. It is the same thing that you gave to the giver last holiday. Not a similar one…the SAME one. Even the gift card is the same card, with their name covered over in White-out and yours substituted.

This is great. Accept it, coo over it, hug it and kiss it and call it George. Then give it back to them on your next visit to their place. White-out the card.

The Little World – It Was Just Sitting There

How many of your good ideas have just been sitting there in the store waiting for your brain to come along and see them? I say your brain, rather than your eyes, because you can look at something for months and years without perceiving it. It is only when the brain stirs that the magic begins.

My latest Ahah! moment was in our local electronics parts store whence I had repaired for plugs, sockets, and pilot lamps. These got, I dawdled through the place marvelling at the rubbish they sold. A spring-powered fly swatter? Disco lights? Don’t need ’em. I mean I’m 69…I can get disco lights by standing up quickly…

But they also sold parts for radio-control model cars and buggies. These were unattractive, but the spare electric motors for them were wonderful. I have to wonder what the operators are doing if they burn them out, but then the large number of spares for suspensions and steering are a clue. They are thrashing the guts out of the stuff.

I won’t be that hard on the electric motor I bought. I’ve no idea what it will power, but at $ 17 for a 6900 rpm 12 volt motor that looks like it could power a bomber, I couldn’t resist.

It was just sitting there calling to me. Hold my beer and stand back.

Taking Back Life – Part Four – From Whom?

The catch line about taking back life begs a question – where did it go and who has it now? I’ve only just started to find out that answer for myself.

It’s one that all the readers can ask themselves – because the answers that they find will all be as different as their own lives.

In my case a great deal of time went out to learning – all the years from 1953 to 1972 were spent in formal education. It was not unpleasant, and paid me handsomely by giving me a profession that I could trade upon. Subsequent years also educated me in a subsidiary art that I could turn to employment after the initial profession petered out. So I was set for earning power.

A great deal of time was spent in travel – this means re-location, socializing, and the discipline that comes from experiencing the solitude of the newcomer.

And a certain amount of time was spent in pure amusement – in my case I found most of it from the construction of scale models. All through my life I have had a chance to try my hand at a number of types of modelling. Most were successful – the only exception being model flying. But even here the act of constructing the failed airplanes was rewarding – training hand and eye to small tasks. Teaching visual proportion. And also teaching patience – very few models were ever dashed to the ground in the workshop. Most of them suffered that fate at the flying field.

So what am I now going to take back in my retirement? Why the pure amusement. I now collect scale models and make scenes and dioramas with them. I then use these in my studio for art and commercial illustration. I have discovered the joys of scratch-building as well as kit assembly. I look daily to solve new problems at the workbench – I haunt hobby shops and toy stores looking for parts. I have even started to exhibit some of the models at fairs and shows.

The real benefit this gives is internal – it brings me back to my roots – the little kid at the kitchen table making models – and stimulates my memory. I’m starting to get back some of the scenes and scents of my youth. Daily life took them away for 50 years and now daily routine can bring them back.