Tag Archive: review



I’m not one hundred percent sure what the real name of this thing is; there’s not much writing on the package that’s in English. Most of the listings on eBay refer to it as a “face shaping mouth piece” or the much more verbose “Facial muscle exerciser mouth toning exercise slim toner flex face smile cheek.”

Yeah, I’m going to regret this one.

The idea seems simple enough, jam this thing in your facehole and move your mouth to work the little piston in an effort to make your smile bigger. I found mine for ninety-nine cents with free shipping, but I’ve seen the same item with the same packaging go for five to six times that.

How does it work? Not very well.

The craftsmanship is poor, the very first time I squeezed it together the casing on the larger half split down the seam and I’m afraid it would split the rest of the way and send the inner spring down my throat or through my cheek if I use it very much. Even if it wasn’t broken, it’s very hard to get it to work at all. The slight curve causes the inner shaft to rub and catch against the inside of the larger piece, causing it to jam. Even using my fingers to work the mechanism will cause it to jam. The pieces that are supposed to fit in the corners of your mouth caused me to drool a bit.

This thing is a waste of money; if you feel your smile is inadequate, you would be better off stretching your mouth with your fingers than buying this thing.

According to Mother Dearest, it looks like “something a porn star would own.”


Saturday was pretty drab and gray, so I decided to go to a movie that had just come out that I wanted to see – The Pirates! Band of Misfits. (You can watch the trailer here.)

I’m a fan of stop-motion animation as well as pirates, so I was hoping for a good movie. I was not disappointed.  The movie follows the adventures of a group of pirates (in case the title wasn’t a big enough hint) led by the Pirate Captain. All of the pirate crew are nameless; there’s the Albino Pirate, the Pirate with Gout, the Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate (who is a woman wearing a beard that looks like a bathmat) and so on. The only competent pirate is the first mate, who can translate the Pirate Captain’s orders such as “Fire those long things that go bang!” into something that makes sense. The entire crew is just thrilled about being pirates, even if they do happen to be the worse pirates on the sea.

A merry band of scurvy dogs. (And one "parrot")

The Pirate Captain desperately wants to win the Pirate of the Year award, despite being the laughingstocks of all the pirates. They go out plundering and meet with a series of failures culminating in an attack on the Beagle, complete with Charles Darwin.

Who, as a bonus, is voiced by David Tennant.

Darwin correctly identifies Polly as a dodo and not the “big-boned parrot” the crew believe her to be and tries to buy her from them. The Pirate Captain initially refuses, but changes his mind when Darwin tells them that the discovery of a live dodo would mean “wealth beyond imagination” but fails to explain that the wealth is not of the shiny sort. Hilarity ensues.

The story is pretty good for a kid’s movie, there are enough things that will entertain an adult but a kid probably wouldn’t catch. I wouldn’t mind seeing it again, which is how I judge movies.

Review – The Legend of Korra


  Last weekend I was flipping through the channels, looking for something to put on as background noise, and stopped on Nickelodeon because they were showing cartoons. While I was halfway paying attention, a commercial came on that made me stop what I was doing. It was for an upcoming show and there was something about the music that was very familiar, so I used the DVR and bounced back a bit to see the whole thing. It was for a show called Legend of Korra, a sequel to the very successful Avatar: the Last Airbender series that ended back in 2008. Intrigued, I looked it up and set my DVR to record it. (I love DVR.)

 

Holy smokes, it’s like Avatar plus! The animation style is very similar, with the same subdued palette and matte-finish look of the original, but it is much more dynamic. Like the original, the season is called a Book and the individual episodes are Chapters; this first episode was two chapters run back-to-back. Like most first episodes in a new show it was more “Let’s get to know the characters” than any real story, but it was still very entertaining.

 

It begins seventy years after the end of the first series according to the beginning narration. It is later revealed that the narrator is Tenzin, the son of Aang and Katara from the original series. (Two other ofspring are also briefly mentioned but as Tenzin is the only airbending master they are either non-benders or waterbenders like their mother.) He recounts the founding of the United Republic of Nations and the capitol city of Republic City (very original) in what was once the Fire Nation’s colonies after the war as sort of a perfect, balanced society, but after the death of Aang the balance began to crumble. There is then a jump to the home of a Water Tribe family where members of the White Lotus Society have arrived to investigate claims that the couple’s young daughter is the new Avatar. The mother calls for her daughter Korra as one of the elders expresses his doubts, only to have a portion of the home’s wall fly past them. In what is possibly the best character introduction ever, a little girl of about four stomps in shouting “I’m the Avatar! You gotta deal with it!” and proceeds to earthbend rocks up out of the ground, sets one of the elders’ robes on fire, and then puts it out with waterbending.

