Category Archives: review

My personal opions about [product].

Nike Strikes Back

A while back I was smitten with one of Nike’s Leave Nothing commercials. I am not a person who purchases sportswear, plays sports, nor watches sports. But somehow they got me to pay close attention to their commercial.

They struck gold a second time with another Leave Nothing commercial entitled “Fate.” This time around the vignettes follow a boy growing up, becoming more agile, and eventually becoming a football star. It is a well coreographed visual narrative with a befitting audible narrative. The tune is a sublte remix of Ennio Morricone’s song L´Estasi Dell´Oro, or for you non Italian speakers, The Ecstasy of Gold. Metallica fans will no doubt be familiar with the tune and/or falsely claim that it is a ripoff of their work. The non-metalhead will recognize the theme from the excellent 1966 western film The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Bravo Nike. You get a pat on the butt. But I’m still not buying your gear.

Pixar’s Darkest Film Yet

If you would like to read an average gushing review of Pixar’s latest offering, may I suggest a quick scour of the google.  You won’t find it here. You will find spoilers below. You have been warned.

wall_e.jpg

I saw Wall-E last night and was thoroughly impressed. The facade of a light-hearted love story geared towards children takes brutal stab at our culture at the same time. The malevolence of big-box corporations, the distraction of always-on mass communications, the proliferation of consumer culture, the exploitation of the environment, the growth of the ever expanding waistline, and the inevitable negative impacts on humanity are directly addressed. Even the Bush administration wasn’t safe with the penetrating “stay the course” line snuck into the dialogue. Wall-E’s message is pay attention to the world around you or else it will slip from your comprehension. It isn’t too late to change. I’ve never considered myself a huge fan of Pixar’s films, but I’ll make an exception for this one.

…I suppose the Macintosh start-up sound Wall-E makes when recharging can also be credited to my liking the film.

FedUp with FedEx – Update

Three weeks ago I was entrenched in a struggle to get a vital package of medicine from FedEx. Their constant delays were chronicled by an extensive writeup. I have just been informed via e-mail that the folks at FedEx Customer Relations are in damage control. They promptly replied to my terse letter in kind. They have refunded my parents $230 of the original $270 cost. They have also sent three $20 vouchers for my future shipping needs. I believe this act may be response to the 69 Euro ($94 USD) I had to pay to pick up the package.

FedEx Customer Relations did the right thing. No customer should have to fight a corporate entity for service clearly outlined in their mission statement. I accept FedEx’s generosity in recovering most of the costs even though I expected nothing in return. I will be using the certificates because, after all, I have paid for them.

I still, however, retain my firm stance against recommending and/or utilizing their services. I will still go out of my way to ship with other more reliable carriers.

Michael Moore’s Sicko

More than two weeks ago I downloaded and watched Michael Moore’s new documentary Sicko. Yes, I download movies and fortunately Moore has given people his blessing to do so with this documentary given the urgency of the topic it address. Even if you are not a big fan of his previous repertoire of liberally slanted films, take a deep breath and take the plunge. You will be glad you did. This documentary does go beyond party lines. Healthcare is not a partisan issue. Sickness does not care if you are liberal, conservative, black, white, in shape or morbidly lazy.

The documentary boils down to one question. Why do we allow companies motivated by profit to make decisions about our health? This simple question has deeper social implications. We pay taxes to operate social services not for profit, but because they serve community for a benefit on the whole. The fire department, police department, and education system are socialized constructs that currently exist in our society to operate on this principal. Would including health care not also serve society at large? Canada, England, France, and a number of other countries have been able to grasp this concept with great success. Yet the private and public sectors of health care in these countries coexist with each other.

Moore takes his cameras across the borders in search of a better way of doing things. In England patients furled their brows when asked how they were going to pay for their medical expenses. The concept was absolutely foreign to them. Moore repeats the process in France and Canada with the same results. By far the most touching section of the film is Moore’s trip to Cuba. This move has landed Moore in hot water with the US government given the long standing (and impotent) trade embargo still in effect.

The surprising thing to remember is that this movie is not about those who do not have insurance, but those who do. The unfortunate Americans in the movie all came from middle-class backgrounds and believed themselves to be covered for the worse. It was chilling to hear some of their stories. Should the first question we ask en route to care not be “How do I get better?” It would be a welcome change to the standard “How do I pay for this?” Go see the film out in theaters now… or download it. It is worth your time.

FedUp with FedEx

What is the fastest, most reliable, and cheapest way to ship a package overseas? It isn’t FedEx.

My family shelled out $270 USD to ship a package from Green Bay, Wisconsin to Marburg, Germany. I recommended using UPS or DHL for better results, but I can understand my mother’s concern. She is a nurse, after all, and the contents of the package are things that I cannot live without. It contains insulin, syringes, and blood glucose strips to treat diabetes. Mind you that insulin should not go without refrigeration for an extended period, hence the steep amount of money paid for post haste delivery. The package was dropped off on June 7.

