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  • Michael Krakovskiy 9:37 am on May 20, 2005 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: airline flatware, , Collecting, , , Fishs Eddy, , Heroes of the Torah, Keeping the Faith, NBC, priest and a rabbi, , ,   

    I Don’t Know if this Qualifies as a Mitzvah 

    I am a big fan of a NBC’s failed TV show “The Restaurant“. If you remember, in the promotional clip Rocco says that 90% of restaurants fail in the first year. The author of this article claims that “the ridiculous myth about excessive restaurant failure rates is once again perpetuated and moves from industry scuttlebutt to everyday knowledge.” I don’t know the numbers seem about right to me – Rocco’s is out of business, right? I am just glad that I actually managed to go there once, eat lukewarm Italian food and have my picture taken with Rocco’s Mama.

    So, what happens with all the cups, plates and flatware from all the failed restaurants? Well, partially it’s bought by resellers, such as a wonderful little store located right at the beginning of Silicon Alley in Manhattan. It’s called Fishs Eddy and it sells a wide array of used commercial plates and flatware. For instance, have you ever wanted to steal a nice fork from an airplane? Well, Fishs Eddy sells airline flatware.

    They also sell some one of a kind items that seem to be specifically manufactured as novelties. Take these “Heroes of the Torah” tumblers:

    They seem to be made as a follow-up to a movie called Keeping the Faith, a story about a priest and a rabbi who traded “Heroes of the Torah” trading cards when they were children.

    There are of course no “Hero of the Torah” trading cards. That’s right, in real world they are called “Torah Personalities” cards. These were made in the late eighties-early nineties, and might still be manufactured. I dug up an image on eBay:

    There’s also a version called “Torah Link” that is available from torahtots.com.

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 12:11 pm on November 25, 2004 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , British Guiana, Collecting, , diet food, du Pont, exotic sugar products, , high-tech brown sugar, island of Mauritius, isle of Mauritius, Joseph Osmond Barnard, Mauritius, Natural brown sugar, Olympic wrestler, , Post Office, , , , , , stamp dealer, Sugar, Sugarcane, Sweeteners, , Vernon Vaughan   

    Of Sugar and Stamps 

    Sugar producers must be reeling from the effects of low carbohydrate diets: how else you’d explained this shining example of sugar marketing that I found recently in my hotel room?

    That’s right – only 15 calories per serving! It’s a diet food!

    I found another example of sugar marketing innovation in a grocery store where I shop – Dominos Sugar seems to have a wide variety of exotic sugar products, like Organic Sugar, Brownulated® Sugar (a perfectly cromulent word for high-tech brown sugar) and these ultracool sugar stick packets that upon closer examination turned out to be even more exotic:

    “Available in two varieties: pure cane granulated and Demerara – a golden brown crunchy sugar grown and harvested on the island of Mauritius, off the African Coast.”

    Ahhh, that set off a whole bunch of childhood memories for me. First of all, growing up in the Soviet Union where most sugar was made out of beets, upon reading about cane sugar in Mayne Reid’s books I thought it to be something super exotic, like the books themselves. Because of that I always associated it with America and adventure, and found the common explanation that cane sugar tasted exactly like beet sugar, except a bit less sweet, (which is indeed the cast) inadequate.

    Mayne Reid, by the way is one of that breed of writers that are extremely obscure in America, but famous in the former USSR. There Reid was considered to be on par with Jack London, just like Robert Sheckley enjoys popularity equal to that of Ray Bradbury. I mean, come on, Sheckly basically invented the concept of reality television, but this seems like a topic for a whole different post.

    Back to our exotic sugar. “Grown and harvested on the island of Mauritius”, huh? Generally horribly ignorant of geography I immediately recognized the isle of Mauritius as the location that produced two of the most famous rare stamps known as “Post Office Mauritius” stamps.

