Monday Morning Movie Review: The Stuff (1985)

Shudder continues to deliver up the bizarre and unusual, proving it’s well worth the price of admission for the streaming service.  This last week saw the service bring the 1985 film The Stuff to the service.

It’s an unusual horror flick that combines elements of consumer protection advocacy, mass media advertising, consumerism, ruthless business tactics, and addiction into a blob of creamy terror.

Indeed, the film is something like The Blob (1958) and Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) rolled into one:  a greedy corporation knowingly sells a dangerous product, which turns out to be a goopy white organism that entire consumes the very people consuming it.

So, essentially, the entire flick is a metaphor for consumerism and corporate greed run amok.

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SubscribeStar Saturday Post “The TJC Spring Jam” is Posted!

Dear Readers,

I have been writing like the wind today.  I have finally caught up on all SubscribeStar content from the past couple of weekends.

You can now read “The TJC Spring Jam” if you’re a $1 a month or higher subscriber.

It’s a detailed rundown of the concert, including the major tunes played, the in-depth financials, and the organization of the concert.  Learn from my mistakes and successes!

Also, Sunday Doodles LXXXII is up, too!

Thanks again to subscribers and regular readers for your patience.  It’s been a wonderfully quiet day at home—literally, I’ve only gone outside to check the mail and to cut some oregano from my garden—so I’ve gotten a ton of writing done today.

It’s good to restore order to the blog!

Happy Reading!

—TPP

SubscribeStar Saturday: Small-Scale Entrepreneurism

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.  For a full rundown of everything your subscription gets, click here.

Last night was my first ever Spring Jam, and my second ever front porch concert.  The first such concert, my Halloween Spooktacular, was far more successful than I imagined.  At the time of this writing—which is actually before the concert (gasp!)—I don’t know how well the Spring Jam will go financially, but I’ll have detailed numbers, as well as an overall review of the event, next Saturday.

That said, in putting together this second front porch concert, I’ve run into a few more hiccups than last time.  Most of these have been relatively minor—and one of them quite major—but they’ve taught me some lessons for next time.

Most importantly, they’ve driven home the risks and opportunities inherent in putting on any endeavor.  Impresarios past and present know well the risks of producing any kind of stage or musical production.  Even at the very small scale at which I am working, some risks are present.

To that end, allow me to share with you some of the learning opportunities putting together this Spring Jam has afforded me, and how these lessons can be applied to future entrepreneurial ventures of any kind.

This post will be finished later; I was slammed with the Spring Jam and wasn’t able to finish the subscriber essay.  I’ll let y’all know when I have it done.  Apologies!  —TPP

To read the rest of this post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.

TBT: Cass on Our Diminished Income

The other day my students and I were talking about the Model T Ford, which in the 1920s ran around $6000 in today’s money for a new car.  It is impossible to find a brand-new vehicle of any make for $6000 today.  Granted, a Ford Focus, for example, is packed with way more technology and safety features than a Model T from 100 years ago, and that technological advancement gets factored into the price.

But consider that in the 1990s, when Kia hit the American market, they advertised a new sedan for around $6999 (in 1990s’ dollars).  What would that be twenty-five years late—maybe $9000 or $10,000?  That price point, too, is virtually impossible.

I managed to purchase my current vehicle—a 2017 Nissan Versa Note SV—for right around $9100.  It has around 45,000 miles on it when I bought it, and had been a rental vehicle before I purchased it.  I got a steal on that car—the closest comparable I’ve found since then was a list price of around $8900 (the list for my car was $8000 even).  That’s for a four-year old subcompact hatchback.

I got lucky when I found that car.  I figured it would be easy enough to find a decent car for under $10,000 when I began vehicle shopping in late 2019.  Boy, was I wrong.  Vehicles last longer than ever before, and maintain their value a very long time.  They’re also, as mentioned, packed full of technology and safety features that weren’t present even twenty years ago.  Trucks in particular hold their value extremely well; to find a truck in my price range, I’d have had to purchase a Ford F-150 from 1994 with half-a-million miles on it.

