Tuesday 30 April 2013

Today's Review: Coca Cola's "Share A Coke" Campaign

Well, apparently it's almost summer, so it's time for Coca Cola to inform people that their drink is the best damn feel good summer drink they can imbibe, because people have probably forgotten after being told but a few months ago that Coca Cola is the best damn Christmas drink they can imbibe. So Coca Cola are encouraging you to get outside, and then go inside somewhere, and buy one of their newly branded Cokes, which encourages you to... share it?

Okay, this campaign hasn't come out of the blue. It's already been implemented in Australia with some success (although I doubt the validity of someone who sounds like the offspring of a kid's movie voiceover and a motivational speaker). But I can't help but feel slightly baffled by the whole thing. Basically, Coca Cola have taken the top 150 names in the country, and emblazoned them on random bottles, coupled with a message suggesting you share your Coke with someone of said name. Perhaps I'm not a particularly generous person, but I didn't think sharing Coke bottles between people was that big of a thing. Sure, the share size bottles can be measured out, and in this case those encourage you to share with a more general "friends" and "family". But these names are written on 500ml bottles, even the tiny 375ml bottles. I don't want to share that with anyone else, there's barely enough for me in there.

Besides, having looked through a few of these bottles, I hardly know anyone with the names that are scrawled all over them. What am I supposed to do if I glance at my randomly picked bottle and see that I have to share it with Ross? Do I have to run around the streets asking people's names in order to comply with its wishes? What if my friends have strange names that aren't included in this elitist 150? I'll have to say "sorry, no Coke for you and your weird stupid name".

Okay, I'm being silly here. I understand you're probably not meant to share your single Coke with a person. The real idea is that you grab one with your name, one with your friend's name, and give Coca Cola the double profits that they really deserve, all in the name of summer fun and sharing. But I don't buy it. The thought of having my name on the bottle of Coke I'm drinking doesn't really excite me. Sure, there will probably be people out there grabbing frantically at bottles until they find themselves (physically, but perhaps existentially eventually), but that would mess up a lot of Coke displays and that makes me sad.

But, having read a few articles concerning the success of the campaign in Australia, apparently it is effective. So while I may not understand, there's a lot of marketing force behind this thing that integrates personalised physical objects, TV, social media and the like, and most people eat that shit up nowadays. So here's to a summer of people giving us Cokes with our names on. Unless you have a weird, stupid name. I'm lucky, mine's right up there.

My rating: 3/5

Monday 29 April 2013

Today's Review: Typing With One Hand

With minutes left to write this review and a screaming baby to feed, it seemed somewhat impossible to type anything out. But after manoeuvring myself in order to get one hand free I can finally give it a go.

Really, if you're going to type, you should probably do it with two hands. Typing with one hand is slower, and it's clearly hard to reach some keys while pushing the Shift key. For some reason I've been more prone to making mistakes while writing this too, perhaps because my left hand isn't used to all these fancy foreign letters on the right hand side.

But flaws aside, fear not, one handed people, for it is entirely possible to type on a regular keyboard with just one hand. It may have taken me over five minutes, but I still managed to churn this out. I wouldn't recommend typing with one hand when you could use two though.

My rating: 2/5

Sunday 28 April 2013

Today's Review: Finding A Cut You Didn't Know You Had

We've all cut ourselves at some point in our lives. Cuts happen, because our flesh is weak and other things are sharp and unforgiving. But when an object slices through our skin, the pain is normally pretty immediate, allowing us to quickly stem any bleeding and get it covered up to avoid further pain. Unless it's a particularly bad cut, in which case your body might see passing out as the only option.

Cuts suck, but the ones that suck the most are the ones you don't notice. Sometimes I'll find a spit of blood somewhere, and after a quick reassurance from my brain that it doesn't remember anyone bleeding on me lately, I will search my own body and discover that my flesh has been carved in twain (bit of a dramatic description of a small cut, but there you go). Sometimes there is no blood, I mght find a piece of skin hanging off somewhere, or discover I can open my finger in new and interesting ways. But no matter what, the result is always the same. While the cut never hurt before, as soon as you notice it the pain begins. It's like a stealth cut, sneaking up on you and then bludgeoning you as soon as you turn around. So while these kind of cuts are pretty tame compared to others you can suffer, they're still up there with the worst.

My rating: 0/5

Saturday 27 April 2013

Today's Review: Icing Sugar

I made some cakes with the kids today, which while it can get messy, is containable, because I am in charge of doling out the ingredients. Sugar, flour, eggs, all ended up nicely in the bowl (apart from the egg I dropped, but I'll ignore that). But once the cakes were baked, it was of course time to ice them, and that's where things got complicated, because I had to use icing sugar.

Icing sugar is basically sugar in a powdered form. This means that when you pour it from the box, instead of falling in a nice stream, it is often akin to releasing some kind of chemical bomb. I wish I could say that my experiences with icing sugar have made it easier for me to pour out, but every time I use it my kitchen looks like it's being dusted for prints. But not only is icing sugar messy, the very nature of it means that I can never pour it out just the once, I have to keep doing it again and again. When making rudimentary icing by combining icing sugar and water, I am pretty certain it's impossible to get the levels right. No matter how little water I fill the bowl up with, every time I pour out what I assume to be the right amount of icing sugar, it promptly disappears into the void, leaving me with an unsatisfactory consistency. More and more sugar is poured, more escapes into the atmosphere, and by the time I have a nice gloopy mixture it looks like it's snowed inside. I don't like you, icing sugar. You may be a key component in tasty cake toppings and fillings, but I certainly don't condone your methods.

