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.

Advertisements

Did You Know…?

Did you know the following facts?

  1. The best way to spread a computer virus is to sneeze onto the keyboard and press Command> Enter.
  2. Only malware properly registered with the Central Bureau Of Mis-Information is allowed on Russian computers.
  3. It is easier to hack a Windows 10 computer than it is to hock it.
  4. Many of the keys on the standard qwerty keyboard do nothing at all – they are just there because the key maker wants a greater profit. Stand up for your rights. Spell ” through ” as ” thru “.
  5. You cannot recycle a French mime. No facility on Earth will accept them and you will just end up having to store them in your shed. Marcel Marceau ended up behind the paint tins and old motor oil in a Bordeaux garage for decades.
  6.  No-one has ever successfully impersonated you. Even you are rather suspect and most people think you are doing it poorly.
  7. In China women hold up half the sky but their percentage of success in holding up traffic in Winthrop and Leeming car parks is far greater.
  8. Iran was not responsible for the 1883 explosion of Krakatoa in the Dutch East Indies. But I’ll bet they wish they were…
  9. No Canadian hockey team has ever won in the Pakistan League. This is because the Canadians insist on wearing skates and heavy padded uniforms and the Pakistanis are clothed in team jerseys and shorts. Also the games are held on grass, and not ice. Bad translation of the rules has always been blamed.
  10. You cannot touch your ear with your elbow, but you can touch those of other people. This leads to criminal charges.
  11. The term ” Public Service ” was first used in 358 BC when the Egyptian Execution Office was set up in Room 45 in the Pyramids. People lined up and took numbers in the waiting room. They are currently calling N0.28…
  12. The term ” Baker’s Dozen ” was invented to steal bread from bakers under threat of torture.

The Ballad Of the Etruscan Snot Pencil

They often say that practice makes perfect. I think rather that it makes for inchoate fury – if you are not careful. I propose to calm the situation and make it worse.

The term “practiced upon ” is one from the 19th century – used to describe someone who was being imposed upon – or worse – who was being mocked by a group of people for their amusement. It appears in the literature of O Henry, Mark Twain, and countless others. The stories feature some tenderfoot to the west or unfortunate country fellow brought into the salons of the East  who sis et upon as a figure of fun and told any number of tales. Initiation rites are imposed and the basic humour is always the native savaging the newcomer.

In some tales revenge is extracted and the tables turned. In others the whole thing is just a sneer in print. It can also include the humiliation of foreigners in Britain or France on a cultural basis. Most of the impositions of Italy or Middle Europe are financial fleecings. Hence the title of this piece – the business of selling antiquities to a New World rube on the basis of history and unfamiliarity therewith.

Consider: how many times have you been imposed on with drop bears and yowies and sniggering references to Australian things? And how many times have you done it to overseas visitors? And who has gotten all the amusement out of it? Is there any less pleasant feeling than realising that you have stumbled into a nest of native wits and are being practiced upon?

What do you do?

Good manners suggest that you do nothing except excuse yourself at the earliest opportunity and leave. Kindly religious feelings abjure you to forget and forgive. But you always feel that you have been got at. The Guild has a far better suggestion when you detect a sell going on; participate fully.

Most native wits do not know when to stop. If you give them the slightest encouragement they will enlarge upon their jokes until they go from puerile to puffy. They cannot stop themselves from extravagance and bluff – eventually they will arrive at the point where even they feel that it has gone too far.

You must compel them to go further – getting wilder and more obvious until someone in their own group is compelled to prick the bubble. Even then, rise to defend the prime jokester and keep asking pointed and intelligent questions – compelling them to eventually start to sweat and look for an escape.

Then, grasp them firmly in the iron embrace of friendship and steer them round to everyone in the room in turn, telling them to repeat the joke for the benefit of the newcomers. You will be hated as you have never been before, but will never, ever be preyed upon again.

It’s a small price to pay.

Touching A Land Mine With A Barge Pole

Also known as ignoring the warning bells and the voices in your head.

We have all done it at some stage of our lives, but I address myself to those who have not quite reached that stage. Unlike Wells Fargo, this stage doesn’t have a guard with a shotgun on the front seat.

We will all encounter situations where there is a little internal voice – or a faint hint – that tells us to back away. To avoid engaging. To be quiet and do it quickly. If we are intelligent, we listen to those voices. There may also be tiny silver bells, or submarine diving klaxons. In any case they invite us to heed and hold off. And how often have we ignored them…and ploughed ahead to disaster.

I can think of a dozen times when discretion would have been the better part of valour and disinterest the better part of friendship. Yet I only acceded to the call of wisdom in half of the cases – and got 6 bruises for the other half. I’ve lost money, friends, reputation, goods, and self-esteem by barging wildly into situations that needed me to be somewhere else.

This was bad news for me over the years, but fortunately each mental scar has the decency to throb in wet weather and remind me of itself – and I have gotten old enough to take lessons from my own past. I may not remember dates of battles won, but I do remember defeats. Each one has helped me far more than the victories.

I recently had an opportunity to step into the breach and ” do the right thing ” and cover myself with self-love…and I looked at the ceiling and walked on by. I also deliberately avoided doing bad things to good people and/or becoming a living saint. And I think I shall be much happier in all cases for it. I know how quickly good works can turn into bad times.

