Saturday, April 30, 2016

April 2016 End Of The Month Report

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April got started pretty fast and wonderfully for the blog, before we got caught up in a few other writing projects! Despite that, we got great traction with new reviews of big genre television events from Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., Legends Of Tomorrow, and The Flash! As a result, readership picked up and we've been enjoying having crossed the 2,000,000 articles read milestone last month (which went by unnoticed!).

This month, we picked up four new followers on Twitter, but no new subscribers! We are always trying to get people to become regular readers and subscribe, so if you enjoy what you're reading, please subscribe by clicking on the right side of the blog to get updates with each posting. As well, if you read a review that really affects you, be sure to "share" it! PLEASE share a link to the blog, not the content of the article; this keeps people coming to the site and, hopefully, liking what they find once they are here! We're slowly growing our readership, so sharing and subscribing to the blog is an important way you can help! If you’re subscribing, please tell your friends about the blog!

In April, the index pages were frequently updates. The primary Index Page, is usually updated daily and lets you know what the featured review is and has an up-to-the-day tally of how many reviews have been reviewed in each category! Check it out and feel free to use that as it is a much more useful and organized index to the reviews I've written!

If you enjoy the reviews, please consider clicking on the links in the reviews and purchasing items. We really appreciate all the purchases made through the blog as that keeps us going. As the tax returns come in, if you're going shopping online, please come through the blog to to it. Thank you so much!

At the end of April 2016, I have reviewed the following:
543 - Book Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Star Trek Books
Graphic Novels
921 - Music (Album and Singles) Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Music Reviews By Rating (Best To Worst)
Music Reviews In Alphabetical Order
2953 - Movie and Television Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Movies By Rating (Best Movie to Worst)
Movies In Alphabetical Order
Best Picture Oscar Winner Film Reviews
Television Reviews
The Star Trek Review Index Page (All Star Trek Reviews In Order)!
The Star Trek Review Index Page (All Star Trek Reviews From The Best Of The Franchise To The Worst!)!
The Doctor Who Review Index Page (All Doctor Who Reviews In Order)!
The Doctor Who Review Index Page (All Doctor Who Reviews From The Best Of The Franchise To The Worst!)!
225 - Trading and Gaming Card Reviews
Gaming Cards Reviews
Star Trek Gaming Cards Reviews
Star Wars Gaming Cards Reviews
The Lord Of The Rings Trading Card Game Reviews
Other Gaming Cards Reviews
Trading Cards Reviews
845 - Toy and Christmas Ornament Reviews
with specialized pages for:
Ornament Reviews
Star Trek Toys
Star Wars Toys
Lord Of The Rings Toys
Buffy The Vampire Slayer/Angel Toys
Comic Book, Movie, Television Toys
Plush and Other Toys
922 - Food, Drink, And Restaurant Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Cheese and Meats
Ice Cream
Other Food
243 - Pet Product Reviews
Cat Product Reviews
Dog Product Reviews
Rabbit Product Reviews
114 - Travel Reviews
Destinations Reviews
Hotels Reviews
192 - Health And Beauty Product Reviews
194 - Home, Garden, Appliance and Tool Reviews
101 - Electronics, Computers, Computer Games and Software Reviews
55 - Other Product Reviews

The Featured Reviews For The Month of April are my reviews of Heather Nova's April 11, 2016 Concert and a political analysis I am particularly proud of called Fail Of The Superdelegates!
Check them out!

The month of April was, predictably, dominated by prior new reviews of new television episodes. For April, the Top Ten Reviews of the month were:
10. "Leviathan" - Legends Of Tomorrow
9. The Top Ten Episodes Of Frasier
8. "Progeny" - Legends Of Tomorrow
7. Speakerboxxx/The Love Below - Outkast
6. Play: The B-Sides - Moby
5. "Versus Zoom" - The Flash
4. "Paradise Lost" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
3. "The Singularity" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
2. "Spacetime" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Season 4
1. "The Team" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.

I pride myself on being an exceptionally fair reviewer, but one who is very discriminating. I believe that most reviewers are far too biased toward both what is current and toward unduly praising things. I tend to believe most things actually are average and they ought to follows something around a Bell Curve. Mine is a little lopsided, but not as lopsided as most reviewers I know (who would probably have peak numbers between ten and seven)!

For my reviews, the current count is:
10s - 319 reviews
9s - 478 reviews
8s - 921 reviews
7s - 1029 reviews
6s - 953 reviews
5s - 1216 reviews
4s - 895 reviews
3s - 700 reviews
2s - 329 reviews
1s - 220 reviews
0s - 108 reviews
No rating - 116 articles/postings

While there was a decent amount of movement this month, the all time Top Ten remains unchanged. At the end of April 2016, the most popular reviews/articles continue to be:
10. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
9. Safe Haven
8. Oz The Great And Powerful
7. The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bone
6. Warm Bodies
5. Iron Man 3
4. Now You See Me
3. Tyler Perry's Temptation
2. The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug
1. Man Of Steel

Thank you again, so much, for reading! Please share links to the blog with friends and spread the word!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Friday, April 29, 2016

Fighting The Future With The "Leviathan" On Legends Of Tomorrow!

The Good: Moments of plot, Special effects, A few character moments
The Bad: Mediocre performances, character arcs and very basic plot structuring
The Basics: "Leviathan" puts the Legends Of Tomorrow in 2166 in a last-ditch attempt to thwart Vandal Savage.

Legends Of Tomorrow is having an erratic first season and, sadly, as it has progressed, it has become more and more preposterous from a scientific perspective. After drawing out a simple problem with a painfully simple solution for an entire season and several episodes where the main storyline and characters get sidetracked, the show delved into a dubious bit of science in "Last Refuge." Fans of The Flash were softened to the concept earlier in the second season with the episode "The Reverse-Flash Returns" (reviewed here!), but seeing it in action makes it seem somewhat ridiculous: the crew of the Waverider, following the events of "Last Refuge," are temporal remnants. By pulling their younger selves out of the timeline to avoid being erased from existence by The Pilgrim, the heroes of Legends Of Tomorrow now all exist in a weird tangent condition where they are fragments of people who disappeared in a timeline that is now solidifying without their presences.

That leads us to "Leviathan." "Leviathan" follows Rip Hunter's declaration at the climax of "Last Refuge" (reviewed here!) that - in their fight against Vandal Savage - the crew of the Waverider has, literally, run out of time. "Leviathan" puts the crew back in the future, this time in 2166, where they will attempt again to stop Savage. Despite his previous claims, Hunter is now taking the crew to fight Savage at the peak of his power.

The Waverider arrives in London, 2166, three days before Hunter's family will be killed, Hunter disembarks with Lance, Snart, and Rory to try to capture Savage. Studying footage of his speech, Saunders recognizes her bracelet on the arm of a woman at Savage's side. The team is overwhelmed, though and they have to flee. Hunter takes Palmer, Jackson, and Stein to meet with the last remnants of the Resistance. Unfortunately, the attempt they made on Savage's life leads the villain to go into hiding in his bunker, which makes stealing the bracelet virtually impossible. Still, Snart and Rory manage to confront the woman and, upon abducting her, they learn that she is Savage's daughter.

Cassandra tells Snart the story of Per Degaton and how he ruled over Earth before Savage stopped him, while Rory helps Saunders melt down the bracelet to coat the mace Carter Hall left her. The Waverider is attacked by Savage's ultimate weapon - a giant robot - moments after Stein figures out what the weapon is and brings the rebel refugees aboard the ship. In the attack, the Waverider is severely damaged. When Snart turns Cassandra, Palmer makes alterations to the Atom suit to make it super-large. With the Atom fighting to protect the refugees, Hunter, Snart, Rory, Lance, and Hawkgirl make an all-out assault on Vandal Savage!

"Leviathan" refers to the bracelet that Cassandra Savage is wearing. The bracelet is a simple snake and Saunders has a plan to use it to try to defeat Savage because she was wearing it at the time of the meteor incident in ancient Egypt. The title also refers to the massive robot weapon that Savage unleashes on the rebels.

