Oh, The Indignity…

I have been undignified all my life. In some instances it was just small and hardly noticeable – in others massive and memorable. It was a method of living – if anything about life can be methodical – that served me well. Because it let the pressure out of the vessel before it burst.

There were a lot of times when that was the difference between continuing to be a real social being and retreating into depression and fear. I never went into those regions because I aways blew up the verbal paper bag and popped it to let off the tension.

Being foolish is undignified. So is being crass, gauche, pitiful, or needy. No successful comedian was ever dignified – that was the job of the straight man. But in the end the straight man was always the second banana in the act. You know the names Abbot and Costello but it’s Lou you remember with affection.

The class clown is frequently the class dolt – the person who finds that they cannot learn or think and quickly runs for the simple reward of attention. Even if they have to purchase it at the expense of harsh discipline they will act up and get the laugh. If there is a class brain, they observe this behaviour and see if it can be adapted to their needs; frequently this is the case. The dolt never knows that they have been a useful example.

This was the case for me in grade school. Hauled, as was my norm, out of one school between years to another far way ( heavy construction company work ) I had the wearisome task of new-kid fights and pecking order with the start of the eighth grade. The class clown was a dolt from the local area who did his share of picking on me  between getting into other trouble. And it was watching his treatment at the hands of authority that taught me what to do.

a. Do not play up in class. Let the teacher get on with the business of teaching. If you can sit learning, do so. If all you can do is sit, take that route. But sit quietly.

b. Do not play dumb. Never do badly academically just to please the mob. Pass the tests as best you can and let others fail at their own pace.

c. Make a fool of yourself for the amusement of the mob in some show that doesn’t cost anything. That relieves the jealous tension and lets them out of having to react to anything you do.

d. Then occasionally sock it to them. Make fools of them.

 

 

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Sobering Up and Behaving Properly

I seem to be in the sights of a number of organisations that wish me to obey them. Not just the police and taxation office – now it is the nutritionists, dietitians, and moral reformers. They have selected my home as their target for tonight and I can hear the rumble of bomber engines every time I turn on the internet.

To be fair, I invite this attack myself by clicking on Facebook. It is the equivalent of turning on all the house lights and throwing back the curtains on a moonless night.

I was told to give up alcohol for January – with the promise that it would make my life better. There was a clear inference that if I continued abstinence through the following eleven months I should become a healthy and sane individual. They did not feature a picture of Carrie Nation and her hatchet  on the internet, but I’ll bet they were tempted.

I am also to abstain from all meat, milk, eggs, and other non-vegan foods. This is not being sold to me for my health, but on moral grounds. The pictures used to scold me away from meat are actually worse than those of Carrie in her bonnet.

Occasionally I am warned away from fluoride in my drinking water, soft drinks, natural gas, vaccines, Chinese people, and anything else of which an internet poster does not approve.

Of course, I am always forbidden to approve of the American president, local politicians, Australia Day, horse races, and many more hitherto innocuous subjects. This list grows yearly and is the subject of some cynical betting as to what will be next. Note: 50 years ago I was scolded for using an aluminium cooking pot, which was pretty bizarre at the time…I had no idea the internet would bring so many more sins to light.

I do not resent the posts – they are evidence that people think of my welfare and want the best for me. Of course, this benevolence is not a one-way street. They do expect something in return. If it is not donation of money, it is assistance in promoting Their Glorious Cause. I’m only sorry that heretofore I have not done so…but I fully intend to go to their next torchlight rally at the sports stadium. I like the searchlights and the marching bands…

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.

Army And Navy Surplus – Retail Clothing Part Seven

I was a child when there was Army and Navy Surplus that meant something. My father bought a bomber engine at an RCAF surplus auction in Airdrie, Alberta and ran it in our basement. He also bought lightweight drafting equipment from the RCAF that used to be on the navigator’s flight table. I aways wanted him to bring home the Fraser-Nash gun turret that was on sale as well, but my mother was a spoil-sport…

I mention this as a preface to gently prime you for a fact of life; there is no army and navy surplus any more. The bomber engine was left over from WW2. The army and navy now need all the stuff they have and are frequently engaged in horse trading amongst themselves to gather enough of it together in one place to operate on. They don’t have any spares to sell.

What is sold in the surplus stores is cheap imports from Pakistan, India, and worse places. If it can be made of bad cotton or brass – if it can be made crudely but with a certain brutal flair – if it can be sold as an aid to camping, or fishing, or genocide – the stores will get a sea container of it in and sell it. Whichever category it fits into and whatever it is, you can find one common thread – it will be overpriced.

