Natural Light Seltzer

It’s 2020 and we live in a world of hard seltzers. Brands like White Claw, Truly, Spiked Seltzer, Smirnoff Spiked Sparkling Seltzer, Henry’s Hard Sparkling Water, and Wild Basin Boozy Sparking Water are flying off the shelves. It’s a crowded marketplace and more brands are throwing their hat in the ring.

Natural Light decided that they wanted to play too. They came up with Natural Light Seltzer. I was reluctant to try it. Natural Light isn’t a brand known for high quality. It’s for college kids and amateurs. But Natural Light Seltzer has a few good things going for it. Number one: it’s cheaper than the other brands. Number two: it’s got a higher alcohol percentage. It’s 6% ABV, most of the other seltzers are 4.5% or 5% ABV. Cheaper and stronger? Yes please. The third good thing about it: they have great names.

There’s Aloha Peaches (described as When Mango & Peach Go Beach Mode) and Catalina Lime Mixer (described as When Cherry & Lime Become Best Friends). I always enjoy a nice Step Brothers reference. I like both the flavors but I prefer the Catalina Lime Mixer. Aloha Peaches is a little too sweet for me.

I will always prefer beer over hard seltzers, but I find myself drinking more seltzers and fewer beers these days. My local 7-Eleven has a deal on two 25 ounce cans for $5.10. That’s fifty ounces of booze for under six bucks. That’s a hell of a deal, especially for San Francisco. Can’t go wrong with that. Unless you’re driving.

Try it. Or don’t. I don’t care. You do you.

Critically Rated at 13/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Watchmen (HBO Series)

Watchmen is an HBO live action series based on the iconic graphic novel created by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. It takes place in an alternate world where superheroes are real and cellphones don’t exist. It is brought to the silver screen by Damon Lindelof, the same guy who co-created Lost and The Leftovers. He knows how to tell an exciting and intriguing story with amazing characters. It’s HBO’s best new show of 2019 for a reason.

I had a bit of a head start when it came to watching the Watchmen (see what I did there?), because I own the comic and the Zack Snyder film adaption, so I’m quite familiar with most of the characters and the world they inhabit. Lindelof gives the show a twist by making it take place thirty-four years after the events of the comic. Some original characters return, some are missing, and there are new characters to learn about. Regina King leads a stellar cast that also includes Jeremy Irons, Tim Blake Nelson, Louis Gossett Jr., Don Johnson, Jean Smart, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and Hong Chau just to name a few.

The first season consists of nine episodes, each one running about an hour. It’s meant to be a complete story so it ends with a satisfying conclusion. They still set it up for a potential second season, but this season could be all we get from Lindelof and I’m ok with that. There’s nothing wrong with perfection.

As usual, I will refrain from talking about the plot. It takes a few episodes to get going. There are a lot of characters to introduce and it takes time to discover who they are and what they want. It’s nonlinear with lots of flashbacks and reveals. I was intrigued by the show before it aired and I tried to hype it up to my girlfriend, but she didn’t read the comic and wasn’t impressed with Snyder’s film version, and I ultimately watched the whole show without her. When I finished I wanted to watch it again, this time with her. It was too good not to share.

I made her watch the first episode last week. Then Christmas chaos rolled around and we were too busy to watch anything. We were finally free last night and we binged three episodes in a row. It didn’t matter that she didn’t ever read the comic. That shows how great the show really is. When we watch it, we actually watch it. Like our phones are turned off and we pay attention to the television screen and nothing else. It’s not just for comic book nerds, it’s for anybody who likes action, mysteries, villainous plots, philosophy, alternate histories, and blue wieners.

Who watches the Watchmen? People with good taste. Like me. You should have good taste too. Watch the Watchmen. And spread the word. Everyone deserves to have blue wieners in their life.

