It’s Okay to be Takeya

Takeya Glass Bottle with Silicone Sleevetakeya


Pros: Reusable, dishwasher safe, glass, silicone sleeve

Cons: none for me, some might consider the lack of a straw or spout a problem.

I’m a water fanatic.  Never thought I’d say those words—for the 26-plus years I smoked, I hated water.  Tasted awful, like ashtrays smelled.  I needed my drinks strongly flavored and carbonated to scour out the taste of the cigarettes.  But since I quit nine years ago?

I’ve become something of a connoisseur of waters.  I used to think people who said they could tell the difference between one water and another were being pretentious.  Now I know they were being honest.  I found that I couldn’t stand tap water with ice cubes (ack!), and every reusable water bottle I’d ever owned (and I’d owned many) tasted like crap plastic or crap metal.  Either way, the flavor was awful to me.

My love of water led to something of an impasse between me and my teenage son.  See, he took all those lessons I gave on recycling, reusing, reducing, and threw them right back at me.  How could I justify bottled water?   How could I, even if I was recycling, justify sucking down 70 bottles of water every two weeks?

Kid was right.  And I knew he was right.  Yet, I really couldn’t stand the flavor of tap water in plastic or metal.  So, as a compromise, we picked up 20 Voss waters in glass bottles and began reusing the bottles.  Problem was, they were only 12.7 ounce bottles.

And then hubby found Takeya bottles at Costco.  Made in Japan, these are large (22 ounce/.65 liters) glass bottles, no silly, nasty tasting plastic straws or spouts, with a silicone sleeve to protect.  He snapped up four 2-packs and I’ve been happy ever since.  In fact, it’s been months  since we bought any bottled water.

And once again, we have peace at home.

Takeya water bottles are, above all, thick and sturdy.  They don’t have an “oops, don’t bump it against anything” feel to them.  They are, of course, heavier than plastic or most metal, and that’s okay with me.  I’m not looking to haul ten of them around at a time.  The necks are fairly wide, and smaller ice cubes can fit easily, if you’re so inclined.

The silicone sleeves, which are not meant to be removed, give protection with hard knocks.  I don’t know how it would do hitting pavement, but it keeps the glass intact when it tumbles from countertop to hardwood floor.  These sleeves come in a variety of colors—we have black, red, blue, green, and purple.  The sleeves have cut-outs on the side to make water level visible.  I like that.  While these bottles/sleeves do seem to keep water colder than plastic reusables, I wouldn’t say that the sleeve gives any long-term coldness.

The lids are a sturdy, hard black plastic that screw down airtight and leakproof.  No fancy flip-up spout or internal straw.  This is a bottle with a lid, nothing complicated.  That may make it unsuitable for folks doing a century ride who need to be able to take a drink without fiddling with a lid, but for the rest of us, this is great.   The top of the bottle also has a small handle/hook for snapping on with a carabiner or clasp and attaching to a backpack or belt.

Now, the company advertises these bottles as being made of “pure glass,” and I’m not sure what that means.  Might just be advertising, might be meaningful.

One of the best features, other than the “doesn’t make the water taste gross” part?  These puppies are dishwasher safe!  A few sites say “top rack safe,” but the packaging just reads “dishwasher safe.”  We’ve washed the bottles bottom rack (heat dry OFF) a number of times, and they come through just fine.  We often hand wash the lids, though they’ve come through in the top rack basket A-okay.  The silicone (again, don’t remove it) fares marvelously in the dishwasher, and the whole shebang is nice and clean.

And that’s about it.  I really am enjoying these bottles.  Easy to clean, no nasty taste, big enough to keep me happy, and not too pricy, really.  We got ours at Costco, and if you have a Costco membership, I definitely recommend you pick them up there–at 10 bucks a pair, they’re half the price you’ll find them elsewhere.  However, if you don’t have a Costco membership, they’re still a good deal on Amazon at 10-11 a pop.  I know 11 bucks or so a bottle seems really expensive, but, in just a few months, they’ve already paid for themselves, and I expect them to last a long time.  If you’re looking to reduce your footprint and save money in the long-term, I recommend Takeya glass bottles with the silicone sleeve.  Unreservedly.

“My eyes are sore from being a senator…couldn’t take it no more gonna reveal everything”




Pros: The sheer audacity and political incorrectness of it, original storytelling.

Cons: Some imperfections

Warren Beatty’s 1998 dramedy/satire Bulworth is one film that made a minor impact at the time. But seems to have been forgotten by much of the public. Wag The Dog, another political satire from the same period, seems to be more well-remembered.

Shame too, for Bulworth is a damn good movie. Co-written and directed by Beatty, it’s an effective illustration of the disgust the writer/director/star felt with American politics in the 90s.

Beatty stars as Senator Jay Billington Bulworth, an old-school liberal who finds himself out of place in the sound-bite driven politics of today. We first see him sitting in his office, listening to a looped clip of himself saying “we are on the doorstep of a new millennium”. This is your basic political spin and Bulworth has had enough of it. We see early on a picture of him with the late Robert Kennedy and another with Martin Luther King.

So Bulworth decides its time to end it all. But just committing suicide means his daughter won’t get the life insurance policy money. So he arranges for a hitman to kill him in two days. Freed now from the facade of having to say what people want to hear he starts telling people the truth.

At a black church in South Central Los Angeles, he tells a crowd that they reason they didn’t get federal funding they were promised to help rebuild the city after the 1992 riots is because they didn’t contribute enough to his campaign. Zing! Later on, he talks before a group of predominantly Jewish Hollywood moguls and tells them that most of what they produce is crud. Zing!

Immediately after his statements at that church in South Central a group of attractive black women start following him. One of those women is Nina (Halle Berry). Later on, she will play a prominent role in the story.

