The 2018 Boston Red Sox: history and what it means to be a fan.

Let us talk baseball for just a minute. Last night the Boston Red Sox won their 106th game this season, and with five more games to go this season, they have the potential to win 111 total. Now I do not believe all of that potential will be realized, they will most likely give up one to the New York Yankees, and as we have two more against the Baltimore Orioles, a team we seem to have a hang up with, despite them being historically bad, the worst team since…well, the 1988 Baltimore Orioles. To their credit, the 1988 version only lost 107 games, while this current roster has lost 111 and has the potential to finish with 116 in the L column. However, the facts are that in 1912, the Boston Red Sox won 105 games, and for 106 years that record stood. The Red Sox have played the game for 118 years, and for 106 of them, the record stood…until last night.

Last night, through out the season really, but ever since last night and through this morning so far, I have seen a lot of posts from supposed fans on social media that lead me to believe, they do not understand the game of baseball. Sure they know there are three bases and a home plate. They probably can name the other positions, a few types of plays, and could even understand which direction the ball is to be thrown to a batter, but these posts tell me they do not understand or have a stake in the souls of this great game.

This Boston Red Sox team is no Murderer’s Row, but they are in the same grouping for this year. This is the 2018 Red Sox, and in a weird way, I’ve realized I’ve probably seen the best season I am ever going to see. If I live to be 100, the history says it probably will not be this good again. If we win the World Series, that will almost guarantee that on my death bed, when I recount the events of my life, I will finish with “…and with my wife and sons (depending on how the World Series goes assuming we got there, my friend Carl) I watched most every game, and listened to some on the radio, of the 2018 Boston Red Sox.”

This season, it is what baseball is about in it’s soul. 1912, let us recap: The Manchu Quing Dynasty ended, Arizona became a U.S. State (last contiguous state), the Ottoman Empire still existed, Oreos were invented, the RMS Titanic Launches, The RMS Titanic sinks, Fenway Park opened, Universal Studios was founded, Wilbur Wright died, Merck filed a patent for ecstasy, vitamins were identified, and amongst others, the Red Sox set what was to be a long standing record for franchise wins in a season.

That is what baseball is, it is history. It is a game of numbers, of dates, statistics, of players, games, owners, seasons and events that weather time in a way that only major historical events do. Hitler and Stalin were evil men, Honus Wagner and Ty Cobb were amazing players. That is baseball. So I despair a bit when I see people saying that none of it will matter if we done win “it all,” or that this season will be forgotten if we do not win the World Series. BASEBALL IS NOT JUST ABOUT THE WORLD SERIES!

Sure, the World Series means plenty. Not entirely sure why we call it the World Series as it is only between teams from America and Canada, even if we do have a mix of players from all over the world (thank you Puerto Rico for the gift that is Alex Cora, your son has brought glory to the game) but it is the championship. I am all in favor of calling it by the name it started with, the fall classic. I do not have the time to recount all of how we got here, go watch “Ken Burns: Baseball.” However, before baseball settled into it’s current form, there was no World Series, and the leagues formed for a variety of reasons, disputes, money, disagreement of rules, etc. however along the way we ended up with two dominant leagues, the American League (mine) and the National League (older of the two.) The first World Series (which Boston won) was played in 1903 and became another part of the great organism that is baseball. It is not the only part.

Firstly, I am a fan of the Boston Red Sox. That is my team. Which means that once they are eliminated from POST SEASON PLAY I then root for the Yankees to get eliminated (kidding…mostly) and will then follow the World Series for it’s historical value, because overall, I am a fan of Major League Baseball. When the Cubs went to the World Series in 2016, I was watching. They are not my team or even my preferred league, but it was history.

So, here’s my breakdown. Watch the season. Pay attention to the records, the plays, and the game itself. Hope for well played games to look back on. As the season starts to wind down, then open up a second, smaller track in your mind for keeping up with if your team will go to post season play. Your still going to need season numbers for that. Like this one, the Boston Red Sox, in the past 20 years, have only won 96 games (or better) and all three times, they went on to win the World Series. If your team makes it to post season play, then your still watching the final games and reading the numbers, like who will they have to face, who will get homefield advantage, which team is the unfortunate second wild card, you will watch all of that, until the season ends. I am happy we are in the play offs, I love that we won the pennant (concern 1.) yes the pennant. Who cares about the World Series until the regular season is over? (Non fans.) We won the pennant three years running. There is divisional play, so I enjoy winning the division.

Now, when the season concludes, for some teams, baseball enters a second phase, POST SEASON PLAY. The season is not just about getting here! The season is what matters. After that we can worry about the World Series. Yes I want us to win in the play offs, yes I want us to go to the World Series, so much so that I will disappoint my wife to the tune of a ticket if they lose two games before I am going to be in Boston, but real fans? They won’t forget this season. We especially won’t forget it if we lost quick in the play offs (it does hurt more because the season was so great) but we will not forget that we watched win 106. The real fans will remember this season, and it will be the yard stick against which all others are to be judged. To those with these social media posts, maintaining the ridiculous position that none of it matters if we do not win it all, can I perhaps recommend you try football? That is unfair though, as you will likely be unwelcome among the fans who freeze their way through games to watch them, if you only watch the super bowl.

My mother in law, is a Braves fan, and she has taken the Red Sox into her heart out of love of my wife and I and our children. She has sat up late texting with me about both teams victories and defeats. She has more fan in her than that Instagram thread could ever aspire to.

If your going to say you love the game, then you are going to need to learn what it is about.

