A Rest Is As Good As A Change

I have been embracing change as fast as I can recently – I found out all the shops and events in Melbourne over the Australia Day weekend that had gone bust or had decided to sit out the dance. It was a little like embracing a cactus. But as it was all external to me, and nearly always replaced by something just as good, I could view it with equanimity.

I’m also embracing the changes in my circle of friendship and acquaintance as I get older. Some people vanish into other spheres of activity – some remain fixed while I vanish. In any case it is all legitimate human interaction and not really a cause for regret.

The picture alters a little when I look at some of the things that flow through social media. I am the first to admit to being poor at judging truth or falsehood – the fake news and alternative truth pundits are just that good. I do tend to default to cynicism, and I think this has helped me out somewhat in the past. I’ve not fallen foul of scammers in the internet world as yet…though there have been a couple of credit card skims a few years ago. And I rarely fall for photoshopping that is too good to be true or apocryphal stories tricked up in new words. I do not believe in the Model A Ford carburetor that does 200 miles per gallon…

I noted as well that some people do change over time, but not in a good way. Oh, no-one in my acquaintance has become a bank robber, but some have become activists for a variety of political views that have started to make me nervous. Of course they are entitled to keep whatever ideas they wish in their heads, and there is a tradition of free speech in our country that lets them air some of them…but there are a few who I think go perilously close to the legal line in their posts.

No telling how many of these things are picked up by the patrol mechanisms of the internet before they get a chance to be broadcast…and no telling how many of them are canned through complaint by other readers. I noted recently that Facebook thought one of my WordPress columns was spam…but changed their mind when I explained that it wasn’t. Perhaps it was just a brush with a bot.

I do applaud the mechanism in Facebook that allows one to “rest” a contact for a month. It gives time for cooling of temper, and when you see their posts again in 30 days you may find that whatever caused the distress was just a passing mental gas bubble.


The Little World – No, It’s The Sets

I have a confession. I build model dioramas. I build model stage sets. I build model photography layouts. I talk about them to other people, even if they patently do not want to listen. In short…

I’m a sets maniac. I setually harass people. I have a sets addiction. And I’m shameless.*

So are the Ardman people. The key to the success of all their productions may well be the milieu – the sets that surround the animated characters. And the key to the sets is the detail. The recent exhibition placed the actual layouts that had been used for production before us in plastic protective cases, but fortunately lit them well enough that the sets fiends amongst us could slaver and tremble as we looked them over.

And what a focus. As you can tell from study of the pictures, the model makers have seen a great deal of English kitchens – every detail in the thing is real. Perhaps a little rounder or a little exaggerated for effect, but the overall ensemble is completely authentic. Look at the British electricity plug – the AGA cooker – the cabinets. You could cook in this set.

You could also send out for Chinese, as the menu on the notice board indicates. You can wash up with the Furry Liquid detergent…though it looks as if there are a few things that would benefit from soaking first…and the whole ensemble is as uncomfortable and inefficient as a proper British kitchen should be.

The real pièce de resistance is the dirt and dilapidation – the whole set could have been made neater and tidier – the walls could have been flat and the door could have been freshly painted and the cooker could have been clean…and we would not have been able to connect half as much as we can to this kitchen. The great artists see the most and the greatest artists reproduce what they see remorselessly.

*Actually, I have a book of plans for small  suburban houses of the 1940’s that I only show to ” special ” visitors, and then only if the window shades are drawn. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink…


The Little World – Is It the Props?

Are the props on the Aardman sets that things that really make the magic? Or is it the sets themselves…or the characters? I was hard pressed to decide after I studied the exhibits in the Federation Square display recently. They were largely familiar, having been featured in the animation films, but took on a whole new dimension when seen in 3-D.

One item that was new to me was the double-barrelled cannon seen in the heading image. This was from a short that never screened here – Holiday Hot Shots seems to be part of a promotion to encourage local tourism in the UK. The twin barrels, of course, are to fire Wallace and Gromit on holiday. Simple when you think of it, and I would welcome a similar scheme here in Perth to send visitors to Rottnest Island from the mainland. Leighton Beach still has space for a gun emplacement and I’m sure that I could rustle up a crew of eager amateur artillerists – we’d even bring our own powder.

The chicken coop aircraft is from ” Chicken Run “, as is the wardrobe supposedly made from a 250 pound bomb casing. The detail is astounding, even when it is very slightly off beam or a parody of itself.

I have recently seen ” A Matter Of Loaf And Death ” so I can appreciate the forklift with the oven gloves and cosy tea towel seat. To be honest, I could not swear in a court of law that it would not work as a forklift – I know their productions are stop motion animation but still…that forklift was big enough to be run on model electric motors inside and the chain drive looks authentic.

The biggest surprise about the Austin A40 that has featured in ” Loaf And Death ” and ” Curse Of The Were-Rabbit ” was the fact that they cut it apart and reused it with a new back superstructure…and with good cause. The thing is monstrously expensive – the sign near it said all told the works on it were ten grand!