Sadly, "Leviathan" takes a pretty long time to get around to revealing the obvious. The moment Cassandra tells Snart about Per Degaton, the viewer has to wonder why Snart does not reveal the truth about Per Degaton and Savage to her. In "Progeny" (reviewed here!), the Waverider crew is taken to earlier in the 2100s and Hunter explains the methods Savage came to power. Savage used Per Degaton to execute his will and eradicate much of the Earth's population. "Leviathan" pays off the events of "Progeny" and it is a remarkably satisfying development.

"Leviathan" is more than just a gimmick to introduce Vandal Savage's daughter and create a big comic book-y special effects-driven battle. The episode hinges on Snart's backstory with his abusive father, Stein's inherent humanity, and the conflicted relationship between Kendra and Ray Palmer. As a fan of The Flash, it is cool to see Snart develop and grow, but have his future be guided by his known backstory. Similarly, Stein's sense of ethics, like Palmer's, make him a character who has heroic potential and Dr. Stein's desire to save lives grounds the episode's more fantastic episodes.

Palmer and Saunders, though, have a somewhat tired "will they or won't they" vibe and "Leviathan" seems to be pretty much the end of that. Palmer is clearly in love with Saunders, as a result of their being stranded in the 1950s together for years. By the end of "Last Resort," Saunders and Palmer were engaged. In "Leviathan" Saunders is once again torn between Palmer and the now-dead Carter Hall. The internal conflict for Saunders has grown tired, but it plays out in the episode's final act in a way that sets up the final two episodes of the season. Despite how predictable the moment is, at least for the moments before the reveal, the way Saunders reacts to Savage's final act of treachery is impressive.

The performances in "Leviathan" are good, but none are truly exceptional. Casper Crump, for the first time, does not stand out with any specific quality as Vandal Savage. This is unfortunate as the episode introduced Savage's daughter; Crump exhibits no real emotion for his immortal character's daughter. At the other end of the spectrum is Ciara Renee. Renee actually dominates the final act of the episode with Saunders's sudden emotional revelation and her shock is well-performed. Renee has not had a lot of chances to shine in Legends Of Tomorrow, but she does for "Leviathan."

Ultimately, "Leviathan" is entertaining and a clear bridge episode, working hard to set up the first season finale, but it is much more plot-based than character-driven and it is subject to the absurdities that have preceded it.

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Legends Of Tomorrow - The Complete First Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the premiere season of the time traveling hero team here!


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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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Another Near-Miss From ThinkGeek: The Star Wars Battle Of Hoth Pint Glass Set!

The Good: Nice artwork, Collectible value
The Bad: Expensive for pint glasses, "Function" does not work properly, Not dishwasher safe, Poor durability
The Basics: The Star Wars Battle Of Hoth Pint Glasses from ThinkGeek are cute, but not durable enough to live up to all they promise.

Despite there being a ton of coffee mugs around my house, my wife still managed to find something new and cool for me to drink out of. For the holidays, she decided to further lessen our cabinet space by picking up some pint glasses for me. As I get into drinking more cold drinks (especially milkshakes!), she thought I should be drinking out of something other than coffee mugs. So, she picked me up two different sets of Star Wars pint glasses from ThinkGeek. While the Star Wars Cloud City pint glass set (reviewed here!) did not quite thrill me as much as I hoped based on its promised function, the Star Wars Battle Of Hoth pint glasses were pretty awesome, regardless of the lack of functionality to their special function. Like the other pint glasses, though, the Star Wars Battle Of Hoth Pint Glass Set Of 2 utilize a gimmick that does not work like it is supposed to.

The Star Wars Battle Of Hoth Pint Glass Set Of 2 are two identical pint glasses that feature artwork from The Empire Strikes Back (reviewed here!). The pint glasses are predominantly blue and white and feature the AT-AT's coming across the ice plains of Hoth with a snowspeeder headed toward them.

The Star Wars Pint Glass Set Of 2 features artwork that is identical to the promotional photos of the AT-ATs on Hoth that have appeared in books and things like toy boxes for years - since The Empire Strikes Back was released. The AT-ATs are silkscreened on heavy, clear glass. Each set of two is identical and features the same glass in duplicate. As the name implies, each pint glass holds a little over two cups worth of liquid. A whole 16 fl. oz. fits into the glass. Wider at the top, the 5 3/4” tall clear glass drinking glasses are both identical, including the image silkscreened onto them.

The Star Wars Battle Of Hoth Pint Glass Set Of 2 was constructed with a color-changing gimmick. The snowspeeder is supposed to be invisible until a cold liquid is placed into the glass. Unfortunately, the snowspeeder is entirely visible, regardless of there being any liquid in the glass and while it is initially faint, it does get darker like it is supposed to. When a cold liquid is placed in the pint glass, the snowspeeder gets more distinct and darker, but it never truly fades to be anywhere near close to surprising for its appearance when a liquid is added. This was less of a detraction for me because the snowspeeder being visible the whole time looks authentic and cool - and is appropriate for the setting without any form of "cloaking."

The Star Wars Battle Of Hoth Pint Glass Set Of 2 is not at all durable. It took less than a week of using and cleaning the pint glasses before each of them showed noticeable wear. While the snowspeeder on the glasses held up fine, the rest of the silkscreening showed some chips and scratches. The glasses are not dishwasher safe and having hand washed the pint glasses with softer cloths to try to avoid damage, it was especially frustrating that the glasses already show wear to the silkscreening.

Fans of Star Wars will probably excuse the lack of a true color-changing element to the Star Wars Battle Of Hoth Pint Glass Set because the snowspeeder looks good enough even slightly faded against the Hoth snowscape and the AT-ATs are just awesome. The glasses would have been perfect without the gimmick, but with the gimmick being a mild failure, these just become somewhat average pint glasses from ThinkGeek.

For other kitchen supplies, be sure to visit my reviews of:
Buffy The Vampire Slayer Pint Glass Set Of 4
Star Trek Decloaking Klingon Bird Of Prey Mug
Norpro Deluxe Stainless Steel Baster Set


For other kitchen product reviews, please be sure to visit my Kitchen Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

50/50 - "Back To Normal" Is Somewhat Average The Flash!

The Good: Good performances, Most of the character development
The Bad: Stunningly dull plot, Erratic special effects
The Basics: "Back To Normal" finds The Flash wrestling with his powerlessness while a metahuman terrorizes Dr. Wells.

As The Flash finds its footing as a larger body of television work, it is interesting to see what elements recur. In the second season, the multiverse theory is being pretty adequately explored with multiple trips from Earth-1 (our Earth) to Earth-2 (the Earth from which Zoom originated, which currently has fills a niche like the Mirror Universe in Star Trek). The other elements that are carrying over from the first season to imply seasonal visitions are Eobard Thawne and the episode where The Flash loses his powers. In the first season, the powerless episode was "Power Outage" (reviewed here!); this season, it is "Back To Normal."

"Back To Normal" continues the story from "Versus Zoom" (reviewed here!) and is impossible to discuss without some references to the climactic actions of that episode. Having sacrificed his powers to save Wally West, Barry Allen is powerless in "Back To Normal" and he and the S.T.A.R. Labs team are reeling from Zoom abducting Dr. Snow.

Opening with Barry Allen experiencing a normal day, without speed, Allen tries to adapt to no longer having speed as The Flash. Harry gets upset with Allen and his team about Zoom having Allen's powers and the presence of a breach that now allows Zoom to move between universes and he opts to leave the team to go find his daughter. With the S.T.A.R. Labs team essentially disbanded, Joe and Iris try to cheer Barry up. Meanwhile, on Earth-2, Dr. Snow talks tough to Hunter Zolomon, but he removes her shackles before he goes out to terrorize his Earth. Wells manages to find his daughter, but she is in no mood to have him back in her life, so she pushes him away.

