The Rivals

I am generally out of touch with social networks in my town – and with business affairs, cultural groups, and academic circles. I can be said to pretty much live in an intellectual bubble that is insulated from the rest of Western Australia. I have never been happier.

It is not that I do not welcome social interaction on a personal level – a conversation, a joke, a shared cup of vitriol. It livens up a day that might otherwise be given over to dragging a plough through flinty soil then falling exhausted into a ditch at nightfall. Retail trade was like that…

But being unaware of the world has the delightful advantage of rendering me neutral, by virtue of ignorance, in most of the deadly competitions and rivalries of the day. I can be in the company of people in my old trades – dentistry and retail photography – while they are frostily ignoring each other or cattily circling for commercial information…and I am unconcerned. If I occasionally ask one about the affairs of the other, casually revealing the extent of their spy network and causing alarm bells to go off in the mind of the listeners, it is all innocent. Perfectly innocent.

And then there are the firms that rep for other firms – the agency men. I’m old and I forget things and I cannot be held responsible if I blurt out secrets of the delivery date of a product to someone else in the mistaken belief that they are the firm handling the account. One lens can look very much like another when it is top secret and hush hush.

Likewise, I can hardly be expected to be up to date with all the staff hirings and firings unless someone tells me and generally they tell me only when a coroner’s report is delivered or a trial date is set.

Of course, once I have been entrusted with a secret I am the soul of discretion. Wild horses could not drag the parlous financial situation of ———- from my lips. Who knows, they may trade out of it.

It always pays to play fair.

The Little World – When You Cross the Line…

The line? The line between a toy and a model. And who says that you only have to cross it in one direction…?

I purchased a number of Schleich dinosaurs and animals to help with my studio composites. They are a wonderful toys – well-modelled and painted, and as real as anything you can purchase in the stores. For a person who does not do figurine painting or modelling, they are a godsend. I freely confess to admiring the horses and ponies as much as any 9-year-old girl would.

When I saw a Schleich tank-trailer in the shop I grabbed that, and had a glorious time dirtying it up as a oil tanker. The fact that it is 1:16th rather than my preferred scale of 1:18th is neither here not there – I can position it in studio shots to make it any scale I wish. Far better to be larger and more detailed than the other way around, I find.

Then I googled around to the toy stores in the eastern states and found a Schleich barn. It is a beauty, but up until now has taunted me with a plastic-play appearance, even though it is largely made of wood. One week I set out to remedy that. My only problem was that I had no idea what a barn looked like or what the various bits did.

Oh. I knew that the Scheich horses and cows fit in there – I tried them for size. And I get the idea of putting real beasts under shelter in the northern winters – but the ins and outs of doing it were a mystery. I started with airbrushing the plastic base inside with a varied mixture of dung-brown colour and left it at that. The only other interior bit I felt confident about was to scribe wooden floorboards into the loft. I painted the pulley of the barn lift a rusty iron colour.

The roof came as three pieces of 5-ply in blond wood. I printed out sheets of shingles with a wood-grain pattern onto matte inkjet paper and glued them in rows to the ply roof. And then weathered it with moss stain between the shingles. The theme for the barn is dirt and age.

The external walls remained in their wooden form – I didn’t incise them for boards for fear of spoiling the surface – either it had to be smooth toy or perfect model. The plastic masonry, on the other hand, got some pretty rough stonework painting in matte and then the mossy green as grouting flowed down the channels between stones. Then green moss spray from the bottom and dust from the top with the airbrush.

I also researched period barn stickers with advertisements for suitable rural specialties like Red Man cut plug tobacco and possibly a Dr. Pepper sign. I tried the experiment of making these sorts of signs as stickers rather than decals…. the idea was to make up sets that can be stuck on or removed depending upon the era that the barn depicted. I could not made up my mind whether to have a Pennsylvania hex sign on the end or not…

I can hear the farmers amongst my readership laughing at my amateur efforts but I assure you that when the farm ute and the tractor are posed there it will all look as rural as hell.

 

 

 

 

 

The Little World – What Scale Is That?

Why, it’s a different scale from the one you need, of course. That’s how modelling is done. You go to the shop, see a wonderful model product, and then find that it is the wrong size for what you do.

So you change scales. And the next time you go to the hobby shop the best new product is in yet another scale. If you are in luck the shop will be nearby to a liquor store and you can drown your sorrows.

But don’t get too fond of any one particular drink. Because the next time you go to the booze shop they will be out of it and you’ll have to change again…

You have no chance of telling the manufacturers what to do unless they are back-yard resin casters who make limited-run plastic kits for the specialist market. Even then, your influence will be tempered by their market experience and the practicality of the thing. No good asking someone to invest a considerable amount of time and money in master-modelling something that no-one but you will ever want. You stand a far better chance of getting a one-off model by doing scratch-building yourself. The skills involved will do you good, no matter how successful you are in the finished product…and you can at least take heart that whatever you make has real value if it is unique in the world. Others may reel back in horror, but they cannot deny that you are the owner of the only one.

