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

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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 

Analog Photography

    When I was a kid, my dad worked as essentially a large scale repo man.  He had one of those awesome Polaroid cameras for documenting the stuff to be repossessed.  We, the kids, were not supposed to grab it and take pictures.  With that said, Mr. B (for your privacy) if you are reading this, I apologize, I know that film cost money, but we couldn’t help it.  I admit it.  I also do not think we opened any new packs, if it helps, but thank you for making sure we could find your Polaroid.  I’m sure you noticed a lot more than you let on.  

    My first camera was an analog camera, a great 110 that was Ninja Turtles themed!  In fact, film was how I found out there was no Santa Clause.  I was clicking away as we cleaned out a home for my disabled great aunt, with some film I had gotten for Christmas.  My mom told me to stop, I said it was my film, she said she bought that film.  Poof, delusion nailed out.  In all honesty, I kind of figured, but I had a kid sister to act for, and it was still fun.  

    Seventeen years of Digital cameras later (minus me taking 35MM film on my trip to Germany) and the analog/instant photo is making a come back!

How many of you know someone with an instant camera?  I bet most of you (self depracating joke would be to say both of you) know at least one person who has an instant camera, and it is probably some kind of Fuji Instax.  This is my little red beast!

    I have had it for a couple of years now, and it is showing its time in service.  It has been dropped by me, and dropped and thrown by a toddler several times.  It may be running out of time, and there are more advanced models out there, but for the price (between 60-70$) you cant beat this thing.  Point, Click, Bam! Classic instant photos with that good old vintage look.  

    In fact, that is what I bought mine.  I bought it for the point and click, capture a memory, not many second chances (and at around 1$ a shot retail be careful with the second chances) stick it in a journal and move on.  Wow… today is that day where everything comes full circle. That was part of how I started this blog, I was putting our families journal online.  My plans have changed some, I was learning as I went, but that was the idea take photos of our family and glue them in.  Here’s a look back at the Savage past, the infant stages.    

    We have evolved since then.  I do still stick the pictures into my journal, and wouldn’t ya know it, Midori and The Travelers Notebook have accessories for doing just that.  I also have a few extras because I just enjoy them.  

     I have also gotten another camera, which is far less point and click, The Lomo Instant.  Based off of a camera from the former Soviet Union, Lomography has made taking vintage and ruddy photos into an art form.

    This one does have some lenses, and yes there is the ever nifty double exposure mode, but what it really has is a company with soul! Lomography Is a bit hipster up front, but you are going to get some of that when you bring back photos that cost money the moment you hear the click.  They have a shop, you can join and share your photos with the comunity, which I will do when their platform gets a little more user friendly.  Even better, they have the Ten Golden Rules.  I have been trying to abide by the one that says take your camera everywhere, but that is harder than it seems when it is bulkier than a cell phone.  However, we know what my rules are, and one of them is to have a bag.  Now I have one to carry everywhere, and the camera too!  Do not let those rules get you bogged down, use them for inspiration really.  They will help you figure out how you want to embrace this resurrected tech.  

     I went through some experimanetal phases.  I read about a man who took a Polaroid a day (yes it was most likely the actual Polaroid stuff, not just people using the term today) and they are all an album online.  It was a really moving series, which I want to recreate myself.  I started trying it out, and the result was the life in instant photo series posts you see on here.  They did not work, but my desire to complete a Jamie Livingston type experiment lives on!  I have a pretty good stock pile, I just have to figure out how to put them up.  I will get back to formatting later.  Anyhow, a word on the Lomo Instant.  That thing is in no way user friendly.  If you buy it, it will come with some little printed photo cards with printed suggestions, use them.  If you do not you will end up with a lot of blacked out or whited out photos.  You can learn all the ins and outs of this camera, but those cards help you not to waste film.  

