The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 5, Issue 7 (December 1, 1930)
Head Noises — and Other Sins of the Times
The Scream of Things.
Dear reader, this is an age of elimination; Man is a painless extractor. He has extracted much of the thought from the brain, the perspiration from inspiration, the sweat from the brow, the debt from the cow (?), and the Put from the Take. Also, he has converted concentration to syncopation, cherubic content to cubic content, happiness to “snappiness,” and imagination to agitation, imitation and the Talkies. He has denaturalised Nature, aerated the air, substituted sport for thought, speedom for freedom, mass extinction for class distinction, and Thought for Food for Food for Thought. He has short-circuited the past and the future, and blown out the fuse on the switchboard of the present. In less short-circuitous parlance, he has peeled the pericardium of Progress to lighten her load and promote pace. But in so doing he has omitted to eliminate Noise from the Scream of Things.
The Modern Whirled is a bedlam of blatancy, a din of discordancy, a tumultiplication, and a roar deal. It is fairly safe to assert that when Man was first projected on the screen he was a more or less silent film; but owing to his deep-rooted passion for absorbing his own echo, he has developed into a hundred-per-cent. Talkie. Man presents the greatest argument in favour of the dumb animal. His articulation has grown in proportion to his emancipation, and, intoxicated by his power of expression, he has overlooked the flower of suppression. Truly he is the Big Noise in the Cosmographical Choir, and all his works bear the brand of blatancy. He produces clamorous cough-drops, cans of bangs, metallurgical meteorites, cram cars, motor jars, radiodiums, aeropains, and other madical instruments. When Nature fitted Man with spoons for scooping up head-noises she did not anticipate such din, else she would have provided him with dinner plates, tuning forks, or splutter dishes.
The Dizzy Bee.
Man is like the dizzy bee who bursts his B flats listening to his own buzzing. As witness the apiarian apothegms of Alice in Thunderland:—
How doth the dizzy world gyrate,
While Man adheres uncertainly,
His doubtful boons conferring,
By dashing wildly whence and hence,
Creating din in consequence.
How doth the work of man intrude,
With grinding gears gyrating,
Disturbing all the harmony,
Of Nature's mild creating,
And raising—well—all sorts of din,
With things composed of toots and tin.
How doth the human brain recoil,
And stagger in its pan,
Beneath the titillacious tide,
Which mars the works of Man.
The hooters and the scooters,
All the clatter and the crash,
Of the multitude of marvels,
Manufactured out of cash.
All the jumble and the rumble,
Of the things that puff and pant,
All the shoals of shrilling shriekers,
Restless wreckers on the rant.
Oh, the mind of man is maddened,
Ground to gravy in his skull,
'Till he'd give the whole concoction,
For a momentary lull.
But he's cornered, caught and captured,
By his cleverness I ween,
And he's naught, to put it frankly,
But a modern Frankenstein.
If the world is a stage. Man built the uproar house.
The King of Locomotion.
The railway engine is the exception to the general rule of loco-commotion. The railway locomotive moves with the greased precision of an oiled eel. It is melodious but not smellodious. It is the personification of Power Without Pandemonium. It sings at its work, but never yelps, and it never rails although it runs on rails. Although it possesses the oilyness of the eel, it also boasts the agility of the antelope and the elements of the elephant; it combines speed with strength and smoothness with both. The lesser animals follow on the track beaten through the jungle by the mighty elephant, but this fact does not detract from the mightiness of the elephant.
Wisdom and Whizzdom.
The railway locomotive combines wisdom with whizzdom. It possesses the deep wisdom of experience; for ages it has followed the axe through the primitive back-reaches of the land; it has drawn the pioneers to the outposts of civilisation. It has sped undismayed through the untenanted silence of Nature's last strongholds; it has braved flood, fire, and landslide; it has transported the weapons of tillage with which Man has tamed the wild heart of Nature. It links the Future with the Present, and the Front Line with the Commercial Base. All this is true, dear reader, and lest we forget let us remember, lesser forms of transport followed only after the railway engine drew the means and the men for making the highways fit to speed on. Strength, purpose, power; these are the characteristics not only of the engine, but of the men who drive and conduct it; also of the men who hewed the track where the ancient rimu brooded in hoary solitude and the stratified cliffs towered aloof and unbelieving. Shouldering, boring, pressing on, despite the reluctance of resisting Nature, the railway drove into the heart of New Zealand; it took from Nature, but it has given more than it took. To the railway is the credit of the Golden Fleece, the Golden Calf, the Sacred Cow, the Lands of Milk and Money, and New Zealand's credit in the market places of the world.
The Wicked Uncles—Stagnation and Isolation.
Tradition and Romance are the weft and the woof in the fabric of the Empire. So with the Railway, there is History buried in every yard of the permanent way—history of hardship, hope and accomplishment; the best traditions of the race are welded into the miles of metal, and the Romance of the Rail echoes in every beat of the wheels, for those with ears to hear. Romance and Tradition are twins. Thus, dear reader, a train is much more than a mere mass of metal capable of propulsion along parallel rails. It is part of our lives, and has helped to make us what we are, whatever we are. Without the railway we would be babes in the woods, left to our fate by the wicked uncles, Stagnation and Isolation. We would stand as much chance of keeping the sunny side up as a cataleptic cat in a capsized catamaran. With Christmas about to foreclose on the mortgage of moil and toil, the railway comes to the aid of the People, offering capital enjoyment and attractive interest. Sport and transport, high jinks at low prices, fresh air for stale care, and a thousand miles of smiles. Lads and lassies, the price is right and the goods are proven.
The Boil and Aim-slant Game of Golf.
Speaking of sport, let us touch lightly on the form of nagriculture known as Golf. It is said that every man has his vice. Some dabble in dog-fights, some gamble with the lambs, some favour burglary and other forms of cribbage—and come commit Golf. Speaking wildly (as golfers often do) golf is a form of psycho-paralysis rather than a game. Good men and true have left their hearth and home more or less permanently simply because the niblick has nibbled at their vitals, or the “iron” has entered their souls. Naturally the game originated in Scotland, but why it is hard to say. At first it was played with hard-boiled eagle's gizzards, which the grizzled highlanders knocked from crag to crag to test their spiritualism. A clansman who got home in one was considered a disgrace to Scotland, but if he holed out on the Boony Banks of Loch Loman, or took the plunge in the Firth of Froth, he was presented with an illuminated haggis or a bust in whisky and oatmeal. But nowadays the game is perpetrated with little white balls, which are so constructed that they defy the laws of gravity and decorum. The victim who fails to connect with the sphere of his endeavours usually addresses the ball with approbrium or venom. Much has been written of golf, but only half the truth has been told. Much is said at golf, but little would bear repeating. Suffice it to say that from this form of petty larceny rose that wise-crack, “Big oaths from little ache-corns grow.” Golf is known as The Boil and Aim-Slant Game, or something similar, and as one who has pitted his cunning against the natural laws, I heartily second the commotion.page 16