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Sir Charles Panther "Life is hard. It's harder when you're stupid." RSS Feed (Alexandria, Virginny, USandA)
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Kona French Press #1 Premium Coffee Maker & Tea Press-Thick Thermal Shock Resistant 34oz Glass *FREE Bonus Screen Limited Time Offer-Easy Clean 3 Piece Stainless Steel Parts-Best Espresso Maker Gift Perfect for All Coffee Lovers by Idylc Homes ✔Buy With Confidence 100% RISK FREE GUARANTEE
Kona French Press #1 Premium Coffee Maker & Tea Press-Thick Thermal Shock Resistant 34oz Glass *FREE Bonus Screen Limited Time Offer-Easy Clean 3 Piece Stainless Steel Parts-Best Espresso Maker Gift Perfect for All Coffee Lovers by Idylc Homes ✔Buy With Confidence 100% RISK FREE GUARANTEE
Offered by Idylc Homes
Price: $29.89
3 used & new from $28.39

4.0 out of 5 stars Very Nice Press, Few Coffee Grounds, July 5, 2014
Disclosure: the manufacturer contacted me and offered this product to me in exchange for a review. I accepted, promising a fair and honest review in return.

First off, once again I have to comment on the name of the manufacturer. Is that pronounced "Eye-dilk?" I'm guessing they're shooting for "idyllic," but that's not what "Idylc" says. So what exactly are the characteristic of eye-dilk homes?

This is a nice little French press for a great price, and it works very well. I recently received and reviewed a similar French press (of the same size/volume), and comparatively, this one has performed much, much better. Not so much in the flavor of the coffee as in the amount of coffee grounds coming through into the cup. Using a French press you're going to get grounds almost every single time, and it's really only a question of how much. With this press I got coffee grounds very infrequently, and when they did come through they were much less than with the other press I recently tested. Maybe the difference is in the construction of their screen, or maybe it was just my improved technique--I've got no way to know.

In the box you get the press beaker, the press lide and handle assemply, a little coffee grounds measuring cup and the owner's manual/instructions. You do not get an extra press, but my box had a coupon for an extra--free!--press, if you'd only go to their website and sign up (so they get your email address for marketing/sales purposes--duh); I declined.

The body is a polycarbonate/plastic wraparound, which in my model does not detach from the glass beaker. I had no problems with this in hot dishwater or in the dishwaser.

Bottom line: if you're going with a French press for your coffee, this is a great choice. Recommend.


Flings: Stories
Flings: Stories
by Justin Taylor
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Snippets, June 15, 2014
This review is from: Flings: Stories (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The snark in me wants to say that these are meandering sketches, little life-slices that to my reading just start somewhere and don't seem really to go anywhere. But that isn't it. It seems they are character-development pieces, Taylor working/exploring situations and characters as part of a larger narrative arc that seems to be coming. This is a real book, though, from a real publisher, not one of the self-published stinkers that I keep getting requests to read/review. Smart literary professionals recognize Taylor as the real deal, so I have to respect that. One of the back cover accolades from the LA Times says Taylor is "a master of the modern snapshot;" sure, I'd agree with that, with a tone and depth of description that very well captures what's going on right now, right down to pop culture references to technology, social media, movies, music (at times reminding me of Chuck Klosterman, actually).

These are short stories, short on beginning, middle and end, so it may be a bit unfair to expect a great deal of movement in the space of 20 or so pages. But the back cover copy of "powerful and incisive stories of men and women unmoored from their pasts..." didn't really come through for me. Mostly it's young people, 20-somethings exploring identity and direction in that awkward post-college period (phase?). None of this content is bad; all of it is well written, detailed and the characters are unique, interesting and have depth. I guess I was just disappointed from expecting something a bit more epic than what I got. I think this is my unrealistic expectations from short stories.

You get a dozen stories in 219 pages, so you're at about 18 pages per story. If you don't like one, it'll be over soon enough and you can move on to the next.

Some stories are interconnected with characters. No, you don't have to remember what each character did in previous stories to get what's going on in the new story.

The one that I liked most was one of a college guy and gal, their approaches to each other from almost polar opposite to the realization that they really are for each other, belong together and deserve a future sharing each other's lives. Taylor writes how "...deep within her the pins in a lock were aligning..." That's good stuff.

The content is adult, with salty language, some graphic albeit short sexual descriptions, and some pot and cocaine use. There is no violence other than a couple of relatively minor fights. It's nothing gratuitous, but you won't find this text in the high school reading list. It's suitable for the mature over-16 reader.

