Smug Pencils in Silver Lake

Smug Scout has just found her new favorite colored pencils. They are from a Smug store in Silver Lake (that is the Smug epicenter of Los Angeles for those of you in other places). The store is called ReForm School, which has a Smug capital “F” to make the name appropriately ironic for this competitive neighborhood. When Smug Scout walked in and saw the dizzying array of local, sustainable crafts, few of them suggesting any actual, practical use or utility, she knew ReForm School is ahead of most of its competition.

Smug Scout was most excited to see a faux-industrial steel basket filled with what she can only call “bunches” of rustic reclaimed wood pencils. Each bunch is wrapped in recycled brown paper with two rubber bands to hold it all together. There is no brand. Smug Scout thinks that is Smug, as if to announce pointedly: “the brand is local forest, not some evil corporation.”

Yet there is a problem. These bunches of reclaimed wood colored pencils do not come with a sharpener.  As much as Smug Scout can picture these reclaimed wood colored pencils adorning her desk, she knows that if she has to use a Bowie knife to whittle down the bark, they will end up as blood-stained shards that she will have to compost.

Now Smug Scout understands why the reclaimed wood colored pencils are displayed in a faux-industrial steel basket. The steel basket is not just a faux-industrial receptacle that reflects the store’s eco-ethos but rather an interior design tip. You are not meant to write, draw, or color with these pencils. Nothing so utilitarian. You are meant to exhibit them in your living room, perhaps on top of the dead log you call a single-source coffee table.  They may never write a word, but they tell your visitors that you are Smug. And that is all the function any Smug object really needs.

A few thoughts on reclaimed wood

The Smug Scout has been spending a lot of time thinking about reclaimed wood of late.  Please do not offend her by deeming this occupation preposterous. What should she think about? World misogyny? Global climate change? The possibility that a large buck could impale Paul Ryan with live, rather than decorative, antlers? No, no. While she would love to picture Ryan bleeding to death from an antler hole while a deer family contemplates a rare non-vegetarian dinner, instead she is having apolocalyptic visions about the future of reclaimed wood.  With all of the buildings, furniture, household objects, and useless, expensive, unidentifiable knickknacks made from reclaimed wood, she wonders how soon there will be a shortage of unclaimed wood to reclaim.  She believes that Smug fans of reclaimed wood have a fantastical vision of the reclaiming process.  It involves a logger dressed up in a Brooklyn hipster costume, which itself was drawn from actual blue-collar loggers but now incorporates fair-trade flannel and “water-less” jeans, roaming forests in the Pacific Northwest.  It involves this sustainably dressed logger carrying an antique buzzsaw (please do not expect the Smug Scout to be technically accurate about tools) and occasionally stopping to forage some wild chanterelles.  It involves this hip and happy logger smiling as he carefully rescues dead trees from their sad fate of rotting and regenerating in the forest and places them in his hybrid logging truck.  It finally involves this Smug logger driving, of course a short distance, to a wide variety of artists and artisans, who will chop and slice the logs in an artistic and artisanal, if also absurdly profitable, way for sale to the country’s Smug suckers.  This is indeed a vision of tender and moving beauty.  The Smug Scout, however, sees it differently. She imagines that the future of reclaimed wood is in forests “reclaimed” from the pulp and paper industry as that industry realizes there’s more money in “reclaimed” wood than in institutional toilet paper, cereal boxes, and particle board.  Maybe Smug Scout is just too cynical.  Maybe Smug Scout needs to calm down.  Okay.  Just put a reclaimed wood cutting board with some foraged chanterelles in front of her, and she will stop.

Smug chairs

You know an object is Smug when you see reclaimed wood, but you do not have a clue why someone would want it or what the fuck it even is.  These look like chairs to your perplexed Smug Scout.  They look like ugly and uncomfortable chairs.  They look like lamely shaped chairs that would only feel at home in a room filled with antlers and pretentiously arranged “exotic” tchotchkes.  But before you even go into that, you may ask how the Smug Scout knows the wood is reclaimed.  She knows because she saw these unsightly creations in San Francisco and is sure she doesn’t have to tell anyone what a Smug Epicenter that is.  You can’t even find furniture there that’s made from wood without multiple past lives.  It would just be young and obscene and vulgar, like a five year old trailer park beauty queen.  She imagines a brief conversation taking place in a room that could have been featured in “Fuck Your Noguchi Coffee Table.”

  • Smug Host: Please make yourself comfortable.
  • Perplexed Smug Scout: That is just not possible.
  • Smug Host: What’s wrong with you? I have beautiful architectural seating crafted by a local driftwood artisan.
  • Perplexed Smug Scout: I’d rather sit on your sweaty yoga mat.