The Question

” Can I ask you a question? ”

Sure, go ahead.

” Do you like questions? ”

Ummm. Well, I’ve never really thought about it. I mean – questions just are, if you get what I mean…

” Do you like rhetorical questions? ”

Ah, there I can say a definite No. They always seem such a contrivance. They tend to stop a conversation, rather than start it.

” I knew you would say that, didn’t I? ”

What? If you knew I would say that why did you ask in the first place?

“What would you say if I told you that if you hadn’t answered in the first place you wouldn’t have to ask, now would you? Can’t answer that, can you? ”

My head hurts. Go away.

 

Advertisements

Practicing Heresy In An Orthodox Manner

I am all for orthodoxy. It is an equal personal favourite with heresy.

I like to give each of these a run in the park on alternate Wednesdays when the weather is fine, but I’m careful to take only one out of its cage at a time. I made the mistake the first day of putting them both on leads and trying to manage the pair together.

It was a madhouse. They chased each other around snapping and snarling and it was all we could do to untangle our legs and keep them from each other’s throats. It took a bucket of cold water to separate the combatants.

I was reminded of this by a recent Facebook posting recalling a French legend about a faithful dog that was martyred and how a shrine was set up to the body. It attracted peasant worship, which in turn attracted church disapproval and official punishment. There is enough pathos, morality, outrage, superstition, and hearsay in the story to wash a hog.

Mind you, it does explain some of the attitudes of various French republics at times to both organised and dis-organised religion. And what would Tom Paine have said about it all…?*

*  ” Age Of Reason ” is what he said…

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.

Say You’re Sorry

This phrase is one of those things that authority uses when it has lost control of a situation. When the child, or doctor, or second lieutenant has gone and done something that can neither be condoned nor hidden. It is the phrase that attempts to disconnect the owner from the dog after it has bitten the baby.

Uh-uh. If you have not bothered to prevent the disaster, it is no good trying to make the thing better by getting a minion to grovel. If there has been no moral responsibility beforehand there is precious little of it afterwards.

It is also a phrase we see when someone has decided that injustices to someone’s ancestors can be punished in current days  – generally by an effusion of crocodile tears and public money. In a pinch they are prepared to forego the tears…

I should be interested to see someone take the opposite injunction – ” Say you’re not sorry ” and see where it might be correctly applied. I think it would make many activists and a great many of their lawyers unhappy.

 

Riding The Horse – Part Four – It’s Only A Workshop If You Work

There is an Australian meme that says every man needs a shed. It is attacked by those who wishes to press themselves forward, demanding equality, but fortunately in this case that generally involves dirt and hard work. You can let ‘em into your shed to rant away, but leave the door open for when they discover the spiders and the pools of old motor oil.

If you wish to make a hobby of making things, you have a choice as wide as the world of what to do. Every object you see about you was made by someone. With the possible exception of an nuclear reactor, you can do the same. Indeed, if you are prepared to make scale modelling your thing, you can have your own Oak Ridge, Hanford, or Semipalatinsk. And the advantage of a scale model is that you won’t die of radiation poisoning.

Each hobbyist’s bent will be different, and each can be guided by what they like in life, and what materials they like to work with. 

You like wood? Make tables, chairs, beds, cabinets, boats, chessboards, boxes, etc, etc. The hardware stores and wood merchants are your friends and will have machines, tools, and finishes enough to keep you busy forever. There will be books, magazines, YouTube videos, clubs and societies all over that you can repair to for advice and admiration. Go on – knock yourself out.

Metal your thing? Howzabout blacksmithing, etching, welding, fabrication, boatbuilding, furniture, clockmaking, casting, railway work. Expect to get big and black and dirty doing any of these and become resigned to the blood blister and the burn.

Plastic? Model kits, artwork, fabrication, furniture, casting, imbedding.