Pictured: pure badass.

There is another jump forward to what will be the show’s present day showing a teenaged (seventeen or eighteen is my guess) Korra completing her firebending training and awaiting the arrival of the airbending master. When he arrives he tells her he cannot stay because there is some unspecified trouble in Republic City – her training will have to wait. Being strong-willed and determined, Korra runs away, sneaks aboard a ship with her pet polar bear-dog (who is the size of a bison) and goes to Republic City.

Republic City with Korra in the foreground.

Even though it has an almost identical appearance, the show contrasts nicely with the original. Where the original series took place mostly in rural areas or wilderness,Legendis set mainly in the metropolis of Republic City.  The city is huge and there is evidence of more widespread technology – the streets are packed with vehicles called “satomobiles” that resemble early cars and there is evidence of advanced mechanical and electrical devices including radios that broadcast the wildly popular pro-bending matches. This sport is really interesting to watch and accounts for most of the action sequences in the second half of the premiere. The playing field is an elongated six-sided polygon divided into six zones and raised above a pit filled with water. Two teams of three benders – once each for earth, fire, and water – attempt to knock their opponents backwards through the three zones and ultimately off the field and into the water below. Through a series of events, Korra joins the pro-bending team of a pair of brothers, the Fire Ferrets.

This is a fire ferret, a red panda-ferret hybrid. I want one. Why are all the animals in the Avatar world so frickin’ adorable?

It’s too early to say if the show is going to be as good as the original, but so far it is very promising. Instead of rehashing the old they have developed what feels like a very good continuation of the story. The world isn’tidentical to the first, which is completely believeable given to progression of technology, but has what I’d call an Asian-inspired steampunk flavor added. I can’t wait to see more.

I will make a grounds-less prediction that there will be some sort of romance in Korra’s future, probably with one of the brothers on her pro-bending team. Since one is easy-going and a bit goofy and the other is taciturn and brooding, I also predict it will be the brooding one who doesn’t seem to like her very much. I’ve seen enough romantic comedies to recognise a “I hated you but now I love you” plot line.

Strange Legacy


I finally got around to watching Tron  and  Tron:Legacy the other day. I know the original movie is fairly old (it came out the same year I was born) but I had never really gotten around to seeing it.

Enter the wonder of Netflix! I popped both movies into my queue and promptly forgot about them for a few months. (I have a very long queue.) They arrived after a while and I sat down and watched them back-to-back. To get the whole “Tron experience” as it were.

Sad to say, I wasn’t terribly impressed.

First – the original.

For a thirty year old movie, the effects were very good. Not what you are used to these days, but impressive for the time period. The story was not the greatest. The biggest sticking point for me was the games. The Master Control Program, in its quest for world domination, decided to behave like a Roman dictator and make the captive programs perform for the amusement of … Who? The MCP? The users playing the games? I just didn’t think it was clearly explained why these captured programs were being forced to do this. The MCP was trying to absorb as many programs as possible, destroying a few thousand in an arcade game just seems counter-productive.

And while I am by no means the most computer-literate person in the world, I didn’t think programs worked that way. If, say, an actuarial program suddenly vanished then someone would notice. The very pissed off insurance salesman would contact whatever the equivalent of the IT department was back then and get someone to either find out where the program went, or reinstall it from a back-up disk. And why, exactly, were arcade games wired into the mainframe computer of a computer software development company? This was back in the Eighties, before everything from coffeemakers to cars were Wi-Fi accessible and Bluetooth compatible. Each one of those games would have had to have a hard-wired modem and a phone connection and there were dozens of games in Flynn’s arcade alone. You would think the arcade owner would notice all the extra equipment and phone lines that all of that would have required.

And now – the sequel.

Story-wise there was an improvement. After stewing for thirty years I would hope so. There was still no explanation as to why the programs were still being forced to play games, but I’ve already covered that. The effects were top-notch, the lightcycle race was spectacular. Much better than the original, but thirty years will do that to technology.

Speaking of technology -there’s Clu.

I remember there was some sort of fuss back when the movie first came out, that Jeff Bridges was actually going to play a younger version of himself.

