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!

Music of the Day: The Essential GREGORY PORTER!

So if new to the Grammy winning Gregory Porter, begin with his Grammy winning Album LIQUID SPIRIT(2013).

A mix of blues, soul, jazz and a touch of bop, and lifted by one of the most amazing voices and crooners since Nat King Cole, LIQUID SPIRIT is one of the best albuns of the young 21st century.

Now once you’ve listened to LIQUID SPIRIT, an album you can listen to from beginning to end, repeatedly… what’s next?

I would say listen to his singles 1960 WHAT? and FEELING GOOD off of his first album WATER(2010).

From his 2nd Album BE GOOD (2012) standouts are ON MY WAY TO HARLEM and REAL GOOD HANDS and BLING BLING and GOD BLESS THE CHILD.

We have already discussed his third album LIQUID SPIRIT, his next album is the collaborative GREAT VOICES OF HARLEM (2014)with notable song being MOANIN.

2015 Saw his rerelease of LIQUID SPIRIT with additional songs.

2016 saw the release of  TAKE ME TO THE ALLEY, highlights being HOLDING ON and FRENCH AFRICAN QUEEN (A song, in its phrassing, very reminiscent of  the late, great Terry Callier).

 And bringing it up to date, his 2017 album is NAT KING GOLE & ME and it is easily Porter’s best album since LIQUID SPIRIT. Every song is a winner. Even in the age of Itunes and Digital those two CDs are must haves. Andin addition they both make great gifts this holiday season.

Liquid Spirit

Nat King Cole & Me

 


 

Currently Listening to Jacob Banks THE BOY WHO CRIED FREEDOM

I absolutely hate the fact that some musicians are only releasing their music in streaming MP3 compressed format. It is such a disservice to a musician and music lovers not to have that music on Gatekeeper free, high-quality, well mastered full range CD. It’s a crime, especially with a singer of the strength of Jacob Banks. Go ahead and discover him like I did, courtesy of MP3 or streaming, but hold out for a full range CD to buy.

Some standouts from this musician…

MONSTER 2.0 his single from 2015 PARADOX release.

And the five songs on his latest from 2017 THE BOY WHO CRIED FREEDOM. Includes the sterling CHAINSMOKING and the smokey PART TIME LOVE. A top notch singer deserving of a top notch mastered CD.

Until then, sample him here:

The Paradox [Explicit]

Another great discovery of 2017.

Currently Listening to Rag N Bone Man’ s HUMAN

So I’m listening to the album HUMAN, which is a phenomenal album, the calling card of a towering Negro voice, that happens to be coming out of a 32 year old, 6’5, Anglo Saxon Britisher named Rory Graham.

It’s am amazing, soulful album, complete with hymns pulled from the land of dixie and cotton and blood. But it is that delivery that really elevates this album. A familiar delivery that comes to me the third listen through, it is the King of Soul I hear, the late, great Solomon Burke even to the pacing and phrasing, and the unbelievable power.

Rory Graham is channeling the great Solomon Burke, but with enough of his own spin to make it not mimicry, but I would like to think homage. Toss in some of the storytelling chops of Nick Cave (Burke himself was a fantastic storyteller) with just enough pop sensability to galvanize the younger, indie crowd, and you have an album deserving of its praise.

A new musical discovery for me, as 2017 winds to a close. And well worth seeking out if you haven’t heard of him.

And make some time to become aquainted with the source of such abundant soul, the source for all of us… the lengthy discography of the late, great, Solomon Burke.

Human

YouTube vs Roku/Fire TV YouTube! CDs vs Records! And the de-evolution of America. Winner? MUSIC COMPANIES!

So i hate YouTube on the web.

I hate anything with an unmoderated comments section, that revels in talk show idiocy, or ‘attention through controversy’ or bad behavior.

But thankfully YouTube via streaming devices Roku or Amazon Fire TV, is actually devoid of those moronic comments and is more signal rather noise.

This week it has been brilliant helping me research and scratch my hifi/ audio need.

And by far, by far, the Youtube Channel I found the most useful of all, is the s)mply fantastic channel AUDIOHOLICS.

These guys can clearly call bs on the fuzzy thinking that makes up too much of hi-fi marketing and hype.

Such as the sillyness of various Youtube channels going on about the superiority of LPs over CD (I don’t care if you like LPs better, that is subjective. But LP/wax is an inferior medium, (I stress MEDIUM) that is not subjective, that is a fact.)

Talk about lossy system, LP is the original lossy system. It can’t handle the highs or the lows that CDs can, so has to be mastered in this very midrange sweet spot. Which is fine, in that midrange, if you’re good with that, and that sounds ‘warmer’ to you than a   CD, whatever. In the midrange if mastered right it can be perfectly fine. But one thing you lose in addition to those highs and those lows, that get clipped on wax, you lose the ability to reproduce the listening experience.

By that I mean, if you play a CD the first time, or the 500th time, and the hardware, the cd player, the speakers, amp, being the same; the quality of that recording will be the same as the first time you listened to it. That listening experience is reproducible.

