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.

Vaping Diaries #211: Ahlusion Review IX

It’s Ahlusion review time, once again. This time around, I vaped a trio of juices from this outstanding e-liquid company. Two of them were naturally-extracted tobacco e-liquids rounded out by sweet flavors. The other featured extracted tea accompanied by vanilla. One of the juices floored me after a month of steeping, while I enjoyed the others, but didn’t love them as much as other Ahlusion juices I’ve had in the past. Here are my tasting notes on Shipwreck, Caramel Wild Wood, and Vanilla Black Tea.

Shipwreck: This is one of the most unique naturally-extracted tobacco juices I’ve tried, but it’s not among my favorites from Ahlusion. That said, it’s unique flavor is something I crave every now and then. Shipwreck features a light tobacco base accompanied by coconut and lime. In some ways, the tobacco and coconut combine for a richness that reminds me a bit of Five Pawns’ Castle Long. Of course Castle Long doesn’t feature tobacco, so they’re distinctly different juices. The lime rounds out the blend nicely, giving Shipwreck a citrus top note. The juice is lightly sweet (my personal preference) and the tobacco is, of course, great. Compared to the tobacco e-liquids I see at most retail shops, Shipwreck is a superior juice. Compared to the many outstanding tobacco juices Ahlusion offers, Shipwreck is really enjoyable, but not among my favorites.

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

Caramel Wild Wood: My favorite e-liquid in this Ahlusion review, Caramel Wild Wood features a medium tobacco base accompanied by a rich caramel flavor. Out of the mail, the caramel was too strong for me; it’s a great flavor that reminded me of Ahlusion’s Gold Member, but I wanted more tobacco out of the juice. After a month of steeping…wow. The tobacco becomes more prominent and the blend is outstanding. There are a lot of caramel tobacco e-liquids on the market, but few of them are in the same league as Caramel Wild Wood. The tobacco is fantastic — more distinct (to my palette) than Ahlusion’s House Blend and Tree River Blend tobaccos — and the caramel is marvelous. This is a juice that I will definitely order again in the future and only in big bottles. If you’re a tobacco fan with a sweet tooth then you’ll love Caramel Wild Wood.

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

Vanilla Black Tea: This Ahlusion juice is a mix of extracted black tea flavor and the company’s excellent vanilla. On paper, it seemed like a juice I would love. In real life, it’s something I merely liked. Initially, the vanilla was much stronger than what I was hoping for. After a month of steeping, the sweetness backed off and the tea was more pronounced, but still not as much as I’d like. The black tea flavor is excellent — rich and slightly bitter (in that pleasant way). I wanted much more of the black tea flavor out of this juice. Vanilla Black Tea is certainly a very good juice and much better than most of the tea e-liquids on the market, but the balance didn’t quite work for me. I would order this juice again, but make a request to go heavy on the black tea and light on the vanilla.

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

Ahlusion Caramel Wild Wood 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.

Vaping Diaries #209: Angelcigs Aqua Clone Review

The Aqua by Footoon from UVO System is one of my favorite atomizers on the market. It’s something I vape on every day and it’s normal for me to have two Aquas at the ready. Since I was mostly impressed with Angelcigs’ Kayfun 3.1 clone, I was curious to see how the Angelcigs’ Aqua clone would compare to the real deal. While it does offer a comparable vape, the Angelcigs Aqua clone’s build quality is rough and it’s prone to leaking.

What’s in the Kit: The Angelcigs Aqua clone comes with the atomizer, a matching drip dip, spare o-rings, and two pre-made coils. The kit is complete and gives newcomers everything they need to start vaping. Experienced vapers will , of course, trash the pre-made coils in favor of their own. The box notes that the product comes with two drip tips and a hybrid adapter for the Origin mod; only one drip tip was included and there wasn’t a hybrid adapter in the box I received. This looks like a case of the company copying the text from the original manufacturer without checking.

