Archive for the 'Reviews' Category

An Open Letter To CVS

April 24th, 2011

Dear CVS,

I hate your stores so, so much. This bitter hatred is not the result of one bad experience on a Sunday afternoon. This hate is the result of hundreds upon hundreds of bad experiences throughout my entire life. I try to live with one simple credo: “Can we not go to CVS?” As a result, every single day I do not go to CVS is an unqualified success, and yet: I will still occasionally find myself at a CVS.

Your garbage stores sicken the spirit as they weaken the soul. They are jam-packed full to the top of the absolute worst low-quality crap merchandise our world has to offer. Your employees come to work to engage in one specific activity all day long: shirking register duty. When they are not shirking register duty, they are running in the back for register tape.

I will not sign up for your incredibly annoying ExtraCare card, no matter how much you wish to sell my personal information to your off-brand Vietnamese DVD player-making business partners. It does not matter if you mark a candy bar up to $1.25 if I don’t use the ‘savings card’; I’ll take the hit, just so you don’t get the pleasure of selling my mailing address and Dorito preference to the Raytheon corporation.

Let me ask you this: Why does it take up to and including 35 minutes to check-out of a CVS? What secrets of the retail check-out have your competitors mastered that remain so utterly mysterious to you? It certainly does not help that your customers have to self-organize into their own queue lines up front, jockeying for position among a throng of other simmering pools of resentment. We are forced to gaze mindlessly upon the broken film development stations, the mp3 playing keychains, the diet soda coolers, Nicorette gum displays, and piles of US Weekly magazines until we catch the attention of one of the glassy-eyed register workers — I’m sure if you felt you could get away with dangling lip baum canisters from the ceiling on strings, you’d try it. We shift uncomfortably as we consider the pros and cons of self-medicating our current situation with a Butterfinger bar.

There is invariably a pause as the register workers try to determine who will be unlucky enough to man the additional registers, and who will get to hide in the supply closet pretending to find register tape. Eventually, the choice is made and the call goes out: “I can take you over here,” and the herd shifts over. But somehow, the situation does not improve; the throng self-organizes into a line that is exactly as long as before.

And our beautiful precious moments drip by, one after another, as we stand in line and hate your horrible fucking stores.

Consider this: someday, some company will come after you. They will be the brightly-lit halogen Target to your dim, flickering Kmart fluorescence. Don’t get me wrong: they will be just as horrible, in a way, but they will somehow hide it better and they will manage to serve their customers without making them feel quite as abused. On that day, you will no longer be able to open additional sad, miserable trash heap stores. You will have to make do with the sad, miserable trash heap stores you have already opened. How will you compete? Will you improve the customer experience, or will you try to wring more money out of your quickly dwindling customer base? Wouldn’t it be smarter to, right now, give your employees the extra roll of register tape they so desperately need?

Just kidding — I don’t care. Nobody cares. You guys are the worst. Please go out of business as soon as possible, so we can watch your stores devolve into the desiccated hobo poop depositories they absolutely deserve to become.

netflix weekend roundup

February 22nd, 2007


Farce of the Penguins

I’ll admit it, I’ve been very excited about this movie for a long time. Written, directed and starring Bob Sagat, (note: if you haven’t seen “the aristocrats” stop reading this, and go rent it. Now.) It is a retelling of “March of the Penguins.” Narrated by Samuel L “mothafucka” Jackson and also featuring Lewis Black, it sounded to me like the perfect comedy. However, the reviews were almost unanimously horrible, calling it all sorts of mean things.

Although it wasn’t the work of comic genius I was hoping for, I was genuinely entertained, and would recommend it to anyone who has a pretty clear idea of what they are in for. Featuring a post-ironic awareness of how ridiculous the whole thing is (Sammy the narrator routinely gets into fights with the penguins), Bob Sagat manages to put together a decent joke. It’s just one of those ideas that sounds better than it works out to be. Kinda like the Sarah Silverman TV show, versus her fantastic movie.

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada

Featuring a very sullen Tommy Lee Jones, this was a slow, albeit gorgeous journey through rural Mexico, all while hauling his decaying friend home for burial (really, his third burial. Hence the title.) Although it gets tossed around a bit too much for it’s own good, “Quixotic” is the perfect way to describe this movie.

It even has a donkey.

School for Scoundrels

Bad Santa teaches Napoleon Dynamite to stop being a push-over in order to get the girl.

