Do you really like that? Using caution and discretion on the road to analog

My Great-Grandmother passed away recently.  She lived through a lot of things that we study in school, The Great Depression and World War II come to mind first.  She was a young woman when the Chicago Cubs were in their second most recent World Series.  Her death was preceded by about four years of being in assisted living due to not being able to care for herself, basically Alzheimer’s.  When my family began to inventory her home, it was found to be stuffed full of dollar store deals, yard sale finds, and things that had been on sale in bulk.  Notebooks by the hundred, odd singing bears, crap from every era since not long after the sixties.  The house was not all, there is a smaller house and multiple falling in storage buildings on the property.  In short, she had been hoarding.  Not the worst I have ever seen, but some of it.

Last year David Sax published The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter.  I have not read it.  I may, it is nothing personal to the author, it is just another book on the stack…yes, an actual stack.  I hold firmly to my belief that you can run a page and blog called Analog Savage without having to read a book about analog things.  The point here is that the title reflects a point I had made before, the idea of ‘The Real.”

The real to us is things that matter.  It is the quilt I am making for my son and the hours of my life that are sewn into it.  It is the tactile experience, it is the activation of the senses.  The real is craftsmanship, it is something original, something with a purpose.  There are a million ways to describe the real, and it is almost certainly easier to point out what it is not, rather than what it is.

That brings us to the dark side.  The real involves real things.  Physical objects.  They actual mass, real things take up real space.  I would say they cost actual money, but you can blow money on digital things as well.  The real, being analog, it all involves actual crap that takes up space and has to be stored and maintained.

I am the worst about it.  I am not a hoarder, but my friend Carl says that my hobby is having hobbies.  My wife says that my largest collection is my collection of collections.  These statements are both true.  Let us introduce the book pile.

There it is.  That is my personal monster.  Now, before you set about judging, I did not buy all of those and just not read them.  Many of those I was given by my Great Aunt, in a story that goes back to the Great Grandmother, and I have just not been able to get to them, or I have been listening to them as audiobooks.  There is a convoluted twisty canyon of thought that you do not need to sort through here, but they are on the floor because if they are on the shelf I will forget about them.  I am working on them.

We seem to always be in a race to outperform previous generations in materialism.  We just have so much crap.  Those books are not crap, they are heirlooms, and a chain of the thoughts of someone I love.  My Baseball cards on the other hand…

I love comic books, despite my hate/hate relationship with the publishers right now.  When I was in my latest collecting and reading frenzy of comics, before the writers decided that having a good story was the wrong way to sell books and titles proliferated into madness, I carried a monthly collection of twenty books or more.  When the storylines started to turn, I kept buying.  When it had advanced well past the point of sticking it out, I kept buying.  When even my favorite characters failed to please (google Bat-Chappie), when they made sure to involve each character in multiple series and big world shattering events came every quarter to squeeze every cent from us (secret wars…) I kept buying.  Why?  The same reason that a lot of people buy more and more, to bee seen as being current.

Keeping up with the Joneses is not just about the house and pool anymore.  It is now about showing how much you love something by keeping piles of it to sleep in apparently.  I had to buy Batman comics no matter how much they sucked due to my status of self-appointed supreme Batman fan of the world.

Now I have to apply a simple test, asking myself “Do I like this or do I wish to be seen as liking this?”  It does not break the cycle immediately, but it does confront me with the truth of some things.  Am I going to enjoy this, play it with friends, read it, use it, or am I going to try to find a corner in a closet to get this out of sight out of mind so that I do not need to feel bad for having spent the money on it, maybe pulling it out once in a while to show off when the thing is mentioned.

If it fails the test, just be honest.  Being analog is about actually enjoying the thing, not piling the thing up.  Am I going to interact with my Soviet Stamps every day?  No.  Am I preserving something that there will never be any more of, and getting a truly rewarding experience while doing so?  Yes.  Will I interact with my baseball cards every day?  No.  Am I enjoying them for more than five minutes after having opened them?  Not really…

This post was just to caution you about the rabbit hole of the analog things.  Now people write books about how to get rid of crap.  One of them I enjoyed just for the irony of it.  The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo is a book, in which there is a chapter about getting rid of your books.  This is where people got the notion of the whole “throw out things that bring you no joy,” I would caution against this extreme approach as I shove my treadmill, sister, and anything that resembles non-hobby work out the door.  The second irony is that they sell this book in the container store, and in the book she says that organizing is not tidying, it is just putting the crap somewhere else, somewhat neater.