Design: Like the original, the Angelcigs Aqua clone is a bottom-coil silica atomizer that’s great for dual-coil setups. It’s not a 1:1 replica, but it’s close. The o-ring positioning is a bit off. The differences in design and workmanship impact performance (more on that later). Aesthetically, the Angelcigs Aqua clone can pass for the authentic model when viewed from afar, but when you see it up close it’s fairly easy to tell that it’s a copy.

Build Quality: While I was generally impressed with the build quality of the Angelcigs Kayfun 3.1 clone (for the price), I found the Angelcigs Aqua clone to be poorly made. The threads on this atomizer are very, very rough. You hear and feel the metal-on-metal grinding whenever you unscrew the atomizer. The tolerances are relatively low too, giving the atomizer a loose feel. Compare that to the authentic model, where everything fits together perfectly and the threads are smooth.

The o-ring material is different and the placement is slightly off. When you combine that with the poor threading, the Angelcigs Aqua clone doesn’t feel nearly as secure as the original. For a complex atomizer like the Aqua, precision workmanship is vital for a great vaping experience. I rarely have leaking issues with the real Aqua and when I do, it’s almost always my fault. With the Angelcigs Aqua clone, I experienced a lot more leaking due to the atomizer’s inferior workmanship and manufacturing shortcuts.

Performance: On a more positive note, the Angelcigs Aqua clone produces a vape that’s similar to what the real deal offers. That wasn’t surprising, since the design is straight-up copied. That being said, it’s not a precision copy. This replica can be a bit more finicky than the authentic model. You have to be more careful with your builds and how you screw the atomizer together in order to compensate for the inferior workmanship. Getting a great vape out of a real Aqua is fairly mindless, while a bit more care is required to get the same experience out of the Angelcigs Aqua clone.

Angelcigs Aqua Clone Review

Verdict: Considering the positive experience I had with the Angelcigs Kayfun 3.1 clone, my experience with the Angelcigs Aqua clone was disappointing. The build quality and construction aren’t very good, the unit is prone to leaking, and it just feels cheap. The good news is that it only costs $22, while an authentic Aqua costs around $175 and the well-regarded Hcigar Aqua clone costs around $40.

If you’re curious about what the Aqua offers then the Angelcigs Aqua clone is an inexpensive way to dip your toe in the water and see what all the fuss is about. If you dig it, then you can either buy an authentic model or a superior clone. If you’re looking for an identical experience to the Aqua for a fraction of the price then you’ll want to look elsewhere. While the Angelcigs Aqua clone is very cheap, its build quality and workmanship are also cheap.

Random Thoughts on Godzilla 2014

Last night I attended a screening of Godzilla. Here are some random and spoiler-free thoughts on the movie.

Godzilla 2014 Movie Review

Growing up as an Asian-American kid in New York, Godzilla was one of my role models. The Toho monster was pretty much the coolest thing on television. I’ve enjoyed the evolution of Godzilla over the years…until that crap Matthew Broderick movie happened. It left me thinking, “This is why white people Americans should never make a Godzilla movie.” When I first heard about Godzilla 2014, I was excited and scared. A Godzilla film with a big Hollywood budget and modern special effects was tantalizing…but would American moviemakers get it right this time? Last night I was absolutely thrilled by Godzilla 2014. The movie is 123 minutes of brilliant special effects, breathtaking monster battles, epic destruction, and surprisingly good acting.

First thing’s first — the CGI in Godzilla 2014 is some of the best I’ve ever seen. The monsters and collateral damage are stunning. I saw the movie in IMAX 3D and while the 3D didn’t do much for me, I was beyond happy that I witnessed it on an IMAX screen accompanied by killer sound. If you’re on the fence about Godzilla 2014, I highly recommend giving it a shot in theaters. Even if you don’t end up liking it as a film, I guarantee that you’ll be dazzled by the CGI (appreciate of giant monsters is required, naturally).