While Bulworth has some serious statements to make about politics, it does so in an entertaining fashion. After Bulworth and Nina go to a club in Compton and he’s exposed to hip-hop culture, he starts rapping his speeches. As a rapper, Bulworth is far from Rakim. But he does it entertainingly enough that it works.

While I always thought Beatty was a tad overrated as an actor, he pulls off his role as the senator convincingly. We see the world weariness and apathy he feels in the beginning and the zest for life he feels later on is conveyed effectively. Beatty the writer/director doesn’t hesitate to poke fun at Beatty the actor and that’s essential for what we have here.

While the political satire elements are fantastic, a few of the plot elements in general aren’t as well-done. After revealing the truth and finding a new love for life, Bulworth tries to call off the hit. But he can’t reach the assassin and so he must evade him. This part of the plot doesn’t work as well as the political stuff or the romance between Beatty and Berry. Also, one particular character twist towards the end is pretty obvious.

Even with these flaws, Bulworth is still one of the better recent satires. Good acting, the pure audacity of it and a superb soundtrack (featuring former Fugee Pras’s hit “Ghetto Supastar”) make this one worth viewing. Or if you like it enough, owning, seeing as it can be found cheap at Amazon and other places.

“The Devil Rides With You…” SABATA



Pros: Lee Van Cleef; some decent action down the stretch

Cons: Villains aren’t particularly threatening at any point; feels small-scale when compared to the best Italo-westerns

A few years after Italian producer Alberto Grimaldi and director Sergio Leone had wrapped up the so-called “Dollars Trilogy” with 1966’s magnificent The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Grimaldi attempted to replicate the success of Leone’s trilogy with another one revolving around a pretty familiar western anti-hero. 1969’s Sabata deals with the titular character who initially seems to be a sort of avenger figure who becomes involved in a bank robbery plot in a small Texas town. After returning the safe containing $100,000 that was stolen in the heist, the cool and collected Sabata seems content to accept a $5000 reward for his heroic actions, but it quickly becomes apparent that he’s a little less cut and dry of a hero than that when he blackmails the town officials responsible for the robbery for an ever-increasing amount of money. This, of course, doesn’t sit well with these folks who have no intention of paying Sabata off; instead, the crooked banker who devised the robbery in the first place seeks to hire various assassins to dispose of Sabata. As is typically the case in Spaghetti Westerns, this is easier said than done. Even as he’s dealing with the assassins, Sabata (with help from a somewhat buffoonish Civil War vet and an acrobatic mute) works up his own plan to eliminate the despicable town officials once and for all – but what role will a mysterious gunfighter known only as “Banjo” play in the unfolding action and more importantly, whose side will he end up on?

Sabata and his companions
Sabata enforcing his authority over his companions.

Written by Renato Izzo and Gianfranco Parolini (who also directed), Sabata provides exactly what one would expect from an Italian western of this era. The cunning main character finds himself in a variety of potentially hairy situations, yet manages to find a way out of the danger by using his cleverness and skills as a gunfighter. Considering that this same type of story had been done time and again around this period in which literally hundreds of Italian westerns flooded cinemas, I might have expected Parolini’s film to provide something a little outside the norm to really hook a viewer. Sadly that doesn’t seem to be the case: while a director like Sergio Corbucci was able to give life to his 1966 Django by overloading the film with violent action and also make the extremely bleak 1968 film The Great Silence one of the most outstanding Italian westerns ever made through use of a great gimmick (namely, the fact that the master gunfighter main character couldn’t speak), Parolini mostly seems to have been going through the motions making Sabata.

Lee Van Cleef: Western anti-hero extraordinaire.

Though the film is appropriately gritty and features a windblown setting that appears genuinely desperate, for the most part, Sabata seems uninspired: Parolini (working with cinematographer Sandro Mancori) does manage to create some visual interest by focusing on idiosyncratic details, but his scene composition is more often cluttered and clumsy. There’s no sense of purpose to many of his shots, and Sabata plays almost as the antithesis of a Leone western in this regard. The color scheme is also very drab, dominated by grays and browns – this fits the mood and tone of the story but doesn’t make the picture any more eye-catching to watch. By the time the big slam-bang finale turns up, I was mostly disinterested in a film that simply didn’t offer much to distinguish itself from dozens of obviously similar pictures and stories, and any amount of pyrotechnics and gunfire during the final ten minutes can’t really make up for the mostly forgettable hour and a half that preceded it.

I appreciated the level of detail in the film, but it’s nowhere near as polished as Spaghettis directed by Leone or Corbucci.

The most damning thing about the film in my opinion is the fact that the villains here simply don’t seem all that threatening. A rancher named Stengel is the obvious main bad guy, but as portrayed by Franco Ressel, he comes across as an incredibly meek banker-type who has a condescending view on the rest of humanity (we’re not-so-subtly introduced to the character while he’s reading a book entitled Inequality is the Basis of Society so his motivations are in plain sight right out of the gate). This guy doesn’t seem capable of doing much except talking somebody to death through use of holier-than-thou rhetoric, and his partners in crime (namely a rotund tavern owner and sheepish judge) are equally as ineffectual. The more rough-and-tumble western villains who actually performed the robbery are taken out of the picture early on in the story, meaning that the script has to introduce a series of basically throw-away potential assassins who try and gun Sabata down throughout the film. These skirmishes are fleeting and almost irrelevant: there’s no sense of surprise or tension here, and Sabata’s inevitable conflict with Banjo (played capably by William Berger, who looks ridiculous sporting what seems to be a moppy red-haired wig) doesn’t do much to alleviate the sensation that this film needs a more obvious and aggressive villain character.

Banjo’s gimmick.