Extras: Season 1: Disc 1

I’m going to admit something right here, and I don’t expect you to like it. I’m not nuts about Ricky Gervais. I know it’s heresy. I know he’s a comic genius. I know “The Office” is the best show ever. I’ve tried to get into it, a few times, but never been smitten with it. I’ve just constantly found it too cruel, too grating, too uncomfortable. I even love the American version of the “The Office,” but the British original has just never done it for me.

So, as partially an attempt to redeem myself, I rented “Extras.” I can learn to love Ricky, like everyone else. I just know it!

I thought it was OK. That’s it, just OK. Kate Winslet got a good chuckle out of me rehearsing dirty phone sex in a nun habit, but I never found it laugh out loud funny, and Ben Stiller did my least favorite Ben Stiller character, which is the yelling, angry, petulant asshole. Think I’ll pass on disc two.

What’d you watch lately?

dear chemistry guys: thanks. love, jimmy

October 11th, 2006

Acesulfame K

It’s about time modern chemistry contributed something valuable to our lives. Look, I love soda. I’m aware of how plainly awful the content of refined sugar is for us, but as hard as I’ve tried, I could never drink a diet soda. The horrid aftertaste that was symptomatic of any of the artificial sweeteners was just too much to take. Well, a while back I tried a sip of my fiancé’s Coke Zero. There was still that familiar bite, however it was noticeably less severe. Though not overwhelmed by the drink, I was encouraged by the thought that whatever the Coca Cola company was doing was definitely a step in the right direction. Then I noticed there was a Sprite Zero. I tried it and thought that was a little more like it, as the citrus flavor seemed to lend itself to masking most of the rudeness that had been inherent of the artificial sweeteners. Ok, so now there are two zero-calorie drinks that I not only can stomach, but after drinking them for an extended period, I could actually enjoy because of the fading frame of reference that was their non-diet counterparts. Naturally, I wondered what was going on. The primary sweetener in these drinks, as well as the rest of the diet sodas that I wouldn’t drink to stay alive in the desert was still aspartame, so what gives? Well, a quick glance at the ingredients indicated the presence of an extra component that was included in the recipe of only those soft drinks that I found palatable: Acesulfame Potassium. Ovulation Tests. Armed with this new knowledge, I began looking for anything new and improved with this miraculous agent on the supermarket shelves. I am happy to report that I have discovered a number of other once-cherished brand names that currently offer a pleasantly drinkable counterpart inclusive of Acesulfame K. Among those that I’ve tried are Pepsi One, Diet Mountain Dew and Fanta Zero Orange. Next up on the list are Diet Fresca and Vault Zero. The “thanks but no thanks” award in this category goes to Sierra Mist Free, as not even the inclusion of a drop of dewy-sweet sweat shaken from the hips of Shakira herself would encourage me to ever again imbibe this viciously rank brew…. Not to mention my complete spiritual aversion to their cosmically unfunny ad campaign.

Oh, and contrary to some very near-sighted reports of differing “fact”, I’m down three belt buckle holes since May. True story.

internet phenomena revue edition #1: stitch and bitch

September 22nd, 2006


Guess what everybody. Last year something interesting happened on the internet. And did you know, three years before that, something really really cool was going around?

Welcome to my series on belated Internet Phenomena. I have the incredible power of discovering fascinating things on the internet that everyone has known about for quite some time.

So, without further ado (it’s like Barnum and Bailey’s over here with all the introducing), I introduce to you something I just discovered and love.* As I recently took up knitting, you can understand my deep and instantaneous and probably very lasting love of Squid Hat. I am also very impressed by the Diegestive System, but I can tell a project of that scope is too involved for me. I’m not going to even try to talk about the Penis Cozy with you people.

Until next time on the internet revue, see you on myspace!

*It was on boingboing in October 2005!

the ruins

August 25th, 2006

Woo-hoo! I’m on vacation this week, so immediately the first thing I did was scoot down to the bookstore and pick up a trashy summer novel. This year, I chose Scott Smith’s The Ruins after stumbling upon the glowing review by none other than Stephen King on The Ruins Amazon page. It’s perhaps an odd choice for summer reading, as Smith’s previous novel A Simple Plan is a study in tension and duplicity, not typically feelings you want to experience and emulate in your beach reading — but King’s review was so effusive and glowing, I figured why not pick it up.

The Ruins is the story of six guys and girls in their early twenties who, during a crazy sexy drinky beach vacation to Cancun, decide for no particularly good reason to pack up and head off into the jungle. During their stumble in the jungle, they mistakenly fall into what is quickly and clearly The Wrong Place To Be. And then it gets increasingly worse from there.