It’s great that cars last longer and are safer.  But those features—many of which drivers will never need or use—drive up the costs substantially.  Such was the point of an illuminating Twitter thread by Oren Cass, which demonstrates that, despite earning more money, Americans’ expenses for basic goods are substantially higher, requiring a whopping fifty-three weeks of pay to cover now versus a mere thirty weeks in 1985.  Naturally, given that there are only fifty-two weeks in a year, that presents a problem.

I don’t know the solution, but as I wrote a year ago, “Something’s gotta give.”

Indeed.  Here is 28 April 2020’s “Cass on Our Diminished Income“:

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Fast Food Premium

There’s been a lot of discussion of UBI—Universal Basic Income—over the last few years, especially with the presidential primary run of Andrew Yang.  The concept is seductive in its simplicity:  gut the welfare state and its behemoth apparatus of bureaucratic pencil pushers and middlemen, and just cut every adult citizen a monthly check.

For fiscal conservatives, it’s a particularly toothsome Devil’s Bargain:  streamline an inefficient and wasteful bureaucracy and simply direct deposit a grand every month into Americans’ checking accounts.  Of course, it’s a siren song:  we’d just get the payments and still suffer with an entrenched bureaucracy, claiming $1000 a month isn’t enough to meet the specialized needs of whatever community they pretend to support.

Even if the deal were struck and every redundant welfare program were eliminated, there UBI would still be a bad idea.  Besides the absurdity of merely paying people to exist, it’s inherently inflationary:  if you give everyone $1000 a month, prices are going to go up.  Just as college tuition has soared because universities realized they could jack up the price and federal loans would expand to cover the costs, UBI would cause a similar rise in prices.  Sure, it’d be great at first, but the inflationary effects would kick in quickly.

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Lazy Sunday CIX: Pillow Talk

The David Hogg Good Pillow saga—the “Hogga?”—has drawn to end, with the youngster pulling out of his ill-fated progressive pillow company.  I can’t explain my interest in this story beyond sheer Schadenfreude, and the fact that I find Hogg an extremely distasteful individual.  He combines the worst elements of youthful arrogance and self-righteous virtue-signalling into one odious package.

The demands of daily blogging being what they are, the spiteful company’s short history also made for easy blog fodder.  Now that Hogg has withdrawn from the company, it seemed like a good time to compile my three posts on the subject in one place:

  • Hoggin’ the Pillows” – The beginning of Hogg’s misadventure in the world of business.  I expressed hope that he would come to his senses about the world as he tackled business; of course, that was naïve.
  • More Pillow Hoggin’” – About five or six weeks after the announcement that the company was starting, Hogg and his business partner settled on a name—and neglected to register the trademark, allowing a clever troll to register it first.  D’oh!  Things were not looking good for Good Pillow.
  • Pillows Smothered Hogg” – Now David Hogg has pulled out of Good Pillow, citing school conflicts and his desire to dedicate more time to activism.  Heaven help us; I’d rather he be wasting time working on a pillow that will never be made.

Well, that’s it for this (slightly spiteful) edition of Lazy Sunday.  Here’s hoping you all sleep comfortably on your MyPillow for your Sunday nap.

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

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TBT^2: End the Income Tax

Well, here we are—another Tax Day in America.  Actually, Tax Day has been extended to 17 May 2021, so all of you irresponsible loafers have time to procrastinate further.

I have no room to talk:  I waited until 11 April 2021 to file my taxes, and apparently filed my 2019 taxes on 11 April 2020.  Unlike last year, though, I actually earned back a healthy refund, due in part to reduced lessons and gig income (though I still managed to rake in a respectable figure there, just under $5000, but substantially lower than 2019’s $9000ish).  The self-employment taxes kill me, but deducting mileage really helps.

Also, thanks to my younger brother review my tax filing information, I earned back a substantial portion of taxes by including the $6000 I invested in 2020 into a traditional IRA.  Unlike last year, where I paid a substantial tax bill, I’m getting back around $1500 from the State of South Carolina and the feds, all of which is going back to the emergency fund, which is need of replenishment after The Age of The Virus.

