Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. And Ghost Rider Go Into "Lockup" For An Unremarkable Episode!

The Good: Performances are fine, A few moments of banter, Special effects
The Bad: Dull plot, Mediocre characters/light on character development
The Basics: "Lockup" is much more familiar Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. than it is anything new and audacious.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has had a rough time establishing itself in its fourth season. To be fair, there has not been a season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. thus far that has had to work so hard to incorporate or lead into the next big Marvel Cinematic Universe blockbuster like the fourth season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has had to do. As the Marvel Cinematic Universe prepares for Doctor Strange, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has softened the audience up by infusing the show with supernatural elements. The first few episodes of the fourth season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. have been so unremarkable that before each new episode, I have to go back and read my reviews of the prior episode in order to remember what happened.

"Let Me Stand Next To Your Fire" (reviewed here!) led into "Lockup" by introducing Robbie Reyes's uncle, who knows about the Darkhold. It also restored Daisy to Coulson's team and had Robbie Reyes more or less joining the team. "Lockup" also continued the b-plot that involves Aida and Simmons having to lie about it. "Lockup" is what one gets when someone conceives a mash-up between Ghostbusters and Prison Break and, in many ways, it is a traditional haunted house thriller once it finally gets underway.

Opening in the past with Lucy and Joe Bauer discovering the Darkhold, the book that contains the spells that supposedly turned them into "ghosts." When they open the book, though, they are horrified to discover that it is reading them; translating itself into English and German. Now, Coulson and Mack interrogate Joe, who has come out of his coma long enough to reveal where he hid the book, before he dies. Lucy has indeed found the Darkhold, but she - in her ghost form - is no longer able to read it. While Simmons fears her impending lie detector test, Coulson asks May about her death experience. But checking May into the prison where Elias Morrow is kept, the pair discovers that Lucy Bauer has already arrived and she has had an effect upon the humans in the prison.

While Lucy and her ghosts search for Morrow, Mack leads a team that includes Reyes and Daisy to try to beat them to the goal. Simmons, mid-lie detector test is called out by Director Mace, while Daisy extracts Coulson and May, to pick her brain for facts and figures to help him with a live debate on the Inhuman War On Humans. As Daisy fights the anti-Inhuman Watchdogs at the prison, Mack and Reyes find Morrow. Mace comes out publicly and when Reyes makes a detour to try to learn something about his past, Morrow falls into Lucy's hands!

"Lockup" was established with a very complicated problem with a stupidly easy solution. In prior episodes of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. have alluded to the Darkhold and claimed that it was so very lost to the world that the Red Skull and Nick Fury never found it. But, well before the end of the teaser to "Lockup," the Darkhold has been found twice!

Mack is pretty awesome in "Lockup" and it is nice to see Henry Simmons used well. He is not simply a physical presence with awesome armament in "Lockup," he is an efficient team leader as Mack infiltrates the infected prison. When he, predictably, gets infected, Simmons is able to do an awesome badass move of injecting himself to the brainstem with the antidote!

"Lockup" has Coulson, Daisy and May figuring out how the Watchdogs have been recruiting and there is something instantly ridiculous about the Watchdogs in prison recognizing S.H.I.E.L.D. agents right away. Why they would be able to make that assumption is unclear and the duality of being that perceptive, but not noticing Daisy's gauntlets to leap to the conclusion that she is the Inhuman is silly.

Director Mace is finally fleshed out in "Lockup," thanks to the live debate that he has to improvise during. Mace is the new Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and he has not been given the chance to show much in the show thus far to put him on par with Director Fury, Director Coulson or, frankly, even faux-Director Gonzales. "Lockup" finally puts him in a place where he has to illustrate a measure of integrity and accomplishment to rise to the occasion and Jason O'Mara plays him with an appropriate level of gravitas for the part.

Unfortunately, Gabriel Luna is not able to show viewers anything truly new as Robbie Reyes in "Lockup." Luna's character is based on the actor's ability to play angry and in the prior episodes since Reyes was introduced (the special effect for Ghost Rider does not require any performance ability from Luna!) Luna has played that consistently. Luna gives Reyes a slow burn in "Lockup" with a c-plot story that has Reyes encountering a criminal in prison related to his backstory. But the character's direction, that where Ghost Rider will manifest and deliver vengeance, is obvious and Luna telegraphs the character's direction with his performance.

"Lockup" is another episode of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. that suffers because of the scattershot method of storytelling the series has been employing as it has expanded its cast over the years. Unfortunately for fans of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., the changing specifics do not negate the painfully familiar general elements of the story and characters. Morrow being captured by Lucy is presented exactly the same way as Dr. Radcliffe being captured by Hive last season. The parallels are uncanny and as Daisy whines her way through "Lockup," it only serves to remind the viewer how overplayed the relationship between Daisy and Lincoln Campbell has become in retrospect. The two barely had a relationship and Daisy reacting as she has this entire season to Campbell's death makes no character sense when compared to how quickly Daisy bounced back from having her long-lost family reunited and taken from her before that.

Mashed together with unremarkable plot and character elements are pretty awesome special effects. Ghost Rider looks cool and it is always awesome to see Phil Coulson use his shield. But the flash of the few seconds worth of special effects cannot hide the unremarkable nature of the rest of "Lockup."

For other works with Maximilian Osinski, please check out my reviews of:
"Repairs" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
In Time
Love And Other Drugs


For other reviews of elements of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, please check out my Marvel Cinematic Universe Review Index Page for a listing of all those reviews!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Back It Up! The SanDisk Cruzer Blade 8 GB USB Flash Drive Works Well!

The Good: Easy to use, Does what it promises, Hard to damage, Decent storage capacity
The Bad: Easy to lose or destroy, Often requires proper shutdown, No indicator for data transfer, Gets warm!
The Basics: The SanDisk Cruzer Blade 8 GB flash drive is an excellent tool for backing up essential files, even if it does so with minimal flare.

Flash drives are definitely one of those ubiquitous bits of technology by which one may easily date at person. Young people take flash drives for granted; people of a certain age and older are amazed by both the technology, the reliability, the inexpense of them and how fast they became a standard in the marketplace and a fashion accessory. Yes, back in my day, we paid for RAM by the Megabyte and it wasn't cheap at all! So now, to be able to get something like an 8 GB SanDisk Cruzer Blade USB Flash Drive on clearance at the local grocery store for $3.99 is pretty much enough to give the teenager still active in my memory a freak out. I mean, 1 MB RAM at $25/stick . . . means I'd pay how much for 8 GB?! Sure, RAM is not the same as flash memory, but you have to understand the time when even Megabytes was a relatively new unit of measure!

So, because the local grocery store made it stupidly inexpensive to stock up and because my wife and I had been somewhat negligent before now in creating recovery discs for our various Windows operating systems (and, it turns out while Flash Drives have become ubiquitous and reliable, laptop computers have started to suck and break down at a rate that implies flat-out corporate corruption!), we decided to stock up on SanDisk Cruzer Blade flash drives. Each Cruzer Blade is an 8 Gigabytes flash drive that runs through USB 2.0.

