Category Archives: Opinion

Protect Your Local Music Venue

I was inspired by this poster posted in Melbourne, addressing a common problem in the world of live music. This was a problem faced by many venues when I lived in Belilngham, and is most certainly faced by other venues all over the world.

Exciting art and music are part of what makes a town attractive to newcomers, but it comes with an alarming trend. New folks show up to the cool town, move in, buy property, and then complain about the music level. It’s complete BS. I don’t like the smell of manure, so I’ve chosen not to live by a dairy farm.

So, with thanks and apologies to the creator of the poster above, I’ve made/plagiarized my own version of the poster. It can be downloaded as a .PDF here, and you should do with it what you will.


On the Virtue and Weirdness of American Science and Surplus

Trust Jarvis, he knows what he's doing.

Trust Jarvis, he knows what he’s doing.

When I think of the brands and businesses that I have been a patron of for life, I come up with a short list. Actually, it probably doesn’t count as a list if it’s got only one item, right? As you’ve already surmised from the title of this post, it’s American Science and Surplus that I’m thinking of, and I just realized that this whole paragraph is pretty redundant.

I was probably four or five years old when I first learned of this company. My dad used to get me goofy knick-knacks, toys, and—most particularly—fun, educational toy-like stuff with a scientific bent from AS&S. And when my 36th birthday comes up in July, he probably will do it again.

Check in to their website often, as they offer an ever-changing world of stuff that covers everything from weird-ass white-elephant “Who the hell would want this?” type-stuff to some really practical and inexpensive things, and robot partz and medical training supplies and fiber optics. They also boast a significant inventory of military surplus, and as the name implies, beakers and Erlenmeyer flasks aplenty.

I re-discovered American Science and Surplus in the last couple years, and have dropped a couple hundred bucks on their wacky stuff over ever since, including but not limited to the following:

This all begs the question, “what the hell does Ryan do in the basement at three in the morning when he can’t sleep?” And the answer is none of your god damm business is what I do in the basement when I can’t sleep, but it must be pretty rad.

These suitably quirky pen-and-ink illustrations of their product are exactly the same as I remember them from 1984, and have been done by the same illustrator, Alan Moss, since who knows when. At least since I was a wee lad.

And speaking of who knows when, these guys have been offering weird, wonderful stuff since 1937, and the postwar boom of military surplus did a lot to launch the company into the medium-time. I could go on and on, but I’m getting tired, and copy/paste is easy. From their website:

American Science & Surplus continues to offer a unique mix of industrial, military and educational items, with an emphasis on science and education. We supply a wide range of unusual and hard to find items (some say bizarre stuff) to the hobbiest, tinkerer, artist, experimenter, home educator, do-it-yourselfer, and bargain hunter.

Customers have used American Science and Surplus items in home made cars, sculptures, precision instruments, home made telescopes,costumes, model railroads, window dressings, holiday decorations, and innumerable science projects. Our items are great gifts, inexpensive supplies, and an endless reason for a giggle or a “Gee whiz!” We try to be scrupulously honest in presenting whatever we know about what we have, and always take it back, no questions asked, if the customer isn’t satisfied with it.

That last line—emphasis added—is completely true, by the way, and was the impetus for this post. The laser pointer I ordered had a broken switch upon opening, but, as a busy guy, I didn’t power it up to test it until I had owned it for over a month. While their return policy states that they will accept returns up to 30 days after purchase, I hit them up for a return anyway. And here’s the exchange:

So, CJ pretty much rules.

So, CJ pretty much rules.

My request for a return was not addressed, as they instead decided to just ship me a new pointer no questions asked, and didn’t even suggest returning the old one. Furthermore, they shipped it quickly, and the packing slip included this:

CJ, still rulin'

CJ, still rulin’

They actually tested the damn thing before sending it. And shipped it FAST. And sure enough, the second one totally works great, and I can put my green laser dot on a treetop a couple miles from my back porch with it—until I chicken out and go inside before I get arrested.

Also, I once forgot to add something to my online shopping cart, so I had to place a second order. And unlike Amazon, I was able to combine the two orders into one so I didn’t have to pay to ship two separate packages.

So, while people often put Zappos at the top of the world of customer service, I’d like to cast a vote for American Science and Surplus as a contender to that throne, because there’s something to be said for having offered customer service of this level since nineteen god damn thirty seven.

Not that I was around then. But clearly these guys are doing a lot of things right.
Strongly recommended.

Follow American Science and Surplus:

Metacomplaining: Why Complaining About Hollywood Remakes is Pointless Garbage.

Saw it in the theatre.

…or “The Irony’s not Between the Cushions of the La-Z-Boy.”

