The Little World – It’s Only A Hobby – Part Two

” It’s only a hobby ” as a defensive statement can cover a multitude of situations. I’ve heard it in real life ( not on a comedy record ) as a slogan of pride and an excuse for shame. Can’t tell you which was the most disturbing:

a. The person who received a genuine complement on their models – a series of scratch-built boats – and modestly said that it was only a hobby. I was engaged in the same sort of modelling at the time, but without the spectacular success of the other chap. I was a little ( a lot…) jealous of his skills and thought that the answer rang false.

It seemed like a boast that he was better at other things, and that the modelling was some sort of lesser thing. It wasn’t a lesser thing for him, or for the rest of us that were doing it. It was the life and blood of our out-of-work hours. It was our art, and deserved a better reference than that.

b. I also remember a person in the same club who responded to criticism of his cruder models with nearly the same response – that it was only a hobby. Here the clear inference was that it was not an activity that had to be done well – it could be a mere bagatelle and done in a sloppy fashion.

That led to the conclusion that there was no point in him doing it at all. He could go off and do something more important – something that was important enough to do well. But I suspect that anything that he tackled would have had some small taint of the attitude. I wonder if anything was ever satisfying for him?

I wonder if the flaw inherent in both yesterday’s and today’s column is the word ” hobby”. If people substituted other words or phrases; ” activity “, “job “, ” pursuit “, or ” avocation ” for the word ” hobby “, would the uneasiness arise? Could people excuse themselves for anything if they were more serious about it – or more light-hearted.

For my part, I regard my Little World as real. For me it has more actuality than many other places on this planet that are merely internet reports. As creator, I take pride in it, and do not count the costs of the effort made in detailing it. I do count the costs of costs, though, and look at economic ways of having my fun. I try to keep my big spending for things that truly do make a difference.

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How Old Do You Have To Be To Legally Purchase Nostalgia?

This good question was supplied by a friend over dinner. The venue was a retro pub that had been burned out and restored to the appearance of a burned-out pub. I found myself getting nostalgic for it and hoped that it would re-ignite.

As a child, we rarely have a sense of former times – all things happen in the present. Indeed, we are sometimes so impatient for new things to happen that we discard the present almost as soon as it arrives. Either way – nostalgia or impatience, we cannot really be said to dwell in much contentment.

Well, if we are lucky, time marches on for us. We get to the point where we have something to remember and the interval gives it a sort of hazy mental glow. It becomes better than it was – even if it was actually awful at the time. We edit our thoughts so that there is a good side to the former situation and then we home in on that. It is the kindliest self-deception we can practise.

Of course it also goes the other way – We’ve all seen that Monty Python sketch of the old clubmen bemoaning the modern times and trying to compete with how bleak their childhoods were. The idea was pinched from an Israeli book published a few years earlier than the sketch, mind, but it was still funny. And you can find this sort of thing done for real in any pub front bar. The older we get the tougher we had it.

I wonder if anyone ever really assesses their past and comes out with a neutral view of it? A view that would pass the scrutiny of a common magistrate’s court. It might be the one thing that could give them happiness now – and blessed relief for their listeners.

Ah, but there can at least be some winners – the companies that reproduce vintage items – from clothing to radios to camera outfits. Of course you have to grant them some chance to incorporate modern improvements for safety, convenience, and a higher profit margin – and there will be an inevitable bias in the advertising that accompanies it.

The people who remember the real times may wince a bit when they see the copy version. But some small scrap of the past will have been carried on.

I’d Rather Be Groucho Than Margaret

If you have never seen a movie with Groucho Marx and Margaret Dumont I recommend that you dial up ” A Night At The Opera” and ” A Day At The Races ” and watch Groucho bounce jokes off poor Margaret’s hide all the way through.

You might feel sorry for her or think she gets what she deserves – as she always played the dignified straight lady to Groucho’s scoundrel – but movie histories tell us that she was doing it as a consummate stage actress and skilled professional. Her job – straight feed and timekeeper for the audience’s laughs – is one of the tough ones in comedy. The fact that she did it while enduring the Marx brothers is a tribute to her courage and steadiness.

You’d be surprised how many people in real life have to do the same thing – and many have the even tougher job of maintaining their cool in the face of meanness – not just stage comedy. I saw it many times in my retail shop time and sometimes even had to practice it myself.

I do not mind the high and I do not mind the mighty, but when they combine these two features along with a show of morality my liver starts to curl at the edges…followed, if I am not careful, by my lip. Fortunately most of this behaviour is occasioned by financial consideration – people use it as a ploy to lower prices – and an employee that is subject to it can finally take refuge behind the facts of business – you can’t sell things for nothing.

I’m rather ashamed to say that I occasionally Groucho’d a few people. If I could see that they were doing  a Margaret and playing at being pillars of society I would allow the conversation to run a little way past the end of the tram lines – perfectly seriously, of course – and occasionally they would follow me along until they were lost in the weeds. I could always find my way back by excusing myself to go fetch the manager. I’ll bet the manager dreaded my knock on the door.

Sometimes I even did the Groucho walk when I went off to fetch him. Never had the nerve for the greasepaint moustache or the cigar, however.

 

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…

The Movie Superhero

The real movie superhero is not the one with the cape – or the sword, hammer, shield, trident, lasso, or cyberarm. It is the adult who pays $ 25 to sit there for 90 minutes and endures gasoline explosions and puerile dialog to please the rest of the family.