On the plus side, having the inimitable Lee Van Cleef as your main character means that it’s hard for a viewer to lose interest in Sabata even if the film as a whole isn’t all that compelling or unique. Van Cleef is simply magnetic as he scowls, snarls, chuckles dementedly, and barks out lines with pronounced intensity, and since most viewers probably would have previously seen him play some of the most nefarious villains in western film history, it’s very easy to buy into his Sabata as an anti-hero. Ultimately, Van Cleef’s performance is the one reason why this film would be honestly recommendable to fans of the genre (his interactions with Berger’s “Banjo” character are particularly good), but I actually enjoyed the supporting work provided by Italian actor Ignazio Spalla as Sabata’s main sidekick quite a bit as well. Spalla is a big, burly, grubby-looking fellow: the perfect character actor to cast in a western, and his jovial, slightly goofy behavior throughout the film provides a nice contrast to Van Cleef’s no-nonsense attitude. Aldo Canti, meanwhile, appears in an almost slapstick sort of role as a mute Amer-Indian who is able to perform amusingly outrageous acrobatic maneuvers. I found this character somewhat distracting, though it does add some additional humorous material to the film.

Van Cleef and Spalla
From left: Berger, Van Cleef, and Spalla.

In the midst of all the familiar and predictable elements, Sabata has a few standout moments, including a scene in which Banjo faces off in the middle of town against a quintet of gunmen and one in which Sabata visits a priest who has instructions to kill him – Banjo providing a “requiem” at the close of the scene is one of a handful of intriguing, more quirky moments to be found but I wish there was more of them. Marcello Giombini’s music was appropriately rousing, with a catchy main theme that features peppy guitar work and Morricone-like vocal choir, but though the music and editing adds suspense and vitality to certain scenes, the main body of the film is in serious need of a pick-me-up. In the end, I’d probably consider Sabata to be a quietly comical but relatively small-scale film that fans of Van Cleef would enjoy, but may not be all that exciting for fans of the western genre in general despite its definitive “A-HA!” finale. It’s kind of strange to me (though perhaps unsurprising given the tendency for Italians to overdo it in terms of movie sequels, hence the dozens and dozens of “sequels” to Django), that this generally unremarkable original film led to two subsequent Sabata pictures; though this first film is fine as a time-waster, I don’t think it’s much of anything special.

Neither the widescreen format from 20th Century Fox nor the from Kino Lorber have any special features to speak of. Personally, I’d go for the trilogy to get more bang for your buck, but picture and sound quality are better on the Kino release.

4/10 : The expected western gun violence and a smattering of blood.

1/10 : Isolated instances of mild profanity.

2/10 : A handful of risque scenes taking place in a brothel, with implied sexual encounters and fleeting topless nudity.

5/10 : A fairly typical Italo-western that’s neither exciting or quirky enough to truly stand out from the crowd.

“I like living at the peak of excitement, for life is only worthwhile when you can face death without showing any fear. In fact, I enjoy it.”


Restaurant Quality in my Pantry!

Mildessa Mild German Sauerkraut, 28.6 oz. Can

Mildessa mild Sauerkraut


Pros: The mild flavor let’s you taste all of your sandwich, not soggy or drippy like supermarket brands.

Cons: Because it comes in a can, you need to have a container ready for leftovers.

I adore Manhattan Deli in Reno. Housed in Atlantis Casino Resort Spa, its menu boasts Reuben sandwiches that cannot be finished in one sitting, egg creams (seltzer, chocolate syrup, and ice cold milk), thick-sliced New York cheesecake, and matzah ball soup that rivals any Jewish mother’s recipe! It’s not just a matter of portion size or nostalgia for my childhood in Brooklyn, it’s the flavor of all the ingredients. One such delectable flavor comes from the sauerkraut with which they garnish Reuben sandwiches, deli platters, and Hebrew National hot dogs. It took me nearly a year to get up the courage to ask one of the servers what brand they used. It’s as though I expected to be banned for life because I desired professional secrets.

I was delighted to hear our server say “Let me check” and then quickly return with the name of the Saeurkraut written on scratch paper: Mildessa. As soon as we got home, I Googled Mildessa and discovered that no local grocery store carried it. However, I could buy it by the case through Amazon.

Mildessa has a mild flavor because of its ingredients: white cabbage, wine and salt. The only two brands available in our local Safeway (Steinfeld’s and Safeway Brand) have way too much bite in them for me. I like to taste the meat in my sandwich, too. From what I can tell, the difference in flavor comes from the wine. The other two brands use water, and Steinfeld’s adds preservatives.

As for nutritional content, I needed to consult my calculator. Mildessa is made in Germany where sauerkraut is a side dish instead of a garnish. A serving of Mildessa sauerkraut is 5 ounces. It also says 130 grams and 1 cup. My best guess is that the cup refers to volume because a standard cup is 8 ounces. A serving of Steinfeld’s sauerkraut is 30 grams, with no equivalent measure. Safeway uses 2 tablespoons as a serving, which is equal to 1 ounce. According to a conversion chart on my refrigerator, 1 ounce is 28 grams. Since Mildessa specifies 5 ounces, I divided its numbers by 5 to fairly compare it with Steineld’s and Safeway brands. This is the best comparison I can come up with:

Mildessa Nutrition Facts
Servings size: 5 oz. (130 g/1 cup)
Servings per container: about 6 (the can has a net weight of 28.6 ounces, which would be the number of 1-ounce servings)
Calories: 45 per serving, 9 per ounce
Total Fat per serving: 0 grams
Sodium: 560 milligrams per serving, 112 per ounce
Total Carbohydrates per serving: 9 g (dietary fiber, 3 g; sugars, 2 g), 1.8 (dietary fiber, .6; sugars, .4) per ounce
Protein per serving: 2 g, .4 per ounce