This is the balance the tagline at Analog Savage speaks of, appreicate the printing press without buying one. To collect stamps you will need stamps, but start with a theme.  If you are going to explore the analog, be picky, be thorough, exercise discretion and judgement, and half fun without being buried under the weight of crap you do not actually care about.

Analog Savage

A new way to adventure.

I have written several entries detailing my extreme love of recording and reflection upon the events of my life and the lives of my family.  Now we are going to try something new.  Let us just dive right in.  The entire point of this is to show that life is an adventure, take notes along the way, and get the most out of it.

September 13 2015

Last night I read a quote from the Dalai Lama.  It was about making sure you remember to live.  Ill stick the picture in here that it came from.  People have asked me before why I do some of the things I do.  I normally answer that I am trying to make my obituary more interesting.  I attempt to live to the fullest, often to the point of exhaustion.

Life is, and has been an adventure.  I’ve always kept a journal, the problem is that I have been trying to keep too many since Liam came along.  One for me, one for him, etc.  Yea…that is not working.  I end up spending either no time recording, or I spend so much time trying to catch up that we lose time on actually doing things.

Now this family will have a single cohesive narrative.  Thanks to the fact that we will be putting it online you can follow along if you like.  I have a pretty good idea of how we are going to do it as well.  Now the fun part, doing it.  You are going to need some gear.  My Grandmother has always been a picture taker (a fact that despite griping we all appreciate later) and she apparently has been notorious for home video as well.  I will tell you all about the adventure of preserving her Super 8s one day.  I am a picture taker as well.  So much so with the nice digital cameras we have that I end up not doing anything with them either.

In one of my previous posts, I wrote about getting hungry again.  You can go read that if you want to know what it means.  This is where we are going.  I cannot allow the fact that Liam’s journal did not go well to make me stop.  It just means you condense, reset, and try again.

 That photo at the top? (if you are reading this you’ll need to look at the pictures posted along with this, it is typed out from the journal where the pictures actually are.)  That is Liam and Katie making dinner.  This will be common practice.  I bought a Fuji Instax for this project.  I know it seems retro and expensive, but it is one chance, no frills, no filters or corrections, pull it out and stick it in the book photography.  Something I feel I could stand to have when I have a computer with 60,000 photos in it doing nothing.

This family is going to record what we do.  Note the two photos on page two. We do things.  We read books and tell stories together.  Stories that actually involve falling down when Jack chops down the beanstalk.

It is time to go outside.  See the world.  Share with the world.  Along the way we might clean some junk out of our house, and un bury ourselves.  The world has turned into a strange place and we are going to see the beautiful places before the dark corners of the map are all colored in.

Brandon Bledsoe “Hrolf the Ganger”


I just wish I was a little hungry again…Part 2

The Ganger is back.  Even though he hasn’t done an extreme amount of walking a lot has been going on.  I will not do much hemming and hawing I will just get right down to it this time.  Strap in folks you may be in for a long ride.

When I started this blog my first entry was a bunch of nonsense that popped into my head one night when I took some…medication…to help with my eyes for a night.  That nonsense however had a point.  The entry was titled “I just wish I was a little hungry again.”  It was based on a quote from The Crow (the ganger is a movie person) and that quote and the blog entry speaks to satisfaction or a lack there of.  I was talking about always chasing that next addition to my collection or the next big thing.  It always leaves me a bit unsatisfied.  I spread my self so thin trying to do all of the things I think I want to do that I end up not having the time to do any of them, and then I chastise myself for not doing chores or playing with my son more (now on this account that it is a matter of perspective and that I do a great deal with my son) and I spend more time beating myself up than I do getting anything done.

There will be a lot of accusations here, and they will all be directed at myself (mostly), when I teach classes at church I follow this same format where I pick out a problem with myself, one of my own flaws or sins and I teach about that rather than accusing others.  Any resonance you find with your own life is on you and a chance to do better if you feel the need to do so.  There will also be a lot of fight club references.

