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Ecandy Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker with Built in Speakerphone, 8 Hour Rechargeable Battery-Red
Ecandy Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker with Built in Speakerphone, 8 Hour Rechargeable Battery-Red
Offered by ESON-AM
Price: $29.99
2 used & new from $8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Looks Small, Plays Big. A Mini-Boombox that's unbeatable, whether as a traveling companion or space-efficient stereo system, September 3, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I've listened to many Bluetooth speakers--at $200, $100, $50. But recently I've observed that my grandchildren and even my own kids are more drawn to these small, inexpensive speakers, which come in all shapes and sizes. some offering more features than others, some offering more "useless" features than others. In general, bluetooth pairing is no longer the dicey "adventure" of just several years ago. These days wireless connections can be counted on: they're quick and secure. Still, it's nice to have the possibility of a wired connection--not only in the event of Bluetooth failure but to avoid the "signal degradation" that is present in all Bluetooth connections. In fact, I tested each speaker with a wired connection (if the speaker had a stereo input) before testing its connectivity and sound when used wirelessly.

To cut to the chase, this "mini boombox" (with a slice removed from the left top corner) quickly rose to the very top of my standings, even though the price remained at the bottom. it's slightly heavier than other speakers with the same shape and size, and the full-requency, undistorted sound confitmed my suspcion that the extra weight was due to the manufacturer's use of a heavier magnet for the sake of a clear, full and loud signal. Unlike other speakers going for under $30, the Ecandy (the names and packaging can vary considerably) produced the tones of acoustic "walking bass"--not obvious certainly, but audible and pitch-identifiable. The upper register is the zone in which these small speakers excell), but the highs were also clear and nicely balanced with the mid-range--more pleasing than the grating (practically assaulting) tones from my Beats Pill costing $100).

So much for the bass, ride cymbal and hi-hat. The all-important mid-range on this sonic gem has a natural presence, which unlike other personal speakers--mini and large--did not do injury to Bil Evans' piano or Frank's and Ella's vocals. In short, this little guy may look like a novelty speaker--which it may be--but it's also capable of playing music (and being heard even over my old and noisy treadmill).

For my $9, I had no right to expect more--but I got it. O.K., the advertised "radio" on this speaker--like all the others I tried--is a "no-show." It pulled in a few static-free signals but couldn't hold them for longer than a second or two. I say, better to ignore it. It may be a feature of some actual value in the crowded urban areas of China.

More useful to me was the slot for a MICRO-SD card. (For a few dollars you can purchase an 8-16gb card--enough storage space for a year's worth of MP3 files. Moreover, the speaker has 4 controls on top--volume, mode, fast-forwarding--all of which worked without problems. So with this speaker plus tha minuscule (nearly invisible) SD card, you're good to go--leave the phone alone, don't add a pad, don't carry an iPod on your bod. This boombox is self-sufficient (though admittedly transferring files to the SD card can be labor and time-intensive if you're unfamiliar with it).

Besdies the micro-SD slot, the Ecandy boom box comes with an AUX INPUT for a conventional 3.5mm stereo cable--which is included in addition to the usual USB charging cable. (These alone could cost up to ten bucks.) My comments about the sound of this personal speaker are necessarily "personal'--or relative to other small speakers heard under les optimal conditions. But the observations are based on the sound I was hearing with a wired connection from the speaker to an iPod 4th gen. And now that I'm beyond the stage of marveling, or of going "ooh" and "ahhh" each time a speaker performs without benefit of wires, it's become a kick to occasionally go with a wired connection, knowing I'm hearing the best audio that the speaker is capable of with the source material i give it.

The icing on the cake was the discovery at the bottom of the box of a well-designed, practical, cloth wriststrap (though I would strongly advise against getting carried away with the strap, spinning the speaker as if it were a propeller. Pretend the speaker is a $300 iPod or Bose, and you'll not only be more sensitive to its excellence but contribute to its longevity.

I've ordered several of these and from different dealers. In one instance, the speaker came in a doubly enforced, shiny new box with the following phrase emblazoned in big red letters on 4 sides: "3 Hours of Playing Time." No doubt some prospective buyers might regard a "mere" 3 hours as a negative rather than a positive. Frankly, I'll take 3 hours gladly, especially after Mac Airs and iPods promising up to 8 hours wimp out on me inside the first hour (Apple has made big improvements to the battery of the Air -- it's the iPod 5g that's the worst offender.)

