Jan 19, 2009

2 More!

(In addition to the seven previously mentioned, here are two mediocre products that I couldn't live without...)

8. The venerable DustBuster.

The pride of '79, and for good reason. The most overlooked aspect of the DustBuster is that it is quite obviously made for... men. I mean, who else but a guy would want to vacuum up one square-foot of filth, while leaving the rest of his apartment looking like something Gazans would take pity on? On a whim, I bought this for my wife last Christmas. (I guess it was the NyQuil; normally I only recommend buying your wife a cleaning product if you miss being single.) Luckily for me, she kind of fell in love with it. This is a beaut when mom calls to say she's coming over, and an absolute must if you have children younger than, say, thirty-five.

Bonus: it looks a lot like a Picard-era phaser. (If they ever made one that looked like a TV remote, men would have tidier apartments than Felix Unger.)

9. Drop cloths

Bar none, the most boring item here, a drop cloth is something you either have or you need. But what it lacks in sex-appeal, it makes up for in utility. Drop cloths have one job: catching paint drips. And if you ever need a blanket after being kicked out of bed for buying your wife a DustBuster, you could do worse. This is a for-life purchase. Once you've vacated your crash pad at Tappa Kagga Bru, your ripped Lamborghini posters and "No Dumping" signs aren't going to cut it any more. You will need to paint walls, my friend.

Parental bonus: when my kids decided to take a stab at abstract expressionism, a couple of drop cloths placed with Dexter-like precision around the canvas saved me from a massive stroke. Heck, I use one in the living room when they eat spaghetti in front of the TV.

Jan 5, 2009

7 mediocre products that rock.

You know how it works...
You buy a product that seems to be a great idea at the time, then you take it home and it ends up sucking harder than neutron star that really wants a part in the next Spice Girls movie.

Well, I thought I'd start off the New Year by giving some rare props to a few items that seemed to be incidental - if not laughable - at the time of purchase.

  1. The Magic Bullet blender
  2. folding chairs
  3. metal hooks
  4. bread-maker
  5. bike-rack for the car
  6. cherry-pitter
  7. George Foreman grill

1. Magic Bullet.
My love of infomercial products is no surprise to anyone. It's also no surprise that most of them suck (see: Great Wok of China, Miracle Thaw, etc...). The scary thing is that 2% of these gadgets actually turn out to be useful. This is one of them. Blend individual drinks right in the cup, screw on a lid so you can take it to work. You then throw it in the dishwasher when you get home, where the Magic Bullet will then lodge in Gov. Connally's thigh in pristine condition.

Caveat: these things chop onions for shit.

2. Folding Chairs.
We grudgingly bought four of these at IKEA for some event, and actually ended up using them every couple of weeks. Sure beats buying real furniture! As a bonus, they're not so comfortable that guests will stay more than a day or two.

Caveat: make sure they have cut-out handles in the back so you can easily hang them on our next item...

3. Metal Hooks.
Big-ass metal hooks from Home Depot (or wherever) are inexpensive pieces of bent steel that end in a screw thread. Drill a pilot hole into the rafter, screw it in there, and you could probably hang a Smart Car off it. This is great for your garage or your basement. I have so many that my workshop looks like the torture-pit from Hellraiser.

Caveat: if your basement is shortish, you could end end up hanging off one like Frankie Carbone in GoodFellas.

4. Bread Maker.
Okay this is your bread:
Milk, flour, butter, yeast, salt, sugar.

This is your bread on drugs:
Whole wheat flour, water, wheat gluten, high fructose corn syrup, contains 2% of less of: soybean oil, salt, molasses, yeast, mono and diglycerides, exthoxylated mono and diglycerides, dough conditioners (sodium stearoyl lactylate, calcium iodate, calcium dioxide), datem, calcium sulfate, vinegar, yeast nutrient (ammonium sulfate), extracts of malted barley and corn, dicalcium phosphate, diammonium phosphate, calcium propionate (to retain freshness).

Any questions?

Caveat: because your loaf is now uncontaminated by Dow and Dupont, it only lasts a couple of days. Makes you think, non?

5. Bike Rack for the Car
If you have only one bike, you are officially overdue for this item - provided you drive. This terribly overpriced device forces you to do something you always said you would... cycle when you go camping or cottaging. Otherwise, forget it.

Advice: do not buy the rooftop one. It's a magnet for strain, vertigo and divorce. Instead, get a good Thule that attaches to your trailer hitch.

Oh yeah. You gotta get a trailer hitch. That kinda sucks. Go to U-Haul.

Get the four-bike version, if you can pony up the dough (and don't mind looking like Jed Clampett while you're on the 401). Then... never back up in a parking lot for the rest of your life.

6. Cherry-pitter
This is by far the stupidest product on this list. (That fact that it also pits olives makes it infinitesimally less stupid - but when was the last time you had to pit forty olives?)

I mean... what kind of lazy, bourgeois ponce needs a $15 gadget that only takes the pit out of a cherry? Here's the thing... the simple fact that it actually works is reason enough; especially if you have young kids. Let your kid loose on the "cherry-chopper" - as my son calls it - and it'll keep him occupied ten times longer than Playdoh.

Caveat: kids + cherry juice + fabric = self-inflicted aneurysm.

7. The George Foreman.
Okay, so arguably Ali did a major number on this guy's brain - seven of his ten kids are named some variation of 'George' - but this thing is actually a beaut. It grills a killer pita/wrap/panini and - most surprisingly - a really good steak. Make sure you get one that's big enough for your family, or you're going to eat in stages or alone.

Also, when cleaning, "do not immerse".

Reality Check: much as George would have you think otherwise, there is no such thing as a "lean and mean" deep fryer.