Believing the package to be en route I merely waited for someone to ring my doorbell. If I was not home I expected a little card to be placed in my mailbox saying something to the effect of:

We tried to deliver this package, but you were not available. How can we get this package to you in a timely manner? Here is our contact information. Thank You, FedEx

After some time I began to get worried when nothing showed up. Naively I told myself that this kind of stuff happens all the time. People here have shared similar stories of packages originating from the United States not arriving on time. So I filed the thought in the back of my mind until more pressing issues were resolved. When I finally checked the status on their website and it read “Clearance Delay.” I called FedEx and they told me that they required a copy of my plane ticket, a copy of my passport, and a written statement before it could be sent out. I would have to fax all of these details to Frankfurt. Getting a copy of my ticket, a copy of my passport, and a written statement faxed out took quite some time and 0.90 Euro. After all was said and done I called FedEx the next day to ensure that they received my fax. They confirmed and I breathed a sigh of relief. All should be well.

It can be difficult to deliver a package when someone is not home. However, I cannot sit around and wait for this box to show up. There are lectures to attend, homework to stumble through, and other necessary obligations. So when I got home this last Wednesday night I received an e-mail that said “Unable to collect payment.” I immediately called FedEx to ask what was wrong now. They told me that an attempt to deliver the package was made, but I had “refused the package.” I was floored by this revelation. How could I have “refused the package” when I had not even spoken to anyone? They said, and I quote, “Maybe one of your flat-mates didn’t want to pay the fee.” How could anyone have told the delivery person that I wasn’t going to pay? I live in a single room… alone. There is no way one of my “flat-mates” could have told the delivery person that. Yes, please, do tell. How much is this fee? “69.41 Euro.”

Insulin is something you cannot live without and, unfortunately, my pancreas staged a successful coup de tat 13 years ago. I have no choice in the matter than but to pay this fee. The proposition of living for close to a month without proper medical treatment would be detrimental, if not downright fatal. Anticipating the collection of dues I walked down the street to the closest Sparkasse ATM and withdrew 100 Euro. I know exactly what the exchange rate was at that moment because my online account says I took out 134.63 USD. So 69.41 Euro after the exchange rate comes to 93.45 USD. Tack 1 USD onto that for the ATM fee.

But why the 69.41 Euro fee? When you send goods German customs charges a Duty-and-Tax Reclaim fee according to the “Ancillary Clearance Fees – Germany” page on fedex.com. I would like to think that the local Wisconsin FedEx representative informed my family of this nominal fee before agreeing to ship the package, but my instinct tells me that they did not. Nor did I have any indication on the tracking page to suspect any sort of impending fees. What happens when the delivery person arrives at the door and John College-Student has nothing but pocket change for laundry handy? Is it not logistically then more expensive for the shipping company to pay the man-hours to redeliver the parcel?

Seething to the brink with anger I informed FedEx that I would be home Friday, June 22 in the morning. They said that the delivery would come between 8 a.m. and noon. Just for extra precaution I put a note with my cell phone number on it next to the doorbell.

Note

Shortly after noon I received an e-mail update on the status of my package. What could it be this time? “Incorrect address.” The FedEx representative on the other line rattled off the address on the package to me line by line.

Kenneth Fager. – That’s me.
Ernst-Lemmer-Strasse? – Check.
House number 15? – You bet.
Marburg? – Affirmative.

Please note that the delivery person was able to locate my living quarters when I was not home on Wednesday, but unable to successfully locate it on Friday. Locating a correct address with “faulty” information is a spectacular feat. Being unable to locate an address with correct information after previously being there boggles the mind. All this drama, despite the note next to my name on the doorbell that said I would be there and had a phone number to call. The representative said that they would call back in a few minutes after this situation was worked out. Slightly over an hour later I received a call that the package would be delivered on Monday, June 25 between 8 a.m. and noon. For some reason I had my doubts that this would be accomplished.
Monday morning and I am wide-awake at 8. For some nagging reason I cannot fall back to sleep. I went downstairs to check to see if my note was still down there. Yes, it is. Now all I have to do is wait some more. By noon there was still no package in my possession and I wasted no time calling FedEx. They assured me that the package is en route and would be delivered by 5 that evening.

Finally, at 2:20 p.m., a delivery person showed up with my package. The first thing I noticed was that he was not wearing a FedEx uniform. I did not quite catch the name of the delivery service, but do recall being rather offended by the idea that FedEx may have passed the buck on this one. I forked over the 69.45 Euro and headed back inside. Fortunately the contents of the package arrived in sound condition.