For those unfamiliar with flash drives, these are convenient little pieces of computer hardware that essentially act as a portable hard drive. They are a male USB port connected plugged into a very small board and it holds any sort of computer information that can be held on a standard hard drive. Because virtually every computer these days has a USB port (the "U" stands for "Universal!") this becomes a remarkably efficient and easy way to transfer information from one computer to another and to walk around with files. Far more durable than floppy discs and easier to transfer information to than a CD-R, especially now that CD drives on computers are no longer universal by any means, the flash drive is a remarkable piece of technology that makes files portable between computers in a way that is often as easy as clicking a flash drive into a USB port!

The SanDisk Cruzer Blade is a one and five-eighths inches long by 5/16" wide by 1/4" thick piece of plastic that is red and black. One end has a USB interface which plugs into any USB port - it is a standard type of port on computers, the flat-looking interface that is rectangular shaped. There is no protection on the Cruzer Blade for the USB port, so one risks getting dirt or other elements in one's computer if one carries the Cruzer Blade around a lot. Given that several of mine are in storage for deep back-up, this has not been much of a concern for my usage. In an office environment, the Cruzer Blade and its exposed end ought to be fine. At the opposite end from the male USB jack is a small loop in the plastic base that can be connected to a strap (like a shoestring or a lanyard) that allows one to carry their Cruzer Blade around their neck (strap of any kind or keychain is NOT included with this flash drive).

Whenever you plug the Cruzer Blade into a computer that has Plug and Play capability (Windows XP or above, according to the back of the card this came on) the computer will register the drive and usually open a window to show the contents of the drive. In Windows, files may be dragged onto the drive or dragged off the drive to copy files to or from the drive. It is that easy. Unlike having to spend minutes loading large files with multiple floppy discs or having the inconvenience of having to find a CD burner for a CD-R/CD-RW, the Cruzer Blade is literally as easy as plugging in and dragging (or copying) files to it!

The Cruzer Blade has a 8 GB capacity which means most people can replicate their entire data collection from their primary computer and save it on here! This makes for a great back-up option in case of fire or disaster or covertly transferring information! I was very pleased that a single 8 GB flash drive was able to create a recovery disc for Windows 10. While it took a few hours to create initially, the time it saves in restoring my wife's crappy new laptop to functionality is impressive. The only important functional detail to remember is that if you are plugging it into a PC or other Windows-based system, it must be properly removed from the system using the "Eject" option from the tool bar. Otherwise, some of the files may not open properly.

In addition to Windows-based systems, the Cruzer Blade plugs into USB ports on Apple computers running Mac OS X 10.6 or above. This means it can be a wonderful interface between any of the music-storing Apple products that have a USB port and a computer!

The Cruzer Blade is very convenient, though because of its small size, it may easily be lost. I got a strap for it pretty much right away because the red and black-colored module seems to blend in with virtually everything. A strap comes in handy in that regard and I've found that I tend to be quite glad that I put one on the end loop. Having been schlepping the tiny drive around, I've found that the Cruzer Blade is handy and durable. I've sat on it, dropped it and nervously spun it around on its strap. This flash drive is not indestructible, but as far as day to day wear goes it may as well be. Because of its small size, however, I have noticed that the Cruzer Blade gets much warmer than other flash drives I have used in the past. That was a bit of a surprise for me, but I have never kept the flash drive attached to a computer long enough for the heat to have any form of adverse effect upon the information stored on the drive.

With 8 Gigabytes of storage space, this packs a great amount of storage into a very discrete package. Anyone on the go who works with multiple computers will want to get one of these. This drive is inexpensive enough that if you keep an extra one by your bed with your essential computer back-ups, it's convenient enough to grab when you're scooping up the cats and fleeing fire, flood, tornadoes, etc. And as one who has important data to protect, that is exceptionally important to me! And with laptop computers that come with a lot of preloaded crap, it is nice to have a drive like this with just the essential Windows files in order to be able to reload one's computer with just the key components when Windows 10 and other programs inevitably crash.

For other flash drive reviews, please check out my takes on:
Kingston DataTraveler 32 GB Flash Drive
Verbatim 1 GB Store'N'Go Flash Drive
ATP Breast Cancer Awareness Flash Drive


For other electronics product reviews, please visit my index page for an organized listing of all of them!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Monday, October 24, 2016

"Welcome To Earth," Where Everyone Is An Alien!

The Good: Decent performances, James Olsen's character arc
The Bad: Very basic plot, Thematically heavyhanded, Pushes a lot of reversals.
The Basics: Supergirl leaps forward with "Welcome To Earth," which is hampered by making virtually everyone in the episode someone other than who they appear.

The night is finally here! As a lifelong fan of Wonder Woman (reviewed here!) - both the book and the iconic 1970s television rendition of the character - it was hard not to get excited over the summer when it was announced that Lynda Carter would be appearing on Supergirl as the President Of The United States. Those who follow my many reviews might note that I have not yet reviewed the first season of Supergirl. The reason for that is simple; I saw the pilot and it did not grab me, so it wasn't until the show announced Carter's casting that I actually went through the first season in advance of its second season premiere. "Welcome To Earth" is the episode that introduces the alluded-to President on-screen.

"The Last Children Of Krypton" (reviewed here!) immediately preceded "Welcome To Earth" and the episode picks up in the final moments of the prior episode. As such, it is tough to discuss "Welcome To Earth" without some references as to where the "The Last Children Of Krypton" ended. After all "Welcome To Earth" finds the DEO without any Kryponite and a new Kryptonian on the prowl.

Opening with the Kryptonian Mon-El waking up at the DEO and freaking out, Hank Henshaw is disturbed that the alien escaped. The President is about to visit National City to tour the DEO in advance of her signing the Alien Amnesty Act. Kara geeks outat the idea of meeting the President. At CatCo, James Olsen's first writer's meeting is interrupted by Snapper Carr hijacking the job assignments. When the President arrives in National City, two of her Secret Service Agents are incinerated by an alien's heat vision, implicating Mon-El. Alex Danvers clashes with Detective Maggie Sawyer who investigates the crime scene, while Supergirl and J'onn J'onzz give President Marsdin a tour of the DEO.

While Kara interviews Lena Luthor and discovers that L Corp is preparing to roll out an alien detector, Alex hunts the renegade Kryptonian. Mon-El takes a hostage at an observatory in order to send a signal back to his homeworld, with his stated goal of simply returning home. Kara writes a biased article on Lena Luthor's device, which earns her the ire of Snapper Carr. Sawyer brings Alex Danvers to an underground alien club. Winn Schott figures out where the "Kryptonian" is trying to send a signal to and Kara recognizes that the alien is a Daxamite. Capturing the Daxamite, Supergirl interrogates him and comes to feel a little differently about the alien detector. When the President makes a public event of signing the Alien Amnesty Act, the true villain shows up and both Alex and Supergirl work to recover the captive Sawyer and keep the President safe.

