The Little World – The Big Bench

Some workbenches are sad places – people sit at them and slave away hour after hour, but never enjoy themselves. It’s the same with desks.  Steaming piles of paper in the in-tray and the telephone ringing constantly…Sometimes it is a distinct relief to slump sideways with a sudden attack…

Not for  the Aardman workers – they may have row after row of eyeballs to make, but there is always the delight of eventually having something real look back at you from the top of the table.

Look at what the workshop has been making for Shaun the Sheep. Note that the ears seem to be plugged in on brass tubing – a sensible design, when you consider what a nuisance it is to clean our own lugs. No more poking Q-tips down the hole and twirling them around – just pop the ear off the head, wash it under a tap, and pop it back on. Vincent Van Gogh was onto something after all.

Aside from the mechanic’s red tool box, plastic fishing box, and the state-of-the-art remnant trays from the English equivalent of Red Dot, I am particularly impressed with the turntable on which the  heads rest. It is sturdy, flexible, and high enough to bring the object being modelled up to the point where you can see it clearly. That, and a good strong Planet lamp is all you need to get started. I have no idea what the two white containers at the right side of the table are – perhaps they hold secret modeller’s formulae…

Note on the hand photo that the rubber moulds are made to be self-registering so that they fit back together without needing a precision box surrounding them. I take it that the square channel in the wrist area is a place where a piece of brass tubing can be laid before the clay or putty is compressed around it. I have no idea what the actual material that forms the flexible hands is made of, but logic tells me that it cannot be too soft or the surface would be a constant nightmare – at the same time it needs to bend and stay bent for the animation movements to take place.

And then it is on to the wardrobe room…and the set…and the magic begins.

Little World modellers who have fixed abodes or workplaces are very lucky indeed – if they have dedicated spaces where works can progress without having to be picked up and put away in time for tea, it is likely to foster a calm sense of achievement and artistry. If they are compelled to work in a drafty shed, or in the corner of the dining room upon sufferance the hobby will be a contest at best and a chore at worst. The milieu is as important as it would be for any artist – painter, sculptor, or chef.

But there is a special tip ‘o the hat to those modellers who are on the road. I remember reading a MODEL RAILROADER magazine in the 80’s with an article about an English pop singer who travelled the US with his band, but carried his workshop and current model project with him to the hotel rooms he stayed in and passed the odd time between shows making HO scale buildings. Very good ones, as it turned out – the article showed that he was a master builder. Sort of knocks the sex and drugs image for a burton, doesn’t it?

 

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I often wonder whether the Ford Motor Company realised just what good fortune they had when they named some of their motor cars ” Victoria “. It seems to be a name that was added when the Model A was born in 1927, thought there may have been a style of coach body made earlier in the horse-drawn days that was similar. Given the immense prestige of the British queen, Victoria, in the 19th and early 20th century there must be literally thousands of product and places that bear the name.

Such as the state of Victoria…the one sandwiched between New South Wales and South Australia. Perpetual rival of NSW…so much so that the federal capital had to be placed in a special administrative territory between the two states…more or less out in the boonies. ( A good place for it, as it keeps the pollies away from the rest of us for much of the time. )

But away from this, the name ” Victoria” applied to sedans made by Ford – such as these seen at the recent VHRS in Melbourne – must have sold cars to Victorian buyers by appealing to that deep-seated home instinct.

Even if they do not admit it, the pull of a locale name always boosts the popularity of a song or product. And in this case the consonance between place, royal association, and the word for winning would have been worth millions to the car company.

Other makers have tried it too – Austin tried to foist a terrible car on us by calling it a ” Tasman “. Holden stacked on Monaro, and there have been others. No-one has had the nerve to try ” Adelaide ” or ” Mount Isa ” but there were probably moments in the board rooms when the danger was clear. I am hoping for the Renault ” Manangatang ” some day, but the company has stopped returning my phone calls.

The Eco-Friendly Claymore Mine

Every time I turn to the social media pages, there seems to be something that is eco-friendly – whether it is eye makeup or a motor car. And oddly enough, each mention of this wonderful property seems to be connected with an offer to sell me that product. I am starting to see a pattern.

I wonder if it would be a good thing to extend this to items – like the standard claymore mine or phosgene artillery shells – that are normally looked upon with horror. They need a better press and perhaps the idea of making them green is a good one.

