SGT Waldrop’s Camera

Sgt. Waldrop‘ s Camera

Brandon Bledsoe

2/12/2019

On the 29th of January, I went to look at a lot of vintage cameras for sale on facebook market place. I had been watching it for a bit, and the seller had been bringing the price down over several weeks until I finally went to have a look. I was interested in one in particular, a Rollei Magic missing it’s name plate. I wanted to know which model it was, maybe I could give it to my son who also enjoys using film. The rest of the lot looked like it was mostly junk, but still interesting enough for me to go and see.

The Rollei Magic turned out to be the wrong model, and I almost told the man that I was not interested. The cameras were in two big plastic tubs, mixed in with tons of loose AC adapters, lens hoods, speaker wire, cheap computer speakers. It was basically the detritus that gets passed from junk dealer to junk dealer, with some cameras mixed in. However, I decided it would be courteous to have a look at the entire lot. I began sorting them, telling him what was broken, thinking that if nothing else, I could buy the working cameras for less. I found some things, put them aside, and then I pulled out an unassuming and slightly battered little box. I recognized it as a folding camera from the 1930s. I was intrigued, figuring that it was probably some kind of Kodak model, but the writing on the back said that it was a Zeiss Ikon Nettar, Bob 510/2. I was not familiar with that particular model, but the name Zeiss Ikon I did know, and I decided to pop it open and see if it worked. I first checked the front, the camera came out, the shutter mostly worked after being stuck for a bit. Next I decided to check the inside. I opened it and noticed first the wooden film spool inside on the film side.

For those not familiar, this type of camera uses 120 type film. 120 is a medium format film, still in use and commonly available today. I had some sitting in the freezer at home and had a couple of rolls waiting to be developed. When you load 120 film into a camera, there must be an empty roll in the camera for take up. 35m film winds into the camera, and when the roll is finished, it is released and the user winds it back onto the cartridge it came on. 120 film only goes one way, and is protected from light by a black paper backer rather than a cartridge. The film is placed in the bottom, and the end is loaded onto an empty roll on the top, and as you shoot, it winds onto the old roll. When finished, the roll that the film came on is moved from bottom to top, and awaits the next roll. Many photographers move it when they take the film out, a good habit for being ready.

The empty wooden spool was on the bottom, where it would have been with film coming off of it. There was no take up spool in the camera. The Second thing that I noticed was on the inside of the door. Etched in rather neatly in my opinion, were the words, “SGT Curtis E. Waldrop Tendon, France October 8, 1944.”

That alone convinced me to buy the lot, as the man wasn’t breaking it up, I needed to take that camera home. Once I came home I began my research into this G.I., and a simple google search found a Kerrville Mountain Sun article from 1990. In it, I learned that Curtis Waldrop had been a part of the 143rd Infantry, a Texas National Guar unit, that his battalion was the first one on the beach in Salerno, and that they had entered federal service in 1940. (1)

Using that information, I looked up the 143rd infantry, and found a brief history of their very extensive service in World War II, courtesy of the Texas Military Forces Museum. (2). You may read the full story if you wish, but in short, in that region of France, the 143rd had already been in three major battles, and were still made to push on. They were fighting a determined and prepared enemy, and in October, it took them three weeks to move seven and a half miles.(2)

According to the Museum, all they wanted was some rest, but rest was not to be had.(2)

Turning my attention back to the camera, I decided to track down a manual for it, as I have learned the hard way that small things can completely ruin a photo. Fortunately, cameramanuals.org is a very nice place and they happened to have just what I needed. It was then that I noticed an anomaly. The manual, being for the exported version of the camera, kept talking about the focusing ring being in feet.(3) This would make sense, except that the camera I bought, is in meters. Meters, not feet.

Starting here, I must do a bit of hypothesizing based on the evidence. I make it clear that I have only what is before us to go on. The cameras were made in Germany starting in 1936.(4)

If what I have learned about them is correct, then meters would indicate a German camera, not one of the exports to English speaking countries. There are plenty of ways that SGT. Waldrop could have gotten that camera, but the inscription in the back is indicative of when and where. If he did not get the camera on October 8, 1944 in that particular region of France, then why scratch that specifically into the back? I know personally that men brought things home, trophy’s from the enemy. I had two great grandfathers in that war, one who fought and one who fixed tanks, specifically he was glad he did not fight. However, both men brought home enemy Lugers, amongst other things. Without fighting my great grandfather Bledsoe was able to bring home an enemy weapon, trophies were plentiful.