Steinfeld’s Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 30 grams (1.07 ounces, to be exact)
Servings per container: 10 (the jar has a net weight of 16 ounces)
Calories: 5
Total Fat: 0 grams
Sodium 250 milligrams
Total Carbohydrate: 1 gram
Protein: 0 grams

Safeway Brand Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 2 tbsp (1 ounce)
Servings per container: 14 (the jar has a net weight of 14.5 ounces)
Calories: 5
Sodium: 200 mg
Total Carbohydrate: 1 g (dietary fiber, 1 g; Sugars, 1 g)

Comparing the three on a nutritional level, Mildessa has 4 more calories per ounce, less than half the sodium, and .8 more carbohydrate of both brands. The few extra calories and slightly higher carbohydrate level is likely due to the wine, which is probably the reason for the lower sodium level and smooth flavor. When you consider that sauerkraut is most often coupled with high sodium deli, it’s a pleasure to have a garnish with less than half the sodium and twice the flavor of its American supermarket competitors.

The greatest moment I had was when a box of six cans of Mildessa Mild German Sauerkraut arrived at my door. The flavor is the same as it is in Manhattan Deli, and I finally can make Hebrew National hot dogs taste as good at home as they do in the restaurant.

As for storage after opening the can, I still had about half a jar of Steinfeld’s sitting in the fridge, so I tossed out the bitter mess and ran the jar through the dishwasher. In the future, I might buy a Mason jar or see if Tupperware makes something that would work just as well; but in the meantime, this works very well.

Meghan Trainor’s All About That bASS on the TITLE EP

TITLE EP by Meghan Trainor


Pros: “All About That Bass” is pretty catchy whether I’d like to admit it or not; if you’re 14 years old and female, you’ll probably enjoy the EP

Cons: Musically unexciting; “cleverness” wears thin after a bit

It speaks to the overwhelming power of big-time media corporations that I, having precisely no interest in modern pop music, would nonetheless be exposed to one of 2014’s biggest and most successful songs. Having an uplifting “girl power” type message about being true to and accepting yourself for who you are, singer and songwriter Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass,” which sounds like a ‘50s doo-wop song performed by a modern “diva” type singer, slowly but surely gained momentum in the pop charts over the latter part of the summer of 2014, eventually replacing Taylor Swift at the top of the charts in mid-September. I imagine it was a bit of a surprise to some that a basically unknown artist would replace a music powerhouse like Swift in the number one position, but this can’t be that shocking in the bigger history of pop music, especially given the cheerfully quirky nature of Trainor’s song.

Don’t press that play button unless you want this thing stuck in your head all day…

What most people might not realize about Meghan Trainor is that her 2014 EP Title, which features “Bass” as its lead single, is not her first attempt at making a name for herself in the music biz: she actually has a trio of independently-released albums under her belt even though she’s only 20 years of age. After showing promise as a songwriter, Trainor attended songwriting workshops in Nashville, and eventually collaborated with producer Kevin Kadish to make “All About That Bass,” refusing offers to sell the song to other artists and choosing instead to release the song as a single of her own. Grooving along to a string bass line and lots of peppy percussion elements, “Bass” is nothing if not an infectious bit of pop music, but there’s not a whole lot of substance behind the glossy exterior and the song actually has been criticized for being aggressive towards what its lyrics refer to as “skinny bitches.” Numerous artists have successfully older song formulas for the modern age, but the real question is whether or not Trainor can prove she has continued relevance and longevity in a modern music industry that too often seems obsessed with whatever is newest and shiniest.

The temptation to come up with a “witty” caption for this pic is strong, but I’ll fight off the urge.

The cleverness featured in “Bass” figures in most every song on Title, all of which operate in much the same way, with Trainor seeming like a sort of modern soothsayer-meets-motivational speaker trying to improve the self-confidence of young women. At their best, these songs are cute and amusing with some playfully naughty themes, but at their worst they almost seem self-indulgent and a bit snotty, suggesting that Trainor knows all too well how these “witty” songs are likely to be consumed by the listening public. Built around a ukelele melody, hand claps and bassy, doo-wop male vocals, the album’s title track discusses Trainor’s desire to have a “title” in a romantic relationship, and not just be considered a “friend.” Though I like the baritone sax blasts that burp out during the chorus, the almost obligatory “real talk” interlude that plays out over dubstep-like electronic music is kinda iffy. On this song and all the others here, Trainor’s vocals sound bubbly and appealing – but also come across as almost mechanical. I probably don’t want to know how much production work and sound engineering went into the making of this album nor would I want to hear a stripped down, unpolished version of the song.

Third track “Dear Future Husband” (ironically??) borrows the repeating male vocal parts from Dion’s 1961 hit “Runaround Sue” and is another track that has Trainor speaking to a hypothetical male partner about the do’s and don’t’s of a relationship with her. By this point, the formula was getting tiresome to me, though I’m not exactly (or at all) the “target audience” for this release: hell, I’d expect most of the target listeners would not have a clue that elements from the track were lifted entirely from a song that’s five decades old. Album finale “Close Your Eyes” sounds a bit like an ‘50s slow-dancing tune, with lyrics that again attempt to empower the young female listeners out there. Obviously, the message Trainor is trying to get across throughout the album is a worthwhile one considering society’s focus on very limited concepts of female attractiveness, but I’m not sure that the overkill presented here is either the right or even an effective way to go about enacting a paradigm shift. One could almost be inclined to believe that the whole “message” would simply be a ploy to ensure more publicity and album sales.

spice girls
Girl Power circa 1997 was a bit different…or was it?