"Welcome To Earth" is good for its positive sense of values, but it is enough to remind viewers who might not have been grabbed by the beginning of Supergirl exactly why the show failed to land. The first few episodes of Supergirl were very heavy on pointing out gender in an inorganic way. "Welcome To Earth" is similarly heavy on the theme. While it works that J'onn J'onzz points out that as an alien and a black man, he understands intolerance, when Maggie Sawyer comes into the narrative loud and proud and makes a point of referencing being lesbian growing up in a small town it seems very heavyhanded. While both make good points, making them explicit the way the writers do just telegraphs the theme in a somewhat ridiculous way.

Moreover, "Welcome To Earth" changes the push of the whole Alien Rights idea by mortgaging the human component of the movement and that is a terrible idea. In the history of every human rights struggle, those fighting for the legal acknowledgement of their rights always have enlightened allies within the majority population that has been oppressing them. "Welcome To Earth" ultimately neglects that idea; Alex Danvers is a prejudiced human, James Olsen is an observer and Winn Schott is the only human-loving alien, but is completely outside the political struggle for alien rights. It is both sloppy and inaccurate for Supergirl to present a fight for equal rights where doppelgangers and infiltrate the government to make the changes they want, as opposed to having any enlightened humans standing with them for moral and legal reasons.

There is a similar writing problem with the episode not knowing whether the President is signing a Bill or making an executive order. Executive orders alter government policy and the way a law is enforced; they are not Acts. So, The President's "Alien Amnesty Act" would be a modification to the way the Department Of Immigration (etc.) enforced existing laws; the President could not create an Act with the signing of an Executive Order.

It's not all poorly-executed, not by any means. The Wonder Woman twirl by Supergirl is a fun allusion. The villain of the episode is a decent one. The alien who does not trust humans is a compellingly-written adversary for Supergirl and the dialogue between the two is a decent exploration of hope vs. pragmatism. Outside her methods, the villain in "Welcome To Earth" is not wrong and her philosophy is one that is very much supported by what has been shown through history and in Supergirl up until now.

Despite a few moments of melodrama, especially in the climax, the conflict between Olsen and Carr is well-executed. Olsen is learning his new position and having to adapt to going from being a photographer to being the editor-in-chief of CatCo's publication is a leap that is not organic. Mehcad Brooks does a decent job of making Olsen's transition from one role to another surprisingly well.

The L Corp device is a ridiculous concept. The device designed by Lena Luthor requires people being tested to put their finger on the device. In order to be useful to a business, it requires everyone entering an establishment to voluntarily take the test, which seems like it would cause a bottleneck at every entrance.

The episode features multiple reversals in the final scenes that leap Supergirl into new territory for the future of the show. In some ways it is problematic in that "Welcome To Earth" places an inordinate number of aliens in National City and within the United States (there was a Senator being impersonated by an alien in Season 1) at key places. In analogous terms, the revelations in "Welcome To Earth" would be like if everyone on The Flash was a metahuman or a Speedster. Such reversals get tiresome quickly and "Welcome To Earth" packs a bunch of them in. Some of those reversals make other throwaway lines - like Lynda Carter's line about a plane other than Air Force One (an obvious allusion to Wonder Woman's invisible jet) - fall particularly flat.

Lynda Carter does amazingly well portraying the President Of The United States; she has the gravitas to make it instantly believable that Olivia Marsdin could have campaigned and won an election. Sadly, in the current political climate, Marsdin's quotable lines about hope and her obvious strength of character by taking a positive, liberal, position on universal rights only highlights the corrupt and spineless political choices the U.S. government offers its voters back here in reality.

Melissa Benoist once again delivers a delightful performance as Kara Danvers as she geeks out over meeting the President. She handles the physical action of Supergirl well and the direction by Rachel Talalay continues to help develop Katie McGrath's Lena Luthor as a potential equal and opposite to Kara. Supergirl's arc where she starts prejudiced against Daxamites and learns a Very Important Lesson is a good one and Benoist plays the arc without any hint of cheesiness.

There is a pretty high "geek out" factor for fans of DC Comics and other DC Comics-based television and film works by Lynda Carter's presence in "Welcome To Earth." But beyond the hype, "Welcome To Earth" is a very basic, very average episode of Supergirl that is executed as well as the packed, muddied script allows.

For other works with David Harewood, please visit my reviews of:
"The End Of Time, Part 2" - Doctor Who
"The End Of Time, Part 1" - Doctor Who
Blood Diamond


For other television season and episode reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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More Inevitable Than Extraordinary: The Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 2 Trading Cards!

The Good: Good text, Some wonderful autograph signers, Some neat sketches, Archive Cuts cards
The Bad: Insanely expensive to assemble, Ridiculous look for collated set, Some ridiculous sketch cards and autograph cards, Requires the prior set
The Basics: Star Trek The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 2 trading cards concludes Juan Ortiz's artwork odyssey and makes for an inherently awkward set.

I love Star Trek trading cards. There is a reason I started collecting trading cards with Star Trek cards and built my collection outward from there. But, as the years have gone by and trading cards have evolved from a pleasant diversion to a big business, even my Star Trek trading card collection has diminished some. My love for Star Trek cards fell into conflict with the trading cards sets becoming virtually impossible to collect. A great example of how the trading cards have become insanely difficult to collect is the Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints trading cards. The Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints trading cards should have been a massive, ambitious set. Instead, it was very inorganically broken into two sets. 2015 saw the release of Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 1 (reviewed here!). Now, Rittenhouse Archives has completed the set with the Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 2 trading card set.

The Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 2 trading cards are a necessary evil. They are designed to complete the massive set, but they do so without much in the way of flair and with a shocking lack of enthusiasm for the biggest premium of the set. While there are some neat autograph signers in the Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 2 trading cards, the sketch cards are what truly carries the collecting weight these days. And while there are thirty-seven artists who participated in the Series 2 set, that is down from 48 artists who produced for Series 1 and all but 2 are duplicates - artists who drew sketch cards in Series 1. Between that and some autograph signers who were for exceptionally background or minor characters, there was a feeling that much of the Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 2 trading cards was phoning it in.

Basics/Set Composition

Properly assembled, the Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 2 trading card set consists of four hundred fifty-eight trading cards: four hundred forty-eight available in the boxes and packs of cards and only eight found elsewhere. For a current series of cards, that there are only ten cards that cannot be found in the boxes is actually wonderful. Unfortunately, like many of the sets released for other properties, the most coveted cards in this set - the color sketch cards - are produced and distributed with such rarity that only a handful of collectors will be able to assemble a true master set and given how there are fewer sketch artists and autograph cards signers in this set, it is hard for collectors to not feel a bit cheated.

Unlike the Star Trek Portfolio Prints, which were based on previously-released artwork produced by Juan Ortiz for startrek.com, the artwork in the Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 2 trading cards is unique to this set! Juan Ortiz was commissioned to continue the concept of the retro posters into the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode line.