    I took my camera to a Red Sox vs. Rangers game and when people realized what I was doing, they started offering to pay for a photo of them and their family that they could hold.  They are great for more than just your journal, you can give them away, you can hand them out, you can start a conversation about something tangible in your hand that is imperfect.  I went through my computer the about a month back.  My hard drive was getting full.  when my first son was born I bought a decent digital camera, DSLR, and went banana sand which taking photos for the next four years.  I ended up deleting 30,000 photos.  That number is not exaggerated, it is in fact rounded down.  Let that sink in, 30,000 photos deleted.  There are around 17,000 more.  That is a decades worth of photos total, but man what was I ever going to do with all of them?  They were not even separate photos, I would point the camera at my kid and hold the shutter down.  It was like a stop motion film, but less fun.  If nothing else, the cost of analog photography slows you down a little.   

    Don’t get me wrong, I have so many memories of my family preserved that did not eat up money or physical space, but at the same time, I almost stopped enjoying taking them.  You have seen me say, do not let recording life stop you from living it.

    I do not know about you, but there is something great about a simple photo, with little to no jargon involved, that looks like it came from the 80s, not taken on a smart phone, on real film.  The ironic part is that you will still want to show it off, and that will require some very digital stuff.  A scanner, or a smart phone with a scanner app.  That is how I do it.  

    If you go down this self developing road, start with the Fuji Instax.  I still have days where I want to throw the Lomo.  Here are my tips:

  1. Order your film on Amazon, it comes out a little cheaper if you buy it in the three pack bundle.
  2. Never buy the Polaroid film (in mini 8) it is the same as the Fuji, and costs 16$ for ten shots, where as Fuji is 20$ (retail) for twenty shots.
  3. Get something to stick your photos in, they dislike pockets, a little tin or something will work.
  4. If you use the travelers notebook, embrace the analog photos
  5. Don’t wait, life isn’t getting longer.

That is what I have for you.  Well that and this.  

    This is my stash of film for while we are in New York, and there are already two packs in my kit bag!  This is the wonder of Amazon, it makes the cost hurt sooo much less.

What is your favorite analog photo?

Analog Savage

Brandon Bledsoe 

New Buildings In Moscow, Postage Stamps of the Soviet Union, USSR, 1983

These stamps here are perfect examples of Soviet stamps being meant to be sent and seen outside of the Union.  These are architecture projects in Moscow, that to me smack of modernness, and more importantly exhibiting what they had done for the olympics three years prior.

The entire series was issued on December 15, 1983.

This are the first ones I have catalogued and written about that are printed in relief.  The basic idea is that the image is etched out of the plate and when the object is printed, the ink fills in the spaces that were etched out.  It makes for incredibly beautiful and detailed stamps.  They are some of my favorites, and I often have to fight the urge to touch them to feel the printing.

At the end there will be more photos.

1979 Natalya Sats Musical Theater

This is the Natalya Sats Musical theater, formally known as Moscow State Academic Children’s Music Theater Named After Natalya Sats.  All infomation cited as (Wikipedia) can be found here.

Details: Issued 12-15-1983, face value 3 Kopeks-it would have sent a postcard.

Natalya Sats was the director of this institution in 1921, long before this building was opened in 1979.  Sats and her institution were part of Lenin’s wife wanting children’s art education to resume.  Sats had a break in her directorship due to the purges, but resumed until she died in 1993 at the age of 90.  (Wikipedia). It is very interesting, and if you have time you should read more about this fascinating institution for children.
The Central House of Tourists

Central House of Tourists

Issued: 12-15-1983

Value: 4 Kopeks, postcard or domestic letter

The hotel is now called the Astras, and it is still in use today.  Thirty-three floors, 537 rooms, opened 1980.  What I find interesting is the tiny silohouettes of people in the windows, all the way down the hotel.

Russian Soviet Federation House

Russian Soviet Federation House

Issued: 12/15/1983

Value: 6 Kopeks, post card, domestic letter, small registered item.  I believe registered to cover international as well.

