Category Archives: Arbitrary Reviews

BEST OF 2013: a limited perspective

         My view of 2013 was fairly limited as, in all honesty, I really don’t get out much and when I do get out, it usually revolves around the interest of the kids instead of my own.  That said, however, I still had some pretty good experiences in 2013 so I thought it’s only proper that I compile a list and throw it into the pit of countless other mediocre “best of” lists.   Here we go, get ready to have your mind BLOWN.

Movie of the Year:  DESPICABLE ME 2 
minionThis seems to be a popular category, so lets start with that.  I didn’t make it out to the theater much this year and much of what I watched on TV was a mix of fairly unbearable children’s programing courtesy of Netflix.  I did, however really love this movie.  Very enjoyable for absolutely all ages without pandering to any.
Qualifier: I believe I only saw one movie released in 2013 that had actual “real” people, therefore Sharknado scores an honorable mention.

Game of the Year:  TOMB RAIDER
tombI actually played quite a few games in 2013, though very few that were actually released in 2013. Had I played everything, though, I’m quite confident Tomb Raider would still be in my top 5 at least, as it was a fantastic game.  It had everything I love in a game, story, adventure, collecting, and, of course, brutal cut scenes.
Qualifier: I have yet to play what apparently the rest of the world has determined as the 2013 game of the year, so until I play The Last of Us, feel free to add an asterix by my pick.

Book of the Year:  MOON DUST CASTLES
mdcSeriously, what did you expect me to put here? But what isn’t to love about this book? Not one but four…FOUR stories, fantastic writing, unrivaled cover art, great illustrations (aw shucks), you’ll laugh, you’ll cry…you’ll buy it hopefully.
Qualifier: I may or may not have had a hand in the creation of this book and the aforementioned illustrations and cover art…plus, I may or may not have seen the author sans clothing.

Now the lightning round…
Album of the year –  SUPERCHUNK: I Hate Music
Song of the Year – COME ON EILEEN
(31st straight year)
Phrase of the Year – MY BRAIN IS GREEN -Noah
Drink of the Year – COFFEE
Website of the Year – MINE
Meal of the Year – STEAK GORGONZOLA ALFREDO
Natural Disaster of the Year – MILEY CYRUS
(I’ll spare you an image)
Best Gift of the Year – THIS THING…

IMG_4338Yeah, it’s a light up Thomas Kinkade wall tapestry.

Watermelon Oreos: tasty treat or artificial abomination?

Why has no one thought of combining a shortbread cookie with artificial watermelon flavoring before now?  Because it sounds awful, that’s why.  With such a large variety of Oreo flavors, the only people I can imagine actually choosing these would be a hyperactive 8 year old or someone who is way too high to be grocery shopping responsibly.  Regardless, I made the purchase.

IMG_2558

I was expecting to be hit with an overpowering scent of artificial watermelon when I tore open the bag, but to my surprise, the smell was hardly noticeable.  They were lined up in neat little rows like all good little Oreos are, just waiting for someone to ham-fist their way through their numbers.  IMG_2559Now we come to the moment of truth, the tasting.  I take a gentle smell of the individual cookie  to take in the subtle scent of shortbread with a hint of watermelon.  An odd mix, but we knew that already.  First bite nets me a punch in the mouth from that overly sweet chemical watermelon flavor familiar to anyone who’s ever had a sugar binge of Laffy Taffy or Jolly Ranchers.  The shortbread cookie flavor is barely recognizable, serving merely as a vehicle for that sickeningly sweet green and pink cream.   It’s edible, but it is in no way subtle.  IMG_2561I polish off the first cookie, then proceed to eat another to see if it’s any better when knowing what to expect, much like allowing your eyes to adjust to a bright light.  The punch in the mouth is less severe the second time allowing me to experience the nuances of the concentrated artificial flavor…of which there are none.  This cookie is basically Oogh the caveman beating me over the head with tree stump chanting “WA-TER-MEL-LON”. I want to stop, but know I must forge ahead in order to give a full review, therefore I proceed to the milk-dunking test.  IMG_2562

I give the little flavor demon a 5 second dip into a glass of cold skim milk and take a bite.  The milk does help to disperse the spastic flavor trauma of the watermelon and gives a bit more help to the overwhelmed shortbread cookie.  This helps to nudge it up the edibility ladder a bit more, but not enough to garner a recommendation . IMG_2565

As I mentioned before, there are many options when it comes to Oreos, or cookies in general.  I would suggest giving it a bit more consideration before dropping your $3 on a package of these artificial disaster snacks.  Yes, there are far worse things you could eat, but the question is, why would you?

