Monthly Archives: May 2010

… & It Really, Really Works

By ROBERT SMITH

Like Dan Aykroyd’s classic Irwin Mainway character in those classic early “Saturday Night Live” sketches, companies are always trying to put their hands in your pockets. It’s easy to be cynical in this Internet-driven, infomercial world, but sometimes – as rare as it might seem – some of the products sold though mass media can actually be decent. Amazingly, not every TV product is a get-rich-quick scheme, dubious male enhancement product, or “miracle” food preparation device.

The cheap plastic food prep stuff draws the biggest laughs from this corner. One of our infomercial shows on the airwaves these days concerns the Magic Bullet blender, a chopping/blending device so small that you practically have to pre-cut most every type of solid food that goes into it. So why not just keep going with the knife you used in the first place? We like a “full family meal” as much as the next guy, but cleaning our food processors and blenders doesn’t rank all that high on our list of problems.

While perusing the Rite-Aids and Walgreens of our neighborhood (frankly, those who order products directly from TV ads pay ridiculously inflated shipping and handling charges), in recent months we’ve become exceedingly bold and actually tried a handful of the products you see on the tube virtually every day. Miracle of miracles, some really, really work!

It all started with The George Foreman Grill and the Ronco Showtime Rotisserie; the makers of these excellent products deserve a tip of the cap for making goods that aren’t scams in the least, and they do what they are intended to do. Here are more recent products, all available through many brick-and-mortar stores no matter where you live, that are shockingly excellent:

The Swivel Sweeper G2: It works! This little mini-vacuum cleaner actually does a pretty fair job cleaning rugs and bare floors, and it’s so light that even kids and seniors can handle it with ease. The product has gotten even better recently with the addition of levers on the top of the canister that enable hands-free emptying of the dirt tray. Well worth the $40 or so you’ll pay for it (swivelsweeper.com).

MagicJack: It works! A recent sampling of MagicJack proved the service provided by this little plug contraption offers VOIP home phone service that’s as good (or better) than cable company phone services, and it’s a whole lot cheaper. Yes, you have to leave a computer on to use the phone or receive calls, but since the service includes voice mail, it’s virtually the same as using an answering machine. MagicJack’s faux “home shopping”-style infomerical is the worst such show for just about the best product available through TV. Go figure. However, those pondering switching from monthly phone service to MagicJack might want to give this a tumble; consider your lifestyle before making the move. Even Consumer Reports liked this device. (magicjack.com)

The Titan Peeler: It works! This sharp, well-constructed little slicer is one of the best ways to cut and slice vegetables we’ve ever tried, and it comes packaged with a versatile little mandolin board. This is a shockingly durable kitchen tool you’ll use for the rest of your life … uh oh; we’re starting to sound like Ron Popeil … (titanpeelersale.com)

UGlu Glue Strips: It works! A simple idea: Glue strips that peel off patches of fabric. This is such a good idea we’re shocked no one thought of it years ago. Actually, someone had; UGlu was available at hardware-type stores before some genius decided to make some splashy TV ads (getuglu.com).

Turbo Snake: It works! Another simple idea: Take a plumber’s snake and shrink it down to several inches long, and you get the idea of the Turbo Snake. This handy little contraption clears out clogged bathroom sinks far better and safer than toxic liquid drain cleaners, and it’s built to last. At about $10, this is the best buy of any of these products (buytheturbosnake.com).

HD Vision Ultra Sunglasses: It works! Well, we like’em, in both the wraparound and regular versions, but obviously these aren’t for everyone – just like no one kind of sunglasses are perfect for everyone’s particular vision needs. That being said, these are what we reach for first on bright, sunny days (buyhdvision.com).

TV Travails: Here’s a compendium of products told through television that you should at least think twice about: ShamWow (it’s … a towel); Invicta watches sold on ShopNBC (a D+ rating at The Better Business Bureau only begins to tell the story of the “quality” of these timepieces); any infomercial that looks sorta kinda like the Larry King show; any “health supplement” or exercise equipment sold via infomercials; and anything hawked by Kevin Trudeau – who actually has been banned from selling anything but books via infomercials and has been found guilty of credit card fraud, yet has reached the New York Times bestseller list a couple of times with titles such as Natural Cures “They” Don’t Want You To Know About, despite warnings from groups such as The New York State Consumer Protection Board.

Thinking about that last one, we finally figured out how George W. Bush got elected to a second term.

We wouldn’t buy anything manufactured by Robert Smith.

