Friday, January 25, 2013

Smoking Vapor: Product review

When I was in San Francisco this past October I purchased the smoking vapor system.

The smoking vapor system is an electronic cigarette that releases only water vapour and was advertised as perfect for those wanting to quit smoking. I had heard about this product and they had samples in the middle of the shopping centre to try.  I purchased the deluxe starter kit for around $150.

I was told each cartridge would equal about half a pack of cigarettes, that 5 cartridges were around $20 and they would ship anywhere in the world for free.

Since stopping smoking I've been using this product and find some of the above claims not entirely true.

First of all it said each cartridge would be about half a pack of cigarettes. I find if you want to get a hit that's going to release your cravings, you need to open a new cartridge every day. I thought they would last longer. It seems like even having them open to the air reduces their effectiveness. You can still smoke them and smoke comes out, but you don't get the "ahhhhhhhh" release from them where it feels like a craving is gone.

Secondly the woman told me they ship anywhere in the world for free, which I believed as the box of five cartridges is VERY small. I checked the website, they offer free shipping to the US only and only with a minimum $50 order. They also changed the price so 3 packs of cartridges is now $49.50 and under the $50 shipping minimum. Anywhere outside the US is $15 shipping for any amount. So assuming you order 4 packs, this brings the price to $4.05 per cartridge or per day.

As such the price is too much.  I'll be going into the Toronto Hemp Company to check out alternatives. As far as I can tell, you really need a liquid nicotine that you can add yourself.

Also the idea that this fully replaces the feeling of smoking is a myth, so be warned.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Hanging Shed by Gordon Ferris

The Hanging Shed by Gordon Ferris
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is one of those books that a lot of people read and are going to say they liked. Judging from the reviews, I'm in the minority for disliking it, but I think it's that people aren't looking deep enough.

The best part of the book is the setting. The Scottish accents and words bring the area to life in the 1940's.

There's SPOILERS from here on, so be warned.

First off, the plot. Someone is abusing young boys in Scotland. Three guesses who, first two don't count.

Second, this was read as part of a gay book club, and the author equating homosexuality with pedophilia wasn't welcome.

Moving on to the writing, the author subtly sets up the character's relationships with overused cliches such as "Pals for life, Dougie? Pals for life, Shug." He continues the cliches, setting up the hero as Johnny Tough with such bon mots as "Punching his lights out wasn’t an option. Not yet." Building up to the grandest cliche, people following orders compared to the holocaust "‘I know another bunch of blokes in uniform who claim they were only following orders. The Nuremberg judges don’t seem to think that’s much of a defence." Subtle.

There are inconsistencies in the text, someone else mentioned in their review it could use a better editor. On the way to a house, the main character gets gas, using "one of my rapidly disappearing pound notes to fill the tank." On the way back from the house, he stops to get gas again, this time noting "but money wasn't my problem." These things detract from the story.

Another inconsistency, the final showdown, the main character says he doesn't want to go at night as "I’d be blundering around in the twilight". He sleeps, wakes, and says "It was only midmorning and I would have much preferred to be doing this by moonlight." Then he sits there for hours until it gets dark, saying "By twilight things had quietened down." Does he want to blunder in the twilight, does he want to do it in moonlight? Make up your mind.

He kills the first man by hiding in the bushes for 7 hours, then throwing a knife at the man in the dark. He later says "I felt no guilt about these deaths. It had been them or me." See, hiding in the bushes for 7 hours doesn't seem like self defense to me.

The end of the book turns into a sailing manual, and I didn't understand a word of it.

"Slattery was scrabbling for his gun when the ketch lurched. He’d been sloppy lashing the tiller. With no counterforce, the rudder swung back and the ketch rounded up with a jolt. It staggered through 90 degrees and threw Slattery across the deck and into the gunnels."


"The ketch slowed and the boom dipped, trailing its human sea anchor. I ran forward and unhitched the foresail line so that jib flapped."


"...grabbed the tiller. It came alive in my hand. I pushed it round until the flapping mizzen sail filled. The ketch began to slip and pitch through the waves. The thrill of it coursed through me. I lashed the tiller properly to keep on the southerly course and hauled in the mizzen boom. The sail tightened and the ketch heeled a little. I laced the line round a cleat and fumbled along the deck to find the foresail line."

Are these sentences in English? Ship-ahoy, matey, I'm done.

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Monday, January 14, 2013

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I got this book from Project Gutenberg, please support them.

I liked this book but can understand the controversies surrounding it.

I read this book after watching the movie Lincoln to get a better idea of the slave experience at the time. This book was written about a year before the Civil War started so it is a great exploration of that period, where morals in the north had already shifted away from slavery and the country was on the verge of doing something about it.

