The Best & Worst Gifts this Holiday Season!!

Okay first lets start off with what not to get people this holiday season… smart devices!

With the rash of recent lawsuits regarding Smart TVs actually spying on people, you would have thought the public would have gotten the message.

What’s the message?

 

If it is not family or not paying rent, don’t let anything in your house that is smarter than you.:) That means saying ‘no thank’ you or ‘good buy’ to all these spying devices marketed as amiable servants or harmless entertainment.

That means no ECHO, no ALEXA, no XBOX, no Smart TVs. It means trading in your Roku or Amazon Fire microphone remote for a regular non-microphone remote.

 

Here is the thing… you want to know what the weather is… do the search yourself!

Same with the news, or the traffic. Do it your effing self. There is a point where convenience becomes a cage, and ease of access a trap.

Every camera in your house (laptops, phones, TVs, smart refrigerators, etc), should have a lens cap. And every microphone in your house (xbox, phones, laptops, alarm systems, smart thermostats, etc) should be able to be physically disabled/disconnected. Being able to determine yes I want this camera off, and yes I want this microphone off, and being certain that they have turned off, that is owning things. Having to trust in the hardware or the software that it is not recording you, and delivering that info to marketeers… that is being owned.

And increasingly in ‘Smart’ homes, the homeowner finds themselves in the latter category.

So yes those are the things not to buy this or any holiday season.

So what are some things worth buying? Well this installment let us discuss…

Portable DVD/CD players

The music industry is happy to get high quality physical music out of the hands of consumers, and especially the ability for them to burn their own discs; and to take us back to the 1950s in returning us to the inherently inferior medium of vinyl. And if you don’t know vinyl is inherently inferior, than you missed the previous paragraph about being smarter than the technology. 🙂

And sure we have streaming. But streaming is largely a gatekeeper format. We empower gatekeepers to store the media we pay for. That media can then be changed or deleted as commerce demands. Even deleted not just from the cloud, but from your media player.

Music thus becomes reduced to something, that though you pay for it, you do not in any substantial way control the thing you paid for. A CD (full WAV, not that MP3 nonsense)and a portable CD player, and a good pair of headphones… returns that control to you. That is what I call a priceless gift.

Here then are my recommendations for portable CD players, headphones, and great quality CDs to test out those headphones.

WONNIE 7.5 Inch Portable DVD Player with Swivel Screen, USB / SD Slot and 4 Hours Rechargeable Battery, Perfect Gift for Kids ( Black ) – While marketed as a gift for kids and the aged, this is actually a great compact portable DVD/CD player that plays a variety of formats at a ridiculously low price. And comes with great extras including a carrying case.

Now while it comes with basic headphones I would recommend the following headphones and amp combo when ready to take the sound from this portable to a better level.

HIFIMAN HE-400I Over Ear Full-size Planar Magnetic Headphones– Not cheap at around $200 but it is actually nearly 60% off of its retail price.

A slightly lower cost, but still well reviewed and lauded headphone option would be:

Fostex T50RP MK3 Professional Studio Headphones, Semi-Open

And while not necessary, an amp will help deliver quality sound to your headphones. Get yours at the link below:

FiiO A3 Portable Headphone Amplifier (Black)

Finally here are some must own CDs for testing out your headphones and just hearing great music:

Human

Up Close

Get Up With It

Midnight Matinee (XRCD24 Master)

That’s it for this installment. Follow our suggestions and you’ll have a portable system that will offer superior sound for a fraction of the cost of other options. And if you liked this post drop me an email, subscribe, use the above links or leave me a comment. or do all of the above! 🙂

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Today’s Musical Standouts!

Blood – Strange and beautiful.

New Moon Daughter – How I missed this 22 year old album, from the prolific Cassandra Wilson I don’t know, but the sound is exquisite. Have to get the cd.

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I Tell A Fly– It is unusual to stumble across something truly original and strange and brilliant. This is all the above. A must buy!

My One And Only Thrill– Just heard her CD today, yeah I have to buy it!

Converting Vegetarians– There is only one CD left on Amazon. Good Luck!

Gift Idea/Product of the Day! LIFESAVER Systems 4000 Ultra Filtration Water Bottle

I just watched an excellent Michael Pritchard TED Talk on making filthy water drinkable. At only ten minutes you can view it here:

As someone who has always been concerned with the quality of drinking water, and has over several years tried various remedies to ensure clean water, the talk was of definite interest to me.

