4th of July Fireworks Photos: 2016!


First, it’s with a heavy, magnesium-laden heart I bring some possibly serious news: this might be my final fireworks packaging post!?

Why? Why would this happen? I retire not due to a long-expected running-out of material — every year I think there won’t be anything worth photographing and every year I’m proven wrong — but rather, because of johnny law.

“It’s the Last Year for Personal Fireworks in Vancouver” explains:

This is the last year residents in Vancouver will be allowed to buy and use fireworks – and the last year for less than law abiding Oregonians who cross the Columbia River to purchase fireworks you can’t buy in Portland. Last year, the Vancouver City Council passed an ordinance banning the personal use of any fireworks, including sparklers. They also banned the sale of fireworks in city limits.

Including sparklers!!!

Of course, Portland should still continue to sell the more common, less-lethal fireworks you can get in the grocery store — you know, the fancy fountains, the pop-its, the whistling pete’s.

(A little tip about whistling pete’s: flip ’em upside down and stick ’em in the holes in sewer grates for a good smoke/light show and cool effect-filtered freaky whistle.)

But when it comes to insane, amazing fireworks packaging, nothing beats the big.

It’s not my place to pass judgement on the shriveled up, Raisinet-like hearts of the Vancouver City Council — I know they have their reasons, such as maybe owning dogs, having explosion-sensitive hearing aids, or something about a high chance of fire danger and personal injury to children something something — but I just wanted to let you know…

This could be it. So let’s go.

Here are some photos of firework packaging in 2016.

(If you’d like to enjoy the previous nine (!) years in this rich and ridiculous tradition, here you go: 20072008200920102011 and then 201220132014, and 2015.)

Before We Begin…

Fire up iTunes or Spotify or Tidal or whatever and let’s start a…


…because this year there was a fresh crop of:

More Exciting Movie Sequels!!


Increased Chance of a ‘Hamilton’ Firework Next Year


Zany Animal Hijinx


The Italian Army


The First-Ever Font-Based Firework


A Cool Anime Aesthetic


Reese’s Roller Coaster Tycoon


Finally An Answer to That Question, I Guess




Mobile Phones

IMG_3126IMG_3052(Wow they’re getting five bars on that nightmare skull tube, that’s good for Sprint!)

Everyone’s Favorite


Exploding Affirmation


This 😒😒😒


More Booze


Some Now-Legal Recreationals


And More


The Most Painful Commentary Almost Certainly Delivered By a Vastly Underpaid Fireworks Packaging Graphic Designer Somewhere in China



And Finally… Honesty


Thank you all for joining me another year.

I hope you have a wonderful 4th of July!

Hooray! 4th of July Fireworks: 2015


I photo the firework

That was the placeholder text in this draft post when I opened it up — I have no memory of typing it — and it’s better than any long-winded description I can craft.

Folks, I really look forward to this every year. I’m glad this is still happening.

Here are some photos of fireworks in 2015.

If you’d like to enjoy the previous years in this rich and increasingly impossible tradition, here you go:

Happy 4th (2007)Yay! Fireworks! (2008)Yay! Fireworks! 2009!Yay! Fireworks 2010! (on Flickr!?), Yay! 4th of July Fireworks 2011!Yay! 4th of July Fireworks 2012!Yay! 2013 4th of July Fireworks!, and finally, Yay! 4th of July Fireworks: 2014.

And of course, to properly set the scene of what it’s like to visit these competitive firework stands, please watch this classic and old video, The Gauntlet (YouTube).

Let’s do this.

Photo Jul 3, 7 26 50 PM

Before We Begin…

My favorite sign from last year had been slightly modified:


This year there was a rich bounty of…



Things I Had To Google

(Bonus points for Back To The Future font)

Awkward Animals

IMG_4517 IMG_4518

Fireworks for “Girls” 😦

Photo Jul 3, 7 28 34 PM

Brand New Movie Sequels!!