Props to Taylor for a mention of Frank Zappa and even a few pages later a sly inclusion of a character saying, "What's New In Baltimore?" Good stuff, fellow Zappa fan.

And, having recently read another novel in which Philadelphia was not described warmly, I couldn't help but note yet another slam: "...a provincial sh*thole filled with ugly people uninterested in traffic laws or any other form of etiquette or self-preservation." Ouch.

Bottom line: These are well crafted short stories about people trudging through present-day issues and challenges, mostly interpersonal, among family and friends. Some resolve, and some do not. Things move quickly, and if you're looking for a more highly developed and intricate story, you'll probably want to go with a fully developed novel instead.


Gillette Fusion Proglide Power Men's Razor With Flexball Handle Technology With 1 Razor Blade
Gillette Fusion Proglide Power Men's Razor With Flexball Handle Technology With 1 Razor Blade
Price: $10.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Very Nice Product, Expensive Refills, June 7, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
In the package: the razor, that is, the handle assembly, complete with flexball and AAA battery, and one razor cartridge, already installed. There is a tiny folded-up notice (English, French, Spanish) regarding the battery only; there are no instructions on how to use the razor, change the cartridge, etc.

The Flexball really isn't a ball, more of an oblong spheroid. The packaging tells me that it responds to facial contours, complete with a curvy side-to-side motion diagram. I'm not too sure how this improves my shave, as my face neither curves side to side nor do I move my head side to side as I shave; that's usually a bad idea when working with razor blades. The Flexball does look pretty cool in the razor assembly, though, all orange n' stuff.

The Flexball is just part of the Three-Way Action of the mighty Gillette triad of shaving dominance, the tilt back and forth of the razor head and the powered vibration being the other two components. The tiIting makes complete sense, since shaving is usually a downward/vertical/up-and-down sort of activity. The vibration, however, escapes me; I don't see how it helps me shave better/closer. Gillette's copy tells me it's "soothing micropulses, which help reduce friction and increase razor glide." Now, the rutting pig-man in me sees how this feature would be a strong sell for ladies' razors, but I don't get how a vibrating razor helps me along. I see major opportunities for very quick multiple cuts, which I note did not happen even once. I used it numerous times with the vibration on (complete with a little orange light on the power button!) and off, and I could detect no difference whatsoever in the ease or the quality of the shave.

Performance: There are just two measures of performance, ease of shaving and the resulting feel.

For the ease of shaving, I like the feel of this in my hand. It is heavier and bigger than my old razor (the legendary Gillette Sensor/Sensor Excel), and has some nice little grippy nubblet-thingies down the length. Good grip = good control. But bigger is not necessarily better. This razor is kind of like a Massey-Ferguson 9895 combine reaping its way across the bounteous plains of Kansas, a massive tool mowing down acre upon acre over the rolling, contourless countryside. But you can't drive that combine into town, or even think about turning it around. On the cheeks and down the neck this razor is easy and performs well, but on the upper lip, under the nose, around the ears and working around the edges of a moustache or beard these five blades and the two moisturizing strips fore and aft make this big ol' thing unwieldy and ultimately less than useful. Sometimes small and compact is a better option.

But there is a solution! I didn't even notice it on the product, and the packaging doesn't mention it either: the product copy online pointed out the "precision trimmer" on the back of the cartridge. Whaddaya know; there IS a doohickey that helps you get into the tight spots and get it done. That's a nice add, and it's needed.

And the resulting feel--how close did it shave? Well, I've got no way to measure this, but after a good three weeks of using this product and comparing it to my usual Gillette Sensor, it does seem that this is giving me a closer shave, with or without the vibration on.

Price: At about $11, this is about what I expect for this, so the price seems fair. But the razor cartridges are disposable, so you've got to replace them. And with them coming in at near $4 each, and that's for the purchase of a value-pack of eight, that's really pretty spendy.

Bottom line: Overall this is some pretty neat personal hair-management engineering in a small space. But, does my face really need all of this technological innovation just to scrape the little hairs away every morning? No, not really, but I have to admit that it does a very good job of it. I've got the handle now so all I need to do is spring for the cartridges, so I will definitely keep my eyes open for sales and coupons so I can bring that hefty price down a bit.


Tide Plus A Touch of Downy Liquid Laundry Detergent, April Fresh, 92 Fl Oz
Tide Plus A Touch of Downy Liquid Laundry Detergent, April Fresh, 92 Fl Oz
Price: $11.97

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Stuff, June 1, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I see this product is part of the “Tide Plus collection.” I’d like to see Tide Plus Jalapeno, Tide Plus Blueberries, Tide Plus Cinnamon, that kind of thing.