My rating: 1/5

Friday 26 April 2013

Today's Review: Iron Man 3

The Avengers have saved the world, and since then split up with little to no contact, because Tony Stark is on his own again, and suffering a little. But then along comes The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), a mysterious terrorist leader who is making all kinds of nasty explosions go off and threatening the president to boot. When Tony's head of security is injured in an attack, he decides to declare war on the Mandarin, who responds promptly by blowing the crap out of his mansion. Now alone and lacking his arsenal of suits, Tony must pool together all his resources to get to the bottom of the plot and take down those responsible.

I'll start by saying that Iron Man 3 is a great summer blockbuster. There are masses of explosions, plenty of well planned out action sequences, and that token comic relief that has become synonymous with these new Marvel titles. That being said, I did leave the movie a little disappointed, mostly because a lot of the time the action and comedy severely overtook any semblance of plot. Sure, there was an underlying story, but not everything is explained in a satisfactory way, and there were several plot holes I could point out immediately that just seemed to be brushed off with more explosions. This lack of detail really took the edge off the bad guys, as it wasn't clear exactly what their end game was a lot of the time.

Thankfully, there are some great performances throughout that help to carry the whole thing a little better. Downey Jr. is fantastic as always, especially when paired with Ty Simpkins as Harley, the banter between them is probably some of the best in the movie. The role I was most excited for was The Mandarin, and Kingsley has a great tone and presence that makes him distinctly menacing. Unfortunately the character is ruined before long in a disappointing scene played out for comic effect, leaving us with another villain taking the reins, Aldrich Killian, played by Guy Pearce, who just kind of falls flat, and for some reason reminded me of a slightly more competent Justin Hammer, as seen in Iron Man 2.

So if you like your superhero movies, you probably won't want to pass this up. Explosions and action scenes galore, and even though Tony spends an annoyingly long time out of the suit, he still manages to pull some kick ass moves. But when there isn't stuff blowing up, the plot is kind of messy and confusing, and it's unclear even what Tony's behaviour is going to be like from one scene to the next. Sure, there has to be some kind of character progression after his near death experience in The Avengers, but it just didn't seem to be handled all that well in this movie, and only employed properly when there was a slow moment to clearly point it out. So overall, it's a good movie for shoving popcorn in your face, but it's not great. I certainly feel a little disappointed after seeing what can be done with The Avengers. But hey, I still have faith they can get back on track.

My rating: 3/5

Thursday 25 April 2013

Today's Review: Drying Up

I have mentioned my hatred of washing up before, but since then I've been washing up more frequently, and in a systematic order, and the experience, while still not good, is more bearable. The part of washing up that I still don't like, although I did at one point in my life, is the drying up afterwards.

The theory is that after you wash all your plates, cups and utensils, you should grab the nearest tea towel and wipe all that shit down so you can put it away and make your kitchen look brand new and unused. I used to dry up for my granddad many years ago, so there's some nostalgia in it for me, but nowadays I absolutely hate drying up. This is because I've found that if you simply let the stuff sit in the draining board and return an hour later, all the stuff is dry and bubble free. I mean, that's why they call it a draining board, all the water drains off.

So really, what is the point of drying up? It gets the kitchen looking nicer, sure, but I'm always in and out of the kitchen getting food and drinks, because I have children who think it's normal to eat the world every day. So really, it's beneficial to me to have a selection of plates and cutlery sitting in the draining board for me to grab. But really, it's the actual wiping that gets me. While you may start out with a clean, dry tea towel, before long it's going to be a dirty, wet tea towel, that you're still poking into your glasses to wipe off the actual clean, soapy water. It seems backwards to me. Don't even get me started on having to manoeuvre the towel into the most stubborn suds underneath rims of bowls and at the bottom of glasses. Drying up dishes is a stupid thing to do. Just leave it, go do something else, and come back to nice dry plates. I won't judge you for not putting everything away immediately.

My rating: 0/5

Wednesday 24 April 2013

Today's Review: Blueberries

Less than 50% of those blueberries are actually blue. Get it together, blueberry plant.

Yes, I've recently started enjoying portions of blueberries. They probably wouldn't be my fruit of choice, but they have a relatively low amount of carbs compared to others, so I was all over that idea. Thankfully they don't taste like crap either. Unlike most berries I've tried, be they straw, black or rasp, blueberries don't really have that sour taste to them.There's a hint of it, but not enough to make eating them an unpleasant experience. Unfortunately, the overall flavour, while pretty sweet, is a little bland and dry, but adding a little double cream to the bowl really livens things up.

So yes, I enjoy blueberries. They may not be the most flavoursome of berries, but they are juicy little morsels of sweetness. Plus they're one of the few naturally occurring blue foods, so that's gotta count for something.

My rating: 4/5

Tuesday 23 April 2013

Today's Review: Tommee Tippee Closer To Nature Monitor

One of the primary concerns about looking after a baby is whether or not they're going to spontaneously stop breathing. While soap operas and real life magazines will instill you with the belief that it happens all the time, I can't say I've personally known of any babies that have suddenly stopped breathing, but still, it is a possibility, and it certainly is nice to have a way to make sure you can attend to the situation within seconds rather than minutes.

