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Wild Planet Wild Sardines in Marinara Sauce, 4.375-Ounce Tins (Pack of 6)
Wild Planet Wild Sardines in Marinara Sauce, 4.375-Ounce Tins (Pack of 6)
Offered by TheNewMall
Price: $26.53
5 used & new from $22.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars In the Wilderness, March 5, 2015
There's nothing really wrong with these sardines, though as noted below I don't particularly care for their smoky taste. My problem is with the marketing, which attempts to justify an inflated price with a dissertation of a long list of purported benefits. Problem is, most if not all of these benefits apply to all brands of sardines, not just these.

For instance, what about the whole concept of "wild" sardines? I'm not aware that the sardine has been domesticated, and the lowly pilchards that swarm the seas in massive schools sometimes visible from outer space are not amenable to aquaculture.

On the other hand, qualifying these sardines as wild, notwithstanding the fact that there's no other kind, does confer a seemingly significant though clearly misplaced credibility. No doubt this will boost sales to a gullible buying public.

Read the packaging for these sardines and you can't help but feel you're saving Mother Earth as you chomp on your sandwich. But digging down beneath the surface, there's not so much to be excited about.

For instance there's the matter of what happens to these fish after they're "sustainably caught along the California coast". The small print provides a clue in that these bad boys are "processed in Viet Nam". So what's really going on is that our diminutive sardines take on a heavy carbon footprint, travelling as they do from the west coast to the far east and back again, presumably to harvest the otherwise mutually exclusive benefits of buy-local chic and low labor costs. Nonetheless, we read that, "These sardines are considered a `Best Choice for Sustainability' by a consensus of environmental organizations".

There are other issues as well.

The health benefits of chowing down on this product are highly touted. For instance, "Ounce for ounce, Wild Planet sardines provide 3 times more calcium and phosphorus than milk...". OK, fair enough. But is this, as implied, unique to the Wild Planet variety only, or is it once again a characteristic of all sardines? Unfortunately, it's the latter.

We also learn that these "delicious meaty portions" are "cleaned and scaled". Buyer beware: this is quite different from "skinless and boneless". "Cleaned" in this context must mean something other that what is commonly expected by the use of this word in conjunction with fish. Be prepared to either eat the vertebral column and various entrails, or to remove (clean) them yourself.

How do they taste?

Not bad, if you're into schmaltz herring. These babies are smoked and have a characteristic smoky, salty taste. Dunking them in marinara doesn't do much to change this.

But don't worry. It's not just any smoke, but "aqueous natural smoke" that they're treated with...

Aquaphor Healing Ointment Dry, Cracked and Irritated Skin Protectant, 14 oz Jar
Aquaphor Healing Ointment Dry, Cracked and Irritated Skin Protectant, 14 oz Jar
Price: $13.59
25 used & new from $13.00

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Brand Identity and the Placebo Effect, March 4, 2015
Basically what this stuff is, is designer Vaseline. It's virtually the same thing - petroleum jelly.

However, it comes in euro style packaging, identifies itself as "healing ointment", and sports a label crowing about the fact that it's "Dermatologist Recommended". It furthermore notes that it is "advanced therapy for dry, cracked, or irritated skin".

Wow, bring it on, even though it costs 50% more than a similar quantity of the pedestrian Vaseline brand.

Vaseline, after all, is labeled as nothing more than what it really is, i.e. "petroleum jelly". Its container looks utilitarian and a bit blue collar. The imagery that's conjured up is all about messy babies and diapers. Amazon has a special offer noting that it's frequently purchased along with a rectal thermometer.


So, which one am I going to apply to my aging baby boomer skin? The choice is clear...
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 7, 2015 7:43 PM PST

By Frederick Buechner On the Road with the Archangel (1st First Edition) [Hardcover]
By Frederick Buechner On the Road with the Archangel (1st First Edition) [Hardcover]
by Frederick Buechner
Edition: Hardcover
7 used & new from $24.48

3.0 out of 5 stars Whooping It Up???, March 3, 2015
This is a retelling of the story of the Apocryphal Book of Tobit. It takes place in Assyria during the exile of the people of Israel. Ancient times, faraway and exotic places, angels and demons, all the ingredients were there. I was ready to be transported.

