Random Thoughts on The Newsroom Season 3, Episode 1

The boys and girls of Atlantis Cable News are back! Everyone’s (not everyone’s) favorite dramatization of not-quite current events, Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom, has returned and my world feels a whole lot better. While I understand why some people hate-watch the show, I’m a sucker for Sorkin’s witty, dense, and rapid-fire writing. Here are some random thoughts and reflections on “Boston,” the first episode of The Newsroom season three.

Still dealing with the fallout of the Operation Genoa story, the News Night gang is trying to gain back the trust of the public. The crew is understandably skittish and gun shy. Thankfully, that didn’t get in the way of two important questions being asked:

Why did Greek yogurt suddenly become a thing? — Will MacAvoy

When did walnuts start going into chicken salad?!? — Elliot Hirsch

Bridesmaids to Bombings — The episode starts in Will McAvoy’s office, where our hero and his bride-to-be (and executive producer) MacKenzie McHale are discussing the amount of bridesmaids for their upcoming nuptials. Mac has nine bridesmaids pegged, but Will doesn’t have nine male friends to match up with them. Suddenly, Mac catches an explosion on a monitor. It’s the tragic Boston Marathon bombing, which serves as the real-news backdrop of the episode.

Don Still Rules — Meanwhile, the coolest cat in the newsroom — Don Keefer — is stuck in jury duty. He gets a text about the bombing and awesomely talks his way out of his civic duties. Don is far from the antagonistic prick he was in the first few episodes of season one, but his wit is still (entertainingly) razor sharp. I really enjoyed Don playfully taking jabs at Sloan’s “investigation” (more on that later) and Neal’s crackpot Internet sources. While this was a good Don episode, he wasn’t my MVP this show. That award goes to…

A Kindler, Gentler Reese — Speaking of no longer being an antagonistic prick, Atlantis World Media president Reese Lansing has done a total 180. Formerly a corporate overlord that only cared about the bottom line, Reese now onboard with News Night’s mission to do the news “right.” He supports the newsies, while also challenging them with the realities of business. In addition to dealing with the ACN crew, Reese has to deal with running all of AWM, his party-happy siblings, potentially disastrous quarterly earnings, and a bomb dropped by Sloan (again, more on that later). Chris Messina is fantastic in this role. His character is juggling a bunch of plots and he deftly delivers memorable lines concerning each of them.

Aaron Sorkin Hates the Internet: While it permeated several episodes of the first two seasons, The Newsroom writer’s disdain for the Internet is the loudest it has ever been in this episode. He rails on all the Internet writers that spreaded bad information on the Boston Marathon bombing. Innocent people were incorrectly identified as suspects by Internet writers and the Internet being what it is, the misinformation spread like wildfire. While Sorkin has a point in this particular case and there’s certainly a ton of crap Internet reporting, his preachiness comes off as antiquated. There are a lot of great resources on the Internet and there’s also a lot of crap reporting in old media. In fact, I’d say that it’s easier to find credible reporting on the Internet than it is on television. Still…love the dude’s writing.

Mike Tyson Olivia Munn Mysteries — The most unbelievable part of this episode was our dear friend Olivia Munn’s storyline. As you know, her character Sloan Sabbith has two PhDs in economics. Olivia Munn playing a character with dual doctorates is difficult to believe, but since her character’s social awkwardness often overshadows her intellect, it’s easy to forget that she’s supposed to be a financial genius. In this episode, Sloan is using her $24,000 Bloomberg Terminal to uncover a mysterious media buy. Yeah…right. Watching Olivia look at a Bloomberg Terminal, pretending to extract essential information was hilarious. It reminded me of Denise Richards pretending to be a nuclear physicist that uses her vast scientific knowledge to bail out James Bond. Suspension of disbelief is impossible.

Tag Team Promos — My favorite scene in this episode was ACN president Charlie Skinner and Will chastising the staff for cheering about a CNN retraction. Sam Waterston was brilliant, as always, while Jeff Daniels hilariously played the stooge. It reminded me of this Vince McMahon and Steve Austin locker room sketch. Charlie lead the speech, while Will comedically reinforced everything Charlie said.

Slumdog SnowdenThe Newsroom’s Internet nerd, Neal Sampat, gets a beefy plot this season, as he received more than 27,000 stolen government documents. Neal mentioned Wikileaks in a previous episode and is the only character equipped to handle an Edward Snowden-like situation. Unfortunately, he asked for a few more documents from his mysterious source. Will points out that this constitutes espionage. I’ve been a fan Dev Patel since Slumdog Millionaire and I’m happy that his character has more to work with this season. I also love that he’ll be heavily interacting with AWM’s hired legal gun Rebecca Halliday, awesomely portrayed by Marcia Gay Harden.

Where’s Waldo Jim?News Night’s senior producer is a background player in this episode, but I have a feeling that he’ll get more play on the romantic front in future shows. For reasons that don’t make sense to me, Jim’s girlfriend Hallie Shea (Meryl Streep’s daughter!) now works as Neal’s minion at News Night instead of running her own political website. You know, because the office needs another romantic coupling on top of the Will/Mac and Don/Sloan pairings. Jim recommends the former object of his affection, Maggie Jordan, to serve as Elliot Hirsch’s field producer in Boston. Will and Mac are skeptical, but Maggie comes through. After her triumphant moment, Jim gets a little twinkle in his eye. I’m hoping that Jim will have a Betty/Veronica situation, but don’t really expect one to get fleshed out since this season is only six episodes long.

Our Little Maggie is All Growns Up — Still traumatized by the tragedy she experienced in Africa, Maggie has exchanged bad haircuts for hellish stomach crunches. Working on the Boston story with 10PM anchor Elliot Hirsch, Maggie has to shift from field producer to on-air talent after she mistakenly gives Elliot some chicken salad with walnuts. Elliot is allergic to walnuts and his tongue starts swelling, rendering him incapable of coherent speech. After Maggie nails her television debut, Elliot gives her a tender, fatherly hug. I’m kind of meh on Maggie right now. She was adorably awkward in season one and annoyingly angry in season two. That said, I’ll always give her a chance. The character reminds me so much of my dear Zoe (Alison Pill’s awkward hand gestures are eerily similar to my Best Best’s).

