Rapid Fire Reviews

“Because Snackable Content Sticks”

To stop living in a festering pool of guilt and internal tension, I’m going to reset the clock. Here are 18 rapid fire reviews.

Travel Edition Part 3: Amsterdam

Trains to Work – The only time the world can hit “snooze” on your perfectly timed morning is with a late train. Still, it beats driving.  – 3 out of 5 Stars

Zoos – Whenever I have a moment while traveling, I’ll visit a zoo in a weird place. Animal rights tabled for the moment, the zoo in Amsterdam is my favorite cuddly jail, it had wide awake animals all over the place. Talk about instant gratification! – 4 out of 5 Stars

Envy – A fancy restaurant Kate and I went to in Amsterdam. We sat at the Chef’s Table and had an 11-course meal, four of which were mostly foam based. Do I want to eat most food in foam form? No. Was it cool though? I dunno, is eating bubbles cool? Absolutely. – 4 out of 5 Stars

Misc

Our Current Political Climate – 0 out of 5 Stars

Jicama Sticks – They lack the crunch of carrots, and yet have the weird texture of watermelon. – 2 out of 5 Stars

Bohnanaza – A card game where you’re a bean farmer and have to trade with other farmers to reap the best bean harvests. You know it’s a good game when you’re standing up and shouting across the table “HOW MANY STINK BEANS DO YOU WANT FOR ONE CHILI BEAN GODDAMMIT” – 4 out of 5 stars

Twitter – I’ve gotten back into the word whirlwind that is Twitter. Avoid all Kanye tweets. – 2 out of 5 Stars

Chia Pods – We were mistakenly given a bagful of these in our last Instacart order. They’re like if you mixed bad pudding with the gelatin portion of pomegranate seeds. – 1 out of 5 Stars 

The Good Place – What a brilliant show, and what trust in the writing staff. – 4 out of 5 Stars

Cheers – Speaking of Ted Danson, this show is uncomfortably misogynist. However, that seems like a great bar to hang at. – 2 out of 5 Stars

A Career in the Postal Service – I’ve often dreamed about is being a mailman in a nice walkable neighborhood. You get to exercise every day, you could listen to podcasts at work (learn French!) and most of the time you’re delivering something important to people’s lives. – 3 out of 5 Stars

Jazz Flute – When Kate and I were in Spain, the only music we had at the house were a stack of CD’s her family had left. Most of them were classical, except one was an album that had crazy good jazz flute renditions of Brazillian music. An Absolute Banger. – 4 out of 5 Stars

Silent Discos on the Beach – If time permits, I try to run after work before the sun goes down on the beach. Recently I’ve been coming across a group of Burner types who all wear headphones and gyrate wildly in silence on the beach as the sun goes down. Whatever works I guess. – 3 out of 5 Stars

Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes – A recipe taken from Chrissy Teigen’s Cravings, put this in your weekly rotation now. It’s the deliciousness of mashed potatoes, sans the Irish guilt. – 5 out of 5 Stars 

Bad Blood – I just finished this book about Theranos, the Silicon Valley startup that tricked investors out of a billion dollars, and then immediately made Kate read it. I’m usually not one for nonfiction, but this is a fascinating and fast read. – 4 out of 5 Stars

Wearing My Suit to a Wedding – Got to finally break that bad boy out for a trip to DC a few weeks back. While people weren’t throwing money or their bras at me, I did feel like a million bucks (at a 40% discount, thanks Atta!) – 4 out of 5 Stars

Pumpkins for Decoration – It’s October again, which means I start stressing about my Halloween costume, and Kate goes overboard on decorating. Our house now contains a pumpkin that we will never eat. It will just slowly rot until I throw it in the garbage. – 1 out of 5 Stars

Crossing Things off a List – Every Monday morning I sit down and make a list of thing I need to get done for the week. Some of them are ongoing projects, but some of them are gimmes. I literally write “make a list” and then when I’m done, cross it off. I encourage endorphin manipulation at all opportunities. – 3 out of 5 Stars 

Calvin and Hobbes

This is the second of three-part series that documents the two-week journey that Kate and I are embarking on. We’re going to a beach town in Spain for a week, then heading to Amsterdam for work.

PART TWO: SPAIN

“Still Relative”

Whenever I have even the whiff of free time, there’s a strong chance I’ll spend it reading. So when I was tasked with choosing a limited list of books to bring with me on this European experience, I was noticeably stressed out. This is not a new trend in my life.