So we have one of these nice little monitors. It consists of a pad that goes under baby's mattress that detects movement, and sets off a somewhat ear piercing alarm if there is none for 20 seconds. So if your baby stops breathing, you're going to know about it, although there is a slight possibility of false alarms if your child decides to be really still for a little while.

This little doohickey also doubles as a sound monitor. So if you leave the parents unit next to your sprog and take the child with you, you can hear each little cry, gurgle, moan and fart that comes out of them, which is pretty reassuring. The sound also goes both ways via a walkie talkie like button, though I never saw the appeal of soothing your child from several rooms away when you can just go and give them a cuddle. But that's just me.

So overall, this is a very nice piece of kit to ensure your baby can make it through the arduous task of sleeping. Sound and movement are picked up very precisely, and the only down point I've found is that taking my baby out of the cot in the middle of the night, I'm normally too bleary eyed and stupid to turn the thing off, meaning I have to wander back into the bedroom to switch off the alarm. Also, when I do so, my footsteps seem to be enough to persuade the machine that there is now a breathing baby in the area. Not a problem with the product, more with my tired mind, but if you live underneath train tracks of near stampeding elephants, there could be a fair amount of interference on the movement side. Still, it's an excellent piece of kit.

My rating: 5/5 

Monday 22 April 2013

Today's Review: Baby Poo

Pop quiz, all you non-parents, what's the worst thing about having a baby? Some of you may have answered "sleepless nights", which seems to be the main thing people mention when asking about my newborn. But for those of you who have been exposed to enough comedy movies, the answer may well have been poop. You see, babies don't do much. They sleep, they cry, they eat, and they poop, and they poop a lot. Hollywood has seen this as a perfect excuse to fill all their "incompetent first time parent" movies with scenes of dishevelled actors almost collapsing when catching a whiff of the excretions of their spawn, as if they have been exposed to toxic gas. But the truth is, baby poo is not that bad.

I'm certainly not saying that poo is nice. Cleaning up poop is certainly one of the worst parts of being a parent. But the infantile form of poo is really not enough to cause gagging and light headedness. You see, babies only drink milk, so all that comes out of them is consistently milk-based. Of course, you have the first poops, which are black and tar like in consistency, but they barely smell at all. But once the milk gets flowing you may get all kinds of wonderful colours, ranging from the green and pippy to the orange and watery, but none of them are particularly threatening to your nose, and actually smell quite sweet. Also, while babies may poo a lot, they don't really squeeze out all that much, because their bodies are tiny. So really it's all very easy to clean up.

So new parents, relax. Baby poo is disgusting, but probably the least of your concerns right now. The real problem occurs when your child starts eating proper food, because then the faeces becomes all the more real, and varied in shape, size, colour and odour. None of which are pleasant. Enjoy the poop while they're young. It's going to get a lot worse.

My rating: 2/5

Sunday 21 April 2013

Today's Review: Pitch Perfect

Pitch Perfect is a movie about a capella groups, singing a capella songs, because a capella is cool nowadays. Not that I have anything against a capella, I've always liked it, but I went into this movie thinking it would be a shameless rip off of Glee with little to no substance. But actually, it's not all that bad.

Anna Kendrick stars as Beca, a girl who is forced to go to college by her father, when all she wants to do is break into the music business. When she finally strikes a deal with her dad, whereby if she still hates college after attending for a year and joining a club she can quit, Beca promptly goes out and enrols in the a capella club. Led by a domineering captain, and performing stale routines, Beca and the rest of the newly joined misfits are quick to shake things up in the wake of their first big competition.

Pitch Perfect is a pretty well oiled machine, but one aimed directly at teenage girls. There are a capella covers of modern songs, with some mash ups thrown in for good measure. Bitchiness and gross out humour abound among the main girls, and there's a nice little romantic sub plot that doesn't really add much to the whole experience. Overall it makes the plot very generic, but thankfully there are enough decent performances and musical numbers to keep the whole production from going under. Anna Kendrick is especially good as the lead, who pretty much steals the show with her performance early on. Even Rebel Wilson, cast as "Fat Amy" as the comic relief, manages to break out of the mould and deliver some nice moves and vocals.

So no, I can't say Pitch Perfect is a great movie. It is merely okay, a generic comedy saved from mediocrity with some good music and a couple of good performances. If you're part of the Glee crowd, you'll probably like this a lot more, but otherwise it might not be worth your time.

My rating: 3/5

Saturday 20 April 2013

Today's Review: Peperami

Have you ever been going about your daily business, and instead of craving a regular snack like biscuits or crisps, all you've really wanted is a cured salami stick? If the answer is yes, you've probably grabbed a Peperami, or suffered in sorrowful hunger if you've never heard of them.

Peperamis are quite weird snacks. Even weirder than cheese based ones. Cheesestrings and Mini Babybel do a good job of snackifying those, but this is just a sausage, in a packet. Still, it does the job nicely. Take off that wrapper and the condom like sausage sheath, and you will be exposed to a dried, substantially meaty length of salami, that is spiced just right and curbs the appetite. Peperamis are different, and satisfying, and one of my choice snack foods at the moment. 