Critically Rated at 17/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by by Brendan H. Young

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A Pen He Saved…

I couldn’t think of anything to write about, so I opened my Notes app on my phone and went looking for ideas. I found one. It’s the story of my friend from work. He’s a server too and I noticed that he had an apron full of pens, with each pen being a different type and brand. I asked him why they were all different. He told me that he never buys pens. He takes the one that he finds and adds them to his collection. He rescues them and makes them his own. Smart guy. I guess that’s why they say a pen he saved is a pen he earned.

I crack myself up.

Critically Rated at 15/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Taking Your Shirt Off at the Barber Shop

I had to get a much needed haircut yesterday. I went to the local barber shop and there were a few people waiting in line before me. One of them was a local guy that I’ve seen around the neighborhood, and we started making small talk. He seemed like a pretty normal dude. Then it was his turn for his haircut. He got up, approached the chair, took off his shirt, and sat down. The barber didn’t say anything, she didn’t even blink. It was clear that he was a regular and this was his routine.

It was bizarre. I’ve never seen anyone strip down at the barber before. I get that trimmed hair gets itchy when it falls into your shirt, but you’re supposed to bear with it until you can take a shower. Showing off your nipples and back hair seems a little excessive. I’ve seen a lot of weird things in the city. Taking your shirt off at the barber shop is on the list now.

Critically Rated at 5/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Laura Linney’s Boobs in Love Actually

The holidays are here once again, and that means my girlfriend wants to watch Love Actually everyday. She put it on the other day and she started watching it with our roommate. She kept trying to get me to watch it with them, but I’ve seen it before and didn’t want to suffer through it again. At one point in the movie, Laura Linney takes off her shirt and has a brief nude scene. My girlfriend mentioned that Laura Linney’s boobs were on screen thinking that would entice me to watch it.

It definitely did not. I think I can speak for all straight males when I say that Laura Linney’s boobs are not a selling point. They do nothing to attract an audience. It’s a big waste of a nude scene. Especially when other cast members include Keira Knightly, January Jones, Elisha Cuthbert, Claudia Schiffer, Denise Richards, and Shannon Elizabeth. But somehow they thought we wanted to see Laura Linney’s boobs? I don’t get it. Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go watch American Pie. Or maybe Wild Things. They have nude scenes that sell a movie.

Critically Rated at 4/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Counting Toothpicks

A few years ago my friend was at my house and he knocked over a cup of toothpicks. The toothpicks fell on the floor and scattered everywhere. He looked down at the mess he created and said, “Aw man, I just dropped thirty-two toothpicks on the ground!”

I thought that was an oddly specific thing to say, so I counted the toothpicks. Lo and behold, there were exactly thirty-two toothpicks. I was amazed. A real life Rain Man in my own home! I had to test his skills. I grabbed a handful of change from my dresser, threw the coins on the floor, and asked him how many coins there were.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I just guessed how many toothpicks there were.”

And just like that, my sense of wonder shriveled away. I was duped. There is no magic in the world. Well played, Jon. Well played.

Critically Rated at 14/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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A Bad Beach Bonfire

My old roommate and his girlfriend invited me to a bonfire last week. There’s a popular San Francisco spot on Ocean Beach with a bunch of fire pits available to the public. My roommate works at Beach Chalet which overlooks the fire pits. Each night he works he looks out and sees all the fires glowing in the distance and it inspired him to have a bonfire of his own.

So he called me up, invited me out, and he swooped by and picked me up, and the three of us went out to the beach with a box of wood. We parked the car, got out, and went in search of a fire pit. It was around 7:00 PM and it was already dark but we could see four other fires burning in the area. We walked around looking for a pit using the flashlights on our phones but couldn’t find any and gave up after a few minutes. We dug our own pit in the sand, while commenting how weird it was because I just saw the fire pits when I was there a few weeks earlier. Oh well, whatever, let’s dig a hole.

It was pretty windy out, but we managed to get the fire going. We laid out on the sand, cracked open some beers and a bottle of wine, listened to classic acoustic hits on Pandora, and caught up with each other. It was cold and breezy but the good company and roaring fire was making it an enjoyable evening.

