Book Review: Fantasyland: a 500-Year View

FantasylandFinally, this crazy era of magical thinking, lies, conspiracy theories and greed makes sense. That’s what Kurt Andersen’s book, Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History did for me. I feel like I gained crucial wisdom from this brilliant work of nonfiction. He starts 500 years ago and explains in vivid and often humorous detail why Americans are exceptional — and that isn’t a compliment.

Andersen points out how the advertising of the 1600s looked quite different from the way it looks today, but was equally effective. It worked so well, that people starting coming to the New World in astonishing numbers. Because these ancient ad campaigns touted mountains of gold and a Garden of Eden for religious and magical thinking, most of the colonists were self-selected for their greed and gullibility. You can still detect their influence to this day.

This beautifully written book shows how we got to this dangerous and frustrating place, where few can detect falsehoods, nearly everyone has a pet conspiracy theory, people will do anything for money and the vast majority believe in devils, angels, heaven and a sky daddy who keeps them under surveillance 24/7.

Thank you, Mr. Andersen, for enlightening me. Fantasyland turned out to be one of the most illuminating, entertaining and enjoyable books I’ve ever read.

This Mini Drone’s Touchy Controls Will Take a While to Master

mini drone

One thing is certain about this RCtown mini drone: It’s a lot of fun to fly. But there’s one caveat to that: It’s not fun at first if you’re a beginner. It’s like downhill skiing at first — you fall a lot and it’s painful, but you get flashes of the thrills the sport can bring.

The RCtown mini drone is fast. You can get it flying so fast that you can’t think quickly enough to control it at first. But as you develop your skills, you’ll soon be maneuvering this little hotshot all over the place without incident.

If only the left stick (that controls altitude and spin) were less touchy, it would be a lot easier to fly. The slightest movement and it’s out of control. There are slightly bigger drones that automatically stabilize themselves, but not this one. It’s all-manual, all the time. That’s why only intermediate to advanced drone pilots will truly enjoy this challenging aircraft. I would recommend getting a more user-friendly drone that includes several degrees of difficulty in its feature set if you’re just starting out.

It also doesn’t last nearly long enough. See if you can find spare batteries for this one because the fun is over in what feels like less than 5 minutes, and then you must wait about 24-40 minutes for the next round of thrills and spills. Besides those drawbacks, this is one fun toy, and if you can fly this touchy, angry little bird, you can fly anything.

Noise-Canceling Bluetooth Headset Nails Speech Recognition

Bluetooth Headset

I have the toughest test in the world for a Bluetooth headset that claims to be “noise canceling,” and this one passed the test with astonishing alacrity.

What’s the test? Speech recognition in a noisy environment. When I connected this bluetooth headset to my laptop (an easy, almost immediate task, by the way), it aced my Nuance NaturallySpeaking application with near-perfect accuracy, performing as well as the multitude of specialized, wired USB headsets I’ve tested over the years. That is no small feat.

Then I connected it to my iPhone, turned the music up to 11, and held a telephone conversation in such a cacophonous din I couldn’t even hear my own voice at all. The person I was talking to could hear me so clearly, she couldn’t believe what she thought was “that soft music in the background” was actually blasting at a rock-concert volume level. We could also clearly hear each other talking at the same time we each were talking (known as dual duplex). Remarkable.

Beyond that, the headset is so comfortable I almost forgot I had it on, and it’s nice and light but doesn’t look or feel cheap. I love it. No wonder this product is aimed at truck drivers. It would work with the loudest truck in the world rumbling underneath you. It’s a keeper. Buy it.

Best Tire Inflator: I’ll Never Pay For Gas-Station Air Again

Best Tire Inflator

This tire inflator is an innovative, impressive achievement. It’s the best tire inflator I’ve ever seen. I had no idea there was a device that would let you dial in a tire pressure number and then pump up your car tire to exactly that pressure — and then turn off automatically. It’s magical, really.

I had a leaky tire for so long, and got tired of PAYING FOR AIR to pump it up. Now? Bye bye, 50-cent gas-station air!

When I looked at the pics of it on Amazon, I thought it was much bigger. That is not the case. This little tire inflator is scarcely larger than a football, so I stow it away in the trunk and always know it’ll be there, ready to go. A quick plug-in of its nice long cable to the car’s cigarette lighter and it springs into action.

Hard to believe a convenience like this costs less than $33. Glad I bought it!