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Filed under Current events, Entertainment, Humor, Journalism, Posts by Robert Smith, Television, Uncategorized

Will we ever learn? I hope so…

By Jon Pine

Yesterday, for a brief moment, my depression and anger over the unfolding environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico lifted. I watched as two birds who were rescued from certain oily death were released back into the wild – gently scrubbed free of oil, nourished and nursed back to health by veterinarians with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Jon Pine

“Lucky,” a young male Northern Gannet, and a young male Brown Pelican were flown by chartered plane from Louisiana to their new home in the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge near here, in Indian River County Florida. As I watched the birds paddle out into the water and eventually take flight – after nearly a week in captivity – my heart also soared a bit, and for a moment, my faith in humanity returned. Maybe we won’t destroy ourselves and our planet in my lifetime after all.

A variety of public, private, national and local agencies were responsible for bringing these two fellows here to their new home. With so much attention paid to two little critters, perhaps we CAN muster the will necessary to change our ways and move toward a day when man-made catastrophes like this just don’t happen.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents release a Pelican that had been rescued from the oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

In a way, the story of these two birds and their new home is a perfect metaphor for the raging debate over fossil fuels versus clean energy. For your consideration: Why, of all places, were they released here? There are several answers:

For starters, the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge is far from the site of the slick. It also happens to be located smack-dab at the nexus between the tropics and the subtropics – and as such is, arguably, the most biologically diverse estuary in the United States. Hundreds of species of birds, fish and mammals live here, including 15 listed as endangered or threatened.

In other words – this is Bird Heaven to these two guys. I would imagine that within hours of their release they’ve each found others of their species to hang around with, fish with, mate with, and just generally live a sludge-free existence.

"Lucky" the Northern Gannet is released into his new home.

So how did this bird heaven come to be? Glad you asked! President Theodore Roosevelt established Pelican Island as the country’s very first national wildlife refuge in 1903. Why? So glad you asked again! It has to do with fashion: At the turn of the 20th Century, birds like Pelicans and Gannets were hunted almost to extinction for their feathers – which were prized like gold to decorate ladies’ hats and other fashion accessories.

Teddy Roosevelt – a conservative Republican, by the way – recognized that something needed to be done or many species of birds would end up extinct.

Today’s conservative Republicans don’t seem to share Roosevelt’s understanding for the environment and our natural resources. Like the demand for the prized bird feathers of the early 1900s, today’s insatiable greed for oil profits threatens to doom hundreds of species of animals – this time in the Gulf of Mexico. But conservative Republicans, and a few conservative Democrats, continue to cry “Drill, baby, drill!” Even President Obama included new offshore drilling in his energy reform plan. Hopefully, he is doing some hard thinking about that right now.

What will it take for them to learn? Another exploding oil rig? It’s not far-fetched to believe that it might happen. Did you know that, in the Gulf of Mexico alone, there are more than 3,800 active oil and gas drilling operations? Do we really need more of them in such an environmentally sensitive area?

And can we agree to stop calling the Gulf oil well catastrophe a “spill”? It is a man-made underwater crude oil geyser and no one seems to know how to make it stop.

This morning as I write this, and as the oil geyser continues to spew into the Gulf, the three stooges at the center of this catastrophe – British Petroleum, TransOcean and Halliburton – will be pointing fingers of blame at each other during a hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The very idea of it reminds me of the final scene in Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs” where the surviving participants in a jewel heist point guns at each other, while accusations fly about who among them is the undercover cop. (Without spoiling the movie for those who haven’t seen it, suffice it to say, that scene ends very, very badly.)

There’s a corny old saying: When you point your finger at someone, your other three fingers are pointing back at you. It’s trite, but true, in this circumstance. We all should have demanded better from our leaders long ago. At the very least, demanded stringent safety regulations on ALL drilling rigs. Better yet, demanded a moratorium on offshore drilling in environmentally sensitive areas.

But better still, demand that we finally, forcefully, consistently move clearly in the direction that would eventually take us off of all fossil fuels.

If we don’t, we may run the risk of extinction, just like our feathered friends at the turn of the 20th Century.

For more photos of the wild bird release click here.

© 2010 Jon Pine

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Another Great Moment In Media

This was the actual image on my computer screen when I accessed the cable service Optimum (run by Cablevision) yesterday.  Of all the photos of Dave Roberts available, this was the one they chose. I don’t know if  it was the case of a brain dead editor, a lack of availability, or what, but one thing I do know: This was one of the most tasteless things I’ve seen on the Net in a while, and that includes Hustler.com. Appalling. (Robert Smith)

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