And then a man emerged from the darkness and approached us. He clicked on a flashlight as he got near, revealing himself to be a cop. He asked what we were doing and where we were from. We answered by saying that we were having a fire and that we were locals. He retorted with, “Well, if you’re locals how come you didn’t know that fire season is over? Didn’t you think it was weird that you couldn’t find any fire pits?”

Ugh. Damnit. We failed. The cop went on to lecture us for a while before giving us an ultimatum: either get a citation or go to jail. We chose the citation. We turned off the music, sadly poured our precious booze over our beautiful fire, covered the embers with sand, and slinked away.

We walked in darkness back to the car. We glanced back over our shoulders and saw the cop approaching another bonfire. Those flames slowly died out as another citation was given. Cars get broken into, houses get robbed, people get killed, but rest assured the police are making bonfires on the beach a top priority. Your tax dollars at work.

Critically Rated at 5/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Watching TV With Subtitles On

My roommate has the unfortunate habit of watching TV with subtitles on. He always turns on closed captioning whenever he watches a movie or television show. He says it makes it easier to pay attention. I wholeheartedly disagree. Why would you watch an epic Marvel movie in high definition and turn on subtitles? A constant text scroll distracts the eye from the amazing visuals and special effects. I want to watch what’s happening, not read what I’m hearing.

He says that it’s normal. It’s not. That’s why you don’t see closed captioning in movie theaters. That’s why you have to go into the settings and manually activate it. It would come on automatically if the majority of people preferred it. But he insists on turning it on whenever we watch something. And inevitably halfway through the movie he stops watching. He’ll start playing on his phone or leave the room to lay down in his bed, leaving me to suffer through the unnecessary subtitles that he insisted he needed.

I understand that a lot of people like them. A lot of people like killing puppies too (they usually work at PETA). You have to recognize evil in order to stop it.

Critically Rated at 1/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Ben Foster’s Head

Ben Foster is an actor. He’s pretty successful at it. He’s had a pretty good career. But he has a weird shaped head. His head kind of flares out at the temples. They stick out almost as much as his ears. A head is not supposed to look like that. He needs to file down his skull a little bit but I don’t think you can do that. He’s doomed to have an unusually shaped head for the rest of his life. We need to acknowledge that Ben Foster has a weird shaped head. The world needs to know.

Critically Rated at 12/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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What The Mandalorian Ending Means (Spoiler)

In case you’ve been living under a rock, Disney+ launched a few days ago. One of their original shows is The Mandalorian, the first live-action Star Wars series. Directed by Jon Favreau and starring Pedro Pascal as the titular bounty hunter, the show’s first episode has a twist ending that’s taken the internet by storm. I’ve seen several articles and YouTube videos trying to explain the ending and what it means. ***Spoiler Alert!!*** The target was Baby Yoda. And it means Disney is going to have a whole bunch of Baby Yoda merchandise available for the holiday season.

Critically Rated at 14/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Fire in Paradise

Fire in Paradise is a 2019 Netflix documentary about the devastating Camp Fire that destroyed the town of Paradise in California. Real survivors recount how they escaped with their lives, complete with actual video and hear 911 recordings. It’s tough to watch, particularly the tale of two teachers trying to calm their terrified students as the world burns around them. Or when a cop talks about the longest shift of his life. Or when an old woman talks about seeing fire and brimstone rain down from the sky.

One clear takeaway is that these fires are the new normal. And it’s our fault. They are a result of building where we shouldn’t be building, living where we shouldn’t be living, and climate change. Climate change. It always comes back to that. Listen to Greta. She might be onto something. The documentary is short, only 40 minutes long, so you have no excuse not to watch it. Watch it and hope you never have to experience it.

Critically Rated at 16/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Saying “We” About Your Team

There is an ongoing debate about whether or not a fan can say “we” when referring to their sports team of choice. Some people say you can’t say “we” because they aren’t on the team. I think that you can say “we” as long as you’re emotionally invested in your team.

I grew up as a San Francisco Giants fan. My parents are Giants fans, like my grandparents before them, practically my whole family are Giants Fans. I remember when the Giants won the World Series in 2010, my sister and I went to the victory parade, and my aunt thanked us for representing our family.