Brandon Bledsoe

Analog Savage.

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Trading Cards: how to burn money and fuel the flea market.

Today I want to talk trading cards, the good, the bad, and the expensive card board that will never, I repeat never be worth much of anything.

While the trade card goes back to before we were a nation, being handed out like advertisements when a product was purchased, The trading card has it’s origins in tobacco. There was a time when they would put some kind of promotional card in packs of cigarettes, a way to get a second use out of something, or really to give you something to collect that required the purchase of even more smokes to collect the cards. The most well known of these are the Allen and Ginter cards of early baseball heroes. The most valuable of which has become something of an American legend in it’s own right. Honus Wagner. Honus Wagner was a great player, and adding to the value of anything of his, is the fact that he played ball until 1917. However, his card is not valuable because of that, it is valuable because it is rare, not simply because of the age of it, but because he hated tobacco and demanded that the cigarette industry cease to use his image, making his card incredibly rare. There is an episode of “Prison Break,” where a minor thief is in federal prison because he stole a baseball card collection, which included a Honus Wagner. The value of which made his crime a felony.

 

While some cards are the stuff made of legend, they are far and few between, owned and accounted for…sometimes miracles do happen, as in the case of the family that found seven (later an 8th) Ty Cobb baseball cards from between 1909-1911 in an old paper sack while cleaning out their great-grandfather’s house. That is probably, I would say, the last of those miracles. Most cards today, are absolutely worthless, not even worth the paper they are printed on, except if you are counting the personal value they have to the collector.

Trading cards in this case, should not be confused with Pokemon, or Magic the Gathering, both of which are collectible card games. Yes they come in packs that depend partly on chance to get good things, and yes they can be sold and traded, but they are not the same as trading cards. However, I will weigh in here, I think many of the things which have ruined the trading card, have also ruined the collectible card game. It has become about money, and winning, and there is not an ounce of spirit left in it. I loved both of those games, and now avoid them at all costs.

I cannot in good conscience recommend that anyone get into trading cards, especially sports cards today. There are others out there of course, that has been a long tradition. There is a familiar rule about a certain type of content on the internet, and it is much the same with trading cards, there is a trading card for everything, and I mean everything. When I was a kid, my favorites (to my regret) was Dragon Ball Z. I have seen plenty of others. There was a set for the 2016 election, and in my searching the bazar that is eBay, I found out there were Desert Storm trading cards in the 90s. I know, there were probably ones for other wars, but that strikes me as…distasteful.

Today’s cards are overproduced. I made an attempt to become a serious collector of baseball cards a couple of years ago, and it was somewhat fun opening some with my son, but very quickly it was expensive and out of hand. There is not just one set per brand, there are tons! I like Topps, and there wasn’t just a Topps set for the year, but there was also Topps Allstars, a follow up set, rookies sets, and then they started to issue sets that were made like the ones of years past (and these were the best) Allen & Ginter, Gypsy Queen. Part of their draw is that they have added cards that include real memorabilia from players, pieces of bats, pieces of shirts, things like that. They are nice, if you can find them, we found an autograph once, but again, it is far more cost effective to go on eBay and find the ones you want, than to hunt them in packs. Some of them were truly insane, but again their rarity was created one. I saw a double rip card that was listed for 2500, and it has more things inside of it that you have to rip it open to get. I do not understand. I have bought the memorabilia cards for around 5$ when I found one I wanted. What I really have is a mess of baseball cards that I have hidden in a closet so that I do not have to face them. I have organized a years worth and realized that it would start all over again.

I do not enjoy doing all of that work, as there will always be more, they are made to keep you buying, and they will eat up space, doing nothing except being printed faster than they can be collected with no value and not even the joy of the hunt to be really had. They are the predecessor to smartphone apps that require gems or something, they are the micro-transaction of the analog world.

What I do enjoy doing is opening the packs, looking at them, feeling the perfect edges, that smell of a new pack of cards, so I have come up with a way that allows me to get my enjoyment from trading cards, and then move them on in a meaningful way. I use them as extras in my letters. The letter writing community is (re) growing by the day, but for every 100 people who try writing letters, maybe five will stick to it. The dedicated I have seen, have been including things that express who they are in their letters. I have gotten stamps, comic strips, pressed flowers (an old card making hobby of it’s own.). In mine I include the comics from my tear away calendars, some stamps, the occasional sticker, but this year I started something new. I started to put my baseball cards in, one per letter. I keep on the Boston Red Sox cards, and the rest go in letters. It gave me the chance to look at each one again, enjoy it, and then use it to express my passion for the game I love.

I began to wonder, what if I could find other ones, discounted, vintage, and most likely at a flea market, cards that showed the things I loved, films from my collection since childhood, favorite shows, etc. I took to the flea market to find out, and was rewarded for my efforts. I found Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, Batman, and Batman Returns. Thirty year old cards from some of my very favorite films!!! I chose to document the time in which we opened them, and realized that many of them would have a piece of bubblegum still. The gum is a left over idea, the cigarette cards never having recovered from the paper goods rationing of the Second World War, and later it was the bubblegum card that took over for it, you got a card with your bubblegum. Later, it went the other way, you got some gum with your card.

We opened the TMNT cards first. The quality of the cards was ridiculously 80s, even to the point that they were mislabeling turtles, but it was fun! Even better, I have not encouraged the industry, and these things will not remain in my house long. They will become the odd ephemera of my letters, part of my lettercraft, which is good as I am not very good at making creative cards or anything like that. On a sidenote, my cousin Lucas decided to try a piece of that thirty year old gum, and neither of us recommends that experience. Their are plenty of videos out there telling you that is an awful idea, and now we are telling you.