Especially as I see more and more companies pressure nations and communities to privatize their water infrastructure; I think water, clean drinkable non-contaminated or tinkered with for taste water (Dasani I’m looking at you)… is going to increasingly not be guaranteed. Water, in this ‘tail wags Dog’ America and World, Is going to start being a luxury item you have to pay for, rather than a basic necessity that should be freely available and provided.  And those who can’t pay for clean, non contaminated water, will not get clean contaminated water.

A Trumpian Dystopian Orwellian future, made ever less far-fetched as the more passionate among us do nothing, while the venal and greedy and ignorant among us, shout loudly.

Michael Pritchard is one who did not stay quietly on the sidelines, turning his outrage on tragedies of nature, and failures of governments and men, such as Katrina… into action.

In this case a portable water filtration system called LIFESAVER that checks a lot of the boxes, that others miss.

  • One it requires no external power source.
  • Two it is designed to catch just about everything, rather than just a few, and
  • Third and most importantly, and the one that most water filters fail on… it shuts the water filter off when it has reached the point of failure.

A water filter is only as good as that point of failure, and a system that lets you know when you have reached that point of replacement is indispensable.

In my house I use the zero pitcher, for this very reason. It’s a quick and easy test you can run on every glass of water, and when the meter hits that number of 006 TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) you know it is time to replace that filter.

LIFESAVER offers a similar level of confidence, where it matters even more… when you are on the go; away from your house. And I don’t just mean camping, I mean anyplace outside your home where you need to get a drink of water, whether that be the water cooler at your job, a public fountain, or a friends house.

I work for a billion dollar company, in a fantastic high rise in the middle of a major city, and way too often the water out of the tap, for the whole building… comes out brown. That is just not acceptable. And yes the company has mounted water filters, but are the filters getting changed as they should be? When the municipality of a so-called 1st World Nation can’t provide its citizens clean drinking water from the tap (or don’t prioritize such water), you begin to question the capability of every part of that chain.

We have this delusion in America, like so many delusions that allowed otherwise sane people to actually cast a ballot for Trump, we have a delusion that water quality is a third world problem. When the truth is, through the greed of billionaires, America is quickly becoming a third world nation. The problems of Mexico, and Sudan, and Kosovo, and Nigeria and India… these are quickly going to become American problems. Because we are allowing slavers and Robber Barons to make policy, that inevitably is designed to make the few masters and the many slaves.

Some of that you can combat through legislation, though voting, through boycotting, and some of it you combat by taking an active role, in making sure the basic necessities of life… clean water… in a pinch you can provide for yourself.

That is where the LIFESAVER System comes in. Its company grade is an A, and its Amazon Reviews have been vetted and are accurate (A lot of times they are not, don’t just assume a company with 4 or 5 stars on Amazon is a slam dunk of a product. Unfortunately unscrupulous companies use robots to pad their page with tons of fake 5 star reviews.)

You want to vet the company and vet the reviews, to see if the company is legit and the reviews are legit. There are various sites that will do this for you. I’ve checked the most reputable ones, and LIFESAVER as a company is an A, and its Amazon reviews get an A for being accurate, and non robot generated.

All this to say, this is the gift giving season, Dickens’ sweet story of a carol at Christmas, has been turned by savvy businessmen into a retailers dream, the need to purchase and buy, affecting all during this time of year, more like a fever, than anything to do with faith.

A compulsion.

Whether Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, Vodun or Festivus you celebrate; we are all swept up in the compulsion to spend. All to some point swayed by the marketing push and Black Friday sales, or Amazon Monday sales.

But perhaps we can do better than the usual suspects of gifts. While the kids want (and deserve) their toys, for the adults give them the LIFESAVER. It lives up to its name. It is something that should be in each car you own, for emergencies, and one in the house as a backup filtration system. Essential for any bug-out bag.

And the lifesaver while impressive, no product should be considered an end all and be all. I would recommend having a UV pen water sterilizer as well. It is just a good one-two punch to get in the habit of doing. Especially as your filter gets close to its end of life.

Is it overkill? Probably. But considering it only takes seconds more to UV your drink after filtering, it is probably just a good routine to get into. But even without the UV step, I consider the LIFESAVER absolutely an indispensable purchase in 2017 and beyond, and a fantastic gift.