McAvoy Rises — Will had a strange outing this episode. As expected, he was gruff and shouty throughout the show, but he started on a weak note. He absolutely failed at giving a pep talk, meant to invigorate the crew as they pursued the Boston Marathon story. Later, he served as Charlie’s John Oates during a dress-down speech. He closed out the show with a confidently angry soliloquy that we expect from him. While he’s the center of The Newsroom, I enjoyed that he wasn’t the center of this particular episode.

Coming Next — As a fan of The Newsroom since day one, I enjoyed this episode. It wasn’t the best, but I didn’t expect it to be. Since the final run is only six episodes long, there were a lot of plots to establish. This episode got them all running, while serving up the rapid-fire dialogue that Sorkin fans love. More importantly, it got me excited about the rest of the season. I’m looking forward to some Neal and Rebecca legal powwows. I can’t wait for Jane Fonda’s triumphant return as AWM CEO Leona Lansing. Most of all, I’m terribly excited to see Kat Dennings’ debut on the show. That woman is pretty close to perfection.

If you have a chance, let me know what you thought of the “Boston” episode of The Newsroom.

Vaping Diaries #226: Beyond Vape Neptune Review

Vapers looking for a relatively inexpensive all-in-one solution should take a look at the Beyond Vape Neptune. This hybrid dripper offers sharp looks and strong performance at a relatively low price (for an original product that’s not a clone). Available in a variety of colors, there’s bound to be a shade that’s right for you. While this hybrid dripper brings a lot to the table, there’s one aspect of the device that could make it a poor choice for certain types of vapers. Read on for more details on the Beyond Vape Neptune.

Design and Ergonomics: The Beyond Vape Neptune’s body features a modular design. Pieces of the main body can be mixed and matched, allowing the device to accept batteries as small as 18350 and as large as 18650.

Since it uses a hybrid setup, the device is relatively short no matter what type of battery you use. It’s made primarily from 6061 T6 aircraft-grade aluminum, which is lighter than the brass, copper, and stainless steel used in most mods. Fans of short and light vaping devices will definitely enjoy the way the Beyond Vape Neptune feels in hand.

The atomizer portion of the Beyond Vape Neptune is fairly basic. It features three posts, for easy dual-coil setup, and a decent juice well. Airflow is totally basic, with two fixed holes on the top cap. Vapers that prefer adjustable airflow for different builds or different juices will find the atomizer rather spartan.

Lastly, the button on the Beyond Vape Neptune uses a medium-to-stiff spring with a relatively short throw. While I enjoyed the device’s throw, I wish it had a lighter spring. My preference is for feather-light buttons with extremely short throws. While I wasn’t unhappy with the device’s button, it didn’t impress me either. Button feel is, of course, totally subjective and I’m sure that many vapers will be pleased with firing mechanism on this device.

Build Quality and Construction: For the most part, I was pleased with the Beyond Vape Neptune’s build quality, but there’s one major caveat, which I’ll get to at the end of this section. Out of the box, the threads on the device are heavily lubricated. After a thorough washing, I was happy to see that the threads are fairly smooth.

The atomizer portion of the device is also well made. I’ve heard second-hand that some Beyond Vape Neptune units have inconsistent post holes, but I didn’t encounter that issue. The post holes on the device I’ve been using were accurately placed.

One possible issue with the Beyond Vape Neptune is its use of aluminum. While it’s a strong and light metal, it’s also relatively soft. The device uses a thin cut of aluminum tubing. This makes it a poor choice for clumsy vapers or those that tend to beat up their gear. If you drop it on concrete then you’ll have a nasty dent on your mod. If you’re not mindful when screwing and unscrewing the mod then there’s a good chance that you’ll wear out the threads. While there certainly are some advantages to its light and thin aluminum body, the Beyond Vape Neptune requires a little more care than a brass, copper, or stainless steel mod.

Performance: Thanks to its hybrid design and aluminum construction, the Beyond Vape Neptune is a very strong performer. Going off of raw materials, aluminum is more conductive than brass and stainless steel, though not as conductive as copper. The device uses silver-plated brass contacts for additional performance gains (and easy care). Of course design and workmanship also factor into performance, and the device does well in those departments. Vapers looking for a high-performance setup at a relatively low price will be happy with what the Beyond Vape Neptune offers.

Beyond Vape Neptune Review

Verdict: The Beyond Vape Neptune brings a lot to the table for only $150. It’s an original product that offers quality construction and great performance. It comes in a variety of colors, making it a nice choice for vapers that want a device that stands out. While it’s possible to buy a clone mod and clone atomizer for less money, there aren’t many combinations out there that offer this level of performance and construction. One mistake I often see with the Beyond Vape Neptune is vapers dismissing the device because they forget that it’s a hybrid. For $150, you get a very good mod and a decent dripper. As long as you can adequately care for its thin aluminum body, the Beyond Vape Neptune is a great choice for a first mechanical device and for vapers that want to add a splash of color to their collection.

Vaping Diaries #225: Ahlusion Review X

For my tenth Ahlusion review, I’ve chosen a trio of coffee and tea e-liquids. These aren’t straight-up, run-of-the-mill coffee and tea juices. Two of them add complementary flavors to coffee, making for unique and complex vapes. The other is the most striking tea e-liquid I’ve ever tried. All three are high-quality juices that you should take a look at if you’re into coffee or tea flavors. Read on for more details on Ahlusion’s JG Blend, Masala Chai, and Boba Tea with Coffee.

