Kinda Canada, Eh?

I once lived in Canada – for about 17-18 years. Then I moved to Australia and have racked up another 50+ years here – with time out for a working holiday in England. Thus I have the basic qualifications to be horribly wrong about three countries. I make the best use of whatever false insights I have made over the years.

Note: I also lived in the USA for a couple of years as a youth and a student. So I can be an instant expert about the place, too. If I am dreadfully wrong, it can be no worse than most of the overseas posts and news reports you read anyway.

All this leads me to a question; how long does one have to actually be in a country to be able to make a rational judgment on and useful report of it. How long does one need to form real memories – as opposed to the ones the glimpses airports and freeways give. How far down the biological and social chain does one need to go to reach the real experience? And is it worth going there?

Well, if your entire experience of, say, Canada was an arrival at Vancouver airport, transfer to a cruise ship and up the coast…then a quick trip to a ski resort and back to the airport…you might be forgiven for a really distorted view of the country. It might have been a pleasant holiday – in between two horrendous airplane flights – but you’d have no idea of summer in the fire season or winter on the prairies or the smell of hockey skates drying in an enclosed space. The same could be said for the tourist who comes to Australia  – though most of the North American visitors spend more time here than we do there. It’s the Asian tourists who do a quick round of casinos, beaches, and wildlife parks and then scatter back to their homes. Possibly with a glazed look in their eyes.

Does anyone ever take home a real view of a real place?

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Why Brexit?

I have been pondering for some months about the whole Brexit situation – as an outsider before they voted, I could only speculate about the issues and frame of mind of the pro and anti voters. But as it seems to have been decided in the affirmative, I can concentrate more on the question of why. I’m still and outsider, but the question is now…Why did Great Britain vote to end its connection with the European Common Market or European Union? Here’s some possibilities:

  1. The new formation of a European army was a timely reminder of the last few times the Europeans have formed armies under Napoleon, Hitler, etc. and of what Europeans would like to do with their armies. There’s only one tunnel under the Channel but there’s always the Channel.
  2. The trade and farming regulations from Brussels that prevent some British farmers from working their land for produce and profit are a thorn in the side.
  3. The ready supply of illegal migrants camping in France and other places with an eye to getting to the UK and disappearing is a daunting prospect.
  4. The continued prospect of propping up spendthrift regimes and dole bludgers in the sunnier climes of the Mediterranean is a particular annoyance to people who live in the damp climate of Wales and other rural portions of the UK. They might as well spend the money on parish cases at home.
  5. Why not?
  6. The French have hated the English since the time of the King Henries. In the last century they dragged them into two world wars, and left them to play the last one out by themselves for years. Then they supplied De Gaulle to make it all better. The French idea of better may not be the same for the rest of us…
  7. The English do not trust the French or Germans. Or the Italians, for that matter.
  8. The loss of the Empire and the colonies was traumatic. But there was still the Commonwealth. With the EEC and EU experiment, a lot of the Commonwealth interest drifted away. If they Brexit the European door shut, they might re-open the Commonwealth door.

There’s no new political insight in there, but it does go some cynical way to supplying reasons. If it proves a bad idea – like the First World War or convict transportation – you can always blame the Manchester Board Of trade and the Admiralty. Or Trump and the Americans. But don’t blame them too hard in case you need Lend-Lease and Spam again.

” Not Known To Me “

Spoke with a friend regarding the success of a new book he has written about his childhood. It was far away and long ago, but he does have a good memory and clear writing style. The people who lived there then and still do now are buying the book and, presumably, enjoying it.

One reader, however, had to chime in with the fact that the writer was not known to him – perhaps the most superfluous comment of the year. There are nine billion people on the planet who are not known to me, and I am satisfied with it. But the phrase is no more than a conventionality to garner attention – and it leads me to speculate upon the other phrases of this sort that we encounter:

  1. ” At this point in time “. If you’re giving a history lesson and are tracing the Peninsular wars month-by-month, the expression is excusable. If you’re merely trying to make yourself sound big instead of saying ” Now”, it is not.
  2. ” My good lady wife “. As opposed to your other one who is bad, or a trollop, or merely a scrap of meat on the plate? Does she describe you in similar terms, and you just haven’t been there to cringe at the time?
  3. ” I’m putting you on notice “. The speech of the headmaster when he cannot control the class. The vague threat made vaguer by the grammatical pointlessness of it. Throw a rock at the pompous ass.
  4. ” I hear what you are saying. “. As opposed to tasting it? Or smelling it? As this phrase is invariably followed by ” But…”, perhaps it is the smell that features large…
  5. ” It is what it is “. Oh thank God for that. I have been in terror that either it is what it isn’t or it isn’t what it is. Existentialism was never this hard and we wore raincoats for that.

