Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

“Fancy Feast Broths” (screenie from outstanding *commercial. See bottom of post)

I’m not a cat person, but you already know that: cats are too finicky and… just plain persnickety. The Purina Fancy Feast TV advertisement screenie above — although one heck of an ad — has persnickety written all over it. Even so, whatever is in that bowl, I want some!

What the hell am I’m looking at here to the left anyhow — a delicate Shrimp & Shredded Crabmeat Bisque? A yummy Seafood Veggie Gumbo? Holy smoley. This can’t possibly be cat food. Add a bed of Jasmine rice, a sprig of rosemary, a sliver or two of red onion, maybe a dash of oregano…

Man, oh man.

Although I might consider paying decent bucks in a restaurant for something that looks this tasty, I admit I’m having a difficult time envisioning a cat dipping its whiskers into this exquisite presentation and slurping it up with that prissy, backward-lapping sandpaper tongue-thingy all cat family species share. And afterwards, of course, licking its claw-tipped paws until they are perfectly just so.

This Fancy Feast meal to the right looks like some kind of Creme de la Chicken dish. Or maybe Creme du Chunk Tuna, with shards of carrots and complimentary-color green bits of what — mint, parsley, collard greens, catnip? I know, lets float some shaved parmesan or flaked Asiago cheese, a dash of Cayenne pepper and a dollop of sour cream. Or perhaps just some Baby Swiss, lightly seared, awash in sexy candlelight.

Yum doesn’t get any better that this.

Time for some very serious questions for those of you who are cat people:

  1. Does this stuff really come out of the can looking this delicious?
  2. Have you ever been, you know, uh — tempted to taste test it?
  3. Do cats like carrots?

Yep, I’m not a cat person, but I certainly wouldn’t mind being one at a Fancy Feast Broths dinner table. Hats off to the folks at Purina for making me hungry.

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* Fancy Feast television commercial

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It’s no secret that pet food has been considered as an alternate and much cheaper food source for humans during impoverished times. Apparently, “human grade” pet food is now a reality; the human consumption of non-human grade pet food, often called “free grade”, remains an ongoing debate. Many pet food manufacturers now offer organic product lines for persnickety pet owners.

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“In Time”

I watched the 2011 movie, In Time the other night on TV. I wasn’t expecting anything great, mostly because the movie’s reviews weren’t all that impressive. But, I gotta tell you, reviewers aren’t always right. In Time is pretty damned good.

In Time is a futuristic tale about how capitalism and society’s concept of money, through advances in technology and science, has been replaced by the trading of seconds, minutes, hours, days, years, centuries of immortality, bought and sold as banking transfers from your own life’s time line. When your personal clock reaches 00:00:00, poof! — you fall dead on the street no different than roadkill struck by lightning, a stark reality that epitomizes both the gap and the similarities between the rich and poor, the haves and have nots.

More than a bit disconcerting.

New Zealand Writer/Director, Andrew Niccol, whose movies include, among others, The Host and Gattaca (one of my all-time favorite movies), infused In Time with an unshakable Orwellian darkness in which lurks sparks of hope and flames of despair. Roll over Big Brother; the Timekeepers are much worse.

Watch this movie if you get the chance.

Oh, almost forgot. Amanda Seyfried (Les Misérables) has the most amazing eyes…

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FRIDAY FOOD THING (kinda sorta)

Best timer. Ever.

GraLab Model 300 Darkroom Timer

Back in the early 70s — long before Recipe du Jour — Rich, Walt and I opened a custom photography lab, the Tidewater Picture Company, in Norfolk, Virginia. Remember darkrooms? They are nearly extinct now, having yielded, begrudgingly through the years, to digital photography and Photoshop.

One of the cool things about darkrooms is that the equipment used in them was built to last. Such is the case with the GraLab Model 300 darkroom timer. Set the minute hand with the push of a finger, flip off the lights, and a plutonium-green luminescence circled around and ’round, ticking off minutes in the pitch dark. Amazing construction. Flawless performance.

Unlike modern kitchen timers.

Cooper ATKINS FT24

Cooper ATKINS FT24 (heavy duty, 24-hour no-BS timer. 7-inches tall.