I do not know what SGT Waldrop’s job was specifically, so I can only work from the default idea that he was infantry and did fight, but I make no assumptions about what he did or did not do in the war, but I do speculate that this camera belonged to a Nazi soldier and that it was collected by SGT Waldrop. I imagine that he carved his name and the other information into the inside with a knife on the day that he got it. Even murkier is the question of, who was the last person to use it. The empty film spool was in the position of feeding out film, not take up. The film that was last in it could have gone anywhere. If it had been the film of a Nazi soldier, which is feasible, the camera was an entry level model, easily available to even a soldier of the time, then I would say the film was disposed of any number of ways, having been anywhere from pocketed, left in the mud, or given to someone as collected intelligence.

However, the film could have even been last used by an American, as the films metal ends say “ANSCO film.” ANSCO was an American company, which had been acquired by the German firm of AGFA in 1928.(5). This tells me that film could have been used by an American or a German as I have been unable to determine which brand was sold in which country, it could have been both in all markets. What does need to be noted is that upon America’s entry into the war, with Hitler having declared war on the United States, ANSCO was seized by the U.S. government as an enemy property.(5). If ANSCO was still sold in Germany in 1944, then it probably would have been older stock. I do not know how long companies kept film on shelves back then. I believe it would have been black and white film, due to the camera it was in, and who would have been paying for it. Black and White is fairly shelf stable, most of what I have expires in 2022, giving it a best by of four years, as it is mostly from 2018. The film is a dead end. I originally thought that if it had been American film, it would have been on a metal spool, but I later learned that America was using wood again, with metal going to the war effort.

What I do know is that the engraving done by SGT Waldrop is in a place that would not normally be open to be scratched on. In that place should be a metal plate. The purpose of that plate is that it keeps the film in place. Film, even when pulled taught, needs something to hold it in place for the purposes of focusing. When a camera is focused, it is not enough that the lens is focused, but also the film must be the correct distance from the lens for that focus to produce a correct image. The film plate is not present, and could not have been in place when the carving occurred. I do not know where it is, or when it came out, but it had to be out when he carved his inscription. It could have been put back after that, the metal tabs to hold it are still there. I cannot say what happened to the plate, but I think perhaps, he took it out to make his inscription and could not get it back into place, or simply did not mind, that he did not intend to use the camera, film would probably have been hard to come by, as military supplies were difficult for that region at the time. Really, for all that I know, he could have put it back, used the camera quite a bit at home, and it was lost later, but I do not believe so. I think that the last user, was the original owner, but I have little evidence in that way, and all that I do have is put before you.

Either way, I talked to a friend of mine, and he had the idea that if the camera had belonged to a Nazi soldier, and if that person was the last to use it, that I should make the first photo I took on it ( the fact that I was going to use it was never in question) something significant. I did some more digging and was able to determine that SGT Waldrop, having passed in 1991, the year after the article about his unit and their reunion was written, and had been laid to rest in Kerrville, Texas, barely an hour from San Antonio, where I lived at the time. I cleaned the camera up as best as I could. The lens is dirty on the inside, and after minor attempts to get to it, I gave up for fear of making it worse. I made a new plate from a cut up capri sun box, and I drove the camera to Kerrville, so that the first photo could be of the grave of the man who brought it home.

His grave, (and that of his wife) is at the bottom of the photo, partially cut off on the left, and with my Subaru Outback ruining the shot. As you can see, I forgot about the parallax, and so what I thought to be a shot dominated by the grave and foreground is really a large shot with the grave barely in the foreground. Also, my plate was a bit thick, so the film was scratched on the way through (the black lines running the length.). The camera only has four shutter settings, 1/25th of a second, 1/75th, Bulb (open as long as your hold the button) and T, which I figured is like bulb but it opens with one depression and closes with a second. To today’s film, these are all pretty slow. The fastest is 1/4 of a second and for reference with 400 ISO film, my go to film especially for a cloudy day, it would be much too slow, only 1/60th of a second is needed to avoid camera shake, and really the light meter was saying 1/250th. 1/4th was just too slow, and the shutter was prone to sticking on that one, so I went the other way, I loaded Ilford Pan F, a 50 ISO film, and decided to work in whole seconds. Turns out, even on a day that is rainy, this region of Texas has a lot of light, and I did not have whole seconds to work with, so I did my best. Two out of the eight shots were usable, the rest were very overexposed, but I only needed one to accomplish my mission.