My thanks to another weblog writer  – Tony – for sensitizing me to baloney. But bad news, Tony. Here in Australia it is sometimes spelled ” Polony “. Same gritty luncheon meat but cruder packaging.

Riding The Horse – Part Six – The Collector’s Edition

If anyone ever meets you on the road and tells you that the only reason they collect something – whether it be stamps, coins, or matchbook covers – is for the investment value of them, you must treat them like Buddha. You must kill them. Because they are either telling you the truth or a lie…and neither one is acceptable.

The collection urge is a basic part of the human psyche – and there are studies that show it to be something that other animals do as well. Unfortunately there have not been enough funded studies employing perpetual students that have concentrated upon the animal part of it – we still do not know why crows and magpies collect junk bonds. But as far as people go, everyone has a latent collector inside them.

The classical collections involve art, antiquities, coins, postage stamps, china and porcelain, and silver and gold objects. These have an intrinsic value in themselves  – with the possible exception of outdated postage stamps – and can be turned into a current in the income stream of the collector. Of course most turn out to be money sinks, but that is the nature of the con game.

The actual objects to be collected is immaterial – it is the amassing of a group of them that forms the gratification. If they can be supported by specialist shops, publications, scholarly works, fairs, and auctions…so much the better. Sometimes they run afoul of laws, as in the collection of weapons and firearms, but that’s never stopped any keen enthusiast that I’ve ever met. The man with the working anti-tank gun is ample evidence of this. In any case no real collector lets anything – money, law, or good sense – stand in his way. The only irksome part for him may be the necessity to keep the collection hidden.

Can there be too many things in a collection? Not according to the collectors. Can the collection be too wide in scope? Again, no. Can it be too narrow? Well, I met a proud collector who concentrated his efforts upon a toy plastic boat that was produced as a promotional giveaway in the 80’s and he has found enough variants in it to base his entire happiness upon. All the items look the same until he tells you the minute history of them and lets you examine them carefully with a magnifying glass. At that point you wish you were a gun collector…

Can the objets de collection be too expensive? Well they can be so for the average person, and that for a number of reasons, but for the unlimited budget person, nothing is too dear. They are the explorers after El Dorado that poison the land for all the rest – they elevate prices and depress common sense in any field they enter. And yet. And yet…

Remember our first paragraph. In every collector’s heart is a small section that really does want their beloved collection of dried goat udders to be the secret desire of a fabulously-wealthy sheik…who will pay an enormous price for them. This small portion of the heart is known as the Jesse James valve, and it flutters in the presence of loose money. 

Collectors are easy meat for the purveyors of dreck – see the back of any woman’s magazine for the porcelain figures of the Royal Plumbers Of Tonga at only $ 256 each in a signed edition. They are also the natural fodder for makers of collection cases, display shelves, storage books, and fanciful catalogues. They can be seen at all sorts of trade shows, secondhand fairs, and repulsive little shops cruising for the bargains. The shopkeepers know ‘em in a minute and it is all they can do from salivating visibly.

Is there any harm in being a collector? No, if you do not go so far down the rabbit hole that you find the subject has collected you. This is the sad fate of several of the gun collectors I know who’ve sacrificed money, property, and good sense to serve their masters…the guns. It is not possible to bring them to their senses, but they are mostly harmless. The fate of many collectors is to find that their friends and family avoid them – at least when they start to talk about The Collection.

It’s All The Fault Of…

San Andreas.

” Wait? What? ”

The San Andreas Fault. The geological crack that is going to split open one day and drop California into the Pacific Ocean. The favoured bogey of the Hollywood disaster movie maker. The sliding magma plate that we have all come to loathe and fear. All the fault of the San Andreas.

” You’re mad. You’ve finally gone mad. How could the San Andreas Fault be responsible for the world’s troubles. It hasn’t even shifted yet. ”

Exactly. By delaying the shift it has condemned us to decades of California. Years of Hollywood. Years of Los Angeles and smog and Watts and Tijuana. Years of San Francisco and drugs and socio-sexual city councils. Years of Mexican migrants and anti-Mexican presidents. Years of Ansel Bloody Adams and boring Sierra Club landscapes.