There is a special place inside you for opening old trading cards, the cards you wanted as a kid but were probably not a good use of money, and now I have gotten to scoop them up for a steal at the flea market. I will not always be on the hunt for them, as this one time out has given me enough cards for letters for years, but if I see some for the right price, I will keep the variety going, but the letters are a means to an end, I still like opening the packs and seeing the images of my film heroes on pieces of cardboard.

I have enjoyed this experience, but I am sad to say, the age of the trading card is dead, and we missed the funeral by a few decades. I do not recommend this hobby, the hunt is dead. Unless there is a truly rare sports card you are after, the hunt is held on a reservation, you can find complete sets of the cards you want or even whole cases of the store boxes for a fraction of their cost on eBay and there will be no hunt to speak of. If you can find a way to recycle what is essentially high dollar trash from a flea market into something meaningful, then I beg you to do it. However, do not let me stop you from something you are passionate about, but the trading cards of today are a collector’s black hole.

Brandon Bledsoe

Analog Savage

Stamp Collecting: My Story

This is a very big first for this blog and I, we have our first request for a post. A reader asked if I would tell how I became involved in stamp collecting. I thought that was a very fine question, as it allowed me to talk about one of my favorite subjects…me. Just kidding, I love to talk stamps.

First off, what is a stamp? Well, as best as I can put it, a stamp is something which marks the monetary requirement of something as having been met. It means to us, something with which to send mail, and can be used to ensure that a tax on some commodity has been paid. If you are, or know a smoker, look at a pack of cigarettes. If the bottom portion of the cellophane is still there, most likely you will find a tax stamp present. Fortunately for our lungs, our subject at hand is postage stamps. There was a time when you could send mail without the use of a stamp, but the recipient would have to pay to receive it. This was terrible. It was the collect call of the day except that should the recipient refuse to collect their mail for any reason, then the service had already made the effort of physically moving the mailed object. The London Penny Post of 1680, moving mail around London eliminated the basic flaw, collect the money before hand, and prove that it was done by physically stamping the piece of mail. Voila! I will not make a huge history of stamps here, after all this is about my history with them.

I am from a town call Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee. The current post office was erected there in 1983. My grandmother went to work there in 1985. My grandfather worked there as well, I cannot tell you when he started at this moment. Sometimes, my mother was even a sub when there was a need. I remember a good deal of time spent in the back of that post office due to the fact that they all had to work, and I had to go somewhere. I could walk in today and find my way around…well up until I was arrested for trespassing as almost no one there knows me anymore. I was recognized when I went to mail something there during my recent road trip, but that happens less and less, and it is a bit perturbing considering the connection I feel with the place. There is a retaining wall in the back parking lot with train tracks at the top. I remember seeing tanks being moved by train there, and my grandmother told me they were going to the war (Desert Storm if it was true). I have many memories of playing out there if she needed to go finish work after picking us up from school. It is a rural place and to me, that post office had a yard. I truly love it.

We kids were always being taken to post office picnics, helping at the post office booth at the county fair, wearing post office (and more importantly Stamp) shirts. It was a part of life. So for me, stamp collecting was kind of Organic.

Stage I:

My grandparents would show me stamps, and by my nature the minute I found out that a thing could be collected, I collected it. Now, at this time this might have consisted of a bunch of cancelled postage in a bag in my room, haphazardly glued to the pages of something. Nothing of this early collection remains.

Stage 2: Invested

Stage two came in fifth grade. We had been on a class trip to the Coca-Cola bottling plant, and we were asked to write an essay about it, and the next day a winner would be picked, six pack of Coke as a prize. I won! I was kind of shocked, but I mean I had wanted to be a writer, and now I had won something for writing. My family was told, and my grandmother told me there was an essay contest for the “Celebrate the (20th) Century,” stamp campaign going on at the time. I really loved the Celebrate the Century stuff because it was all very in your face and wow stamps are cool. I wrote about my favorite set (only set) which was the Classic Movie Monsters. They are awesome. You could buy this little plastic card that revealed hidden images in them, like bats behind Dracula. I had that thing…need to see if I can get one off of EBay.

Much to my shock, I won that to (for my state.)This was huge for me! I had won two things for writing. The prizes were not to be sniffed at either, I was buried under stamp stuff. I still have exactly one item from it besides the plaque. I have the 1997 stamp collection. More about those later. The news came and did a thing about it, at the post office. I have a picture of that somewhere, and I wore a stamp tie (Looney Toons) and they gave me 150$. I used that to by a nice new Sanyo TV.

Stage 3: It was just my thing

After this, everyone just kind of knew I was a stamp collector. I think if not for my great aunt and my grandmother, I really would have been known for being one without being much of one, but they would buy sheets of stamps they knew I would like and give them to me for my birthday and such or just because. I think my favorites so far are when my great aunt surprised me with the Lucille Ball stamps (I really do love Lucy,) and my grandmother ensuring I had a set of the Harry Potter stamps (ok. So this still goes on. I had a kid already when those Harry Potter ones came out.).

