New Sharpener Alert!

Sometimes, you’re scared that the enclosed sharpener will suck. My Faber Castell was fairly decent, the Staedtler is my go-to, and my stationery extraordinaire contemporary Dee sent a Kum wedge that I like as well.

This is the sharpener that came with my set of Nataraj Bolds, which were bought from Amazon. Currently Leadfast is featuring pencils from India; check him out!

This little guy beat my expectations because it is not only an adorable plastic body, but it has a blue coating over the blade that gives it a little life versus my other wedges. 

The point is not bad at all, either! 

I tested it on a Musgrave Test Scoring 100 and a Club Keno pencil.


Field Notes Utility

If you visit the Field Notes website, the first thing you should see is the latest edition. In the case of all the stationerds since March of this year, this is the Utility. 

Of the reviews and talk I have seen on the Erasable Podcast, in episode 70, there is a resounding approval for the color scheme and thematic concept of the edition, which was released early while no one knew we were to get blasted twice more by winter weather (the office lost power for a day, hence no update last week). There was also a resounding “ew” for the book’s quality control, specifically the tears in the binding at the very top and bottom. I just tore the excess fraying off, like I do with my Lent and Advent devotional books, but Johnny from Erasable had some nasty spines on his pack. That is as watered down as the general consensus can be for this article. Personal preference prevails in the deeper reviews of this book.

The Utility is my first ordered Field Notes book set, period. Ever. The last time I had pocket notebooks was February 2016, from the company Word. The size was great, and so was the cover stock, which was flexible and a beautiful black. My only things were the lack of tooth in the paper and the wafer-thin pages that were inside. 

Enter the Utility, which is the antithesis of the standard pocket notebook. It’s thick, gawdy, and rough as our Michigan weather. I was ecstatic when it came in the mail.

It is better experienced in person. I was not expecting the book to be so tiny, as I was spoiled by my gifted Roastery edition, but the fragrance and feel of the books was incredible to me. The belly band is extremely snug, but I want it that way. I specifically ordered this set as my first Field Notes because of the tooth, and because of the heavy paper. My spiral notebooks that come rough once in a blue moon can’t compete. 

It is blown at the spine because of the thick pages, and the book gets even thicker and more floppy when you use it. My current book has been used up halfway in its first 24 hours. 

The two words I would describe would be “ingenious” and “unique”. Despite the extraneous fold-out ruler (according to one reviewer), I think it’s adorable. If ever I need one, it’s there. Did I mention that the book just feels great in the fingers? It does. I’m bouncing around in topics here, but I love the book, and although stationerds may feel peeved at the tooth of the page, I love the smearing and the use and the soft 4Bs that are getting rubbed about on the back cover from my graphite-y paws.

I am extremely happy that my Field Notes experience was with the Utility. I’m using it as my drafting book for one of my larger projects, and I think I know what I will be using pocket notebooks for from now on. 

Like the Utility, I will specifically be looking for heavy paper and toothy paper for the next little while, and if you like that gritty earthy texture in a notebook, then we should ride this train together. :3

Kill Winter With Orange, featuring Pepsi (Citrus 1893 Review)

I’m on a shopping trip with my dear buddy bro when I see this bright orange can amongst the Mountain Dew tallboys. I’m a sucker for Pepsi products and the color orange, so of course I made that my purchase for the night. 

In case you haven’t heard of this new fantastical cola unicorn, Pepsi 1893 was released (in my location of Midwestern Winterfell) in spring, 2016, and was modelled after Mountain Dew Black Label in the vein of using bitters and herbal components in a can with that Pepsi bite. I think it’s genius. My hipster side fangirls each time I roll through the pop aisle. Craft is the shizznit, and you can’t tell me otherwise. Did I mention that the line name is. historical reference to Pepsi’s infancy in the nineteenth century? It’s totally a reference to Pepsi’s infancy in the nineteenth century. *swoon*

This line of Pepsi product uses Kola nut extract, aromatic bitters, and  flavoring to create their variants, of which there are now three: original (the pop after my own Irish Slav heart), ginger (nah, son), and now citrus. The citrus 1893 is the newest on the scene. I had this can opened and at my side on and off for a few days, it being days because I limit pop content when I’m doing training at the Marine RSS. 

The packaging is, in my opinion, perfect. The color choice gives me life. Between my stationerds on Instagram tagging pics with “Kill Winter With Orange 2017” and the winter Field Notes featuring orange accents on chrome, the timing for this release was spot-on. It’s one shade darker than hunter orange, and the graphic looks wrapped between the nutrition facts and the product specs. It sticks out to the eye and is just a good color anyway. When I cracked the can there was a grapefruit aura at the opening. 

The 1893 is quite literally a one-two punch. First is that blast of – surprise! – grapefruit flavor, light and not the sour bane of my childhood in pulpy juice form. The second part of this beverage comes on at the back of the mouth and as the after taste, and if you aren’t used to it you will hate it. It’s a stabbing, dry, broad Kola nut that is, in comparison, easier in just the black cola variant. This second sensation completely overrides the citrus flavor, but was more than likely intended to as a member of the 1893 line.

