David Duchovny vs. the Chop-O-Matic

Spoiler alert: this gadget kinda sucks


A friend recently sent me this clip - a little old, but still hilarious - of David Duchovny on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Somehow the topic of the Chop-O-Matic comes up, and Jimmy happens to have one handy. Evidently Duchovny has talked about his experience with the Chop-O-Matic before; apparently he bought one for his mother, when he was a child, because he loved her and wanted her to have an easier time in the kitchen.

David Duchovny and Jimmy Try to Use the Chop-O-Matic.avi

Quite the contrary, the Chop-O-Matic turns out to be ridiculously hard to use. First, they have some trouble positioning the gadget over their target, a potato. The plastic hood keeps falling off, having to be constantly screwed back into place.
Once they center the Chop-O-Matic properly, the chopping turns out to be pretty hard, too. As Duchovny points out, on the ads, the people just tap on the plunger and poof, their vegetables are instantly reduced to chopped bits. In reality, it turns out that pushing the equivalent of six knives at once through a potato is a difficult job. 
Not only are Duchovny and Kimmel both unable to chop their potato with the Chop-O-Matic, Kimmel eventually resorts to picking up an old telephone and using it to beat the plunger with. And it still doesn't work!
Meanwhile, Duchovny picks up a knife and slices the potato in six quick strokes. Chop chop chop! It really impresses upon the viewer what a simple and elegant tool the knife is. 
Kimmel discovers that once the potato has been sliced, it's a little bit easier to chop with the Chop-O-Matic. Begging the question, why go to all the trouble of slicing the potato before handing it over to the Chop-O-Matic? It's obviously a lot easier to just slice it all with the knife. Easier clean-up, too.
And while the Chop-O-Matic promises to be a safer gadget, you can still see the potential for disaster. Kimmel at one point has to warn Duchovny to clear his hands from the device so that he doesn't accidentally chop off one of David Duchovny's fingers on broadcast television.
All of this is a woeful contrast from the sparkling, simplistic world of the Chop-O-Matic infomercial. (Not to mention the catchy, hypnotic nature of the Slap Chop ad.)  It's a great illustration of the difference between the promise of advertising, and the reality of trying to use these gadgets yourself. 

Wraptastic: if you're too dumb to use plastic wrap

Isn't this why we all use lidded plastic containers now?

Of all the "There's gotta be a better way!" ads out there, the Wraptastic stands apart as being particularly ridiculous. The ad itself employs the age old trick of having normal looking people encounter immense difficulties using a common household product. In this case, it's plastic wrap and aluminum foil.

If you are thinking that it would be hard to make "using aluminum foil" seem like a difficult task, you would be right. Plastic wrap, okay, plastic wrap can be annoying sometimes. But I have never cut myself on the "sharp metal edge" that the commercial mentions. Has anyone? Really? I mean, you look at the edge and think, "Dang, that is sharp." But has anyone actually cut themselves on it? 
But isn't that why we all started using those cheap off-brand Tupperware-like containers in the first place? Not only are they easier to use (not that plastic wrap is really that difficult), they are also reusable and easily stackable. If you are really having that much trouble wrestling with plastic wrap, then you should just invest in a bunch of reusable lidded containers of all sizes, and be done with it.
But no, Wraptastic would have you sink your money into a device that is basically just a plastic wrap roll holder. In the ad, it sits securely on your counter, cuts the plastic wrap with a gentle touch, and snaps open with a jaunty "click!" But customer reviews tell a different story. A story of woe, of wrestling with the device to get it back open, and of eternally having to steady it lest it scoot across your counters.
In other words, Wraptastic may solve two problems, but it creates three more. Ain't that always the way?
On a more sinister note, a lot of commenters online are complaining about this product. The 30-day money back guarantee requires you to send the thing back in order to get a refund. But naturally the cost of shipping it back is a lot more than the money you will be refunded. Because while you pay $25 for the Wraptastic, $14 of that is called shipping costs, so you're talking about a maximum refund of $11.
Furthermore, people who complain to the company about the Wraptastic's various problems (the sorts of problems you're always going to see with a cheap plastic gadget) are getting only silence in return. Bad customer service - wrap it up!

My Secret Root Touch-Up Spray

Trust me, it's not gonna be a secret.

Every time I see the ad for My Secret Root Touch-Up Spray, I end up giggling helplessly. Now first of all, I agree that your roots can certainly be a problem. I have been coloring my hair for about 25 years now. I know whereof they speak.

But for pity's sake, the answer is not found in a giant spray can!
As far as I can tell, this product is basically the good old GLH Formula but marketed for women now. If you will recall, the product to mock in the 90s was GLH Formula, a Ronco product for men that made their thinning hair look thicker. It was basically mascara in a pressurized aerosol can format. You sprayed it on your hair and it would turn all your gray hairs dark, as well as thickening the appearance of all your hair. 
And it looked truly terrible.