Still, even though I have reason to celebrate this Tax Day, I dislike handing over all this personal financial information to the federal government.  As I noted last year, “I keep a very detailed budget,” which helps when it comes time to calculate those self-employment deductions, but does Uncle Sam really need to know how much I spent on Spooktacular t-shirts?  I suppose if I want a few bucks of my money back, he does.

So I repeat my call of the last two years:  end the income tax!

With that, here is April 2020’s “TBT: End the Income Tax” (italicized) and April 2019’s “End the Income Tax“:

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Here We Go Again: Yet Another Bandcamp Friday

Happy Good Friday, readers!  Not only is it the day Christ gave His Life for our sins, it’s also—say it with me now—yet another Bandcamp Friday.

I’m not going to belabor all the statistics about the hard times musicians have endured in The Age of The Virus; you can read all about that in last month’s Bandcamp Friday appeal.  Instead, I’ll cut to the chase and let you know all the great ways you can support the blog, my music, my book (now on Kindle), or even just me.

For one, I have some intriguing merch available.  I’m currently offering two completely original doodles, “Bird of Paradise” and “Bleeding Heart,” for just $10 each.  There are no other physical copies in existence, so you’d own these lovingly doodled marker pictures—and no one else.  They make great “bathroom art”—the kind of thing that would look good in a guest bathroom, or maybe a tacky beach house.

I’m also clearing out the last few remainingFlamin’t-shirts for $15 (plus $5 shipping).  These shirts are rare and I won’t be making any more of them.

Most obviously, because it’s Bandcamp Friday, Bandcamp is waiving the commission it takes on sales of musicians’ work TODAY, Friday, 2 April 2021.  You can pick up my entire discography for $19.98 (or more, if you feel so inclined), a full 35% off the price of buying each album individuallyTo purchase the full discographyseven releases in total—you can view any of my albums (like Electrock EP: The Four Unicorns of the Apocalypse) and find a button/link that reads “Buy Digital Discography” (unfortunately, there’s no way to supply that link directly).

You can also purchase albums individually, either at their listed price or higher.  Here are my seven releases, in chronological order:

An easy (and free) way to support me is to “follow” my Bandcamp page and my Amazon author page.  I post updates about new merchandise, new music, and other interesting offers about once a month to the Bandcamp page, and new books will pop up on my Amazon page as they’re published.  It’s a good way to keep up with the latest news on my musical adventures.

Another free way to support me is to turn off your ad-blocker.  The site delivers several thousand ad impressions monthly, but most of those are blocked, which means they don’t pay out.  You can usually find the ad-blocker as a little widget or icon in the upper-right-hand side of your browser; click on it and it will usually give you the option to “pause” or stop the blocker from running on this site.  I know ads are annoying, but seeing a few DuckDuckGo ads helps out in an incremental way.

Even if none of that entices you, no worries!  I’m just glad to have you here, reading my self-indulgent garbage and my lengthy advertisement posts.

Happy Friday!

—TPP

TBT^2: April Fool’s Day: A Retrospective

The Kindle version of The One-Minute Mysteries of Inspector Gerard: The Ultimate Flatfoot goes live today!  If you pre-ordered the book, it should pop up in your Kindle app today.  At $5, it’s a very easy lift, as is the paperback at $15.

It’s April Fool’s Day, a holiday for mirth and merriment, but one I dedicate to remembering the day twelve years ago when I faced unemployment during the worst job market since the Great Depression.

In rereading last year’s TBT and the original “April Fool’s Day: A Retrospective,” I’m reminded how good God has been to me.  Last year I’d lost most of my private lesson students due to The Virus; now, I’m back up to seven students (six weekly, one twice a month), and I’ve just released a book (the Kindle version goes live today!).  Gigging still hasn’t really picked back up, but Bandcamp sales have been decent (and another Bandcamp Friday is tomorrow!), and my front porch Spooktacular was a blast.

I’m still hustlin’, but I’m also taking more time to appreciate life.  Perhaps the hard slog of my twenties has finally paid off here in my mid-thirties.

With that, here are “April Fool’s Day: A Retrospective” and “TBT: April Fool’s Day: A Retrospective“:

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