JG Blend: Ahlusion makes some of the best tobacco e-liquids on the market. It also makes some great coffee e-liquids. With that in mind, I had high expectations for this coffee-tobacco blend…and my expectations were absolutely met. Like Ahlusion’s other non-aromatic juices, the tobacco in JG Blend is light, but flavorful. The coffee flavor is one of the best I’ve tried (keep in mind that I’m a huge coffee nerd). There are a lot of coffee-tobacco juices on the market and if you’re looking for one in the light to medium range, JG Blend is one of the best you can buy. Like many of my favorite Ahlusion e-liquids, it’s a flavorful mix that’s not overpowering and something I’ll definitely order again.

Juice Specs: 6mg nicotine, 50/50 PG/VG

Masala Chai: “Adult” is a great word for this Ahlusion e-liquid. It doesn’t taste like an overly sweet chai latte that you’d order at Starbucks or Coffee Bean. This is an authentic and complex chai tea. I can’t stress that enough; the popularity of chai lattes at places like Starbucks has given people a “dessert” image of chai. Ahlusion’s Masala Chai is absolutely not a dessert vape.

Having said that, the flavor is remarkable, but divisive. I very much enjoyed its combination of earthiness, spiciness, and sweetness, but if you’re used to artificial or candied juices then Masala Chai might be too much for you. It’s definitely one of the most unique e-liquids I’ve tried, but it’s certainly not for everyone. It’s rich and complex, but doesn’t assault your tastebuds. Depending on your palette, you’ll either find this juice to be delicious or you’ll find it too foreign. At the very least, Masala Chai stands out from other tea e-liquids with a truly distinct flavor.

Juice Specs: 6mg nicotine, 50/50 PG/VG

Boba Tea with Coffee: Raina and I reviewed Ahlusion’s plain Boba Tea early last year. Both of us enjoyed the e-liquid, but felt there was something missing. To my tastebuds, Boba Tea with Coffee is tastier than the plain version. The different flavors come together for a delicious dessert vape. You get the sweet and creamy milk tea complemented by a tasty and pleasantly bitter (slightly) coffee. I order milk tea with coffee at boba shops and this e-liquid does a good job of approximating that flavor, but is really delicious if you think of it as its own thing. While I enjoyed Ahlusion’s plain Boba Tea, adding coffee to the mix cuts down on the sweetness of boba (a bit much for what I enjoy) with some earthiness and bitterness. The complex combination of flavors totally worked for me and this is a juice that I will order again in the future.

Juice Specs: 6mg nicotine, 50/50 PG/VG\

Ahlusion JG Blend, Masala Chai, Boba Tea Coffee

Steeping and Review Notes (Updated December 29, 2013)
On the advice of Wlad from Ahlusion, I’ve been trying a new steeping method as of December 27, 2012. When the e-liquids arrive, I leave them uncapped for five minutes. Previously, I left them uncapped for about two days. After the liquids are given a few minutes to oxidize, the caps are put back on.

RPad.TV e-liquid reviews focus on the flavor of the e-liquids, since throat hit and vapor production can be altered by the PG/VG ratio and nicotine level selected. Each juice is vaped over a period of days in a bottom-coil silica atomizer (The Russian and Aqua), various rebuildable dripping atomizers, and a clearomizer.

Random Thoughts on Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

I’m a big fan of the Sin City comics and a huge fan of the first Sin City movie. With that in mind, I had fairly big expectations going into Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. That said, I wasn’t expecting it to outdo its predecessor — the first movie’s source material is just superior. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For uses two of Frank Miller’s existing stories (one of which is only okay) and two new ones. While it’s certainly not as good as the first film, it’s my favorite movie of 2014 thus far. Let’s take a look at Sin City: A Dame to Kill For using the tried and true RPadTV binary system. [Light spoiler shields, activated!]

Sin City A Dame to Kill For Marv

3D or Not 3D (Good): Sin City: A Dame to Kill For starts off with a fast-paced story called “Just Another Saturday Night” featuring the inimitable Marv. There’s not a lot going on as far a depth and character development, but the opening plot quickly pulls you back into the world of Sin City and shows off some phenomenal 3D special effects. Robert Rodriguez uses 3D similarly to how he uses color in the mostly black-and-white Sin City movies. 3D enhances the visuals and is part of the storytelling, not a tacked on afterthought like 3D used in most movies. That said, after “Just Another Saturday Night,” the 3D isn’t used as frequently or effectively, but for the first 10 minutes of the movie, it’s spectacular.

Not as Deadly Little Miho (Bad): While Jamie Chung did a decent job of replacing Devon Aoki as the wicked, katana-wielding Miho, she doesn’t quite measure up. Aoki was great in the role; her facial expressions were creepier and it helped that she looked so young. There’s something f#cked up about a baby-faced prostitute assassin that slices off heads as frequently and easily as most people open soda cans. Plus, I always got a kick out of Devon Aoki dispensing decapitations; in my head her inner voice says, “There’s your volcano, bitch!” (Aoki is the daughter of Rocky Aoki, founder of the Benihana chain of restaurants, home of the volcano onion.) Anyway, Chung did a passable job as Miho, but she wasn’t as nasty or as menacing as her predecessor.

Sin City A Dame to Kill For Eva Green

Eva Green Owns (Good): Eva Green was — by far — the MVP of Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. Her character, Ava, was incredibly captivating. Visually, she stood out with her bright green eyes and deep red lips. Green’s performance was even more extraordinary. She made Eva beautiful, manipulative, seductive, alluring, deadly, cunning, and unbalanced. Ava is the type of woman that you find immensely attractive and scary as hell. She’s like a dazzling light that attracts moths. Men can see that it will end poorly for them, but her presence is irresistible. While the movie had several good performances, Eva Green’s was the most outstanding.

Odd Pacing (Bad): Although the movie clocks in at a relatively short 102 minutes, it feels longer. My good buddy Paul said that Sin City: A Dame to Kill For felt like it had one too many plot lines and was surprised when I told him the movie’s runtime. While I didn’t feel that the movie was too long, I understand people that feel otherwise. Perhaps because there’s so much packed into the 102 minutes, some moviegoers got viewer fatigue. There aren’t many slow moments in the film, but maybe it could have used some to give the viewer a break.

