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Planet Waves Dare Guitar Strap, Black
Planet Waves Dare Guitar Strap, Black
Price: $15.29
28 used & new from $8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A very comfortable guitar strap for heavier solidbodies, May 15, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
If you're an electric guitarist who plays for hours at a time and you have a tendency to have a bad back or shoulder pain, there used to be two suggestions for you - switch to a semi-acoustic and/or join a band that lets you sit down. Since neither suggestion works for everyone, there have been several attempts to create a guitar strap that will more evenly distribute the guitar's weight across both shoulders. Some people add padding, and some expand the width of the strap. I've tried a few of them, and the Dare Guitar Strap is one of the best out there. The 'trick' to the Dare strap is to have a front half of the strap that can be spread apart, something like a pair of suspenders and this helps to avoid too much pressure on your left shoulder. I've found that when I use the Dare, I can play my heavy late 90's solidbody Carvin for over two hours and not feel a bit of stiffness afterwards in either my left shoulder or my back. Without the Dare, if I want to play guitar for a length of time while standing I have to switch to a lighter guitar like a Gibson SG. And since the Dare is essentially a basic webbing-style strap, it takes up no more space than an ordinary guitar strap.

The main problem with the strap is that its odd looks aren't for everyone. If you're in a studio or playing in certain types of bands, the strap is OK because looks don't really matter. If, on the other hand. you're in a band where looks are important (such as a top 40 band), I have to tell you that the strap doesn't look very sharp. I can't imagine this atop a tuxedo, either, and wedding band guitarists might want to avoid this strap for that reason. And if you're a theatrical lead guitarist prone to swinging your guitar around, this strap won't work for you as its design keeps the guitar closer to your chest/torso.

If you're like me, however, and your performing style doesn't require a lot of flashy movements or fancy clothes then the strap is ideal. It definitely makes longer practice sessions or garage jams a lot more comfortable.


Beatlemaniacs!!! The World of Beatles Novelty Records
Beatlemaniacs!!! The World of Beatles Novelty Records
Price: $16.14
30 used & new from $6.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Fun for what it is, May 12, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Given how the Beatles have been enshrined in the classic rock pantheon, it's sometimes difficult to remember that in the United States of the early 1960s, Beatlemania itself was treated as just the latest preteen fad, to be eventually displaced by the likes of Pet Rocks. There were many quickie attempts to cash in on the Beatles, and while most of these were cynically motivated there's also a lot of nostalgic innocence connected to some of these songs. These are songs that helped to tide young fans over between new releases by the Beatles - when they weren't buying 45s by the Dave Clark Five or the Animals. While some of the contents here are musically questionable, the package itself - with extensive liner notes - is a model for oldies compilations and favorably compares to what Rhino Records used to do back in the day.

In this collection of two dozen songs, there are some examples of girl group answers to Beatles hits, for example, and some odd attempts to simulate the Beatles' sound by American session players. These are the sort of music industry monkey businesses that don't have an analogue in today's market, hence the nostalgia. There are also some hard-to-find rarities, particularly "Saint Paul" by Terry Knight. (While associated with the Paul is Dead hoax, the song is actually quite lovely and with it's Hey Jude-like ending almost sounds like a mashup before its time).

Is this a complete collection? Nope. There are no Beatles cover versions here, so there's no Chipmunks material. The Pete Best albums that were quickly dumped on the American market (but bought by some fans due to misleading marketing) are nowhere to be found. The emphasis here is on good-natured, good-timey takes on the Beatles so the undercurrent of anti-Beatles novelty songs (such as Allan Sherman's mean-spirited "Pop Hates the Beatles") aren't here.

But that isn't the point. This is a Nuggets-style collection of one-hit wonders, oddities, and stars (like Terry Knight and Sissy Spacek) before their times. It does what it does exceptionally well, and neatly fills a void in a compleatist's collection that was once served by scratchy bootlegs. The liner notes have one of the best essays on early 60s Beatlemania that I've ever read, and make most current reissues' liner notes seem sketchy by comparison.

If you want to better understand the Beatles' place in early 1960s American culture, this is an excellent place to start.