The hook for collectors with this set is that Series 2 is only all the even numbers. Unlike the "Complete" Star Trek: The Next Generation Series 1 and Series 2 trading card sets, which split the episodes at the mid-point of the series (the middle of the fourth season), Rittenhouse Archives released what amounts to an incomplete set with the Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 2 trading cards.

Common Cards

With only eighty-eight of the cards in the set being common cards, there are quite a few chase cards to hunt down. The eighty-eight cards in the common set of Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 2 set are half of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes - the even ones. The set is comprised of a single card per episode for the even numbered episodes from "Encounter At Farpoint, Part Two" (an oddity considering it aired originally as a single, double-long episode) through "Preemptive Strike." There are no checklist cards with this trading card set. Fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation are treated to a plot blurb on the back of each common card. The plot synopsis’s are well-written. All of the cards in this set were oriented the same way, a portrait orientation that made it very easy to look through the cards when in one's binder. . . at least until the bonus cards.

This common set for Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 2 is problematic in both concept and execution. The concept is an essentially flawed one: retro posters reminiscent of the Star Trek Portfolio Prints for a show that aired in the 1980s/1990s. The Star Trek Portfolio Prints worked because they mimicked the style of the art deco posters of the 1960s - when the episodes were produced and aired - exceptionally well. There was a sense of kitsch to them that played perfectly for a show that is very dated in a lot of ways. Star Trek: The Next Generation does not have that age to it, so the concept would have held if Juan Ortiz had made the episode posters look like movie posters from the 1980s. That would have, undoubtedly, required a lot more in the way of likeness rights clearances and would have been vastly more time consuming to pull off. It is a shame Rittenhouse Archives did not push Juan Ortiz (or other artists) to so try!

The concept might be flawed, but the execution has the potential to save it. Unfortunately, while the artwork is generally all right, the "every other one" concept guts the common set. For those who do read the cards, there is something surreal about encountering the cards for episodes that were part of two-parters - "The Best Of Both Worlds, Part I," for example, is in this set, but "The Best Of Both Worlds, Part II" is not. Similarly, "Redemption 1" and "Unification 2" are in this set without their completing episodes.

Most of the cards in the eighty-eight card set is a clear execution of the concept rendered in vivid colors. "Suddenly Human" might well be the least-evocative of the set and "Clues" is a tough one to pull off. Most of the rest at least make the Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 2 trading card set look good.

Chase Cards

The bonus sets for the Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 2 trading cards are a mix of mundane and wonderful, with a continued thorn being that the bonus sets, like the common set, are all the even-numbered cards, making for incomplete bonus sets. While this is generally bearable, the Ships Of The Line set - which is intended to form two nine-card murals looks absolutely ridiculous without the cards that preceded them from the Series 1 set. With two parallel sets, card collectors who love the common set have a lot to be excited about. Fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation in general are likely to be much more excited by the other bonus sets which focus on the characters and the comic books, as opposed to replicating the common set in new and imaginative ways. The Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 2 set has three hundred seventy bonus (insert) cards in the set, of which all but ten are found in the boxes and packs of cards. The bonus cards found in packs are broken down into the following sets: gold signature parallel cards (88 cards), Juan Ortiz autographed parallel cards (88 cards), Ships Of The Line cards (9 cards), TNG Universe Gallery (9), Comic Book cards (40), Comic Book Archive Cuts (40), TNG Silhouette Gallery Metal (5), TNG Rendered Art Metal (5), SketchaFex (37), and Autographed cards (39).

The two parallel card sets replicate the common card set and were very much designed for trading card collectors. The first eighty-eight card set is printed on thicker cardstock and features embossed gold signatures by Juan Ortiz printed on each card. The glossy backs are foil-stamped with an individual collector’s number. Each card is given a number from one to one hundred twenty-five, so there are only one hundred twenty-five complete gold signature parallel sets. The faux-signature set cards were found one per box. This is a really cool parallel set because the gold signatures beautifully offset most of the artwork and the contrast is distinctive and cool.

As with the prior sets, there was a parallel set of Juan Ortiz autograph parallel cards (numbered JOA with the common card numbers). These cards were found one in every other box. Each of the poster cards were replicated and then signed by Juan Ortiz in blue ink. The Juan Ortiz autograph cards were re-numbered and the backs have Juan Ortiz’s statement on what watching Star Trek: The Next Generation was like him, back in the day. This parallel set is an interesting one and, like the gold faux-signatures, the blue autographs have good contrast with most of the cream-colored artwork on the poster cards. This bonus set might have been a little more interesting if Juan Ortiz had commented on each episode and/or his process with making the posters, but the autograph size is much bigger than on the Star Trek The Original Series Juan Ortiz autograph parallel cards, so there's no mistaking them for the common cards this time around, even just looking at their fronts. The blue ink pops noticeably on almost all of the cards and they look great for it!

One per box are Star Trek: The Next Generation Comic Book cards. These cards replicate 40 of the covers from first major DC Comics Star Trek: The Next Generation comic book series (there was a six-issue mini-series that was the subject of bonus cards in earlier sets). This set is cool because the backs feature plot descriptions of each comic book and the fronts have some of the best, most memorable Star Trek: The Next Generation comic book covers. The plot descriptions are strange for some of the arcs that encompassed several books, but these cards are some of the best in the Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 2 trading cards!

The Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 2 cards mimicked their Original Series counterparts with the TNG Universe Gallery cards. The nine TNG Universe Gallery cards were featured one per box and are art deco versions of some of the most popular main cast (Picard, Riker, Data, Crusher) and significant recurring guest character - Dr. Pulaski, Ensign Ro, etc. - as if they were Animated characters. This is a neat idea and certainly a good one for people looking for something different for their beloved characters. Sadly, Rittenhouse Archives stepped into a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation by breaking up some related characters if one were to put the even and odd numbers together to actually create the TNG Universe Set in full.

Every other box of Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 2 trading cards features one of nine Ships Of The Line trading cards. The front of these landscape-oriented trading cards feature brand new digital imagery of ships from the Star Trek: The Next Generation era. Some of these ships are concept ships that were never seen in any of the episodes and are somewhat incongruent with what one remembers from the show, like a Borg ship taking on an Ambassador-Class vessel. Similarly, one card has the Enterprise, Defiant, and Voyager - three ships that were never together. Unfortunately, the backs are an absolute mess. The backs reveal that the cards are intended to go to two different nine-card murals from the Series 1 set. This set, sadly, looks sloppy when placed in pages as a result of the backs not coming together to form a single picture.

In most modern trading card sets, the autograph cards are a big deal, but for me the impressive aspect of the Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 2 trading cards were the TNG Comics Archive Cuts cards. The Archive Cuts are a simple concept: they are like costume cards - double-thick trading cards with material embedded and sealed within them with a "picture window" for fans to look at and feel the fabric - but the fabric is replaced with panels from Star Trek: The Next Generation comic books! These panels make each card in the set unique and the 40 cards in the Series 2 Archive Cuts set have rarities that vary, but all seem to be in the 100 - 160 range. The back of each Archive Cuts card bears an individual collector's number, further emphasizing how no two cards are the same! The panels from the Star Trek: The Next Generation have wonderful color contrast and I've not come across a single one that didn't "pop." (On some of the comic book-based trading sets Rittenhouse Archives has produced, sometimes their materials come from VERY old comic books and the panels are faded. Such is not the case with the Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 2 Archive Cuts cards).