I’ve been a Tide guy for a long time, which is to say I’d never hesitate to buy it. I’ve used Gain, a bunch of others, but always have had no problems with Tide.

And I like this Tide logo with that bullseye flair, and the textured silver ring with the + sign. The nerd in me sees it first as a chemical notation, some kind of exotic ionic detergent breakthrough, extra protons, something powerful, mighty powerful. But, I’d expect that for the vast majority it simply comes across as “Tide Plus…” Sure, that works, too.

The price of this is right, too. Running about a quarter per wash. That’s a good sales point for me.

A personal quest has always been to get our towels to the level of hotel towels in terms of fluff and softness. We still have not achieved this laundry grail. Did this product live up to the Downy rep? Well, I guess. It seemed that the towels—and this is what I was concentrating on—were a little bit softer and fluffier. But maybe that was just wishful thinking.

Reading closely on the packaging, it says “a touch of” Downy. The product page says “a little bit of” Downy. Now what exactly does that mean? Clearly it’s not 50/50. There’s a reason they’re being so specific on the incorporation of Downy into the product…I guess it has to do with hyping the brand synergy while at the same time jealously guarding the integrity of the brand. Sure, whatever.

Scent: officially it’s “April Fresh.” To me April doesn’t quite smell this soapy. But then again, for a laundry detergent it’s just fine, not too soapy and with a nice finish that stays with the laundry and most importantly is not overpowering.

Bottom line: Would we buy this again? Yeah, sure, why not. It’s a great detergent in the first place, one we’re used to using and will use again, and now it’s got a little bit of extra that seemed to actually deliver on its promise. Nice product.


In the Realm of the Senses [HD]
In the Realm of the Senses [HD]
DVD
Price: $3.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Tale of Indulgence and Surrender, May 30, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I've been hearing about this film for years, and never really paid too much attention to it. I thought it was just another squishy Euro art film about Asian sensuality, so didn't give it much thought, or a watch. Then recently I read the full story of Sada Abe and knew I had to watch the movie. And it was not a disappointment, not in the least.

Pornographic? That's a matter of taste and appreciation for the work. I don't see it as such, not even close. It's packed with explicit sexual content, most definitely, but that does not make it pornographic.

This film's NC-17 rating makes the NC-17 Henry and June look like children's programming. From the opening minutes, the sexual activity and depiction of it is absolutely unflinching and direct. I found that surprisingly refreshing, that the main subject of the movie is actually depicted honestly and clearly, not simulated, not hinted at or hidden. Guccione (kind of) tried to get there with Caligula, but didn't get it right. This film most certainly does.

The sexual content is intimate, tender, cruel, infuriating, brutal, erotic and more, a lot more. I was reminded of A Real Young Girl, but the content here is much more abundant and explicit.

And that ending, with the cutting-off scene. Really, really bloody and gnarly, quite unpleasant to watch, but I did very much appreciate that it was related completely and honestly, adult content for an adult following and contemplating the story.

In the end, the story develops and it's wonderfully ambiguous if Sada is an insanely jealous lover, or if her man is so stricken by her that he knowingly and willingly completely surrenders to her, solely for her pleasure. Kind of a reversed Story of O, maybe. As for the interpretations of feminine response to emerging Japanese imperialism, I didn't really see that.

Bottom line: this is serious art-cinema for the serious and mature movie lover. This film is not about hot and romantic sex for the purposes of setting a mood or arousal. It is, as the title says, a chronicle of how two people can fall absolutely and completely for one another, so much so that they lose their bearings, morals, ethics and more.


Black and Decker LSW36 40-Volt Lithium Ion Cordless Sweeper
Black and Decker LSW36 40-Volt Lithium Ion Cordless Sweeper
Price: $139.00
7 used & new from $125.10

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great for Little Jobs, May 30, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I got this for the wife for Mother's Day--at her request--and this has been a great hit. She absolutely love it, for the jobs she does, like blowing off the deck, clearing the garage, blowing off the front porch and sidewalks, etc. It works just right for her in these jobs, and the weight is perfect for her. For that reason, the product is a clear winner.

But for big blowing jobs this isn't really the tool to use. You need heavy-duty corded power if you're going blow the driveway, blow leaves in the yard, etc. I've got a heavy-duty WeedEater blower for this that is going on 12 years old, and it works like a charm. Yeah, it's corded, but it works great.