Probably about the best thing I could say about Title is that it’s ideal for what it is – a spunky bit of bubblegum pop. I also have to point out that this album came out at just the right time to have some impact in the charts. Considering the focus in the past month on gender issues in modern society, a “girl power” album like this would hit the spot, and obviously did make quite a splash. Having said all that, this feels suspiciously to me like one-hit wonder material: I think Trainor does have talent as a pop songwriter (she’s already written tracks for country artist Rascal Flatts and Disney Channel singer/actress Sabrina Carpenter) and she definitely crafts some wonderful vocal parts in her songs, but I almost believe she’d need a lot more luck to make it as a solo artist. Frankly, it’s a tough go for pop musicians anymore: though a few “artists” (Katy Perry comes to mind) have immense success mostly due to massive record label push – and for having a body of the type Trainor seems to be speaking out against, many more flop either initially or eventually (the stat goes that for every major label artist that achieves massive success, ten are utter failures). Perhaps Meghan Trainor has a few more tricks up her sleeve following her initial smash success, but I wouldn’t be at all shocked if she essentially vanishes once the hype over “Bass” dies down. As for the Title EP, if you’re not a teenager any longer, I don’t see much of a reason why you’d need to own it.

hard to argue
It’s hard to argue with lyrical genius.

Easy to Use CD / DVD Label Applicator from Avery

Avery CD / DVD Label Applicator



simple to use, small and easy to store, no batteries required

Cons: can only apply one label at a time

I have two of these Avery CD / DVD Label Applicators. One is at home and the other is in the office.


This Avery label applier is a simple device. The round platform measures about 6 1/2” x 6 1/2” x 2”. There are three parts to this device: a black base with a non-skid bottom, a center spindle that the disc fits onto, and a removable piece that slides over the spindle to rest atop the disc for centering the label. No batteries are required.

My Experiences

The two Avery Label Applicators I have are about eight to ten years old and still going strong. One is located at home, and the other is in the office. The plastic is durable and has held up well. The applicators still look like new.

It is an easy device to use. I set the applicator on a flat surface, such as a table or desk. I then place the disc needing a label over the spindle until it rests flat on the base. (The burned side of the disc faces down toward the base.) Take the printed label (sticky side down) and slide it over the spindle. The spindle helps center the label. Finger-smooth the label onto the disc, running fingers from the center outward to eliminate any airspaces between the label and disc.

The non-skid bottom on the base keeps the applicator in place while the label is being applied. This device is meant to affix one label at a time.

I use software on my computer to design the labels. I prefer Microsoft Publisher, which has a basic template design I can customize. But there are quite a few software programs that offer CD / DVD label templates. Plus, if you are designing your own labels, you will need to buy label stock. Avery sells the labels, but Staples also offers an inexpensive alternative.


This Avery CD / DVD Applicator is a great little device. In a few simple steps, I can apply a label to a disc. I much prefer applying a label rather than using a marker and writing on the disc. A label presents the info in a customized fashion. I can add graphics, bold text, and include a variety of information that is easy to read. I hope you found this review useful.

Enjoy the day,

Copyright 2014 Dawn L. Stewart

In The Dark Of The Night – John Saul – Flawed, but intriguing

In The Dark Of The Night by John Saul




Pros: Engaging story…

Cons: … with unrealistic elements and ridiculous character flaws

In The Dark Of The Night by John Saul is a decent thriller, if you can handle a story that falls into the realms of “horror” and “paranormal”.  This is not normally my preference.  I prefer my thrillers to be set in realistic terms – something that could happen, thus making it ever more scary.  But when stories rely on items of “other-worldly” origins, the story becomes far less real, and, in my opinion, far less enjoyable.  Granted, this is something that Saul is known for, but in this book it seemed more prevalent than usual.

However, In The Dark Of The Night isn’t terrible, in fact, I enjoyed it.  Just know what you’re getting into.

It should be an idyllic summer… Renting a house by a lake…  Sixteen-year-old Eric is ecstatic – he’s been looking forward to this for so long.  Despite the misgivings of his worry-wort Mom – one of those people who can only see the bad in any situation – Eric can’t wait to start his dream-summer!

But when Eric and his friends discover a cache of long-abandoned items in a shed on the rented property, things start to go awry. The items, themselves, look innocuous enough.  A table with three legs, and a table leg by itself.  A hacksaw with no blade, and a blade by itself.  A lamp with no shade, and a shade by itself…  But Eric and his friends feel a compulsion they can’t explain – a need to put the items back together again.  But doing so seem to unleash an energy – a fury that gets stronger and stronger until its full release.

The book tries to tie together events from seven years ago – hinted at, in the prologue – with the events in the current time. But I don’t think it accomplishes this goal too well.  There are quite a few holes that never get filled.

There’s also a subplot – the “townies” versus the “summer tourists”.   A bunch of rotten kids with nothing better to do than to cause mayhem for no good reason at all.  It was trite, added nothing to the main story, and made me feel like I was reading a book from the YA section.

Then there’s Eric’s Mom. I get that Saul decided to paint her as a worry-wort.  But he took her “quirks” to a ridiculous level.  The funniest part was when the family experiences a flat tire, in the rain, on the way up to the lake.  First she decides this is a sign that they should cancel the whole trip.  Then, after her family shuts that notion down, she doesn’t want her husband to change the tire in the rain because “he might drown”.  Oy.  C’mon, Mr. Saul, if you want to give us “quirky” don’t make it ridiculous.

But even with all of its flaws, I still found In The Dark Of The Night to be a compelling read.  I was interested to figure out exactly what was going on, and how it would all end.  And even though it went to extremes I don’t prefer, I still flipped those pages pretty quickly, engaged in the story.  Finally, there’s an epilogue that I really enjoyed.

My recommendation: read it, if you like thrillers, and can handle the unrealistic aspects, and a few flaws.