With the Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 2, Rittenhouse Archives assembled a wildly inconsistent autograph card set. While this set provided Star Trek: The Next Generation fans four new Silver Series style autographs of Patrick Stewart, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden and Denise Crosby, it also has autograph cards of Peter Parros, (another!) Lycia Naff, and Tracee Cocco. Autograph cards of characters who recurred but did not even have lines are hard to get excited about. The set has thirty-nine autograph cards and outside the four silver series cards, they are portrait-oriented autographs in the style that was begun with the Complete Star Trek: The Next Generation Series 1 set. The smaller picture on the front of the card allows for a decent amount of space for the signer to sign and this set includes some truly awesome signers, most notably Mick Fleetwood, Madchen Amick, and Diedrich Bader. But having one of the rarest autographs of the set being from Robert Schenkkan (Remmick) is troubling; he had a memorable role on Star Trek: The Next Generation, but he is hardly on par with performers like David Ogden Stiers or Whoopi Goldberg who were in the same signing class of rarity in prior sets!

Like most recent releases, the real grail for collectors are the hand drawn color sketch cards. The Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series Two set feature thirty-seven artists' works. These cards are found one in every case, so that means to assemble a true master set, one would have to buy 37 CASES of these cards, which is pretty cost-prohibitive for most fans! Still, it is hard to argue with results! Warren Martinek did some amazing color sketches of starships, while most of the other artists focused on characters. The Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 2 cards have artwork that varies for the sketch cards (as one might expect from so many different sketch artists producing unique works of art on each cards), but most of them are astonishingly good renditions of characters and spacescapes.

Also one per case are metal insert cards from one of two five-card, character centered sets. Metal cards are becoming a real coveted chase card and the ones in the TNG Portfolio Prints Series 2 set are notable in that they are not simply parallels of other chase cards in the set! One of the two five-card sets focuses on the main cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation and they are similar to the Crew cards from TOS Portfolio Prints, save that they are metal and artwork, as opposed to photo images. The other five-card metal set replicates and expands the artwork from the Star Trek The Next Generation Blu-Ray seasons boxes and they look absolutely amazing, especially in metal! All ten of the metal cards from the cases of Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints are each individually stamped with a collector's number out of 100.

Non-Box/Pack Cards

As is customary from Rittenhouse Archives, there are a few cards not available in the boxes, no matter how many one buys. These range from the ultra-common P1 promotional card (easily available in the secondary market) to the two nine-case incentive cards that dealers were given for buying in volume. There are two other promotional cards in the Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 2 set: the P3 album exclusive promotional card and the P2 Non-Sport Update promo. The P2 Non-Sport Update promotional card is harder to track down than the other two and it is the least impressive of the bunch, featuring comic book style artwork of Captain Picard. The P3 is a landscape-oriented and features the U.S.S. Enterprise, while the P1 is an art card featuring Troi and Riker embracing with Picard's head in the background. None of these promotional cards are yet impossible to find in the secondary market.

This set also had one of two casetoppers. The two casetoppers were very basic Juan Ortiz art cards Q and Locutus Of Borg. There is nothing remarkable about either of these casetoppers, save that they are rare, though they are not even individually numbered.

For every six cases of Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints trading cards a dealer ordered, they were granted a Dual autograph, in the familiar style from Rittenhouse Archives's old "Quotable" Star Trek: The Next Generation set. The 6-case incentive autograph features Brent Spiner and Denise Crosby from their iconic precoital embrace in "The Naked Now." Given how Picard and Crusher never worked out, this is a sensible pairing, though a Partick Stewart dual-autograph with Whoopi Goldberg or Jonathan Frakes would have been a far bigger coup than a Spiner/Crosby dual-autograph.

The real grail of the bonus cards was the incentive card for buying nine cases of the Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 1 trading cards. For that, every dealer was given a hand drawn, painted sketch card by either Charles Hall or the Glebe Brothers. Charles Hall painted characters with extensive and detailed backgrounds, while the brothers Mick and Matt Glebe seemed to focus on character portraits. Either way, the artists did immaculate work that was absolutely incredible for their incentive cards.

Exclusive to the Archive Boxes was a portrait-oriented metal card of Q. Individually numbered on the back up to 100, the metal card gives fans a reason to chase down the archive boxes which were given as an incentive to dealers who purchased 18 cases.

As well, for the fans who collected enough wrapper points, there was a Rittenhouse Rewards exclusive autograph card. The exceptionally rare autograph card is of Pamela Adlon and its rarity has not been confirmed, though given its wrapper cost, it is rarer than most Rittenhouse Rewards cards.


The Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 2 is the logical end to an awkward idea that was executed in a problematic way. Only the most determined, die-hard collectors will care about completing the set. It is too tough a sell for anyone but the most wealthy, eager collectors who demand completion without a care for genuine quality.

This set culled images from Star Trek The Next Generation, which is reviewed here!

This is a set of cards which I sell in my online store.  Be sure to visit and shop from our extensive inventory of them at the Star Trek The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series 2 Trading Card Inventory!

For other Star Trek The Next Generation trading cards, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
Star Trek 25th Anniversary Series 1
Star Trek 25th Anniversary Series 2
Star Trek The Next Generation Inaugural Edition
Season 1
Season 2
Season 3
Season 4
Season 5
Season 6
Season 7
"Quotable" Star Trek: The Next Generation


For other card reviews, please visit my Card Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Worst Of The Band? The Hunting Party Is Disappointing Linkin Park!

The Good: Moments of vocals, One or two stray lyrics
The Bad: Musically awful, Vocally inconsistent, Overproduced, Short, Terrible rhymes and lines
The Basics: As I progress through the works of Linkin Park this month, my hope is that The Hunting Party truly is the bottom of their barrel!

When my wife suggested Linkin Park as my October Artist Of The Month, she did so because she loves the band's early works. Given that Minutes To Midnight (reviewed here!) is one of her favorite albums, I was open to putting on a lot of Linkin Park. But when I listened to the debut album of Linkin Park, Hybrid Theory (reviewed here!), we decided to leap forward to Linkin Park's latest album, The Hunting Party.

And it sucks.

Yes, as a reviewer, I want to give sophisticated analysis, but sometimes the bottomline right off the bat is worthwhile. The Hunting Party is a huge departure from early Linkin Park - so much so that my wife stopped us on our first listen and had me listen to some Dio and Dragonforce just to hear some metal that was not just flat-out terrible. Like Blue October leaping over into Christian Rock and mortgaging their fanbase, Linkin Park goes in a terrible new direction on The Hunting Party with a metal rock sound that is sloppy, loud and far more chaotic than it is ever musical.