My rating: 5/5

Friday 19 April 2013

Today's Review: Spoons

I have commented on the effectiveness of forks and even sporks before, and while the former is great for stabbing things, and the latter is great for both stabbing and scooping, the spoon is still a powerful piece of cutlery. You may think the hybrid spork would win out due to its extra stabby ability, but it's a very hard call to decide what is the best of the regular cutlery items.

Spoons are useful for when you absolutely need to scoop up liquid or various other foods in a sloppy form. Sure, you could eat a yoghurt with a spork, but you'd better be prepared for leakage from its forky tines. Spoons have a concave receptacle which will safely hold all of your soup, custard, oatmeal, and countless other foods on its passage from bowl to mouth. The spoon doesn't just stop at picking up liquid foods. Anything that is hard to stab at with a fork can be tackled with a spoon. Jelly, peas, cereal, without a spoon we would just be hacking and stabbing at meat like neanderthals. So here's to the spoon. An essential member of the cutlery family.

My rating: 5/5

Thursday 18 April 2013

Today's Review: Tab

There was one thing that I took away from my trip to Cyber Candy, although it was nothing thrilling. It was a can of Tab, the outdated diet drink that is somehow still in production. It was first introduced in 1963, and marketed as a way to keep "tabs" on your weight. How clever. But with the introduction of Diet Coke, and all its variants, Tab has pretty much taken a backseat, and while it's still somehow in demand, it's not that common nowadays, hence why I had to go to an import candy store to get some.

With that brief history out of the way, I probably haven't left you with a good first impression. But that's okay, because Tab isn't great. It certainly doesn't have that distinct Coke flavour that you still get somewhat with Diet Coke, Tab is its own drink, and I'm not sure what it's supposed to taste like, and the boring pink can doesn't really give any indication. It's certainly drinkable, but it just tastes like a bland diet drink. Not very enjoyable at all. I'll just stick with the Diet Coke.

My rating: 1/5

Wednesday 17 April 2013

Today's Review: Jolly Rancher Jelly Beans

I always like to visit Cyber Candy on a trip to London to see what new and interesting treats they have. Of course, now that I'm dieting it wasn't as exciting as before, but I still popped in to grab my lady a bag of Jolly Rancher, because she loves 'em. But imagine my dismay when the regular variety weren't there, leaving me with a choice of differently flavoured hard Jolly Rancher and these original flavours, in jelly bean form. I ended up getting both, and while I'm reluctant to suck on a reasonably sized boiled sweet, I figured my diet wouldn't suffer much from me sampling one of each flavour of these tiny jelly beans.

If you've had Jolly Rancher before, you know what to expect from these. The flavours are exactly the same, bold, massively sweet, fake fruit assaults on the senses. Although you don't quite get the same experience of intense, long lasting flavour as with the original sweets, the jelly beans certainly are satisfying and juicy. They remind me a lot of Joosters, the jelly bean form of Starburst/Opal Fruits, from back in the day (really showing my age now I guess). So while I couldn't go to town on this bag of beans, I certainly got to appreciate all it had to offer, and I enjoyed every second of it.

My rating: 5/5

Tuesday 16 April 2013

Today's Review: Siro-A

I had the chance to see what is apparently Japan's answer to The Blue Man Group today, and for free too, which meant if it was rubbish I wouldn't regret it too much. Thankfully, it wasn't.

The show starts off a little weird, with a man dressed in a long tube filming the audience and drawing all over them onscreen. But after a few minutes of unease, the music started thumping, and the members of Siro-A all started doing their thing. Music thumps, lights flash and flicker, images and shapes get thrown around all over the place, and in the middle of it all are our four performers, backed up by the video technicians doing their best DJ impressions in the background.

Siro-A is a show that relies heavily on timing. Each segment revolved around a certain theme or object, but all have a distinct soundtrack that corresponds with the lights and images being projected onto the stage (or even from the stage itself). The cast members play a pivotal role, capturing projected images onto objects that they're holding or moving with great precision, or seamlessly interacting with projections of balls and the like. The movements are all perfectly timed and fantastically choreographed, and the short sequences are widely varied, ranging from comedic to full blown psychedelia.

Siro-A is a beautiful show with a ground shaking soundtrack, with a great cast of flawless performers making everything come together. My only complaint is that it only lasts an hour, and that time just flew by. It may be hard to describe it in words, it truly has to be seen to be believed. I'd definitely see it again.

My rating: 5/5

Monday 15 April 2013

Today's Review: My Baby Not Letting Me Write My Review

I normally leave my reviews until the last minute, unless I'm absolutely sure what I want to write about, but even then I tend to do it pretty late in the day. Right now, the time is 11:48pm, and I've been wondering what to write about for a good ten minutes now. Normally I'd be able to stroll around, pluck an idea out of thin air. But my baby is not letting me do that.

She's awake, and crying. She may be a little hungry, but she's not due a feed anytime soon. So my only option is to rub her back, put her in different positions and hope that she'll drift off to sleep. Unfortunately, all this baby holding is putting a severe damper on my writing ability. As I write this, I have a baby resting in my arms, in various different positions. If she stays in the same place too long, the crying starts and I really can't concentrate with that going on.

Perhaps this is a lesson for me to learn. To get my review writing out of the way while the day is young and the baby is asleep. Because I sure as hell can't create anything worth reading while there's a screaming infant around.