Not your Mama’s Scrapbooking Punch

Punchline™  Ribbon Stitch handheld punch Hole Punch





Pros: Osage County First Grade approved

Cons: none noted


Advantus, McGill Punchline™ Ribbon Stitch handheld punch Hole Punch places parallel slots paper crafters, scrap book enthusiasts and others use for attaching embellishments to cards, tags, scrapbook pages and the like.

I am not a scrap book enthusiast.

Osage County First Grade, site where our Ribbon Stitch handheld punch is used, is learning the number on THIS side of the equal must be the same as the number on the other side of the equal.

 Daily Math activity of any kind can be met with groans, sighs and wails that Math is hard by students of all ages.

Our hand held hole punch creates a fun equal sign on the page for Little Learners to use during the learning process.

I like the 2 inch throat reach allowing for easy placement of the punch and slots along each side of the paper cut to size for use. A row of slots along sides allows classroom drill, wherein Little Learners and Mrs M each write a numeral to the left of the slot, decide our equation, write it, numeral, +, numeral, to the right, turn our papers so that the new, unused slots are again at the left.

Slotted paper used now and then helps keep enthusiasm and interest high for Little Mathematicians as we accomplish our required Math activities.

Handy for usage at home, in the classroom and office this imported punch comes complete with ideas for use included with packaging. I like that the high capacity chad hold receptacle holds a great many punch outs before need to empty is required.

Advertising claims that the punch can easily be used on leather, cardboard, plastics, papers and more. In the classroom I have used the punch on lightweight papers our school received as donated papers from Phillips Oil. We received many packages of lightweight, white and vari hued papers in a diversity of sizes from legal to larger as Phillips changed office papers from these to something else.

Math work accomplished using slotted equal signs punched along the side of lavender, yellow, pink and green toned papers are more fun than only paper and pencil accomplished on blue, white or orange.

I have punched slots when using card stock papers as Osage County First Grade works on special cards for holiday, however I cannot vouch for use of the punch on heavier papers or other materials.

Slots measure about 1/16 X ¼ inch per slot, punch reach is 2 inches allowing hole placement away from edge of card or page. Ribbon measuring ¼ inch and less can be threaded through the slots for cards, and embellishment purpose.

As a manufacturer of button and hand held punches McGill Corporation offers a nice line of varying shaped, child pleasing, hole designs including stars, valentines, slots, round, valentines and others. Many provide 15 sheet capacity, and sizes vary by shape. Largest is about ½ inch while others are smaller. Shape of hole produced is shown non both sides of handle for easy identification of the particular punch to use.

I like the soft, cushioned, poly grip handles providing ergonomic and ease during repetitive punching when preparing the equal work pages. As arthritis continues and my hands are becoming more arthritic i.e. lumpy, bumpy in appearance and grip is lessened along with having some pain now and then today that I did not experience previously, the cushy grips make the work easier and less uncomfortable.

The Ergonomic Design of the washable cushioned comfort grips means I can use our various punches more often to reward Little Learner work with a star anytime or valentine during February. Easier for my small, arthritic hands to operate; I find these handy punches to be sturdy and long wearing. Using a succession of quick to fall apart punches led to my locating McGill punches.

The star is put into frequent use as our Senior Student aide, Americore aide or Student Teacher listens to Little

Readers reading aloud, and then applies a star to individual Reading Incentive Charts. Working toward the yearly

goal of reading a minimum of 25 books each in order to receive a lovely reading certificate from our State Superintendent of Education is something Osage County First Grade prizes each year. Watching those incentive charts fill with holes to indicate progress is exciting for Little Learners.

Hand held punches have been around for over a century. A speedy, simple method for showing a passenger ticket was voided during the late 1800s, during a time when train travel in the country was widespread, led to a patent for a hole punch, labeled as conductor’s punch by inventor, Benjamin Smith, Massachusetts. Design of that early punch much resembles the hand held single hole punch commonly used today.

The 1885 patent was followed by another filed by Charles Brooks of New Jersey in 1893. Again, the Brooks patent, also designed for use by the train industry, reveals a punch very similar in appearance to one hole punch design in common usage today. Seemingly the design lives up to the old adage – if it ain’t broke; don’t fix it.

As do today’s one hole punches both of the earliest patents featured spring action handles and a receptacle for holding chads as they were punched.

The hole punch, designated at times as a paper punch, hole puncher, holing pincer, and even as a perforator, as my London born nanny called the device several years back when she was caring for Son # 2 is a handy, useful device used to generate holes in sheets of paper. In the office the holes are often used for placing documents in binders with the addition of two prong paper fasteners.

Every student eventually seems to come to the classroom with at least one colorful paper folder equipped with prong type fasteners requiring use of hole punch in order to more easily secure papers in the folder.

McGill Corporation provides a durable Round Hole Punchline Hole Punch available in 1.25 inch reach length, I find the 2 inch throat which places the hole 2 inches from the edge of the paper to be a good size for my use as an award device; I can move the device closer to the edge if desired.

The innocuous, easy to use chad receptacle keeps miniscule bits of paper off the floor, the poly covering is easy for my arthritic fingers to open for chad removal.

Happy to recommend Punchline™ Ribbon Stitch handheld punch Hole Punch.

 The Bottom Line:   Our ribbon slot  Punchline Hole Punch is used when we want to add some enthusiasm to our daily math 


Product Details

For more product details, facts, and shipping information please check AMAZON and other online sites or your local Staples, and/or mercantile outlets.


Internet search including the McGill Incorporation site reveals: innovative thinking have led to progression of paper punches for office, school, classroom, craft, and gift markets for well over a century.