Smart money plays the odds:

a. If you have any particular idea in mind, do some serious thinking beforehand as to the scope of the project. If it is truly a one-off for yourself, and no-one else will ever want or get one, you can make parts by laborious means. If it is the start of a series of models, you’ll want to have more easily repeatable parts to make it up. If it is a commercial venture, the parts that make it up have to be as good as possible for as cheap as they can be made.

b. The fact that it is one-off in itself does not mean that it will always be alone…ie, if you make a 1:29th scale Roto-Rooter truck you can also use it as part of a large-scale railway layout with Bachman trains and bad drainage. An encouragement not to stray too far mathematically from current commercial scales. And be careful what you plant.

c. Smart money also knows its own limitations – particularly in terms of technical skill. If you know you can make buildings but not cars, you choose a scale where someone else makes the cars and you make the buildings. That’s not really as fatuous a statement as you might think…many’s the time when someone has started out with great ability only to foul up the works when they undertake something with which they have no resonance. I cannot make model figures that look good, but I can make buildings to house commercial figures and buy vehicles to display with them. I choose my scale based upon both of those other factors and my dioramas work.

d. Smart money knows other smart money. Using my example, I know that there are figure modellers who can make superb maquettes to people my dioramas – figures with posing, musculature, shading, and painting. Once I conceive of a scene I can measure, sketch, design, and specify in such a way that one of the custom modellers can make exactly what I need. This might also apply to other enthusiasts who are adept at vehicles, landscaping, painting, or weathering. I hope to raise my skill levels, but if they will never be high enough I can employ those who already have them.

e. Smart money knows that it only needs to make so much – a great deal of the realism of a scene is in the mind of the beholder. Michael Paul Smith said as much in his book about Elgin Park – he gets the realism right enough to start the suggestion juices flowing for his audience. They do the rest.

All this having been said, I would be grateful if the die casters and plastic extruders would set to and give us more stock of ordinary goods in the 1:18th scale. Park benches, lamp posts. fire plugs, pillar boxes, wheelie bins and rubbish tins, ordinary motor-car tyres, Belisha beacons, road signs, witches hats, and such. I would love a set of plastic or concrete temporary barriers and a portable light bank. And a complete set of traffic lights and crossing beacons for an intersection would sell like hot cakes!

The Little World – Finding The Missing Links

Every modeller – whether dollhouse builder, plastic scale worker, or die-cast specialist – has found the dark places. The parts of their chosen scale where the lights do not shine. In short – the bits that no-one has ever made. The model that they know is crucial…but no-one else wants.

This can be a very galling experience. If you are a person who thinks that 1:12th scale Victorian drawing rooms and kitchens are the be-all and end-all of existence, you are fine. There are no end of dollhouse suppliers that can fulfill your needs. If you love the British Spitfire airplane you can rest assured that you never need be out of reach of a model. If you are a person who wants to collect 1:29th scale South African flying saucers, you are on your own.

That’s an extreme example, but you only have to move a very small way off the commercial pathway to be lost – try googling 1:18th scale furniture and see what happens. Yet there are tens of thousands of model collectors into 1:18th scale cars who might want to make a 1:18th scale house to go with them. In most cases they have been told to go and scratch.

Well, at least I scratch better than I did before. I was frightened that I could not reproduce the complex details of the world, and as a child I hesitated to try. But radio controlled modelling in the 1970’s showed me that the concept of stand-off scale was valid. Simplified detail could still validate a project. I use the concept all the time these days and reserve my heroic efforts for things I can do. And every now and then extend the working hands to a new spot…

Currently I am making the facade of an Art-Deco cinema as part of a 1:18th street scene. The thing resonates with me as a memory of similar things seen in my childhood. And it has speed lines, which make everything good. If you don’t believe me try adding them ot a baroque palace like Potsdam or Versailles and see how much better you feel. You need not put them on with bolts or nails – a can of spray glue will do. Or even a can of spray paint. Freddie Rex III Rules OK.

 

 

The Little World – Applying For A Fun Licence

” This is a free country, isn’t it? ”

Fine words, and perfectly appropriate at the polling booth or in the public bar, but hesitate before uttering them in your local hobby shop. Because the answer may turn out to be ” No “.

I’m driven to this conclusion by looking at the goods on offer in the shop. Fine models, glorious kits, magnificent engines, and more trouble than you can pack into a Gladstone bag. In many cases you may be free to purchase the fun, but you will be forbidden to have it…or at least you will need to go a’begging to someone for permission to play somewhere.

If that sounds over the top, consider that here in Perth – the most isolated capital city in the world with hundreds or thousands of kilometres between us and other cities – we need to go to one special secluded spot on the outskirts of town to fly a toy airplane. We need to go 20 kilometres to sail a toy boat, and we can go to Bunbury or buggery if we want to run a toy car.