Don’t avoid the surplus stores because of this. Go into them, by all means. Education is always expensive and shopping there is no exception. Set yourself a price limit that is painful but not horrifying, and go spend to that number. Who knows – you may need the fake ammunition box or the Pakistani exploding alcohol stove – or the Confederate flag or the 70 cm folding knife – for some legitimate purpose.

Just don’t ask for Fraser-Nash turrets…

The Big And Tall Shop – Retail Clothing Part Six

I do shop at the big and tall shop, even though I am not. However, other family members are, and the fact that you have to go to a special retail outlet to clothe them says something about the general clothing retailers. It says that they are basically stupid.

When customers have to go 5 miles out of the city to a specialist store to get the sizes they need, they are doing it because the major retailers will not supply them. In turn, when the customers go out there, they take their money with them and spend quite considerable amounts of it . Considerable amounts that do not go into the big store’s till.

Helloooo…Anyone there from the accountancy department? Anyone…?

Big tall people and big fat people do not fit into the tiny sizes that the major retailers order from the sweatshops of Southeast Asia. Yet they still want fashionable and decent clothing…which they can get from the big and tall shops. The wise management of the B&T have contracted with their sweatshops to make things on a bigger pattern – and charge more for it. If a major player store has more money to negotiate with than the little retailers they could do exactly the same thing but better and faster. But they don’t.

While they have been selling the populace the lie that everyone is either size 8 or else they don’t deserve to live, the buying public has been exceeding this number and saving their money. All they have to do is make bigger clothing and that money comes to them. Bugger fashion parades and the starved model. Build an empire on the need and wants of the actual customers – like Trump’s wall, they’ll help pay for it!

The Jeans Shop – Retail Clothing Part Five

If ever there was a tale of good taste manipulated, good sense circumvented, and good business pursued, it is told in the blue jeans business. Also add hype, mindless conformity, and slave labour to that last sentence.

I’ve seen blue jeans become jeans and progress from farm worker wear to kid wear to teen wear to mainstream trendy wear in my lifetime. I regret that I will not live long enough to watch the garment travel back down to the start of the circle and largely disappear from sight.

I do not decry the basic thing – but I have become mightily sick of the sales gimmickry that has accompanied each stage of the progression. It was like watching fake-wood plastic veneers take over every surface of every product in the 1960’s and 70’s. I long to see the denim become as rare as the walnut*.

Mind you, I do appreciate a good joke and more so when I can get it and the persons upon whom it is perpetrated remain ignorant. The ripped jeans sold from a shop – in some cases ripped beyond garment to rag – are one facet of this. The dull colour is another. The excessive studding a third. The list goes on, and you can be sure that if some garment worker has made a drunken bet that they can make an uglier design and sell it to the vapid, they will collect their money.

Note the garment that was given to me – a denim photographer’s jacket. Actually a very good idea, but unwearable in any dimension save the Alt-70’s.

*  I actually owned an air-powered dental unit made in Oregon in the 1970’s that was faced with stick-on wood veneer and aluminium knobs. In my defence, it was all I could afford…

The Cheap Shoe Shop – Retail Clothing Part Two

Looks down. Notes what is on the feet at the present. Shudders…

There is a cheap shoe store in each of our local shopping centres – and the centres are not down-market venues. They host grocery stores, cinemas, large retail outlets, and some boutique stores, They’re not the ritziest in the town, but they’re also not the slums.

Needing new sandals ( I wear through leather and artificial-leather sandals pretty smartly. If I don’t hole them, I give them such a bacterial overload that you cannot bear to have them in the clothes closet…) I determined to spend less and try these shops. The experiment is ongoing, but the flip-flop rubber thong sandals are giving value for money so far. They are a dangerous thing to wear if you are unsteady on your feet – the sandals turn under the foot and jerk you sideways. Next version will be the enclosed sandal version and we’ll see whether that works.

The feature I most appreciate in these shops – all selling Chinese-made goods – is that they just rack them up on the shelves and let you get on with it to make your own mind up. The goods are set out in sizes and you can see the same style in several fittings by just walking down the racks. You choose a size section and look for yourself. There are seats to plop onto when you want to try something on. Wear socks and just sift through the range.

I do not decry sales knowledgable sales staff – I was one of them once myself – and for goods that have a decided technical turn like computers, electronics, and helicopters I want all the time and attention I can get. I’ll pay for it if it steers me in the right direction. But I don’t need someone to hover over my feet.