Sound the klaxon; one of my least-favorite pop-culture refrains follows. It comes in a few different varieties, and often in an inconvenient combo-pack. Generally speaking it warbles into “conversation” during the 0:20 mark of a trailer of some movie that’s getting re-made.

So, imagine: You can’t figure out how to skip the previews during the groan-inducing opening ceremonies of a DVD or Blu-Ray, and a trailer for a remake pops up. Someone in the room will mention The Remake Issue.

Or, in the unlikely occasion that you left the house, you may have heard any one of the following mumbled from a darkened voice in a hushed theater:

“Man, Hollywood is really out of ideas.”
“They’re remaking THAT? The original wasn’t even good to begin with.”
“That’s a movie that just didn’t need to be re-made.”
“Oh, great. Hollywood’s going to butcher another classic.” 

Sound familiar? Chances are if you’ve ever been in front of a screen and seen it advertise something going on at a different screen, you’ve heard riffs on the above. But have you ever considered what a garbage attitude it is? Let’s dissect.

1. “Man, Hollywood is really out of ideas.”
As a writer, the efficiency of the English language astounds me. See here how a sentence with eight words can have a sprocketillion things wrong with it?
First of all, “Hollywood,” in the cinematic, non-geographic sense, isn’t even tangible, let alone something that can be held accountable for alleged artistic butchery. The term is a loose title tag used to describe rival movie studios that don’t have all that much to do with each other, really.

As such, “Hollywood” is incapable of being out of ideas. Writers can be out of ideas. Inventors can be out of ideas. Hollywoods can’t. Hollywood’s contributors are competitors, not a collective—and even if Hollywood was some kind of hivemind, how can you hold the whole thing accountable? You can’t.

Furthermore, Hollywood movies exist to make money. As such, it behooves their business model to bank on successful formulas—which explains a lot when you look at how many remakes are re-toolings of 70’s horror films, themselves an inexpensive genre with broad profit margins. Check it out, it’s more common than you might think—and barring fictional slasher victims, it’s not hurting anybody.


Lots, and this is not a problem.

2. “They’re remaking THAT? The original wasn’t even good to begin with.”

Well, then… Right.

If the original wasn’t very good to begin with, than this is an opportunity to make a better version of the movie, or in the event of an adaptation, a better movie that is closer to the original content creator’s artistic vision. So let them go for it! Geezus, be supportive. From the comfort of your couch, even.

3. “That’s a movie that just didn’t need to be re-made.”

This one is usually burbled between a paw full of popcorn from the left hand and a chug of lite beer from the right. OK, Jimbo, let’s talk about need.

Chances are the first movie didn’t need to get made any more than any other movie did. Other movies could have been made instead. Or everyone could have just quit the movie and gone home. Whatever, the world keeps turning.

So, let’s not lose perspective here: children need to be fed. The thirsty need water. Homeowners need jobs. But movies? Need? Really?

This all begs the question “What constitutes artistic need in film?” And guess what, if there’s ever an international consortium brought together to settle the matter once and for all, I somehow doubt Jimbo and his Bud Light will be invited.

4. “Oh, great. Hollywood’s going to butcher another classic.”

I’ll get this out of the way quick: 0:20 of trailer content advertising a film is not enough to form an opinion with which to alledge “butchery.”

Most importantly, remakes do not “butcher” the original piece. Throughout the re-make’s entire life cycle: writing, production, theatrical release, Blu-ray, digital download, and after-hours cable, the original remains still very much intact. It can still be viewed, and often should be.

Furthermore, these remakes, if forgettable in the long haul, oft serve as a path for filmgoers to seek out and view the original. Depending on who owns the film’s rights, renewed interest in the orginal piece can result in significant increases in royalty payments to the original content creators. This is a good thing.

SO money.

Next: remakes don’t tend to endure in the popular conscious. Remember 1998’s “Psycho” re-make? If your answer is along the lines of “Oh, kinda, but I guess I’d forgotten,” well, than your brain just proved my point. Today, when people talk about Psycho, it’s consistently assumed that the conversation is regarding the 1960 Hitchcock version.

Google backs me up on this. Yeah, yeah, I know Google search results are unique to the surfer these days, but I bet this will hold up for anyone else. Check out the image below: I zoomed WAAAAAAY out in Chrome and performed a Google image search for “Psycho.” Here are around 180+ images associated with “Psycho,” as returned by Google.

And where is Vince Vaughn? Nowhere. Click the below to enlarge.

Click to enlarge and still not find Vince Vaughn.

So: You’re supposed to be quiet in the theatre anyhow, so quit whining. Even if remakes can-and-often-are bad films, they are not bad for film. Next time you see a trailer for a remake and it irks your bum, find solace in the following.

Highlight the text to read the SPOILER ALERT: YOU DON’T HAVE TO WATCH IT