Hot Wheels vs. Matchbox

Since Isaac has been becoming obsessed with cars, I have found myself spending quite a bit of time in the car aisle of many a toy department.  When looking to purchase small, inexpensive cars, you have many choices, however, two tend to rise to the top.  You have your Hot Wheels and you have your Matchbox.  When I was a kid, I had quite a few of both.  I found that Matchbox made many of the foreign exotic cars I liked, but Hot Wheels…well…nothing rolled like a Hot Wheel.  They could go on for ever.  Remember Ultra-Hots?  I do.  Awesome.  Today, things are a little different.  Hot Wheels are now made almost exclusively with plastic bottoms, not the metal ones from my youth.  This means they are lighter and lack momentum.  Why does this matter?  They no longer roll like the diecast champions I remember them to be.  Matchbox? They now have plastic bottoms as well and therefore roll about equally as well as the Hot Wheels.  Quality-wise they are now about equal.  So, when you are at the store and you are going to buy your kid a car, what do you buy?  You buy a Hot Wheel.  Why?  Because Matchbox doesn’t make too many of those cool exotic cars you always wanted anymore.  Now, it seams that Hot Wheels makes the cars you want to own while Matchbox only makes the cars you can afford to own…if you live in Europe.  How many kids have a picture of a Citreon on their walls?  Uh, no thanks.  I’ll take the Hot Wheel of the Aston Marten DBS instead, thank you.

Blockbuster vs. Netflix vs. Gamefly vs. my final verdict

For the last few months, I have been experimenting with my consumption of entertainment. Spending so much time at home kind of lends itself to this type of exploration. This has led me to try out the media-by-mail services of Netflix, Gamefly, and Blockbuster. Before I dig into my thoughts on the services and what I have chosen to stick with, let’s review the offerings and the prices.

NETFLIX

  • Unlimited one-at-a-time DVDs for $8.99 mo. (and Blu-Ray for $2 more)
  • Unlimited streaming content including many movies and TV series
  • two day turn around (return on Monday, get next on Wednesday)

GAMEFLY

  • Unlimited one-at-a-time PS3/XBOX 360 games for $15.95 mo.
  • Unlimited two-at-a-time for $22.95 mo
  • Seven day turn around (return on Monday, get next on following Monday

BLOCKBUSTER

  • Offers DVD, blu-ray, and PS3/XBOX 360 games for a one-price plan
  • Unlimited one-at-a-time movie/game for $8.99 mo
  • Unlimited two-at-a-time movie/game for $13.99 mo
  • Limited one-at-a-time, maximum two per month for $4.99 mo

I first tried out Netflix.  As soon as signing up, I set up my XBOX 360 to deliver the streaming content to my TV.  This, I found, more than made the service worthwhile.  I was astounded by the amount of content available and was quickly able to catch up on my TV series that my attention had previously allowed to lapse.  I opted for the blu-ray plan for $2 more a month, which has expanded the experience quite a bit for me.  So far, I have always received the first movie in my queue and have only seen two titles show “short wait” as their status instead of “available” In short, this is a durn good service for the money.

To complement my movie viewing, I decided to try out Gamefly in hopes it would provide the same Netflix-like experience to my gaming addiction.  It did not.  I first tried out the two-at-a-time option thinking I would be burning through games left and right.  The plan was hindered by the scant availability of every game released within the last four months.  I found it sending me games from fairly low placements in my queue.  What hurt the experience even worse, however, was the incredible slow turnaround time.   I was paying $23 a month and was only getting 3-4 games out of it.  After a couple months, I reduced the plan to one-at-a-time for $15.99, simply because I could not justify the $23.  This meant I was now only getting to play 2 mediocre games a month, and half of the time, I did not have a game at all.