Of course pedants will point out that claymores and gas shells are already green in colour, but this is merely playing with words. We want to make them desirable on an environmental basis. Given the fact that they are designed to kill, this may be a hard thing to do, but spin doctoring is a skilled profession – just ask the practitioners who attend the American president.

Let’s start with the phosgene gas shells. Okay, they have been estimated to have caused 65,000 casualties in WWI, but that was 100 years ago and surely no-one would remember that now…In any case, it was used by the French and we could always show pictures of a girl in a french maid’s uniform to make it seem a lot nicer. And remember that it is a valued industrial compound for other chemical manufacture. The fact that it is sitting in artillery shell…in some cases very old artillery shells…is just incidental. If we paint them pink we can probably sell them as sex toys.

The claymore mines are another thing entirely. They’re pretty new and much more likely to find their way into the hands of school children and people at senior citizen centers. Indeed, there are few better ways of clearing pesky teenagers off your lawn if yelling at them from the porch doesn’t work. They also keep your walkway free of religious callers and pizza delivery people.

What the manufacturers want to do is develop a claymore that does not spit out steel balls when fired – just a humongous blast of flame. These could be supplied in packs of ten at the local Home Depot store for use as snow clearing devices in northern cities. You open the front door on a snow day when a drift has buried your walkway, place the mine on the doormat, and squeeze the clicker. WHOOMP! Clean sidewalk. Think of the number of heart attacks this would prevent in middle-aged people.

Also on the cards would be a festive claymore for the Latin countries. Brightly decorated  and filled with Jaffas and Skittles instead of the steel balls, they could be hung in the trees and detonated during the fiesta instead of a pinata, No more danger of blindfolded little children swinging bats. Might be a good idea to reduce the charge in the candy ones to prevent melting the chocolate…Olé!

 

 

SOBCoin…You Knew It Was coming

Now that the Backstabbers Guild Of Australia has launched the BGAcoin it was only a matter of time before it released the next in the series – the Bitscoin. This should be carefully distinguished from Bitcoin by the fact that there is an ” s ” in the middle and by the fact that we only accept cash in a brown paper bag to pay for it. Or chickens. Or S&H coupons.

Let’s face it…we’ll take anything.

And that’s the problem. The cryptocurrency market needs respectability and dignity, and the BGA keeps very little stock of that. So we are going to introduce the ultimate respectable and dignified business scheme that you just read about on our cellphone screen – the Bitscoin.

To help us market this easy passport to financial success ( ours ), we have engaged Sunova Marketing Associates to lay the proposition before the public. They’ve agreed to lend their name to the project – we are proud to announce the Sunova Bitscoin.

There will be several levels of marketing available for this product – all the way from the Simple Sunova Bits to the Complex Sunova Bits. Those of you who have ever taken apart a Holley 4-barrel carburetor will know exactly what we mean. There will be Mean Sunova Bits and Lying Sunova Bits available, too, but only if you are over 18. We anticipate a good market in Canada where this sort of thing has been a long-established tradition, eh?

Remember that you will never forgive yourself if you do not buy Sunova Bitscoins now. Tomorrow will be too late, and it may be difficult to contact our representatives. If we play our cards right…

Le Coup – Quatrième Colonne

The social cut is so long-standing as to have gathered a set of rules governing its use. They are as useful today as they were in the 18th and 19th century – people may have cars, computers, and cash these days but they are basically the same inside as they always were. If you doubt this get an old copy of Gray’s Anatomy and a scalpel, but don’t blame me if the police intervene.

a. Le coup absolu is a direct confrontation between two people where one does not acknowledge the other in any way. It can be devastatingly insulting and if seen by others, socially demeaning.

b. This form of cut must be deliberate and obvious to the victim.

c. Gentlemen must never cut a lady.

d. Unmarried ladies are not to cut married ladies.

e. The social cut cannot be employed within military or naval circles. While this is not a rule adhered to entirely, the good of the service requires that all instances of it are either suppressed or addressed.

f. Hosts cannot cut their guests.

g. Cuts cannot be done indiscriminately or for light purpose. They could have serious consequences for both parties – if between equals the cut may provoke a challenge and if between disparate classes it might redound badly. Some social cuts destroy careers and marriages.