I note with interest that an additional/replacement battery for this product is $88. That means, I guess, that this blower if worth about $51. Does that mean it's a cheap blower? I dunno.

One note on the battery and charger: make sure that you don't leave the battery in the charger for a long time (more than 24 hours) or you'll ruin both the battery and the charger. And if you leave the charger plugged in for a long time you'll also ruin that. Plug it all in to charge, and as soon as you're done get it all unplugged.


Camp Chef 22-Inch Professional Style Cast Iron Lid Lifter
Camp Chef 22-Inch Professional Style Cast Iron Lid Lifter
Price: $18.74
3 used & new from $15.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Camp Cooking Tool, May 30, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
First off, this shipped immediately and it arrived literally as I hopped in my truck to head out for a Scout event in which I was going to be doing a lot of Dutch oven cooking. Perfect timing.

The construction of this tool is very simple. It's a piece of cake to use. It's all metal, but is not a heavy tool. The plastic on the two hand/finger parts is a very smart addition.

Note that this is not spring-loaded in anyway. The lifter will not automatically be in any position, except maybe "down," given that this is where gravity is going to pull it. If you're lifting a lid with this, you're going to have to hold it tight. the three legs do a great job of pulling the lid in tight so you have a solid grip on it, which is great for dumping coals/ash from the lid.

This tool was the envy of all the other Dutch oven-cookin' dads, some of whom I know already have gotten one for themselves.

The price is very good, under $20.

Bottom line: great tool at a great price, which works exactly as described.


Love Or Money (Live LP Version)
Love Or Money (Live LP Version)
Price: $0.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Jazzy Rock, May 30, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is the only Joni Mitchell recording I own, just this song. Yeah, she's got an awesome and distinctive voice, but it's never done that much for me. I heard it on a Sirius/XM channel, and while recognizing it immediately as a JM song, the music is what hooked me and kept me listening.

This is a live recording, which you really only can tell at the very end when the crowd roars its approval.

The music is that mid-70s quiet, almost subdued production, the Fender Rhodes prominent. The opening bars are highly reminiscent of The Crusaders and "Street Life" in tempo, phrasing and arrangement, and that feel comes back a number of times in the song, including in both the shamefully short sax and guitar solos.

Bottom line: this is a lovely rock song that pulls in jazz and pop to tell a sweet musical story.


Holiday Road
Holiday Road
Price: $0.99

3.0 out of 5 stars An Awkward A Capella Christmasization of the Vacation Classic, May 30, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Holiday Road (MP3 Music)
(I've got the original plus 16 separate covers of this song.)

When and how did this song from the National Lampoon classic film become associated with Christmas? Just because it's got "holiday" in it? Really? Well, unfortunately this misplaced holidays theme has thoroughly infected this song and now it's neither about taking a fun, wild and wacky vacation, nor is it about the holidays. The attempt to bend it to something a long way away from its original purpose takes a lot out of it.

This is an a capella cover, and it's not bad from that perspective; the voices and harmonies are fine. But that rock-plus-country twangy guitar and rolling bass riff that sets this song on such a good initial footing is completely absent. That's a bit detractive, if you ask me.

The register is a bit high, and the tempo has come down a little bit.

After the first bar and that iconic chorus--that anyone/everyone should sing along to--you get this really sappy and unwelcome diversion into "Sleigh Ride". Strangely enough, the Christmas theme does not reappear in the song; it's almost as if they could tell it was out of place. It's way cheezy and awkward, and doesn't really work to make either song better.

Bottom line: it's kind of hard to really screw up a simple and catchy song like "Holiday Road," but this attempt to make it some kind of Christmastime carol gets it a long way toward screwed up.


Uncle Remus
Uncle Remus
Price: $0.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Cover of/Homage to the Original, May 30, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Uncle Remus (MP3 Music)
First of all, how can you not like a cover of this Frank Zappa classic from the Apostrophe album? For the hard-core FZ prophets (like me) there is almost no way to lose on this.

Remember, boys and girls, that FZ co-wrote this with George Duke.

The distinctive piano intro is gone, but the just as distinctive chord changes are there right away, so you know what you're listening to. The original's 2:45 expands to a nice 5:11, so there's more song to love.

The tempo is dropped way down, turning this song into a slow blues motif, with a powerful gospel vibe in the orchestration and vocals, all the way through.

Yes, the lyrics are retained, that mid-70s meditation on civil rights and black awakening.

Bottom line: if you love the original, you'll love this one. This is a deeply respectful cover of the original, and a fun and interesting interpretation, too, from one of the guys who wrote and performed it the first time through.


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