Nevertheless, I have to applaud the quick thinking of whoever realized that you could market this stuff to women as a touch up method for their roots. I am convinced this is the same stuff, but who knows - maybe it's just a "remarkably similar" product.
The thing about this ad, regardless of the product, is that all of the women are holding these giant cans incredibly far away from their heads. If you really held the can out at arm's length, I'm pretty sure your entire living room would end up auburn with overspray. Not to mention your face and hands! 
They go to it with such enthusiasm, though. You can hardly fault them. They look pretty stoked about the whole thing. But here's a tip, from me to you: maybe you should do that stuff in the yard, you know? Not in the driveway. You probably can't get that stuff off the cement. And make it the back yard, so the petunias don't end up as brunettes.
The can costs $10, and the ads say you get 50 applications. However, each application will wash off in the next day's shower. If you look at the per-day price, I'm thinking it really doesn't' save you that much money versus doing it yourself, or going to a place like Supercuts or Hairmasters. This product rides an uneasy segment of the Venn diagram between "frugal" and "vain."
And not to belabor the point, but if you go to Hairmasters, you won't have to lay down a drop cloth over your furniture before you start coloring your hair. 

The Olde Brooklyn Lantern

OK, I admit it - I want one!

So many things are hilarious about this infomercial. Not least among them is the fact that I am totally sold on this item. I have made a mental note to keep an eye out for them at Walgreen's (where they often have end cap displays of "As Seen On TV" items on sale).

I particularly love the bit where the old lady drops her flashlight into her spaghetti and stares at it with exasperation. Darn those greasy flashlights, falling off your shoulder when you least expect it!
LED lanterns are pretty much the only way to go these days. I live in a remote rural area where we have frequent power outages (some of them days long), especially in the late fall/early winter storm season. And I swear by the things. 

Many people dislike LED lanterns, I guess because they are not romantic enough. Personally whenever I see a hurricane lantern, I don't think "romance," I think "Mrs. O'Leary's cow." Gas and oil lanterns really are dangerous. If you have pets or children, they are easily knocked over and broken. Any time you have a system where you are setting out a glass object full of flammable material AND you are burning that flammable material, you are just asking for trouble.
Last year my LED lantern finally failed, and replacing its impressive suite of D batteries did nothing. Therefore I have been keeping my eye out for a new one. But I have to admit, I am not sure I can bring myself to use something as ridiculously styled and named as the Olde Brooklyn Lantern. 
One downfall to my old lantern was that it was directional - a fault that the Olde Brooklyn Lantern improves upon. However, the infomercial makes no mention as to whether you can replace the batteries in your Olde Brooklyn Lantern when they run out. This leads me to strongly suspect that this is a single-use item, and once the batteries are dead, that's it - it goes straight into the trash. What a pity, and what a waste, and how little we need another lump of plastic to send to the dump.
And as useful as the Olde Brooklyn Lantern undoubtedly is, I don't think that I would have the guts to use it for walking my dog down a suburban street, as depicted in the ad. I am also not entirely sure where they get "Brooklyn" from. 

Orgreenic Pans: Fear-based kitchen goods

There's really nothing to fear from Teflon or aluminum.

There is only one reason why anyone would buy a set of Orgreenic pans, and that is a fear of something which is unproven at best: that your kitchen pans can kill you. There are two main fears here. The first is from Teflon pans. 

It is true that Teflon flakes off in microscopic particles over the years as you use it. However, it is not proven that Teflon is absorbed into your blood stream when you eat these tiny flakes. In fact, given the fact that they are actually tiny pieces of metal, it is a lot more likely that they are simply - ahem - "passed through your system intact."
A potentially greater concern is the PFOA which is used to make the Teflon stick to the pan itself. PFOA is a carcinogen, and it is present in low levels in the blood of most Americans. But it is "not likely" that this exposure comes from pans. In fact, most of the PFOA is burned off in the process of manufacture. 

The second fear is from aluminum pans. This cheap metal which offers wonderful heat conductivity is also (in many people's minds) linked to Alzheimer's disease. There are a lot of people who avoid soda in cans and aluminum pans due to fears of Alzheimer's. This was a line of investigation during the 50s and 60s, but it has long since failed to pan out (except in the thriving crackpot community).
Finally you have the issue of exposure. How many meals do you actually cook in a pan? And how much time does your food spend in the pan, when you do cook? Let's say the average American has 21 meal opportunities per week. 5 of those will be weekday breakfasts, and 5 will be weekday lunches. That's half your meals right there that you're probably not cooking on the stove. Out of the remaining 11 meals, how many were cooked on the stove, and how many were simply microwaved or assembled out of pre-packaged convenience food? How many of those meals were frozen pizza or McDonald's cheeseburgers?
My point being, you have a lot more to fear from the stuff you eat that you DIDN'T cook on the stove than you do from any perceived threat from Teflon or aluminum.
Where was I? Oh right: ceramic pans. There's really no need to spend that much money. The pans you already have are fine, trust me. Get stainless steel pans if you feel you must avoid Teflon and aluminum. This manufactured fear of "food sticking to the pan" is ridiculous. Worst case scenario, soak it and give it a good scrubbing.