Photo Jul 3, 7 17 24 PM

This Guy


Where Twitter Trolls Come From


Proud Support For, You Know, Awareness

Photo Jul 3, 7 27 22 PM



My College Nickname


Bruce Springsteen (R.I.P.)


A Small Hadron Collider


And a Whole Lot More.

Photo Jul 3, 7 20 13 PM
IMG_4539 IMG_4540            IMG_4592
IMG_4599 IMG_4601

Also, Who Wants Two Tickets To The Rod Show



I’d say this year’s batch turned out 2 be……


Thank you for joining me for another year. See you in 2016?!

This year’s miscellaneous notes: I brought my one year old (Violet) and six year old (Joby) with me (something I couldn’t have imagined when I started this project), Joby jumped in a dusty bouncy castle the whole time, I got yelled at for taking photos (“the phones have static electricity that could ignite the fireworks!!!” but another employee admitted they’re afraid of competition spying on them), my co-worker Logan Collins contributed a couple great photos from Kansas, Blackjack Fireworks continues to sell their awesome and almost certainly not-legal “adult pop-its” (basically throwable firecrackers, tucked next to the front counter for easy the-jig-is-up hiding?) but TNT finally caught wind and sells them too (in a very small section on the side), my secret third source for photos is a reliable fireworks stand on 82nd by Krispy Kreme, and most importantly, firework companies continue to do their crazy thing. Thanks to the hard-working anonymous artists.

Space Age: The Music


When I was 15, I used my Amiga and a copy of SoundTracker to write the music for a local educational video produced by the Port of Portland (“Captain Duke’s ImPORTant Adventure!”). I attended the premiere of the video in a conference room at Portland International Airport and it was pretty thrilling. My music used a bunch of drum samples I took from the mod file from the Bitmap Brothers game Gods. The Oregonian living section actually wrote an article about this, which of course teenage-me was mortified about, titled “Self-taught musician ingenious composer”. (Warning: cool guy alert.)

“Sasser is seriously thinking about following in the footsteps of the movie and video game composers he admires”, the article concluded.

22 years later:

The Space Age Soundtrack

Yes, Space Age (Original Game Soundtrack) is now available on iTunes. 65 tracks of original music, mostly from each of the game’s unique cutscenes but also all the necessary bits: title screen, pause music, and some surprises.

It’s also available on BandCamp where you can name-your-own-price.

Here, have a listen:


About The Music

A number of years ago I wrote the music to The Incident, Neven Mrgan and Matt Comi’s last iOS game. When Neven started to tell me about their next game, Space Age — which comes out this Thursday and is going to be amazing — I think I wanted to do more. The game would still have a retro pixel-art vibe, but I wanted the music to feel more cinematic, to play against the limited graphics. I wanted to try to take the elaborate music that’s always in my head and attempt to actually make it real.

I got to work. Don’t get me wrong — I’m an amateur, and this is amateur work. But I was ready.

What’s it sound like? Modern film score meets 70’s synths meets 50’s sci-fi cheese meets Lucasarts PC CD-ROM meets EPCOT center, kind-of?

The first half of the album is basically me getting my musical footing. About half way through I started to give each chapter a distinct personality and melody and character. By the end of the album a lot of different things have happened and it should be enjoyable.

Most importantly: it’s all about melody for me. It’s all about being memorable. It’s all about feeling things while you listen to these tracks and remember your thrilling space adventure.

The Tools

Put simply, I use:

  • GarageBand
  • All of the extra GarageBand instruments, and I mean all of them (I install these instruments from within Logic Pro X)
  • A 88-key M-Audio Keystation USB MIDI Controller
  • A sustain pedal
  • An Apogee One to drive my headphones and monitor speakers
  • My dining room table

A couple tracks used some bonus instruments — an incredible Teenage Engineering OP-1 for one spooky synth sound, some old and incredible Optigan organ loops for a certain sequence, and Matt played a little live banjo on one track!

(Why GarageBand? Frankly, it does everything I need. It’s exactly Logic Pro X these days but with a set of advanced features removed, and none of those features were important to what I do. The only thing I couldn’t figure out was how to define arpeggios, so I just played them all by hand.)