McGill Inc offers an all-encompassing line of single and/or discrete hole, hand-held paper punches functioning for a diversity of crafting, office and school needs, including a line ranging more than 200 crafting devices embossing tools, paper drills, punch shapes, and 1, 2 and 3 hole punches, as well as institution and loyalty punch programs and one of its kind industrial products.

A local Mexican food café where we often stop for a bite to eat punch is a little chili pepper while a local sandwich shop famous for their sweet tea punch is a tea glass. The nearby bread and cooky shop punch is a coffee cup.   While none of these are seen on the McGill website, they assure that fancy shapes are used and often by industry as well as in the classroom.

McGill Corporation begun with a plain hand-held ticket punch along with coin changers designed to serve the needs of the railroad industry and has continued to grow, expand and change for more than a century as McGill has provides ground-breaking office products and paper punching tools designed to further enhancement of business tasks.

Mcgill’s Custom Punchline™ series is used today by businesses of many types to generate customer loyalty and forward sales promotion programs. Browsing the McGill web site for office, craft, and other products indicates corporate determination to offer best value, purpose and accessibility to meet a wide range of fine paper punch tools, office and industrial solutions, reward and recognition gift needs.

McGill is one of the growing group providing goods under the umbrella of Advantus Corporation, a miscellaneous consumer products corporation, headquartered in Jacksonville Florida and in business since 1913.

Today Advantus creates over 4,500 products in corporate manufacturing facilities in Jacksonville, Florida, Mequon, Wisconsin and Asia.


McGill Inc.

131 East Prairie Street

Marengo, Illinois 60152



It’s Just an Illusion…F/X



See it at Amazon 


Pros: Consistently enjoyable, with a nice sense of pace, brisk editing, and plenty of surprises

Cons: Nothing major

In the middle of a pouring rainstorm, a man wearing a trench coat forces his way into a crowded, extremely posh restaurant. He spots a well-dressed woman sitting in the back of the hall, enjoying a meal with a male companion who seems to be enjoying her company more than the food itself. Without warning, the guy in the trench coat opens fire with a machine gun, blasting away diners and shattering huge aquariums along the walls, thus spilling all sorts of exotic fish and lobster across the marble floor. He turns towards the woman, his wife, and she begs for her life. His finger tenses on the trigger and she’s pushed back through a service corridor by the force of lead hitting her body. Suddenly the director yells cut.

Rutrow – What’s real and what’s the effect?

This opening scene of the 1986 action flick F/X (also known under the perhaps more accurate title Murder by Illusion) serves to point out to the viewer that not much of anything can be taken at face value in a film that deals with a special effects artist (or illusionist if you like) who’s recruited by the Justice Department to fake the death of a prominent mob informant named Nicholas DeFranco. Agreeing to take the job, FX man Rollie Tyler devises various gimmicks to make it look like DeFranco is gunned down in a crowded restaurant, but immediately after the “fake” hit takes place, he finds out something is not at all right. Not only are the police convinced DeFranco died for real, but the feds are now trying to eliminate Tyler as well. While Tyler attempts to get to the bottom of the conspiracy he’s become involved with in an attempt to clear his name after his girlfriend is killed by government assassins, a hard-nosed police officer named Leo McCarthy (who hauled in DeFranco the first time around) is performing his own investigation into the matter, convinced there’s something suspicious about the feds who were overseeing DeFranco’s safety. As might be expected, all of these subplots collide in the end, but not before some serious twists and turns pop up along the way.

NYC in the '80s
There’s just something about NYC in the ’80s that makes any movie filmed there more special…

Even if its unlikely anyone would convince F/X with brilliant film making, there’s no denying that this film is, quite simply, highly entertaining and enjoyable. Capturing New York City in the all its 1980s glory and directed by Robert Mandel, who at the time was known for his theatrical direction, the film as a whole seems very workmanlike, but in a modern era where far too many directors go overboard with flashy visuals in an attempt to prove and showcase their “vision” (or to appeal to the ADHD generation), this almost seems like a revelation. Mandel’s straight-forward direction harkens back to the slick execution of action films like The French Connection that were noted for their sense of realism and matter-of-fact presentation. There aren’t all sorts of loud and obnoxious camera moves here; cinematographer Miroslav Ondricek just seems to have photographed the action in as competent a manner as possible. In the end, this allowed the director and editor Terry Rawlings to construct tight action sequences that really energize the film. No, F/X doesn’t come close to rivaling any of the Rambo, Chuck Norris, or Schwarzenegger films as being quintessential (literally overblown) mid-‘80s action cinema, but that doesn’t at all mean that it’s not extremely pleasing in its own way.

peak behind the scenes
The film offers a peak behind the scenes at how movie special effects are made, which would have been interesting stuff in 1986.

Though I could say that the script by Gregory Fleeman and Robert T. Megginson (which plays like a mash-up of the whodunnit, police procedural, and slam-bang-boom genres) stretches credibility or believability at times, for the most part it come across as being not only compellingly quirky, but also fairly realistic and at least plausible. If nothing else, Fleeman and Megginson pepper the picture with a little bit of everything an action movie fan could want: we get a pedestrian chase in Central Park, an exciting and well-executed vehicular pursuit through crowded neighborhood streets, fistfights, gun battles, and even some stealthy spy movie action. Since the script largely deals with the efforts of a movie effects artist to trick his pursuers, we not only get a peak behind the curtain of how cinematic special effects are done, but also get some rather clever sequences making use of various props and gimmicks, particularly towards the end of the film. All the while the action is playing out, the script also unfolds its mystery in an intriguing manner. Despite the fact that I was able to predict some elements of the story, it does unleash a couple legitimate surprises once it gets going and I think most viewers would be sucked into the ongoing plot.

Bryan Brown
Bryan Brown as Tyler, taking matters into his own hands.