Around eighteen, I joined the army, and I reconnected with my love of the mail. I do not know how basic training is now, but when I went, it was like the movies, you got very few phone calls, and you wrote letters home. I certainly did. I am very glad that our drill sergeants did not always like us to pay for each piece with pushups. In a training environment, a drill sergeant distributes the mail, which they have to go and get from somewhere secure. When we would get back late, I think often times they were just hoping that we were too tired to care, and they hated me because I would ask in front of everybody (sometimes I was discouraged from this) “Drill Sergeant! Is it too late to ask for mail drill sergeant?!” They did not have to go get it, but usually they did. After a while they made me go get it and bring it. Then it became my task to gather up everyone’s outgoing mail and take it to the mailbox in the morning.

Fast forward two year. Baghdad Iraq. I wrote letters still. I did not need to. We had computers with email a good bit of the time, but I really liked mail. Every team had to have a guy who could pick up the mail, usually someone in charge. I would always get mad because they never went to get it, and then I would pester the mail room sergeant about it and he would go on and on about “being certified!” Finally I asked him how to become certified and he asked for my ID card and my assurance that whoever was in charge of it wanted it. I gave both (I had an ID and I was not actually clear on who was supposed to be getting our mail.). He bent down, wrote my name and unit in a book, gave my card back and said “ok.” I thought, “wow. That was easy. So easy as to almost be arbitrary….”. I signed a book and wheeled our mail back. No one really ever asked why I started showing up with it everyday.

Back to the stamps. I came home and ignored my hobby for sometime. I ignored many things. Later, after I was out of the army, and my first son had been born, I realized that without ever noticing, I had been buying stamps and putting them in a binder by the sheet. Just because, that was my thing. I was collecting again and had resumed it without ever noticing. I had some catching up to do though. So I took to eBay for that. Now, whenever stamps come out that I like, I buy two sheets. One for me to use (as I write a lot of letters) and one for the book. I tried two for the book (one for each son) but that got pricey in a hurry. One for the book it is. I love going to the post office to get stamps (Fort Sam Houston, clean it up, the stamp situation here gets sad,) and to see L. L is the clerk here, and he is amazing, and almost singly responsible for me discovering a love of Jazz. He is everything you want in a postal employee, he makes you feel like you are family and you matter.

How and Why: The Sticky parts

Today my son got involved. Well, he has been but until today, he just liked to put the paper that old stamps come on by the bag into hot water and remove and dry them. Today we collected, and I am indicating that we did it together on the label of each one. Let’s talk about the why. I do not know why it started, maybe just a way to get a second use out of something back when. Some people collect for the sheer love of stamps (woohoo!). Some collect because stamps are national symbols, little posters of history (double woohoo!) some collect for profit (every community has them.).

I took my son to the National Postal Museum (go! I will write about it later) and it was awesome. That is as close as I care to come to valuable stamps. I collect because I love stamps. I collect because things I love are on stamps, the collection is a form of expression about the collector (see photos.) Now I collect to express a love of history. I major in history and I collect stamps of the Soviet Union because it allows me to learn, and to be amazed by the art that these people produced. They are beautiful pieces of history. Now my son collects with me. I collect for love. Whatever your reason, make sure you love it. You should feel something when you are with them.

Now, here is my primer on how.

  1. Ask yourself why you want to collect stamps. Do you just wish to amass stamps and Scrooge McDuck swim in them? Cool! Do you like the ones being put out in your lifetime? Do you want the presidents? Are you looking for stamps about something dear to you? Do you write letters and have realized that the ones from other countries are fun? Understand what started to pull you in and that will tell you where to start.
  2. You can find proper supplies on Amazon. Search stamp collecting supplies, get a binder, a magnifier ( to check out the details!) and some decent quality stamp sheets. I like the Light House Vario brand. You can buy books if you like, they are helpful guides.
  3. If you are collecting sheets of current stamps as they come out, a book will not be necessary. If you are collecting older stamps, every year the post office puts out a stamp guide that has every U.S. stamp up to the printing of that book. I recommend it for dating stamps and such.
  4. If you plan to lift the stamps off your mail, be prepared to be frustrated. The self adhesive ones are the bane of every collector I know. They do not come off the same way as the others (hot water) and the only way I know to get them off is with a citrus cleaning spray that ruins the whole thing for me (very smelly) so I do not try.
  5. If you want older stamps, especially without a theme, go to places like hobby lobby. They sell stamps by the bag. You will get tons of repeats ( I trade mine or give them away) and you get to have fun looking through them. There is killer variety too. I get plenty of WWII war bond stamps there.
  6. The USPS is a great way to collect. They put out a stamp collection every year (like the one I showed above) that has information and a copy of every stamp made that year. This is an investment, but you get them all, and no research, and you still stick them in their places in the book, so you are hands on. The also just sell every stamp that year as a bagged set, so collect how you want. I prefer sheets myself, but the set can be more cost effective, because then you only have one of each rather than the 10 or however many on a sheet.

That is my stamp collecting story, and I hope you enjoy it.  I truly love this hobby, and I have far more stamps than I actually use on mail, and that is saying something.  However, I firmly believe that time spent on an unharmful passion is time well spent, and I will never regret my son asking me if we can do more stamps.

Thank you Bill.

Analog Savage,

Brandon Bledsoe

grandma 84

I detest competitive eating

I have written about many things that I enjoy in the world of analog hobbies. Now perhaps it is time that I write something in the negative column. I detest competitive eating. I always have.

There are many frivolous pursuits in this world, and the realm of analog hobbies almost always involves some sort of consumer product that, if not the object of the hobby, is some sort of supply for the facilitation of it. For instance a stamp collection usually needs nice pages to put them in. Fountain pens need ink. Cameras may need film. In the cases of stationary and such, we use much nicer things than we need, surely a ball point or Ticonderoga pencil, with some notebook paper would do, but we indulge ourselves in the better pieces. That’s all well and good. However, I cannot abide competitive eating.