Some more production notes: the album was mastered by Timothy Stollenwerk at Stereophonic Mastering. He did an incredible job making my tracks album-ready. I used TuneCore to upload the album to all the digital services — it’s not the best, and I wanted to use Distrokid, but their “number of tracks” pop-up had a maximum of 50!? (Support suggested I split the album into two volumes?!)

So basically, this was my life:


Put simply, I’d create a blank file in GarageBand, do File > Movie > Open Movie… and load in a MP4 video of a cutscene that Matt provided. GarageBand handles movies really well, and as you scrub through your music the movie also scrubs in sync. The biggest problem with this approach is where to put the floating movie window on screen, because it is always in the way.

I’d scroll to the beginning of the movie, drop in a piano track, and hit Record.

Then I’d just play whatever my mind created as I watched.

Then I would do it again, and a couple more times. Then I would add a few more instruments based on what I heard. Then I would edit out a section. Then I would add more instruments. And eventually I’d be done and move on to the next one.

The biggest challenge by far: I have a day job that uses up about 99% of my brain power, and a great family at home that I want to spend time with, and it was really hard to find time to actually do this. It was a lot more than I expected. My wife exhibited superhuman amounts of patience with me.

For a brief period of time I moved my music setup into the office and stayed late every day…


…but ultimately I fell into a great groove: I’d work in the morning after dropping Joby off at school, and I’d work at night after the family went to bed.

Thank you family. Thank you wife. 

I’m really proud of how it all turned out. It’s one of the only things I’ve ever created personally that doesn’t make me cringe.

And Then, The Rocketship X-T

There’s one track on the album that’s a little bit… different.

(We are entering SPOILER country. Don’t read this section if you intend to finish Space Age!)

In The Incident, I wrote a goofy surprise vocal track that was designed to throw the player off of their “oh this is just NES music” comfort zone.

For Space Age, I wanted to write another goofy surprise vocal track. I thought maybe we could do something after the credits, something reminiscent of my favorite NES games where the credits felt like a happy tour through your journey. I thought it’d be fun to write a faux “propaganda song”, like a jolly, rousing musical number from a wartime film. Something to get the boys and girls at home fired up about America. But except for America, a rocketship.

So I sent this to Neven and Matt:

It was fun, and funny, and we started to plug it into the game and talk about what to do visually.

But… I wanted more.

In my head this needed to be jazzy and swingy and really blow the doors off the whole game. It needed to end with a bang and some horns. Again, I could hear it in my head. But how could I make it real…

A few weeks later, I sent the following video to Neven and Matt, totally out of the blue:

Surprise! iMessage reaction was swift:

ichatNow we’re cookin’.

The song felt “real”.

How did this super-special recording come to be? Deep breath: years ago when Panic was working on a thing for Disney I was looking for local Big Bands and found the Bureau of Standards. Nicole and I went to their show (it was awesome) and I met James M Gregg, their affable and talented bandleader. That project didn’t work out but I knew our paths would cross in the future. Once I wrote the Propaganda demo and felt it was pretty good I e-mailed him and he jumped on the project with gusto. He suggested we get Bo Ayars, who also lives in Portland, to do the band arrangement. Bo, just so you know, spent 13 years as Liberace’s musical director. Yes, sold, amazing. I used GarageBand’s automatic notation feature to create (bad) sheet music of the demo. Bo’s turned the full arrangement around in lightning time and produced all the sheet music for each player. James in turn brought in a team of crack musicians, including Kat Cogswell to do the lead vocals — that’s James and myself singing the counterpoint — and he booked a studio (Dead Aunt Thelma’s), and we all met up on a Sunday and laid this thing down, track by track, musician after musician, amazement by amazement.

It was my first time in a recording studio. It was my first time having musicians play music and lyrics I had written. It was… exhilarating.