Whether you find this speaker under the name of "ECandy" or something more plain and generic, it's gotta be "can't miss" at best and "nothing to lose" at worst. At present, I find it an unbeatable value, and I trust you will too. (If necessary, I'll revisit this review and my rating.)


LOHAS 6 Pocket Bedside Storage Mattress Book Remote Caddy, Arm Rest Bedside Organizer,Natural
LOHAS 6 Pocket Bedside Storage Mattress Book Remote Caddy, Arm Rest Bedside Organizer,Natural

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not the best bag but perhaps the best "value" in a necessarily problematic item (they split at the seams or slip away), August 24, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is my 3rd bedside caddy. The first lasted 3 years before the seams split (Amazon is showing it as the "Gearbox Caddy"--though it seemed to be made of stiffer cloth and more workmanlike stiches than the pictured item). The 2nd caddy, ordered at the end of June 2015, was the Richards Homestead black canvas bag, which is inexplicably listed as #1 in Amazon sales. A first glance at this lightweight canvas bag, with machine-stamped stitching, was enough to give away its quality as an item belonging in a dollar store. I was hardly surprised when it split within the first month.

If you plan to use the bag for a tablet, a computer, numerous remotes, etc., forget the cheap and popular bags. This Lohas bag promises to be well worth the few extra dollars over the Richards black canvas bag. The material is not as strong as that of the bag that lasted me for 3 years, but it's tough enough to last for the rest of the year, and the extra-long flap has led me to trying it without benefit of velcro or big mattress pins fastening it down. (It'll definitely slip out--the only question being "when" not "if." At that point I'lI "pin it down" with the 3 large (4") safety pins purchased from Amazon for that purpose.

To be continued (if the same bag is in one untorn piece a year from now, I'll raise my rating by a star). I can only hope that 4 stars is not too generous. After the first bag, I'll be happy if this one holds together for six months. . .


Richard Pryor: Live & Smokin'
Richard Pryor: Live & Smokin'
DVD ~ Richard Pryor
Price: $4.99
37 used & new from $1.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Some choppy editing, some whoopee cushion humor, but finally it acquires edge and shows us why "black lives matter", August 23, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I discovered both Richard Pryor and George Carlin when they were co-hosting a summer variety show on one of the big networks during television's golden B&W period. Both comedians impressed me as fresh, extremely talented and funny. And if you view the G rated requirements of prime-time network TV not as a prohibition but as a "challenging format" requiring performers of inventive comic brilliance, both Pryor and Carlin proved they did not need "forbidden" words or "blue" humor to be funny.

Pryor works with color and race as his medium of expression much as Carlin does the same with language--more specifically, the distorted versions of reality we unwittingly create with our thoughtless uses of words. Carlin, in some respects, has to be admired as the master of his craft precisely because he avoids autobiographical material and the construction of a comic persona based on his own life. He's a comic everyman, reporting the day's trivial and sordid business, from flying on airplanes to being witness to another senseless war predictably launched by the all-supreme DOD. He candidly discusses his hatred of "lies," which is the only thing we can expect to hear from our government. And then he proceeds to dramatize the world of lies to which each of us is subjected during our brief, uninformed lifetimes.

If you can overlook the "F word" (hasn't it exhausted its meaning and effect by now?) and recognize, even in some of his most outrageously funny sketches (with catalogs of euphonic words, each individually clear yet coming together in a forceful current that streams from his mouth in a heady rush that I have yet to hear matched by any rapper-hip-hopper--if you can recognize in that stream not only the dazzling performance of a master craftsman but the picture of life as it is lived (or, more often, wasted), then you're in a position to recognize Carlin for the supreme satirist that he is. Like the 18th century's Jonathan Swift, he's capable of touching a nerve provoking anger along with laughter (some of it anger over our own obtuseness and stupidity).

Both Carlin and Pryor are proficient at using multi-voices. There's always the "adult voice" of arrogance, pride, and presumed maturity alternating with the more direct and vernacular voice of outrage and truth.