According to feedingamerica.org, 41 million in the United States alone face food insecurity. 13 million of them are children. However today I read this article, Competitive Eater Downs 501 Chicken Wings For Record-Breaking Win – TIME.

Molly Schuyler is the new champion of the eating world it seems. 501 chicken wings. It makes me sick. I suppose hobby shaming isn’t a thing yet, so here you have it.

Now, I have my excesses. I collect things. I could always do more charity. I buy things I don’t need. I have written about the need to be wary of consumerism, which is a warning to myself as much as anyone. I find competitive eating to be the very worst though. 13 million kids who are not sure where their next meal comes from, and we have people celebrating this.

I grew up in Chattanooga Tennessee. I believe that it is the home of the Krystal burger. I do love Krystal and they are fairly common where I come from. I remember that about the time I was starting to drive, around 2003, Krystal put itself through a revitalization. They remodeled or cleaned up their stores, made fresh new commercials and continued to sell the same great product. They also had Krystal eating competitions. I remember well that I was confused as to why they would do that. If they could sponsor some ninety pound person to eat several hundred Krystals, why were they not hosting free burgers for the homeless, or ensuring that some of the 5.4 million seniors in food insecurity, had a hot meal.

I have always been troubled by seeing hungry people, be it in life or on television. I was never hungry. Not once in my childhood did I miss a meal. I was just always upset by witnessing hunger. Later, as a young adult I walked the streets of Baghdad and saw hungry people. So many hungry kids we didn’t know how to help them all. We also had to transport humanitarian aid packages to refugee camps due to the “resettlement” as they called it when people reclaimed their homes with the downfall of Saddam. We transported and delivered the goods to make sure they got to where they were going safely. I have pictures of the kids who cheered our arrival knowing we brought food, some school supplies, and probably sweets in our pockets. I would post them, but I’m still not certain that is a good idea, for their sakes. I see those kids every time I put food on the table for my kids. It makes me mindful to teach them the ideas of charity and gratitude, to be sure not to waste.

I see those kids when I look at these people too.

I did not come here to chew the fat on this subject, I came here to say exactly what it is. These competitive eaters and the institutions which facilitate them are morally bankrupt, reprehensible, deserving nothing less than the complete disdain of everyone with any kind of human decency. In the case of Schuyler’s latest “achievement,” the culpable party is the entire city of Philadelphia. They put on the Wing Bowl every year, whether the eagles go to the Super Bowl or not. I suppose they are trying to tell us that Philadelphia is a utopia where there are no poor or hungry people? I’m wagering that this is not the case.

A couple of points. Firstly, this is not to include people who finish some larger than average meal and the restaurant gives you a T-shirt or takes your picture. Some of the accomplishments above are like that, but we are not talking five pound pizzas. That is a waste. If your finish the big bob burger or whatever, good for you. You can still take that home. You will probably never be in possession of 501 chicken wings, that when consumed in a single setting for a contest, are an immense waste. Secondly, ignorance is not an excuse. You do not have to be able to quote hunger statistics in this country or any other to be able to tell that competitive eating is for human trash. You do not have to know how many hungry children there are to know that there are too many for this kind of vile spectacle to continue. Other writers have called for competitive eating to be banned, but in many cases, such as this USA Today article, the ban call comes from the dangers posed to the competitors. I do not care one jot about these competitors. I know, it is a poor humanist who says that, I am working on it. Really though, I do not. I do not even agree with a ban. We are America, not the USSR, and we cannot just ban things we do not like, or that or so wasteful that it could be a crime in some places. However, I do say that what we can do is ensure that we spread the word about how many hungry people there are, proper food charities, and the fact that this human garbage…disposal is not an athlete, and not a champion. Oh yeas a champion eater to be sure. Also a champion at putting a finger in the face of every kid who goes to school mostly because they are served a hot meal there, at laughing at every hungry person in the world, a champion at stepping over the poor to receive this year’s “Trump Greatness Award.” This is America for you, and this is why the other countries hate us. You do not have to respect these people. I am not calling for harm, but we can stop supporting the businesses that put on competitions where they can get 10,000$ for overeating during an obesity and eating disorder crisis, nestled just nicely on top of the poverty I have already mentioned. Here’s looking at you Nathan’s hotdogs. We can put these people on every social media website where readers will care. We can call them out for the scumbag gluttons they truly are.

Some people will not like this. I’m ok with that. It is time to pick a side. Please, do not like this, and then go try your hand at pie eating or something. For those who haves the depth to hate this, here is Feeding America. Their Charity Navigator results are very good, so I put my trust in them.

In closing, this is an analog hobby that I will not support. It is one that I will cheer the end of. In anticipation of someone asking, “but what if they donate to Feeding America with their eating winnings?” Firstly, prove it. Secondly, food is still a resource which must be grown, raised, and prepared, and which can be made scarce. Giving currency to the food charity does not cancel out criminal amounts of food waste created by competitive eating.

Brandon Bledsoe

Analog Savage

Halloween Bro Quilts

These quilts are not made of fabric.  They are made of whiskey, love, horror movies, and Halloween spirit.

First of all, it is not weird for one dude to make and send another dude a quilt.  It is not.  If you believe it is, you need a friend like Carl.  