How did it all turn out? You’ll have to play the game or get the soundtrack and find out! ugh

Thank You For Listening

I really appreciate Neven and Matt giving me this opportunity to push myself. When I finished, I realized this is the culmination of a life’s dream. I had forgotten about the Oregonian article when I was 15 until the album first showed up in iTunes and I lost my mind.

It’s real. I got there. It took me a while, but I finally got there.

I hope you enjoy it!

(Space Age Original Game Soundtrack is now available on iTunes. Or, if you don’t use iTunes, it’s also available on BandCamp.)

Yay! 4th of July Fireworks: 2014


I travel down the dusty road, driving cautiously. Another year. I’m doing this again. I’m taking part in The Gauntlet (45.1 MB), where every teenager in the county is standing by the side of this road, a road that had an impressive 360-day stretch of total silence, each teenager armed with a vinyl sign in one hand and Snapchat in the other, all trying to coax us into one of two fiercely competing fireworks stands. I pull into a gravel lot, past some wheezy bouncy houses, step out of the car, walk inside the store, grab a yellow basket, and get to work. I’m not here for fun, Jack. No way. I’m here for work. It’s my job — no, it’s my thrill — to find the weirdest, awkwardest, worst, clip-artiest, mis-translatediest, shoots-flaming-ballsiest fireworks packaging.

Welcome back, my friends. Happy 4th of July.

To relive some of the glorious photos from my past trips, please enjoy 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 20112012, and finally, 2013.

Let’s get started.


This year, we had a beautiful smorgasbord, featuring:

Pink Floyd’s Dream Nearly Realized


An Extraordinarily Sad Elvis Presley


Uncomfortable Sexism / Racism / Alcoholism






Eric Wareheim out of Tim and Eric


Every Kid’s Favorite Thing: Palace Intrigue


Super Steroidal Uncle Sams



A Video Game I Want Badly


Copyright Infringement (They Tried To Hide The Hat With Stickers)


Every Kid’s Favorite Thing: Horseshoe Crabs




A Literal Train Wreck




One of My Favorite YouTube Videos


The Best Typo (I Hope)


The Best Movie Sequel Never Made


And, Finally, Most Importantly, This Guy


Yes. Yes. See you next year!



I gave a talk at XOXO 2013. I’m not very fond of public speaking. I also try to avoid being too personal or too heavy which leaves mostly jokes and new snack foods. But I knew I had a lot on my mind — I jog right past the YU (where XOXO is held) each day and that got me thinking about all of this stuff and talking and it all kind of swirled together. Andy very graciously gave me a speaking slot, and even though I destroyed a dress shirt I made it through and everyone was so kind.

Here’s my story.

(Once you’re done, you might appreciate Jason Alderman’s Sketch Notes.)

Samba de Setup


One of the things we wanted to make truly excellent in our brand-new Status Board iPad app was the setup process. Setup assistants are never fun, always annoying, and kill that “new app” buzz faster than anything. The only thing worse is that giant overlay some apps do that draws arrows all over your screen pointing to all the buttons and things like some demented football coach.

When we landed on the idea of doing a “user manual” — as if you had just purchased a real Status Board and were browsing the instructions — I think Neven said, “And you should hear elevator music!”

And so I wrote elevator music. Here’s the un-tinny-speakerized version. Enjoy?

You can download the song here (M4A, 4.6 MB).

(Thanks for the cover art, Neven!)

Drobo 5D Review


drobo-fixAt the center of my digital storage universe is the house Mac mini, hooked up to a big ol’ external drive that holds all of the e-things: our music, our photos, old work, emulation collections, etc.

(As a side note, this drive is manually backed up monthly onto another drive — a 4TB Seagate Thunderbolt — which I take into the office and place in my drawer for extra-safe fire-keeping. Backup your backup, mang!)

I decided to try the new Thunderbolt-based Drobo 5D as my vault. Did I keep it?

The Good

Drobo’s best feature — that you can swap out drives at any time to semi-infinitely expand your capacity — works, and works well. It’s always mentally nice not having to worry about ever running out of room and having to clone over large volumes all the time.