As of 1981 this was the seat of Soviet government, and it is still in use for that purpose today.  It is listed as the Russian White House,  it reads to me more similarly to 10 Downing Street in London, home of the government and Prime Minister.  It replaced the Grand Kremlin Palace, which to me is funny.  It would seem that Bolsheviks would have wanted something clean and modern, unassociated with the czars and aristocracy, so this coming so very close to the end of the Soviet Union surprises me.  Of course, they did not know it was going to end in a decade.

I love this one.  Just look at it.  It makes stamps today look cheap by comparison.

Izmailovo Hotel

Izmailovo Hotel Complex

Issued: 12/15/1983

Value: 20 Kopeks, Postcard, but in five kopeks it will be more than a post card ever was, domestic letter, registered item.

Opened in 1979, this is actually a hotel complex consisting of four separate hotels.  It was built, in keeping with the theme, because there were not enough hotel rooms for the coming olympics in 1980, that were to be hosted in 1980.  These are still in operation today, ranging from 3-4 stars.  Interestingly this was the world’s largest hotel until 1993, when another was opened in Moscow.  It was beaten by the expansion of the MGM Grand in Vegas (Wikipedia).
1980 Olympic Press Center

This one, I admit, gave me some issues.  I had a hard time with the fact that the words in this case are printed in cursive.  I turned to soviet-postcards.com, and it just came back as “News Publishing Agency.”  I looked at buildings added to Moscow in the time frame, and found the part about it being for the olympics.

1980 Olympic Press Center

Issued: 12/15/1983

Value: 45 Kopeks, this would only have been used to send a registered item, and I speculate internationally.  Stamps were meant to show off to the world, and historaical rates say that no domestic letter needed more than 40 Kopeks.  Registered was between 6 Kopeks and 1 Ruble (100 kopeks to the ruble).  I figure this to be where all the press conferences, maybe the ceremonies and such were held for the olympics in 1980.  Now it is simply noted as being used as office space.  That is a step up from all the abandoned spaces created for the Olympics.

Pride and Prejudice & The Great Gatsby: Books that someone else says you have to read, Part 3

Time always moves strangely to me.  You have an idea, you start it, you work on it, but it is a long term project and you allow it to sit and flow over time.

The last time I wrote about this was almost a year ago!  I promise I have since scratched some books off of the list, and there is more of this to come.

The premise here, again, is that like Denzel Washington’s character from The Equalizer, I am working my way through the list “100 books everyone has to read before they die.”  The list can be found here.

Today we examine Pride and Prejudice, and The Great Gatsby.  I am most likely going to make myself very unpopular here, but you do not have to read these.  Keep in mind all things said here are just my opinion, and I am heavily influenced by what I would consider the bigger historical issues.

That is right, I said it.  You do not have to read these, despite what the list says.

Let us tackle the Austen first.  This is an amazing story, but as a text, it is difficult to chew through.  I read the book.  I have listened to the book.  I have watched several versions of the movie, and an episode of ‘Wishbone.”  This book’s relevance is rapidly becoming lost, in my opinion.  Jane Austen wrote this during the Napoleonic Wars, and it is an excellent social commentary on the time.  However, we have since moved on.  We have moved far on.  I am not trying to just kill off classics that are outside of their time, but unless you are studying 19th Century English Literature, or maybe on a looser level just English history, then these social issues will not fall into place I feel.  As I said, I love the story, but I love it when it is acted out.  When I read it, I would have to take breaks, and by breaks I mean read other books, or the time it takes to move to other states.  People are going to hate me, and I will now watch my back for the members of the Austen Society, but I am scratching this off and replacing it with The Silence of the Lambs, by Thomas Harris.  Maybe the novel would have stayed on the list had it gone into the larger issues of the Napoleonic Wars, but again this is colored by my views on history, and how it effects the modern world.