     Two weeks ago, I accomplished my goal of making a Halloween quilt for my family and I.  It is an absolutely insane design using so called crazy quilting.  I was curious if I would be able to make it start to finish by October first.  I wanted it to be something that my family and I could use for watching Halloween movies, start a real tradition around something made with my own hands.  I had some of the fabric already, and then I made my way into the Joann fabric sale…and the crazy quilt started as this…

And then moved down to this

It took me roughly 38 hours to make it…except I was making a second one in secret.  See I got this buddy Carl, and by buddy, I mean best friend a guy could have.  We used to spend October together, and now I am in Texas and he’s back in amazing New England.  So I decided to make one for my buddy.  Now you need to understand that I was having motivation, the kind that comes from making something awesome for someone you love and giving them something real, fight against time, the realist thing of all and one of the things you can do nothing with except make yourself more efficient.  Luckily the crazy quilt lends itself to having extra pieces for making another one, for reasons I will show another time.  

    This quilt has been quite a trip.  I bought a ton of fabric at Joann, I was sent some from my mother’s and grandmother’s stashes, and some was left over from other quilts.  Those leftovers were pretty minimal in some cases, they were bought for other quilts and were used, but they are Joann staples.  Unfortunately I could not find any in my stores…so I called some friends all the way back in New England.  Enter The Ross.  The Ross came through in all the ways asking nothing but a small amount of fabric.  The Ross was able to get fabric bought and shipped to me on a wednesday and get it all the way to Texas by Friday afternoon in time for me to start sewing that night.  

I finished my quilt on September 30th with a little time to spare.  I had been working on Carl’s a little in the background, doing stuff here and there, attaching strips made from the ends of strips for the first quilt.  September 30th after finishing mine, I turned around and started Carl’s.  Seven hours later I was finishe with the top, another two hours and the bottom was made and everything was pinned.  Last weekend I set to quilting it and it only took an additional seven hours.  I was only hoping to get it done in time to have him get it in October, but as I was quilting, I realized that maybe, just maybe I could get it to him on a Friday the 13th, in October.  Carl recieved his quilt today, exclaiming joy and surprise while describing me as a “crazy bastard.”  Praise from Caesar.  He showed me with this photo.   

   Fifty-six hours of my life, time the unreplenishable currency, and I declare that it was well spent.  I love making things, especially to give away.  Hours of life stitched into reality.  Happy Halloween everyone, thought about making something real lately?

Analog Savage

Brandon Bledsoe 

Who are the people in your life? A tribute to Felix

This is not going to sound like an analog story, but it is.  One of the first real things for humans was, I argue, other humans.  Real things, as I have said before, excite the senses, stir memory, and give life to the heart.  The first, most fundamental, and the basis (IMO) for all other real things is quite simply, your company, the people in your life.  When we enjoy things, especially analog things, we want to share them with our friends, family, the people whose company we enjoy.

    I started to write this the other night, and now I have had to start over to make the appropriate changes.  When I started it, the man who is at the heart of it would probably have gotten a kick out of the fact that I wrote about him.  I never entertained the idea that he would not get to read it, or to know that I wrote about him, but now that is the reality.  

   Just because I run an analog page does not mean that I exclusively enjoy analog things.  The Savage happens to be a film junkie, especially for those which are deeply rooted in my life, those that are so deeply ingrained that to remove them would most likely cause some form of withdrawal.  Halloween movies are where I would say an easy quarter of these types of favorite live for me.  We love Halloween, almost nothing better in the world.  This past Saturday I took the boys to the local pop up of Spirit Halloween to acquire a costume for the toddler.  This particular Spirit is built into a mall as it turns out, and we went on the right day to wander into a Halloween fair.  Between Spirit and the Halloween fair I came back considerably relieved of some of my spending money.  I love to support people who make things, if the thing they make is worth buying, like these.  

 

    These are amazing, but the winner of the day was the licensed Hocus Pocus merchandise from Spirt

 

   These wonderful items required me to reflect on this film and how I came to love it.  That took me back to 1994 in Soddy Daisy, Tennessee.  I was seven years old, attending Allen Elementary school.  This movie had been a rave at theaters, and the fact that it was going to come out on video (VHS) was heavy buzz at the time.  Some cousins of ours owned a video store, if you come from Soddy Daisy, you may remember Volunteer Video.  It was in the same building as the Soddy Daisy Bi-Lo, on the side, next to the tanning bed.  My mother would let us hang out in there since it was our family that owned it, while she shopped.  I want to put out a disclaimer now, this is being remembered from the perspective of a child, and most of it took place at least 15 years ago or more, I am not clear on exactly who owned what or when, but I am also not writing a history of the Bledsoes and Leffews.  

   Anyhow, the waiting list for a copy of Hocus Pocus at this mom and pop video store where they used rubber bands and paper tags to mark cases where the movie was all rented out was forever long.  Everyone wanted a copy and had gotten on the list well in advance.  The people I remember being there were our cousins (who to this day I call aunt and uncle) Kim and Terry, and Terry’s parents Felix and Loretta.  Later, in some combination of dates, they would all live in the small house built by my great grandfather, Eugene, parent to my grandfather and the before mentioned Loretta.  There were three houses on that plot of land where my first memories come from and where my family had lived since what I understand was just after World War II.  