Noise, pollution, disturbance, wildlife, public nuisance,etc. etc. Councils jealously guard their parks and schools jealously guard their ovals, and woe betide the trespasser. The drone flyers have it even worse as they are the bete noir of everybody. Doesn’t stop the hobby shops from trying to sell lots of different drones, but when it comes to clubs flying them…?

So far the toy train people can escape most of the contumely and control as their layouts are inside, and on their own property. If they take them outside they can be harassed for creating an attractive nuisance or for spoiling the council’s view of what the garden should look like.

The toy soldier, car, and doll collectors also escape most of this problem…but this is probably only because the police and council haven’t figured out an angle that can either fee or fine the collector. Have no fear…they are probably working on it. They already have a stranglehold on the militaria collectors who just want to trade old muskets.

I am not going to worry too much. I’m sure I contravene a number of regulations by collecting toy cars and taking pictures of them and a zealous enemy could put in so many council complaints as to make the hobby miserable, but collecting enemies could also be a lot of fun.

Particularly if you pin them to a board or press them between the pages of a thick book.

Disciplining The Servants

I note from a recent news item that the Commonwealth Government will be monitoring the social media links from people employed as public servants and disciplining those who are critical thereon. I am not surprised at this –  I don’t think that it would be confined to the current party in power, nor to just to federal government – I should imagine similar measures are in place for state public servants as well as local council employees. I certainly know it to be a policy in private industry.

It is in no way different from the rule of any government – whether that be the laxest dictatorship or the sternest democracy. It is simply in reaction to the old fear that grips the lord when he suspects that the servants know his secrets, and have taken an accurate measure of him. He knows they have seen him naked, and fears the laughter of others.

The discipline is simple – in the case of the despot he merely tortures the culprit to death and murders the rest of the family. The federal government demotes, fines, and fires the incautious servant and then murders the rest of the family. Replacing them when others have seen their fate sometimes takes a little longer, unless the public servant secretly harbours the desire to get rid of their family…

It’s a bit hard on the Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram friends of a public servant in that they do not want to inadvertently start the whole savage sequence off. Mind you, subscribers to slag-off.com and the Backstabbers Guild Of Australia’s Dob-In-A-Pollie service are exempt from federal law so they can leap in there with both boots. Indeed, they are also exempt from many of the laws of thermodynamics, so feel free to ignite something today.

For my own part, I always think well of a politician. Really I do. They sacrifice their entire lives – their honour, their integrity, their sense of humour…their immortal souls – to draw the daemon of possessing excessive money away from the rest of us and to keep us safe from complacency. I’d award them a medal, but, like many things, I doubt that the little people of Australia would be given a chance to stick it on them.

Trash And Treasure Is Never Treasure

We have all gone to the Trash And Treasure, flea market, retro market, bring and buy, parish jumble sale, or weekend market in our time. Some of us have picked up bargains – the rest have picked up garbage. The really fortunate ones have picked up a bacterial infection and vowed never to do it again.

It is a basic feature of human psychology – that desire for a good buy. If it can be a swingeing bargain or a criminal rort, so much the better. But it does lead us down some dark passageways of the soul:

a. We seek for these El Dorados of dreck in the worst places. Council car parks on Sunday morning when we otherwise we could be asleep in bed or awake in the arms of a lover. It is the unwashed bottom of the top of the morning – either cold and wet or hot and distressing, and we’re out there looking for bargain clothespegs? Sheesh…

b. We deal with people we would avoid under any other circumstances. To a man, or woman, they have the look of wolves fattened on babies. None of them love us, and we do not love them, and the emotions are entirely justified from either side.

c. We do not need what we seek. We do not seek what we need. It is all greed or grot.

d. Just as Quentin Crisp eventually had to admit that there was no great dark man, we must eventually admit that there is no great dark treasure to be found. We can’t even find Quentin Crisp.

e. We do need the money in our pocket that we think we do not need. Just today a letter arrived from the water supply racket telling me that the state government will remove a subsidy they used to give to old people to help them pay for water. The money will presumably be given to mining magnates or their bankers. I now need to save my money for water. I would like to make water on the state government…

f. The things discarded by others were discarded for a good reason. They are ugly, broken, useless, poisonous, sad, or superfluous. What they are for others they will be for us, but doubly so because we spend real money on them. And if we want to resell them we will have to return to the garbage sale and become the persons we bought it from to get even a pittance back. Do we really want to exchange our souls for that?

g. We can live without it. We lived without it until we arose this morning, and we can make it through to the evening without it.

h. No-one looks cool at a junk market. Sellers, buyers, pickpockets, etc…All have a patina of naff on them, that they could have avoided assuming by staying home and doing something useful.

Well, that should make Sunday morning a lot more fun. See you at the markets?