At the age of 11, I got in a screaming (and then sobbing) fit with a poor babysitter who was getting me prepared to spend a weekend away from our home in Los Angeles. I had packed a shirt, pants, socks, and then filled the rest of my large bag with books. They numbered over 20. The thought of being somewhere without the perfect book to read has been a real fear of mine since a young age.

Since our arrival last Friday evening, I’ve burned through three books and a few short stories. I finished the latest one, The Alienist, a copy of which I found in the bookshelves of the home we’re staying, early this afternoon, and I’m now in the sad funk between finishing a book and starting a new one.

To satiate my need, I read a few essays in Consider the Lobster while Kate puttered around the house and tided up (all while listening to a book on tape using her AirPods – this trip has included hours of silence between us as we’ve read. It’s been glorious). As I read, she stuck her head out from behind a corner and said: “There’s a Calvin and Hobbes book here!”

Bill Watterson’s genius comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes, holds a special and unique place in my heart. According to my parents, I began to read in earnest in second grade, and it was Calvin and Hobbes compilations that truly opened my mind up to the wonders of reading.

The layers of sarcasm (and competing philosophical attitudes) that were ingrained in the selfishness of Calvin, played against the earnest and through provoking foil of Hobbes occupied hours of my young life. I would pour over these comics with wonder, relishing each and every witty response, even looking up (or asking my parents) the definition of the vocab that Calvin used. My first encounter with the word “homicidal” was the title of one of my favorite compendiums.

It seems like Spain has given me a special love letter to reading in the form of an old Calvin and Hobbes book, just waiting for me to open it up and say hola. It’s not often we get to return to the experiences or items that formed a very core part of the person we have become, but when those little moments pop up, be sure to treasure them.

Much like the unique friendship between Calvin and Hobbes, I know that I’ll forever have an unbreakable bond with the sarcastic young boy and his come-to-life stuffed tiger whose adventures set me on a path to explore words and attempt to create worlds beyond my own two eyes.

And for that, I can only say muchas gracias, Señor Watterson.

Calvin and Hobbes – 5 out of 5 Stars

The Halfway Mark

“Couldn’t Have Done it Without You”

Holy crap, we did it.Somewhere between 26,000 and 52,000 words have been written, all reviewing things in life, on the Internet.

I started this on my birthday last year as a personal challenge, and to see if I could do it. I’m happy to admit that I’ve only missed one deadline, and have delivered The J.R.S. (riddled with double words and some grammar errors) to a group of devoted readers (you) 26 times.

This has been an amazing exercise in self-indulgence, and from the bottom of my heart, I truly thank you for putting up with me. As I enter the second half of The J.R.S. game, I’m going to be making a few more changes moving forward.

  • As promised, I made a website! If you had the unfortunate experience of seeing my accidental Twitter and Facebook spam this weekend as I uploaded all the old editions, I apologize. The J.R.S. will always be newsletter focused writing endeavor, but I did want to create a repository for readers to share.The website is unsurprisingly joeyreviewsstuff.com. I’m going to be fiddling with the layout and look for the next month or two. I want to keep it focused on words, and my next big challenge is to develop a more robust email capture system. For someone who works at a website company, you would think I would be more of a wizard when it comes to my personal shenanigans.
  • I’m going to try to keep the reviews a little more general. Now when I say that, I only mean that I’m going to try to write in a way that if you don’t know me personally, you’ll still get enjoyment out of the experience. Hopefully, that already happens, but I’d like to write with a bit of a wider audience in mind.
  • The length. When I get really excited about a story, I’ll blink and 800 words will be gone. My goal for The J.R.S moving forward is to keep the stories around 350 to 400 words each. More easily digestible #content.
That’s it! Thank you so much for giving me your eyeballs every week. It’s been a wonderful journey, and we’re only at the intermission. I can’t wait to see what happens in the second act.The Halfway Mark – 5 out of 5 Stars

Kate

“My Girlfriend”

Today is my two year anniversary with my girlfriend, and her name is Kate.

Technically, we met over two years ago, but our official romantic circumstances began 730 Earth rotations past, and I’ve loved every moment of it.

They say you don’t really know someone until you [insert rom-com cliche here], but in the last 730 days, I’ve been Kate’s co-worker, co-pilot, companion, and many other c things – my credibility is indisputable.

We met working together and when she walked through the door, I knew I was immediately smitten. I spoke with my friends that night about this woman who was consulting at my job, and I was met with a resounding chorus of “Joey, not in the workplace!”