Not so with wax/lps, like vhs tape or cassette tape, the LP playing experience is one of degradation. Everytime you play the medium, your start wearing it down minutely, and evertime you play it (though no one wants to think of it) it sounds worse than the previous time, because you are scraping into that signal, that medium.

I come from the analog generation, I played records, and vhs tapes, and cassettes until the quality noticeably started grinding down. And it didn’t then, and it doesn’t now, take too many plays, for that quality to start noticeably degrading.

So I have an experience with LPs and Cassettes, and in its time it was great, and it is still something to be said about large beautiful album covers and liner notes, the tactile process of it. But don’t confuse immediacy, with sound quality. And that immediacy doesn’t outweight the glaring flaws and problems with wax, in terms of sound quality, albums always getting futz on it,needles getting futz, the threat of warping, pops and cracles appearing out of nowhere.

We loved LPs because it was the best we had. But it was always a bit of a chore as anyone can tell you who grew up with them.

And I am not an LP hater. I think it has a place , and I still get the occassional LP, but generally these are recordings only available as LPs, or were mastered direct to wax.

The former being a lot of Quincy Jones stellar 60s and 70s avant garde film soundtracks such as the seminal IN COLD BLOOD. As far as the latter, I’m a purchaser and supporter of Jack White’s THIRD MAN RECORDS. This label goes to the stunning step of recording performances live and pressing directly to vinyl. You stilll lose some highs and lows when recording to wax, but in that midrange you get something very unique and original, you get a live concert experience unmoderated by overproducing.  That”s something very unique, and while I don’t see anything particularly superior in the sound, this at least has validity as something distinct from the CD. Unlike others taking tracks mastered for  a CDs range and just chopping off the highs and lows and slapping that on vinyl.

Vinyll can be great for these very unique niche projects. But as as additive to what should be a strong and healthy and forward looking digital market. To include CD and DVD and and SACD market.

It shouldn’t be this very cannibalizing either or scenario, in which music and choice….and the consumer… loses.

So when LD, CD, DVD came on the horizon it was then, and is now, a revolution, because suddenly you have something  you can buy that will rather than lasting 25 listens or views , if you are very careful and meticulous in keeping it cleaned and dust free,  before quality suffers, you have something that will keep its pristine quality, with just normal care for a minimum of 25 years. Not 25 listens like an LP… TWENTY FIVE YEARS! Minimum.

Now add greater dynamic range, larger capacity, and vastly increased lifespan and you have a medium,The CD/DVD, that by any definition is superior. And is by any measure the greatest boon to the video and audio consumer since the advent of recorded sound.

Now if a new generation gets sold on mp3 CDs and mp3 streaming and some badly mastered cds (and LPs can be equally badly mastered, any medium will have those who use it well and poorly. The difference being we have not yet exhausted the limits of how far we can take the CD and DVD and SACD. We are abandoning those formats before wecreach their limits. In favor of going backward to a medium, wax, whose limitations were always a source of frustration to audiophiles and engineers), and this young generation is bamboozled into writing off the most astounding and groundbreaking medium produced in the 20th century and goes backward to the flawed and not copyable ,and needing replaced often, analog medium, then who benefits?

I’ll tell you who… The RIAA and the music companies, who always viewed Digital with fear for the freedom it brought the consumer.

I tell you this new generation is giving away the baby with the bath water. Privacy, oh who needs that, put everything on facebook. Put surveillance systems in the guise of game consoles, and music players and smart devices in our homes.

Here’s the thing about smart devices and trusted computing, its about the companies being able to trust you, and not the other way around.

Conglomerates, are the ones benefiting from DVDs and CDs removed from the consumer and the return to records.This creates a model where the consumer owns music or video only on flawed, finite, non high-quality medium, and must go to the content provider for anything superior.

It is not only politically and morally and spiritually that America is devolving as a nation, but also in terms of technology.

 

My response… don’t let it.

Don’t buy the marketing and allow your rights to the future, be swept away by someone selling you the past. Continue to support full spectrum DVD, CD, and BluRay. And more than that let us continue to innovate, if people like the large LP format, lets give it to them, but in the superior medium.

I was a huge fan of Laser Disc, which works very much like a record, but using a superior medium, and a laser pickup instead of the horrible wax and needle medium.

Lets offer that as the 21st century version of records, to those who want Analog playback but with the benefits of digital transport/reproduction. That is a record I could get behind. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

p.s. And avoid youtube morons attempting to review speakers and amps by just playing music (uh, moron, if I could hear the quality of your system just by listening on my system… they would call that magic. How do you not realize that?)

This is the lack of common sense mentality  that has idiots ditching CDs for flawed LPs, and spending thousands to try and make those LPs reach a dynmaic range, that is beyond them.

 

Okay here endeth my rant!

 

My All Over the Place Rant… Beware, there be Dragons here

It’s 0330 dark of the morning and I’m listening to Disaster-Piece’s IT FOLLOWS film score on CD (not something I would particularly recommend if you are in the house by yourself at this time of night), and I’m thinking…we are all adrift in the fields of the Lord.