Just about the time I was really getting frustrated with Gamefly, Blockbuster announced they were offering DVD’s, blu-rays, and games available to all online subscribers for no additional cost to the plans.  Better yet, the offered at $5 a month plan for a two-per-month (mix & match of all three media) max subscription.  Seeing as how I was paying Gamefly $16 for a two a month, this $5 plan looked really good.   So was it?  well…sort-of.  New release games through Blockbuster are not available for rent-by-mail for three months after their release date.   While on the surface this sounds like a steaming pile, new release games through Gamefly weren’t showing up for at least three months either due to their high demand.   As far as the game selection, it was pretty good and comparable to Gamefly and many of the older games did show as either “available” or “short wait”.  I got my first selection in about 4 days after signing up and soon found out that the turn-around time pretty much sucked.  It was taking 4-5 days after sticking a game in the mail that they showed it received and another day before they shipped the next one.  In short, it was taking about 8 days to get my next game.   The nice thing about Blockbuster, however, was that I could also return items in-store and they would show as received with an hour.  This cut the turn-around time in half.

FINAL VERDICT

Gamefly sucks.  Too much money for too little games.  Don’t do it.  Instead, I decided to opt for both Blockbuster and Netflix.  I am now paying $25 a month and am getting unlimited streaming (now in HD and 5.1 surround through my PS3 thank-you-very-much), a new blu-ray sent to my home within 3 days, and unlimited tw0-at-a-time PS3 and Xbox games with a 3-4 day turnaround when dropped off in-store.  Regrets? only that I wasted so much money on Gamefly.  I just upped the Blockbuster account to two at a time and today received two copies of Singularity, one for Xbox and one for PS3.  This was not intentional, just a side effect of trying to stack the queue in order to get certain games regardless of platform.  I’m learning queue management, though, and don’t expect this to be a long-term problem.

Now the question you might be having is “why didn’t you just go with Blockbuster?  Why Netflix too?”  In short, Blockbuster does not offer the streaming the way Netflix does.  The streaming pays for itself.  Netflix for movies and TV, Blockbuster for games, Gamefly for…uh…

SO RATINGS…

Netflix gets a whopping 10 precision Dexter style slayings

Blockbuster get a respectable 8 Mickey Rourke voice overs

Gamefly gets a sad 2 JRPG characters who will quickly become annoying and you will soon find yourself wishing for their demise

 

Disclaimer: I proofread nothing, nor do pay attention to spelling and grammar critiques

I Review a Day at the Columbus Zoo

First off, let me say that I am not a connoisseur of public zoos. I have been to a few, Indy, Cincinnati, etc, but not enough to really have an arsenal for comparison. After spending a day at Columbus, though, I think I can write a fair review of my experience.
My first thought is, hopefully Labor Day weekend made our experience atypical as the crowd was more or less unbearable. I realize “unbearable” is relative, so I’ll clarify by saying “unbearable for those who get tired of waiting in line to eat, see a monkey, use a bathroom, or walk in a forward motion”. It was excessive.
We waited an hour in line to buy lunch only to end up with what would clearly not pass quality control for a Banquet box lunch. I would also expect that any food I pay that much for should stay in my body for at least long enough for the aftertaste to fade, but alas, it did not.
We are talking about a zoo, though, so let’s get to the animal portion of this review. Yes, there were some big animals and yes, they were very cool…one people cleared away enough to actually see them. Due to the crowd, however, we were not able to make it through the whole zoo! This was not due to the zoo being too large, just not laid out in a way that cooperates with a large crowd. We were able to see some large gorillas up close and the aquarium, while somewhat small, did give an up close experience for some pretty interesting fish.
We had a few really great moments which are worth mentioning. The red pandas are always nice to see and Isaac became very excited when he saw the elephants (or Giant Hortons). We were also lucky enough to see a monkey defiling a plastic footstool which, honestly, is now my second favorite monkey moment. Disappointment in the zoo itself comes from some of the smaller displays for animals which were worthy of much more. Seeing a Rhino in an enclosed gymnasium type of building was very non-dynamic for such an interesting beast. I want to see these animals outside in some sort of makeshift habitat so we can see them moving naturally, not laying on concrete. There were some habitats that were quite nice, but overall, not overly impressed.
I’m going to wrap up this review, as I’m writing it on my phone and surely it is full of typographical errors, and my battery is running low, so let me sum up with this: lunch 1/4 of our time at this zoo was spent on a lunch that cost more than our admission price. That’s going to piss anyone off to the point of tainting the entire experience. Plus they didn’t give us straws in our drinks. Not cool. Final rating: 2 suave monkeys seducing 5 plastic stools wishing they had a voice to say “no means no”.