Beautiful Women (Good): If you’re a guy or gal that’s into beautiful women then there’s a lot to enjoy in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. The movie is full of gorgeous, gorgeous ladies. Eva Green spends a good chunk of the movie naked. Jessica Alba spends a lot of time sexily dancing at Kadie’s Saloon. Rosario Dawson, Juno Temple, Jamie Chung, and Jaime King are just some of the other beautiful women in the film. It’s babetacular.

Sin City A Dame to Kill For Nancy Jessica Alba

Manute II (Bad): As a huge fan of Dennis Haysbert (Cerrano 4 Life!!!), I felt bad that he was pegged to replace Michael Clarke Duncan as Manute. The late giant had a physical presence and booming voice that are impossible to duplicate. It was a no-win situation for Haysbert, but he did well — certainly better than Jamie Chung did replacing Devon Aoki. That said, Michael Clarke Duncan was a perfect role for Manute and Haysbert’s performance was certainly a step down.

The New Stuff (Good): As I mentioned in the intro, two of Sin City: A Dame to Kill For’s storylines were written by Frank Miller just for the movie — “The Long Bad Night” and “Nancy’s Last Dance.” For the most part, they measure up well to Frank Miller’s other tales. I was pleasantly surprise by Joseph Gordon-Levitt in “The Long Bad Night.” His performance was charming, though towards the end of the story it felt like he was channeling Bruce Willis’ character from the first Sin City film (too whiney). “Nancy’s Last Dance” was more enjoyable for me, though I fully admit that I’m completely smitten by Jessica Alba. I believe she’s the most beautiful MILF in the world and should be referred to as Milfimus Prime. What I enjoyed about both stories is that they both end with Pyrrhic victory. Both protagonists get what they want, but both pay a horrible price. These stories reminded me of why Dante from Clerks enjoyed Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, “It ends on such a down note. I mean, that’s what life is — a series of down endings.”

Sin City A Dame to Kill For Nancy 2

Bottom Line: While Sin City: A Dame to Kill For isn’t as good as the original, I very much enjoyed it. As expected, the visuals were striking and phenomenal, with the 3D being unexpectedly fantastic. There are several strong performances in the movie and most of the storytelling is strong. I got exactly what I wanted from Sin City: A Dame to Kill For and then some. To my surprise, I enjoyed it more than Godzilla and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Checking out some other reviews, the movie is getting panned by people that feel that Frank Miller has become a misogynistic fascist. Fairly or unfairly, his political transformation has netted some negative reviews. For my part, I was ignorant of Miller’s political rantings going into the film and only learned about them yesterday. I haven’t had enough time to process them yet, but what I can say for sure is that I enjoyed Sin City: A Dame to Kill For more than any other movie I’ve seen this year.

Random Thoughts on Guardians of the Galaxy

Following successful runs with Captain America, Spider-Man, and the X-Men, Marvel’s fourth comic-book movie of 2014 features the lesser-known Guardians of the Galaxy. While the film’s characters aren’t iconic like the other heroes featured this year, their relative (un)popularity and distinct setting (outer space!) were assets to the director and writers of the Guardians of the Galaxy film. They weren’t trapped by decades of history and millions of fanboys, weren’t limited by the quaint setting of Earth, and were free to create a movie that’s much more fun than its sister titles. While it’s certainly not the best Marvel movie of 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy is arguably the most entertaining.

To maximize your enjoyment of Guardians of the Galaxy, there are a few things you need to realize going into it. First and foremost, it’s much more of a sci-fi space-opera than a superhero flick. It has more in common with Star Wars and Star Trek than it does The Avengers and Iron Man. If you’re a fan of the source material (this iteration of the Guardians was made popular by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, and currently penned by Brian Michael Bendis) then you’ll notice a lot of changes. Some of them are small (and seemingly unnecessary), while others are a huge departure from the comics. If you’re unfamiliar with the source material then you’ll like enjoy the movie on its own, but if you love the comics then some of the changes will bother you.

While there were many things I loved about Guardians of the Galaxy, there were a few things that bugged me. Here are some binary thoughts on Marvel’s summer space opera. [Turn your spoiler shields on, please!]

Guardians of the Galaxy movie review Gamora Quill

Fantastic Pacing (Good): Guardians of the Galaxy has a runtime of 122 minutes, but it doesn’t feel like a two hour movie. Director James Gunn did a superior job of mixing action, comedy, and characterization, while maintaining a zippy flow. The pace is brisk and unlike some fast-paced movies, doesn’t cause viewer fatigue.

Non-Threatening Gamora (Bad): In the comics, Gamora is often referred to as “the most dangerous woman in the universe.” While she’s certainly fierce in the movie, she doesn’t quite live up to that lofty title. The movie version of Gamora is too vulnerable and pigeonholed as a “damsel in distress” in a few scenes. Her sister, Nebula, comes off as more of a bad-ass.

Guardians of the Galaxy movie review Rocket

Incredible Special Effects (Good): While the spaceship and alien locations were expectedly dazzling, I was floored by the CG used for Groot and Rocket. They looked appropriately otherworldly, while still being believable in the context of the movie. Physically, the characters never felt forced. Oddly enough, some of Glenn Close’s scenes felt jarring because her character looked out of place.

(On a side note, I was half-expecting a cameo by Mike Myers. In my head, Austin Powers comes out, grabs Glenn Close’s hair, and exclaims, “It’s a man, baby!”)