It’s not like there is any real choice these days. If the motion picture is not about a franchised line of plastic toys, a 15 year-old’s angst, or a thinly disguised leftist conspiracy, it is devoted to sports. Even the art cinema has reduced itself to hours of French people sitting around café tables smoking and sneering. In most of the cinema complexes the best chance for adult entertainment is watching the popcorn machine in hopes that it will catch fire.

I miss the cowboy movies – and the bedsheet dramas – and the dashing war dramas by people who had actually been involved in the real thing. I miss the frothy Hollywood musicals with the pin-up girls and the bright colours. I miss Donald Duck and Wily Coyote. I miss entertainment.

It’s not all gone. I can still get a laugh out of an Aardman animation…and a few of the Pixar ones as well. I can actually enjoy Bollywood movies – even though it is all nonsense – it has the colour and froth that is missing from a lot of stuff. I can even stand foreign historic dramas, as long as they are reasonably believable in the sets and costumes – what i lose in not understanding the plot is made up in the visuals.

Perhaps the mainstream fare is just too overblown – or too juvenile. Perhaps literature has spoiled me for cinema. Perhaps the thought of $ 25 a ticket – $ 85 if you include a chocolate ice cream cone – is too much for the old wallet.

” Do I Look Like An Idiot? “

This is one of those questions – like ” Do I look fat in this? ” – that is a test of many things.

Your sense of honesty…your timing ability…your commitment to a relationship… There are just so many things that you need to do, that you you need to consider and plan for, long before you hear it.

To start out…the answer that the person asking the question wants to hear is ” No ” – and then as many supporting statements as can be drawn from you. They want to hear that answer in very quick time, accompanied by the feeling that you are admiring, apologetic, appalled, and anxious  – all at the same time. They want to own your mind, for free, and have you provide a 2-year warranty with the transaction.

Do this if you wish. If you can see trouble looming on the horizon; dismissal from employment or withdrawal of conjugal conjuggling, and want to avoid it, say no and then squirm around in the mud as hard as you can. You might avert a fight, or only postpone it. You’ll find out eventually…

Or tell the truth. Say ” Yes “. And then be prepared to say either nothing, or a very great deal more. You will suffer for your honesty – make no mistake about that. And it may be more suffering than you really want to do at any given time, but you will at least have had the pleasure of speaking your mind.

Note: the consequences of saying your mind in a court of law may be more than you would wish to bear. If a legal tormentor succeeds in cowing you through threat of sanction, you can console yourself with the thought that even the highest of High Court judges is eventually removed.

Note: ” Heretofore, no. ” is not really going to work. It may be correct and literate, but still…no…

The Little World – Knowing When To Stop

Knowing when to stop is a concept that all Little Worlders should firmly grasp. It is most useful for the designers as well as the builders.

a. I built two kits of the same vehicle recently – One by Hobby Master, and one by Airfix – both long-established firms. Both designed in England and manufactured in China. Both made with good-quality materials – in the case of the Hobby Master this included plastic castings, a zamac casting, and rubber tyres. The Airfix kit was all plastic. Price for the HM was higher, but not excessive.

Well, they both made up to good models, and I was pleased, but the Airfix kit had been made with more pieces of plastic on the sprues and consequently there were a lot more joins to be made. Some of them were joins that required the parts to be 90º accurate – difficult to do in 3 planes.

I’m a reasonably careful worker, but even so I got more things out of line with the Airfix than with the HM – and the extra-fine detail does not show enough in 1:76 scale to merit those inaccuracies. I’ve noted this problem with my next Airfix kit as well, and will look to other makes for my needs in the future.

The designers should have stopped dividing the master model into parts earlier – sacrificed some of the tiny parts for integral moulding. The end result would have been more certainty for the modellers – particularly if they were juniors.

b. I noted that there is yet another re-issue of a die-cast car model by a well-known firm in yet another fanciful livery. I think they have put it out in about 10 varieties…only 2 of which have any basis whatsoever in reality. By all means put out something that returns money to the company, but try not to flood the shelves with examples that have no further value. Stop at 2 authentic models and one fantasy.

c. Other die-cast makers and resin casters are putting out what may be accurate models of especial vehicles by the score – luxury vehicles, racing cars, one-off show cars. Lovely work, but far in excess of the more mundane cars and trucks we see on our roads or remember from the past. Some makes are ignored completely – others have perhaps one example of a line that actually went for decades. The collector is hard pressed to make a representative collection – it is all dessert and no potatoes. Time to stop and to start making more average sedans.

d. Some collectors pursue balanced collections. Some concentrate on one make. Some concentrate on one model from one maker, and break their hearts and our ears with their search for the fabled lost variant that was only available on Wednesday March 18th, 1959 on a radius of 2.7 miles from a newsagent in Pinner.

I am willing to believe that they care about this, but they should stop before they try to make the rest of us care.

e. That final touch of paint on the model often is the final touch plus one. And that extra spritz or brush then spoils the whole paint job by running or skinning. Oh, if only we had stopped earlier…

f. The extra model on the shelf is just a little more weight. And then another. And eventually the shelf – like the camel’s back – has just one straw or model too many. You can see where  this is going.

g. Some model lines – some model collections – are finite things. There were only so many of something that were ever made and only so many models are possible. What do you do if you come to the end of that line and there are no more things to collect? A sad stop.

So it is all a matter of timing – and balance. Success may be reached but should not be over-reached. Every meal has a satiety point  – up until then it is all delight…but after it, everything is nauseating. We must learn our saturation points and stop in a timely fashion before we reach them.