I Review Herr’s Ketchup Flavored Potato Chips

A few years (13or14) ago while in Canada, I bought a bag of Lays ketchup flavored potato chips, as it was something I hadn’t seen in the states and, therefore, must try it. I didn’t care for them and honestly had no desire to eat them ever again. Last week, though, while doing my grocery shopping at Meijer, I noticed that they had started carrying Herr’s brand potato chips. I had heard of this brand before, but don’t believe they have been sold in this region up until recently. What stood out to me was not the brand, though, but the flavors they offered. Creamy Dill, Horseradish and Cheddar, and Ketchup. There I was, standing in the middle of the aisle with a cart full of eggs and produce, staring at a chip flavor unbeknownst in these parts, so, of course, I bought a bag.

Upon opening the bag, I noticed the chips were coated in a thick red powder, which, upon reading the ingredients, I learned was tomato powder. LOTS of tomato powder, that is, much heavier coating than what we normally see on our chips.

Here’s how the tasting experience went: open bag, eat chip. Hmmm…not bad, somewhat of a bite to it, yeah, a little ketchupy. Eat more, salty bite, much like ketchup. A few more, wait, this is starting to taste like a salty tomato. Then the aftertaste hits…harsh tomato mush. After getting the tomato mush sensation, the experience was ruined. Every following bite recalled the same harsh mushy tomato flavor. I was done after just a small handful. I did return to the bag the following day, but could only put down a few chips before being turned off by them. It didn’t help that my hand was stained red like I had been eating bloody cheetos, either.

On further reflection, I tried to separate the flavor from the tomato image. The Ketchup label perhaps drew to mind the thought of eating straight ketchup, which to me would not be an ideal snack. Would I have been able to enjoy these chips with a mental separation from pure tomato paste? Perhaps had they named the chip “Appalacian BBQ” it would have been more tollerable. Honestly, though, I doubt it. These chips were, to be blunt, a bit nasty. Eat one, eat two, no problem. Dive into a bag, you’ve got imitation ketchup fingers and a torn-up tongue. Here’s my advice, stick to the flavors that at least sound like something you would want to eat in any type of quantity.

I give Herr’s Ketchup Flavored Potato Chips 1 bleeding cheeto out of 5 oz of partially hydrogenated artery blockage.

I Review Terminator: Salvation for the PS3

I was never a huge fan of the Terminator series. Saw The original when I was a kid and thought it was cool. Saw the second on opening weekend when I was in high school which established my lifelong dislike of Edward Furlong. Actually like the third one, and didn’t care too much for the last one.

With that said, I bought Terminator: Salvation the game for PS3 recently. I had not heard good things about it, but it was only $5 and it’s hard to find a game for $5 that I won’t buy. In this case, however, I feel like I might have been ripped off. This game is not good…at all.

Let’s see, graphics would be ok had the game come out five years ago. Gameplay is repetitive repetitive repe…you get my point. Mechanics are simple as you only use about half the buttons on the controller. The game itself, though, is a glitch-infested, frustration filled pile of garbage.

You like cutscenes? Hope so, because you can’t skip them. You die, and it’s back to the last cut scene and wou have to watch and listen (shiver) all over again…and again…and again. It’s not that I’m terrible at games and just get killed a lot, this game just wants you to die. It’s like playing cowboys with your friends when everytime you would shoot them with your finger, they would quickly make up an elaborate story of how your bullet managed to miss them. This game stinks of burnt popcorn drizzled with wet dog.

Here’s the teal kicker, though. Imnonly on the second chapter. I just started the horrible monstrousity tonght..but o intend to finish. Why? Trophies, plain and simple. Finshe the game on hard doing nothing but laying through the chapters, and you get 11 gold trophies and a platinum. Fine, you win. I’ll just hold my nose, close my eyes, and pretend it’s modern warfare…a very glitch, repetitive, and frustrating moder warfare…with T-600s.

The best I can do for this game is give it one irritated skynet out of five wasted dollars.