When Wells leaves Jessie's apartment, he encounters a metahuman who abducts him. Cisco almost instantly finds out, as the S.T.A.R. Labs van that Wells was driving has crash assistance that alerts Ramon's console. While Dr. Snow faces off with Killer Frost in Zoom's prison compound, Wells meets his abductor. Wells is being held captive by Griffin Grey, a metahuman with exceptional strength. Unfortunately, each time Grey uses his powers, he ages. While the S.T.A.R. Labs team tries to figure out how to save Wells while Allen is powerless, Dr. Snow and her counterpart attempt to break out of Zoom's lair.

To emphasize Allen's lack of speeds, Barry goes through a normal day where he is forced to do things like ride the bus. The emphasis is somewhat ridiculous; why wouldn't Joe give him a ride to work?! Similarly, the presence of Killer Frost on Earth-2 is marginally explained, but it is somewhat hard to buy that Zoom would not just have killed her when she helped break Jessie out. After all, Killer Frost barely looks like the Dr. Snow he is enamored with and she is completely hung up on the guy that Zoom killed.

One of the real positive notes for "Back To Normal" is that Zoom is finally given credible, sinister motives going forward. Zoom is a multiversal predator and his journey in "Back To Normal" is to accept that as his role. Eobard Thawne just wanted to go home; Zoom needed to be "cured" to save his life and now that he has, he evolves into accepting that he wants to bring more Earths to their knees. This is credible for his character and sets up a conflict between Zoom and The Flash which might force Barry Allen to kill Zoom. After all, trapping Zoom anywhere will leave that place at Zoom's mercy; stopping a person with the goal of conquering everything is only possible by utterly destroying them.

As well, it is refreshing to see realistic character boundaries in place. For sure, it is utterly predictable that Killer Frost would betray Dr. Snow, but it is cool to see Cisco unable to help evaluate the genetics of Griffin Grey. Ramon is not a medical doctor; that's Snow's niche. Unfortunately, the opposite is not true - on Earth-2, Dr. Snow exhibits a knowledge of physics that a medical doctor would not likely have when she rigs an electrical current to weaken carbide.

Throughout "Back To Normal," there is a subplot involving Wally West. West wants to thank The Flash for his rescue and he implores Joe to help him get in touch with the superhero. The character development for Wally West is well-developed and it plays nicely against Wells and Jesse resolving their differences. The plotlines in "Back To Normal" might be stiflingly average (and predictably lacking closure in the serialized Zoom plotline), but the character arcs in them are very good. Wally West and Jesse Wells help illustrate incredible character for young characters and that is refreshing to see on television.

Despite the character inconsistency of Zoom not just killing Killer Frost in a prior episode off-screen, it is easy to see why the writers and executive producers wanted to bring Killer Frost back. Danielle Panabaker is amazing as Killer Frost and when she plays off herself as Snow and Killer Frost squaring off, the conversation is surreal and the performances are absolutely brilliant. Panabaker exhibits incredible range in "Back To Normal" and her minimal screentime helps to transform an otherwise average episode.

Ultimately, though, "Back To Normal" is pretty average television, though it is not bad.


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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All A Coffee Blend Ought To Be! The Organic Coffee Co. Rainforest Blend Coffee!

The Good: Wonderfully flavorful, Nicely caffeinated, Holds its flavor with sweeteners and creamers
The Bad: Comparatively expensive
The Basics: The Organic Coffee Co. Rainforest Blend Coffee might make the consumer pay for having ethics, but they make a damn fine cup of coffee!

I have an awesome discount store near me and it is truly revitalizing my coffee reviews by virtue of getting in amazing coffees from all around the world and offering them to me at affordable prices that I would not otherwise find them at. Today, I am thoroughly enjoying that store for bringing The Organic Coffee Co. Rainforest Blend coffee into my life. The Organic Coffee Co. Rainforest Blend is expensive everywhere else, but it turns out it is an exceptional coffee and for such an ethically-manufactured and distributed blend, it is just about worth it!


One of the premium coffee roasters in the United States, The Organic Coffee Co. produces a number of blends and is the branding for the Rogers Family Company's coffee distribution network. Rainforest Blend is advertised as a medium blend, bit it is a delightfully dark blend from The Organic Coffee Co. Rainforest Blend is an intense, appropriately coffee flavored coffee that lives up to the serious coffee drinker’s expectations on its own or with additives, while boasting beans that are organically grown. The Organic Coffee Co. Rainforest Blend comes in an 12 oz. plastic bag of ground coffee. Because it is not whole bean, no grinding is required. The Rainforest Blend Coffee is easily protected from absorbing scents of other foods, as it comes with a sticky tab for resealing. Even so, given how quickly my wife and I went through this wonderful blend (less than a week after we first opened the bag), retaining freshness is hardly an issue!

Rainforest Blend Coffee is an aromatic blend in and out of the bag and it is caffeinated.

Ease Of Preparation

Rainforest Blend Coffee is remarkably easy to prepare, no advanced culinary degrees necessary! First, open the bag. The Organic Coffee Co. Rainforest Blend Coffee is vacuum sealed when first purchased, but when the bag is cut open, it allows easy access to the ground coffee within. After cutting open the bag, procure a scoop (not included) and measure out one heaping tablespoon for every two cups of water in your coffee maker. Rainforest Blend Coffee is intended for automatic (drip or percolating) coffee makers, like my Hamilton Beach coffee maker (reviewed here!). This is NOT an instant coffee. As a result, it needs to be brewed.

Consult your coffee maker's instructions for how to brew the coffee. However, as far as the basics go, you'll need a coffee filter, like the Crucial Coffee #4 Permanent Coffee Filter (reviewed here), in which you put the Rainforest Blend Coffee and then brew through your coffee maker. The directions recommend making a pot at a time. The Organic Coffee Co. does not make an explicit recommendation about refrigerating the bag after opening it, though I tend to recommend cool, dark and dry for places for storing coffee.


The Rainforest Blend smells like the perfect embodiment of a dark-roast coffee. The super-concentrated aroma of coffee wafts out of the mug in a very inviting way.

On the tongue, the Rainforest Blend lives up to its promise of being a coffee, though it is far more full-bodied than the packaging states. The flavor is dark, without being overbearing; bitter without being unpleasant. The result is a fully-roasted coffee flavor that does taste at all watery, light or like anything other than coffee. The robust blend is appropriately bitter without overwhelming the palate with a generic bitterness.

With creamer, the bitterness dissipates, but the coffee flavor does not. In fact, this is one of the best blends for flavoring because the coffee flavor in the Rainforest Blend holds its own against creamers and sweeteners, without losing its essential dark roasted coffee flavor!

The Rainforest Blend leaves a slightly bitter aftertaste in the mouth for about five minutes after it is last consumed.


This is coffee, not something that appears on the nutrition pyramid! The Organic Coffee Co. Rainforest Blend Coffee does not contribute anything to one's daily recommended allowance of anything. In fact, the bag lists only 100% Arabica coffee as the only ingredient.

This is a caffeinated blend, though and it feels like it! This has enough caffeine to pop one's eyes open and I found it to be pleasantly caffeinated when I wanted to keep awake and the aroma itself opens one’s eyes and nose! Because it is a caffeinated coffee, it appears to not have undergone any of the chemical processes that sometimes cause complications in decaffeinated coffees.


Rainforest Blend Coffee ought to be stored sealed in its bay with the top firmly closed. Coffee is known to absorb flavors of food nearby it, so keeping the bag tightly closed is highly recommended. There are different schools of thought on refrigerating open coffee and I have a very clean refrigerator with a lot of ways to segregate coffee, so I tend to come down on the side of refrigerate it. Stored properly, this coffee might have easily made stayed fresh for years (I could not find an expiration date on our bag), but we went through the 12 oz. bag in less than a week after we opened it.

After brewing, coffee grounds ought to be disposed of. This does not seem like an ideal coffee to make a second pot with (though a second brewing came out 5/8 as potent, which is about as strong as a standard cup of weak/medium coffee). These grounds may be thrown in the trash when used or put in a compost pile, if available. Coffee grounds make great compost.