     The things you own, end up owning you. -Tyler Durden

The main point here is stuff, possessions, materialism and what it does to our value system.  My main drug of choice is comic books.  I have had a longstanding love affair with comic book characters, and now that I am able I am collecting the ones I wanted back when, while reading new series.  All of the new series it seems.  I have long been grinding at myself for what I spend on these things and when I went to school even though I was making money from the G.I. Bill and using part of it to increase my collection, I did not have time to read them all, or any really.  What I did was pile them up until the semester was over.  At the end of the semester I found my interest diminished by the size of the pile, my wallet lighter, and a mess that I did not know what to do with, and yet the nature of mild addiction made it hard for me to cut back.  Now having a second child on the way helped to spur me into action on this one matter.  Had to start putting away more money, and making sure there was more in the account and that I freed up some of my time to focus on what is important.  It helped to reinforce all the little mantras I had come up with.  “your son can not eat comic books, he can’t wear comic books, he can’t sleep under comic books.”

    This got worse after I went to school.  I have been places that are in extreme poverty, I have seen children in Baghdad playing in garbage piles, being under fed, dying from sickness that we treat so easily.  Anthropology and World Regional Geography just gave me a number to quantify how absurdly I was living (and the word quantify.)  It taught me that the international standard for poverty is a person living on less that 2$ a day, thats the price of two comic books.  I can’t fix the worlds problems no matter how I try, but I think in some way this allowed me to convince myself that I could do as I pleased with me and mine.  My son is three and I’ve piled so much stuff, toys, on him that it borders on ridiculous and I did it, it is my fault, but I am working on it and fixing it.  There is a saying “the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago, the next best time is today.”  I can’t take back all the things I have bought, I can’t undo it, but I can make tomorrow a better day by getting back to a better standard of myself.

    Many of us do OCR, or obstacle course racing, which is in itself ironic.  We have become such an…advanced society that we have to seek out physical adventure.  For me I will again reference Iraq, I have a bug, a need to go out and do these things.  For others it is the need to for the very first time get off the friggin couch and live a little.  There are as many reasons for racing as there are racers themselves.  My race of choice is Spartan race.  Many of us call ourselves spartans and read the spartan code, and yet there is a part of it that we forget because they do not mention it.  The word Spartan has become a descriptive term.  I first read it in the book “Cain” a man was described as spartan because his home did not have a single thing that he did not need.  Thats what spartan has come to need.  In this sense I am not spartan at all.  I have a lot of stuff I and my family do not need.  I have so much stuff in here that I cannot pick it all up, so many teas I have to keep a book to know which ones I have tried, so many games that we have never played some of them, so many movies that I feel the need to make lists to remind myself to watch them. We are pushing the weight limits for our military moves.  If I would move some of this out I bet we could fit into a smaller house and save our selves some money (MA housing prices not included, you can pay a lot for very little up here.)  I describe myself as being Un-Fight Club because of this.

We work jobs we hate so we can buy things we don’t need to impress people we don’t like. -Tyler Durden