Bryan Brown appears in the film as Tyler, a smart-Alec with a mischievous streak that I’d expect a movie special effects man to have. I wasn’t completely convinced by Brown’s acting during the more dramatic scenes here, but his generally effective portrayal ensures that this guy is an improvement from the typically cardboard ‘80s action movie hero. Diane Verona is appealing in a smaller role playing Tyler’s ambitious actress girlfriend, while Cliff DeYoung (as the hotshot younger agent) and Mason Adams (playing the stuffy and shady chief) play the villainous government agents who recruit Tyler into the plot in the first place. I could almost say these two obvious bad guys weren’t quite interesting enough to carry the film on their own, but Jerry Orbach (playing the mob informant) is genuinely fun to watch playing the stereotype of a sleazy Mafia boss. By far the best acting in the film from my standpoint was provided by Brian Dennehy as the grizzled detective McCarthy. Dennehy only shows up around the halfway point of the film, but makes up for lost time by stomping like a madman through all of his scenes through the rest of the picture. His character really isn’t all that different from hundreds of other movie cops that have turned up in cinema over the years, but Dennehy attacks the role with intensity.

Brian Dennehy
Look at that ‘stash! You just get the sense that Brian Dennehy as McCarthy ain’t gonna take no b.s. from anybody.

Building to a satisfying finale that’s not what I might have expected, it’s rather unfortunate that F/X isn’t remembered in the same way of other louder (and more stupid) ‘80s action flicks. This film probably won’t blow anyone away, and perhaps the comparatively low-key way in which it was constructed has made it seem “boring” when compared to its contemporaries. It’s also quite possible that a movie dealing with this subject matter doesn’t hold up today when you consider that most of the effects work Tyler was doing would be rendered by computers nowadays. Still, this imaginative film is downright entertaining for what it is and is probably among the best of the modestly-budgeted B-movies of its era – a definite step up from the sorts of things Canon Pictures was releasing at the time. F/X might not be something I’d specifically hunt down, but it’s well worth checking out if you get a chance.


Available in a standalone, widescreen DVD from MGM or as a . Neither package offers any special features to speak of.

4/10 : Occasional bloody gun violence and a few fight scenes. Nothing especially gory.

6/10 : A couple handfuls of f-bombs and a few other profanities.

2/10 : Mostly implied sexual encounters and Diane Venora prancing about in a neglige

7/10 : A fun movie through and through, even if it’s not something I’d typically identify as being a cult film.

“Nobody cares about making movies about people anymore. All they care about is special effects…..”

Quintessential 1980s trailer:

Could someone be a pretender to the throne?

Aquaman Vol. 4: Death of a King (The New 52)


Pros: Gorgeous artwork with some future story elements plugged in

Cons: Johns cuts corners on his writing at times

After defeating his brother Orm whom is now being referred to as Ocean Master, Aquaman reclaims the throne of Atlantis and he hopes to one day bring peace between the Atlanteans and the surface world. Little does he know, a former king from the past is set to return and reconquer what was once already his. -summary

Geoff Johns  decided to wrap up his run on Aquaman, and I just have to commend him for a job well done. Aquaman wasn’t only fun to read over the last three years, but the title is in my top five favorite comic runs since DC and Marvel rebooted their universes. If there was only one comic I needed to follow it was definitely this one.  Aquaman Volume 4: Death of a King collects issues 17 – 19 and 21 – 25.  DC chose to skip Aquaman # 20 in which that issue featured his team The Others; the issue will be available in the TPB Aquaman and The Others which is set to hit stands on 1-27-15.

Geoff Johns immediately follows up the Aquaman and Justice League crossover Throne of Atlantis, by quickly developing Aquaman’s shaky relationship with the Atlanteans as well as the surface world. He’s put between a rock and a hard place, as the surface doesn’t trust him and the Atlanteans appear that they will never accept him. In fact, one of the sub plots involves a team of his subjects vowing to break Orm out of prison. Johns juggles quit a bit here and it does what a follow up story of this type is suppose to do: introduce new elements for future stories and remain entertaining while doing it.

There’s never a dull moment here as the story maintains a nice pace. Things begin to heat up when Aquaman must face an old enemy by the name of Scavenger whom is making his New 52 debut; the story really begins moving with a purpose until The Dead King appears claiming to be the rightful ruler of The Seven Seas. Aquaman’s entire birthright soon comes into questioning as The King claims he had been told some truth and many lies.

Johns understands how to keep the ball rolling as he continues to dig deeper into Aquaman and The Dead King’s past which involves the sinking of Atlantis, and also explains the various kingdoms that spawned from it. Plus he makes the battle with Scavenger readable with a good amount of action and even death. Unfortunately, Johns also resorts to a bad tactic he has grown accustomed to as of late, and that’s cutting a lot of corners. There’s a reason why The Dead King later named Atlan arises, but this was something that should have seen some build up before this, because it’s just so out of nowhere and he’s built as a huge threat. The ending also suffers in the same way and didn’t feel all that easy to buy into. There’s another new story element being developed at the end, but there was no information on how it got there. In any case, I expect some of these things to be cleared up later since Johns leaves the title in great shape for any writer to take advantage of.

Paul Pelletier’s and Rob Reis’ pencils and coloring delivers some really nice splash pages, and the majestic backgrounds works very well bringing Atlantis to life. The backgrounds continued to leave me excited from the large pools of gathering fish to the furious snow blizzards. Aquaman is a very beautiful book even on to the various character designs. The action on some occasions can be tough to make out on first look, but they’re also done rather well. Even if Johns writing was complete garbage it would be hard for me to rip the entire book.

In closing, this is a very good follow up volume as it introduces new things to keep Aquaman’s world interesting. If you have already been following this title and enjoying it, then here’s another addition to your collection.