The Organic Coffee Co. Rainforest Blend Coffee is my first experience with the brand and it was such a good experience that I know I will try some of their other blends. But for those who like robust coffee and have the desire to buy organically-produced coffee, the Rogers Family Company makes an awesome, if expensive, blend with the Rainforest Blend. It is definitely worth the attention of those who love coffee!

For other coffee reviews, please visit my reviews of:
Amora Intenso Blend Coffee
The Coffee Fool Fool's Caramel Nut Blend
Dunkin' Donuts Cinnamon Coffee Roll Coffee


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

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Paying Off The Fitz/Simmons Relationship: "The Singularity"

The Good: Character development, Performances, Special effects
The Bad: The ominous sense of dread pervading the episode for anyone who is a fan of Joss Whedon's works, Special effects are so gross for the squeamish!
The Basics: "The Singularity" advances Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. in a pretty awesome way!

With Captain America: Civil War being released next week and The Inhumans being removed from Marvel/Disney's 2019 release slate, fans of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. are undoubtedly feeling like the neglected fanbase in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Despite the rising action of the Inhumans in Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. setting the Marvel Cinematic Universe into a state of constant panic, the most voluminous element of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will undoubtedly be neglected in next week's blockbuster film. Despite that, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is powering ahead and moving towards its potentially biggest season finale yet with "The Singularity."

"The Singularity" continues the action from the final scene and twist in "The Team" (reviewed here!) and it is impossible to discuss the new episode without discussing where the prior episode ended. "The Singularity" picks up after the revelation that Daisy has been infected by Hive and is essentially acting as a sleeper agent for the parasitic organisms running around in Grant Ward's corpse. And the episode is good, especially as it refocuses Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. as something vital and cool.

With S.H.I.E.L.D.'s headquarters crippled by Daisy on her way out of the facility, Coulson uses Campbell to repower the damaged facility and get the bay doors partially opened. Daisy reunites with Hive as May gets the Zephyr in the air and out of the facility. Daisy, who has taken the Kree artifact and some terrigen crystals, is revealed to be under the influence of Hive, much like a drug addict. Fitz and Simmons believe they know a scientist who might be able to help them in getting Daisy freed of the Hive parasites. Coulson opts to try to beat Daisy to the Inhuman Alisha, to prevent her (and her doubles) from falling under Hive's influence. Fitz and Simmons infiltrate a Romanian transhumanist meeting house to try to find Dr. Holden Radcliffe.

Campbell finds Alisha, but she has already been compromised by Hive. Hive and Daisy track down James, inflect him with the terrigen crystals and when he survives to become an Inhuman, Hive infects him with the parasites. Fitz and Simmons are invited to meet with Radcliffe . . . if they implant their cybernetic eyes (which are their ticket into the club) into a human host. When things with Radcliffe go slightly sideways, Fitz must convince the doctor that S.H.I.E.L.D. is distinctly different from HYDRA. But as Coulson and May try to survive one of Hive's traps, Fitz and Simmons must survive a direct attack by Daisy and Hive!

"The Singularity" is a reference to science jargon used by Fitz in the episode to explain his affection for Simmons. The fact that the episode finally devotes some time to progressing the relationship is actually incredibly refreshing. Fans will enjoy the payoff and the on-screen chemistry between Elizabeth Henstridge and Iain De Caestecker is incredible. After years of waiting, the relationship takes a step forward and "The Singularity" is a nice step. Fans of Joss Whedon's other works have to be figuring that one of them will die or be horrifically transformed in a subsequent episode.

Almost instantly, "The Singularity" stands out for the quality of the acting. Despite momentary asides - like Adrian Pasdar's appearance implying a set-up in the next episode for a tie-in to Captain America: Civil War (the resurgence at the end of the episode seems to be trying to close down the last threads of Marvel Phase Two) - the performances are surprisingly solid. Brett Dalton continues to make Hive unsettling to watch with his cold portrayal of the alien-infested corpse. Chloe Bennet gets in on the action by making Daisy seem dark and conniving. Bennet's extended "force choke" sequence is a clear departure from her prior from her prior performances.

In fact, on the performance front, only Ming-Na Wen stands out as at all awkward. May's arc in the episode puts her in conflict with Coulson after Coulson gives Lincoln Campbell a murder vest and her the kill switch. May expresses anger about how Coulson uses her to kill people and while that makes some sense for her character, the expression of the anger - the breaking of her icy and professional facade - is abruptly presented. Later in the episode, when May and Coulson discuss Daisy, Ming-Na Wen's performance is more organic and seems character-based.

"The Singularity" is not for the squeamish. There is an extended sequence with a needle and an eyeball (my two personal bugaboos!) that only appears to be able to be on a network television show by virtue of the eye being revealed as artificial. Despite the gore factor, "The Singularity" manages to make viewers care once again about the core characters of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. while telling an entertaining story (which is clearly setting up the finale!) quite well.

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. - The Complete Third Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the third season here!


For other Marvel movie, television season and episode reviews, please check out my Marvel Cinematic Universe Review Index Page for a listing of those reviews!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Living Up On Flavor! The Coffee Fool Makes An Impressive Fool's Caramel Nut Coffee!

The Good: Surprisingly accurate flavor! Reasonably priced.
The Bad: Not overly dark coffee flavor, Lacking a nutty flavor.
The Basics: The Coffee Fool Fool's Caramel Nut Coffee is a wonderful blend that is a well-executed flavor of caramel and coffee!

Suddenly, my area is inundated with coffee from The Coffee Fool. There is a wonderful little chain of discount stores that has popped up in my area of Michigan that seems to get in coffee from The Coffee Fool. At this point in my reviews of coffee, I have had a tough time finding flavored coffees that genuinely live up to their promised flavors. One of the recent flavors I have tried that actually did live up to one of its named flavors was The Coffee Fool's Fool's Caramel Nut coffee.


The Coffee Fool is a well-established Minnesota-based coffee roaster that is expanding its influence outside the Midwest. Fool's Caramel Nut is one of the light to medium blends by The Coffee Fool and it comes in a twelve ounce foil bag. Fool's Caramel Nut is fairly (but not overly) light, but that allows the flavor of the caramel to actually compete with the flavor of the coffee and hold its own. Because it is not whole bean coffee, no grinding is required. The Fool's Caramel Nut Coffee is easily protected from absorbing scents of other foods and the bag can be resealed using the wire-based tie.

Fool's Caramel Nut Coffee is a moderately aromatic blend, but it makes up for the lack of aroma from the bag with actual flavor in the coffee when it is brewed.

Ease Of Preparation

Fool's Caramel Nut Coffee is remarkably easy to prepare, in either the french press or an automatic coffee maker! Open the bag. The Coffee Fool Fool's Caramel Nut Coffee is vacuum sealed when first purchased. After opening foil bag, procure a scoop (not included) and measure out one heaping tablespoon for every two cups of water in your coffee maker. Fool's Caramel Nut Coffee is intended for automatic (drip or percolating) coffee makers, like my Hamilton Beach coffee maker (reviewed here!). This is NOT an instant coffee. As a result, it needs to be brewed.

Consult your coffee maker's instructions for how to brew the coffee. However, as far as the basics go, you'll need a coffee filter, like the Crucial Coffee #4 permanent filter (reviewed here) we use, into which you put the Fool's Caramel Nut Coffee and then brew through your coffee maker. The directions recommend making a pot at a time.


The Fool's Caramel Nut smells sweeter than straight-out coffee, which gave me an initial hope for the blend. The scent is clearly that of coffee, but it has a mild underscent (the nasal equivalent of an undertone) of something sweeter.

On its own, in the mouth, the Fool's Caramel Nut tastes like pre-sweetened coffee. The flavor is distinctly that of coffee, but without any real bitterness to it. Instead, the sweetness competes with the pure coffee flavoring. As the coffee lingers on the tongue, the true caramel flavoring actually presents! Especially as the coffee cools a bit, the Fool's Caramel Nut begins to embody a very true flavor of caramel, blended into the more overt coffee flavor. While there is no clear taste of nuts in the Fool's Caramel Nut, the caramel flavor was surprisingly evident and that makes it winning to me!