No One Needs A Tortilla-Baking Dish

I don't care how perfect it is!
There are a lot of dumb things being advertised on late night television. But one of the dumbest, least useful things has got to be the Perfect Tortilla Bowl. Talk about an answer to a question no one asked. Were you clamoring for a way to turn a tortilla into a bowl? Probably not! Even if you were, you can actually buy tortilla bowls at the grocery store. 

Perfect Tortilla - As Seen On TV Blog - Perfect Tortilla Commercial

Of course, the grocery store and restaurant tortilla bowls are deep fried. That is why they are delicious. The Perfect Tortilla Bowl promises a healthier meal, because you bake the tortilla in the oven. Spoilsports! So you go to all this trouble to buy a special dish to make tortilla bowls, and they end up being bland and baked in the oven. That isn't fun. It certainly isn't delicious. 

I once had a fling with trying to bake my own tortilla chips. Therefore I am in a perfect position to attest to the fact that, if you bake a tortilla in the oven, the results are… uninspiring. At best you get something that's like an unsalted Saltine. At worst it's only half baked, so it's still sort of flexible and sort of crispy and utterly blah.
But the people in the ad sure look stoked about their tortilla bowls, don't they? (Remember: they are paid to look stoked.)
I'm also skeptical of their claims that you can use it to hold dip. The commercial shows a bunch of tortilla bowls, both filled to the brim, one with salsa and one with guacamole. They sit atop a checkered tablecloth, apparently at some sort of potluck function. 
All I can say is, I hope that function is outside, and that the tablecloth is easy-wipe vinyl. How long do you think it will be before the baked tortilla bowl gives way, soaks through and collapses under the weight of that salsa, spilling it everywhere? You could start a pool: whoever is closest to guessing the collapse time wins the money.
At the end we have the requisite "You can make dessert with it too," because gullible people also happen to love making desserts out of weird things (like pizza crust). Sprinkle your tortilla bowl with cinnamon, drop in a few scoops of ice cream, and you have got yourself some ice cream in a baked tortilla, yessiree. 

Product Review: Eggies

Utterly useless, unless you own your own chickens, in which case: AWESOME.

When I watched the Eggies infomercial, I was intrigued. I have my own chickens, you see, and it is virtually impossible to peel a hard-boiled egg if it is fresh (i.e. less than 2-3 weeks old). 

Yesterday I spotted a package of Eggies on sale at Grocery Outlet, so I snapped it up. I rushed home and gave it a test, boiling up four eggs that night for dinner. To sum up: it's complicated.

It isn't as easy as the ad makes it out to be. Each Eggie is actually four small bits of plastic. You have to fit them all together, add a bit of cooking oil to keep the egg from sticking, and then manage to get the raw egg in there. 
The Eggie pieces are made of lightweight plastic, which meant a lot of fumbling and juggling. The hole at the top of the Eggie is a bit on the small side, and it takes a bit of practice to crack an egg and slide it in just right. One of my eggs had a too-large yolk, which I had to gently push with a fingertip in order to get it to pop inside.
In other words, Eggies are a real dexterity test. These are not something to buy for an elderly relative who has trouble peeling eggs. 
The eggs turn out an odd shape, due to the shape of the container. 
Also, I would be remiss if I didn't observe that there are potential negative health consequences from cooking foods by boiling them inside plastic containers.
Yeah, actually, it did. Once I fumbled everything together and got it in the pot, it was just a matter of boiling them for 15 minutes. They cooled quickly (I ran them under cold water) and popped out of the Eggies relatively well. 
I can't picture a world in which using Eggies is easier than just boiling eggs. For example, there are five steps before you get to "Put it in a pan of water." Compare this to the usual method, for which there is only one step: "Put it in a pan of water."
Clean-up is also a royal pain. Particularly compared to the clean-up from the usual method, which is to simply throw away the eggshells.
In fact, I am hard pressed to think of anyone who will benefit from Eggies… except for those of us who have pet chickens. And if you have pet chickens, then take it from me: these things are awesome!

The Justice Coin

About as "collectible" as a ballpoint pen.

