Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Weird Ad Wednesday...

...because alliteration is my friend.

With niche magazines comes niche advertising.  Most of the ads in Classic Tractor are normal enough.  A little tractor orientated, but that's hardly surprising.  I now know where to go for my topper and slurry pump gearboxes, my tractor paint, my luxury tractor suspension seats and my tractor dismantling.  Most of the ads are pretty straight forward - they display the product, and they tell you where to get it.

One ad though went the extra mile.  The message itself is clear - use only Massey Ferguson genuine parts in your Massey Ferguson genuine tractor, or you'll void your new tractor warranty - uh, maybe the last bit only applies to cars.  But you get the idea.  How though, to get this message to stand out?  How to attract the attention of the weary farmer, in from a long day tractoring his (or her) fields?  Well, kids are always cute.  Everyone loves kids.  And go-carts. And sombreros!  Who doesn't love a sombrero?  When could the combination of a kid, a go-cart and a sombrero ever be wrong?

When the kid doesn't know the difference between a sombrero and a wheel, that's when.

Maybe I'm being too harsh.   Maybe this is one of those pinewood derby type things, where the kid is meant to do the work but really his parents have done it all for him.  Maybe the pointing and tongue out combination is really saying "Hey, Dad - that's not a wheel.  Dad?  Dad?  Stop breathing in the tractor paint, Dad...".   Yeah, I think Dad needs to spend less time out in the field and more time on basic object recognition skills.

This ad also makes me want to see the sequel.  I mean, we're told that he'll regret it - but where's the proof?  I want the  shots of the go-cart hurtling down a hill on three wheels, the multi-coloured sombrero drifting down in the breeze after it.  I want commitment to my weird ads, gosh darn it!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Making hay while the sun shines

I was going to do an indepth expose on the use of grub screws in tractors, but as I studied Classic Tractor something else caught my eye.

When I was a little kid, I was fascinated by miniature stuff.  Dolls-house furniture, dolls clothes, lilliputian books.  My favourite was a set of miniature groceries that my cousin had - teeny boxes of cereal, little plastic loaves of bread, itty-bitty tins of spam.  I coveted the tiny groceries fiercely, and would insist on playing with them every time I visited.

Just imagine then, my longing, had I known that as well as stocking and restocking the (miniature) shelves of my imaginary (miniature) supermarket, I could have been making imaginary (miniature) hay as well!*

Above are, and I quote, the toys that "heralded a new era in Britains' miniature hay-making operations".  We're not just dealing with a few pieces of plastic and metal - it's a national operation.  Miniature hay making is serious business.  (Actually, the name of manufacturer is Britains.  Hence the apostrophe placement in the quote.  I prefer to ignore this fact, and imagine the entire British Isles in the 1960s dedicating itself to miniature hay making.)

Now, the astute reader will realise that the bales (yes, the miniature hay makers came with their own miniature hay bales.  My 6 year old self is green with envy.) in the Bamfords BL58 haymaker (2 & 2A above) are transported through the model by way of a driven rubber band.  Clearly Britains were a bit behind the eight ball on this one, but luckily they released a new teeny hay maker in 1978 with a new system.

Introducing the New Holland 376!  I am reliably informed by Classic Tractor that in this model "two driven plastic reciprocating strips in the bale chamber 'walked' the bales out of the baler as it was being pulled along the floor."

But even the New Holland had its design flaws (hard to believe, I know): "Although the sledge didn't arrange the bales into a flat-eight formation, like the real machines, Britains did provide a front-loader with a flat-eight grab attachment to move them.  There was a still an element of manual handling before the grab attachment could pick up the bales..."  

Dreadful, isn't it, when you need to manually handle your little plastic bales of hay before the grab attachment can pick them up?

*The real trick is finding the miniature horses to eat all your miniature hay.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Magazine Monday - It's Classic Tractor!

The first magazine to kick us off – Classic Tractor.

I don’t know much about tractors.  I live in Australia, which has quite a few farms.  I live in Canberra, which is basically a country town, so near quite a few farms.  I regularly see tractors in the nearby farms.  More than this, we go out to the Murrambateman field day every year, which is like the Royal Show  (State Fair, for the international visitors) crossed with a tractor meet.  Unsuprisingly, there are tractors there.  Big, shiny tractors.  We walk around them, marvel at the size (and the shininess) and then walk off to join the queue for the cold drinks/hot food/portaloo, (the queue for the drinks or food depends on the temperature.  There’s always a queue for the portaloos) having learnt nothing more about tractors.