As for the film itself, it delivered everything I want from a Godzilla movie and more. The battles are appropriately epic and it was great fun watching the kaiju destroy various parts of the world. While I was sad that my favorite bar in the universe got trampled on, I was giddy that Waikiki was destroyed. That place is awful — like the dullest parts of Irvine and Las Vegas mashed up. It was interesting to see that the movie followed the trend of visiting locations around the world in order to appeal to a broader audience. In this movie, you’ll get to go to Japan (duh), the Philippines, Hawaii, Las Vegas, and San Francisco. Perhaps some European cities will be demolished in Godzilla 2016 (I’m hoping for Helsinki).

Godzilla 2014 movie review

The latest incarnation of Godzilla is the biggest yet, at a shade over 100 meters tall. While some longtime fans of the Japanese movies believe that this Godzilla is “fat,” I loved the way he looked. It’s a modern and more realistic take on the monster. He looks believable and familiar at the same time. Visually, it made the battles and destruction more impactful. Through advancements in filmmaking, the directors and CGI crews were able to create a breathtaking sense of scale.

The element of Godzilla 2014 that surprised me the most were the humans. Most Godzilla movies go something like this:

Boring human stuff, boring human stuff, AWESOME MONSTER FIGHT!!! Boring human stuff, boring human stuff, AWESOME MONSTER FIGHT!!! Boring human stuff.

One of the most impressive things about Godzilla 2014 is that a lot of the human stuff is really good. Sure, there are some overly dramatic scenes and a few instances of ridiculous anthropomorphism, but a good chunk of the story is very good. There were a few moments where I was so caught up in the drama that I forgot I was at the theater primarily for glorious monster battles.

That isn’t to say that all the acting was great and all the story elements were winners. The first half of the movie was far better than the second half as far as plot goes. Godzilla 2014 is initially driven by the excellent Bryan Cranston. He brings so much to the film. You feel his sense of loss, the pressure he feels for being viewed as a conspiracy nut, and how empty his life has become. The second half of the film is driven by Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass) and while he does have pretty blue eyes, they’re no substitute for the acting chops that Cranston brought to the film. Elizabeth Olsen is just hot. I melted a bit every time she was onscreen. Ken Watanabe was decent, but I’m still waiting for him to have a performance as great as the one he pulled off in The Last Samurai.

Really though, the human parts of the movie are all about context. As I enjoyed the human scenes in Godzilla 2014, I couldn’t help but think about Pacific Rim. When I reviewed the movie last year, only some of its human elements bothered me. Since it’s been on cable rotation, Pacific Rim seems dumber and dumber each time I watch it (the Honest Trailer didn’t help). Obviously some suspension of disbelief is required with Godzilla 2014, but it doesn’t have the nonsensical human elements of Pacific Rim that make it hard to rewatch (the robot vs. kaiju battles are still awesome). More importantly, the actors and writing in Godzilla 2014 are just superior to what Pacific Rim served up.

Godzilla 2014 Movie Review

A few random bits:

  • There were times when I wanted to call the movie Kick-Ass, The Last Samurai, and the Hottest Olsen Sibling Watch Godzilla Destroy Stuff.
  • Kick-Ass’ character’s name is Ford. I found that a bit distracting. There were times I wondered, “Is his middle name Pinto?” and, “Why didn’t his father name him after a better car company?”
  • I found every scene with Sally Hawkins completely distracting. The way her hair and makeup were done, she looked like a human version of Sarah from Team America. That was just weird.

At the end of the night, I left the theater as the Asian-American kid that gleefully watched Godzilla movies on a black-and-white television in the kitchen. That’s to say that I very much enjoyed Godzilla 2014. It left me more than satisfied, relieved that American moviemakers finally got it right, and anxious for a sequel. The special effects were better than I dreamed they would be and in between the glorious monster skirmishes, there’s some nice acting (mostly Bryan Cranston) and writing. If you find monster battles and wanton destruction the least bit entertaining then you’ll absolutely love Godzilla 2014.

[For another take on Godzilla 2014, be sure to check out’s review.]