Redneck Yondu (Bad): Man, I hated this version of Yondu. I’ve always been a fan of the character ever since I encountered the original Guardians of the Galaxy in “The Korvac Saga” storyline of The Avengers. For those of you unfamiliar with the character, Yondu is kind of like an outer-space Native American. He’s spiritual and mystic (and yes, he wears a loin cloth and shoots arrows in deep space). Save for controlling a magical arrow, movie Yondu is nothing like comics Yondu. Movie Yondu is an outer-space redneck scavenger. I would totally hate the movie version of the character, but the awesome Michael Rooker plays him. You gotta give it up for anyone that was part of Mallrats.

Excellent Soundtrack (Good): Guardians of the Galaxy makes stellar use of ’70s pop songs. Blue Swede, David Bowie, The Runaways, The Five Stairsteps, and more are heard throughout the film. The songs add to the movie’s fun vibe. More than any other Marvel movie, the soundtrack for Guardians of the Galaxy will sell.

Guardians of the Galaxy movie review Groot

Rewritten Origin (Bad): I didn’t care for Peter Quill’s origin story in the movie. Having his mother die in a hospital (movie) isn’t nearly as powerful as having her slaughtered by aliens (comics). While the hospital death sets up a sappy scene towards the end of the film, it detracts from Quill’s tragedy. In the comics, his mother is killed by aliens that want revenge on Peter’s dad, J’Son of Spartax. It sets the tone for what a bastard J’Son is and gives the comics a recurring theme (Quill’s daddy-abandonment issues). While Quill’s dad is mentioned in passing, it looks like the sequels won’t have this important launching point to play off of (unless they write that J’Son infected Meredith Quill with space cancer or something stupid like that).

Wrong About Quill (Good): One of my fears going into the movie was that Chris Pratt would be too goofy to play Peter Quill. In the trailers, he seems more comedic than anything else — kind of like Han Solo’s far less competent younger brother. I was relieved that Pratt didn’t go too far with the comedy in the movie. Yes, he has his funny moments, but he also kicks ass, gets the ladies, and is cool. He definitely fits into that “scoundrel” mold established by Harrison Ford.

Ronan the Dickhead (Bad): Sometimes a hero and sometimes a villain (depending on your point of view), Ronan the Accuser is a complex and layered character in the comics. He can be unrelentingly brutal, but he has a nobility about him and an undeniable love for the Kree people. Movie Ronan is just a dick. He’s a radical extremist that’s 100-percent villain. His characterization in the movie was lazy and shallow.

Batista Didn’t Suck! (Shockingly Good): As many of you know, I loathe WWE Batista. He’s mediocre in the ring and terrible on the mic. To my surprise, Dave Bautista the actor was entertaining in Guardians of the Galaxy. His portrayal of Drax the Destroyer was shockingly good. Obviously, he excelled in the physical scenes, but his deadpan humor was fantastic. While I didn’t like the rewritten origin of movie Drax, Dave Bautista’s performance was surprisingly strong — so much so that I’m going to have to think of him as two different people. I will always hate WWE Batista, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Dave Bautista in more roles that combine physicality and comedy.

Bottom Line: I was very much entertained by Guardians of the Galaxy. Objectively comparing it to the other Marvel 2014 movies, Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a much better film. Subjectively, Guardians of the Galaxy was way more fun. Even though some of the changes from the source material bothered me, I know that I’ll watch this movie again and again in the future. When it comes down to the cable TV test, I can see myself watching Captain America: The Winter Soldier a handful of times over the next five years. In that same five-year period, I’m certain that I’ll watch Guardians of the Galaxy dozens of times.

Vaping Diaries #220: VLS Vulcan Rebuildable Atomizer Review

Here’s the short version of my VLS Vulcan review — the atomizer is one of best values in vaping today. I’ve been using a pair of pre-production VLS Vulcan atomizers for the last month and I was quite impressed by what this atomizer brings to the table. The VLS Vulcan is well made, looks great, has excellent features, and offers sweet performance. While there are some minor issues that prevent it from being perfect for everyone, I believe that the majority of vapers will be happy with what the VLS Vulcan offers — especially when they see the price. Let’s take a closer look.

Design: The VLS Vulcan is packed full of fantastic features. The two sets of heat fins are the most striking. Like the popular Tobh atomizer, the VLS Vulcan’s top cap has rows of deep fins that help dissipate heat. The bottom of the atomizer also has rows of heat fins, to help dissipate heat coming from your mod and atomizer. The usefulness of the bottom heat fins depends on how low you build your coils and what batteries you use; some vapers will find it useful, while it’s overkill for others. The bottom layer of heat fins makes the VLS Vulcan longer than most rebuildable dripping atomizers, which might be an issue for some vapers.

Similar to the Tobh, the base of the VLS Vulcan is made from one piece of stainless steel. The negative posts and base are cut from one piece of metal. What very cool and practical about the base is that the metal underneath the negative posts is also carved out, allowing the atomizer to hold more juice. This makes the VLS Vulcan an excellent choice for vapers that want the full flavor of dripping and minimal refilling.

The VLS Vulcan handles airflow in a unique manner. Instead of traditional air holes, this atomizer has stylized “Vulcan” text on each side of the main cap. The “V” in Vulcan is laser engraved, allowing air to enter the atomizer. It’s certainly unique, but it does present some potential issues. For my builds, I positioned the coils close to the side walls instead of centered; it wasn’t difficult, but it wasn’t as brainless as building coils for a standard atomizer. For certain types of vapers (I’m looking at you cloud chasers!), the “V” is somewhat liming, which I’ll talk about more in the performance section of this review.

All told, the VLS Vulcan uses a great three-piece design that’s an outstanding blend of handsome aesthetics and useful features.

Build Quality: According to Vapour Lifestyle, the VLS Vulcan is made by “a Japanese CNC perfectionist producer.” While the company isn’t mentioned by name, its work is exemplary. This is a very well-made atomizer. Out of the box, the machining is impressive and stands up to competing atomizers that cost $20 to $50 more. I was quite happy with both of the VLS Vulcan atomizers I’ve been using for the last month and I’m confident that most vapers will be pleased by how well the product is made.