My rating: 0/5

Sunday 14 April 2013

Today's Review: Olympus Has Fallen

Gerard Butler plays Mike Banning, a secret service agent who used to serve as head of the Presidential Detail until he was removed from his position after a freak accident. One day, while skulking along at his new job, The White House is invaded and taken by Korean forces, leaving most of the staff dead and the President (Aaron Eckhart) in the middle of a hostage situation. Banning manages to find his way into the White House during the initial commotion, and finds himself the last hope in unravelling the terrorists' meticulously laid plans.

Just from that brief outline we've already ticked off  quite a few action movie clichés. Terrorists, a President/'Murica/freedom in danger, and a lone action hero fighting against all odds (and a bunch of foreigners). There are also some terrible one liners thrown in to boot, and the whole thing just screams generic action blockbuster.

That said, it's actually a pretty tight action blockbuster. Bullets fly, bodies pile up, explosions... explode. There's a bare minimum of quietude to explain elements of the plot, but the rest is unrelenting action scenes, ranging from full scale warfare to one on one fist and knife fights. The initial attack phase that results in the fall of the White House is particularly well put together, instilling feelings of suspense and adrenaline that carry throughout the whole movie.

There are a lot of big names in this movie too. Butler, Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, and while they're certainly not turning in their best performances, they're certainly doing well. Eckhart especially gives us his best "angry bared teeth snarl with tears in my eyes" look that he perfected as Harvey Dent, and Butler growls and grunts his way through many a snapped neck and stabbed torso.

Olympus Has Fallen is a tight action thriller. While it's certainly not a fantastic movie, it's certainly one to watch if you're a fan of the genre. While there are quite a few clichés throughout, it's probably one of the most violent, intense thrillers I've seen in a while. Not that I've watched too many movies lately, but hell, I enjoyed this one.

My rating: 4/5

Saturday 13 April 2013

Today's Review: Lightbulbs

How many people does it take to change a lightbulb? Almost invariably one, irregardless of colour, creed, gender or race. You may need two if the bulb is particularly high and you need someone to hold a ladder, but then that second person isn't really a key component in the actual changing of the bulb, so I guess it still takes one. But I digress.

Lightbulbs are fantastic. Tiny glass receptacles that emit brilliant light to fill rooms of any size. Before we had lightbulbs, humans used to light their rooms, routes and roads with fire, and that sounds very unsafe, and uncomfortably warm. Yes, we live in a world where electricity dominates our lives in most areas, but as soon as the power goes out at night the first thing we have to take care of is the lack of light, and we're right back to creating small pockets of fire hazard around our homes. So no matter if they're filament or energy saving, lamp or light socket, without lightbulbs we would be stumbling around in the dark.

My rating: 5/5

Friday 12 April 2013

Today's Review: Hartley's No Added Sugar Orange Jelly

While not particularly impressed with their sugar free strawberry offering, I decided to delve back into the Hartley's jelly selection to find something that would both satisfy my sweet tooth and not make me feel like I'd ingested industrial chemicals. The orange flavour appeared to be a good choice, coming in at 0.1g less carbs than the strawberry version. Yes, it matters. Not much, but it matters.

While I'm not a fan of regular orange jelly compared to regular strawberry, this sugar free concoction is actually pretty nice. It doesn't have that weird, rigid, smooth texture of the sugar free strawberry, it just feels a lot more like jelly, and the flavour is pretty intensely orange, and it doesn't feel like I'm eating a sugar free jelly at all. This is definitely my choice of dessert for this diet from now on. It's a small but satisfying portion of sweet, flavoursome jelly. 

My rating: 5/5

Thursday 11 April 2013

Today's Review: Poundworld's Shoplifting Deterrents

Holy shit, it's a policem- oh wait, no it's not, real policemen aren't two-dimensional, nor do they stand in the same position, with the same lifeless stare, for eternity. Now, I may be on the smarter side of the human race, so it might have been easy for me to reach that conclusion, but I'm pretty sure even the basest of animals do a double take at a cardboard version of their predators and realise they're not in any danger.

I know the stereotypical Poundworld shopper is not considered the brightest of the bunch, although I've no idea why, everyone should love the call of an "everything for £1" spending spree. But perhaps there is a correlation between the poverty levels associated with having to steal cheap shoddy products and the level of education received by the individual. I don't know, I'm not a scientist. But seriously, how do people think this is supposed to stop a shoplifter?

I assume the reasoning is that the perpetrator, a weasly, skinny, chain smoking job centre reject, would stroll in donning a puffer jacket, loading it up with cans of dubious foreign energy drink and tins of sausage 'n' beans. Upon skipping the entire toiletries section (they don't call them "filthy scroungers" for nothing), his eyes lock with this upstanding gentleman of the law, and he knows he's been rumbled. This man's been in trouble with the law before, because he obvioiusly spends all his benefit money on drugs and booze so he can get lairy with passers by. He's not going to chance a run in with the fuzz in the middle of the day, so before even taking the time to assess whether this policeman is real or not, a feat that takes a split second for us regular upstanding folk, he bolts out of the door, leaving a trail of dented cans behind him.

So thank you, cardboard policeman, for protecting our previous cheap stock from stereotypical idiots who probably don't exist.