Kingston HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset Review

Millions of consumers know Kingston for its memory products. Most of you have probably purchased PC RAM or a memory card from the company. Kingston is trying to make a name for itself in the gaming world and one of the company’s latest gaming-focused products is the HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset. I’ve been using a pair for the last few weeks and while it’s not the best gaming headset I’ve used, the HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset offers a lot for a sub-$100 set of cans.

What’s in the Box: A rebranded version of the QPad QH-90, the HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset comes with the unit, two sets of ear pads (one leatherette, one velour), a detachable microphone, an audio control box, and a carrying pouch. The packing and presentation are handled in a classy fashion — much more elaborate than what you see with most competing headsets in this price range.

Construction and Build Quality: The HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset’s body is made primarily from aluminum. The aluminum construction allows the headset to be strong and light. The unit is very well made, with build quality that surpasses many competitors in the sub-$100 price range. Many European gamers I know rave about QPad’s build quality, but the brand is uncommon in America, so I haven’t had any experience with the company’s headsets. After using the HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset, I see what all the fuss is about. It “feels” more expensive than a $99 headset.

The one minor complaint I had with the unit’s construction was with the rubber cover for the microphone port. It comes off completely from the headset and I can see many gamers eventually losing it. It’s not a big deal at all, just a tiny annoyance.

Comfort: The most outstanding feature of the HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset is its comfort. You can wear these babies comfortably for hours and hours. The combination of a light frame and great padding (headband and ear cups) works fabulously. I’ve worn this headset for several three-hour sessions and didn’t feel any stress on my ears. After using it for six hours straight, the strain was minimal. The velour pads are more comfortable, as long as you don’t sweat a lot or use this headset in a hot room. While I generally abhor leatherette (made from the menacing Naugasaurus Rex), it was my preferred choice; it was more comfortable for longer play sessions and the sound it shaped was a little bit better than what the velour cups produced.

Kingston HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset Review Front

Sound Quality: To help break the headphones in, I left the headset on for a little more than two days playing a looped playlist. After the break-in period, I was able to get a better idea of the headset’s sound production. Mid-range tones are the strength of the HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset. The bass is good, but not overly emphasized (see Beats by Dre). The highs could have been better. Generally, I preferred the leatherette ear cups, as they helped produce a more detailed sound than what the velour cups offered.

For sound quality, it really depends on the application. Obviously this set is meant primarily for gamers, so in that respect I was happy with the output. This headset worked quite well with the various PC and console games I played. While it doesn’t give you as much separation as a 5.1 or 7.1 gaming headset, the HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset does a very good job with positional audio. I had no problems in shooters or stealth-action games with this unit. Directional sound was reasonably reproduced.

The headset works well for most movies too, though for action movies you’ll want to turn up the bass on the EQ. For music, I found the headset lacking, though this is a subjective area. I prefer a flat response for listening to music (see Etymotic) and wasn’t pleased by how the HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset performed. The lackluster highs were more obvious with music than other applications. EQ can help compensate, but it can be tricky to get great musical sound out of the HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset. This wasn’t a big deal to me, as it’s a gaming headset first and foremost.

Microphone: The mic quality is good, but shy of great. Most of the people I played online games with said that I sounded clear and the voice reproduction was solid. There were a few instances when my online gaming companions said that my voice had a little bit of echo or some tinniness, but those instances were infrequent and there were other variables that could have caused those problems.

For other reference points, I used the HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset for an hour of Skype calls. In these cases, the people I chatted with said that I sounded good. None of the friends I spoke with reported any echo or tinniness.

The microphone isn’t noise-canceling, so it will pick up some background noise in busy environments. Overall, the voice production of the HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset is very good. I wouldn’t use it to record a podcast or anything, but for the price range and what it’s meant for, this headset delivers.

Kingston HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset Review Microphone

Conclusion: The Kingston HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset offers a lot for a sub-$100 unit. I was impressed by the build quality and comfort. The sound quality was good for gaming, but not the best for music. The microphone was solid too. In this space, I’d also consider the Razer Kraken 7.1. It’s not as comfortable as the HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset, it’s made primarily from plastic, and the default balance is ridiculously bass heavy, but it offers better sound separation in the same price range. If sound separation isn’t a big priority for you then you’ll probably appreciate the aluminum construction, great comfort, and solid audio quality of the HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset.