For those out there who are curious, here’s a photo from Wikipedia with Old Jeff and Digital jeff staring at each other.

Kinda creepy

It’s very close to the way Jeff Bridges used to look, but Clu’s face looks too smooth, the jaw is too square, and the forehead looks odd. Like a plastic action figure. The range of expression was not what a real face would be able to perform, but it was supposed to be the face of a computer program. I’m still impressed that Disney got it as close as they did. According to the IMDB, he had to wear a helmet fitted with four cameras to capture his facial movements. That seems like it would be a bit awkward. (Another fun fact – the lightsuits were actually practical effects. Each one was fitted with luminescent wires and a battery (that lasted twelve minutes at the time), the wiring was so fragile the actors couldn’t sit down in them but had to lean against boards when they took a break. They were also stifling hot and air conditioning tubes had to be trained on each actor to cool them off between takes. You too can own a sweltering rubber lightsuit – only $60000. Batteries and air conditioner not included.)

As a long-time animation freak, I’m all about the voice. Jeff Bridges has a very distinct voice that has gotten deeper, richer, and raspier as he has aged. I don’t know if there was some post-production audio tweaking or if Bridges’ simply pitched his voice higher while performing Clu’s voice, but since every so often some of Old Jeff crept in to Digital Jeff’s voice I think it was probably the latter. It’s most noticeable during Clu’s speech to his army; at one point in particular his voice drops noticeably in pitch and tone. It could have been a stylistic choice though.

If it is in fact pure Jeff Bridges, then I’m glad – Jeff Bridges’ voice is one of the best things in the world. Sure, he’s the same age as GhostDad, but that voice …

:shivers:

Mmmmm...

Light My Fire!


As I haven’t done a Dollar Review for a while, I thought I would do one on the Permanent Match.

This is a permanent match.

This one of those things you can find all over eBay that looks like it wouldn’t work but really does. Mine’s a cylinder but they also come in a rectangular shape. Either way, the idea is the same. That little knob on top unscrews and a shaft comes out, that’s the “match” part of the thing.

Sorry it's so blurry.

The metal “match” is hollow, there’s cotton wadding stuffed in the end with a little steel tooth crammed in to hold it in place. You can’t really see the wadding in the photo, it gets all black and charred after awhile. You fill the little chamber with naptha, the “match” has a gasket at the top so it won’t leak. The little bar on the side is a flint; you make the fire the old-fashioned way, by drawing the little steel bit  down the flint very fast. There’s a lot of sparks and if you’ve done it right, some will land on the naptha-soaked cotton and set it on fire. It’s takes a bit of practice to get it right, but it does work.

Now, the downside – I’ve seen claims that the thing will light “10000” times and that might be true under perfect conditions, but I wouldn’t bet on it. The flint on the side wears down a little bit each time you swipe it and not every swipe will work perfectly. The flint is just barely the same size as the steel tooth, if you don’t get them lined up perfectly you end up gouging bits of plastic out of the sides of the notch it rests in. If you leave the match tip burning for any length of time, the cotton wadding gets burned up and I’ve yet to find a way to get the little steel bit out so I can change it. I would really prefer a design where I could add more wadding, once it gets burned up the thing is nearly useless.

But when it works, it works very well.

FLAME ON!

 

Final verdict – For my ninety-nine cents and free shipping, I thought the permanent match was worth it. I wouldn’t want to depend on it to light a campfire in the darkest jungles of Borneo, but it is a nice novelty to have around.

 

Fancy


As I have mentioned before, I very rarely do my nails with colored polish, mostly because it tends to flake off and look terrible after about a day. The Thursday before I was set to go on vacation, one of the Mary Kay ladies who regularly come in to work stopped by with a basket of discounted items. While I very rarely wear any sort of make-up, I saw something that caught my eye.

Hello, beautiful.

 

I was feeling impulsive, so I bought it. The next morning I had a few minutes, so I swiped on a couple of layers before heading out the door, not really expecting anything miraculous. All day long I kept expecting to see it flake or peel off, but it didn’t.

So the relatively light use they got at work didn’t do anything, I was sure once my vacation started it would come off quickly. I was staying home for most of the week and catching up on my cleaning, so I did a lot of scrubbing and scouring and generally bad things for nail polish.

And it held.

Right thumb, nearly pristine.

right fingers, lots of wear to the index and little fingers but middle a ring are nearly pristine.

left thumb, also pristine

left fingers, surprisingly less wear than the right considering my left hand is my dominant one.