My rating: 0/5

Wednesday 10 April 2013

Today's Review: Newborn Babies That Sleep All Day And Stay Awake All Night

Babies can't do much, and they don't know much. Mostly they just lie there, and their sole method of communication is crying. So if anything whatsoever is wrong, you will be subjected to crying until you figure out how to stop it. Babies also only really know how to drink milk, and wriggle around a little. They don't know about human emotion, the time of day, or socially acceptable behaviours. All these things considered, it is quite possible that if you have a baby, you will be listening to them crying all night long, and watching them sleep in blissful slumber during the day.

You can't really blame them for that, they're just babies. But it's still annoying, and massively tiring. But that's what happens when you have a baby. You throw caution to the wind and subsist on coffee and grumpiness for a good few months until they start learning to behave like normal human beings. It does get better, but at the beginning it can be pretty shitty.

My rating: 2/5

Tuesday 9 April 2013

Today's Review: Space Invaders Keyring Torch

I've had this dangling from my keys for a while now, and has made them effectively double in size. But that's okay, because it's shaped like a Space Invader, a proper official Space Invader. Not only that, but it doubles as a torch, so with a swift click you can get some high intensity beams shooting out of this thing's eyes.

The torch element is a great idea, especially when returning home at night and not having a light source to guide your awkward or drunken key fumbling. It's also handy for finding lost things, or whatever else you might use a torch for. So yes, it's a nice keyring. The only problem I could imagine is with its size, but it works out well for me, because it makes my keys easily identifiable by touch alone, meaning I don't lose them in the bottom of my bag. Certainly a wise purchase.

My rating: 5/5

Monday 8 April 2013

Today's Review: The Doritos "Bring The Party To The Party" Slogan

Whilst putting out the crisp related products at work today, I noticed a nice little slogan on the Doritos, telling me to "bring the party to the party". A simple command at first thought, but as I pondered, the more questions were raised. 

How does one bring a party to a party? If the party requires the party to be brought in order to be identified as a party, it cannot be classified as a party in the first place, ergo there is no party to bring the party to. Philosophy aside, I think it's pretty clear that my party cannot be considered a party until I have some Doritos, it's not going to be a very good party. Have you ever been to a party where the focus of attention and excitement is on some chips and dip? If so I feel sorry for you. Even if you really like chips and dip.

So sorry, Doritos, but I'm not liking your slogan. I think you should go for something that doesn't make you sound so full of yourself, like "Bring the heat/cool to the party" (adjusted for product flavour), or even just "Bring Doritos to the party and it'll probably get slightly better, because people like Doritos" Yeah, that's catchy.

My rating: 1/5

Sunday 7 April 2013

Today's Review: Not Eating Cake

You know the best part about having birthday parties? Finishing off the left over party food for a day or two afterwards, and the best part of that it probably the birthday cake. There's half a delicious cake sitting in the kitchen, waiting for me to delve in and smear its buttercream in and around my mouth. Only problem is, I can't.

I haven't been too tempted to cheat on my diet as of yet, but it seems that cake is where my strength will be truly tested. I have handled doughnuts, flapjacks, and many other treats without being overly tempted to bury my face into them, but there's something about this cake. When there's a massive cake around, there's something just not right about not eating cake.

So its presence shall haunt me. I shall have to throw cake at whoever comes in my door, figuratively, but perhaps literally if I get desperate. But for now it sits there, reminding me that not eating cake is an extremely disappointing thing.

My rating: 1/5

Saturday 6 April 2013

Today's Review: M:Tech Gyro Flyer

Of all the toys we unwrapped and tried out today, this has to be the best one. While it may say 14+ on the box, my two year old was transfixed by one of these in Menkind a few months back, and since it was on sale, we thought why not. I'm guessing it's only 14+ due to its potential to cause bodily harm.

Once you unwrap this bad boy and put in the 6 AAs necessary to run the remote (not great...), in addition to charging up the helicopter itself via USB or mains power, you're good to go. Be warned that the first time you try this will not be pretty. In all likelihood you'll launch it straight up to the ceiling, sending it crashing back down again. You have to find the sweet spot on the up/down throttle in order to maintain a safe level of flight. Well, I don't know, maybe people figure these things out before trying out toys. I just wing it.

Yes, it takes a little while to get used to, but once you've send it plummeting to the ground or into people's bodies a few times you should start to get the hang of it. It's pretty easy and smooth to control. There's the obvious up/down stick, and also one that lets you turn left and right, and go forwards and backwards, as well as a little knob to stop any erratic turning the helicopter might do on its own. I've only taken it for a few flights now, and I can quite easily manoeuvre it around my tiny rooms. But if you're worried about the crashing, rest assured that this is a durable machine. No parts have broken in the several times it's hit the floor, and it hasn't cut any flesh open yet either, so that's a bonus.

I'm definitely planning on having lots of fun with this toy, my next step is to obviously set up an obstacle course of rings and the like. It's a cheap, easily controlled, durable little chopper. The only downside is the power, what with the previously mentioned 6 AAs, and also the relatively small 5-8 minute flight time received from 50 minutes charge. But hey, five minutes is enough to not let me get too bored I guess, and I have no idea how long these things are supposed to fly for anyway. But I sure am enjoying the airtime I do get.

My rating: 4/5

Friday 5 April 2013

Today's Review: Assembling Hot Wheels Sets Without Instructions

It is my son's birthday tomorrow, and we normally end up buying a massive present that is too big or awkward to wrap correctly, which means we have to set it up the night before in the living room. Toy kitchen, train track, all that kind of stuff. This time we managed to buy a few hefty bin bags full of Hot Wheels sets and tracks. Quite cheap, but obviously without any instructions or packaging, so trying to assemble it all was not going to be easy.

