Ideal for all your vaseline/uranium/rose/butter needs

Amazon.com sells everything from Tuscan milk to Hello Kitty vibrators. And they were one of the first companies to incorporate customer reviews into their pages. But a few years back, some customers started posting reviews that were, um, not quite Roger Ebert-esque. I’m not talking about bad reviews. I’m talking about impish ones.

One of the first products to get the treatment was Tuscan Milk, 1 gallon, 128 fl. oz. For example:

I toyed with the idea of second business day delivery but Amazon in its infinite wisdom limited me to “Expedited.”

Order Summary
Items: $3.99
Shipping & Handling: $26.25

Total Before Tax: $30.24
Estimated Tax:* $0.00

Order Total: $30.24

Why go to my local store and pay $2.99 for a gallon of milk when I can have it overnight delivered for 10 times that price? I think I’ll get three gallons next time. As a current Pentagon employee, this makes perfect sense to me.

Others were pithier:

“Has anyone else tried pouring this stuff over dry cereal? A-W-E-S-O-M-E!”

Eventually, the New York Times got a taste, and ran a story about the milk reviews. Since then, reviews have rolled in that include the milk’s chemical composition, a wistful short story, and even a small epic poem.

But it wasn’t just milk. The Mountain Three Wolf Moon Short Sleeve Tee got the treatment:

This item has wolves on it which makes it intrinsically sweet and worth 5 stars by itself, but once I tried it on, that’s when the magic happened. After checking to ensure that the shirt would properly cover my girth, I walked from my trailer to Wal-mart with the shirt on and was immediately approached by women. The women knew from the wolves on my shirt that I, like a wolf, am a mysterious loner who knows how to ‘howl at the moon’ from time to time (if you catch my drift!).

So did Chemical Shifts and Coupling Constants for Silicon-29, a book selling for the l0w-low price of “$7,679.00 & this item ships for FREE with Super Saver Shipping.”

I’m a big fan of the NMR genre, but this book was really just phoned in. … It appeals to the lowest common denominator for cheap thrills when it should be striving to elevate the level of discourse. I mean, did we really need to slog through an entire chapter where Dr. Gupta describes, in agonizing detail, the time he took the spectra of two samples at the same time? He’s probably the kind of guy who’ll put his sample into a dirty NMR tube his friend just used, too. I actually went to the bathroom and washed my hands after putting this book down; I probably have hepatitis now.

If that’s too rich for your blood, try some uranium ore. Just be warned, “I purchased this product 4.47 Billion Years ago and when I opened it today, it was half empty.” However, someone else was “glad I don’t have to buy this from Libyans in parking lots at the mall anymore.”

Or you could just go with Wedding Chapel – 10 x 18 With Wood Roof for $21,420.47. (Did I mention they sell everything? Do you believe me now?)

Or the Grim Reaper on Skeleton Horseback Life-Size Prop for $3,699.43.

my kids just LOVE Mr. Scary Bones (as they affectionately call him). As soon as I pull him out of the closet they simply can’t wait to jump into bed and pull the covers up over their head. And they’ve certainly never slept more soundly. I don’t hear a peep out of them all night long. Thank you Mr. Scary Bones!

And if that’s too macabre, there’s a Guardian Angel for $149, and Vaseline Uranium Opalescent Glass Rose Butter Dish for $28.50.

Last week the butter was lost in the fridge, the uranium in a glowing cardboard box under the stairs and my bed was awash with rose petals and half-empty tubs of Vaseline – the usual scene of domestic bliss.

Now they are all handily together in one, urine-coloured glass jar beside my bed. Okay, so I have made the odd error in the middle of the night but, as my wife laughingly pointed out, the butter was a marginally better mistake than giving myself radioactive genitals.

Or Birth Control is Sinful in the Christian Marriages and also Robbing God of Priesthood Children!! (Paperback), for the low-as-hell price of only $135. Sadly, the book’s Amazon.com Sales Rank is 8,755,333. (It’s not selling better than Dan Brown? I’ll be damned.)

I suppose I could get all philosophic about memes and a new kind of art form evolving to a new medium, and it being a pungently satirical comment on the internet as a vast commercial wasteland, but whatever. It’s more fun just to read the reviews.

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Links to What Distracted Me from Working This Week

This week, I read someone talking about legal threats to bloggers linking to the New York Times. The writer made the comment that the Web is basically a giant copying machine. How true, how true.

In that spirit, links to some of the stuff I happily distracted myself with this week:

On the highbrow end, not one but two interesting pieces about online reviews. First, from the Economist, this discovery:

a handful of bad reviews, it seems, are worth having. “No one trusts all positive reviews,” he says. So a small proportion of negative comments—“just enough to acknowledge that the product couldn’t be perfect”—can actually make an item more attractive to prospective buyers.

And this one: A company that researches this “shows that visitors are more reluctant to buy until a product attracts a reasonable number of reviews and picks up momentum.”

Know who does this really well? Amazon.com. One company estimates that one little feature of reviewing on the Amazon site is worth $2.7 billion of new revenue. Wow.

On the middlebrow end, I wrote my sustainability tip this week about how green cigarettes are, based on an excellent article by Nina Shen Rastogi, a.k.a. The Green Lantern, a columnist on Slate.com.

Long story short, cigs are a disaster. 27 million pounds of pesticides every year in the U.S., nearly a half-million acres of forest and woodland cleared every year for tobacco farming, 84,878 tons of fine particulate matter (bad stuff!), 1.7 billion tons of cigarette butts … yuck.

message-traffic-pollution-mAlso, British project is showing the effects of traffic pollution. Using a network of wireless sensors near major roads, they collect data on carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, other pollutant levels, temperature, humidity and noise levels, as well as a count of vehicle passages. The result is a real-time “pollution map” of London, to help people choose travel routes, and government officials figure out solutions.

In lower brow fun, The New York Times has a great article about kooks who do like Star Trek’s Captain Kirk, right down to the costume, and building replica chairs. The photos are priceless. I’d run one, but the New York Times is pretty ornery about that nowadays.

The UK’s Telegraph has a list of 20 the most ridiculous complaints made by travelers to their travel agent.

One of my favorites:

A tourist at a top African game lodge overlooking a waterhole, who spotted a visibly aroused elephant, complained that the sight of this rampant beast ruined his honeymoon by making him feel “inadequate”.

On that note, courtesy of the Boston Globe’s Braniac blog, I also had to laugh at one of the funniest faux-self-help books I’ve ever seen. (Which is not for the more prudish of your friends and relations.)

And last but not least, some clever Brits did their take on what the publisher’s meeting might have been like for the Harry Potter books. Which is funny as hell if you’ve every tried to pitch a book.