The accompanying paperwork outside the box made everything clear. The invoices filled out and signed by my father have the correct information verbatim. The accompanying statements from my doctor also have the correct information verbatim. It was not until the package arrived into the possession of Federal Express Europe, Inc. that things got messed up. They copied my information incorrectly on their delivery sticker. Kenneth Fager suddenly became Kenneth Faerern. Keep in mind that my correct name and address were visible all over the package in multiple places.

Invoice

Magical Name Change

The thing that really gets me going about this whole situation is that FedEx never informed me of the problems with my package until I contacted them. Every step of the way I had to poke and prod them. Every day that my package sat waiting for clearance and delivery, charges were stacked up without my knowledge. What kind of customer service is this? My insulin has been sitting God-knows-where for over two weeks degrading every moment it is not in cold storage. I just hope the vials have not been baking in some delivery truck. I have just enough supplies to last a week. I literally am on my last vial of NPH and blood glucose test strips. It just may have been easier and cheaper to ship each item innocuously via regular mail.

Summarization of time and money spent to get this package:

  • 270 USD to send the package
  • 1.21 USD to send a fax*
  • 93.45 USD for the tariffs*
  • 1 USD for the ATM charge
  • 5x phone calls
  • 2x 25-minute bus rides
  • 2x 4 hour periods of promised delivery times
  • *=converted from Euro (1 Euro = 1.3634 USD)
  • Ship Date: June 7
  • Estimated Arrival: June 11
  • Actual Arrival: June 25

FedEx’s website has a page that outlines their mission statement. Under “loyalty” it says, “We earn the respect and confidence of our FedEx people, customers and investors every day, in everything we do.” I believe their pledge of loyalty to the customer to be an absolute farce. They have not earned my respect or confidence, but instead robbed me of time and given me nothing but stress for the past week.

This scenario is more than likely an exception to the rule. However, as a frequent seller of goods on eBay, I now refuse to consider FedEx as a shipping option. I hereby will not recommend their services and will go out of my way to avoid using them. If you have a package to ship overseas your best bets are going to be UPS or DHL. I can say with a certain degree of assurance that when I had problems shipping goods in the past, UPS and DHL were quick to rectify the issue.

A Million Watts of Sound

After a long hiatus The Smashing Pumpkins are back together. They are playing a reunion show in Paris on May 22. Their new single Tarantula of their return album Zeitgeist is definitely not lacking that “kick you in the gut for a good time” quality. Give a listen over at spinner.com.

The unreleased new Marilyn Manson album Eat Me, Drink Me, however, leaves something to be desired. I just have not been able to immediately take to the tracks. But more on that after the release date.

Network Neutrality and You

SaveTheInternet.com

Let’s pretend that you pay for internet service just to view this website. Yes, I’m that interesting. You check up on my site daily, so much so that your internet provider (AT&T, Comcast, AOL Time Warner, et al) notice. So they call me up and say, “Hey Ken of kenfager.com. We connect a lot of people to your free website. How about you pay us money. If you don’t we’ll slow your site down so that it takes a long time to load or we may even just block it. We’ll also charge your visitors more for their internet just for the privilege of seeing your content.” Large ISPs and Telcos are lobbying Congress to make this sort of extortion legal. It is happening to personal blogs, major businesses such as Google, small businesses too, and even political movement websites. STOP THEM.

Please take the time to call, email, anything to prevent a serious violation of our most valuable freedom, the Freedom of Speech. Information should remain free. It only takes two minutes of your time. There has been a huge grass roots movement behind this legislation. Please inform yourself by visiting one of the following sites. AskaNinja.com on Network Neutrality, Rocketboom on Network Neutrality, ItsOurNet.com, and even the C.E.O of Google asks for your help.

I called Senator Feingold (D-WI) and Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI) with the help of? SaveTheInternet.com. Even if you do not know what to say, they have a short script to help. Every bit helps.

X-Men III

I saw X-Men : The Last Stand on opening day, but have been pokey with my response. It is by no means an intellectual movie. It does however capture the spirit of the comic books in that it is mostly unadultured action, has compelling plot twists, and so-bad-they’re-good one liners. If you examine the themes of the story (i.e. Magneto’s utilization of NSDAP rhetoric, Xavier’s ethical dilemma when creating the Pheonix, Beast’s insistance of using diplomacy to stand against will of the President, et al) you will appreciate the character’s interactions even more. It pays to pay attention in school. This movie brought me back to a childlike Saturday morning cartoon state as I caught myself almost yelling at the screen.

If for some reason you did not stay past the credit roll. You missed out on a little tidbit that will sweeten the movie just a little. If you have already seen the movie and don’t feel like shelling out $8 again, just follow this link.

Just for fun, if you remember the early 90′s Fox X-Men cartoon, here is the intro.