Pryor's builiding blocks are his personal experiences as a young black man having daily business with hookers, druggies, and brothels. Unlike Carlin, he gives himself an advantage through his creation of a sympathetic figure due to the prejudice and hardships of his youth (most of the laughter heard on "Live and Smokin'" sounds like it's coming from the white women in a small audience). Like Carlin, he works with loosely drawn-up "set pieces," each of which has been carefully rehearsed before stringing them together for the occasion. The transitions and segues aren't as smooth as Carlin's (there are a number of fades to black), and Pryor occasionally makes self-conscious references to the challenge of working in front of a camera. The audience gives him that--at least, more readily than if it were Carlin making similar excuses. Much of the humor on "Live & Smokin'" is scatological--and here his targets are not black and white but man and woman, and the different ways in which each deals with his or her bodily functions. It may strike the viewer as odd that the audience seems most repulsed when Pryor sticks his finger in his nose, then his mouth, then says: "Come on, admit it . Doesn't everyone enjoy a good booger?" Maybe so, but that's the stuff that children between the ages of 5 and 8 especially enjoy (the "Jelly-Belly Factory" in Kenosha, Wi, even puts out a "booger-flavored" jelly bean).

Besides the "shock value" (getting the crowd's attention), the bits about body functions universalizes the primarily black life that is Pryor's main focus. Soon he's not merely talking about but assuming the character of the real down-n-outers that, we quickly sense, he knows far better than we. We may laugh but not without feeling equal amounts of pity and fear--one moment Pryor is swinging wildly with his fists, striking the mic or anyone within range, the next he's threatening to drop his trousers, the next he's a hopeless addict whose mother has called him a dog and whose father has disowned him for hocking the family TV set. He uses his hand as an object of menace, helplessness and obscenity--holding it in the region of his groin and making it appear physically deformed. Soon it becomes a symbol of his stolen manhood, signifying his limited opportunities and his resentment at a world that has kicked him into the gutter, then ignored him--no good Samaritans within sight of his tortured body, as he wishes for only two things: 1. a friend who will walk alongside of him, offering support and empathy until 2. two o'clock the next day, when he thinks he has a chance to score with drug-dealer who will make his troubles go away--for a limited time.

Pryor isn't saying , merely, that "Black lives matter" even though he's representing black experience with greater candor than many people (including successful and wealthy black people) have ever had a chance to get so close to. It's only when his spectators sees through the "blackness" (Pryor's tool, his means to a weightier end) to the "human" and the universal that his humor reaches the destination that counts. Black lives matter because, like white lives, they can easily be misled, misguided, mishandled and fall off the high and dry curb into a dark stagnating abyss--white lives and black lives alike. Whether it's an impoverished, unbathed, stinking white person or a black person, what matters is laughter signifying that we recognize in the afflicted humanity created by Pryor someone like ourselves. Our pride and privilege can't insulate us from the fallen or excuse us from our failure to assist such a human being, even if it's to get him through another night of hell prior to the next fix.

It's not that black lives matter "as much as" white lives (the misunderstanding of white politicians). Rather it's the recognition that if black lives don't matter, neither do white lives because we're all essentially alike. If we allow blackness to distance ourselves from another human being--whether it's to abuse that person or to ignore him--we act as though black lives DON'T matter. What you have yet to learn is that "blackness is humanness."

(Part of Pryor's closing impersonation of a down-and-out black man is theological, as he invokes the preacher and the Good Samaritan. And these reference allow us to appreciate the power of humor to "free us from our sins," lifted from us by the power of laughter. Frankly, I enjoyed this performance more than the more celebrated "Live on Sunset Strip." By the time of "Sunset Strip" Pryor had become a celebrity, and when every word that he speaks (some unintelligible) is greeted by laughter by an audience primed to respond in exactly that way, the "cleansing action" of great "serious humor" has been reduced to a meaningless "ritual."


Panasonic DMP-BD93 Smart Network Blu-Ray Disc Player
Panasonic DMP-BD93 Smart Network Blu-Ray Disc Player
Price: $89.07
61 used & new from $43.63

4.0 out of 5 stars BD93 or Sony S3500? A close call (though Japan gets the nod over Samsung and LG), August 22, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I was able to make a new but balking Sony player (S3500) work just before receiving this hastily ordered Panasonic (a brand I've frequently found more trustworthy, responsive and durable than recent Sony products, which tend to cut corners for the sake of low-balling the price). Now that I have the two machines next to each other, it's really a tough call.