So, like any gentleman, I bided my time and waited for the right moment. The right moment, like all right moments, started with a bathroom.

That moment occurred a few months later when I asked what she was doing that weekend, and she mentioned that she had plans to paint her bathroom. Doing my best George Clooney impression, I responded with a “Nope, we’re going to paint your bathroom”

Kate is one of the most driven and passionate people I’ve ever met, and for someone with such a zeal for life, she has true compassion for others. It’s instantly apparent when you watch her enter a room and start engaging with strangers. I’m telling you, this girl is fearless.

When I was up in Portland I was telling some friends about her, and they asked me what I liked so much about her. Without hesitation I responded that she’s incredibly smart, smoking hot, and most importantly, laughs at my jokes.

It’s the laughter that I’m most looking forward to in the coming weeks, months, and years. I’ve found someone who I can create genuine joy with, and it’s the best feeling in the world. We balance each other out, possessing complementary skills to one another assets, and while our relationship hasn’t had its ups and downs, it’s one that I know gets better with each hurdle that we get through together.

With a smile, wit, and grace, how couldn’t I fall in love?

Kate – 5 out of 5 

Felix

“Worth The Wait”

Felix Trattoria in Venice might be the hottest restaurant in Los Angeles currently. It received a glowing review from Jonathan Gold, and its Cacio e Pepe was called the best pasta of 2017 by Bon Apetit.

To grab a bite at Felix is a process of patience. Their reservations only go 28 days out, and they’re a packed house every night. You can try to get a walk in table at 5 PM, right when they open or hover near the pristine marble bar to see if you can snag a seat.

My Girlfriend and I opted for the long con. I called ahead almost a month ago and grabbed their next available table for four. When it comes to reservations you make, forget about, and then are pleasantly surprised by your foresight and responsibility, this is at the top of the list.

This actually wasn’t our first time at Felix. One of our best friends had pulled the exact same move a few months ago.

“I got us a reservation at Felix, but I forget to tell you. Can you come?”

This time, our friends who were going to join us had a last minute event, so our four top was quickly cut in half, giving my girlfriend and me opportunity to dine on delicious pasta, Lady and the Tramp style.

I’ve been lucky enough to spend a significant amount of time in Italy, even studying photography there for four months for my study abroad stint in college. I’m no slouch when it comes to pasta, but I have to tell you, the dishes that are being served at Felix are pure divinity.

Our meal started with this fluffy yet oil soaked rosemary focaccia, that almost had the consistency of cotton candy when it was in your mouth. We followed that up with grilled Octopus, delicately charred with a sumptuous smokey zing.

Then our pasta came.

Obviously, we ordered the Cacio E Pepe, as well as an Orecchiette and Lamb Ragu. The Cacio E Pepe was downright incredible. As I slurped down a noodle, I realized I’ve never had pepper that was this fresh. The lamb ragu was good but felt more akin to peasant stew than a pasta, but it was the Orecchiette that stole the show.

All the pasta that we ate was handmade that day, and the Orecchiette – which I had never had, almost was like an open-faced tortellini. Accompanying it was mouth-watering sausage and fresh and tangy broccolini. I had to make a mental note to stop saying “mmmmm” after every bite because my sounds were becoming a bit too sexual for a public restaurant setting.

All in all, it was an unforgettable meal. It was expensive, but I felt the costs justified the price. Can you really put a dollar amount on a food experience so good you start to moan? If you’re in LA or are going to be visiting it in the next 28 days, call in and get yourself a surprise reservation. Your mouth will thank you for it.

Felix – 5 out of 5 Stars  

Vaughn Arthur Walker

“In a Dead-Tie For My Favorite Nephew”

Dear Vaughn,

Congratulations on making your appearance into the world! Your unexpected early arrival resulted in a delightful text message to me, your uncle, last Sunday morning February 4th.

You chose a great day to be born. Not only do you share the same birthday as the classical composer, Johann Ludwig Bach, but you also decided to make your mark on the same day that over 200 years ago, our first president, George Washington was elected. These shared experiences seem like a great omen for your potential.

Speaking of potential, I know you’re chock full of it because you’re surrounded by the perfect pairing of people that I know, aka “Mom and Dad.”

Your Dad is one of the most patient and caring people that I have ever met. Your Mom is…less patient, but there’s no one I’d rather have in my corner than your mom. Her zeal and passion for life are unmatched, just make sure you do your chores on time and you two will get along swimmingly.