      Take note, Club is not the golden standard.  It is not the light or the way.  I try to be a better man and lead a Christian life without intruding on the rights of others.  I have my faults and I confide some of them to you.  Fight club is a BOOK and a MOVIE both of which can be first classified as fiction.  It has some nifty quotes, some of which violate its own principles.  It is a movie about getting back to basic life that we paid money to go and see, and later to own.  Having a DVD player to watch fight club is very un fight club.  It is not a realistic approach to life and I could talk about that all day.  However some of those quotes have a point.  Realistically we will never be full like our ancestors.  We do not live in their world.  I have a work out tool that simulates chopping wood and heavy melee weapons for heavens sake.  However when we do need to get realistic is when this materialism gets into our minds and poisons our value systems.  This is where I stray from my own story some.  Ill start with an opinion.  Our kids used to want to be people with talents and skills, who had made a contribution to society on some level.  They wanted to be Babe Ruth because he could hit a ball and his love of the game, now they want to make the money that athletes make.  They wanted to be singers because their music was beautiful and inspiring, now there are actually kids who want to be the Kardashians…the most untalented hacks to ever be on tv.  We now make tv about being on tv.  Heaven help us.  The most recent example I have is a story from a friend of mine.  She says that a new girl came in to work at her job.  She was not dressed for the job, she was in need of work and now that she had it she most likely would get the clothes to go with it when she could.  She should be getting support for being willing to work and face the job down in what she had.  Instead my friend was pulled aside by a coworker and the coworker mocked the girl for not being able to afford the clothes she would need on her first day of work.  My friend being the upstanding person they are went out and got the girl what she would need.  She did it on a budget, but the girl was very grateful, grateful in a way that should make a person like me hang my head with the excess I show sometimes.  The coworker did not stop, she thought that work had made the girl go change, and that this was funny.  The rest of them explained that my friend had helped her out.  This was not for my friends credit, or to the girls shame, it was to shut this unstoppable moron up.  It worked.  Now I would ask that someone get ahold of her and try to help her pick this mess up if she can be helped.

     Now we work up to a solution.  I know to much stuff sounds like a good problem to have.  I am trying to become more grateful and to live it.  To be hungry again really means to be satisfied and content and live a life I deem to be worth living and to have true value.  One of my favorite pictures I have seen says “To love your children spend twice as much time with them and half as much money.”  I love that, and I am trying to live it.  I have been taking my three year old geocaching.  Today he told his mother about it and that means something.  I have not spent a dime on it ( helps that I already had a car and smart phone), and I am not putting down all spending (see my fenway article) but that was huge that a three year old points out that I took him to the woods rather than let him watch more tv.

     Now for a workable solution.  First we implemented a budget with the envelope system.  I think it important to note that I have not created debt doing any of this, that thankfully is not one of my problems, but a budget never hurts and creating a tangible limit like the envelope system is not a bad idea.  Next comes the purge.  I got out a note pad and I numbered 1-30.  Those thirty slots were possessions I was immediately able to declare safe from the purge.  Most things were not off limits.  Tooth brush, most of my clothes, etc were off limits.  I say most because even though I consider my taste in foot wear simple its possible to pile them up.  However after that I filled those 30 slots.  I left room to state why I wanted to keep those things if need be.  IF you want to read the list you can, if not skip it and go on reading.

  1. Bible-Specifically the one my wife gave me.
  2. My nice watch.
  3. Black GR1.
  4. My pipe my son gave me.
  5. Ka-Bar-Wife gave me.
  6. My Camera
  7. Journal
  8. Skallywag Dagger
  9. Tomahawk-wife gave me
  10. Hob nail tea set
  11. mjolnir pendant
  12. large one of same above
  13. drinking horns
  14. blowing horn
  15. lock wife gave me from afghanistan
  16. pocket watch-wife gave for last anniversary
  17. record player
  18. records
  19. tournament chess set-Mother gave me for birthday
  20. nine mens morris board
  21. pocket knife
  22. red sox foam fingers-took son to game
  23. Bruins foam fingers-same reason
  24. black Louisville slugger
  25. 35 lbs kettle bell
  26. 53 lbs kettle bell
  27. military watch
  28. wedding ring
  29. Ka-Bar-OIF model my uncle bought me
  30. Bone dice cup

There you have it.  Those are the 30 no questions asked.  Now it gets interesting.  Now everyday I pick something I want to keep and I right it down, and then however I have to pay for it by getting rid of something.  I can sell it on eBay, give it away, yard sale, whatever have you, but it has to leave.  I have the will to make this work so that I will not bring in replacements.  Like I said I won’t get the money back for a lot of these mistakes, but I can fight to not repeat them.  This system forces me to decide what is important, to de clutter my life, and spend more time living.  I can’t say that it will work for you, or that you will need it, but it is helping me.  They are things, and they will not own me.  Another friend of mine once said “Shut up Bledsoe is about to tell a story, and they are always good ones.”  I want to make sure that I am always out doing the things that make those good stories not sitting in my piles of crap still being hungry because I have to much.  It is time to get hungry, time to get grateful, and get busy living.

Hrolf The Ganger

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