That is my story of SGT Waldrop’s camera. I have not contacted the family, as I do not feel the need to. Firstly, I have made no claims on SGT Curtis Waldrop other than the fact that he was a soldier who was in a particular region of France at a certain time, which has been proven. My speculations about the camera are my own, and make no assertions on him whatsoever. As for the idea that they could help the story, I am not sure they could, I got the camera from a picker, who got it from another picker. I think that as they things normally go, that it was cleared out as part of the estate in 2016, and has worked it’s way around to me. I feel that had they known, or if it was significant, then it would not have been there. I do not feel the need to bother these people. I will continue to use the camera, mostly near dusk or on very overcast days. I put some camera seal foam on the metal, hoping to alleviate the scratches without causing a new problem. My wife thinks the more things I introduce into the camera that were not supposed to be there, then the more that will go wrong, and she is most likely right. I hope you have enjoyed this little story, and if you have some evidence to contribute, please do.

I thank SGT Curtis E. Waldrop for his service and time spent fighting against the Nazi menace. As a veteran myself, he is my brother, but I am not able to stand in the shadow of those who fought in that war.

For me, this whole thing was what it is all about. I found a real thing, that belonged to a real person and went hunting for the story, and in the end, added to it myself. The camera did not find it’s way to a dump for an ignominious end, but instead it lives on. I’m rather certain that Sgt. Waldrop’s family remembers him, but now so will I, he has taken a step towards immortality.

Brandon Bledsoe

Analog Savage

1.https://www.newspapers.com/image/?spot=3611596&fcfToken=754c746a666c474c4f4a4a6631593551333148366463333566456d70506543337a4a66336e5050726a6f6659745a7a7939524656786277754c67723243747478

2.http://www.texasmilitaryforcesmuseum.org/36division/archives/france/hyman4

3.http://www.cameramanuals.org/zeiss_ikon/zeiss_ikon_nettar_02.pdf

4.http://camerapedia.wikia.com/wiki/Zeiss_Ikon_Nettar

5. http://camera-wiki.org/wiki/Ansco

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 

The Travelers Notebook

So, I do not mean to sound Jerry Seinfeld here, but is this thing The Midori Traveler’s Notebook, or is it The Traveler’s notebook, which happens to be have notebooks made by Midori?

    

    I have been using the Lihit Labs A5 cover, before this.  I have been talking myself out of getting this system for over a year now, but with an impending trip to New York coming up I was basically obligated to get it.  I mean, we will be traveling, and this is the Traveler’s Notebook, it just would not have made sense otherwise, right?  

    I am not going to list paperweight, dimensions, materials, everyone else does that and, if you have made it to this point, I am betting you can read, and all that information can be found here.  Really, I cannot do reviews of a lot of things, I have tried it, and I realized my problem was the technical standpoint, I am no good with it.  My area is the emotional realm, the personal, the…this isn’t true either.  My area is the inconsequential and unnecessary.  

    The Midori (as I will henceforth call it), is not simply a notebook, it is a system.  When you order it, it will show up in a cloth bag, which is in a box, and that is in plastic.  If you are OCD, you will love it.  I did not even want to open it.  It was neat and orderly, it was something you find in a clean room ( I have never found a clean room) and it just had a wonderful symmetry to it.  It is like buying a new shirt, you dont want to take it out of the plastic and remove the pins, you know it will never go back.  

     When you do open it, after you have enjoyed the packaging, you will find inside the bag the cover and a plain notebook.  I have not used the plain as I enjoy lined and grid paper.  The way this works is it has a main band attached through the leather and this…lug?   

    If you use just the notebook it comes with, you can just put the band on the staple page (dead middle) and walk away.  If you use more than that, you will need to order some of the hand elastic bands.  

    I placed the lined notebook in the picture so that you could see how they package things.  It is beautiful, it even has a nice little number on it.  Anyhow, the elastic bands, you use these to stick multiple objects into the system.  You place one around the front cover of one notebook and the back of the other and voila!  Me?  I have four things in mine so far, with a fifth probably on the way.  This is my lay out.  

    So I have a zipper pocket, a file folder, a daily planner, and a notebook.  The zipper pocket and the file folder are placed under the main band as the anchors, and then I put a notebook on either side of the file folder and placed an elastic band around the covers and the kraft file, BAM!  Amazing notebook.  

    Why does this appeal to me?  I think this requires a trip back in time.  