What I liked best about this book is the depictions of slavery at the time. I had no concept of how it actually worked, and with this book I'm still left with a lot of questions. The book addresses the need to treat slaves well enough to stop them from running away to the north and also to treat them poorly enough that they continue working for free. It's an interesting mix.

Never before had I considered the sexual dynamic and this book really goes into it. People say the sex was not as prevalent as depicted in this book but I could believe it. There's plenty of jokes about isolated farms, teenage boys, a sheep and a tall wheat field. If the slave owners had sons, the women were going to be in trouble, plain and simple. To say nothing of the farmer himself.

The book really kept coming back to the dynamic for me between the slaves and the owners. Slaves could earn money and buy themselves, there were free blacks in the south at that time. Whites would die and will slaves their freedom, I had no idea all of that was going on. Slaves had houses, older slaves had some say in what went on, children could be sold from mothers. It wasn't all the whipping and chains I had been led previously to believe.

This being said, the book is very well written, and I agree perhaps too well written for a slave with no education. The part that really stretched credulity for me was her in the roof for 7 years. In the summer you would need water, and then you'd need to go to the bathroom, and 7 years?

All in all though very glad I read it.

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Monday, January 7, 2013

Physique: The Life of John S. Barrington by Rupert Smith

Physique: The Life of John S. Barrington by Rupert Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well, I really liked this.
The photos were great, the research exhaustive and I believe more care was put into this book than any project Barrington attempted during his life time.

One thing I got out of this was the sense of failure and the feeling of wasting a life, wasting opportunities. The man is known as a pioneer in his field yet he was always looking for recognition, always trying to chnage to a different and more "legit" line of work.

Two things I got from this are be happy with what you have and your lot in life. The second thing is that if you're having trouble seeing things to satisfactory completion, get assistance.

It seems at the end Barrington did get assistance from author Rupert Smith, but he never was able to reliquinish enough control and I imagine the period Smith worked with him to be a very difficult one indeed. I'm sure that could be a different book in itself, but I feel Smith does a good job here leaving these things aside. I think I would have been too tempted to say "The man is fucking crazY!"

I felt the prose overly simplified and it's hard to keep momentum in a story where everthing the guy does fails, yet I'm very glad I read it, I'm glad it was written.

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Thursday, January 3, 2013

Moise and the World of Reason by Tennessee Williams

Moise and the World of Reason by Tennessee Williams
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

What do you say after reading this book?
There are moments of clarity, but they are few and far between. The sentences end without punctuation in the middle of a thought, characters ramble on for pages without knowing what they're talking about.
In the middle of it is glimpses of the former Williams and there are a few vignettes of brilliance, but really this book is too heavily shadowed by Williams stays in mental institutions to be coherent or relevant or readable.

The following passage I think illustrates what I'm saying:
"I have heard many people say they can't do almost anything alone but I have never heard a writer say that he can't write alone. In fact most writers I've known, despite my instinctive aversion to knowing others engaged in the same kind of existence, preferring to know painters and hustlers and practically anything but lawyers and persons who enforce law and others who have commitments to order, an exciting number of whom have recently been exposed as compulsive violators of the same
I know when a sentence is going on too long for the mental breath of a reader not to mention a writer so let me complete what I had started to say and leave it there and go on. I have never known a writer to say that he can't write alone. Now how is that for a simple declarative sentence?"

See there's moments, but then he starts talking to the reader about the difficulties of writing the book, and really, it can't go up from there.
Also for his first novel, having one guy pee into his lover's hands as a sexual kink on page three? Not the best idea.

I wondered how Williams, so well known, could have written a novel that was so not well known. I've read it and now I know.

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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Young Homosexual by Lee Dorian

The Young Homosexual by Lee Dorian
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I decided to digitize this book for the ages as I thought it would be a fun “Reefer Madness” style document on gay life. For the most part it was, but I found myself occasionally not just laughing at it and trying to point out the flaws in the author’s arguments which lessened my fun a bit.
I found many fanastic quotes and present a few of them here:

"Here I am," complains one college boy, "twenty years old, married, with a child coming along. When I run into my unmarried classmates on the campus, how can I help but envy them? That's why so many guys turn queer.
- I totally agree

THE SINGLE THING—THE ONE QUALITY—that makes the experienced homosexual a danger to the entire community is the remorseless recruiting that is carried on by homosexuals of both sexes.
- What is an “experienced” homosexual? Also I note I’m behind on my recruiting numbers this month. I hope they don’t pull my membership.