Land mines blast far further than barge poles can reach.

Cynical? Naw – Don’t Trust Myself That Much…

I have been accused of cynicism and irony.

The persons who said this were probably hoping I’d offer them a bribe to change their minds. I would be happy to send them a bouquet of roses and a box of chocolates for their opinion – It has opened my eyes to the value of mistrust and suspicion.

Of course there are others who see this philosophy as detrimental – who cry that all men are brothers and all women are sisters. Take a look at a family that is composed of brothers and sisters and count the bruises, scars, and other souvenirs. You don’t get that as an only child. if you want to be savage you have to go away from the cozy hearth and the bosom of the family. Strangers are your only legitimate targets and the world only has 9 billion of them left.

As far as the irony, I do think I may have been a little indiscrete with that. I have laughed where I should have cried and pointed out follies that others wished to be hidden. It has made me enemies, though not the sort of quality fiends that I really want. Mostly just people who snarl at me in passing. Some, of course, adopt the sensible course of putting on stern disapproving looks or blank RBF looks. There is little one can say to them, though there is a great deal that can be written about them. I tend to do this on the doors of lavatory stalls. With pictures.

Cynicism has saved me a great deal of money in the past, and as internet promotions ramp up, I’m looking to it as a real shield. Of course I disbelieve anything that comes over the telephone these days, particularly if it is spoken in a Peter Sellers accent…but I am also binning any number of contacts that urge me to do things on email or Facebook. When you close down the latter the air clears remarkably.

 

What Do You Do When…

  • When Facebook is not an option: When you have committed yourself to a month of no FB to see what the effect on your life will be.
  • When you do not want the latest toy that your toy retailer has put out on the shelf because your current toy is working just fine.
  • When the motion pictures on offer at your local cinema are too juvenile for words or too politically correct to stomach.
  • When every new trendy drink costs $ 20 and every new trendy food in the restaurant costs $ 50.

Answer? You blink twice, knock the water out of your ears, and come to your senses.

  • Firstly, you do things that do not involve Facebook. Hobbies, for instance. Or reading. Or writing. Or visiting friends. Or going for little trips. The things you did before you first bought one of Mr. Zuckerberg’s nickel bags.

You’ll have time for things that you ran out of time for prior to Facebook eating your day hollow. Or to put it in another way, you can call into a bar for a drink and walk out again or you can live in a bar and venture out for brief periods. Same bar, different life.

  • If you are playing with your toys so hard that the wheels fall off and all the paint is gone, you may need to get new ones at regular intervals. If you are not, the old ones can serve a great deal more time than you’d think. The money you save using the old ones can be put to other uses.
  • A motion picture is someone with millions of dollars in the bank telling you a story for ninety minutes while you sit in the dark and cringe at the price of a chocolate ice cream. The story may be well worth the telling and well worth the seeing  – if the story teller and the tale are good. If they are new, they gain a whole dimension.

If the tale is not new – if it’s a re-hash of something you saw in a comic book in 1957 – or if it’s so puerile as to suggest a Little Golden Book worth $ 4,000,000, you are perfectly justified in giving it a bye rather than a buy. With ninety extra minutes and the price of the ticket and the chocolate ice cream in your pocket you can immerse yourself in the best of new or classic literature and feel a lot more adult for it.

  • At the end of spending from $ 70 to $ 120 at dinner time you are entitled to feel both full and foolish – but in some cases you’ll only get the latter. Some restaurants do, indeed, see you coming. And then they see you off.

You need not spend that much to feed yourself, either at home or on your travels. You need not eat badly, unless you’ve fetched up at a country town that has nothing on offer at all except a blood pit pub. If you’re going to be on the road, take an emergency pack of beer, soup, crackers, sausage, and cheese, and  even if the town has closed for the night you should be able to go to bed fed. If you are in a strange city look for a Chinese, Vietnamese, or Greek restaurant and eat what they cook.

If you are at home, consider the advantages you have – your own pantry, your own icebox, your own cellar. Your own expertise at preparing something that you like. Your own schedule. Do not sacrifice these for those fast-food lights winking down the road.

The Rise Of The On-Line Booster

If you would like to read about ” boosters “, I can suggest no finer book than ” Babbit ” by Sinclair Lewis. It may seem a little dated to some, but then anti-American propaganda never really gets old if you find the right readership. You may be just the fellow traveller who would appreciate it. Paperback versions are readily available, and Dear Old Sinc does get some good lines in there.

I am reminded of it when I get responses via email to these columns. A fair few of them seem to suggest that I can make a fortune by following their formulae for search engine success and/or marketing. I suspect that few of them really have read what I wrote – that this column is not selling anything – nor buying it either.

It almost seems as though they have turned the old saying back to front and are urging me to stick my business in everyone else’s nose…

Fine, if I was trying to market a feel-good book on how to feel good or a successful program on how to be successful…but I am actually operating a personal pillbox from which I can mow down my enemies. When I run out of enemies I mow down friends. Hey, the machine gun bullets are not fussy…

If you have had the misfortune to be attacked and destroyed by this weblog column consider yourself lucky – when you lie down and bleed you will not attract further fire. It is only the heroic that get another fusillade.

Far worse off is the person who I praise. When you put people on a pedestal they are visible to more batteries and will attract heavier ordnance. The spotlight of fame is a merciless one.