With even a basic creamer, the coffee and caramel flavors get entirely muted. This is a well-flavored coffee, but it is not at all a strong flavor of coffee.

The Fool's Caramel Nut does not have a noticeable aftertaste, which is a pleasant surprise for a coffee.


This is coffee, not something that appears on the nutrition pyramid! The Coffee Fool Fool's Caramel Nut Coffee does not contribute anything to one's daily recommended allowance of anything. In fact, the only ingredient for the cofee is 100% High Grade Arabica Coffee.

This is a caffeinated blend, but it does not feel like it, given that it is a somewhat mild blend. This has enough caffeine to energize the consumer, but not pop one's eyes open. Because it is a caffeinated coffee, it appears to not have undergone any of the chemical processes that sometimes cause complications in decaffeinated coffees.

Fool's Caramel Nut Coffee is not marked as Kosher or with any other dietary notes.


Fool's Caramel Nut Coffee ought to be stored sealed in its container with the bag’s top folded down. Coffee is known to absorb flavors of food nearby it, so keeping the bag folded tightly closed is highly recommended. The bag came to us fresh and would have lasted until its October 31, 2016 expiration date had we not consumed it all before then!

After brewing, coffee grounds ought to be disposed of. This is not an ideal coffee to make a second pot with (second brewings I attempted came out 1/4 as potent as the first brewing), so this is not an ideal coffee for the coffee miser. These grounds may be thrown in the trash when used or put in a compost pile, if available. Coffee grounds make great compost.


The Coffee Fool Fool's Caramel Nut Coffee is surprisingly good for anyone looking for a sweeter, lighter, dessert-like coffee!

For other coffee reviews, please visit my reviews of:
Dunkin’ Donuts Cinnamon Coffee Roll Coffee
Four Sisters Coffee Caramel Coffee
Leelanau Snicker Cookie Coffee


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

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Thursday, April 21, 2016

"Last Refuge" Puts The Legends Of Tomorrow Up Against The Terminator!

The Good: Entertaining, Special effects, Fine performances, Decent character development
The Bad: Very straightforward and basic plot, character moments and acting.
The Basics: Legends Of Tomorrow plays The Terminator for "Last Refuge."

Almost every long-running time-travel adventure ends up paying homage to The Terminator at one point or another. If a conflict through time and space is significant enough, the cunning adversaries work to defeat the heroes before they can ever rise to heroic heights. The Terminator (reviewed here!) is the reference that the Legends Of Tomorrow episode "Last Refuge" is based upon and it makes no attempt to hide the comparisons. When Ray Palmer delivers the iconic "come with me if you want to live" line in the teaser, "Last Refuge" acknowledges the homage to The Terminator.

"Last Refuge" picks up after "The Magnificent Eight" (reviewed here!), which transitioned from a western episode to one that set up the new episode. The introduction of the Omega Protocol and The Pilgrim was a last-moment transition into a very different type of episode, which helps to maintain a strong, serialized, plotline through the first season of Legends Of Tomorrow.

Opening in Central City, 1990, on the night Mick Rory's parents were killed, the crew of the Waverider rescues the younger version of Rory. The Pilgrim next targets Sara Lance and Lance herself rescues her. The Pilgrim's very specific targets quickly stymie the Waverider crew, as they become unable to track her temporal wake. When Ray Palmer suddenly collapses as the result of injuries sustained during an attack from the Pilgrim, the crew has to rescue him when he is on the verge of completing his Atom suit prototype. To prevent the Pilgrim from attacking other versions of the rest of the team, the Waverider crew abducts the infant versions of themselves.

Rip Hunter deposits the children at the Refuge, the place he was raised and where the Time Masters take orphans to fill their ranks. Having to alter her plan, the Pilgrim targets the loved ones of the Waverider's crew. Rip agrees and he offers The Pilgrim a trade; his younger self for Jackson's father. Meeting at a neutral location with his younger self, the team must orchestrate the trade to save their loved ones and stop The Pilgrim.

"Last Refuge" progresses the characters from Legends Of Tomorrow by giving Rip Hunter and Jefferson Jackson backstories that are more fleshed out and by moving forward the Palmer/Saunders relationship. When Palmer is wounded, he does a half-baked proposal to Saunders. Saunders is then compelled to admit that her prior self told her not to get involved with Palmer . . . or anyone else. Rip Hunter's past is well-conceived for the episode's climax and seeing where and how he is raised in the Refuge is very cool.

There are very few times that I review something that I spend more time and space kvetching about what the episode should have been than what it actually was. "Last Refuge," though, is notable for its lack of cleverness. As the episode began, I found myself saying, "It would be really cool if they resolve this problem by just doing to The Pilgrim what she is trying to do to them." That, alas, does not happen. The idea of taking out The Pilgrim when she is temporally vulnerable would completely undo the threat she represents and would play well into the idea of the time travel adventurers dealing with threats in a smart, science fiction context. Sadly, "Last Refuge" opts for a painfully straightforward conflict with The Pilgrim that is largely unremarkable.

The performances in "Last Refuge" are average, the plot is derivative, and the character moments are not as developed as one might hope. But "Last Refuge" is fairly solidly entertaining. The episode is unsophisticated, so it is tough to make a review that delves deeper into it than that.

For other works with Paul Blackthorne, be sure to check out my reviews of:
"Who Is Harrison Wells?" - The Flash
A Christmas Carol

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Legends Of Tomorrow - The Complete First Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the premiere season of the time traveling hero team here!


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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A Worthwhile Scale, The Smart Weigh SMS500-B Smart Memory Scale Works!

The Good: Consistent, Weight tracking function works, Inexpensive, Battery lasts a long time
The Bad: No corded option
The Basics: The Smart Weigh SMS500-B Smart Memory Scale works well, despite some minor quirks with the readout!

Not long ago, I happily bought a bathroom scale for my wife and I. The Health O'Meter scale I bought (reviewed here!) worked well-enough for a few years, but when the scale got wet and the batteries gave out, my wife and I needed to replace it, as opposed to simply getting new batteries for the scale. So, when I had to replace it, I picked up a new Smart Weigh SMS500-B Smart Memory Scale. The Smart Weigh SMS500-B Smart Memory Scale has been in daily use around my house for the last three months and it is a marked improvement on the Health O'Meter scale we had to get rid of.

The Smart Weigh SMS500-B Smart Memory Scale is an electronic scale that measures 12 1/2" wide by 12 1/2" deep by 1 1/8" tall. It has four textured feet that are rubber to prevent skidding on tile or linoleum floors and that is a nice touch. Even so, this has a surprisingly large footprint for the bathroom floor. Unless one has a very large bathroom and can afford to give up the space - over a foot square - then one is likely to be moving it and it has to actually be lifted, as opposed to skidded across the floor.

The scale features a very large LCD display that renders in four colors - blue, red, green and black for the characters. The display measures 2 inches by two and a half inches, so the characters are large enough to be seen when standing on the scale. The display is activated when the scale is turned on. Activating the scale is very easy; simply step on the top of the scale. When that happens and the scale turns on, the LCD will flash "0.0," unless one remains on the scale. The Smart Weigh SMS500-B Smart Memory Scale may then be used, so long as one steps on it within a minute. Waiting longer than a minute will cause the scale to turn itself off.

The Smart Weigh SMS500-B Smart Memory Scale has a big and very bright LCD screen. It is bright enough that it is visible when one is standing atop the scale and it is very clear in its readout. This scale reads pounds to the tenth of the pound and may be calibrated for kilograms, though all of my testing was done with the scale on pounds. The display has a blue background that is bright and offers good contrast.

The Smart Weigh SMS500-B Smart Memory Scale is exceptionally accurate. I have put on a few pounds since the old Health O'Meter scale and the Smart Weigh SMS500-B Smart Memory Scale has noted that! More than that, weighing myself in succession or an hour apart yielded the same results each time, so it performs exceptionally well over time for accuracy.