I have not had much luck with kitchen timers: they are not loud enough and they break way too easily; one tumble from a countertop and you will be stepping on tiny pieces of plastic and stainless steel springs for weeks.

Being somewhat hard of hearing, my television’s constant over-volume ruckus, my dishwasher churning at  stubborn food grungies, hell, even the inside-my-head crunching of popcorn, make  hearing a wimpy, wind-up kitchen timer impossible.

Last week, I finally got fed up enough to do something about my problem: I did my research, read reviews, eventually buying the Cooper ATKINS FT24 from Amazon for about $40. Powered by 4 macho “C” batteries, the FT24’s adjustable volume can announce an end time with enough force to cause an avalanche, a gentle purr, or no sound at all because the FT24 quietly flashes a red warning light if you want it to.

Mom used to call such great purchases “terminal” products, ones that will never break or cause problems and will outlive you by decades. The Cooper ATKINS FT24 timer appears to be a keeper.

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I always get the jitters when a main actor/actress (in this case, Mark Harmon of N.C.I.S. fame as “Certain Prey’s” protagonist, Lucas Davenport) is also one of the movie’s “Executive Producers”. Executive Producers are usually money-people, financial backers, because they have a lot of it, and more often than not — if they happen to be actors or actresses — land big parts in the movie. Sometimes, that can be a good thing. But don’t count on it. Right from the opening scenes, it is terribly obvious “Certain Prey” Minneapolis Deputy Police Chief, Lucas Davenport was not going to be the author, John Sanford’s in-depth Lucas Davenport characterization with whom we are all familiar. Nope. Instead, this movie’s Lucas Davenport/Executive Producer is, uh — Mark Harmon, famous N.C.I.S. team leader turned character-actor in the flesh, fresh off the N.C.I.S. set. I swear, I kept waiting for the rest of the goofy N.C.I.S. cast to burst onto the screen.

“Certain Prey” is one of the most poorly-cast movies I’ve ever seen*. Period. The only character with even a smidgeon of the novel series’ authentic flavor is actress Athena Karkanis, who played the novels’ sultry sidekick cop, “Marcy Sherrill” character.

“Certain Prey” is a stinker. A real letdown. Here’s an online movie comment I fully agree with: “It sucked and then some…” Yep. It did that.

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Tim says: *Perhaps only to be eclipsed by an upcoming (author Lee Child) “Jack Reacher” novel movie, wherein the super bad-ass 6′ 5″ Jack Reacher charcter/protaganist is portrayed — amid a flurry of negative moviegoer criticism — by a wimpy 5′ 7″ Tom Cruise. More than likely, it will suck “and then some”, too.

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I like author John Sanford’s “Prey” novels. You know, the ones that have the word “prey” in all the titles. The ones that are so difficult to remember if you’ve read or not. I like Sanford’s protagonist, Lucas Davenport. A lot. I like actor Mark Harmon, wizened team leader of N.C.I.S. fame. And I like movies.

Guess what I’m going to be recording tonight (May 2, 1012) at 2 AM, EST on the USA Channel? John Sanford’s “Certain Prey”. That’s what.

I’ll let you know what I think, later.

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(gleaned from the preview guide)

Tim says: it’s time once again to flush out wacky preview guide snippets. Based purely on these plot lines, it’d be fun to have been a fly on the wall during the hype and subsequent pitch to whichever movie producers finally decided these screenplays were destined for box office greatness. Or not.

“A nice guy with an ill-tempered mother pursues an embittered widow who drinks, bed-hops, and demeans sympathizers.”

I particularly like the “demeans sympathizers” phrase. Not sure, though, what it means.

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“A mad scientist’s vegetarian stepdaughter falls in love with one of his leafy failures.”

I watched this movie for about twenty minutes just because I wanted to see Heather Locklear eating salad.

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RATZ 2000

“A woman from Indiana uses a magic ring to turn two rats into dates for her teen friends.”

Why pick on Indiana? Why not a woman from Iowa, or Kansas, or – – just “A woman uses a magic ring to turn two rats into dates for her teen friends.” Never mind. I still wouldn’t have watched it.