Of all the late night products, the Justice Coin probably raises more moral qualms than all the others put together. It's one thing to think about people wasting their money on the latest hair removal system or shoddy fix-it product. But it's quite another to be faced with a coin that literally celebrates death, and with a company that leverages 9/11 sentiment to line their own pockets.
Plus it's a terrible investment, to boot. 
In fact, the trade in commemorative coins is such a bad investment that it doesn't even warrant the name. These coins are not rare - in fact, they are printed in vast numbers, so that the companies which strike them can make the most money possible. They are overpriced for the base metals, because they are "collectibles." 

If you buy an uncirculated commemorative coin in a special container, you can be assured that you have paid too much for it. From a financial or collectible standpoint, you would literally be better off buying actual Beanie Babies. (Why not save up your money and invest in the stock market? You can buy gold futures, if you like.)

One side of the Justice Coin celebrates 9/11. It features the Twin Towers and the Pentagon (which seems to have been wedged up awkwardly against the edge of the coin). It also has a lot of words, in the form of two quotes, one by President George W. Bush and one by Obama. 
(In addition to being morally dubious, this coin is visually unattractive. Compare it to some of the other beautiful coin designs in the world… the Justice Coin seems to have been slapped together by someone with no design sense or artistic talent whatsoever.)
The other side features Seal Team Six, the American flag, two helicopters, and the jarring phrase "YOU CAN RUN BUT YOU CANNOT HIDE."
I suppose they didn't want a word as informal as "can't" on their coin. But "cannot" just doesn't work in a phrase as downright redneck as "you can run but you can't hide." The extra syllable also throws the scansion completely off. It's as verbally awkward as the coin's design is visually clunky.
Your purchase includes a "military briefing packet" which looks like a fold-out insert from a DVD. 
This coin contains about two dollars worth of gold, so don't be fooled into thinking you're buying a gold coin for twenty bucks. It's basically only gold in the sense that gold is a color.

Fix-A-Flop Flip Flop Fixer: Fabulous or Futile?

Frugal or Feckless?


My first thought when I saw this ad for Fix-A-Flop was, "I'm pretty poor, but I still like to think I have enough money that when my flip flops break, I can just throw them away and buy a new pair." But my second thought was, "It's always better to fix something than throw it away!"
I'm of two minds about these. They are designed for the type of super cheap flip flop where the toe thong is attached through a hole in the sole, with a simple button at the end. This type of flip flop, you get about ten days of use before the button wears through the sole around it (as it will do, what with both friction and cheap foam rubber being what they are) and pops out.

Fix-A-Flop to the rescue! These are basically just a bigger button. They are self-adhesive, and slip over the button in the toe thong to prevent it pulling through the hole in the sole. In a master stroke of adorability, they are also shaped like tiny flip flops. 
Here's the thing: the cheaper the flip flops, the more likely it is that you will need to buy Fix-A-Flop repair patches. More expensive flip flops have a more durable sole, a better attachment for the toe thong, or both.
Two problems with this: first, the economic issue. In my experience, in a year you can either go through a pair of cheap $10 shoes every month, or one pair of really good shoes for $120. But the good shoes are an even better value, because they will inevitably be more stylish and comfortable. Add in your shopping time and sales tax, and the good shoes are clearly a better bargain.
This is what my grandmother always used to call "false thrift." You're not saving any money when you buy cheap shoes. Especially when they are so cheap that an As Seen On TV product exists specifically to repair them!
Second problem is, as a society we need to consume less. Those twelve pairs of (hypothetical) cheap shoes required human labor and fuel costs and materials and chemicals to make, and they will hog landfill space after they are used up. 
Cheap flip flops have no real use in our lives, or on our planet. Maybe if you have a pool and you want to keep a box of freebies handy for guests who forget their own. 

Insta-Hang | Not Gonna Do It

I was chatting with my pilates instructor when she said, “Gee! You’ve done everything.” I never realized it before, but I have done a lot of different jobs and worn many hats. One of them, that I still love and could do in a heartbeat, was framing pictures. I worked at an art gallery/ frame shop both in sales as well as production. Meaning, I stood in the back and framed pictures for hours on end. It was fun. I learned to cut mats and assemble the wood frames as well. In fact, I could do everything, from cutting the glass to trimming the dust cover, in under 15 minutes. I was goooooood!

I say this to let you know that I am not just talking out of my *%$@ for the rest of this post. No, I actually know what I am talking about when it comes to hanging pictures and artwork. We gave each of our clients two hooks (we called it “hanging hardware”) for their pictures that we specifically rated for the weight of the picture. They were designed to go into the drywall at an angle and then had a hook to hold the picture wire. You would never hang a picture from the top rail of the frame; it will eventually break.

Needless to say, I was surprised to see this do-hickey, Insta-Hang.  I am channeling my best George Bush Sr. when I say, “Not gonna do it!" Do yourself a favor and run down to your local hardware super store and buy some proper hanging hardware. Do it right the first time.