But it never really happened, and as I think about it, the problem for me was Buechner's writing style.

It starts off in an appropriately grand fashion: "I am Raphael, one of the seven archangels who pass in and out of the presence of the Holy One, blessed be he. I bring him the prayers of all who pray and of those who don't even know that they're praying".

This sounds right, authentic, and appropriate.

The problems for me manifest as the author injects contemporary and colloquial language. Here's an example. "Heaven only knows how many days we still have to keep on whooping it up with these lunatics, but it must be five anyway, maybe even six, and Raguel says there is no possible way I can leave till the whole thing's over without insulting all Ecbatana".

Suddenly things are out of place, stripped of authenticity, sounding almost sophomoric to my ear.

It's too bad. This is a book that I very much wanted to like...

As a Driven Leaf
As a Driven Leaf
by Chaim Potok
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.25
121 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Back to Back Readings, March 3, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: As a Driven Leaf (Paperback)
I’ve been reading for a long time. This is something that never happened before.

There are excellent books that I’ve read repeatedly. This one rose to a different level. As I finished page 480, I immediately turned to the first page and started over. It’s that good.

As A Driven Leaf tells a story loosely based on the life of Elisha ben Abuyah, a rabbi in Palestine in the aftermath of the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. It chronicles a quest for the truth that ultimately founders on the rocks of disillusionment. Everything about this novel is profound; the depiction of the historical context, the human drama of the various characters, the philosophical debate, and the enveloping spirituality of it all.

To give you a flavor, here is the paragraph with which this masterpiece ends,

“Thunder rolled in the misty vault of the heavens. From the cemetery down the hill, from the grave at his feet and from out dead yesterdays ghosts came stealing. And he wept not alone for his master, but for himself as well, for a woman who rarely smiled, for sweet children who slept near by, for a people crushed and persecuted, for all the sons of men, their aches of the body and soul, and their dreams that die”.

Savino Wine Saving Carafe
Savino Wine Saving Carafe
Offered by VirVentures
Price: $37.98
22 used & new from $29.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed Review, February 20, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
First the good news...

This thing generaly preserves red wine well in the fridge for a couple of days.

So what's wrong with it?

The white rubber parts quickly stain and are difficult to clean. The clear plastic bobber has become discolored over time. So while you're saving that wine, it's looking more and more unsavory as time passes.

Save the money. In my experience nothing works better than used water bottles filled so as to eliminate all air. Simple, low cost and effective...

Price: $9.00
51 used & new from $7.49

31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just Like Death, February 18, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Terraplane (Audio CD)
That's Steve, quoting Lightnin' Hopkins. "The blues is something that's hard to get acquainted with. Just like death".

What this new CD shows, is that Earle is very much alive, and producing some of the best stuff he's come up with in a long while.

If playing the blues requires real life suffering to be authentic, this guy's more than paid his dues. Addiction, broken marriages, prison, and all manner of drama have infused much of his work with darkness. This however, is Earle's first explicit foray into blues, and of it he says, "One day, when it was time, [I knew] that I would make this record".

Well, it's time, and I'm glad he did. This is a great one.

The tightly wound sound of the Dukes sets off Steve's growling delivery of lyrics at times wistful, at times downright menacing. There's moments where the hair's gonna stand up on the back of your neck.

Though it's mostly basic 12 bar structure, Earle mixes up the sound, arrangements and tempos so that the whole thing flows in a bunch of unexpected directions. My favorite track is probably Better Off Alone. It's a grinding expression of abandonment and loss set against the need to keep on keepin' on. Go Go Boots Are Back is an upbeat riff about life on the surface of things skimming over the things that lie below. And King of the Blues is just a classic howling at the moon: "The day I was born the moon crossed the sun / Mama cried sweet Jesus what have I done / Lord have mercy on my unfortunate son / Before I drew my second breath Mama knew / She'd just given birth to the King of the Blues.