That’s what I’m thinking.

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And I’m thinking of Carlos Castaneda and a Yaqui Indian called Don Juan and truths and fictions, and how the one becomes the other and the other the one.

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I’m thinking of the quality of person that would have actually voted for Resident Trump and be not ashamed.

I think the clinical term would be somewhere between fool and sociopath.

I’m thinking of seas relatively unspoiled by man, and islands far from this benighted shore.

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I think…

I think there are other worlds…

but this one is not quite done with me.

I think of duty and honor and truth and justice and loyalty, words co-opted by the venal to keep a nation of young men killing and dying and being mutilated and maimed for the 1%ers’ Dubai pleasure nations.

I’m listening to track 9 of IT FOLLOWS, the stereo panning in my Avanti Headphones, is working for me. Left, right… left, right. My brain relaxes, and formulates something beyond questions and answers.

It is a truly brilliant album, to accompany one of the standout horror films so far this 21st century.

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I’m thinking I can’t get down with media lynchings, especially by a notoriously untrustworthy and historically lynching obsessed nation as America. So the more they tell me to demonize anyone, whether a Cosby or Simpson or insert famous Black male target of the day, the more I have to question it. In a world full of evils to fight, it’s funny to me how the press never tackles the evil that really controls and infects their viewers lives.

Like the evil of Pharmaceutical companies that are getting rich selling you not ready for human use drugs that have more dangerous side-effects than the conditions they are created to combat. “Oh you have acne, oh use our product, but oh, it might sterilize or kill you. Heehee… but we told you up front so we’re not liable.”

No you pieces of offal, that’s not how it works, if someone buys a hamburger from me and it is laced with arsenic, that may make them very sick or kill them, that’s called attempted murder. Even if the burger was a good tasting burger, did its advertised job, side effects of food poisoning and possible death are not acceptable or allowable risks to eating a hamburger.

So that burger is not ready for human sale or consumption and is recalled, pulled from the market.

The pharmaceutical companies instead market you these not ready for human usage products, and lawyer up against their products being filled with arsenic.

The actions that would get an individual arrested for attempted murder, these companies are using to get rich on the sick and desperate . Now that is something the press should for 3 decades be raging against. Not a suspect celebrity murder case, and not an even more vacuous charge of sexual assault.

So when the press avoid the crimes of their rich corporate sponsors and overlords instead to pile on with, ‘what Black celebrity can we pull down today’, well that’s a train I’m not going to board, and that is a Dachau I’m not going to populate.

There are lots of racist cops walking around free that have committed worse crimes than either Simpson or Cosby have been accused of. There are lots of you judging them, Cosby, Simpson,… that should be wary of casting that first stone.

Simpson I don’t care about, except that the fact of a white owned media embroiled in demonizing him over 2 decades after his acquittal shows clearly the new face of lynch mobs. We have young men and women coming back from parts of the world we didn’t even know we were still fighting in… damaged, and having damaged, for reasons that stink of lies, and true evil, and rather than the press demonize the real monsters that fill our nightly news with blood, they want to waste energy on cases that in the scheme of things while significant to the families of the victim and the families of the accused, to the larger body of society, are not of import.

As far as Cosby, Cosby I was raised on, and in a world that would have you be less, he was one of the ones breaking barriers and opening doors so that a whole generation of young Black men and women could be more. There are very few people drawing breath on this planet that can claim to have done the good that Bill Cosby has done, and if you can not equal a man’s good, you are unfit to judge his evil.

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If he committed a crime, that is to be determined in a court of law.

But a man’s falling down does not erase his standing up, including the many times he stood up for a castigated people. So to take arms against him now is beyond ungrateful, it is cowardice of the highest order.

To let yourself be so crudely used, in this war of Black and White.

Now transitioning to another rant…

Why is local autonomy in nearly every walk of life being replaced by autonomy of these very few companies and oligarchies and families.

Once a blockbuster movie meant not only the studios did well but the regional independent local theater did well. These days theaters are mostly studio owned, so we have this incestuous chain of the studios getting paid in every part of the process, and local economies are obliterated by it. Reduced to only the most minuscule piece of the proverbial pie.

AVENGERS makes a billion Dollars, I don’t really care.

I care that it is or isn’t a good movie, but do I care if a Billion dollar studio make more millions and billions? Not in the least.

As it stands now these studios such as Disney and Fox and Warner Brothers (pieces of larger snakes) should have been broken up years ago and their anti-competitive and local economy suppressing monopolies ended decades ago.

The best thing that could happen to America is a nation where all the Disney Properties, most of which are over 50 years old went into the public domain where they belong so everyone can legally make money off of them and be enriched by them.

An America without the endless shadow of Disney and its lie of family values would suit me fine.

The album is over, the clock has moved on, and my rant…

My all over the place rant… ended.

For now.

“Come back and throw stones later, Mother will be more receptive”

—LION IN WINTER