With only a dozen tracks clocking out at 45:12, The Hunting Party might be awful, but it is very much the album Linkin Park intended to make. All twelve tracks are written by Linkin Park (three are co-written by the group). Linkin Park's members contribute all of the lead vocals and the primary instrumentals. Two of Linkin Park's members are credited as co-producers on The Hunting Party, so it appears they had almost entire creative control out of the work.

That, alas, does not make it any better.

Opening with the screaming of "Keys To The Kingdom," Linkin Park makes a noise akin to death metal in its sound. The song transitions to something more musical before it ends with a clip of a child talking?! Most of the instrumental accompaniment on The Hunting Party just guitars thrashing to keep tempo and some of the most generic drumming I've ever heard. The guitarwork and percussion on "Guilty All The Same," for example, sounds like any of a hundred garage bands playing across the U.S. tonight.

Vocally, The Hunting Party has all of the elements one expects from a Linkin Park album. There is singing, which tends to transition into screaming. There is screaming, which often leads into rapping. And there is rapping which competes with the instrumental accompaniment and often leads to more screaming. On The Hunting Party, the screaming sounds less an expression of angst and more a formulaic element that is expected and predictable than audacious.

On the lyrical front, Linkin Park seems somewhat tapped out on The Hunting Party. The Hunting Party features songs with lazy, generic lyrics like "There's no peace / Only war / Victory decides who's wrong or right / It will not cease / Only grow / You better be prepared to fight" ("War")! Linkin Park once had something to say and on songs like "War," it feels like they've forgotten how to say anything well!

The rhymes on The Hunting Party seem less original than on other Linkin Park albums. While the band uses many obvious rhymes, they still manage to use better diction than some pop-rock artists. On "Final Masquerade," Linkin Park mixes the banal with the sophsticated when they sing "The light on the horizon was brighter yesterday, / With shadows floating over, the scars begin to fade. / We said it was forever but then it slipped away, / Standing at the end of the final masquerade" ("Final Masquerade").

The raps on The Hunting Party seem similarly unimpressive. With rapped lines like "Roll credits, to get it, / The show's done, / They're talking for just talking, / But meaning they got none, / None of 'em come proper, / They talk like a shotgun, / But how many got bred with integrity, / Not one / So no, I'm not afraid to see these suckers hold a blade to me / Ain't a way to shake the ground I built before you came to be" ("Wastelands"), Linkin Park seems to simply be rapping because it is what fans expect of them occasionally, as opposed to using that style well.

Ultimately, The Hunting Party is a flat-out disappointing, musical mess that is more jumbled than it is stylistically diverse. It is a compelling argument that Linkin Park jumped the shark some time ago.

For other Artist Of The Month works, please check out my reviews of:
Unplugged: The Complete 1991 And 2001 Sessions - R.E.M.
Blackstar - David Bowie
Tunnel Of Love - Bruce Springsteen


For other music reviews, please check out my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Tangled Tree Honey Roasted Pecans Do A Decent Job Of Making A Healthy Snack!

The Good: Good flavor, Good ingredients
The Bad: Fatty, Fairly expensive
The Basics: Tangled Tree makes a good snack even if their Honey Roasted Pecans are not the most intensely flavored nuts.

It has been a while since I have reviewed any nuts and given how nuts have become a staple around my house - thanks in no small part to my wife being on a ketogenic diet and eating a lot of healthy foods that are higher in protein. One of her favorites these days are Tangled Tree Honey Roasted Pecans. As one who is accustomed to flavorful nuts like honey roasted peanuts, I sat down to consider the Tangled Tree Honey Roasted Pecans on my own with a bit of a different perspective from my wife. That is not to say that the Tangled Tree Honey Roasted Pecans are bad, but for those who are used to powerfully flavored nuts, the Tangled Tree Honey Roasted Pecans are far less flavorful than one might expect. The mildly sweet pecans are all right, but not truly exceptional.


Tangled Tree Honey Roasted Pecans are a ready-to-eat snack that is designed to appeal to those who want both a salty and sweet snack. Packaged in a 5 oz. plastic pouch bag, the Pecans are well protected. After removing the safety seal, consumers have access to the Pecans through a Ziploc style resealable top. The Tangled Tree Honey Roasted Pecans are pecans that are coated in a yellow/white greasy crystal glaze.

Despite the extensive coating of the honey roasted powder, the Honey Roasted Pecans look pretty much like ordinary Pecans. Each 5 oz. container has five 1 ounce servings easily dispensed through the wide mouth of the bag.

Ease Of Preparation

These are roasted nuts, so preparing them is as easy as opening the bag they come in and consuming them. There is no trick or work needed to eat Honey Roasted Pecans.


The Honey Roasted Pecans smell like butter and nuts, which is a delightful aroma. It is fairly surprising that they do not smell more like honey or anything sweet. Instead, the bouquet is entirely one of the nuts and their scent.

In the mouth, the Honey Roasted Pecans are only a little sweet initially. The sugary, slightly honeyed flavor of the Honey Roasted Pecans competes with the flavor of the nuts. The dry, buttery flavor of the nuts tastes almost exactly like walnuts. The dry, buttery, nutty flavor overwhelms the sweetness of the coating, so it is

The Honey Roasted Pecans have a fairly strong, dry taste that lingers in the mouth for a few minutes after one is done consuming them.


Tangled Tree Honey Roasted Pecans are a healthy snack, despite their fat content. They are fairly low in carbs and they have a decent amount of protein to them. The Honey Roasted Pecans are comparatively low in Sodium (only 4% RDA from the 90 mg of Sodium) and actually possess a decent amount of Iron (16% RDA). A serving is considered 28 grams which is 1/4 cup. One serving has 180 calories, with 160 of those calories coming from fat! With the standard recommended serving size, the nuts have 18 grams (28% RDA) of fat! 7% of one’s RDA of saturated fat comes from the one and a half grams of saturated fat! With 7 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams from dietary fiber and 3 grams of protein, the Tangled Tree Honey Roasted Pecans are decent for those who are on a ketogenic diet!

The ingredients list for the Honey Roasted Pecans is exceptionally short. Tangled Tree are made primarily of Pecans, sugar, and modified corn starch. There is nothing unpronounceable in these nuts.


Just as with the preparation, Tangled Tree Honey Roasted Pecans are low stress when it comes to storage and cleanup. Storage is simple when the nuts are kept sealed in their bag at room temperature or cooler. Kept sealed in their pouch, these nuts would not have expired until May 30, 2017 (though they did not last that long because I ate them!).

Tangled Tree Pecans are easy to clean up after as well. Simply wash your hands after eating to get any stray flavored sugar off. There should be no other residue, but if there is, it may easily be wiped away with a damp cloth.


Tangled Tree Honey Roasted Pecans are not sweet enough to truly wow those who were raised on honey roasted peanuts or other overly flavored nuts, but they are healthy, good, and worth trying for those who want something mildly sweet.