I suppose that equates to model maker’s time and operational time as well as materials, but it certainly puts the average Airfix kit price into perspective. I didn’t feel at all extravagant going into Hearn’s Hobbies and coming out with an armload of plastic kits after that. Not that a grown man of my dignity would spend hours gluing and painting plastic kits, of course…

I wonder what museums pay for architectural and vehicle models these days?



Yo Ho Ho In The Little World

It’s a little hard to ignore a pirate ship when it literally towers over you. That’s the main working model ship for the Aardman pirate movie seen at the recent exhibition. No half-made device – not a rough adaptation of a Revell kit. That is solid shipbuilding…I think when it has done with the world travels of the art galleries that it should have a place in Greenwich Maritime Museum in London. It might be a parody, but it is more authentic than most display vessels.

The exhibition was glorious in that it led the viewer through the entire working procedure that Aardman use for ideas – from rough pencil sketchs through story boards to rather large scene drawings made with as much care as any artist’s finished canvas. Then on to the benches and the model makers. Surprisingly, some characters and concepts carry through perfectly from the initial pencil sketches – and some are trimmed ruthlessly…but not until they have been worked up a long way. I can only imagine that their creators fight each other in staff meetings to have their creations live and breathe.

The main actors in any of these productions need to be made and remade to change position thousands of times – changed and distorted would be more accurate. The armature upon which clay, plastic, and fabric is posed seems to be modifications of standard devices available in the industry with flexible but lockable joints places pretty much where real creatures also bend. ” Standard ” hardly applies to the were-rabbit, but nothing fazes Aardman. I should think they are the darlings and saviours of small engineering supply houses in their town.

Welcome To…

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.

Fire Alarm!

We were visiting the Federation Square gallery in Melbourne for a tour of modern art. It was fine and apart from the vague feeling that someone had gotten rich on the public purse, a nourishing experience.

Until the fire alarm went off. It was a gentle, mellifluous sound and would not have been out-of-place rising from the pit of an opera house. Not like a fire alarm or diving klaxon at all. There seemed to be no sense of urgency about it, nor did the patrons of the place worry about it. It took the arrival of an appliance and a team of fireys to cause the staff to round us all up and ask us politely to go downstairs. No-one was crushed in the rush, though a few were miffed that they had to stop browsing in the bookshop.

The most entertaining sight was the last of the firemen heading up the stairs. A young man …fit, as he would be, and clattered out in the yellow reflective protection suit and helmet of the modern emergency services… with a look of intense anticipation on his face. And clutching an axe with the obvious desire to chop something. For his sake I hope they allowed him to make a hole in a door. Or a wall.

From the look of some of the art, I am also hoping they smelled smoke behind the frames of the paintings…he’d have enjoyed himself and done the art world a vast favour.

Jail Bar Is Not The Same As Jail Bait

If you are old enough to know the difference between the two terms, you are old enough to appreciate the red Ford pickup truck at the VHRS show. If you have no idea, I believe there is a Pokemon hatching around the corner and you’ll want to take your iPhone and chase it…

Okay, now that the adults are alone, here’s a new addition to the car collection. Melbourne 2018. As sweet a Ford as any inside the Exhibition Buildings but parked out in the free section. But, as the appearance is so close to the stock 1940’s look, you’ll have to examine it carefully to see whether this is a hot rod or a not rod.

Look at the trim work. Seems to be all there. Including the rubber edging between front panels.

Look at the interior. The interior. The interior…Oh, for crying out loud, stop looking at the girl. You’re supposed to be older than that. No sign of an air conditioner or Bluetooth connection. A column shift…but is that column really Ford…?

Wheels. Okay, there’s four and they touch the ground. Very funny….but is that rear tyre diameter really stock? Or is it bigger and fatter? Is the ground stance really what a farmer in 1946 needed to get over the local rail lines? Or has it been lowered…?

Now the tail gate has to be stock. It’s obvious that this truck was used to haul manure and other nitrogenous wastes and that an adequate ventilation was needed – hence the Ford-standard louvred tailgate to vent off the chicken gas. Simple logic, really.

But here’s the dodgy bit, that makes me think the owner of this truck has been fiddling with the specs. The front end. The ” Drive Safely ” flying horse is a later addition…because Henry Ford never endorsed anyone else’s logo in his life. The club permit plate gives the game away. You don’t get them in Victoria unless you need them, and I suspect that somewhere on this wonderful pickup, the owner has substituted a modern part for a historic one. You only have to do this once, and you need to go over the pits, fill out the forms, fall on your knees in front of the departmental mechanic, and pay the required fee into general revenue. In short…

This is a hot rod. A resto-rod, if you will…a mild rod rather than a wild one, but fully entitled to sit proudly in the VHRS car park. If I had a million dollars and a million hours it could sit in my car port.