Otto Binder: The Life and Work of a Comic Book and Science Fiction Visionary
Otto Binder: The Life and Work of a Comic Book and Science Fiction Visionary
by Bill Schelly
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.90

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Biography of a Writer of Commerical Popular Fiction, April 27, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
If you are a Captain Marvel fan, it's possible that you already have this book. Along with artist CC Beck, Otto Binder's name is very closely associated with the heyday of Captain Marvel. And, while not necessarily the first name you'll think of in connection to Superman, Binder helped add or develop many "Marvel Family" -style touches to the Superman comics of the 1950s which included Supergirl, Krypto the Wonder Dog, Superboy, Brainiac, and a fleshed-out cub reporter named Jimmy Olsen.

If you're not a Captain Marvel fan but are interested in lowbrow popular American fiction from the mid-20th Century, there is a lot in this book you're going to love. Otto Binder started his career writing science fiction for the same weird pulps that HP Lovecraft and Robert E Howard lorded over in the 20's and 30's. Then, in the wake of the seismic pop culture shift that Superman began, Binder moved over to comic books. After working throughout the Golden Age and much of the Silver Age of Comics mainly in superhero and horror comics, Binder reinvented himself as a popular science writer (mainly for children). And as the 60's progressed, Binder hitched his paperback writing wagon to the flying saucer craze by writing both straightforward documentary about UFOs and wilder speculative stuff cut from a "Chariots of the Gods" cloth.

While most of this book is a loving and affectionate portrayal of a popular writer with a very long commercial career, author Bill Schelly is not afraid to paint his subject in a fair and evenhanded light even if what he writes is sometimes unflattering. Schelly pulls few punches in describing Binder's alcoholism, and is not afraid to offer negative critical opinion regarding much of what Binder wrote outside of the comic books. This makes Binder seem all the more human, which is a wonderful contrast to the Captain Marvel and Superman heroes he devoted much of his imagination to. Schelly also is of the mindset that the special qualities that made those Golden Age comics work so well were part of the cultural zeitgeist of the 1940s and 1950s, which makes it almost impossible to recreate their fantastic, over-the-top optimism and innocence today. This is not necessarily a popular position to take, but it does partly explain why Captain Marvel's revivals were never truly successful (and why the Superman films of the past few years are so flawed).

It's rare that I read a biography and feel as if I've met the subject. This book does just that.


Visual Intelligence: Sharpen Your Perception, Change Your Life
Visual Intelligence: Sharpen Your Perception, Change Your Life
by Amy E. Herman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.13
60 used & new from $14.52

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You Can See Clearly Now, April 18, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
'Visual Intelligence" is a distillation of seminars on precise observation and communication that Amy E. Herman has given to a variety of clients, including the NYPD. If this book is any indication, these seminars are exceptionally informative and worthwhile. Herman starts off with an examination of several works of art - not from an art history perspective but from the perspective of meticulous detailing of all visible details without making either inference or value judgment. These exercises have an important point - most of us simply do not pay enough attention to detail. And there's a good reason for that; when most people view artwork in museums we simply do not engage with the work and do not spend more than 30 seconds drinking in the details. From there, we move to accurate communication of details observed which is a difficult skill in its own right.

Much of the first half of the book would be a valuable resource for anyone who wants to get more out of museum visits. (By all means, throw away those "must see" lists of artwork at a given museum and spend your time instead truly observing and enjoying artwork that speaks to you!) But the goal of the book is to teach you how to better observe as a precursor to improving your performance at your job. It's in this sense that Herman is referring to these skills as a form of "intelligence" and there are clear implications for why improving observation improves other aspects of our professional lives.

Not everything here was new to me. I've already read books on the benefits of pure description without attributions and guesswork (mainly from a behaviorist perspective), mindfulness at work (from a Zen Buddhist perspective), and close attention to detail (from many perspectives). But I am probably not the target audience for this book. I know enough, however, to heartily recommend this volume to you. It is a great introduction to learning how to truly see what surrounds you.


Accoutrements Dashboard Eyeball Wiggler
Accoutrements Dashboard Eyeball Wiggler
Offered by THE BT GROUP
Price: $7.33
18 used & new from $3.77

3.0 out of 5 stars He's Watching You!, March 15, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This weird little Shriner-inspired Eye In The Sky is both wacky and whimsical. It might not be for everyone, because it's so darned goofy. But it's a nice touch of goofball goodness for a weirdo like me. It reminds me of something Shag might have painted. The plastic is exceptionally lightweight and the tape on the base isn't very strong, however, and that's why this wiggler isn't really ideal for use on a dashboard. I use mine on my desktop.