The Panasonic appears to be more solid, with a more "substantial" remote control and a bigger, more readable menu on a screen that's not cluttered with an overwhelming number of useless internet sites. The Panasonic also seems to be a tad faster at loading a DVD and streaming a movie from an internet site. However, the more I used it, the more I began to notice minor irritants that led me back to the Sony. My "gripe sheet" with the Panasonic BD 93 is as follows:

1. The most important button on the remote is, for me, the Open and Close button for the tray of the player. On the Panasonic remote, that crucial button is one of the smallest, and it's clustered among a number of other tiny buttons.

2. The Sony has a helpful, reassuring "On" light, and moreover the machine is easier to operate via controls on the player itself (on/off, tray opening, etc.).

3. The Panasonic throws large and inviting categories on the screen, but I found their configuration a bit confusing. I had the feeling I was "chasing" slippery circles, using 2 clicks when one should suffice. In the end, I preferred the tinier and cluttered but more orderly and logical arrangement of the Sony menu and internet sites.

4. The Panasonic has a fraction of the many sites offered by the Sony, but probably all you need (Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc.). However, there was one unfamiliar attraction that was hard to resist and even harder to escape from once I had, as most other users certainly will, yielded to curiosity and clicked on it. It's an ultra-fancy and colorful marquee labeled "Cinema Now." And once in it, I felt like I was being strong-armed by an insistent salesman who wouldn't let go! It was trying to get me to sign up and join without showing me benefits or cost. Perhaps it's possible to remove it. If so, do so ASAP because once in it, everything else on the control freezes up and the user feels powerless.

5. Perhaps the foregoing are mere quibbles that, in the long run, won't count as much as having a fast and dependable player. (My $200.00 Panasonic DVD player from the year 2000 is still good as new.) However, since purchasing that machine I decided ten years ago to stick with Sony's LCD big screens rather than Panasonic's critically-acclaimed plasma sets. Because of my previous Sony purchases, I'm practically able to overlook the dinky piece of plastic that Sony offers as a remote for the S3500. All of my older, larger, more durable Sony TV switches of years past proved equally effective with the new Sony Blu Ray player.

In short, they're two very useful wireless Blu Ray players priced as low as $60. Either one can easily take the place of a "smart" TV or a Roku box. The one you choose could very well depend upon the "digital eco-system" that you've put in place as a result of previous purchases. (I have operative Sony, Panasonic, Toshiba, and Canon equipment, but the preponderance of Sony TV sets simply makes the Sony S3500 the better bet in my case.)


Samsung BD-J5100 Curved Blu-ray Player (2015 Model)
Samsung BD-J5100 Curved Blu-ray Player (2015 Model)
Price: Click here to see our price
105 used & new from $34.51

1.0 out of 5 stars Stay away (unless you're looking for a wired machine)., August 21, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I'm not sure I would have been able to avoid buying this player even had I been less hasty.. Since I've already purchased similar-sized Sony and Panasonic players with Wi-Fi connectivity (at the same or lower price), I fully expected this machine to offer the feature. There was nothing on the machine page to warn the potential buyer that this Samsung is NOT the more common wireless model.

Unfortunately, I was unable to get to the machine for set-up until 6 weeks following the order. So I'll probably either use it as a dedicated CD player or simply swallow my loss.

[What's the point of a WIRED machine--and a 2015, "non-professional" model that's the same compact dimensions and price as the popular wireless models from Sony and Panasonic? Lesson learned..]


George Carlin: All My Stuff
George Carlin: All My Stuff
DVD ~ George Carlin
Price: $99.92
20 used & new from $87.02

5.0 out of 5 stars The consummate comic genius of the post-Bruce age--the Jonathan Swift of stand-up comics, August 21, 2015
This review is from: George Carlin: All My Stuff (DVD)
After 40 years I miss teaching literature. I'm tired of blank expressions when I quote memorized lines by Wordsworth, Keats or Shakespeare (or even mention the names of these architects of Western consciousness and its inseparable relationship with the communicative / expressive / self-conscious system called "language"). Homer (800 B.C.), Socrates (500 B.C.) and, above all, Geoffrey Chaucer (1400 A.D.) are my internal and very immediate companions, endlessly questioning me, talking back to me, and illuminating my decisions and indecisions on a daily basis. Give me no more than the first sentence of Chaucer's Prologue to the "Canterbury Tales," and I will show you a single sentences that represents not merely its primary subject (a "Club Med"-type journey by a cross-section of English society--some standing out more than others due to their greed, exploitation of the defenseless, and irrespressible carnality but all united not only by their goal of reaching the Canterbury Cathedral and paying their respects to the martyr Thomas Beckett but by this infinitely expressive, democratic new language and the storytelling that it permits among the community. And above all it's Chaucer the Pilgrim who excells with his description of the birth of spring even as he fathers forth the birth of the English language and, in effect, gives birth to English literature itself (few works in any language can stand up to the cosmic yet personable vitality of "The Canterbury Tales").