The top of this drink reminds me of Mountain Dew White Label, and if I had to choose between White Label and citrus 1893 I would take the former, if I wanted just the citrus kick. However, 1893 is a perfectly wild card option when you want something strong. There is always time for robust flavors.

Be forewarned when trying this product: you will only smell the grapefruit and the Kola finish when this can rides shotgun. That mega-Kola explosion is not evident until it is happening, and your snoot will be none the wiser. 

I am very glad that this wasn’t another orange extracted soda a la Sunkist-Crush-Fanta. Orange fruit is good, but you can only reproduce it so many times.

I do recommend this product for people who like the bold taste: my ginger ale, black Guinness draught people. This is not a flavor profile for the faint of heart, including me, but if you’re taking a trip to the wild side and switching up your Pepsi content, this will be an undeniable adventure for your carbonated soft drink game. 

Axe Has An Identity Crisis

Between White Label (eeeeyyyy Mountain Dew!), Matte Effect, Signature, and whatever the heck they are calling the standard line that has Kilo and Phoenix and them, the Axe branding model looks more like a rubber band ball at present. 

The packaging of Axe products has seen two facelifts in five years, and with classics like Pepsi not even budging their font since the late 2000s, this may be a red flag of a brand fighting for relevance in a world of marketing old brands as something more posh and more new than they actually were. 

The line expansion done correctly was Old Spice’s Fresher, Wild, and Hardest Working collections. Personally I could do without the hypermasculine jargon on the labels (then again Marines are hyped anyway simply for being Marines), but the brand has maintained a steady line of scents and neatly organized them into thematic groups. Three scents of Old Spice have been rebranded since 2013: Belize to Citron, Komodo to Desperado, and Lionpride to Krakengard. They still fit in a line of sorts. Axe, in comparison, is just getting confusing. 

My example of this isn’t the stumbling progression of their fancy-name line (Urban, Adrenaline, Signature, and Gold, which smell great but are either in their own category or are categories). It’s a more obvious representation. 

My first experience with Axe hair products was around 2013 when I came back from semester break with a haphazard attempt at a fauxhawk. I was trying to show a girl I fell out with that I was doing just fine without her alliance in my department (she continued to ignore me; shocking). The can that that mess came out of was bulky and perfect for my college douchboy identity. I was trying to be what I wasn’t. 

Now, we have what I actually use, which I bought somewhere between then and last year. It’s a lot more honest about the content, and are easier to fight with than tiny tins of pomade.

Note how the second photo boasts that the design is new. If only they had added that it was short-lived. 

Lastly, we’ve got the tiny tin, which has won over in our age of minimalist marketing. I’m as hipster as the next, but when you can’t remember what your brand looks like, it gets pretty frustrating. 

The endless revamps don’t stop there. Below are two redesigns of the Axe body wash that have a source citation for their brand being so popular. Citations = timelines. This makes this research fun.

Axe Peace was a revamp circa 2014, or at earliest 2013, since the citation of the brand’s consumer trend is 2012. The Excite, which is the current design, has to be around 2015. The citation on this bottle is 2014. So we have two confirmed overhauls within about two years of each other. I see this as problematic because Axe has lost its “look”. To be quite honest, I hope the current design sticks around, but I can’t guarantee that, either.

Sostanza: The Forty Dollar Pencil

The pencil I purchased is hardly as graceful as the photos on the Kickstarter, found here,  but it is every bit as novel an item as the website describes it to be. 

First, let’s dig into what kind of pencil this thing is. A clutch pencil is more or less a shell of metal or plastic that holds a thick line of lead (1.0 mm and higher), and can be advanced via button or other method of loosening the “clutch”. You’ve probably heard about the Staedtler Mars Technico, which is eaaily the most accessible of clutch pencils, but Mitsubishi also has its own line of lead holder with varying degrees. They are also color coded. This is the point where I start drooling aggressively. 

The Sostanza comes in a variety of real wood bodies, with metal finishes to match, since the clutch is released by sliding out a metal ring (it is extremely minimalist and extremely hipster, which makes me very happy). Mine is Black Walnut with a chrome silver finish. You can find online other woods such as pear, a deep red or a black. 

My concerns for this pencil were, first, the price. I knew I would have to save up. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s handmade in Italy, but the price is pretty high. My purchase was approximately 35 USD. The second potential issue was the body of the pencil; growing up in the woods of Michigan taught me how hard and how brittle the material can be. Being a percussion major showed me that any of the right force will break it. 

The Sostanza held up. I can squeeze the thing when I write, and I press pretty hard to the page. When positioned at the tightest spot the ring won’t move,and will even take some coaxing when you want to advance the lead, which is a stony HB grade. Also note that the Sostanza has the tapered design of a fountain pen, which is really neat to behold in person. 