Mechanical things? Oh Dear Me. Classic cars, hot rods, car maintenance, clockmaking watch repair, camera repair, motor boats, steam engines, oil engines, old farm machinery, tool restoration, appliance repair… be careful to get good at what you do but keep it secret because as soon as people find out that you can fix things they will come to you to have things fixed. Your hobby will become work and you’ll need a hobby to relax from your hobby…

Cloth? Clothing making, dressmaking, costume making, sail making, awning work, upholstery, knitting, tatting, crochet work, embroidery, lacework…I cannot list all the things you could make with fibres…

Leather? Shoes, saddles, belts, bodices, BDSM gear, military equipages, furniture, art, carvings, bookbinding, fake steaks at cheap restaurants…

Paper? Bookbinding, paper making, magazine and pamphlet printing, origami, model making.

Rubber? Well…besides BDSM wedding dresses, you can become a tyre repair as a hobby. Or make mats, boating gear, or other waterproof goods.

Electronics? Despite the fact that we get lots of goods from overseas, we also have good electronic stores that sell components and circuits. You can make or mend  – your choice. You can get zapped either way.

Plants? Grow a garden, grow a lawn, grow a vineyard, grow an orchard. Stop when you run afoul of agricultural law or produce boards and you should be fine. Exhibit, eat, or dig in the results of your endeavours. If you smoke them, expect to be visited by either the local Don or the local detectives.

In short, there are no end of things that you can make. If you make them for yourself, you are rewarded with both pride of ownership and competence. Sometimes you can gain a financial advantage making your own goods – sometimes not. Be wary of making things for profit, as this quickly erodes the hobby benefit.

Be prepared to go from one form of making to another as you gain skill and need to expand. Also be aware that you can get to a plateau or a rut – I have 5 tables made by an old hobbyist who was a friend of my late mother-in-law. They are a delight individually but a nuisance in a group. I hope to give several away to the unwary.

Remember, as well, that some making hobbies border upon the expressive or artistic pursuits. This is no bad thing in itself unless the maker sees more in it than there actually is – or if someone else tries to make art out of mere work.

Riding The Horse – Part Two – Lifting The Lid

The Business Of The Hobby Explained

The need for a hobby is felt by many in the community – they are the lucky ones amongst us. Those who have no need are generally in that position through overwork, impecuniosity, or cultural pressure.

If you have literally no time left out of a day that sees you scrabble for food, shelter, security, or health, you are a poor, unfortunate creature. If you have enough of the basic needs but cannot stop yourself grinding for more, you are a rich, unfortunate creature. If you are prohibited from seeking any pleasure outside of the grind, you are a slave. The fortunate thing about these three observations is that the poor may become rich, the rich may become wise, and the slave may become free.

In all three cases a hobby can alleviate many of the pains of life. The first person may feel harried by need – the second by greed – and the third by oppression. If these states are not addressed by fortune, the person needs an ally, and the hobby can be just that. Hobbies can be secret or public, cheap or expensive, long lasting or transient. They can be taken up with the minimum of equipment or pursued with every accessory and machine that science can make. They are truly flexible things.

Benefits of a hobby? Well, the hobbyist can always retire into the sanctum of their pursuit and place the distressing world at a distance. Their sanctum may be a place, a group, or just a series of thoughts. Hobbies are portable things, and the mind of the hobbyist can carry them into business meetings, waiting rooms, and dungeons with equal facility. It costs you nothing but attention to open the internal hobby library door, sit down at the mental desk, and review the plans for your next project. Caution – do not do it while driving.

A hobby can make you a calmer person – and in some cases a more considered one. This may be possible even in the more bellicose pursuits like martial arts. A person in control of themselves is more likely to be able to control the situation that they are in. If you have confronted problems in your hobby – and surmounted them – you are much more likely to be able to do the same with other troubles.

A hobby can lead to increased self-esteem. While self-esteem taken to the extreme makes for Idi Amin, lower levels of it are good. When you succeed in your hobby – even by a small amount – you feel better in yourself. Others may not care whether your model airplane flew and landed perfectly, but you’ll be admiring your skill for years to come…and rightly so.