     That is my journal from high school and partly just after.  If you see the stuff sticking out of it, you will see that it is chocked full of souvenirs.  It has tickets, flower petals, movie stubs, a drink ticket after an ABI party in Germany, a drawing I stole out of a bathroom stall of Hitler using a toilet brush on himself, all kinds of stuff.  If you are still reading this then you know what is going on here.  The people who read this kind of stuff, you, they know notebooks.  The best way to describe this is, the way outsiders would,  I like to stuff my notebooks full of crap.  

    The travelers notebook facilitates this!  You do not have to break the spine of a book, and you do not have to depend on the back pocket like in a Moleskine, because while the back pocket is cool, it is only good for me to get the stuff back, I need it to be put in with the page that it goes with.  The notebooks for this thing are small, so they will be used quick, probably before I bust the spine.  That is not the best part.  The best part is that they make accessories for it, like double sided stickers for mementos, or, and this is the best, STICKER POCKETS!!!!!!!.  The sticker pockets are stickers applied to a page that put a pocket on it, and I do not know if they are purposefully this size, but it is the perfect size for Fuji Instax photos! Which I love to stick in a journal.  They used to be such a process, but no longer!  The stickers and pockets come on a sheet that is, of course, sized to the Midori books so they fit in your accessories pockets!!! The OCD is just being stroked sensually!  

    Everything fits together, and I love it.  I have not even gotten around to the actual paper.  Do not buy this if you hate ghosting (where you can see what is written on the other side of the page.  I have used both fountain pen, and regular pen, pencils of all sorts, and they work great, unless you hate ghosting.  Let’s go down the line of what I love and how I use it.

Daily planner:

  • It has room for two months, with a 31 slot index before each one.
  • Each page is numbered, so you can use it as the day of the month or a page number
  • A slot to check off which day of the week it is.
  • One page, one day. 
  • This leads to the notebook

Notebook:

  • I enjoy the paper quality
  • There is enough room to throw a date on it and use it like a journal i I need more space than is allotted by the daily planner
  • Because they are paired up with the daily planner, I do not feel the need to number the pages or conserve, it is simply an extensions, so paste all photos!
  • Did I mention the price isn’t bad once you are just buying the notebooks?

Zipper pocket:

  • I currently use it for stamps, envelopes, basic stationary…despite there not being any tear out stationary…I’ll fix that
  • I plan to put an eraser or two, which was basically impossible with he Lihit cover 
  • I could put a pocket notebook in the front pocket, but the back would be better.  
  • The back pocket is not a zipper, but it is an open faced pocket, two actually one on either side.  I store the stickers and sticker pockets in it.  I will leave one open in which I will place things I pick up until I get home and can put them in the notebook, temporary storage.

Kraft File:

  • Two sides, pockets on the inside, one per page, that allow you to store things you may need through out the day.  Each one also has a smaller slot for things like business cards.  
  • I plan on using it to hold our items for our trip, plane tickets, show tickets, schedules, reservations.  It is kind of the official type of pocket.  The formal pocket.  


   This may become my go to system.  I will come back with an update after New York.  

    The parts I plan on ordering are some pan am stickers which will go in the pockets, so that my travel writing it kitche, a pen holder, a book mark/stencil, and a weekly planner.  I feel the need for a weekly spot.  This system could really fill the gap for those who need a bullet journal, but hate the idea of drawing their own planner pages, like me.  This is officially part of my EDC.  It comes with one leather page marker in it, and I made one out of a thing my kids made me for Father’s Day, but I think you could put more leather cord into the lug.  

    I will tell you my favorite part.  When you are finished for the day, you put the second elastic, which is tied in the back, around it to keep it closed, and you throw it down on the table, it hits with a heavy satisfying thud of a notebook that speaks of someone who is well travelled and worldly.  When you hear this thing hit the table, you know people know you are interesting because of your heavy leather notebook.

5/5 

Analog Savage

Brandon Bledsoe 

What is in your pencil’s history? (National Pencil Day)

Today is National Pencil Day, and the pencil is by far the analog center of the savage’s world.  It is the thing in my pocket, that makes me use my notebook, that contains my entire world.

There will be a lot about national pencil day, but it seems the reason for the day (or at least being observed today) is because March 30, 1858 is when the United States first granted a patent for a wood cased pencil with an eraser on top.  I have seen various explanations for why pencils are usually yellow, and the one we will be going with is that it was to copy the Koh-I-Noor Hardmuth, but that is for another day.

My National Pencil Day bit will be about the pencils made by Mitsubishi.  Can you believe that these pencils are linked to the cause of the Korean War?