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“Stuck in an all night doughnut shop, a vampire hunts a rat, saves a cab driver from things, and deals with an ex-girlfriend.”

I used to dive a cab. My things were never saved. Not even by vampires. Of course, maybe the rat was in the cab while the vampire was being driven to the doughnut shop. Naw. More importantly — how come “donuts” can also be spelled “doughnuts”?

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(circa 2005 — re-edited, images added)

A Review of Sorts

Slung into space...

It didn’t matter where you were in the Florida Centennial State Fairgrounds: the “SLINGSHOT” ride was always visible, towering — Godzilla-like — above the carnival skyline, daring you to rearrange your roving in order to take a closer look. I’d wager to say NO ONE passed by the other-worldly SLINGSHOT without standing silently for several minutes, head askew, looking straight up and wondering what kind of fool would pay $20 to be launched into space like that.


. . .is what a simple black, red and white sign nestled just beneath a $20 ticket price and a hoard of screeching seagulls boasted.

What other kind of fool is there?

“Hey, Pat,” I exclaimed. “Let’s do it!”

Coney Island's CYCLONE

I recalled a similar carny moment forty years prior when we both had stood in front of Coney Island’s infamous wooden-tracked “CYCLONE” roller-coaster ride. Only that time it was Pat who asked ME the same question. “Uh, uh,” I had stammered back then. “Not me.” But to no avail. Literally dragged onto the rickety ride, I remember screaming nonstop and nearly peeing my pants. “Wow, let’s do it again!” Pat had gushed back then, long before those intervening years caught up with her depthless curiosity, or — perhaps – wisdom had merely won out.

“No way, Tim,” said Pat emphatically in the here and now, watching the SLINGSHOT fling two screaming passengers hundreds of feet into the air in a matter of nanoseconds. “Some rides are best taken from a distance.”

“Aw, come-on, Pat,” I pleaded. “Remember when we went last year on that Bush Gardens ride — the one that flipped us upside down in cork-screwy loop-de-loops? That was FUN!”

“Not the same thing,” she said. “No, YOU go on. I’ll wait over by the corn dog stand.”

Left brain: NO! Right brain: NO!

Now, undecided about taking the Florida Stare Fair SLINGSHOT ride sitting next to a total stranger, I began checking out the structural integrity and underlying engineering principles of the SLINGSHOT ride; my brain started clicking. (I do exactly the same thing while sitting in the window seat of a Delta airliner just before takeoff: Flaps down? Engine connected firmly to the wing? Any sounds of screeching metal against metal? Brownish fluid dripping from the wingtips? Ground crew appears alert and on top of things?)

The SLINGSHOT consisted of a two-passenger seat suspended dubiously on two metal guy wires that hung down from either side of twin erector-set towers (sturdy masts of super-cranes that once worked on mile-high skyscrapers or perhaps in a shipyard?). A 20×20-foot spring assembly, made up of literally HUNDREDS of individual and tightly-coiled steel springs, was hydraulically winched down immediately before every launch sequence using a classic Rube Goldberg pulley system. The cocking process took a couple of minutes, during which time I was able to clearly note the whites of the passengers’ eyes flashing like disturbed stars just before going supernova.

And then, without warning of any kind, WOOOOSHHHH!

Here is a YOU Tube video of the SLINGSHOT ride. In this version I notice a cage surrounding the two riders has been added. The one my sister and I watched was an open air two-seater. You get the idea…

Just like a ball bearing hurled from a gigantic slingshot, the terrified passengers TWANG! into deep space, clamped firmly to their seat by restraining devices similar to vice grips. At the apogee of the flight, the chair seat turns briefly upside down in near zero gravity before plummeting back to the earth in true bungee-cord freefall fashion. Major screaming going on here. Up and down. Springs creaking. Up and down again. Way MORE screaming, passengers gyrating like yo-yos amid a sudden cloudburst of corn-dog-colored confetti.

The seagulls go wild.

Mercifully, the passengers are lowered to the ground, where a zillion springy coils are once again compressed, waiting for the next forty-dollar twosome. . .

What could possibly be more terrifying than THAT?

A nighttime SLING... That's what!

No thanks. Pat was right: “Some rides are best taken from a distance.”

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