Vaping Diaries #208: Vapor Jam Review

Vapor Jam is an e-liquid company that was started by a gentleman that worked as an executive chef for two luxury hotels. Prior to his career as a chef, the owner was a touring rock-and-roll musician. He combined his passions and expertise to form Vapor Jam. The company’s line of “Rockin’ Flavors” features e-liquids with names like Stairway to Vapin, Beatle Juice, and Bohemian Raspberry. As a fan of rock and puns, these flavors caught my attention.

Several months ago, I vaped three Vapor Jam e-liquids: Comfortably Plum, One Louder, and Stairway to Vapin. I appreciated the distinctness of these flavors and it was apparent from the juices’ layers that they were made by someone with a culinary background. The juices vaped cleanly and are suitable for all kinds of atomizers.

Unusually, these juices are available at nicotine levels of 0mg, 12mg, 18mg, and 24mg. For sub-ohm vapers that are used to vaping 3mg and 6mg e-liquids (i.e. SoCal vapers), these Vapor Jam juices might pack too much of a nicotine punch. That’s unfortunate, because vapers that prefer lower nicotine levels will miss out on some unique juice. On a positive note, Vapor Jam e-liquids are inexpensive at $3.99 for 10ml bottle and $9.99 for a 30ml bottle. As for the flavors themselves, here are my tasting notes.

Comfortably Plum: As you’ve probably figured out from this juice’s name, plum is the primary flavor of this e-liquid. The fruit is complemented by honey and vanilla notes. The flavors come together marvelously, especially for vapers that appreciate subtle background notes. Plum is a fairly uncommon flavor and I think Vapor Jam rocked (get it?!?) this juice. It’s a great blend of sweet, sour, and tangy. While the plum makes this juice stand out, the layered taste made it my favorite of the three juices covered in this review.

Juice Specs: 12mg nicotine, 0/100 PG/VG

One Louder: There are a ton of coffee juices on the market, but I haven’t come across too many Irish coffee e-liquids. That’s exactly what One Louder is — a unique concoction of coffee and whiskey, with a touch of nuttiness. I found the coffee flavor to be very good, but just shy of great (though to be fair, I’m a total coffee nerd and what I think of as coffee flavor is different from what most people expect). Although the whiskey and nut notes are background players, they really make this juice stand out; these flavors give One Louder layers and a nice kick. If you’re a fan of Irish coffee then you should definitely give this Vapor Jam juice a shot. Although I liked Comfortably Plum a little bit better, I would certainly pick up One Louder again.

Juice Specs: 12mg nicotine, 0/100 PG/VG

Stairway to Vapin: While I really enjoyed the first two Vapor Jam e-liquids covered in this review, I wasn’t as impressed with Stairway to Vapin. It’s certainly a unique tobacco juice, with a touch of walnut that helps it stand out from most other e-liquids made with tobacco absolute. The tobacco absolute used in this juice is an original blend, not the common Bulgarian mix many tobacco juices use. It’s definitely one of the better ones I’ve tried, but it’s still tobacco absolute. As a huge fan of juices made with naturally-extracted tobacco, the tobacco flavor of this juice just doesn’t compare. While I appreciate that Vapor Jam did something original with this juice and it’s not bad by any means, I greatly prefer tobacco e-liquids made with naturally-extracted tobacco.

Juice Specs: 12mg nicotine, 0/100 PG/VG

Vapor Jam Review Comfortably Plum

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.

Vaping Diaries #206: Surefire Vapor Dusted Brass Knurled King Mod Review

Surefire Vapor has been cranking out top-quality American mods since 2013. As a fan of made-in-the-USA mechanical mods, I’ve always been a supporter of the company, but its initial mod wasn’t my cup of tea (hated the “hex nut” look). Since its start, Surefire Vapor has refined and revised its designs. One of its latest devices is the Dusted Brass Knurled King Mod. It’s a handsome mechanical mod that features fine craftsmanship and strong performance, but comes at a premium price.