So, equipped with my magazine, which I chose primarily because of the pretty red tractors in the pretty flower field, I figured I should do some preliminary research.  Google it!

Tractors has about 25,800 000 hits, while Classic Tractor has only 727 000.  Clearly, we’re dealing with a sub-genre here.  In a google fight it loses miserably to classic cars, classic movies  and classic music.  I’m starting to feel bad for poor old Classic Tractor.   To give it a better chance, I decide to pit the agricultural wonder of industrial revolution against its forebears.    Yes!  Against the classic plow, the classic plow horse and even the classic oxen the classic tractor finally comes into its own.  (Though the classic oxen did put up a good fight.)

Reading through Classic Tractor, it's clear I have a bit of learning to do.  I've worked out that MF stands for Massey Ferguson, but why this brand is so dominant I don't know.  The magazine is part mechanics (grub screws are mentioned quite a bit), part aesthetics (a kitchen spray bottle and washing up liquid can make all the difference in applying decals to your tractor) and part collectors paradise.  I need more coffee to get my head around what a grub screw actually does, but I have learnt something from the magazine already.

Tractors - even Classic Tractors - are expensive.

This is a used, refurbished tractor.  It was made in 1968, purchased for around 1300 pounds, and driven for thousands of hours.  When it stopped working in 2003, it was stripped down, repaired and refurbished.  Then in May of this year, it sold again for 11, 800 pounds.  That's over $21 700 in Australian money ($18 800 USD) - more than our car!  For a tractor that's over 40 years old, has been used full time on a farm, and has already stopped working once.  Guess Tony won't be getting a vintage tractor for Christmas after all. 

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Just who reads these things anyway?

Ever stood in a newsagency and looked at all the magazines?  I mean, really looked?  There are magazines for everything, and everyone.  Of course there's the general categories:  the gossip mags (Braneglina are together! No, apart! No, together, with a new baby!  No, apart but with two new babies!), women's interest (how to be thin, how to be happy with your body shape, how to be thin and happy with your body shape, how to get/keep/lose a man), men's interest (breasts, apparently) and the more specialised categories - knitting, cars, scrapbooking, boats, fashion, computers, kids, cooking, gardening and so on.

Even within these categories there is an astonishing range and variety.  And then outside of these categories - the weird, the wonderful, the truly niche magazines.

As you may have gathered, I have stood in a newsagency and looked at the magazines.  In fact, I spend quite a bit of time in my local newsagency.  Why?  Because I like magazines.  I always have done.  When I was at high school, I had the best collection of teen magazines around - all kept of course, and filed under date so I'd always know what the summer beauty special of 1997 recommended for perfect beach hair.  As an adult my Gourmet Traveller collection is a thing of beauty, and while I've graduated from the teen bibles, I am on a very familiar acquaintance with several of the mainstream women's and gossip titles.

I also subscribe to, and buy knitting magazines.  Many knitting magazines.  I view them as an investment (my husband may disagree) and I fall upon each new copy with glee, eager to get lost in the patterns, new techniques, history of knitting and new ideas.  For me, the magazines are valuable.  But it occurred to me the other day as I prevaricated between The Knitter and Filati Handknitting (VK and Interweave Knits are on the subscription list), that for someone who wasn't a knitter, my interest in reading very specific information about a very specific subject on a monthly basis may be slightly odd.  As odd as I find the regular reading of magazines about scale model gliders, perhaps.

Now, clearly my magazine habits aren't odd, or obsessive  (go with me here).  Instead, I realised, perhaps I had to rethink my unconscious bias to all those other tomes of information out there.  No longer could I sidle past Chicken Farmer Monthly with a smirk, or raise my eyebrows at Bored Housewives - Unbared!*.    It was time for me to expand my horizons!  To welcome these other magazines into my life and see what I could learn!

Over the next 52 weeks, I will be featuring a new magazine weekly.  I'll explore across the genres, reading my way through every interest, share my finds with you, and hopefully learn something along the way.  So the answer to my initial question - just who reads these things, anyway? - is, I guess me.  I do.  One a week, for a year.

*Ok, I made these titles up. But just wait till you see the titles I don't make up!