The neatest thing about the Smart Weigh SMS500-B Smart Memory Scale is the memory function. The plastic and plexiglass scale seems durable, but with only three months of use, I cannot confirm its longterm viability yet. The memory function, though, is pretty awesome. Both my wife and I use the scale and when we do, it knows us. Without any programming, the scale recognized my wife and I as separate people and has recorded our weight changes since day one. Whenever I step on the scale and it settles on my weight, after a few seconds of rendering the weight, the screen flashes to the prior recorded weight and has a note below it as the the amount of change between the current and previous weights. When there is no weight change, the screen is blue, when one loses weight the screen's background is green. When the screen flashes red, one knows instantly that they have gained weight.

I hate seeing the Smart Weigh SMS500-B Smart Memory Scale flash red at me.

The Smart Weigh SMS500-B Smart Memory Scale runs on four AAA batteries and that is the only real detraction to the scale that I can find. I would prefer an AC power cord option, but the Smart Weigh SMS500-B Smart Memory Scale works perfectly and the memory function is great, regardless of where the power is coming from. That makes it a pretty wonderful household device worth picking up!

For other appliances for around the house, please check out my reviews of:
ThinkGeek Star Wars Cloud City Pint Glass Set
Pyrex Bake N' Store 8 Piece Set
Sodastream Fizz Home Soda Maker


For other home and garden products, be sure to visit my Home And Garden Product Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Expose The Villain When The Flash Goes "Versus Zoom!"

The Good: Character development, Performances
The Bad: Some troubling technical glitches, Mediocre plot
The Basics: The Flash Season two begins its home stretch with "Versus Zoom," which reveals many truths about Zoom and sets up the final episodes of the season.

Every now and then, someone asks me why I review both single episodes and entire seasons of some works. The answer is that sometimes, a serialized show holds up better as a whole than its individual episodes and sometimes, the episodes themselves have noteworthy subtlety and greatness and deserve to be explored further. There are some seasons of television where the sum is greater than its parts; individual episodes are not great television, but when viewed, the whole season develops into something. It is hard to see how The Flash will hold up given that its second season has been subject to unfortunate network scheduling; being pulled off the air for several episodes, reappearing for a single episode or two and then going weeks before returning. It makes the episode by episode flow terrible, which is detrimental to the season. Fortunately, the erratic scheduling of The Flash is now over and the final string of episodes for the season has begun. The comeback episode is "Versus Zoom."

"Versus Zoom" picks up after "Flash Back" (reviewed here!), following Barry Allen's resolve to take the fight to Zoom after traveling in time to get advice from Eobard Thawne.

Many years ago on Earth-2, James Zolomon returned from the War Of The Americas and his wife made plans to leave him. James killed his wife in front of their son, Hunter, and Hunter was committed to an asylum. On our Earth, Barry uses the prototype of the tachyon enhancer to run four times faster than he ever has before. Returning to S.T.A.R. Labs, the Flash tries to figure out how to get back to Earth-2 to use his newfound speed to stop Zoom. Drs. Snow and Wells do not want to help Barry. That night, Barry and Joe talk about The Flash going back to Earth-2 when Wally arrives. Returning to S.T.A.R. Labs, Barry postulates that Cisco has the same abilities as Reverb did and that he might be able to open a breach to Earth-2.

On advice from Joe West, Wells decides to help the Flash and he modifies Reverb's goggles so Ramon can use them. Cisco begins to open a breach when he becomes concerned about the potential ramifications and stops him. After Wally moves in and Barry gives Ramon a pep talk, Dr. Snow reveals the name that Jay gave her for his Earth-1 counterpart. Wells reveals that Hunter Zolomon was a serial killer on Earth-2 and Barry comes up with a way to stop him. Cisco makes another attempt to open a transdimensional doorway and it works. Zoom comes through, but when the Flash executes his plan, Zoom is able to take Wally hostage in order to extort Barry's speed from him!

"Versus Zoom" is chock full of character moments and the best are those that focus on Joe West and (separately) Cisco Ramon. Ramon's arc in "Versus Zoom" is one where he must overcome his fears to try to access his powers. Ramon's powers were latent for almost the entire first season and his learning curve has been exceptionally erratic since he learned he is a metahuman. Reverb had years of using his powers and was still doing things like creating waves of energy - spatial distortion waves. Cisco goes from having difficulty vibing to see people in other universes when attached to their objects to using a simple device (goggles?!) that allow him to suddenly manipulate multidimensional energies. Fortunately, Ramon has a moral dilemma associated with it that makes the episode's gimmick more than a plot-based problem.

Joe West begins to truly bond with his son, Wally, in "Versus Zoom." West gets advice from Allen and it nicely overshadows the potentially soap operatic Iris subplot. West's opening his heart to Wally plays nicely off his professional detachment with Wells (who has asked the police officer for help in finding his daughter). Jesse L. Martin wonderfully plays the range of emotions needed to make the two very different scenes feel fluid and congruent.

One of the real issues with "Versus Zoom" is that the episode fails to address Zoom's abilities to leap between universes. Ramon opens a doorway through which Zoom comes, but he is able to return to Earth-2 (the presence of the man in the mask in a cell adjacent to Wally confirms that) without any aid. It makes sense that Cisco might have fractured the breaches back open (at least two), but there is nothing in-episode that makes it explicit.

Beyond that, "Versus Zoom" finally gives the viewer enough backstory on Zoom to be satisfying. The showdown between Barry Allen and Hunter Zolomon is engaging and, fortunately, does not devolve into a simple physical contest. But in many ways, "Versus Zoom" is unremarkable and straightforward on the plot front. The contrasts in backstory between Zolomon and Allen make for a compelling character study, but they are essentially long sequences of exposition and set up an ending that makes the episode very repetitive on the plot front.

"Versus Zoom" is still a decent return to the universe of The Flash and reinvigorates the fans for the next episode.


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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Fail Of The Superdelegates

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The Basics: The superdelegates in the 2016 Presidential Primary contest represent a fundamental threat to the effective execution of a representative democracy.

Early in the 2016 Presidential Primary season, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton had what appeared to be an insurmountable lead in the delegate count for the Democratic Presidential Nomination. Before any votes were cast or any caucuses were held, Hillary Clinton appeared to have almost 20% of the delegates she needed to become the Democratic Presidential Nominee. Those delegates that were being counted were endorsements by superdelegates and they are one of two big stories that are not being adequately explored this election cycle.

Yesterday - Tuesday, April 19, 2016 - the New York primary election was held and the big story of the day was voter disenfranchisement. For those who did not hear about the news, it is because it was a story virtually ignored by every major media outlet. While Bernie Sanders stories surfaced from months ago with the Senator complaining about the closed primary (only registered Democrats can vote in the Democratic primary, only registered Republicans can vote in the Republican primary, Independents - those without party affiliation - have to sit it out and wait for the general election), the stories of massive corruption or incompetence in New York State did not involve any of Sanders's complaints. In fact, as one who was born, raised, and lived in New York for the first thirty-five years of my life, that is simply The Way It Is Done. In other words, no one in New York State who is at all politically active and is not party affiliated expects to vote in the primaries (I recall having a very liberal classmate in high school who purposely registered as a Republican solely so he could vote for Arlen Specter in the primary and attempt to influence the contest in that way - Sanders supporters have had months to change their affiliation to Democratic if they wanted to vote for him in the primary [though, admittedly, they should not have to and a far more democratic option would be for Independent voters to be allowed to vote in a single primary - i.e. Democrats vote in the Democratic primary, Republicans vote in the Republican primary, Independents show up and say "I want a Democratic ballot" and they get to vote.])