It’s a quick read; I wound up reading the novel in two chunks in the span of about 12 hours. For the first couple hundred pages, I was riveted. The book is exquisitely written, with long detailed and well-voiced passages that pull you directly into the various characters point of view. The writing and pacing is very cinematic, perhaps suspiciously so, as the film rights have already been sold to Ben Stiller — who is thanked in the forward of the first printing.

But: sometime during the last hundred pages, I found myself tense, surly and depressed. I can’t tell you exactly why I think I felt that way without discussing-slash-completely-spoiling the ending, so click below if you don’t plan to read it but still really want to know about what I think is wrong with The Ruins

Read the rest of this entry »

snakes on an audience

August 22nd, 2006


This is not a review of snakes on a plane. It’s not. Sorry. There are lots of those.

This is a review of the audience. I was at the 10 pm Saturday showing at the Metreon. I held out from the very tempting 8:10, because I wanted to see it in DLP. There was hissing in the previews, one drunk fellow in the front who had good effort and rubber snake, but clearly wasn’t ready to be the star of this audience. His only solid contribution was shouting “Skanks on a Plane!” when the about to be dead whore headed off to be bit. (Note: this isn’t a spoiler. The whore always dies.)

There was a smattering of hissing through the film, a solid bit of cheering in appropriate places, laughter at the especially campy aspects of the dialog, (“Time is Tissue!” – Snake Expert) and an entertaining round of trivia with the helping girls behind me trying to figure out just what movie that Adam Sandler was in (It was “Punch Drunk Love”).

Now I know it was a Saturday night. But I really thought that they would be more audience enthusiasm. Where were the rocky freaks?

never never do this

July 25th, 2006

You should never get a Tracfone and I’ll tell you why.

a.) Stupid name. This should have tipped me off instantly. Do they not have the time to put the k in track or spell phone the normal way?

2. Your phone number MUST be fixed to your actual location (they use your zip code to accomplish this) yet it’s frikin long distance no matter where you call from. Even your land line. Which you must have. We’ll get into that later.

iii)YOU LOSE YOUR PHONE NUMBER if you ever run out of minutes, or if the period expires. On your phone, you don’t get to see the actual date. No, you have to stare — for three months or more — at the date they expect your phone number to get the axe.

Fourthly, To renew your minutes you have to either go online or use a phone (not on your trackphone mind you– I mean tracfone –) and receive long codes. No, not like credit card numbers. Longer than that. No, not the longest number the screen on your tr*kF*ker can hold, longer than that. Really long frikin codes. Three of them. And then it gives you codes to write down and enter laboriously into that candybar-sized source of all evil. And guess what? Sometimes they’re on the card you purchased, and, just to keep it really fun, sometimes they’re on the receipt instead. Wooo! But that’s not all. They require you to identify your phone to them with the SIM code every frikin time. So it’s either write it down on something you will never lose, or take the battery out of the thing midway through the process and then start all over. But this is the worst part of part Fourth. Despite the fact that your whole damn phone number expires at midnight, their call center is only open until 8 or something. If you didn’t get to it until 9, you might think, well I’ll just use the website. 2 nightmarish interface hours later, you (I mean I) still can’t get the codes I’ve got to work, and I’ve only got 1 hour to doomsday for the phone number I’ve preciously kept hidden from the whole world since it costs me units every time I pick it up or even imagine glancing at it briefly. I’ve got the cold sweats, I’m jamming in these codes as fast as I can, I feel like Indiana Jones trying to get out of the Temple of Doom.

Finally, and this is what would feel like a kick in the nuts if I had them, they are constantly text messaging my phone with advertisements for their services. I hate the damn thing, so I both already have it and already know I don’t want it. And frankly my friend, neither do you.

si, dos tacos, por favor

July 21st, 2006

The Grey Lady appears to like her tacos, as evidenced by this excellent round up of tacos up the California coast. Although, I have to say that one of their favorites, la taq, has always struck me as expensive and not as good of some of the other options out there.