    My mother still took me to the video store, which was alway fun despite the movie you were after being booked.  Felix was behind the counter (remember they were all family and any weekend spent with my Grandfather or Uncle Fred was partially spent with Kim, Terry, Felix, and Loretta as we were playing with Kim and Terry’s children too) and when he asked what it would be, if I wanted The Nightmare Before Christmas again (he knew my common rentals) I said yes.  He asked if I was sure, and when I gave the affirmative again, he reached under the counter and pulled out a copy of Hocus Pocus with my name on a sticky note asking if I would rather have that.  I could not believe it. There it was.  Just for me.  Plenty of people wanting that movie and there was this copy held for me.  Plenty of people may have been involved from Terry to my Mother having called ahead, but it was the warm face of Felix who handed it across the counter to me.  I never forgot that.  I had always liked Felix, but from then on I felt like he and I were really friends, and it is now twenty-three years on and I wear that movie thin every October.  

   Felix always had a kind word, a smoke, and a polo shirt.  We were always welcome in that house, we ran in and out all day every season the weekends that we were all together, and none of them ever complained at us.  Felix would happily let you sit and watch the Tennessee Volunteers game or whatever movie was on with him.  He was not a perfect man I am sure, and I probably knew him least of all the people who remember him well, but I knew him well enough to know that he was a good man, and that is more than the belief of a child.  Later he would get a Facebook and we would share a word here and there, not as much as my memory of him indicates, and he would like just about anything I posted, especially pictures of my kids and such.  I think the last time I may have seen him for more than ten minutes in person was 2008, and we were on leave from Iraq.  I do wish I had taken more time for him.  I read that he was having surgery and offered a comment, but really it barely registered.  I should have done the real thing.  I should have picked up the phone.  At least I should have messaged him and had a ten minute chat with him.  I am not full of regret, but Felix did not come back after that heart surgery to tell us he was doing well.  He passed away.   

    I believe there are many measures to a person, but the ones that are most important to me are how you treat those who are smaller than you, and how good the stories are that are told about you.  Felix has excelled at both.  Felix, I was already in the process of telling the Hocus Pocus story, but now I have gotten to write more, ironically, because you are not here to read it, and you had a positive influence on a seven year old cousin who grew up to share this film with his friends, family, and especially children.  If I am wrong, and there is any sort of afterlife, then that place is certainly better as of last night, and this world is just a little more time.  Thank you Felix.  

These are Felix as close to the way I remember him.  He was always the same, right down to a kind word, an interest in your day, and a few laughs even if your joke was no good.  

Digital Win: Audible

I have been meaning to do one of these for a while, and now I am finally writing our first digital win piece.  A digital win is what it sounds like.  It is about things that, in my opinion, beat the analog version of itself for various reasons.  In this case, it beats the hell out of it.    Today’s subject is the audiobook service Audible.

     My personal history with audiobooks goes all the way back to 1996.  I was nine years old, a pretty heavy reader for my age, beating accelerated reader into the ground, raiding my school library, and begging my mother and grandmother for every Goosebumps book that came out, or that I did not already have.  My first audiobook was Goosebumps: A Night In Terror Tower.  It was a cassette tape that I am pretty sure my mom came home with just because.  It was about an hour and twelve minutes long, and I listened to it so many times, I am fairly certain I had it memorized.  Every time I cleaned my room, walking around with my head phones on, at daycare after school.  It was pretty high on quality too, had different actors, some mood music, I loved it.  Turns out, I still have it.  

    I took the next step in audiobooks by buying tapes from the library when they sold them off.  After that, after I got in the military and had the money to acquire my first IPod (30 gigs, the first ones with video on them) and I could shop for audiobooks on the iTunes market place.  Since 2007 that was the end of that story, I acquired books at the rate of one or two a month so that I could take them to Iraq with me and listen.  After Iraq my wife and I started using them on road trips (military families tend to travel a good bit) and really that has been our standard protocol for all road trips.  We even have our favorites, The Silence of the Lambs would be worn out now if it wasn’t digital.  They were pricey so we had to listen to them a good bit sometimes, just to avoid buying new ones.  The last one I bought was Patriot Games from ITunes.  

    Enter Audible.  I found out about audible five years ago.  As they are the providers of Apple’s audiobook content, their prices are very similar, but they have a subscription service.  The subscriptions are the way to go.  They have credits, and I have not seen a book a credit will not buy.  For twenty-five dollars a month I get two credits, which is far under the price of an audiobook.  When I started this, that wouldn’t buy a single Harry Potter title, now it gets one per credit.  The idea behind the business model is that you will use your credits and need another fix, and then you will find that your membership also buys you a massive discount on books. I have never bought another book without my credits that was not priced below the value of a credit.  Way I have it figured if a book costs less than ten bucks (super rare) then I wont burn a credit on it.  I have paid for the extra three credits here and there, but overall, I just use credits.  They do not punish you for this at all.  There is not some shifty little trick that says you have to buy a book outright every so often. 