No, the real news for the New York Presidential Primary was the systematic failures and frauds that occurred to keep voters from fairly casting their primary ballots. Polling places that were supposed to be open at 6 A.M., so voters could vote before work, were not opened on time. Voting machines did not work. And lifelong Democratic voters discovered that they had been removed from the voting rolls, despite having proof of voter registration. The fact that several people were able to provide photographic evidence of how the voter registration card scanned at the Board Of Elections did not match their original voter registration card (signatures and hand-written numbers that did not come close to matching!) that showed the Democrat suddenly choosing no party affiliation was enough proof that something was rotten to get Election Justice USA to create a lawsuit and attempt to sue for the right of those voters to vote. Sadly, changes that happen after the fact seldom yield genuine results. Short of a wild scenario like Clinton campaign workers being involved in a scandal to disenfranchise Democrat voters - whereby, for example, voters who responded to phone bank polling that they planned to vote for Sanders then had new, forged, voter registration cards filed for them removing them from the Democratic Party - and then having the New York State Democratic Party give all of the delegates to Sanders ("punitive damages") or run the entire primary election a second time with more protections in place, real change is unlikely to happen.

New York State's primary election mess is one of two big stories that no one is truly talking about. The other is superdelegates. In 2008, Hillary Clinton began primary season with a massive lead in superdelegate endorsements and when Barack Obama began to pick up momentum, she faced massive shifts in pledges away from her and toward Obama. The superdelegate defections pushed Barack Obama's delegate count over the threshold for him to win the nomination (Clinton received more votes from primary voters, Obama won more state contests). Superdelegates were essential to determining the Democratic Presidential Nominee and missing from the 2016 primary cycle are stories of any superdelegates shifting their support from Clinton to Sanders.

What Are Superdelegates?

Superdelegates are a colloquial expression for "unpledged delegates." Superdelegates is, in some ways, a better term for them given that they yield an incredible amount of authority and influence over the democratic process. On the surface, superdelegates are a frighteningly clear way that the desires of the voters in our representative democracy may be contradicted. Take, for example, Iowa. Iowa was the first caucus in the 2016 Democratic Presidential Nomination Contest and the results were incredibly close. Clinton had 701 "votes" (state caucus representatives, it's a weird process, think "votes" and it's less confusing), Sanders had 697. That's 49.9% of Democratic Iowans for Clinton, 49.6% for Sanders. For the 44 pledged delegates who will be sent to the Democratic National Convention, that would be 22 for each. In actuality, it is 23 for Clinton, 21 for Sanders - Clinton got the extra delegate for winning and that makes some sense. But then, there are the state's seven superdelegates and they all pledged allegiance to Clinton. So, a statistical tie suddenly becomes a 30 to 21 electoral victory for Clinton (there is still one uncommitted Iowa superdelegate). Perhaps a better example is New Hampshire. New Hampshire has 24 pledged delegates elected by the primary voters and they broke to Sanders in his first real win of election season (60.98% to Clinton's 38.2%). Sanders was awarded 15 delegates to Clinton's 9. But, six of the eight superdelegates from New Hampshire immediately committed to Clinton, turning a Sanders victory into an electoral tie (15 delegates each).

Superdelegates are party-affiliated Congressional Representatives, Senators, Governors, and Distinguished Party Leaders (like former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton and current President Obama). However, in 2016, there are 715 Democrat superdelegate votes (there are 719 superdelegates, but some only get half-votes, so for the purpose of this article, we'll just call them 715 superdelegates), which is actually down from the 824.5 Democratic superdelegate voters who were part of the 2008 nominating process. But, of the 715 Democrat superdelegates, 434 are simply members of the Democratic National Committee. What does that mean? It means that 434 "special" people are able to wield the influence of tens of thousands of people simply because they are part of the Democratic hierarchy.

What Merit Is There To Superdelegates?

Superdelegates have limited merit in a true democracy, but they are essential to maintaining the stability of a political party . . . from an authoritarian perspective. While there is an excellent argument to be made for ending political parties in the United States (read one right here!), the truth is that political parties are multi-billion dollar corporations that, like other big businesses, are out to maintain their power, control and influence, not do good or hold an ideological position in the governance of the United States. Conceptually, superdelegates act as an effective balance for political parties in maintaining a level of transparency. Superdelegates can illustrate how a government will run with a candidate as the elected official.

Democratic Representatives in the U.S. House Of Representatives are superdelegates. As they begin to pledge themselves to candidates, their endorsements essentially say "I would happily work with this person if they are elected." Because delegates at the DNC are allocated based on population (i.e. Iowa has 44 delegates, New York has 247), Congressional representatives acting as superdelegates essentially reward states that vote democratic. The difference between the pledged delegates and superdelegates is essentially the difference between raw population and population of Democrats. In other words, Representatives acting as superdelegates reward states for being more Democratic - i.e. Alaska does not have so many Democrats living there, so its ability to help choose the Democratic candidate is essentially muted by having superdelegates in the form of Representatives who are not only from more populous states, but more Democratic states. There is some logic in that.

There is slightly less logic in Democratic Senators acting as superdelegates. Senators represent the States (not, actually, the citizens) in the U.S. Senate. Democratic Senators acting as superdelegates is another acknowledgement of states being more Democratic than others and using that authority to help elect a nominee for the Democratic party. There is something illogical to Democratic Senators being made superdelegates as their vote does not represent the will of the people, nor the Democratic flavor of the state they represent. In essence, the Senators who act as superdelegates are a quiet endorsement of how those Senators will behave and treat the candidate should they be elected. Senators who place votes as superdelegates are saying "I would rather work with this person as President than the other one." Given that the legislative and executive branches were structured to act as checks on one another (as opposed to in collusion with one another), this type of endorsement is essentially contrary to the vision of the Founders of the United States. As well, if superdelegates functioned according to philosophy as opposed to political ambitions, Senators who would work with either candidate or entirely independent of either candidate would abstain from exercising their superdelegate vote (i.e. if the Democratic Senator from California is ideologically in line with the philosophies of both candidates and would enjoy writing legislation for either, there is nothing that forces her to commit to either one).

Then there are the Democratic Governors. Democratic Governors are superdelegates and this is yet another way states are rewarded for being "more Democratic" than the states that have low-Democrat populations. This is a weird check on the electoral process as governors endorsing Presidential candidates serves far less of a function of working with the nominee than it does setting up for a self-serving sense of patronage. The President Of The United States has limited interaction with governors - they call them when the Governor's state is requesting Federal disaster relief or is visiting the state, but the Governor rules their particular berg (one finds it hard to believe that Governor Phil Bryant and President Barack Obama had any meaningful back and forth about the Governor signing his "religious freedom" homosexual discrimination bill into law before Bryant ratified the bill) - so Governors endorsing a Presidential candidate might be pragmatically written off as "this is someone I wouldn't mind going to, hat in hand, when half my state is under water." In actuality, though, governors endorsing presidential candidates is part of an elaborate system of patronage - former governors are far more electable as Presidential nominees than Representatives and are second only to Senators for ascending to the top Executive position. Governors, as a practical measure, endorse Presidential candidates hoping that if the candidate they endorse wins, in the future they will have that person's aid in campaigning for President should they run.

Former Democrat Presidents are also superdelegates. If anyone should know which candidate might have what it takes to lead the United States as a Democrat President, it would be Former Presidents Carter and Clinton and President Obama. Clinton, obviously, is not recusing himself from the nominating process for his personal tie to candidate Hillary Clinton, but both Carter and Obama have not publicly endorsed. They are either content to let the will of the people be heard or do not want to risk their clout backing someone who may lose the nomination process. The Former Presidents being superdelegates makes some sense; their failure to endorse and throw their clout behind candidates makes less sense. Carter's statements about the United States being an oligarchy thanks to corporate influence in politics makes it clear he is ideologically behind Sanders; Obama and Clinton are financially backed by the same people and groups, so the only potential surprise from President Obama would be him suddenly turning on the system that made him President to stand up for a higher principle. Given the unlikelihood of that happening, his "sit back and wait" attitude illustrates how conservative he will be with the political capital he is taking from the White House when he leaves.