Thankfully, the internet provided me with some information. Some of the sets had certain stand out pieces, which I could search for in order to find scanned instruction manuals, even YouTube demonstration videos. Without the internet I would probably still be on my hands and knees now, relying on common sense alone.

Not that that's too bad either. Most of the launcher type pieces are designed to follow on one from another with a domino effect, so it was pretty easy to piece together a decent sized track to launch small, wheeled metallic slipping hazards all over my living room. But common sense only gets you so far, and with those kind of pieces. There were a couple of bags so full of random, disconnected bits and pieces, with no discernible landmarks, I had no choice but to give up, shove them back in the bag and vow to find out what the hell it is later on.

So if you can, buy your Hot Wheels with some instructions, or some semblance of knowledge of what it is. You can get some of the basic stuff done with your wits, but once things get more specific and fiddly, all hope may be lost.

My rating: 3/5

Thursday 4 April 2013

Today's Review: Bioshock Infinite

I may be a little late to the party on this one, indeed I finished this game last week, but with so many reviews praising this game to such a great extent, I thought I'd throw in my two cents and say that yeah, they're right.

One of the first games I played on my XBox 360 (and one of the first in HD) was the original Bioshock. It's an incredibly immersive and spooky game, with some great gameplay mechanics and a story and soundtrack that blew anything else I'd played recently out of the water. It is widely regarded as one of the best games in recent years, and while the sequel was still good, it was pretty much more of the same game. Bioshock Infinite, in the years it was in development, had an awful lot to live up to.

Infinite sees you play as Booker DeWitt, a man who is down on his luck until he is approached with an offer to wipe away his large debt by visiting the city of Columbia and brining back a girl. Unfortunately, the Columbia is a floating city, above the clouds, run by a man proclaiming himself a prophet, who has locked the girl you are after in a well protected tower. But, not one to turn down a challenge, Booker presses on. While the city seems perfectly pleasant at first, it doesn't take long for Booker to be identified and exposed to the dark side of Columbia, and thrust on a violent and mind-bending adventure.

Bioshock Infinite follows the basic mechanics of its predecessors. You are transported to a fantastic city that incomprehensibly exists somewhere a city should not, given strange powers to fling from your left hand while shooting from your right, and guided through several areas to reach your endgame, only to be hindered somewhat along the way. So yes, this is clearly a Bioshock game, but it really is set apart from the previous instalments.

The most striking difference is in the setting. Yes, clearly Bioshock Infinite is set in the sky while the first was set under the ocean, but Bioshock revelled in its run down, abandoned atmosphere, thrusting crazed, drug addled lunatics at you to attack with wrenches, while making sure you never came into contact with a friendly human being throughout the whole adventure. But Infinite goes for a different approach, letting you wander throughout the beautiful city through several long gameplay segments, letting you eavesdrop on the residents' conversations, see people go about their daily business, even the combat is well populated and a lot more intense than before. These differences could well have been a downfall for Bioshock Infinite, but they are executed so well that it makes the whole experience a lot better than the original.

Of course, what would the setting be without a story to go with it? Infinite doesn't exactly lead you by the hand narrative wise. You start out knowing just as much as Booker, pretty much nothing, and while you figure out the main plot points by playing through the game, and becoming exposed to the more corrupt, racially pure aspects of the city, exploration really helps to uncover a lot of the points you may miss just blazing through. Conversations between white citizens and black menial workers really add layers to the racial inequality that keeps the city going. You visit the most affluent areas of the city, and the most run down, to really see how the two sides live. Propaganda lines the walls, and the audio logs from Bioshock make a return as well, which provide deep insights into certain aspects of the city, and explain a lot of the questions you may have while playing. This game simply immerses you in the story and atmosphere of Columbia, forcing you to really pay attention to everything, seek out every last bit of information you can to get an idea of what is happening in the city.

But that's just the stuff you can explore and find during regular play. The actual main plot is riveting as well. As you rescue and try to escape with the girl in the tower, Elizabeth, you become a target for Comstock, the prophet in charge of the city, forcing you to battle your way through his legions of men, becoming embroiled in a revolution that has been brewing long before you arrival. While the plot regularly allows you to explore for a little while, you're never far off from the next part of the story, and it's definitely interesting and varied enough to keep you going until the conclusion. While you may feel somewhat confused about what's going on towards the end of the game, I assure you that everything is explained in one of the best endings I've probably ever seen, one that kept me thinking for days afterwards and has rewarded me with my understanding of certain things on my second play through.

So yes, great story, great setting, what about the gameplay? In essence, Bioshock Infinite is a shooter, with a few RPG elements thrown in. You can upgrade your powers and weapons, equip gear you find to attain certain perks, but you must choose wisely as to which powers and weapons you'll use the most to clear the waves of enemies. These range from foot soldiers, to RPG wielding guys, to the "heavy hitter" enemies like the chain gun wielding motorised Patriot robots with faces of the founding father of America, or the terrifying Handyman, a man in a huge, clunking mechanical suit that will hunt you down and make short work of you. Regular combat with the smaller guys is normally intense enough as the flank you and wear you down, but when the heavy hitters come out things get a lot more intense and creepy, at time more so than the first Bioshock.