Why I say digital audiobooks are superior to analog (as well as what makes Audible the service of choice)

  1. Space.  Analog audio books (if you can really call it that) take up physical space.  They are either tapes or cds and usually a hefty few of them.  They come in cases that take up space, and thats even if you do not have the nice ones that clip the tape into them.  Space is the long standing argument that exists about anything analog that has a digital solution.  Digital audiobooks take up exactly the space the device you already own occupies.  
  2. Durability.  Those tapes and cds wear out, they take damage. It was not until the Bluray that I thought discs were durable enough.  I collected cds, but those things are super low on the durability rating.  It does not matter if they are kept perfectly, they end up damaged.  They can be lost.  Tapes have a finite amount of plays of them, which can be pretty high, assuming the tape player does not kill them.  Digital audiobooks on the other hand can be downloaded again and again, played forever.  
  3. Cost. If physical audiobooks cost material to produce, you should cut that out of the market.  It has been a bit since I bought a real hard copy, and they can be found for resell at most used book and movie places, but again space.  Audible can beat anything legal that provides audiobooks as far as I know.  Twelve fifty per book is a hot rate considering most books cost between 25 and 30.
  4. Cloud Service.  I have audible apps on everything.  My phone, my wife’s phone, the iPad, the computer, everything that will take it.  So long as I have service for the device I can download any of my books on the go.  Not only that, but it keeps my place.  Listening in the car, get out, go in, play it on the iPad and it will pick up right where I left off.
  5. Return value.  Audible lets you return your credit bought audiobooks for exact value of the credit back.  There is a time limit on the returns, I think it is six months.  However, thats a large window, and you can download your audiobooks to iTunes if you want before you return them.  You would never see that kind of return value on tapes or cds.  
  6. Selection.  Audible’s market is huge.  I am yet to not find a title I wanted.  They have it as soon as anyone else has it.  I wager that if the audiobook exists, then they have it.  There were a few exceptions, Harry Potter for a while was sold out of the Pottermore store only, but they wisely backtracked on that.
  7. Selection again.  They have The Great Courses.  It used to be true that you saved money, but lost out on the additional materials by using Audible for this, but no more!  Now you get the supplement books as a PDF as well.  
  8. Statistics.  This is a personal pleasure.  I love seeing how much time I have spent listening, and my only regret that I did not know about it before and a lot of listening time is missing.  They have badges and listening stats.  I love that.  

Cons or things that can be better

  1. If you return the books, but have them downloaded to iTunes, you can no longer cloud them.  The Audible app has a section built in for your iTunes books, but they still have to be downloaded to the device, which takes up device space.  I can download them to my device and they show up in iBooks as well, so the only advantage to having an iTunes section in the audible app is that you do not have to switch between two.  Considering it still takes device space, and it does not contribute to the statistics.  I would like it if either service would cloud books in iTunes like they do for audible or for music.
  2. Once that six months passes you are forever stuck with a book.  Not really a big deal, but after that your return value is gone, and then you cannot even trade it in somewhere.

    That is all I really have.  I consider myself a pretty hard core audible listener and I find it to be well worth the money.  I have yet to think of a reason for having physical copies of audiobooks.  Audible won the fight for us.  I do not even use all of the features, like the ability to create book marks in an audiobook, and I still feel like I get much more than my money’s worth out of this service.  I listen while cleaning, while working, while running, exercising, even in the shower.  

    My pattern at this moment is to listen to fiction and read history and academic books.  I need to be able to make notes from those works and I do not have the time to go around for both, not like I would like to have.  I had a hard time convincing myself to listen to my fiction stuff, but my wife said something I found to be wise, “would you rather not get to absorb them at all?”  She finished that for me.  It increased my reading efficiency.  I know, a lot of the analog is about slowing down a bit, but that does not count here.  I would only pile up tapes, and I would have mountains of books I couldn’t read. Now, having the audiobook of books I already own physically brings up the question of whether I should keep those, but thats a whole other story.  We live in a world where we have less time, and now we have a way to put some books in the background to ensure we get more reading done.  If you want to really pack them in, you can speed them up ( I listen at 1.25 speed.).   We always say we are about what’s real, and what is real here is getting to consume a book, the content of that book is what is real to me.  Just like the space and money saved.

My name is Brandon and I am an audible addict.  My library has 84 titles and I have spent 1 month 5 days 8 hours and 11 minutes listening to audiobooks since finding audible.  What about you?  Do you like audiobooks?  Do you use audible already?  Tell me about it!

Brandon Bledsoe

Analog Savage

After School Tea Time: A New Take On an Old Idea: Things That Are Real

    The Analog is about what’s real. We are avid Tea drinkers, but now, for our children it has become a traditional part of the day.
    People search for a time to have sit down and have a real conversation with their children, everything is fast, especially the amount of time you have to impart values and structure to them. So, with our oldest in kindergarten this year, and the knowledge that he functions well with routine, we instituted family tea time.  

    Everyday, he gets off the bus, brings me his bag, and sits down to tea and some kind of light snack (the baby just drinks his milk and munches biscuits if he’s awake) and tells me about his day, we review his folder, and discuss his behavior marks for that day (all good so far!) and then after that he goes on and plays for a bit before dinner.  

    This accomplishes so much! They get a light snack to hold them till dinner, an idea like English Tea Time, and the French le gôuter.  He tells us something about his day, it instituted a daily time where I am to be shown his school work (and in the future) his homework, so that it is addressed immediately upon coming home.  My mother is one of those parents who says “I knew about projects the night before!”  Well, lesson learned.  

     Most importantly though, with the exception of showing him pictures his teacher posted on the class to help him remember what he wants to tell us, cell phones, iPads, leap pads, television, and so far even the record player are all banished.  I know what your thinking, but I rebanished the phone after snagging a couple of photos.  People, cookies, tea, talk.  Oh, and some dishes that I may get a cold stare from my grandmother for using, should it turn out she reads Analog Savage by chance.  

    I know it is hard to find time to do things with your kids, especially real things.  I am essentially a stay at home parent when school is out, and there still isn’t a full days time to work with it seems.  The demands of life combined with modern convenience are a strong duo, but where there is time, make the best of it.  

What are your after school traditions (should you be able to have them)?

Analog Savage

Brandon Bledsoe

    
    

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