Your big brother is a dynamic bundle of energy that I’m positive will be your protector and model for as long as you live. Follow his smile and you’ll be destined for success.

You have not one, but two sets of Grandparents, so I suggest always going the extra mile to see how spoiled you can be. I doubt there is any gift that is too lofty nor any trip too far that they wouldn’t provide or embark upon for the simple return of your laughter.

There are other Aunts and Uncles who are great but let’s be clear, I’m the best Uncle. This may sound selfish or conceited, but history is told by the victors, and I’m winning this whole “cool uncle” thing.

Don’t believe me? Ask your brother. Before the age of one, I had him decked out in apparel that was representing him as the best baby on the block. I’m talking about clothing that has Tu-Pac’s face on it or a band shirt for A Tribe Called Quest.

By being born in 2018, you’ve entered a globe that is simultaneously scary and stupendous. Our country is in the midst of a crisis of democracy, but I think by the time you’ll be aware of politics, the bloviating buffoon who is incongruous with what our American values stand for will cause the ship to pitch the opposite direction. I have no doubt you’ll be alive for the first gay, black, and Jewish female president.

Sorry about the environment. We’re trying to fix it. It’s just taking a little longer than I would like to convince people that just because it’s snowing more, that doesn’t mean that we’re not doing serious damage to plants and animals.

On the positive side, two days after you were born, the largest rocket ever was put into space, with the sole reason of sending a car to Mars for an endearing publicity stunt. The Internet has made the world a nation of individual voices, allowing previously untold stories to ricochet around the globe at lightning fast speed. And most of us agree that we should keep diseases that we’ve previously wiped out, wiped out with vaccinations, so I don’t think you’ll have to deal with the fear of polio.

To use a tired cliche, you have the entire world at your baby fingertips, and I’m so excited to see what you grab onto and mold into your own vision. It’s going to be a true pleasure to watch you grow and consistently astound me and the rest of your family.

As you venture out and explore life with a spirit of bravery, adventure, and kindness, know that you have limitless possibilities in what you can achieve. Most importantly, remember that there’s no one correct path for life – as long as you approach each day with a smile and an open heart, you’ll forge your own iconic destiny that will make all of us proud for eons.

Love,
Uncle Jojo

Vaughn Arthur Walker – 5 out of 5 Stars

Facial Fuel

“How a Dolphin Must Feel Every Moment”

For the longest time, I didn’t pay attention to my face.

Sure, I shaved it occasionally, I brushed the teeth inside my mouth twice a day, and when the sun was out, I would slather it with sunscreen. Beyond that, I didn’t have a beauty regimen, nor would I put much care into it.

If Westerns taught me anything, it’s that a scarred and weathered face on a man was the ultimate attraction to women. When I busted my head open listening to Weezer, the doctor simply superglued my forehead back together. My mother was mortified because stitches would have left a much smaller scar.

I, on the other hand, was overjoyed that I had a good-looking scar, rakishly perched above my right eyebrow. All part of my plan to someday be described as “Roguishly Handsome.”

This lifestyle of non-face pampering changed dramatically on my 30th birthday. My girlfriend gifted me a blue tube of Kiehl’s Facial Fuel. Ignoring my protests, she demanded that I go to the bathroom and put some on my epidermis, and then report back to her how I felt.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it was a moving experience.

My face felt light and tingly, and it smelled good! I caught my reflection in the mirror and was floored, not only by how roguishly handsome I was but by the youthful glisten that gleamed off my forehead.

You couldn’t keep me away from putting on my Kiehl’s in the morning. It seamlessly became part of my post-shower ritual. It wasn’t a hard integration since up to that point it was a two-step process involving teeth brushing and deodorant applying.

If you’re a man and you aren’t applying some sort of moisturizer with sunscreen to your face every day, I strongly recommend Kiehl’s. Women have known about the secret joy of moisturizing for centuries, but somehow, we missed the memo.

Kiehl’s has a manly musk, so no one will mistake it for perfume, and its easy application ensures that you’re wearing a comfortable level of sunscreen to fend off harmful UV rays, no matter where your day takes you.

Our rule in the house is that I can only be introduced to one new beauty product a year. My post-shower routine now involves something called a tonic that makes my face impossibly smooth, followed by my beloved Kiehl’s.

Westerns be damned. I’ve got a rakish scar and a roguish grin, but my face is glistening like morning dew.

Kiehl’s Face Moisturizer and Sunscreen – 5 out of 5 Stars