Build Quality and Construction: The Dusted Brass Knurled King Mod is made from a fairly thick cut of brass. It uses copper negative and positive contacts. The brass has a finish that’s being labeled as “dusted,” but most vapers will see it as brushed brass. Whatever the label, the finish is well done. As far as materials go, Surefire Vapor did a nice job with this mod.

The workmanship is high quality too. The threads on all of the tubes are very, very smooth. The knurling on the top and bottom caps is well done. The design of the positive pin is especially impressive. Unlike many telescoping pins on the market, the pin in the Dusted Brass Knurled King Mod has tight action and a firmly secure feel. This is great for two reasons — the tight machining helps with conductivity and you don’t have to worry about the pin coming loose and falling out when the mod doesn’t have a battery in it.

Design and Ergonomics: Since then end of 2013, several mod makers have chosen to go with minimalistic designs, releasing comparatively short devices. The Dusted Brass Knurled King Mod is not one of those devices. It’s big, bold, and beautiful. Compared to some of the minimalist mods in my collection, the Dusted Brass Knurled King Mod is up to an inch taller in 18650 mode. While I didn’t mind the size at all, vapers that prefer shorter mods will want to skip this one.

Taking a step back, this is a modular device that comes with three main tubes. It can be configured to accept 18350 up to 18650 batteries.

Aesthetically, the Dusted Brass Knurled King Mod is best described as handsome. Branding is blessedly restrained, with the lion logo on the main tube, the Surefire Vapor logo on the firing button, and the text “Made in the USA” also on the firing button. There are a number of special editions of this mod with additional engraving, such as the #IMPROOF and #LONGLIVETHEKING models. No matter the edition, the Dusted Brass Knurled King Mod is a classy device that, in my opinion, is much better looking than the original King Mod.

As far as the caps go, I mentioned in the previous section that I was very impressed by the mod’s positive pin. It’s easy to adjust and very secure. The bottom cap is nicely designed too. The button is recessed (which I prefer) and it has a lock ring (which can be a lifesaver). The firing button has a short throw and medium-light feel.

Performance: I was surprised by how hard the Dusted Brass Knurled King Mod hit. I was expecting good performance and relatively low voltage drop due to its brass body and copper pins, but my expectations were exceeded. Generally speaking, modular-tube mods have the potential for more voltage drop than single-tube mods (my personal preference); every time you add a junction, you have more potential for voltage loss. This potential voltage loss can be limited through deft engineering and workmanship, and that’s what Surefire Vapor delivered with this mod.

The mod’s copper contacts are highly conductive, though silver is a more conductive metal. Copper also tarnishes faster than silver and is a bit harder to maintain. To ensure optimum performance with this mod, regular contact maintenance is necessary.

Despite its modular design, the Dusted Brass Knurled King Mod is a very strong performer. Again, a brass body and copper contacts are a great combo, but this mod’s performance surprised me a bit and exceeded my expectations. While there are copper mods with silver-plated contacts that hit harder, most vapers will be content with the solid power this mods offers. It hits as hard as some, but certainly not all, of the copper mods in my collection.

Surefire Vapor Dusted Brass Knurled King Mod

Verdict: The Dusted Brass Knurled King Mod is one of the best devices Surefire Vapor has made. It looks great, the craftsmanship is very good, and it hits hard. The only issue I had with it was its price. It’s available for $230 through authorized Surefire Vapor resellers and if you want silver-plated contacts then you’ll have to pay extra. There are many competing mods that cost around $200 and come with silver-plated contacts as a standard feature.

While I was very happy using the Dusted Brass Knurled King Mod and certainly recommend it to anyone looking for a quality made-in-the-USA mechanical mod, the recommendation comes with a caveat. It’s a great mod that’s slightly overpriced.

[Special thanks to The Vape Source for letting Johann and me film there!]