 

 

While it might look like a mess, this is actually quite impressive. Normally after a full week there is nothing but a few stray microscopic particles of color desperately clinging for all they are worth. I also received several complements on the color (Coral Stone); one from my niece Thing 2, who wants me to paint her nails this color the next time she comes over. I was very impressed by Mary Kay’s nail lacquer and plan on buying more.

(I should mention that I am not a Mary Kay representative, nor do I plan to become one. I was not compensated in any way for this review, but if Mary Kay would like to send my some nail polish I wouldn’t mind 🙂 )

Behold the Knight


It is no surprise to anyone that I loves me some cartoons, but I’ve never really been a fan of anime. My first love is Western animation; I watched a little Sailor Moon in high school, but that was about the extent of my exposure. I have since watched a few, but nothing really grabbed my attention; for someone accustomed to the twenty-odd minute chunks of action-packed stories, sitting through an hour of tedious dubbed dialogue followed by five minutes of stunning acrobatics left me dizzy.

And then 2008 rolled around and Batman: Gotham Knight was released.

Oh, my.

It is very similar to the Batman: the Animated Series that I grew up with and still like to watch and caress and whisper sweet nothings to. (Don’t judge me!), but it is also radically different.

Set outside the canon of the DCAU, it is an animated feature broken down into six distinct segments. While each segment weaves into a coherent story, one borrowing from another, the styles are very, very different, and for good reason. In what I would call an innovative and risky move, each segment is directed by a different director and animated by a different anime studio. The only constants are the voice actors (most notably Kevin Conroy (squeee!), who returns as the Caped Crusader) and certain story elements.

And it works.

Damn, does it work.

Best of all – multiple Batmen.

Pictured: Batman

Also Batman

Actual Batman

Yet more Batman.

I count nine Batmen, each one different. The first segment alone, told in reverse from the viewpoint of three kids, each with their own version of Batman (and the real one shows up, of course) has four.

It is not for kids; Gotham Knight is only the second animated Batman movie to receive a PG-13 rating, mostly for blood and violence (this is  Batman) and it is quite bloody but I did not find it overly so.

The overall story is meant to bridge the gap between  Batman Begins  and The Dark Knight and does a very good job. Both movies are referenced, but if you haven’t seen them yet you can still enjoy this film. I quite enjoyed it, but I’m a touch biased.


Since my last review of a product went so well, I thought I’d give it another try.

Judging solely by eBay listings, Asian people have an unnatural obsession with their ears.

Which brings us to today’s item up for review – the Flashlight Earpick!

100_3461.JPG

Ta-da!

While it may sound like a terrific band name, this is in fact a tiny flashlight that comes with three different clear plastic tip attachments that you are supposed to stick in your ear.

100_3462.JPG

Hey, my flash works!

There are dozens and dozens of these things on eBay, some are slightly different colors but it’s basically the same thing; a little flashlight with plastic bits you stick in your ear. There are three bits, a small scoop, a larger scoop, and what are suppose to be tweezers.  You are supposed to use these high quality tools to remove wax and debris from your ear.

And the occasional earwig.

Since I don’t have many insects crawling into my ear to lay their eggs in my brain, I have used the little scoop on occasion to remove wax. It works about as you would expect, the flashlight portion really doesn’t help when it’s your own ear. Mother Dearest did use it to take a look at my ear to see it it looked inflamed during my last ear infection. It’s a good little tool if you need a tiny handheld light that you can get into tiny spaces. The light is pretty bright, the only real downside is I can’t figure out how to change the batteries but at $0.99 with free shipping it would be just as cheap to get a new one.

They also make nifty miniature light sabers.

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Don't tell me you weren't thinking about it.


I love Netflix.

I especially love the streaming video offered by Netflix, although I still get discs as well.

Next on the Netflix agenda...

Lately I have been watching the original The Twilight Zone series, with the eventual goal of watching all one hundred-thirty eight episodes. So far I’ve seen fifty and I’m moving at a fair clip. It’s been a while since I’ve seen any of them and I’ve noticed a few things. Besides the rockin’ theme music.