Thankfully there is a wide variety of weapons and powers, or vigors, to help you obliterate everyone. You can pick enemies off from afar with a sniper rifle or carbine, or go in for the kill with shotguns or chain guns. You can also use vigors to throw fiery grenades, send out a murder of crows to swarm groups of enemies, or throw them up in the air. Best of all, you can combine some of these vigors for a greater effect, like setting your crows on fire. One of the best weapons, though, is the skyhook. Introduced as a melee weapon  attached to your hand that will decimate anyone's face, you are soon introduced to rails that allow you to ride along like you're on a roller coaster, picking off enemies from above or leaping on top of them with a devastating attack. Taking too much damage? Just hop on a rail and escape, only to come back again at full force, launching rockets from above. The skyhook provides a lot of fun and variation in an already packed combat system.

You also have Elizabeth with you most of the time, and Elizabeth is probably the most helpful sidekick in gaming history. While most rescue mission result in you having to escort a frail woman out of an area riddled with bad guys, in which she keeps wandering into the line of fire, right off the bat this game tells you that you don't have to worry about Elizabeth, she can take care of herself. The relief I got from reading that was immense. But not only can Elizabeth take care of herself, she helps you out a hell of a lot too. If you die, she will revive you. If you're looking through trash cans and boxes for money to spend, she'll normally find some money and throw it to you. Even in the heat of battle she will manage to dig up ammo, health packs, even salts to replenish your vigors, when you need them the most. Without Elizabeth by my side, I wouldn't have made it through some of the tougher battles. But apart from being a great sidekick, she is also a fantastic character. She reacts to everything, be it major plot revelations to the smell of a bathroom, and her personality really develops over the course of the game, and by the end I really cared for her. In part because she wasn't dying every five minutes, but mostly because she is a wonderfully fleshed out character that lends herself to this amazing story.

I think it's pretty clear that I enjoyed this game a lot. The city of Columbia is a truly mesmerising place to explore. It's beautiful, dangerous, and totally immersive, populated with fantastically developed characters that take part in a fantastic narrative that in the end even wins out over Bioshock's. Once I was finished I just wanted to play through again to really understand every little aspect of the game, and while combat did get a little stale towards the end of my first play through, I have been switching up my techniques the second time around to keep things a lot more fresh. Bioshock Infinite has succeeded in its highly difficult task. It's a sequel that surpasses its predecessor in every way with its differences, similarities and all, and it's the best game I've played in a long while.

My rating: 5/5

Wednesday 3 April 2013

Today's Review: Wrap It Up's Mexican Beef Fajita

On the verge of desperation in London after realising just how carbolicious KFC chicken is, I turned to the establishment next door that I had never visited before, Wrap It Up. Burritos and fajitas abound in this place, in all kinds of wondrous flavours, with all kinds of wondrous toppings. What really caught my eye though was the ability to forgo the bread and simply have the filling in a box, like some kind of disgusting salad. I was willing to cheat on my diet a little, but not too much, so it was perfect for me.

As you can see in the picture, it is indeed like a disgusting salad. But Mexican aficionados and nacho appreciators will know that it looks delicious, and it damn well was. Spicy, juicy ground beef, cheddar, peppers, onions, salsa, sour cream and guacamole, piled into a glorious mess that's all at once hot, sweet, creamy and crunchy. I'll definitely be returning once my diet is over to shove this mound of tastiness into a toasty warm wrap. Heaven.

My rating: 5/5

Tuesday 2 April 2013

Today's Review: Bath Mats

Bath mats are mats, that you put next to your bath. Simple? Yes. But this little piece of fabric is designed to make getting out of the bath a comforting and safe experience.

Have you ever stepped out of a nice, hot bath, only to slip on your hard, frictionless bathroom floor and sustain a traumatic injury? Well, you wouldn't if you'd had a bath mat. It'll soak up all that water that could otherwise be pooling in a conspiracy to smash your head on the cistern. Some people may have carpets in their bathrooms to combat this unfortunate scenario, but those people are wrong, because stepping on a carpet all the time with a dripping wet body is a recipe for mouldy destruction. A bath mat is like a mini life saving carpet that you can wash when it gets dirty. Also, you can use it outside a shower for the same effect. That's like two products for the price of one. A life without my bath mat would be a dangerous one indeed.

My rating: 5/5

Monday 1 April 2013

Today's Review: Having 14 Easter Eggs In The Kitchen When I Shouldn't Eat Chocolate

They're all lined up in there, staring at me (at least they would be if they had eyes). Chocolatey goodness in egg form, which is the tastiest form of chocolate (empirically proven). Trouble is, even one half of an egg is enough to send me off course in my weight loss mission, so I just have to sit here, facing temptation. Eggy, chocolatey temptation.

I wish they would leave. But the only way they will leave is through consumption, and I don't wish to make my children obese or diabetic by forcing them to eat eggs at an immense rate. So my only option is to wait. Wait, with the eggs in the corner of my eye, hoping my willpower will hold out long enough to see their extinction at the hands of small, chocolatey mouths. If only I could shut out the noise of that cracking sound when the egg is bitten into, the smell of smooth chocolate, it would be a further minor victory. But I shall resist, and I shall emerge victorious, no matter how agonising this temptation may become.

My rating: 2/5