Now that you have read that outrageous and unnuanced claim let us get to the meat of it.  This will be a historical post.  In the interest of it not being forever long, it will be written in broad historical swaths.  If you would like to know the rest, I can provide it.  This is not meant to be a scholarly article, it is a blog post, but the history is good.

When people see my Mitsubishi pencils they say something like, ” Wow…Mitsubishi makes everything…”  That statement is not that far from being true, they do make an uncommonly large variety of products.  Off the top of my head I can think of they produce cars, television sets, pencils, microwaves, etc.  People do not seem to notice this until they see a pencil with the Mitsubishi brand.  When I hear this I show them the date (1887) on a pencil and embark on my little story.

In the late 19th century (1860s) Japan made the transfer from isolationist pre-industrial nation to effective imperial and industrialized nation.  Japan had seen the success and power of industrialized colonial powers and it was decided this was the way forward for Japan, constitution and all.  The Japanese had a large goal, to industrialize and catch up enough to be competitive within around twenty years.

This was a lofty goal indeed, but the Japanese pulled it off, remeber the Mitsubishi name is marked as established 1887.  Part of their method was to allow (again I am being broad here) wealthy families to invest massive capital into the hopeful national industries, in return, these families would hold pseudo-monopolies over the industries.  These families were the Zaibatsu or financial clique.  Similar to the early LLC of the United States if an example is needed.

Japan succeeded and by the late 1904 were able to defeat Russia in a war.  Later the industrialized and conquering Empire would take control of Korea.  With the Empire’s defeat in World War II, a power vacuum was opened in Korea, and like Germany, was essentially divided between the United States and The Soviet Union to sort out what should be done to fill the vacuum.  The Soviets set up the communist north, and the U.S. the anti-communist south.  The rest is history.

Now who could have known that all that history was contained in these tiny wooden pencils.

I hope you have a very good National Pencil Day, and that perhaps this is your chance to rediscover what is in my opinon, the best analog tool, the wooden pencil.

Ganger-Bjorn, The Analog Savage

Lihit Labs Smart Fit notebook cover, A5, review 

Welcome back.

The Lihit Labs blurb on jetpens.com says everything I have been able to learn.  “…1938…Osaka…office supplies…STREAMLINE…”

Today we review the Lihit Labs Smart Fit Notebook cover, for sale here for 25$. (At the time of writing they are tellingly sold out, but I assure you with spoilers that you want to push the restock notification button)

Don’t forget to find us on Facebook!

At the words streamline, we have a jackpot, and I will attest that these products are very streamlined.  I also have their Bag in Bag A4, but that is another review.

In the beginning of this blog, back when, The Ganger told you the start of a list of items that one needs when venturing out into the savage lands.

  • A bag
  • A knife
  • A notebook
  • A pencil

Pretty sure that is where we left off.  The cover we are reviewing now is not a necessary item, but it is an amazing one.  The Pen Addict beat me to a review, in fact that is how I learned about it.  I bought this item out of pure excitement based on the word of the Pen Addict.  What this does is help you to contain the items you may want or need.  If you have a pencil and a notebook, as you should, then you may want this.  If you have multiple notebooks, for various purposes, to the point that you need a notebook to track what your notebooks are for, then you NEED this item.

It will quickly become a part of your EDC.  What is this item, in short?  It is a travelers notebook, updated to fit the modern world a bit more.  It is what would happen f you attempted to turn iPhone features into their analog counterparts and keep them together.  For me it carries a pencil, fountain pen, my business cards, an eraser, a journal, a floppy notebook of lists, an A5 letter pad, envelopes, address labels, a few letters I need to answer,  stamps, and no less than 6 pocket notebooks (workout tracker, passwords, faithless book, books read tracker, and of course the book of rules and tools.)

I admit I bought this on a whim, but it very quickly became part of the stuff I do not know what I would do without, especially since I converted to bullet journaling,

The Grit:

The cover is made of heavy duty cordura and comes prepared to take two A5 notebooks or one notebook and a notepad, both A5.  There is a pen/pencil holder (holds two easily) a pocket, and a closeable pocket (conveniently field notes sized) all on the front.  

The inside features the two slots, two small pockets, and one larger one on the left inside cover, two ribbons for marking pages, and a stout elastic band for holding it all together.

I love this cover.  The only thing I have not found a use for is the large inside pocket and that is just because the only thing I want in here, that I do not have, is a sharpener, and I simply find them all too bulky to have under my notebook with my current setup.  