And then there's The Tennessee Kid, a blood-curdling tale of a pact with the devil. Here's just a snippet of this really scary song, "And the monster raised himself up / To the fullness of his stature / Black wings eclipsing a sanguine / Mississippi moon / Behold behemoth the trampler of infidels, / He who sweeps away nations / with a flick of his tail / Theopolis, Agrippa, Faustus, Paganini / Lurid and long is the tale of my prey / Question not the ironclad bond / of my surety / Set down here in blood / In your very own hand".

Yup, Terraplane is the blues like only Steve Earle could do it...

Highly recommended.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 25, 2015 2:09 PM PST

Shadows In The Night
Shadows In The Night
Offered by Space Sound Limited
Price: $9.70
99 used & new from $5.10

82 of 96 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars They’re Eternal, Lyrically and Musically, February 3, 2015
This review is from: Shadows In The Night (Audio CD)
This is Dylan, “the poet laureate of rock ‘n’ roll, the voice of the promise of the 60’s counterculture” (how he’s introduced each night on the Never Ending Tour) speaking reverentially about the songs he selected for Shadows In the Night. He elaborates,

“These songs [on my album] have been written by people who went out of fashion years ago. I’m probably someone who helped put them out of fashion. But what they did is a lost art form. Just like da Vinci and Renoir and van Gogh. Nobody paints like that anymore either. But it can’t be wrong to try.

So a song like “I’m a Fool to Want You” — I know that song. I can sing that song. I’ve felt every word in that song. I mean, I know that song. It’s like I wrote it. It’s easier for me to sing that song than it is to sing, “Won’t you come see me, Queen Jane.” At one time that wouldn’t have been so. But now it is. Because “Queen Jane” might be a little bit outdated. It can’t be outrun. But this song is not outdated. It has to do with human emotion, which is a constant thing. There’s nothing contrived in these songs. There’s not one false word in any of them. They’re eternal, lyrically and musically.”

Yup, that’s what Shadows in the Night is. A carefully curated collection of covers of vintage songs composed by the likes of Irving Berlin, Rogers and Hammerstein, Buddy Kaye and Ted Mossman and others and dating from the 1920’s through the late 40’s.

This is clearly material that Dylan loves, and the result is a surprisingly excellent album, that should be appreciated even by those unfamiliar with the originals.

It’s significant to note that all ten songs were recorded by Frank Sinatra (some on multiple occasions) who Dylan obviously holds in the highest regard. In the recent AARP interview he says, “You know, when you start doing these songs, Frank’s got to be on your mind. Because he is the mountain. That’s the mountain you have to climb even if you only get part of the way there. And it’s hard to find a song he did not do. He’d be the guy you got to check with.” And when the interviewer asks him, “Do you think of this album as risky? These songs have fans who say you can’t touch Sinatra’s version,” the voice of a generation replies, “Risky? Like walking across a field laced with land mines? Or working in a poison gas factory? There’s nothing risky about making records. Comparing me with Frank Sinatra? You must be joking. To be mentioned in the same breath as him must be some sort of high compliment. As far as touching him goes, nobody touches him. Not me or anyone else.”

I was really blown away by the sound. While most of this material was originally produced with complex and large arrangements, Dylan reduces them to their essence, recording with a five-piece band of veterans from the Never Ending Tour. But it’s even more spare than that; the predominant sound is Dylan’s voice, backed up by a haunting steel guitar (Donny Herman) and an inspired bass foundation laid down by Tony Garnier.

What to say about Bob’s voice? I’ve been to some recent shows in which his blown out rasping really seemed to have passed a point of no return. This time, however, the alte kaker manages to croon in an astonishingly mellifluous manner. Our beloved trickster never ceases to amaze…

My favorite songs on the album (though they’re all great) are Full Moon and Empty Arms, Where Are You? and What’ll I Do. To put things into perspective, this last Irving Berlin number has been previously recorded by not only Sinatra, but also the likes of Pat Boone, Nat King Cole, Judy Garland, Burl Ives, and, yup, you got it, Alvin and the Chipmunks. Into this pantheon of American musical giants now steps Dylan.