And it’s fast. Much faster than my previous Drobo.

That older model, a Firewire 800 Drobo, got a sadness-inducing 20.1 MB/s write and 22.2 MB/s read. By comparison, a LaCie Thunderbolt 2big in a software mirror got 111.2 MB/s write and 114.1 MB/s read.

Here’s the Drobo 5D, connected via Thunderbolt:

Drobo 5SThat’s around 193 MB/s write and 184 MB/s read. So, it’s almost ten times faster than the Firewire 800 Drobo it replaced.

Other notes:

  • You can dim the many front lights, which is nice for media cabinets.
  • The metal enclosure is substantial and feels valuable.
  • It’s surprisingly quiet.

The Bad

The Drobo 5D will not mount until you install the Drobo software. (See here.) The Drobo software includes, among other kernel extensions, DroboTBT.kext, Drobo’s “SCSI Thunderbolt Controller”.

It’s almost a dealbreaker. Every external hard drive I’ve ever used will mount easily without special software. Requiring software not only makes it a pain to hook the drive up to someone else’s computer, but the drive will only keep working in the long-term if the specialized software is well-maintained. (It’s one thing to trust Apple to update their software, which I do, but another thing to expect this maintenance from third parties.)

What will happen when Mac OS X 10.9 comes out and the Drobo .kext inevitably breaks? I’ll have to wait for Drobo to ready an update? How soon will that be ready? You can understand my concern.

But in conclusion, here’s the only review score metric that really matters:

Did I Keep It?


I kept it. Still using it. For now. It’s fast, holds all my stuff, and feels solid. But we’ll see what happens when 10.9 comes out.

tinyicon-amazonThe Drobo 5D is available at Amazon for around $849.00.



We all know it’s not cool to litter. If our hands are burdened with the weighty responsibility of an unwanted and snot-spent tissue, or an empty aluminum can that once held some Dr. Skipper, or even a gentle gum wrapper, the worst thing — the worst possible thing — would be to throw it on the ground.

Yes, throwing garbage on the ground is literally littering. But beyond that? Well… that’s where things get a little dicey.

Trashcan? The only limit is your trashmagination!

I first noticed the “litterplugs” (if I may) phenomenon in Japan, ten years ago. This is the photo that started it all, a slightly bowing construction wall by Shinjuku station that immediately became a garbage can:


Since then, it was everywhere. Now, I can understand how generalized holes — containers, street light bases, flower pots — become makeshift trashcans. Even if they’re obviously in no way trashcans, and likely will never be emptied or cleaned by any human being on earth, and in most cases there’s a real trashcan mere feet away, they at least share a vague similarity to the raw concept of a trashcan.

Litterplugs - 02 - 2
Litterplugs - 05
Litterplugs - 37

But the best litterplugs take it to a new level.

They raise not-literring littering to an art.

Wedge your peach chunks garbage into a brick wall? Sure!

Back Camera

Make PBR stand for “Perfect Bark Receptacle”? Yes, yes!

Litterplugs - 55

Pop your can in a drywall hole briefly opened up by construction workers?

Litterplugs - 22 - 2

Look around desperately until you spot an exterior outlet? Go go go!

Litterplugs - 52

Somehow calculate the exact horizontal space required for your juice box? Woo!

Litterplugs - 35 - 2

Put your wrapper in the hole left by the missing handle… in a garbage can? Award winning!

Litterplugs - 49

Remember: you’re not littering if it ain’t touchin’ the ground!

Litterplugs, I salute you and your particularly weird blend of doing the right thing.

If you find any particularly inventive litterplugs, tweet me!

Cabel Trivia, No. 1: The Movie


Here’s something you might not know about me: I had a major, significant acting role in the non-hit Ralph Fiennes film, Strange Days.

See for yourself:

(I lived near downtown L.A. and snuck into the area where they were filming. I’m wearing a weird party hat. Angela Bassett shoved me very, very hard.)