That’s what the San Francisco Giants mean to my family. They are a part of our identity. That allows me to say “we”. I’m entitled to it. They are a huge part of my life. We won the World Series three times in five years, and you can’t take that away from us.

Saying “we” about your team is totally acceptable as long as you don’t switch teams when yours doesn’t make the playoffs. We all know bandwagon fans that only support the Patriots (and once upon a time, the Yankees) because they have a lot of rings. Win or lose, your team is your team. When they win, you feel good. You’re sad when they lose. You get nostalgic when you watch old highlights or reminisce about where you were watching when the clinched the championship (unless you’re a Mariners fan).

On a side note: I think you can only have one team per sport or league. That’s a fair compromise. You can’t say “we” about everyone.

Critically Rated at 15/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Bathroom Line

I was just at my regular dive bar of choice after a stressful Friday at work. I had a quick round, paid out, and had to use the bathroom before I headed home. My bar isn’t usually too crowded, but it’s Fleet Week so the place was packed. I could see the two single-person bathrooms from where I was sitting and noticed there were three women chatting amongst themselves in front of the bathrooms. One of the bathrooms opened up one of the three women went in. A minute or two later she came back out and rejoined her conversation with her two friends. I got up, picked up my bag and things, and walked to the vacant bathroom and opened the door. And then the lady who just used the bathroom snapped at me and yelled that there was a line for the bathroom.

I blinked at her.

“She’s in line!” She slurred, pointing around one of her friends.

I said “OK”, stepped back, and let her friend go ahead of me. Then I turned back to the instigator and said my piece. Not sure of the exact phrasing but it was something like: “Just so you know, I was sitting down over there. I saw you three standing here and talking. I saw you use the bathroom. I saw you come out of the bathroom. Nobody else made a move for the bathroom. I got up, gathered my things and walked over here. I opened the door to the bathroom, and then you yelled at me that there was a line. If there was a line, she would have gone into the bathroom as soon as it opened up. That’s how bathrooms lines work. You didn’t have to yell and you didn’t have to be rude.”

I was pretty articulate about my points and my reasons were pretty valid. Her only retort was something about me not having thick skin. I guess I don’t. But I have to be nice to rude people all day at work, so I’m not going to take any bullshit when I’m off the clock.

I’m not a line cutter. There was no line. I’ll believe that until my heart stops beating and I take my final breath.

Another guy came up and tried to open the door to the other bathroom. I had to tell him that there’s a line and a line monitor and he needed approval from her. I’m petty, I know. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Critically Rated at 12/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Instant Pot

I bought an Instant Pot for my girlfriend and our lives instantly improved for the better. That’s not an exaggeration. Not even the slightest bit. In case you’ve been living under a rock, the Instant Pot is the miracle device that makes cooking easy and fast. It’s a crockpot on steroids. You can sauté, slow cook, pressure cook, even make yogurt if you feel so inclined.

We’ve only had it for a week and have already used it to make some amazing meals. We made a pasta dish, chicken tortilla soup, fish tacos, a pot roast, chicken with mashed cauliflower, and I even made some hard boiled eggs to stash in the fridge. I’m also a little ashamed to admit that we now enjoy watching Instant Pot recipe videos on YouTube. My algorithm now resembles that of a seventy year old grandmother and I’m ok with that as long as I’m supplied with more Instant Pot videos.

There’s a lot of hype about the Instant Pot. I’m here to tell you that the stories are true. It makes cooking more fun and less of a chore, and takes a quarter of the time it normally does. Like you can make fall-off-the-bone ribs in less than an hour compared to the six hours it takes in a crockpot. Enough said. The Instant Pot has officially replaced the George Foreman Grill as the essential household appliance. Get yours today. Join the cult. Drink the Kool-Aid.