You bet.



Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 26, 2015 9:24 PM PST

Precor EFX 833 Commercial Series Elliptical Fitness Crosstrainer
Precor EFX 833 Commercial Series Elliptical Fitness Crosstrainer
Price: $6,495.00
3 used & new from $2,500.00

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Machine - Primitive Brain, December 4, 2013
This is a great commercial quality machine; it's exactly what you use at your local fitness club. It's the gold standard by which all other ellipticals are judged.

The mechanical aspects of it are beyond reproach from every point of view. This is a work horse, designed to take any degree of punishment, engineered with great precision. Everything works flawlessly.

I generally do a manual program work out, setting the resistance and varying the cross ramp to engage different sets of muscles.

So what's not to like and why only four stars?

Simply stated, this thing is not too bright. For a machine at this price point a much more sophisticated control is in order. Maybe this one can do some of the things I'd like it to, but if so it's certainly not evident, even after poring over the manual in detail. So it's either deficient or exceedingly user unfriendly.

As noted, I enter a repetitive manual program for each workout. There should be a simple learn mode that allows the last workout entered to be retained. Similarly, it should be possible to enter parameters for a default user; I renter my weight and age each time. And what would really be nice would be if it would be possible to retain and export workouts to a PC based fitness program. Even inexpensive scales increasingly have bluetooth or wireless capability. Why not this over $ 6 grand behemoth?

If the brains of this brute contained more intelligence it would be close to perfect.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 19, 2014 1:28 AM PST

Precor 240i Commercial Series StretchTrainer
Precor 240i Commercial Series StretchTrainer
Price: $699.00
2 used & new from $699.00

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's A Stretch, November 19, 2013
For people who are reasonably fit it's a stretch to justify the purchase of this neat looking gizmo.

My problem is not so much the price (it's a well built piece of equipment) or the challenge of assembling it (not as tough as some suggest). It's just that for me most of the stretches are either ineffective, or not as good as comparable ones accomplished on the floor.

Here's my rundown:

Stretch 1 - Lower Back: This is a good one that I do daily. It really works an area that needs to be flexible to prevent all manner of other problems. No argument with this one.

Stretch 2 - Hamstrings: It's OK but not as good as alternatives on the floor.

Stretch 3 - Gluteals and hips: This is a good one; no problems here.

Stretch 4 - Hips legs and back: Like number 2 no real advantage over the floor version.

Stretch 5 - Inner thighs and groin: Excellent!

Stretch 6 - Upper Back: This one does nothing for me. I skip it.

Stretch 7 - Shoulders: Like 6, virtually useless.

Stretch 8 - Quads: Not too different from the stretch you would do without the machine. No apparent value added...

So all in all it's a mixed bag, worthy of 3 stars only. But it does look interesting among the other equipment in the gym.

Secret Pizza Party
Secret Pizza Party
by Adam Rubin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $13.01
67 used & new from $9.30

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars They're At It Again!, September 3, 2013
This review is from: Secret Pizza Party (Hardcover)
Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri, creators of Dragons Love Tacos, Those Darn Squirrels and various other kids lit high jinx have come up with another one to get the whole family chortling at story time.

This time the protagonist is Raccoon, a perennially hungry (for pizza, that is) and clearly very clever varmint. As we learn on the opening page, "All he wants in life is a pizza".

There is a myriad of reasons for this, particularly following from "...the gooey cheesy-ness, salty pepperoni-ness, sweet, sweet tomato-ness, and crispy, crunchity crust" of Raccoon's favorite dish.

Problem is, every time our furry hero tries to help himself, he's chased off by broom wielding adversaries.

The action culminates with Raccoon crashing a secret pizza party, using his natural coloration to blend in with the other masquerading guests. But it's too good to be true, and out come the brooms one more time...

As always, Salmieri's illustrations are outstanding and evocative. They're the perfect complement to the zany text.


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