” But…”

If the blessed thing had shifted fifty years ago the painful sixties could have been devoted to blasting Castro and area-bombing Hanoi and Jane Fonda would have been  Barbarella instead of a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gunner. We would likely have been spared LBJ and Nixon. And Whitlam and Abbott for that matter. Though they might have been seen as  purely Australian faults.

” I can see your point. Perhaps if we all go to Santa Barbara and jump up and down we can get the damn thing started. ”

Hang on, I’ll get my shoes.

Hanging Out With Idiots

In every company, club, or social group there are identifiable types. You’ll have seen them all your life. Or, if not, you can be sure they’ll have seen you…

  1. The politician. The treasurer who wants to be secretary, the secretary who wants to be president, and the president who wants to be hereditary emperor. You can do yourself a bit of good by furthering their ambitions and you can do yourself a world of good by shunning them completely.
  2. The clown. Whether the selected medium is ethnic slurs or dad jokes, the clown is playing it, and you, for laughs. Beware if they see you as a useful butt for these merry japes. Try to switch their sights to someone else.
  3. The sponge. Whether it is knowledge, work, or money, the sponge will absorb all you can provide. While you are pouring out your life blood for them you’ll be patted and stroked. When the flow stops you’ll be cast off and laughed at.
  4. The victim. The range of hurts that the victim will parade for your sympathy will stagger you. Beggars in Bangladesh have fared better than they, and you are always encouraged to help with tears and money.
  5. The expert. Now they might very well be an actual expert, and well worth listening too because of this. Equally, they may be windbags who gain a puffed pleasure telling you what to do…but whose advice is valueless. Try them out. Do as they say for a little while and see if things go better. If it is all shit, just ignore them ever after.
  6. The lemon. Just as there is a victim, there will always be a lemon. Sour, hard, and unsavoury. If you listen to them your milk of human kindness will curdle. And it is illegal to hit them with a shovel. A signal failure of the law, eh?

The best thing that the average person can do – faced with this daunting list of venomous predators – is pick a category and get in there first. If you are going to be closeted with idiots, do yourself a favour by being the biggest idiot in the closet. You may be treated to bad language and horrified looks, but at least they’ll give you elbow room. If you take off your clothes you’ll get quite a lot of personal space.

 

Riding The Horse – Part Five – The Hobby Of Action

One of the basic human needs is to be active – to sport, work, or hunt for some part of the time. With good luck this will provide food, shelter, and clothing. With bad luck this will provide injury and death.

Let us start with the good bit. You can make a hobby out of nearly any sport there is – individual ones like golf or fishing, or partnership events like tennis or badminton. You can expand to be part of a team and there are all sorts of ball or puck games that you can play.

There can be sport in pure activity – the hike, jog, or breathless run. As long as it is not in front of a pack of slavering bloodhounds, there can always be an element of fun in it – and fun is what you get out of an active hobby. There is only a concrete reward in the case of hunting or fishing – you can eat or wear the result of a success. if you are dealing with polar or grizzly bears you need to be aware that what you regard as your prey is also attuned to this idea, and they don’t need RCMP permits or salt and pepper…

The physical benefit of active hobbies is often touted as a reason to engage in them. Take this with a grain of salt – there are any number of sports physiotherapists, chemists, and manufacturers of knee braces who caution you to take care and hope you won’t listen. They need have no fear – while the sporting human’s body is composed of muscles, bones, and no brains at all, their business is safe.

Likewise the action hobbies like biking, parasailing, rock climbing, and adventuring in all its forms – it is promoted as the finest form of sport and clothing, shoes, accessories, and action cameras are sold in the millions to let people participate. Some will do so safely. Some is a lesser number than all, and within that discrepancy lies the extremely profitable business of health insurance and sports medicine. And who are we to discourage profit…

Successful hobbying…if that is really a word…would see us all engage in some form of activity at some time in the week. We would be doing it regularly, with pleasure and safety, and an increase in skill over the years. We might get the occasional trophy or memento to let us know that others recognise our skill – or we might just feel the benefits within ourselves. Whichever, the active hobby is not to be decried on the basis of possible injury or basic purposelessness. It can be a part of a healthy lifestyle.

But then so can cheese…