Lee Men's Dungarees Performance Cargo Short, Lion, 38
Lee Men's Dungarees Performance Cargo Short, Lion, 38
Price: $27.90
3 used & new from $27.90

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lightweight and comfortable, March 15, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Neither too baggy or too tight (problems with many cargo pants and shorts), these shorts fit the bill for lightweight summery clothing. The material is indeed lightweight - these are not heavy denim dungarees by any stretch of the imagination - but the material is also durable. The torso pockets are deep and roomy. The leg pouches are, too, but I don't like the feel of side pouches when they hold keys or bulky items so I don't use them. There is a "cell phone pouch" that I definitely won't use at all because while it allows easy access to a phone, it had no Velcro flap on top which makes it too easy for your phone to slip out if you're moving around a lot while wearing these shorts. They're for summertime after all!

Are these the most stylish shorts available? I don't think any mens' shorts are truly stylish. But they are good for what they are and I will wear them gladly in hot, humid weather..


Freedom of the Mask
Freedom of the Mask
by Robert McCammon
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Perfect Pulp, February 20, 2016
This review is from: Freedom of the Mask (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
"Freedom of the Mask" has something for everyone - as long as you're a fan of pulp fiction paperbacks. There's action in major world cities and exotic locales. There's a masked avenger. There's an evil mastermind lording over a secret criminal organization. There are secluded lairs. There's bone-crushing violence and tense suspense. And, finally, "Freedom" achieves what every good entry in a book series should achieve; it makes you hungry for the next installment in what should be a long-running serial.

Robert McCammon's heroic character of Michael Corbett is sometimes compared to James Bond. If truth be told, McCammon's writing here has many similarities with Ian Fleming's style. The violence is over-the-top (McCammon was once a horror author, and his experience with writing about gore and gristle was undoubtedly very useful here), the villains are larger-than-life (witness McCammon's passages describing Mother Deare and Professor Fell), and the heroes have a flawed moral ambiguity similar to that of Fleming's Bond. Truth be told, this is a difficult genre to write well and not only does McCammon make it seem easy, but he also makes a 500+ page novel fly by as though it were only 125 pages.

There's also a satire of the "Penny Dreadful"-style yellow press throughout the chapters that take place in London. Much of what McCammon targets here is done better than other media satires I've read.

If you're looking for consistently entertaining pulp adventure, you have come to exactly the right place. The book's only flaw is - opening chapters aside - its assumption that you are already familiar with many of the characters from previous Michael Corbett adventures.


Visual Scriptures: A Meditative Coloring Book (Devotional Coloring)
Visual Scriptures: A Meditative Coloring Book (Devotional Coloring)
by Mixed Media Resources
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.95
73 used & new from $4.35

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Gift for a Craft-Oriented Christian, January 9, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is another in the genre of so-called "adult" coloring books that feature intricate mosaic-like imagery that require perseverance and patience to color in their entirety. It's a good method to quietly relax, in the same way that some people like to complete jigsaw puzzles, build ships in bottles, play Sudoku, or paint-by-number kits.

This particular book is Christian-themed and features a variety of religious symbolism in differing styles. Some look almost like modern stained glass templates while others are abstract and geometrical. In terms of subject matter, this would be particularly attractive to anyone who is converting to Christianity or who regards themselves as a religious Christian. I can easily imagine a Bible studies group, for example, agreeing to color a different image each week and then come together to compare their different coloring choices before devoting time to discussing the particular verse that inspired the artwork.

The paper is on the thin side, which means that you're best off using colored pencils. Those who like vivid magic markers will find the ink bleeds through the page. The paper also lacks perforations, which is unfortunate. Many of the graphics are worthy of framing, and it isn't that easy to remove a page from this book either neatly or without damaging other pages..