I have pushed this things capacity to the very edge of civility and sanity.  The notebook I use as my journal/bullet journal is a full-size Insights, and I keep a Rhodia A5 letter pad, a Write Brand softcover journal, and six pocket notebooks in it!  Just as a FYI, here is how to understand the notebook sizes.  So when I say standard or something similar, I mean that most journal sized notebooks are A5.  This Insights is like a Moleskine, or Rhodia A5.  The new Write Brand soft cover (shown) is also A5.  

I feel it is fair to say that I have found about what it will hold.  The point being, it filled a roll I didn’t really know how to address.  I shove this in the car and I have everything I need.  If I am going longboarding, I still have a fieldnotes and pencil in my pocket, and that information can come here later.  Otherwise, I am ready to workout, sketch, journal, shop, hand out a card, catch up on correspondence…

If I had to name a complaint, it would be that they didn’t find a way to make it to where you could put the notepad on either side, and I don’t think it can be done and have little Pockets.  As it is, you must put the notepad ok the right if you have one.   I am not counting the “notebook” it comes with.  It is obvious to us that you are not actually supposed to use it, it is something akin to the photo they put in frames to show you how it is supposed to go.

Bottom line:  five full stars, and a must have for the total notebook junkie, and analog over doer.

Ganger-Bjorn, Analog Savage

Where do we begin?

This space has not had a true update in a bit.  I have been moving and such.  Let us begin there.  Let us get back to what this blog used to be.  It was first and foremost whatever I, the author, wanted it to be, and I always wanted it to be true.  True to me specifically, and yet I have danced around topics and applied enough tact to make myself sick.  What happened to the truth?  What happened to the alcohol fuel, tobacco burning, dioneysian blog posts that made at least one person think, or made me feel like I was actually doing something with this?  

     Well it is all coming back.  I described this to one of my professors as a “no s*** window into my life,” but somewhere along the way I forgot that.  This is not as dramatic as it all sounds?  Sometimes I got off writing about pencil sharpeners.  I can tell you why I stopped doing that as much, because everybody that enjoys graphite and would feels the need to write about it (me included) and I was not reading theirs, so I stopped asking them to read mine as often, that is all it was just kind of a courtesy thing.  So let us begin with an update.


We were reasssigned to Fort Sam Houston…well isn’t that peachy, leave Massachusetts, leave the circle of Boston, leave Framingham, and go back to the Ghetto.  No I am not hanging out in the wrong parts of Texas, no I do not need to give it a chance, I am allowed to dislike an entire state without offering a reason, and the city of San Antonio, for that I can give reasons.  I am not saying that I will not enjoy things here, I will, I always find something to do, but for me this place will always be too far South West.  Now we do live two minutes from where the medics are made, and that always strikes me as a little funny.  

    Let us be honest here.  I planned every detail of my last day at Framingham State as best as I could.  I had a vision in my head and I was going to do my best to make sure it happened.  I would not settle for something anticlimactic as the semester just being over and me not coming back.  I made a playlist…I even wore the exact same outfit on my last day that I had worn on my first, if you will allow for the fact that I have of course bought new underwear since then.  Even my socks were the same.  I know because they are the ones I wear with my Doc Martin’s.  I cant guarantee that it was the same pair of socks, but there are only three pairs of these, and I have had the same three this whole time.  It was a private little joke that only I was in on.  

This may be the only picture of me from that day.  Zander was there out of necessity caused by the moving schedule and such.  Nobody minded, I have lots of photos of plenty of my friends playing with him.  The point is the sweater, it book ended my time at Framingham State University.  I thought it was hysterical.  I even made a play list.  That’s right.  I made a SOUNDTRACK for my last day.  Most people did not notice that I had it playing most of the day walking around in my personal little movie.  

I went out on country roads.  My buddy Steve camethrough (without knowing it) and we went and smoked before I walked off the campus at almost exactly the same time I had left a night class on my first day.  Couldn’t have done it without you buddy.  

We decided to road trip out of MA.  I know I have a lot more stuff I could talk about, especially people and it may come back to me later, but this will be longer than it is already going to be.  We had some help getting cleaned out of our house, very grateful, and then I had to leave everyone.  We had some friends when We’ve left other places, but they were army people, they knew what it was like.  Here?  We were attached.  So we put a bunch of crap in the outback and went trecking out with kids for 1800 miles, and around 25 days.  We visited family.  We visited friends.  I spent a good bit of the time dealing with that feeling that I am unsure if it is caused becaus we were in between and it wouldn’t go away until we had a house to put together, or if it was just the dread of where we were going.  The kids actually did really well with all of the hotels and such.  We spent New Years in a hotel room enjoying each other’s company.  If you are bored and want to get to the point, here’s one.  Home really is where the heart is, for me, I really am just happy the wife, kids, and I are all together.  