Out of the box, the VLS Vulcan has brass thumb screws. Also included are stainless steel thumb screws and extra O-rings.

Performance: The VLS Vulcan uses a copper contact for high conductivity. As many of you know, copper is one of the most conductive metals used in vaping — more conductive than brass or stainless steel, but not as conductive as silver. If performance is priority for you then the VLS Vulcan should keep you happy. Naturally, there are many other factors that contribute to overall performance (mod, battery, coil, etc.), but this atomizer provides a strong link in the chain.

For many vapers, the VLS Vulcan’s airflow is more than adequate. One possible exception is extreme cloud chasers. Vapers that drill out their atomizer holes to bullet-sized proportions will want more airflow. A potential issue with the VLS Vulcan is that its air holes are laser-engraved and stylized. Drilling it out can be tricky and vapers that do will be left with an “ulcan” instead of a “Vulcan,” ruining the aesthetics of the atomizer.

VLS Vulcan Review

Verdict: On its own, the VLS Vulcan is a fantastic rebuildable dripping atomizer. The build quality is great, it performs nicely, and it has lots of versatility. The only issues with the VLS Vulcan are for people that prefer relatively short atomizers and those that like extreme airflow. If you don’t fall into either category then I’m certain that you’ll be happy with the VLS Vulcan.

When you consider that the VLS Vulcan has an MSRP of $60, this atomizer is a brilliant deal. It’s as good for better than most rebuildable atomizers in the $80-$100 range. After using the VLS Vulcan for roughly one month, it has become one of my favorite atomizers in my collection. I love the way it looks, the amount of juice it holds, and the way it performs. If you’re cool with the atomizer’s atypical height and the airflow that it offers, you’ll be thrilled by what the VLS Vulcan offers for a very fair price of $60.

Vaping Diaries #218: Wu Tang House of Mods El Sigilo Review

One of the latest offerings from Wu Tang House of Mods — one of my favorite Filipino modders — is the El Sigilo. This mechanical mod features a unique design and fantastic aesthetics. The standard model available in brass and stainless steel, as well as a torched steel “special edition” covered in this review. It’s also available in copper, but with zodiac sign aesthetics rather than Filipino-style engravings. All models come with 18650 and 18350 tubes. The El Sigilio ships in a treasure chest that contains the mod, as well as tools for unscrewing the caps.

While I was enamored by the El Sigilo’s aesthetics and admired the minimalistic design, there were a few aspects of the mod that could have been a little bit better. Here’s the breakdown.

Design and Ergonomics: The most unique aspect of the El Sigilo is its physical design. Instead of using end caps that screw onto the main tube, this mod uses end caps that screw into the main tube. This gives the El Sigilo a wonderfully minimalistic look and makes it shorter than most competing mods. While I found it easy to manage the caps with my fingernails, Wu Tang House of Mods includes two sets of clips for unscrewing the caps.

The main tube features Baybayin engravings, while the special edition has an additional set of engravings on the opposite side (check the video for details). For those of you not familiar with Baybayin, it was the primary script used in the Philippines prior to Spanish colonization.

The El Sigilo’s button has a medium feel and throw. As someone that likes a short throw and light feel, I liked this mod’s button action, but didn’t love it. That said, I think that most vapers will be satisfied with the button feel.

With its uniquely Filipino aesthetics and minimalist, I love the way this mod looks. The physical design also keeps the mod shorter than most, whether you’re rocking 18650 or 18350. Wu Tang House of Modz knocked it out of the park with the El Sigilo, as far as design goes.

Build Quality and Construction: The build quality of the El Sigilo is very good, but a tad shy of great. On the outside, everything looks wonderful, with smooth lines and excellent engravings. On the inside, things could have been a little bit better. The threads on the caps and tubes feel smooth, but there are some visible burrs. Some vapers won’t mind that at all, but those that place a premium on impeccable build quality and top-notch performance might have an issue with the machining.

Performance: For a stainless steel mod, the El Sigilo is a strong performer. The silver-plated contacts and brass caps help conductivity. However, there are a few factors that prevent this mod from being an outstanding performer. Obviously stainless steel isn’t as conductive as brass or copper, but the (slight) performance issues go beyond that. As I mentioned before, the threads are good, but not great. Finely machined threads with high tolerances are an important aspect of maximizing conductivity.

If you like the El Sigilo’s design and want top performance then you should go with the brass or copper models over the stainless steel or torched steel models. Even then, there are a number of mods out there with better machining that translates to better performance.

Wu Tang House of Mods El Sigilo Review

Verdict: The El Sigilo is another hit from Wu Tang House of Modz. As a Filipino-American, I absolutely love the way the mod looks. I’m a fan of minimalistic mods and the El Sigilo can certainly be classified as such. The baybayin engraving is awesome and looks especially sweet on torched steel. As far as aesthetics go, this is easily my favorite-looking mod in my collection.

Having said that, there are a few things that prevent it from being my favorite overall mod. The performance is very good for a stainless steel mod, but the El Sigilo doesn’t hit as hard as various brass and copper mods I’ve used. The workmanship is also very good, but not quite great. Certainly Wu Tang is competitive with the majority of mod makers out there, but companies like Vapour Art, Super-T Manufacturing, and others are in another league.

I’m happy to own the El Sigilo from Wu Tang House of Modz. Looking at it always makes me happy and it always gets a fair amount of attention when I bring it to vape shops. Aesthetically, I adore it, but I just wish that the threads were perfectly smooth and that it hit a bit harder.

Vaping Diaries #216: River Bottom Fog Sauce Review I

Vapers that love authentic tobacco are in for a real treat with River Bottom Fog Sauce. This relatively new e-liquid company specializes in juices made with naturally-extracted tobaccos (NETs). While River Bottom Fog Sauce is one of the newest NET e-liquid companies in the business, it has already established itself as a top-tier juice maker, as far as NETs go. I’ve been vaping three of the company’s juices for the last few months: Fabulous & Burley, St. James Parish, and Poet & Scholar. I was very, very impressed by these juices and surprised by the quality.