For other nut reviews, please visit my reviews of:
Blue Diamond Smokehouse Flavored Almonds
Wonderful Pistachios Sweet Chili Pistachios
Planters Flavor Grove Jalapeno Pistachios


For other food and drink reviews, please visit my Random Food Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Two Laughless Hours Later . . . The Ridiculous 6

The Good: Three lines, perhaps.
The Bad: Wastes the decent cast members, Not funny, Dull plot.
The Basics: Netflix is not doing its subscribers any favors by producing the Adam Sandler-led Western parody The Ridiculous 6.

When it comes to Adam Sandler comedies, I have long known to keep my expectations low. I grew up while Sandler was making his transition from Saturday Night Live to making blockbuster comedy films and they just did not grab me. Until Punch-Drunk Love (reviewed here!), Sandler did not really impress me with his acting abilities. I have also come to have fairly low expectations for Netflix original films as the majority of ones I've seen have left me unimpressed. So, the idea of a Sandler/Netflix film was one I went into with low expectations. The film is The Ridiculous 6 and it is not doing anything to improve my opinion on Adam Sandler comedies or Netflix original films.

The Ridiculous 6 is not Adam Sandler's attempt to make Blazing Saddles (reviewed here!), though Blazing Saddles is generally considered the gold standard of Western comedies. The Adam Sandler parody of a Western film is basically a generic Adam Sandler comedy set in the West. As such, it includes fart and shit jokes mixed in with dry deliveries of ridiculous lines that are hardly unique to the film, like generic baseball jokes. The Ridiculous 6 has bestiality jokes, physical humor and gross jokes involving smearing ointment on humans and flatulent burros indiscriminately. Much of the humor in The Ridiculous 6 falls flat and large chunks of the movie are just gross.

Opening with White Knife, a white man raised by Apaches, going into a nearby town to pick up some flour, he and his fiance are preyed upon by a gang of one-eyed bandits. Tommy "White Knife" Stockburn easily thwarts his adversaries and returns to the tribe that raised him before his biological father, Frank, shows up. Frank Stockburn wants to give his son the treasure he has amassed, but the next morning, the outlaw Cicero appears with his gang and kidknaps Frank for his treasure. Tommy goes off to steal $50,000 to cover the treasure that will not be there when Cicero's gang tries to have Frank dig up his treasure near a singing windmill.

While Tommy searches for places to rob, he encounters various half-brothers - other sons from Frank Stockburn. Tommy meets Ramon, his Mexican half-brother and Ramon encounters their idiot half-brother Pete while Tommy is clearing out the local bank. They discover an Asian half-brother, Herm; a black half-brother, Chico, and Danny, their white half-brother. Together, they try to steal a gold nugget worth $25,000. After their heist, the brothers sing around a campfire, play the first baseball game, and work together to rescue their father.

The Ridiculous 6 is generally a comedy that fails to inspire laughter. The two-hour film got me to smile three times and none of those smiles even came from Sandler. Given that Terry Crews is able to illicit more of a smile than Adam Sandler in The Ridiculous 6, it is hard to even call the movie an Adam Sandler comedy.

It is tough for me to rate movies with performers like Jorge Garcia (totally wasted as he does not have any lines that allow him to emote!), Harvey Keitel (who proves himself to be a definitively dramatic actor by illustrating no talent for comic timing in The Ridiculous 6) and Luke Wilson, so low, but when a movie just sucks, it just sucks.

The Ridiculous 6 just plain sucks.

None of the actors in the flick illustrate any new range or genuine talent - which is sad given that several of the actors are talented. The Ridiculous 6 is not clever, nor is it funny. It is simply a waste of two hours.

For other Netflix exclusive films, please check out my reviews of:
The Fundamentals Of Caring


For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Arguably The Best Fan I Have Yet Found: The Pelonis FW23-8HS 9" Window Fan!

The Good: Good air flow, Very small footprint, Durable, Directional change is a cool idea.
The Bad: Not very easy to clean, Not very quiet
The Basics: The Pelonis FW23-8HS 9" Window Fan is a worthwhile window fan for those who want to avoid using an air conditioner.

I have a had a string of bad luck when it comes to fans over the last few years. The fans I have tried are either wobbly, prohibitively expensive or have features that jack up the price without truly altering the product's effectiveness. As one who is basically a cheapskate, I try to mitigate the inevitable hike in my electric bill that comes with using an air conditioner during the summer months by using fans. So, my ideal fan is durable, energy efficient and easy to clean with good air flow that effectively cools both my wife and I in our apartment. To date, the best fan I have yet found is the Pelonis FW23-8HS 9" Window Fan.

The Pelonis Window Fan model FW23-8HS is a window fan with wings that fill out the space in a window and removable feet that allow the unit to stand firmly on its own when outside of a window perch. The Pelonis FW23-8HS 9" Window Fan requires no real assembly when it comes out of the box, just clipping on the metal feet to the grooves in the base of the window fan. The Pelonis FW23-8HS 9" Window Fan is a blockish unit that is made primarily of heavy white plastic and has two fans in the unit. Measuring 24" wide, the Pelonis FW23-8HS 9" Window Fan has extendable "wings" which allow the window fan to fill the full width of the window in which it is placed. The Pelonis FW23-8HS 9" Window Fan is 12 1/2" tall and 4" deep. The cord on the Pelonis FW23-8HS 9" Window Fan is 63" long and ends in a standard two-prong plug.

The Pelonis FW23-8HS 9" Window Fan has a white finish which is very simple. The unit has two fans and on the front of the window fan there are two sliding buttons that control the direction the fan is blowing - in and out. At the top of the Pelonis FW23-8HS 9" Window Fan are two buttons, the left one for speed and the right one for temperature. There are eight LED lights above the buttons on two rows, five green ones to indicate the desired temperature if one presses the right "Temp" button, and three red LEDs below the temperature LEDs for desired speed.

Usage of the Pelonis FW23-8HS 9" Window Fan is fairly easy. The lower portion of the unit is thinner, which allows the window fan to fit in the bottom channel of pretty much any window. As a rather clever design aspect, near where the cord enters the Pelonis FW23-8HS 9" Window Fan on the bottom of the unit, there is a little recess, which allows the cord to be threaded along the base of the window fan and the base of the windowframe. As a result, the window fan remains very stable when properly placed in a window. The top of the Pelonis FW23-8HS 9" Window Fan has a channel of its own, so when the window is closed down to the top of the window fan, it is kept firmly in place. Once so situated and plugged in, the unit is activated with a touch of a button.

Years of experience have proven to me that the "Temperature" button is basically a theoretical concept that is not executed with practical application. The "Temp" button creates a speed that theoretically creates the desired temperature. It's like the theory of wind chill - "30 degrees that feels like 10 because of how fast the wind is blowing." But in practical application, this is an overselling of the concept and unfortunately does not work in a real way. Pressing the "Temp" button causes the fan to blow at a consistent speed - there is no temperature gauge within the Pelonis FW23-8HS 9" Window Fan that monitors or adjusts to the desired temperature. As a result, trying to get the window fan to actually cool a room or make one feel like they are in a room that is 60 degrees on a one hundred degree day does not work at all. Similarly, there were nights where we put the unit in the window and set it to 70 degrees and at some point in the night, the temperature outside plummeted into the 50s, but the fan's speed did not change at all.