maybe I hate music in general

June 15th, 2006

  • Russian Circles, “Enter”: Following in the proud and heavy tradition of math-rock guitar bands like Slint, Don Caballero, King Crimson, Mogwai, and yes, Rush, Russian Circles play heavy, fully instrumental, capital-R Rawk. It’s ludicrously energetic music, overstuffed with interlocking patterns and off-time beats, fun to listen to while driving or working out. At six tracks, it’s a little short, but I bet these guys would be completely awesome to see play live. BONUS: no Geddy Lee.
  • Islands, “Return to the Sea”: “Return to the Sea” maddeningly alternates between sounding like a lost Ween album and sounding like a bunch of indie kids and an oompah band falling down the stairs. The unfortunately titled third track (“Don’t Call Me Whitney, Bobby”) is insanely catchy, and could have come off of Paul Simon’s “Graceland”; but one good track does not an album make, and ultimately I found myself finding reasons not to listen.
  • Danger Doom, “The Occult Hymn”: “The Occult Swim” is a free EP available from, but it’s the musical equivalent of a commemorative plastic cup from Burger King filled with warm, flat soda. These charmless remixes manage to ditch everything that was moderately interesting about the original tracks from “The Mouse and the Mask” — they even ditch the insanely catchy loop from “Sofa King”, a personal favorite — and replace them with grating skits from the lamer cartoons from the Adult Swim fare. MF Doom is as skilled as ever, but Danger Mouse seems preoccupied with something else, probably the “Gnarls Barkley” album.
  • Gnarls Barkley, “Gnarls Barkey”: Like the owners of “Butternuts” on Route 9, I wish these guys thought for about five more minutes before settling on a name. No matter — surely the single “Crazy” is a contender for 2006 song of the summer, as I’ve heard it pretty much everywhere I’ve gone for the past couple of weeks. Nothing else on the album comes close, but they deserve props for the Violent Femmes cover (“Gone Daddy Gone”) alone.
  • Phoenix, “Never Been Like That”: French pop group Phoenix ditches a few of their synthesizers in favor of Stokes-style guitars in an attempt to rough up their image; this is roughly equivalent to Mike Seaver putting on a Operation Ivy hoodie and a clip-on earring. I enjoyed their old sound far more, as only a few tracks here come close to the highs reached by tracks on their excellent previous albums “Alphbetical” and “United”.
  • Grandaddy, “Just Like The Fambly Cat”: While Jack Johnson rode his douchebag barefoot pro-surfer cred straight to the top of the Adult Contemporary charts, Grandaddy frontman Jason Lytle rode his former amateur-skateboarder cred straight into a ditch — and after several decent yet commercially unsuccessful albums (and one outright masterpiece, 2003’s “Sumday”), Lytle is finally calling it quits on this album. Sadly, this means Grandaddy is ending on a low point; none of Lytle’s future-folk songs have the same pop as the older tunes, and it seems like everyone involved knew it. Here’s hoping Lytle goes on to better things.
  • Ellen Allien & Apparat, “Orchestra of Bubbles”: For years, techno has been drifting into two seperate camps — there’s the floaty, hazy, gauzily electronic type pioneered by Brian Eno and innovated upon by surprisingly non-Canadian groups such as Boards of Canada. It’s the pleasant and dreamy kind of techno you hear in your more upscale coffeeshops. Then there’s the other kind of techno, phone cards which is typified by harsh 4/4 kick-drum beats, sawtooth synths, and repetitive samples; it’s the type of techno you hear in video games in which you shoot people. This album is of the second type, and unless you’re coked up and clubbing, I would avoid it. Even then I would avoid it.
  • Mike Patton, “Peeping Tom”: If you have a neck tattoo, you’ll probably enjoy this album.
  • Sonic Youth, “Rather Ripped”: Disparaging Sonic Youth in their (adopted) hometown of Northampton, MA feels kind of like badmouthing Tony Soprano down at the Bada Bing, but I didn’t love this album. It sounds great — I don’t think they’ve ever sounded more in control of their clean guitar textures, and early highlights like “Incinerate” and “Rats” are instant crowd-pleasers; but nothing on this album connected with me the way that 2002’s “Murray Street” did, start to finish. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve been invited on a short car ride with Thurston and Sil.


hoover fusion v. gillette fusion

June 10th, 2006


Thanks to the enthusiastic urgings of my friend Ben, I took an important step towards adulthood today: I bought my first new vacuum cleaner.


  • Thanks to Dyson, all vacuum cleaners now look like Tonka trucks. Not to say the vacuum is attractive — it’s not — but there is a certain Transformers toy-like quality to it. I guess vacuum cleaner manufacturers finally found out who was buying the vacuum cleaners (men) vs. who was more likely to want a vacuum cleaner bought (women).
  • It’s quite powerful. By then end of our first vacuuming run, I had half a grocery bag full of dirty hair. It should be noted that I haven’t actually vacuumed in about a year, and roomba can only do so much.
  • It’s bagless, which for me is a key point, as I refuse to give any more money in my lifetime to the shiftless vacuum cleaner bag impresarios, with their annoying and constantly unavailable unneccesary permutations of Size B, Size L, Size MM bags. Fuck them.


