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 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Digital Win: Audible

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cons or things that can be better

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

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

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

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

Brandon Bledsoe

Analog Savage

We did it we went camping part 1.

 Very This entry is a little backdated, but thats the way it goes sometimes.

10/9/2015-10/11/2015

We did it.  We bit the bullet and went camping.  We made the decision last minute on Wednesday.  We had talked about it back and forth some, and due to Columbus day being the last real weekend before the campsites close down, we went ahead and booked a campsite.  Nature of the adventure beast right?  Just jump in.  We had pretty much all the gear we needed anyhow.  We pull it all out while still working and trying to get through homework and wrangle a three year old.  We did need to buy a new tent and such, the one I have barely holds me and my gear.  We made this attempt all while seeing if we could keep from turning the house inside out (fail).  I managed to chug through enough homework so that I could go without having one of those panic attacks at how much work I was ignoring and ruining everyones trip.  We prepared on Thursday, and Katie dropped Liam and I off at school on Friday.  She went to buy the food and a cooler and put all of the stuff into the car.  She picked us up as soon as school was out and we were on our way to the cape.  Being that it was Columbus day weekend and we were driving to Cape Cod, the traffic was fairly thick, but we made it just fine.  When we arrived we followed the rules and set out tent up before we did anything else.  If you have your notebook handy go ahead and take this down.  Rule #2 shelter first.  It is a part of the trinity of shelter fire food.

 Once the house was set up we went to the camp store to obtain firewood, built a fire and busted out the camp chairs.  Liam showed us that there is an infallible rule involving kids and camp fires.  Children will find a stick, shove it in the fire, pull it out, blow the small flame on the end out, and repeat this process to madness.  It is such a simple form of entertainment, and it is just a natural part of being a child.  Their curiosity is wonderful.  I remember doing this as a child.  Anyhow it seemed to me it was time to do what I had been looking forward to all along, to bust out my pipe and sit in a camp chair by the fire while watching my boy play with a stick.  We built the fire together with a flint and steel and a little homemade tinder just to make sure that he starts seeing how it is done early.  I was enjoying our little scene with my pipe, reflecting on how I was now in the chair that I remember my Grandfather and Uncle being in previously, maker of fire, all great knowing camping sage…

 That is about the time the rain started.  A few drops managed to hit before the weather alert came through.  Cape Cod suddenly went from cool and clear to holy wow thunderstorms.  So rather than a long night of sipping teamed smoking a pipe and cooking marshmallows over a fire, the first of our nights camping will be spent inside the tent, playing cards (war) and listening to Johnny Cash on my phone.  We will count this as being unplugged because we are not using it to sit around and check Facebook, it was just a radio and lots of people take radios camping.  For us this is just part of the experience!  It was great really, minus the fact that the storms were fairly strong.  Also part of the experience is the little mistakes you make along the way that become part of the ritual every time you do this.  This camping trips (first) mistake was that apparently we had stolen some of the batteries from the lantern to put in the army flashlight when Katie needed it, and we did not bring this flashlight with us.  From this point on during the trip all night time activities will be conducted by headlamps.  So now part of our camping ritual will be overpacking every four of battery and socks for the kids because Mistake #2 was an awful parent moment, apparently Liam’s only socks were the ones he was wearing.  Not to fear we brought absolutely everything else he needed and if you pull them up the right way he can wear his mother’s socks…

  
 Liam however did enjoy the concept of getting to pee in the woods.  I mean yes there was a clean facility across the street, but he is three and should get to pee in the woods.  Anyhow we brought the cards for a reason so we decided to bask in the experience of being rained in for the night.  We brought them for the same reason that we brought notebooks, and a book each, and a set of liars dice.  These are the methods that allow people to enjoy each others company and not resort to Facebook when un entertained company becomes just too much.  That is why we are here, we want to unplug for a bit.  To get away from the petty concerns of the day to day and live a little.  Andrew, one of my classmates how I planned to balance this with the massive homework load I would be ignoring for two days.  I told him, and Liam I do hope this holds true, that my son would never remember my GPA, but he would remember camping.  He would also remember if I was always telling him that I am too busy.

  
  
This is what Katie and I are trying to keep in mind, our son is young only once and the clock is rapidly ticking.  We were given stark reminders of the shortness of life this past week.  First the veterans community…and humanity really, lost one of our titans.  Justin Fitch’s battle with cancer is over.  On Sunday October 4th we woke up to find out that the lie we had been telling ourselves, that he would always be there, was not true.  If you have ever been to a team minuteman event up until recently, then you know who I am talking about.  The first time I got to step off with these fine people, Justin Fitch took me into his family, and at the end of it all he had a drink from the horn, despite being on chemo therapy.  “This could kill me you know” he said lowering the horn with beer foam on his face.  After an appropriate freak out from me he explained that it may be the only drink he ever has with me.  It was if you are wondering.  Secondly I basically found our next door neighbor dead.  His back door had been ajar for three days and after leaving him a note about it, it became apparent that he had not been leaving.  Police were called, Alex was dead.  Sixty seven is not young, but it is to young to die in a hoarded up apartment filled with garbage and cat crap, in your sleep.  So todays final words (before part two) are this, remember that you will die.


Hrolf The Ganger.

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