A hobby can make you more observant. Very much more so…ask any scratch-builder and you’ll find that they look at everything…everywhere. Shapes and materials that escape others come under keen appraisal for use in their model building. That means they look at the whole world more sharply – a good thing. Their minds speed up.

But you get no crops without manure. There are down sides to hobbies that we will discuss in the next essay.

Riding The Horse – Part One – A New Series

A Definitive Guide To The Business Of Hobbies.

This is written in response to a lunchtime conversation with a good friend – a person with whom I shared membership in a hobby club. We’ve moved on from that club, but have fond memories of it.

I’m currently juggling three hobbies myself and pleased with each of them in its own way. He is between engagements, as it were, and casting about looking at the why’s and wherefore’s of a new hobby. Hence the discussion and a series of essays from me. I’ve sent them to him prior to publishing them here and I hope they have proved helpful. So let’s begin…

The are are few animals more useful, more extensively used, or more expensive than the hobby horse. It has been ridden since at least the Middle Ages by many western and a few eastern cultures. The parade has been for religious, folkloric, magical, or sexual purposes and has happened through the year. You can see hobby horses in the circus, the pantomime, and the Christmas Pageant with equal pride of place. Oddly enough, no-one wants the job of cleaning up after them…

 But you can also thank the hobby horse for giving a name to pursuits that help us all live a better leisure life. The hobby presumably gets its name from the fact that most of them are deemed unnecessary, costly, wasteful, and fun. People pursue them much as they would ride a wooden horse down the street – with a great seriousness and a sore arse crack.

This series of articles is presented to help the hobbyist make sense of the whole affair – to make good choices in what to take up and why.

Part One: The five classes of hobby.

Leisure time comes to us all – even the galley slave has times when the ship is in dock and the hortator is off having a drink. Something has to fill that time. That is where hobbies come in. There are five general classes of activity that fill leisure time ( Note: sleeping, excreting and urinating, and eating do not count. They are active pursuits necessary to continued life. Some people compress them into one span of time, which is a lot of fun to see if you are out of splash range.)

First type is the sport or action type. It is entirely possible to devote all your hobby time to golf, horse riding, jogging, or fishing. And a dozen other active pursuits that break a sweat and an occasional ankle. This satisfies a basic human instinct to fight or hunt –  often moving the urges into safer, if less useful, channels. Age can wither some of these pursuits, so people are wise to choose them according to actual physical ability.

Second type is the making type. Whether the making is jewellery, wooden furniture, hot rods, or dolls clothes is immaterial. There is a basic human instinct to turn something out with the hands and eyes and you are well advised to give into it – something will come out of it in the end.

Third type is the collection – of anything. Humans collected shells and pebbles when there were no tools and everything else thereafter. It is a basic instinct. Some collections are of practical value, some promote monetary increase, and some are just the magpie’s eye operated by a human. It doesn’t matter which – the quest must always be unfulfillable to be of any hobby value.

Fourth type is the artistic expression hobby. Writing, photography, drawing, painting, sculpture, poetry, singing, dancing, dressmaking, etc. Whenever you pour passion – whether that be fierce or gentle – into anything that is less useful than an Allis Chalmers air compressor, you are creating art. You won’t be able to drill rock or inflate earthmover tyres with it, but it is art nevertheless.

Fifth type of hobby is the socialising hobby. The Mensa or Probis club. Kiwanis, Lions, Rotary, Elks, Moose, RSL, CWA, Shriners, etc. etc…the list goes on and on of clubs that bring people together with some avowed purpose but are thinly-disguised attempts to start a social group that will cohere. In most cases they will succeed if people really want to be either friendly or fiendish. There is scope for both approaches.

In the next essay we will deal with how to analyse yourself and see which hobby will suit you best.