The Sea Beach Line: A Novel
The Sea Beach Line: A Novel
by Ben Nadler
Edition: Paperback
Price: $4.53
64 used & new from $0.07

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Catcher in the Pastrami On Rye, December 30, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Although Ben Nadler's "Sea Beach Line" seems to be marketed as a noir mystery in some circles, it's actually a non-genre story about a confused, alienated young man trying to find his own identity. Izzy Edel, a twentysomething well on his way to becoming a professional dropout and drifter, attempts to reconnect with his long-lost biological father. The twist is that despite initial evidence, Izzy refuses to believe that his father is dead. This leads to Izzy's immersion in the remaining fragments of his father's life, including carrying on his father's day job as a second-hand street bookseller and becoming part of the periphery of Eastern European Jewish gangland in Brooklyn. Along the way, there's an unusual (and lengthy) pseudo-romantic relationship with a Hasidic girl who is on the run from her family and extended musings on Jewish folklore in general and the Jewish New York experience in particular. There is a lot of Yiddish to be found here.

It's for that last reason that I'd describe this book in shorthand as "The Catcher in the Pastrami On Rye," pastrami-on-rye being a popular sandwich sold in Jewish delis.

There's a lot in this book to like. From the opening sentences, it's obvious that Izzy's quest is not going to go well, and Nadler does a great job of extending that feeling of dread throughout. Nadler himself was a bookseller in New York, and the book is at its strongest when it follows the personalities and lifestyles of the men who make a living selling used paperbacks from folding tables on the streets near major universities. They're definitely eccentric and some might describe them as transient. I truly hope that one day Nadler writes a more focused book about these types of characters and situations. Nadler also does an exemplary job of treating New York City as a character and not just a setting. Nadler's New York is not the gleaming tourist attraction but a seedy city with unattractive residential units, hidden storage areas, and most of all streets in which junkies and criminals can mingle unnoticed with tourists and students.

Unfortunately, the heart of the story is not very compelling. Nadler probably intended Izzy to be a naive seeker. In actuality, too often, Izzy comes across as simply stupid and unable to actively achieve any of his goals without obvious Author Intrusion. Rayna, his romantic interest, is seen by Izzy to be mysterious and enigmatic; but everything about her can be dismissed as "odd" and -as written- the relationship that exists between them is neither memorable nor heartbreaking. There are extended forays into mainly Yiddish folklore, which sometimes support the plot but more often either spoil things by making the subtext too obvious or come across, frankly, as padding. It's a bad sign when backstory and literary allusions become more interesting than the present story, but about halfway through, Izzy's nonadventures become unbearably tedious and the diversions offer a welcome change of pace. The pace does pick up in the last quarter of the book (as do the number of bizarre coincidences), but at the expense of the mood that Ben Nadler worked so hard to establish.

That said, there's a lot of good reading to be found in "Sea Beach," particularly in the first 100 pages. It just isn't a ride that's satisfying till the end.


American Grotesque: The Life and Art of William Mortensen
American Grotesque: The Life and Art of William Mortensen
by Michael Moynihan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $31.42
77 used & new from $22.20

5.0 out of 5 stars When Venus and the Vulcan Met in Photography, December 18, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Never heard of William Mortensen? Neither did I until recently, and I thought I knew a lot about photography. Mortensen fell into obscurity after his death in the 1960s and is experiencing a modestly-sized revival, due to the resonance his fantastic analog imagery has on today's more receptive audience. The cover of this book is truth-in-advertising - Mortensen's heavily retouched photos could pass for stills from an alternate universe in which the Hays Production Code never took effect and 1930s Hollywood was as lurid, macabre, and explicit as possible. In other words, this is a creative world in which jazz age nudes, Goya-inspired torture scenes, witchcraft, freaks, monsters, and violence are readily available.

It is also a world with some exceptional portraits in period costume, as one might expect from a photographer who worked in publicity for movie studios during the silent era. These portraits would be a centerpiece in any photographer's portfolio, or any actor's collection of head shots. You will not be surprised that Mortensen knew, and admired, Lon Chaney Sr.

This book contains crisp, clear reproductions of many of Mortensen's surviving photos (most of which are full-page), thoughtful essays from a biographical, technical, and artistic perspective, and a reprinting of one of Mortensen's own essays (with full coauthor credit finally given to Mortensen's ghostwriter George Dunham). Given that Mortensen's subject matter leans towards the outré and outrageous, there are some images that lean heavily towards kitsch or camp (and he degenerated into straightforward cheesecake near the end of his career), but most of what is shown here is among the most amazing (if not disturbing) fantasy art of the 20th Century. This book is highly recommended.


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