River Bottom Fog Sauce juices are available through VapingWatch for $22 for a 30ml bottle. While the price is more expensive than competing online NET vendors, the prices are inline with retail offerings. The juices come in glass bottles, but don’t have a dripper. If you’re into NET juices or are looking for an authentic tobacco taste then I highly recommend checking out River Bottom Fog Sauce’s offerings and giving the company a shot. As for the three flavors I’ve vaped, here are my tasting notes.

Fabulous & Burley: This is a mix of burley tobacco and a light vanilla flavor. Burley is one of my favorite tobaccos for vaping e-liquids and I really enjoyed River Bottom Fog Sauce’s burley extraction. It’s flavorful and smooth — a great tobacco choice for an all-day vape. The vanilla was good for me too, but not great. There are some fantastic burley and vanilla blends on the market, such as Vurley from Ahlusion and Vita Bella from Goodejuice. While I really enjoyed Fabulous & Burley, I like the two aforementioned juices a bit more. That said, this juice is certainly in the same league and I would totally understand someone that prefers Fabulous & Burley over Vurley and Vita Bella.

Juice Specs: 6mg nicotine, Custom PG/VG

St. James Parish: This is River Bottom Fog Sauce’s perique offering and my favorite juice covered in this review. I love perique tobacco, but juices made with it can have a certain “funk” that turns off some vapers. (Some equate the funk to a wet sock…but in a good way.) Even as a perique lover, most perique e-liquids aren’t something I can enjoy as an all-day vape. St. James Parish surprised me with its approachability. It has the rich, strong, and distinct flavor of perique, without the funk. That’s pretty remarkable. If I met someone that was interested in the type of flavor that perique offers, St. James Parish would be my first recommendation. It’s wonderfully flavorful, but much more approachable than other perique e-liquids on the market and, unlike many of its competitors, it’s a juice I can vape all day.

Juice Specs: 6mg nicotine, Custom PG/VG

Poet & Scholar: Out of the three juices in this review, this is the one that needed the most steeping. Initially, I wasn’t high on this honey-cigar blend; out of the mail, it had a floral quality about it that I didn’t enjoy. After a month of steeping, the floral taste backs off and the earthy cigar comes to the forefront. From that point on, the juice was much tastier to me and became something I enjoyed quite a bit. It’s a nice blend of earthiness and light sweetness. While I didn’t enjoy it as much as the other two juices in this review (I prefer pipe tobaccos over cigar tobaccos), it’s very well done and certainly a juice I’d recommend to vapers looking for an authentic, high-quality cigar e-liquid.

Juice Specs: 6mg nicotine, Custom PG/VG

River Bottom Fog Sauce Review

Steeping and Review Notes (Updated December 29, 2013)
On the advice of Wlad from Ahlusion, I’ve been trying a new steeping method as of December 27, 2012. When the e-liquids arrive, I leave them uncapped for five minutes. Previously, I left them uncapped for about two days. After the liquids are given a few minutes to oxidize, the caps are put back on.

RPad.TV e-liquid reviews focus on the flavor of the e-liquids, since throat hit and vapor production can be altered by the PG/VG ratio and nicotine level selected. Each juice is vaped over a period of days in a bottom-coil silica atomizer (The Russian and Aqua), various rebuildable dripping atomizers, and a clearomizer.

Random Thoughts on X-Men: Days of Future Past

As a huge fan of the X-Men: Days of Future Past comics, I was excited for and scared of the X-Men: Days of Future Past movie. Obviously the movie was going to change the source material — some of the changes were for Hollywood reasons, some of the changes worked, and some of them will make millions of fanboys cry out in terror. Overall, I enjoyed the movie. It certainly has problems, but it’s fun enough that I can see myself watching it dozens of times on cable. Here are some random thoughts on X-Men: Days of Future Past. (Turn on your spoiler shields, please.)

Ch-ch-ch-changes: Going into the movie, I knew that things were going to be rearranged to feature Hugh Jackman and Jennifer Lawrence. They’re the two biggest stars in the X-Men movie franchise, so naturally the plot was altered to give them as much screen time as possible. Some purists will be annoyed that Wolverine was sent back in time instead of Kitty Pryde. While I love me some Ellen Page, I knew that wasn’t going to happen in Days of Future Past. The kids (and ladies) love Hugh Jackman.

One major change that bothered me was Kitty Pryde’s newfound TiVo powers. For some reason, Days of Future Past Kitty has the incredibly convenient superpower to transfer someone’s consciousness to the past. The scene where the future X-Men’s TiVo tactics are explained is pretty bad, topped of by the even worse idea that Wolverine can survive a multi-decade rewind because of his copout vaunted healing factor.

X-Men Days of Future Past Mystique

The ’70s Ruled: The movie alternates between a Dystopian 2023 and a completely awesome 1973. It was fun seeing bell bottoms, afros, garish polyester patterns, waterbeds, analog meters, reel-to-reel audio, etc. I’m pretty sure that the making of Days of Future Past caused a temporary shortage of polyester. As someone that has always been fascinated by the ’70s (disco, drugs, casual sex!), I loved the past scenes of this movie.

The Future Sucks: All nerd movies portray the future as dark and awful. Days of Future Past carries on that fine tradition. The bad news is that the future sucks for the X-Men and humanity in general. The good news is that the fight scenes are pretty sweet. Bishop, Storm, Colossus, Warpath, Sunspot, Iceman, and Blink don’t have a lot to do as far as advancing the narrative, but they’re featured in some awesome action sequences.

On a side note, I was totally embarrassed that I immediately recognized the actor that played Warpath as one of the werewolves from the Twilight movies. Oh well, at least I can admit it.

Hot X-Chicks: I’m always down with watching Jennifer Lawrence in body paint. In fact, one of my dream jobs is to work as the guy that applies her body paint and prosthetics. She’s a beautiful woman, but you already knew that.