Then there are the 434 superdelegates, the majority of Democrat superdelegates. The majority of the Democrat superdelegates are simply members of the Democratic National Committee. They are Democrats who are special and accomplished only for being members of the Democratic Party. Take, for example, unpledged superdelegate Donna Brazile (I picked her because she is actually pretty cool!). Brazile had the top spot in the DNC before current Clinton-shill Debbie Wasserman Schultz and she is a generally amazing person. She has worked on numerous campaigns, is highly educated and politically involved. Her superdelegate vote weighs the same as that of California Governor Jerry Brown, Senator Barbara Boxer, Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison, and Former President Jimmy Carter. Brazile's superdelegate vote is equivalent to 5% of the voting power of the District Of Colombia. Seriously. Washington, D.C. has 20 delegates who will be elected by the people. Brazile has one; she has the electoral power in the primary race of tens of thousands of citizens . . . and she was never elected by the people to any position of authority. She was simply promoted within the club by other club members . . . and there are hundreds and hundreds of people like her.

How Are The Superdelegates Failing The Democratic Party In 2016?

The superdelegates are actively subverting the will of the people in the 2016 Democratic Primary contest and illustrating the severe faultlines within party politics. Superdelegates are both practically and philosophically anathema to representative democracy and even the current head of the DNC acknowledges this. When Schultz declared that superdelegates help "protect party leaders from running against grassroot activists," she declared that the Democratic Party was a top-down organization, asserting its authority over its members, as opposed to being a collective that represents the common interests of its membership. The difference is all the difference and it illustrates that the Democratic Party is more interested in maintaining its own power and control than it is in doing what a polictical party is supposed to do.

In short, political parties developed by common interest to form power blocs that would attempt to make effective political action. People affiliated with the Democratic or Republican Parties because they (theoretically) shared core political beliefs and a vision for the state in which they lived and the nation as a whole. All political parties began with grassroots activism and the failing of the Democratic Party in the 2016 contest is that a schism has formed between the establishment members and a new, younger, class of idealistic Democratic voters who want to make the Democratic Party into something they want. The ridiculousness of Schultz's statement is that it defeats the purpose of a political party; if the majority of people want a certain vision of the future and request specific political action, that is the core belief of the party - it is not up to the leadership to deny that vision and claim that they represent those people.

Specifically, superdelegates are utterly failing the Democratic Party because they are far more concerned with maintaining power and control and representing an antiquated notion of the party than they are with representing the party's base. Take, for example, Michigan. Michigan has two Democratic Senators in Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, both of whom are superdelegates and both have committed their votes to Hillary Clinton. Michigan has 130 delegates who were elected in the primary and Bernie Sanders had a decisive victory in Michigan, winning the state by over 17,000 votes. Peters and Stabenow represent Michigan, not the citizens of the state and their endorsements of Hillary Clinton is either unfathomable or one of the most transparent acts of political toadying in the 2016 election cycle. Michigan has an open primary, which means that ANY registered voter can walk into the election station on primary day and request either a Republican or Democratic ballot and vote. In Michigan, Republican candidate Donald Trump received approximately 483,751 votes and Bernie Sanders received 595,222 (Clinton pulled 576,795 votes). The beautiful thing about Michigan's primary is that, as an open primary, it informs those in authority as to the true nature of the state. So, for example, the perception of Michigan's Upper Peninsula is that it is rednecks who are Trump supporters. Yes, Trump won the UP, but so did Sanders! Michigan is perceived as a barely Democratic state, but Sanders soundly beat both Clinton AND Trump in an apples to apples contest (registered Republicans could walk in and vote for Sanders, just as registered Democrats could vote for Trump).

So, what does this have to do with the superdelegates? Peters and Stabenow have publicly endorsed Clinton and plan to vote for her at the Democratic National Convention. Peters and Stabenow were elected to represent Michigan and Michigan - as a state made up of voters - overwhelmingly said that Sanders was their candidate of choice. There is no political ideology that explains how Stabenow and Peters can claim to represent the state of Michigan at the national level as superdelegates when Michiganders voted Sanders as their candidate of choice. Not only are Stabenow and Peters utterly failing the state of Michigan, they are failing the Democratic Party by enforcing a top-down sensibility of what the Party is. Michigan voters clearly voted that they want a Democratic Party and candidate that upholds the values and platforms represented by Bernie Sanders; that is who they want in power to represent Michigan values and political clout. Peters and Stabenow endorsing Clinton flies in the face of Democratic voters and the overall will of the people of the state they were elected to represent. It is votes like theirs that took a clear electoral victory in a state for Sanders and made it into a nomination loss for the candidate.

The DNC Superdelegates are absolutely failing both the Democrats and the voters throughout the United States. Take, for example, Wyoming. Wyoming is generally-regarded as the least-Democratic state in the United States with a population of approximately 30% who identify as Democrat. In the least-Democratic state, Bernie Sanders won with 55.7% of the caucus votes. Unlike other states where the victor has almost always emerged with one more pledged delegate than the loser (remember Iowa - 23/21, despite being a fraction of a percentage point separating Clinton and Sanders?), somehow both Sanders and Clinton ended up with 7 pledged delegates each from the caucuses (if there were consistency on the national stage, the result would have been at least 8/6!). Wyoming's four superdelegates are all DNC special people, none of whom is nearly as accomplished as Donna Brazile. All four have committed to voting for Hillary Clinton. There are, truly, only two ways to interpret this commitment: either the members of the DNC think they are smarter and know what Wyoming Democrats want and need better than the electorate (sadly, in a true democracy, we must accept that with the freedom to choose comes the chance that people will choose wrong, but that is democratic!) or that Hillary Clinton's brand of Democrat is more in-line with the thinking of most residents of Wyoming, which is to say less of a Democrat. Follow the logic; Wyoming Democrats (it was a closed caucus, so only Wyoming Democrats could caucus) voted for Bernie Sanders. Wyoming is mostly Republican, so endorsing a candidate to represent Wyoming (as a whole) better would be endorsing a candidate that was MORE-Republican than they were Democrat. This, of course, begs the question: what merit is there in giving so much authority to superdelegates who will vote to make your party less of what it is? The implication of members of the DNC establishment voting against the will of the people in the most-Republican state (a state they are statistically unable to win in a general election regardless) is that on the national level, Democrats should try to be more like Republicans, as opposed to "voters need a clear, diametrically opposed choice." Or, Wyoming's DNC elite just proved they are too spineless to stand up for a principle that their, admittedly small, population clearly preferred. One suspects those four DNC operatives might find it hard to do party building in Wyoming when they support a candidate who is not the one the people in the party there are voting for!

The impact of Wyoming's superdelegates is almost enough to make one revolt against democracy in the United States. After all, four unelected, unaccomplished individuals in the least-Democratic state will yield the same amount of political clout as 20% of the Democratic voters in the nation's capital which is one of the most powerful Democratic strongholds in the Union.


Throughout the United States, voters are struggling to make their voices heard by (attempting) to vote in the primary elections and the young generation of new voters, who will bear the consequences of both the primary election's results and the determinations of the general election in November, are overwhelmingly registering Democrat in order to vote for Bernie Sanders in the primary. What can possibly be said to the generation that is active, involved, and contributing about the nature of our democracy and their role in it when superdelegates exist and wield so much influence, so poorly. Why should young people become members of the Democratic Party when they actively say - with their voices, their votes and their dollars! - that this is what they want the Party to be and whose vision for the future they want and they are told to sit down and shut up? Debbie Wasserman Schultz made a tremendous faux pas by telling the truth when she said she was trying to protect the party from grassroots activist; she - and many other establishment Democrats - are terrified of young, active voters who might change the Democratic Party. What Schultz and the superdelegates fail to recognize is that it is the people's party to change. If young voters are the ones surging to enroll into the Democratic Party in order to elect Sanders as their candidate, then those voters should be either heard through stripping the DNC superdelegates of their vote or they should be given superdelegates of their own. It is undemocratic and unethical to enroll new members into the Democratic Party to boost their political clout and membership only to ignore and actively circumvent their activism.

In fact, the votes of the superdelegates that demonstrably contradict the clear will of the voters not only might, but should, spell the end of the Democratic Party.

For other political articles, please check out:
Did Phil Bryant Just Enter The 2016 Presidential Contest?
#GOPDraft Hillary
Why Modern Libertarianism Is Disastrous For The United States

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

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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