A discreet observation in the column of Dorothy Kilgallen, regarding the murder of a famous theatrical figure recently says, "None of the people close to him even guessed about his secret life, but the police now have reason to believe his murderer is on the high seas—" an obvious reference to the possibility that the man was murdered by a young sailor he had picked up around the Times Square section of New York.
- The author does this ALL the time, quote someone famous, for example he uses Ann Landers’ name about 30 times, then makes it seem like they said something anti-gay, when they didn’t. Also, is this one of those books in disguise, where it says anti-gay stuff to get past the censors, but in fact, if you’re gay and reading this, you’ve learned to go to Times Square for sailors while in NYC.

"Just straight sex is nothing," remarks a UCLA man during an investigation. "For real kicks you've got to make it with a fag, preferably a Negro fag, or have a hallucination. Pot (marijuana) or peyote (the hallucinating cactus) is the only kick left."
- Several of this author’s sources are things like “an investigation”, which I assume means his head. I can’t believe I’m refuting this guy’s crazy ramblings again! See what I mean? Also, hallucinating cactus???

The experienced lesbian does not approach a strange girl in a subway or even a bar. She sends out her scouts, in the form of other young girls who have been seduced into the Lesbian way of life.
- I wish gay men had scouts. *pouts*

By the time he was four, he was not only dressing up in his mother's clothes at every opportunity, but he had begun to be a young pyromaniac. Three times, he set the house on fire, one time causing considerable damage. One of the things the young boy slated to be a homosexual usually does, is set fires.
- ???

"Is the homosexual born or made?" Interestingly enough, while ninety percent of all analysts insist the homosexual creates himself, so to speak…
- This I thought was a good point. If they’re born that way, not their fault. If they’re made that way, also not their fault. So how to get around that and still blame the gays? They create themselves! Brilliant.

There are many forms of masturbation, and the alert parent should be aware of them. The child who likes to climb to the highest limb of a tree and clutch it in terror as he feels the branch swaying beneath him, is masturbating. The boy or girl who likes to "wrestle" a playmate is masturbating. Nose picking, nail-biting, bed-wetting and any habit which, says Freud, "has about it a kind of rhythm, is a form of masturbating."
- I need to go climb some trees. Stupid winter.

Like most homosexuals, I wasn't remotely interested in being changed—unless," on a rather simpering titter, "I could be changed into a woman."
- Now why the hell don’t I say more things with a “simpering titter”? From now on I am. Every time I speak, as soon as I find out what a “simpering titter” is, I’m using it.

The Court, in the same opinion, pointed out that to put a homosexual—especially a young person—in prison, is "a little like throwing Briar Rabbit into the briar patch.
- I laughed out loud at this one.

...of every ten girls who march down the aisle, seven are already pregnant, a statistic which would have caused headlines even ten years ago!
- Where is this man getting his information, a cereal box?

[if a man thinks he wants to be gay] he should spend an evening with a pair of homosexuals—one male and one female—who, because of their prominent position in the entertainment world, decided to contract a " front" marriage. At first one would be tempted to think, "This is great. They're so happy together. She answers the phone and talks endearingly to her girl friends; he answers the phone and talks endearingly to his men friends."
But hang around a while until both have had three or four Scotches and sodas and listen to the names she calls him and the other names he calls her. Watch her throw a Scotch-and-soda in his young, handsome face when he tells her, "You're nothing but a lousy c--- s---" and then sit beside her after he has stormed out of the house to go to his boyfriend, hear her say, "I try so hard to be a woman with him...."
- I laughed out loud at this one too.

All homosexuals are certainly not seriously mentally deranged. But we have found that all seriously deranged people are homosexual in that they are withdrawn, reclusive, narcissistic and masturbate to excess."
- That’s so crazy! I need to be alone now to think about this while masturbating in front of a mirror.

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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes #1) by Arthur Conan Doyle

A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The last line of the book is in Latin, and the edition I read helpfully had no translation. Looking it up on Google, I got:
The quotation is from Horace, Book 1, Satire 1.
"The public hisses at me, but I applaude myself in my own house, and simultaneously contemplate the money in my chest."

The book wasn't really what I was expecting. I had glanced at some previous reviews and saw the Mormons, yet I wasn't expecting half the book to be Mormons and Bringham Young to be a character in the plot!

The book starts off well, with Holmes and Watson setting up their relationship for the ages and tales of horse drawn carriage chases in Victorian London. In part two the believability slips a little, for example I doubt many people in their teens die from a broken heart. But at the same time I keep in mind Conan Doyle's writing in 1860 didn't have the internet or such things to learn about Mormonism, and I think he did a good job. I thought part two was interesting and didn't lose focus.

My previous experience with this story had been the BBC version of it in "Sherlock", and I must say they took some liberties!

I enjoyed it, will read another.

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