I was pleasantly surprised by how cool Fan Bingbing looked as Blink. I’ve always loved this character. I don’t recall if Bingbing had any lines, but she made for an adorable real-life Blink and Days of Future Past made fun use of her powers.

Anna Paquin is in the movie for like 32 seconds and I would have loved more Ellen Page, but I’m totally not going to complain about hot Jennifer Lawrence and sexy Fan Bingbing. Whether it’s the past or the future, the X-Men have some hot chicks.

X-Men Days of Future Past Blink

Excellent Use of Music: This movie will definitely win Academy Awards for “Best Use of Roberta Flack,” “Best Use of Jim Croce,” and “Best Use of the Theme From Sanford & Son.” I’m not sure if these awards actually exist, but they should.

Quicksilver Didn’t Suck: Going into Days of Future past, lots of fanboys were hating on the movie’s version of Quicksilver. Based off of stills from the set, he looked like crap. While he reminded me more of DC Comics’ Impulse than Marvel’s Pietro Maximoff, Quicksilver had a great scene that will make many moviegoers happy. Yeah, I could have done without the flippant line about his parentage, but his fight scene was very, very cool.

Tyrion Hates Mutants: Although I loved Peter Dinklage in The Station Agent before Game of Thrones came out, it’s hard to see him as anyone else but Tyrion Lannister. In Days of Future Past, he plays Bolivar Trask, creator of the mutant-hunting Sentinel robots. While I kept waiting for him to bust out an overly affected British accent, I appreciated his performance. The writing he had to work with was poor; the character was written as a paper-thin antagonist (i.e. science dick), but Dinklage manages to give Trask some depth.

Magneto’s a Dick: In the comics, many writers have portrayed Professor X and Magneto as the mutant equivalents of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, respectively. In X-Men: First Class and Days of Future Past, I’m pretty sure that being the master of magnetism is Magneto’s secondary mutation. It seems like his answer to everything is, “I know, I’ll be a dick!” While it’s clear that he cares about his fellow mutants more than anything else, his actions lack thought and his plans generally suck. Then again, I’m happy that he did what he did to RFK Stadium. That place is a toilet.

About a Beast: Adult Nicholas Hoult weirds me out. He’ll always be the kid from About a Boy to me.

Bottom Line: I enjoyed X-Men: Days of Future Past, despite its problems. I wouldn’t say it’s a great superhero film, but it’s good fun. Compared to the comics, it’s a bit dumber and not quite as grim, though it certainly has some dark moments. As far as 2014 superhero movies go, it’s better than Spider-Man 2 and not as good as Captain America 2. It’s one of those flawed movies that I’ll happily watch several times when it’s in rotation on cable.

Having said that, I can see some comics purists hating this movie. Some of the flaws are dismissible, but there are some comics fans that won’t stand for the drastic changes to the source material. When you combine those changes with the movie’s other problems, the film won’t stand a chance with some hardcore comics fans. Those guys and gals can complain all they want and I get it, but I’ll happily watching Days of Future Past again and again in the hopefully-not-Sentinel-dominated future.

Vaping Diaries #212: VLS Crest Cap Review (IGO-W5)

The IGO-W5 by Youde is a nice rebuildable dripping atomizer for vapers on a budget. It’s arguably Youde’s best dripper to date — very well built for a mass-market atomizer. That said, it’s a spartan offering and lacks some of the features today’s vapers want in an atomizer. That’s where the VLS Crest Cap comes in. This third-party accessory is made for the IGO-W5 and adds features that many vapers expect from a dripper in 2014. The VLS Crest Cap elevates the IGO-W5 from a good budget atomizer to a great one.

The VLS Crest Cap is made primarily from 304 stainless steel. It’s a two-piece top-cap that’s reminiscent of the one featured on the popular TOBH atomizer, as well as Cap-it-All Vapes’ Halo top cap for the IGO-W3 and Patriot atomizers. The heat fins aren’t as long as the ones on the TOBH, so it doesn’t dissipate heat as quickly, but still does a good job. Compared to the Halo, the VLS Crest Cap has better build quality.

In addition to the heat fins, the VLS Crest Cap features cyclops-style airflow controls. I was able to achieve a wide variety of airflow options by playing around with the positioning of the top portion of the cap. It can be closed off enough to satisfy vapers that prefer a firm draw and more intense flavor. It can also be opened up wide enough to satisfy vapers that prefer big clouds and an airier draw. Naturally, extreme cloud chasers — you know, people that appear to have bullet holes in their drippers — will want even bigger holes. That said, the airflow options on the VLS Crest Cap are broad enough to satisfy the majority of vapers.

The two-piece design of the VLS Crest Cap allows for easy and convenient dripping. With conventional drippers, you have to be mindful of realigning the air holes every time you remove the cap. While some vapers don’t mind dripping through the drip-tip hole, many prefer dripping juice directly onto the wick and coils. Since you don’t have to take off the bottom portion of the VLS Crest Cap, you don’t have to worry about lining up the cyclops-style slots.

To my eyes, the VLS Crest Cap looks better than the stock cap on the IGO-W5. I’m not a fan of the stock cap’s looks, especially the way it thins out towards the top. The VLS Crest Cap is 22mm most of the way, with a slight flare to 23mm at the top. The logo is generally handsome, though personally I would have preferred a blank model. Looks are, of course, subjective; most of my vaping friends preferred the VLS Crest Cap’s design over the stock cap’s, but a few liked the stock cap better.

VLS Crest Cap for IGO-W5

The VLS Crest Cap is available for around $20 online and at retail. I’ve seen the IGO-W5 available for around $20 online and $30 at retail. When you put these products together, you have a great dripping setup for the money. For $50 or less, you get a nice and versatile dripper that’s not a clone. If you’re looking for a great dripping setup that’s reasonably priced then I highly recommend the combination of the IGO-W5 and VLS Crest Cap.