When I say that I enjoy the story, just not the book, I cannot say that in any way for The Great Gatsby.  How this is considered “the great American novel,” I will never know.  The novel flopped hard, and Fitzgerald went to his grave feeling forgotten.  Later it was given to the soldiers who were going to WWII, and they connected with it, revitalizing the book.  (Wikipedia, The Great Gatsby)
There is the point.  The soldiers that connected with this novel, were the guys who had fathers and such who had been in WWI.  They understood the social issues this book represents, and the times in which it was set.  Just as soon as WWII was over, the depression era was dead and gone in America, we were in the post-war boom.  It was a new era.  The only thing stopping this book from being just as irrelevant as it began, was the brief moment it enjoyed.  Time does not make bad things better, sucked then, sucks now.  If this book was not as popular as it is, The Plaza would not have made a Fitzgerald Suite.  Let this die, I beg of you old sport, let this fade back to where it belongs.

In exchange I offer you something else.  Kids today need to understand how we got where we are, how the 20th Century culminated.  They need to understand the events that led us to the 1990s, the 2000s, the last election.  For your consideration, I give you, The Cold War: A New History by John Lewis Gaddis.  It is not a novel, but it is relevant, entertaining, and coherent, all things that Gatsby is not.

Life is too short to read bad books.

Analog Savage

Brandon Bledsoe

The 22nd Olympic Games, Moscow, Stamps of the Soviet Union 1976

Details of the 1980 Summer Olympics taken from here.  Do not forget to cite, like I just did, albeit in a loose format.  

     The Olympic Games of 1980, would be the smallest since 1956, due to a boycott.  The boycott in 1980 was over the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.  However, these games would still be noteable as the first and only to be held in Eastern Europe to date, and they were the first to be held in a Socialist nation until, remaining the only one until 2008, Beijing China.  The full details can be found above, in the link.  The 1956 games were also boycotted over the Soviet Union.  It is also worth noting that only Moscow, and Los Angeles competed to host in 1980.

    It needs to be understood that the Soviet Union did not produce postage stamps solely for their own citizens usage and collecting.  They intended these stamps to be seen abroad.  They were using their stamps to show off the symbols, ideas, progress, and accomplishments of the Soviet Union, so it should be, I argue, a neccissity to look at Soviet Stamps as best as one can like a Soviet, but also like an outsider viewing a piece of propaganda.  

First in the series, Moscow

   The series consists of four stamps.  The one seen above is the main collectors piece.  It is a miniaturized view of Moscow, or the main center anyhow.  The details:

  • Issued: December 28, 1976 (this was in advance of the games) all stamps
  • Value: 60 Kopeks + 30 Kopeks, this would have almost been registered mail, and I believe, international mail ( just the one pictured.)
  • The bottom reads, ” Moscow- Organizers of the 22nd Olympiad”. (Roughly)

These stamps do have two face values, and that is because they are charity stamps.  The first value, here the 60 kopeks, is postage, and the second, 30 kopeks, goes to charity.  We can’t know what the charity was, but I will check other stamps and if it only occurs with themes, we may make educated guesses.  I would like to thank http://soviet-postcards.com for the information about charity stamps.

    I love this piece.  It is a collector’s plate, with a miniature of Moscow featured.  The stamp itself, if used, features mainly the cathedral ( lower left) and the Kremlin Senate Palace ( upper right.). The actual Kremlin is almost entirely on the collector’s portion, not the postage portion.  I find this piece, especially considering that it would have been a waster of money to mail something domestic with this, to be fascinating.  The stamp was highlighting Moscow, but not the Kremlin, if it was used.  

     The other three are nice, but not nearly as fascinating for me.  They are various Olympic symbols, with banners which read, “Games 22nd Olympiad, Moscow, 80.”  Their values can be seen in photo.  I do like that, as each host city has its own icon for the games, the Moscow Icon was similar to the Soviet Star being placed upon a building. 

Analog Savage

Brandon Bledsoe 

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