Do-di-doo-doo-do-di-doo-doo

Production values – typical for the time period (the series began in 1959) and if you watch enough episodes you see some very obvious recycling of props and scenery. That’s to be expected, shows do that even now. I did spot a “rocketman” wearing what appeared to be an old-fashioned (by today’s standards) leather football helmet that had been painted what I assume was silver. It is in black and white, after all. All the settings, even those that are supposed to be in the future, look very Sixties. In the second season there were about a half-dozen episodes that look very odd because they were shot using videotape instead of film in an effort to cut the budget. The lack of freedom and the quality of the picture put an end to that. Similar budget concerns regarding the number of actors involved in the series led to one of my favorite episodes, The Nervous Man in the Four Dollar Room which has exactly three roles and two are played by the same actor.

A classic of dramatic self-exploration brought to you because of budget cuts.

Story – Ah, the stories. Classics now and rightfully so in my opinion. Wonderfully written and amazingly creative even by today’s standards. The very first season has many of the episodes that would go on to become classics. The second season, so far, is good but not quite as good as the first.

Many of the story elements used by other series originated with Twilight Zone. Rod Sterling used the vehicle of science fiction and fantasy as a way to sneak social commentary past the censors of the day. Aside from the few minor anachronisms, mostly regarding the prices of various items, the progress of technology, and the omnipresent smoking, the episodes stay pretty relevant. My very favorite episode is, of course, Time Enough at Last.

The look on his face ... it breaks my heart every time.

I am an old-school reader.

Give me a book and I’m happy. I could, and have, read for days on end.

I also wear glasses, big thick glasses that I would be nearly blind without.

Stylish, ain't they?

If I somehow survived a nuclear holocaust, I would probably do exactly what Burgess Meredith does; secure enough reading material to last me until the day I die. I would line the walls of my bunker with paperbacks.If I ran out of food I would eat the books I didn’t want to read anymore.

Low in nutrition but high in fiber.

All in all, if you have Netflix and can watch the streaming video, I recommend the original The Twilight Zone. It’s a wonderful series, masterfully written and timeless.

Watch it.

Now.

Paper or plastic?


I have a confession.

I … am a bag lady.

By that I mean I have reusable shopping bags that I take shopping with me. Not as often as I should, but I’m getting better.

I’ve made a ton of them, both sewn and crocheted, but I’d like to focus on two specifically that are easily available on the ‘net, cheap, and pack down small for ease of carrying.

These cute little guys.

First up – the strawberry bag.

I bought this one on eBay, they come in different styles with grapes, watermelon, and tropical fish looking to be the most popular. The patterns are different but the idea is the same; stuff the entire bag down into a corner and use a built-in cord to cinch it closed.

14 inches wide by 16 inches deep, with an additional 6 inch high opening for the handle.

The “strawberry” corner is made of a heavier canvas, but the bag itself is a thin nylon. A loop of red elastic cord is fed through the green “leaf” channel sewn to the top of the “strawberry”, which is about four inches deep by about five inches across.

It’s lightweight and doesn’t take up much room and it has proven itself to be pretty sturdy. I’ve used mine numerous times and it has held up well. It doesn’t take up much room in my purse and it’s kinda cute.

You can find these bags all over eBay, the lowest price I have found is $0.99 with free shipping. The other styles are a little more depending on the pattern, perhaps up to $0.75 -$1.00 more. I think the strawberry is cute and it was the cheapest, so that’s what I got.

Next up – the penguin.

24 inches wide (16 inches folded flat) by 15 inches deep, with a 4 inch gusset on either side and an additional almost 8 inch handle opening, it folds down to a 5.5 inch by 3 inch by .50 inch rectangle.

I love this bag! It’s bigger than the strawberry and the material and workmanship is a bit better. It’s nylon as well, but a heavier weight and seems more durable. It was a bit pricier, $3.00 with free shipping, but it’s a nice big bag. I got it from DealExtreme, a site I eventually plan on reviewing.

I will say this, it took FOREVER to get this bag, over a month. Of the overseas sites, DX almost always takes longer. It was worth the wait, though. I got a great bag at a decent price. It came as “assorted color” but all the bags pictured were cute so I was willing to take a chance and I’m happy with what I got.

Just look at that face and those itty bitty feet!

If you are looking for a compact bag to take with you in the car, in you pocket, or in a purse, these two are great choices especially if you are only picking up a few things. When you have your own bag, you would be surprised how often you get a chance to use it.

Both are washable and dry quickly so if you have any messes or leaky stuff in them they are easy to take care of.

I like them for going to yard sales as well, people seem to appreciate the fact that you brought your own bag (and that you have quarters!)