The little guy and his hotel bed.  They were happy as long as there was a bathtub to play in.  Kids know how to keep it simple.  

This whole home is where the heart is thing being true is not news.  What is news is this: you are not required to continue taking people’s garbage just because you are related to them.  I am not saying that all the little motivational Facebook posts about leaving negative people behind are at all true, much to the contrary, I am sure that more often that not people are not looking in the right direction.  I have been there, I have forgotten to blame myself because I did not want to accept that I was the problem, but more often than not we know the type.  My sister is great at this kind of thing, posting about people messing people up when she can’t make a sandwich without a family fight and the cops coming.  That’s what I’m tired of, pretending I care.  I love my family, but you know what I’m tired of telling them that they need to do to fix the situation.  My mother and grandmother are ready to pull their hair out, my mother has the kids and doesn’t get any sleep, and when my family and I come we are mostly spectators to this circus.  AND we never say anything about it.  That stopped back at the beginning of this paragraph.  I do not blame her kids, you have them, stop fooling with that Stalingrad dumpster fire until she pulls it together.  Everyone turns on everyone so fast, and I feel like phone calls are just sirens telling me what she has done now.  It has driven people out of business and before we know it her final revenge will be complete and my kids wont get to see you at all due to the early grave it has driven you to.  We get tired of coming to see everyone and trying to dance around the mess that she has made.  Call me what you will, but I am serious.  We don’t mind helping with the kids, so long as we are not telling ours to wait around and get what is left.  However!  We did get my grandparents to go to the Tennessee Aquarium.  That was awesome as always.  That place should get an entry to itself.  

Some more travels later, we found ourselves on the way to San Antonio for real.  Now here is the catch.  When this trip was over, I was going to have to get up the next day, get on an airplane, and do the whole thing again.  It was cheaper than shipping our second car.  I was going to have an awesome post all planned out for you guys, I was going to go to Route 66 and drive as much of it as possible before hitting Texas.  It was going to be awesome!  I bought a book and spent most of January planning it out.  Then our car was broken into.  I found out from my wife while I was sitting on my second plane waiting on them to check out the equivalent of a check engine light, which is admittedly more serious on a plane.  I guess the crew heard my displeasure at someone having busted a window out.  I looked over in the next seat and there was Woodford Reserve and a Coke.  They kept appearing.  Here’s to the employees of American Airlines.  My road trip went by the wayside, I wanted to get home as quickly as possible, home to my family that is.  Here’s the thing.  We are smart enough to take the DVD players out every time we stop.  We did not have a lot in the car.  My bag that was in there I had put in that morning so that my wife would not have to carry it down the stairs herself with the kids.  All in all they took clothes, my writing stuff, Liam’s toy bag, My wife’s clothes.  The only real valuable–as far as single items go, stuff adds up–was my Nintendo 3DS.  Yes I know this is a First World problem to have.  Yes we are insured, yes we can and have replaced most of that stuff.  However: it was ours.  I hate being stolen from.  A part of me hopes that they were able to sell that stuff and feed their kids, or maybe a kid who had nothing has those toys, but I know thats wishful thinking, and that part of me is small.  The bigger part of me comes from a place where we fought and dueled to build a reputation so that people would not steal from us.  We hate thieves, and that bigger part of me would–and I say this unable to make those who don’t know understand–that I really would break someone’s limbs over my kids toys, my wife’s clothes, and some fountain pens.  The worst part is, it killed the little good I saw in this place.  I have gone to concerts in Worcester MA, parked in an alley with money in the cup holders, actual bills, and people did not smash windows and take money, never has that happened in my life.  Two days in this place?  Thieves hang, no I do not want to hear the rest of the story.

End of the day, my wife and kids are safe.  All is well.  We now live on post, and the house is actually really nice.  People say your blog is supposed to help people.  Here it is again: putting a house together with two kids is slow.  I do not mind living on post, and Liam and I have some nice places to skateboard, and a park, and if we want, we can bike to the grocery store.  What’s amazing is having friends who love you enough and know you well enough to pack the perfect box to try to cheer you up.

We have been selling off some more stuff online.  Here’s some more tips.  #1 be prepared for people to think their stuff is worth way too much.  I read an anthropology paper that did a good job explaining this.  #2 be prepared for people to not be able to read.  Even if you put the words “Will only meet at X” or “I have a Subaru, I cannot deliver a couch” people will not realize they don’t know where X is until they are “almost there” or they will ask when you can drop the couch off.  To sell online is to need golf shoes to wade through the stupid. 