Get yours here:

LIFESAVER Systems 4000 Ultra Filtration Water Bottle

You are going to also need to have replacement filters on hand (In the words of Nick Nolte, from EXTREME PREJUDICE [one of my favorite movies, and easily his most iconic role] ‘One without the other, ain’t no damn good.’)

Lifesaver Bottle Ultra Filtration Water Bottle Replacement Carbon Inserts (4-pk)
And here’s the recommended UV pen:

SteriPEN Adventurer Opti UV Water Purifier

And here’s the pitcher for your kitchen (and you could also use an additional one for your bathroom or just go with an on tap unit for your bathroom faucet):

ZeroWater 23 Cup Dispenser with Free TDS Meter (Total Dissolved Solids) – ZD-018

Or more convenient for your bathroom would be a on-faucet filter, that also offers a end of life replacement light, which would be the below:

PUR 3-Stage Horizontal Water Filtration Faucet Mount Chrome FM-9400B

So that’s it guys. When I started this blog, far more than a decade ago, one of my early concerns was water quality. I had tried distillers, table top water filters, and tons of options in between.

And all of that research has brought me to the recommendations above. You want to give a gift this holiday season, give the gift of clean water.

It is… a start.

Use the links above and help this blog earn a few pennies with your purchases.

Enjoy!

 

AMAZON PRIME Deals/Buys/Gift Ideas of the Day : BLUE MoFi HEADPHONES!

My obsessions, like most tech and toy intrigued guys… goes in phases. This particular week audio is dominating my interest.

I’ve spent over a hundred hours determining signal from noise, and great purchases, from fraudulent stacked reviews. Which unfortunately Amazon is full of.  Lots of those 4 and 5 star reviews, are caused by disreputable companies flooding amazon with bogus reviews.

Well kids I’ve done the hard-work and heavy lifting to determine real from fake reviews, and great products from garbage.

Without further ado, this weeks items worth buying.

HEADPHONES:

Blue Mo-Fi Powered High-Fidelity Headphones with Integrated Audiophile Amplifier

“In short, the Mo-Fis easily produce the best quality sound of any headphones I’ve used.” —Engadget

From a stateside company called BLUE that has a great reputation in the microphone/podcasting community., comes their first Headphone… THE MOFI.

The real reviews are in on both Amazon and Youtube, and the verdict is… these are game changers. Particularly if you are looking into getting into high quality personal audio, and don’t currently want to spend the money for a dedicated amp or receiver, these MoFi’s allow you to take the sound direct out of your CD or LP or Laptop or Media Player, and for a reasonable cost get a high quality headphone AND Amp in one package.

It is a definite WANT.  Though at $399 its original retail, I felt it was definitely pricey. However even at that price it is not unreasonable given the new ground it is breaking, a kind of all in one entry level rig, for those who want great headphone sound without having to deal with the hassle of selecting a dac/preamp, than a microphone amp, then a pair of speakers.

This one purchase, if you don’t already have a system,  and don’t really want multiple components just to listen to a headphone,  well than it is a VERY reasonable and enticing purchase at its original retail.

But while reasonable, I couldn’t pull the trigger on it at that price. However, Fast forward 6 months later and the MOFI is now on sale for $279 (Blue having released their new models the SADIE(A $399 powered headphone with built in amp, that basically just loses a bit of the weight and the clamping of the MOFI, but sound-wise is similar. From all reports negligibe difference over the MOFIs) and the ELLA (A $700 Planar Headphone with built in amp).

So the arrival of the new models, means we can now get the MOFI for over $120 off, bringing it down to a very doable $279. Now at that price for a combo high quality headphone and amplifier, it is a no-brainer of  a purchase. And if you are willing to purchase used, you can get it even cheaper.

You can price and order it here:

 

Blue Mo-Fi Powered High-Fidelity Headphones with Integrated Audiophile Amplifier

And if you are the type who has to have the latest and greatest, and money is no object, then the $700 ELLAS are waiting for you here:

Blue Ella Planar Magnetic Headphones with Built-In Audiophile Amp

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/61EG8uRKDUL._SL1500_.jpg

Short Films of the Day : Jean-Yan Babois’ BEHIND and CHERI

BEHIND- This short does everything right initially but falls apart at the climax with a mediocre ending. Would anyone actually do what the protagonist did in that situation, and the reveal was just sub-par.

