Fat hearts American Science & Surplus
It's a small list of brands still worth caring about in this world. One of the few that will reliably bring some magic into your world is American Science & Surplus, self-bestowers of the basically irrefutable tagline "incredible stuff, unbelievable prices".
I get a catalog from these guys every 6 months or so, order something about every year, basically just so I keep getting that catalog, a minor miracle of the copywriter's trade. Pun-filled and crackling with line-drawing illustrations, it's not unreasonable to assert that the only product manufactured by AS&S is of higher quality than the panoply of products they distribute. --Not that the goods on offer here are necessarily shoddy or disappointing: they're just invariably presented both amusingly and in their best light.
For example, picked literally at random from a number I discovered while trying desperately to dig my way out from under what appears to be seven (7) London Review of Books, four (4) Harper's, and a lot (sigh) of New Yorkers to get through:
Wind-up Vehicular Fridge Magnet
From our Unlikely Combination Division comes our first-ever wind-up vehicle capable of climbing any vertical ferrous-metal surface, like your filing cabinet or (non-stainless) fridge, thanks to tiny embedded magnets. Also chugs along on the horizontal. Measures 1-7/8" x 1-1/2" x 1-3/4" tall with the winder. In assorted colors that we'll decide on, thank you very much.
You get some good gifts out of this catalog: a little penknife with a built-in flashlight, a life-sized white plastic skull, an inflatable moose head... And you can score some useful prizes with a sharp eye: as illustrated, I just ended up with a couple nice little funnels, some of those Army-style can openers, and a firestarter--all just in time for a quick camping trip in the redwoods! Sure, my Swiss Army knife does a creditable job on cans, when necessary, and I already had one metal funnel exactly the size of my new one, and I'm a little unsure about the quality of that headlamp, and maybe graph paper has proved to be the only sure-fire way to induce writer's block I've so far discovered...but that little glass funnel? Pretty. And a cheapo headlamp is something I'll not be afraid to use/abuse the hell out of, which is exactly what a man wants/needs on a camping trip...
And, writer's block or no, the AS&S stock of graph paper takes ink better than any comparable product I've ever owned--fun to scrape a stylus on. Anyway, if you like small boxes of pleasing things &/or advertising produced with a light heart & lighter touch, AS&S is well worth your time.
Side note: As for camping gear, I've spent half my life on Coleman products--they're cheap, but they're not very good. Sort of what you buy when you don't want to step all the way up to Stansport (to say nothing of outfitting oneself primarily in Coughlan's kit). I note, however, that all the camping items in this latest batch were from some company called, helpfully, SE. I suspect these will turn out to be a step down from Coleman. To put it another way, I suspect they will turn out to be useable, if perhaps occasionally frustrating. As for the quality, I shall defer to the text on the headlamp: "RoHs Quality", which, I mean...I really shouldn't have to explain RoHs Quality by this point. Reviewiera has been cranking out the finest in objective subjectivisms since 2006, for fuck's sake. To help guide me discover the uses of these SE items--of RoHs Quality--I shall turn to the packaging:
Stainless Steel Funnel
Great for Pouring Liquids into Flasks, Small Containers, Jars, etc..
Flexible yet durable glass filled nylon shafts resist fracturing
Magnesium Fire Starter
Gently Shave [always, always good advice, there] a Small Quality of Magnesium [less good, but worth a shot]
8 LED Headlamp
Adjust inclination if needed.
--Fat, adjusting his inclination