OH!  I wrote a novel while we were traveling.  I did it by the national novel writing month standards.  It is 52,000 words of crap.  But I did it.  I wrote a novel.  My support crew were all amazing.  I might even revise it.  I wrote a book.  That’s a bucket list item gone.  I am actually kind of pleased with the novel.  Next step is to print it and begin revision.  

Now we are here, refining our lives, cementing who we define ourselves as.  I have managed to have a pretty good, INCOWRIMO, international correspondence writing month, despite being busy, my bag of writing stuff having to be replaced, not actually being able to open the mailbox, and getting a late start, I am on 28 letters and it is not the 28th.  I have gotten some really good ones from the address exchanges.  

Now I prepare to leave you, back to our regularly scheduled programming, the knives and pencils, the books and movies, with some new stuff.  I hope to see more readers because I have a lot to write.  It is almost baseball season.  Zander has turned one…

Ganger-Bjorn

Life in instant…

I saw a thing were some dude took a Polaroid, just one everyday, for around thirty years it looked like.  At that moment I looked at my Instant camera, which I love and use to stick photos in my journal, and realized that I could make a never ending line of these in a slide show.  I figure I will update it every once in a while, offerning no explanations beyond this, seeing how far it will go.  The start is September 2015…​

Ganger Bjorn

Another semester finished.

My last post was over a month ago, and that was something I had been writing so that I could show some of my friends the blog.  Now it is time for a recap, hopefully a small one.

This was not just any semester, it was my last semester at Framingham State University, that will be a post.

    When the semester was starting I got to experience one of my favorite things, back to school season.  When back to school rolls around it allows me to reconnect to a set of memories in a tangible way.  I can always call them up when I want them, but they are best experienced when there is something to engage the senses.  The best part about back to school for me is the crayons.  I love crayons, Crayola crayons the most.  When back to school rolls around, there are rows and rows of crayons which are lined up on shelfs, and nifty pop up displays.

It makes me happy.  I love taking Liam to look at them.  The 24 pack is the best.  I have crayons all over the house, and yet I bought one and carried it around with me in my back pack all semester.  I would randomly break them out to scribble with if the semester was driving me crazy.  The most interesting note was when my friend Alex bit the tip off the orange one.  It is a long story about him making a joke about Marines (he is a Marine) and us electing him Vice President of the university Veteran’s club.  It was a fun time, and maybe one day I will tell it, but the point here is the crayons.  They saved us on one occasion because the veterans were supposed to participate in an event and we did not have anything ready for the event, so we colored.

Full on coloring and finger painting.  Good times!  The reason I love the crayons and back to school though is because of when I used to get to go back to school shopping with my mother.  Mom would take us to one of the office supply places in Hixson and we would go through the aisles with those pieces of paper that the store kept for every school and every grade, and we would pick out what we needed.  My first semester of college (age 27) I went shopping with my VA book stipend for school supplies.  I encountered a bit of sticker shock, buying all my favorites and I promptly realized “wow! Mom must have had a third job to afford the good stuff?”  

Now that I am older I still enjoy the aisles of crayons and school supplies, despite the fact that I’m fairly certain we did not school shop there, it specifically calls up memories of the Winn Dixie store that we shopped at.  That store is a Bi-Lo now and the strip mall that was built with it is very depressing, but that is neither here nor there.  I think it calls up the Winn-Dixie because I also enjoyed going on late night grocery shopping trips with my mother.

What’s else did this semester entail?  Well it was hands down my hardest semester for all the right reasons.  Some things I have learned.

  • The comma splice is my enemy.  I will learn it and fix it.
  • I need to learn Russian.  Grad school prep.  I have a “For Dummies” book to use during the moving road trip.
  • Apparently I missed acting.  

Hands down the biggest part of the semester, I went to an open audition for “Our Town,” and ended up getting to be the Stage Manager.  I even got invited too compete at some kind of competition put on by the Kennedy Center, but I will not be able to go.  There are people that were in that play who really deserve the chance to go and compete for that scholarship.  The play could have a post all on to itself.  I have a long list of things I was going to blog about, and about 4 of them are still relevant.  However, here are some photos. 

Needless to say, “Our Town,” was amazing.
That is all of the recap for now.  Oh there is a bit more here.  We are moving to Texas, and I intend to write a novel while we are moving.  I have nothing so far.

Ganger-Bjorn

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