When I write with the Sostanza, I describe the experience as “wood and stone”. The core that comes with the pencil is a very tough HB, scratchy but not as bad as the Field Notes pencil, which I nicknamed “Scratchy Sails”. I would say that the Field Notes is tougher, because you can feel the give of the Sostanza as it writes. My peeve about this pencil is that there is no way to sharpen the core, in addition to the fact that the wood seems to me a little thin, which brings on my aforementioned worry that the utensil will break. 

I have read a Facebook comment on the Erasable Podcast group that described the Sostanza as a “little cello”. I can’t say that I have heard the musical quality that my fellow stationerd has, but I definitely feel the lightweight aspect of the Sostanza in my hand. Spare leads can be found online and at OfficeMax next to the Mars Technico. 

The Sostanza is by no means at a price point that many would find within their taste. It is handmade in Italy, so that’s probably the reasoning, ha ha. I could easily see this pencil appearing in an episode of Frasier. I do appreciate the pencil for its experience and the way that it simply is. I would highly recommend it for a stationerd after something highly unique that is mostly functional. 

Taco Bell Got Lewd Again

I’m back at that review game. This post is being created in a different fashion than my White Label review, which was awkwardly tapped into my WordPress app. This draft started as handwritten. In the words of my fellow alma mater graduates: “Stay classy, SVSU.”

My tools of the trade as of this writing were the Tomsk Konstruktor TM (HB) grade, which does smell strongly of pine sap and freshly cut lumber. It’s very pretty as far as pencils go! Not much can beat Cyrillic in my opinion for the branding. I am also tag-teaming myself with a caffeine rush with both original Mountain Dew and coffee. Please note that the “tools of the trade” idea is a direct reference to the Erasable Podcast, which can be found here.

The Naked Chalupa from Taco Bell was released earlier this year as the newest weird food wrapping since the Quesalupa Venture of 2016. There was one limited release that I really loved, and that was the steak flatbread (hint, hint, Taco Bell people?). I liked the waffle and biscuit tacos, too, but I think a comeback of those is too much to hope for, especially when a reviewer talks about it using the word “regret”. Maybe I’m just buying into the opportunistic marketing of Taco Bell’s breakfast menu and Mountain Dew’s partnership, but I digress.

Personally, I hate the Naked Chalupa marketing pitch, with a passion. The last thing I need as a fellow on the asexual spectrum is the further sexualization of the world around me. I eat good food to get AWAY from that kind of experience. I’m hardly trying to re-create it!

The packaging of this thing follows that same idea of scandal and pornographic reference, with a “censored” print of the taco’s nether region in all its chicken-y glory. I must admit that while pixelated designs make my heart melt (blame it on my branch of service; semper fi), I don’t need the mental image of taco nether regions.

The chicken patty is a heavily seasoned, reddish wafer of breading and meat, and it is exactly as spicy as one would think. I think it’s buffalo chicken, but don’t quote me on it. The only things that bugged me about it were how thin it was and how dry – after I had eaten the thing, I felt grains in my mouth. Imagine chicken-bread. There, you go. Dry chicken might be the trade-off from having it be the taco shell, however.

What really brings this thing together is the insides: fresh tomatoes and lettuce, and the sauce, which is a very pale green and as spiced up as the chicken shell. More or less, the blending of sweet, fresh, and spicy make this thing a winner (of sorts).

Be warned, however: the Nude Chicken Wafer is a messy experience to eat. I had gone to town on a whim (my home office is in the rural colon of our Mighty Mitt) to get some Taco Bell, and I was indeed on the road, in my Marine Corps and university decals, my queer flag a-flyin’ in the sunlight, with a handful of pale green sauce and the veggies sprawled across my belly. It made me think of those trick glasses that leak your juice when you try to drink it. Ah, humanity!

One would imagine that the foil wrapping would catch the excess, and it does, but not when you are driving and there is no flat surface to be had. I would recommend the Lewd Chicken Taco for folks who want a fresh spicy experience, but you might want to wait until you find a tabletop to eat the thing on.

White Label: A Review

Here it is, finally: a review of Mountain Dew White Label. This comes as the companion to my personal fave, Mountain Dew Black Label. It’s advertised as being “crafted” (whatever that means) for a soft beverage. Frankly, I’m already impressed that they took more time on this line rather than having the same variants of corn syrup, not that there’s an issue with said corn syrup beverages. 

The can is white and bears a matte finish as well as the same design as Black Label, but in silver on white. I like the cohesive design.

White Label is billed as “mysteriously exotic” as opposed to “deeper” and “darker”. I wouldn’t have opted for that tagline, but I’m not working for the Mountain Dew people. Also, I got my fix at my alma mater. You won’t be seeing this on shelves til the second quarter of this year, or thereabouts. 

For the taste of the stuff, it is exactly what it says it is: tropical citrus. The top is pineapple with a grapefruit finish. Like Black Label, White feels heavier in the mouth than something like Sprite but is leaner than normal Mountain Dew products. 

The coloring is white, like salt water solution. 

I think this is a very good addition to Mountain Dew’s product line, and is an appropriate follow-up to Black Label. If you want to purchase some, though, that may be a whole different task. It is worth the trip.