There is little enough general society these days – the class system having realigned itself around money rather than birth – and the population having grown so much as to diffuse contact and/or interest. People can get fame or notoriety, but it is rare that enough people focus upon them long enough to grant them real respectability. To get this, one must go into the smaller divisions of organisation – the social club, the hobby group, the sporting association. You might even need to go down as close as the family before you find respect or notice.

Thus the loss of social status that someone who was snubbed might have felt in 1850 does not generally exist now. It might still be operating for someone who has been suspected of a major crime but has escaped conviction – they may find themselves refused entry to the social scene they once frequented. People might avoid them in public. They might find that their careers are blighted. The curse of widespread modern communication and the free interchange of information might also mean that they cannot find rest or respect elsewhere. Mind you, Cain had his problems too…

But snubbing, cutting, and general exercise of hubris may backfire. The story of Beau Brummel’s snubbing by the Prince Regent is well documented in Wikipedia. It notes the reasons why it was done and his rather foolish reaction – judge for yourself when you read it. The Prince Regent was seen as abusing his power and Brummel had enough social steam to ride it out. Of course Brummel’s own lifestyle could never be sustained and he was lost to France and debt…but take it as a lesson to be careful who you cut and why. If you do it unnecessarily you do it wrong.

 

 

 

Le Coup – Troisième Colonne

This column should really be subtitled ” Le Coup Numerique ” as it deals with the social cut on digital media. This was not an option in the 19th century, but I’ll bet they would have had a ball with it…

Social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et al – seems to be an electric slate onto which nearly anything can be written. Better still – anything can be drawn, cut, or pasted. The sources of the postings can be as truthful as mathematics or as false as marketing. It is all grist for the mill and the mill is speeding up.

If you wish to cut someone publicly on Facebook, you can. The vilest insults and coldest sneers can be typed out and sent with one press of a button. The fact that you may get a reputation as a troll is neither here nor there – you might live under a bridge and welcome any notice taken of you…

But this is not the most sophisticated use of the medium for the coupeur…the best tool is found in the settings that decide who remains within your electronic circle of friends. It has always been possible to de-friend people on your list – and to block approaches from others. It’s now possible to ” snooze ” contacts for 30 days, though this is more a cooling-off mechanism for you than for them.

Perhaps the best analogy for the social media site is that of a cocktail party. You would do best to be bright and cheerful whilst attending – not to cut people dead when there – and not to start awkward discussions about sex, politics, or religion. That makes you a welcome guest, and one who gets more invitations.

If you wish to be a curmudgeon, backstabber, or villain, get yourself a WordPress page and start writing a regular column…

Note: I have used the Facebook de-friend option five times myself. To some extent it was an over-reaction and a misunderstanding of the mechanism. In the future, I think I’ll just use the ” block ” option for this social platform. It will do the business more politely.

 

Le Coup – Deuxième Colonne

The written coup is a more interesting intellectual exercise than the spoken one – requiring as it does the same motif but adding the need for writing ability, opportunity, and method of delivery. It can be a rarer and more dangerous thing.

a. Direct letters from you to the person you wish to cut are not very common. Few people choose to send a direct confrontation that brooks no misunderstanding. Letters expose your intention, and can be kept for evidence. They invite return communication in a way that a spoken cut does not.

They have the advantage of being private if you so direct them – registered mail to be signed for with an external note that it is private and confidential usually succeeds in this. Placing a sealed envelope directly into the hand of the victim is even surer.

Any disclosure of the contents is then for the recipient – they may wish to explode publicly or privately. But they cannot accuse you of defamatory publication.

b. Public posting is much more dangerous, as it can lead to legal action. If you make your cut public knowledge you cannot retract it or hide it – the best you can do is make it vague. This is the basis of any number of social media posts.

Some people do need public posting, particularly if the public needs protection from them. This is rarely the job of a private person, though, as they generally do not have all the facts of a case, and in any case do not have the authority of police or court to back them up. In all instances it is best to discuss it with the staff at the police station desk and be guided by their advice.

c. Official complaint is not really within the purview of this column’s subject, but if you need to make one, make it through the correct channels if possible. Start low and polite and if you are taken notice of – be satisfied with that. Quit there. If you are ignored, go one step higher, but still be polite. Arm yourself with the name and rank of whoever failed to address your first approach. You may find that you have to climb many administrative steps to get to a real response, but remember that in Australia a real response is possible.

If you are a crank, ignore the above advice.