CHERI- Much better is this slow-burn 2016 short with an ending that nails the landing.

You can view both the shorts via the YOU TUBE streaming channel on either Roku or Amazon Fire. I prefer the streaming options to the YouTube website as this way you can avoid the idiotic comments that Youtube fails to moderate/cleanup. I would never recommend sending someone direct to the Youtube website.

Still don’t have a Roku or an Amazon Fire? Here are my links to the ones to get:

 

Roku Premiere+ Streaming Media Player

Amazon Fire TV | Streaming Media Player

Best BATMAN BLACK PANTHER WONDER WOMAN Statues Collectibles! Make Great Gifts!

 

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OF FRANKENSTEINS and HYDES : The cautionary fiction of Mary Shelley and Robert Louis Stevens!

 

DR.JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE

Chapter 1

Story of the Door

Mr. Utterson the lawyer was a man of a rugged countenance that was
never lighted by a smile; cold, scanty and embarrassed in
discourse; backward in sentiment; lean, long, dusty, dreary and
yet somehow lovable.  At friendly meetings, and when the wine was
to his taste, something eminently human beaconed from his eye;
something indeed which never found its way into his talk, but
which spoke not only in these silent symbols of the after-dinner
face, but more often and loudly in the acts of his life.

The Robert Louis Stevenson Novel/Novellette from 1886 DR. JEKYLL AND MR.HYDE along with Mary Shelley’S FRANKENSTEIN: THE MODERN PROMETHEUS (almost 70 years earlier in 1818) were both pivotal cautionary tales  that foresaw in the new Marvels of Science, the new quickly expanding horizons of Electricity and Chemistry, changes of a a seismic and (if not morally guided) dangerous potential.

Dangerous not just in bodily harm, or even death, but dangerous to the very quality of what it means to be human, to the very nature of humanity.

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley tantalized with this fantastic concept of man playing at God and creating life, but that life created by a flawed and fickle and neglectful and abusive God becomes a rebuke onto its creator, and possibly a supplanter of all mankind.

Stevenson tantalized with this fantastic concept, that behind our masks of civility, and mores and morality, there is even in the best of us, some darker divide, and he posited the ability of science freeing the one from the other. And long before that idea would become common place, StevenSON was one of the first, to speak of the possible calamity, of cures to our perceived ills, that give birth to much greater ills.

He foresaw in Hyde the rise of the Sociopath society. Of a whole nation of Hydes, glutted on self interest, trampling children in their wake.

and shelley foresaw even more.

Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN turns 200 next year, and I always find her story, the story of frankenstein’s genesis amazing.

MARY WAS on a getaway with her soon to be husband, their child, and their friends, AND conceived what would become frankenstein pretty much on a whim, when they were all prompted by lord byron on a stormy, spooky night to see which of them could write the best ghost story. MARY SHELLEY’S STORY , even amongst that august assembly of creators, was considered the most brilliant.

she was only 18 years old. A PROTO FEMINIST and intellectual and renaissance woman.

and had lived in those 18 years more than most live today in an entire life time. in a world devoid of tv or facebook, people themselves, their ability to create, to learn, to excel… people had to be the marvels in their own lives.

These century old novels have stood the test of time because.. beyond being well written, by extraordinary people, they are prophetic and cautionary screeds against the overreaching hubris of man, specifically scientists. cautionary tales, the lesson of which can be summed up thus… because we can do a thing, does not mean we should do that thing.

A great lesson, that Scientists in an age of cloning and gene tampering and manufactured diseases and machines killing men… seem woefully slow at learning. And this abject inability of those makers of fact to learn the lessons of fiction,will keep Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN and Stevens’ DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE always horribly relevant, and scarily prescient… as new scientific threats to life and limb arise.

 

So with that said, these too works are two of the most adapted in the English language. And I have seen just about all the English language adaptations of note.

In part 2 of this post I will bring you the most recommended adaptations in various formats. From Audio to video to Books!

That should be up Friday Night. Come back for that!

And for right now support this blog and support yourself by buying one of the best book Adaptations of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN ever put to print…the Dark Horse Bernie Wrightson Illustrated, impeccably designed hardcover version.

Get your copy here:

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Bernie Wrightson’s Frankenstein