    The highly romantisized story goes something like this: the governor of the tiny British colony wanted to issue some of those newly invented “postal stamp” thingies and ordered a batch from local engraver Joseph Osmond Barnard. The engraver allegedly forgot what copy needed to go on the left side of the stamp and went looking for the postmaster. When he was approaching the post office, he suddenly remembered – “Post Office”, went back and put that on the stamp. The postmaster was massively pissed off – it should have said “Postage Paid”. Most of the stamps from the “error” batch went onto the governor’s wife’s fancy dinner invitations.

    There is a lot of controversy (read further down) weather “Post Office” was actually a mistake, but mistake or not, the story captured collectors’ imaginations and the invitation envelopes sell in multimillion dollar range today.

    The postmaster of nearby Mauritius used handstamps to “cancel” postage, but back in those days stamps were sometimes “cancelled” by hand, with a strike of a pen or sometimes with a signature. For instance, the postmaster of nearby colony of British Guiana placed his autograph on every single stamp along with a stamped “cancel”.

    His autograph on the famous “Penny Magenta” was sold for just under 1 million dollars in the nineties. What makes the story more interesting is that the original owner, Vernon Vaughan, 12, of Demerara (aha!), British Guiana sold the ugly, dirty stamp that had its corners clipped by somebody probably out of boredom, for an equivalent of a couple of bucks to a stamp dealer.

    I remember reading about the last sale in the philatelist magazine and wondering who the anonymous buyer was. Only now I learned that it was the crazy du Pont heir that was convicted of killing an Olympic wrestler.

    In this age of book superstores and computer processed mail, recently I was pleasantly surprised to see a real pen “cancel” on an USPS parcel containing shipment of books from a small bookshop. Maybe there is no automatic sorting machine at that remote little town and the postmaster could not locate a handstamp :)

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 12:59 pm on July 16, 2003 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: advertising options, Baseball card, blow-in technology, Collecting, , , Fandom, , Insert, machine operator, , , Procurement, Trading cards   

    Psyops, The Non-Virtual Popunder and Stuff 

    You know those little subscription cards that fall out of magazines? They annoy the hell out of everybody. And apparently that’s why they are one of the most expensive and efficient advertising options in the print world. Same as a pop under ads online. You see, the reason they are put in magazines you already have a subscription for is the fact that they are very likely to fall out on a train, in a doctor’s waiting room, at the office or wherever good times are had. Kind of like psyop planes dropping leaflets on the enemy positions.

    But here’s the interesting part. The damned cards have a name. They are called “blow-in cards”. They are named so because apparently they are placed into magazines by puffs of compressed air. They have even more annoying comrades – the bind-in cards that are as it’s clear from the name bound together with magazine pages. The thicker bind-in cards are kind of like permanent bookmarks making it hard to find any pages with actual information on them. I often go through a magazine ripping those out before reading.

    Another interesting thing about blow-in technology is the way they make the card stay in place during the binding process. Most blow-in machines (how’s that for a profession – blow-in machine operator?) use static tacking. A special device creates a charge on the card and on the page so that they’ll stick. O’reilly books have this special binding that doesn’t work too well with regular blow-in machines, so people were complaining about blow-in cards that unintentionally became bind-ins. An interesting engineering solution followed:

    With the old system, the cards were hit with a static charge to keep them in place as the cards moved through the binding machine. Sometimes, the card would lose the charge before getting all the way though. This new machine uses a miniscule bit of glycerin that holds the card in place longer and then fully disappears.

    By the way, I have a whole collection of those O’reilly blow-in cards on the wall of my cubicle because they have those cool colophons with animals on them. I think Wrox books should have used baseball cards of developers for that purpose. With hilarious stats. That’s not a bad idea actually. Maybe they would have been better off if they had my marketing genius on their side. Still, with the money they saved on photographer’s services I am surprised that they went belly up.

    In Linebarger’s “Psychological Warfare” I’ve read about sets of leaflets used by the Allies during WWII that had numbers on them. German kids collected those as stamps because of that (any collector will understand a desire to have the complete series). Those leaflets turned out to be extremely efficient because many adult Germans with collector kids had a full set in their house where they could safely study them.

    This real world pop under kind of reminded me of banners that are being referred to as “Godzilla”, “gonzo” and “skyscraper” banners and popups. Some even have flash movies with this technology.

     
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