  • …and this is a big one: you have to buy it ($128.88) from Walmart. Walmart sucks — with apologies to our two readers from Utah, it’s a “red state” store, just like CompUSA — and what’s worse is after I bought the vacuum, the greeter wanted to check my receipt on the way out. Thanks to what what I’ve learned from the Consumerist, though, I didn’t let Flo the Walmart Greeter have her way. She shouted “I’ll call a manager!” at us as we left, but that was weak, and that was about all she apparently had.
  • The cord doesn’t roll back in. I like when they do that.
  • Headlight is not of the blinding, blue Xenon type.
  • Vacuum is an annoying word to type.

I was also disappointed by the lack of integration between the Hoover Fusion and my beloved Gilette Fusion razor. I bought into both in hopes of creating a “Fusion of Fusions” — a quad-fusion if you will* — but my early efforts to integrate the razor onto the handle of the vacuum was met with skepticism and derision. Worse, early prototypes cut my face deeply and profoundly — sure, combining a razor and a vacuum is attractive from an efficiency standpoint, but I’m not sure that this is “the way”:

(click to enlarge detail)

Back to the drawing board.


* and you will!

dr. pepper berries & cream

May 26th, 2006

  • Dr. Pepper? Check.
  • Berries? Check.
  • Cream? Check.

“Dr. Pepper Berries and Cream” — which sounds like a 70’s funk/soul group, but is in fact a new soda — turns out to be quite good. The flavor scienticians at Coca-Cola managed to enhance the classic sugar-malted-prune Dr. Pepper taste without losing it, a feat the previous variation of “Dr. Pepper Cherry Vanilla” couldn’t quite pull off. One hundred thumbs up!


coke blak

May 7th, 2006





splinter cell: essentials: review

April 14th, 2006

I picked up “Splinter Cell: Essentials” for my Sony PSP about a week ago. It’s not great. While the gameplay is true enough to the popular Splinter Cell console series — lots of satisfying headshots! — the controls, and particularly the camera, are pretty bad. But what really kills it are the graphics; here’s a screenshot from the jungle level:

And here’s a screenshot from the enemy compound level:

And here’s a screenshot from the oil tanker level:

…my point is, the graphics in the game are dark. Way, way too damn dark, and as a result, it’s über-frustrating to attempt to play. This is the exact same dumb problem that plagued “Doom 3”, too; it’s all well and good to go “atmospheric” with your game design, and “Splinter Cell” is a game of light and dark where sneaking around in the dark is inherently part of the game — but the player should still be able to see what they are doing. At least give the player the option to pump up the gamma settings, because what’s fun about a game you can’t see when playing?


my tribute to the harmony 880

April 7th, 2006

After months of using the Logitech Harmony 880 remote control, I have to say it’s the best thing ever. If you own more than three objects with remotes, you need this.

I don’t know how else to explain my love of this remote in words so I’ve decided to do it in music. Here’s a track from my forthcoming album “Music For Logitech Harmony 880 Remote Controls”.

how i learned to stop worrying and love the fusion

February 19th, 2006

First, an apology to Jeff. 

Jeff – I’m sorry.  The Gillette Fusion is your baby, and I’d about to swing by in a windowless van and snatch this little baby out of your arms.  So I whole-heartedly apologize.  That said, here is the grand review of the Gillette Fusion, carefully formulated to provide a large amount of information with little or no actual useful content.  Impressive.  I know.

I want to be upfront about something else.  I don’t want to like the Gillette Fusion. In fact, I very much want to dislike it.  Every time Gillette comes out with a new product, the price goes up, and I want feel like the razor mafia is coming by to collect insurance. I’m poor.  I can’t afford this sort of extortion.  ….but I can’t afford to not have the best shave money can buy, can I?

I have a special need for this 5-headed hydra beast.  As you can see here, I’m beginning to show early signs of baldness.  (Thanks Mom and Dad. That’s right Mom AND Dad)

As a result, I eat Mach3 blades for breakfast.  With a little milk and brown sugar, they are delicious. I shave my head about once a week or so, and it is guaranteed eat a blade.  After a solid head shaving, I’m left with a dull stump of a blade, the “moisturizing strip” is paper white, and all dried up.

So how does this 5 headed affront to the lord hold up?  Take a peek.

So the end verdict – the Fusion does in fact achieve the all important “creepy baby skin soft” that will cause strangers and coworkers alike to grope my head in inappropriate ways.  My head is remarkably blood free in the aftermath, and there was enough of an edge left to shave my face.

It looks the like Gillette Mafia will be getting another four bucks a blade after all.