Critically Rated at 16/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Outside Lands Reusable Cup

Man, Outside Lands was already two weeks ago? Time flies. For those who don’t know or need a reminder, Outside Lands is a three day music and arts festival in San Francisco. It’s held annually in Golden Gate Park, I live a few blocks away, and I go every year. This year they had reusable aluminum pints for sale. You buy a beer and for an extra six bucks you can get a reusable cup with the Outside Lands logo on it. The handle was a carabiner so you could clip it onto your bag or whatever. It was a great idea. Save the planet from unnecessary plastic and a cool souvenir. So I bought it on the first day with my first beer and I was stoked.

But apparently the OSL staff were completely unaware of what reusable means. I bought the cup so they could pour beer directly into it. Some venders did just that. Most venders did not. I brought my cup back on the second day of the festival and the first vendor I saw refused to use my reusable pint. She asked me when and where I bought it. I said I bought it at the same stand the day before. She said she couldn’t serve me a beer in it because I bought it yesterday. She said this while standing in front of a giant poster advertising the REUSABLE OUTSIDE LANDS ALUMINUM PINT. Whatever. I bought a pint in a plastic cup, then poured the pint into my aluminum cup, put the wasted plastic cup on her table, looked her in the eye, and took a sip. Refreshing and defiant. Delicious.

That seemed to be the theme of the remaining weekend. I would buy a beer and 75% of the venders would hand me a pint in plastic. I feel like I bought the cup for nothing but a souvenir. I wanted to reduce my carbon footprint with beer. They didn’t want me to. I’m still glad I bought it though. It’s a nice cheap vessel to drink booze with. I just wish they saved the plastic they were promised I would save. They used me. They should have used my cup.

Critically Rated at 8/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Mr. Pibb

Mr. Pibb is the Coca-Cola Company’s version of Dr Pepper. Well, it was. Apparently they changed the formula and the name. It’s Pibb Xtra now. It’s been that way since 2001. I had no idea. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

I always thought that Mr. Pibb got the short end of the stick. It’s supposed to be a clone of Dr Pepper, but it doesn’t have an equal name. Dr Pepper sounds important, like a soda that went to med school. Mr. Pibb has a generic title. It should have been Pibb, M.D. or Professor Pibb. Something with more clout. Now it’s Pibb Xtra which sounds more like a Mountain Dew clone. Extreme.

Critically Rated at 9/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Social Justice Vigilante

I was taking the train to work this morning. It was one of those new SF Muni trains, the ones with a long bench-like seat along the side of the car and another long bench-like seat mirroring it on the other side. It was the morning commute and it was fairly crowded. This older man, probably in his mid sixties, got on the train and looked around for a seat. He gestured at a mid-thirties business man sitting close by to me, and asked him to move his bag so he could have a seat. The businessman slowly pulled off his headphones, gazed up from the MacBook on his lap, looked the old man in the eyes and said “No.”

The old guy looked back incredulously and asked again to make sure he was hearing this correctly. “You won’t move your bag so I can have a seat?”

And the businessman repeated himself. “No, I’m not going to move my bag. It has important things in it.”

And this is the moment that I got myself involved. I pride myself of being a social justice vigilante. I looked over at the businessman and said “You’re really not going to move your bag?”

He shook his head and repeated “No.”

Keep in mind: this is during morning rush hour. There are a bunch of people standing up without seats, and this jackass is taking up two seats unapologetically and proudly. So I went off on him. “What makes you so special? I really want to know. Your bag is more important than other people? Do you want your own train car too? You are an asshole.”

I have to mention that I didn’t yell any of this. This was me calmly telling an asshole that he is an asshole, and the people nodding in agreement with me made him realize that he is in fact an asshole.

The older guy jumped back in: “You can’t be take up a seat for your bag. You’re also manspreading quite a bit!”

This younger street kid got up and offered his seat to the older guy. The older guy took it, and wouldn’t you know it, now the older guy and the businessman were on opposite benches facing each other. Older guy kept glaring at the businessman, things seemed to settle down, I went back to staring at my phone, and a few stops later I noticed the businessman slowly pick up his bag and place it under his seat by his feet. And that my friends, is what we call character development.

It was one of my finer Muni moments.

Critically Rated at 14/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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