As a result, I tend to use the simple low, medium and high speed settings when I use the Pelonis FW23-8HS 9" Window Fan. The Pelonis FW23-8HS 9" Window Fan works incredibly well. The Pelonis FW23-8HS 9" Window Fan moves air with noticeable force; even at the lowest of the settings.

I discovered very early on that one of the most useful functions of the Pelonis FW23-8HS 9" Window Fan was the ability to change the direction the fan blades are moving. Throughout the summer, our local grocery store offered bacon on clearance - sometimes for more than 60% off! - and we would stock up on it. Rather than sweltering in the heat from having the oven on in the summer, we would blow the hot air from the apartment out instead of trying to suck (theoretically) colder air into the apartment. That worked far better than I would have thought before I got the Pelonis FW23-8HS 9" Window Fan (and it also vacated any smoke that came from the over under such circumstances!).

The Pelonis Window Fan is not particularly quiet, though I have had much louder fans. The Pelonis FW23-8HS 9" Window Fan is noticeable when it is on, for much more than just air flow.

Cleaning the Pelonis FW23-8HS 9" Window Fan is very difficult. The Pelonis FW23-8HS 9" Window Fan is a sealed unit. As a result, the outside of the window fan may be wiped down very easily, but cleaning the actual blades inside is a virtual impossibility. Given that I live on the edge of a forest where there is pollen and dirt, the inability to easily clean the blades is problematic.

The Pelonis FW23-8HS 9" Window Fan is not incredibly energy efficient, but it is still vastly less expensive than running an air conditioner.

In the final analysis, the Pelonis FW23-8HS 9" Window Fan is an affordable way to cool most rooms, at least in an apartment setting!

For other fans, please check out my reviews of:
Dyson Air Multiplier Fan
Feature Comforts FTT-4 3-Speed Oscillating Tower Fan
Lasko S18601 18" Stand Fan With Remote


For other appliances, please check out my Home And Garden Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Friday, October 21, 2016

The Emphasis On Relationships Forces "A View In The Dark" In An Awkward Direction!

The Good: Competent performances, Good special effects
The Bad: Tone, Dull plot, No genuine character development
The Basics: "A View In The Dark" oversells the relationships belabored in the second season of Agent Carter while only minimally progressing the season's mystery.

The second season of Agent Carter worked very hard in its premiere episode to do two important things. The first was that it clearly established that the second season would be a season-long mystery, not one that was instantly resolved, and that it was making much more explicit ties to Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Given that the first episode of the season tied into the third season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. through the pin that Dottie Underwood tried to steal from the bank vault at the episode's outset and that image is featured prominently in "A View In The Dark."

Picking up where “The Lady In The Lake” (reviewed here!) left off, "A View In The Dark" is tough to discuss without some references to the prior episode. After all, "The Lady In The Lake" concluded with what appeared to be Gravitonium from the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode "The Asset" (reviewed here!), which makes it clear that Agent Carter is committed to tying into the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe in its second season . . . and someone involved in the mystery is a mad scientist, probably with ties to HYDRA.

Opening with Peggy Carter walking in on Jarvis weight training, Carter quickly illustrates that he does not have the skills to take her down. Chief Sousa arrives at the office to discover that Carter has already met Violet, his new girlfriend. Carter is all business, eager to get the autopsy done on Jane Scott. But, when the people transporting her body are killed and the body stolen, Calvin Chadwick is called onto the carpet by the secret society for which he works. Isodyne Energy - Chadwick's pet project - is being shuttered, much to his chagrin. After Carter gets the warrant she needs to investigate Isodyne Energy, she arrives at the facility to find Dr. Wilkes coming in and he slips her a note with a time and place to meet him.

After meeting with Wilkes at a nightclub, Carter appears to earn the scientist's trust, even though he is being tailed. Wilkes takes Carter to his office, where he shows her the footage of the creation of "zero matter," a by-product of a failed atomic test. When Wilkes's and Carter's enemies track them to the observatory, Carter has to activate the S.O.S. system Jarvis provided her. Returning to Isodyne Energy, Wilkes and Carter discover that the facility is in the process of being scrubbed and they work to recover the zero matter that is tied to Jane Scott's murder.

Working "zero matter" into "A View In The Dark" creates a problematic mystery for Agent Carter. After all, in order to make the presence of Gravitonium in 1947 make any sense, there has to be a plausible reason why it would pop back up for another 65 years in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Wilkes worked on the containment system for the zero matter and the viewer is expected to believe that however the second season is resolved, the zero matter has remained contained without creating more casualties like from "The Lady In The Lake" for 65 years. In fact, while the whole magnetic containment system for the zero matter makes sense, the small transport tube for it is somewhat ridiculous.

"A View In The Dark" features a number of problematic and ridiculous spy show conceits, most notably that Peggy Carter fails to observe any of the tails on Dr. Wilkes and the gunfight that ensues late in the episode results in no casualties. Both Wilkes and Carter have firearms training and real-world experience, but do not manage to hit a single one of their targets.

Chief Sousa is fleshed out in "A View In The Dark" through his relationship with Violet being revealed to be far more serious than Carter suspected. Carter is shocked to learn that Sousa is planning to propose to Violet, but the night he is to propose is the night everything goes wrong with Carter and he has to come to her rescue. The forced romantic conflict with Sousa - who has a special affection for Carter still - feels utterly unnecessary and viewers can pretty much figure where that tension is going to go with his relationship with Violet. "A View In The Dark" telegraphs the direction of that relationship in an unfortunate way.

Peggy Carter gets her first overt chance at a real romantic relationship in "A View In The Dark" and it, too, feels forced and abrupt. After all, Carter has shown no serious romantic inklings before - in fact, she spent the entire first season painfully ignorant of any of the romantic tension surrounding her. But, by the second episode of the second season, Peggy Carter is suddenly willing to hook up with a guy in a way that she had not been since Captain America (reviewed here!).

The romance aspect of "A View In The Dark" might not not be so problematic were it not for the poor writing in general and the way the episode quickly forces together the romantic relationship on the heels of two other characters abruptly having romantic subplots. And with racism, Agent Carter runs into a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation in "A View In The Dark;" the show would seem absurd if it did not address racism in 1947 - especially after belaboring to death sexism in the prior season - but when it pops up in "A View In The Dark" it feels incredibly forced.

The performances in "A View In The Dark" are competent, but in no way extraordinary. The mystery that Peggy Carter finds herself investigating progresses, but in a minimal way and with forced sass and inorganic flow. The result is an hour of television that misses more than it hits and is a fairly unnecessary endeavor on all fronts.

For other works with Casey Sander, please visit my reviews of:
The Newsroom - Season 3
The Big Bang Theory - Season 5
Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip
16 Blocks


For other television reviews, please check out my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

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