Despairing of conversing with like-minded human beings for whom Chaucer, Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Browning, Pound, T.S. Eliot and William Faulkner are not remote and obscure "historical monuments" but vital voices in the present moment, I've turned to the most expressive voices in jazz (Ellington, Bill Evans, dozens of great tenor players like Hank Mobley and, of course, Coltrane). And as the audience for their music has begun to shrink, I've returned to film--but not to Griffith, Chaplin, Bresson, Renoir, Welles, Capra, Ford, Hitchcock, Bergman, Kurosawa and Fellini (they've been eclipsed by the producers responsible for the digital programming of the "Matrix," which like Spenser's monster Fraud has given birth to a thousand more fantastical demons representing an escape from the problematics of space and time and, above all, mortality (the 'human condition," as literary wonks once called it). Instead, I've gone from film and movies to "video" and to filmmakers who don't "make" their realities as much as "record" them--in the moment and in "real time."

Lately, I've begun to study the words of post-"Bruce-ian" comics, consuming their concert tapes and frequently making notes of similarities and differences between Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy, or Pryor amd Robin Williams--all singularly brilliant performers who can perform magic with words. But the aforementioned have the advantage of a "pre-composed" persona--due to their movies (both R-rated and family) and publicity machines. The minute they walk on stage the audience is prepared to laugh at their first word, and when the first word is an "F" word or "N" word, they respond with appreciative howls, shrieks, and squeals of laughter. Carlin possesses no such advantage, and therefore has to build and sustain a comic stage persona from the ground-up--not only using words but repeatedly calling our attention to those words and all of the wondrous things they can perform--from turning our worlds upsidedown to sealing us in a mindless void where words have lost their meaning. They no longer symbolize or signify representations of the way we as humans are capable of thinking and feeling. Rather, they're "noises" that we repeat endlessly, a mantra of cliches, aphorisms, and platitudes that make us feel better in our presumption of superiority to everyone else.

George Carlin belongs at the very top of the list of stand-up comics who have, after the last "good war" and the decade of "I Love Lucy," shone the beacon of truth on our blindnesses, hypocrisies, chauvinistic pride, regressive ignorance. His focus, it's safe to say, is never on himself but on the world as he perceives it through his penetration of the representations by "higher people," authorities, hawks, the media, "group-think," and all group-identity politics. His first "great truth" is: "Never believe a thing the government tells you." I's a sentence that gets him applause from every flaming liberal as well as the most entrenched redneck right-winger. But his elaboration on that statement will first confuse, and next alienate, any tea-partier in his audience.

The 2nd great truth might be: "patriotism is an ever-present danger and the biggest of lies." He then proceeds to dismantle, piece by piece, the word and the meanings that people most commonly and thoughtlessly attach to it. "Idealogues" have no place in Carlin's world--they're all programmed robots who substitute the deeply ingrained "thought patterns of habit" for actual thinking. They're incapable of using thought to reflect upon thought, of abstract thinking, or understanding irony--they represent what William Blake had in mind when, at the dawn of the Romantic Period of the early 19th century, he railed--more loudly and relentlessly than any previous writer in English--against the industrial age, the machinations of both big government and the exploitive Church, and above all against Reason itself, with its "mind-forged manacles" that, during the preceding century (called variously the "Enlightenment" or the "Age of Reason") had destroyed the souls of men and women, smothering the faculty of the Imagination, which it would be the Romantic poets' task to rescue and restore to a pre-eminent place in the consciousness of liberated human beings.

Carlin may be less spontaneous than many of his peers because he has to be: he can't rely on the cult of personality and celebrity. It's his subject matter and the words that express it that account for his power as the greatest satirist of modern times. He was our Jonathan Swift (author of "A Modest Proposal" and "Gulliver's Travels"). Unlike Pryor, he doesn't waste any words--there are no throwaways, no "faux" asides to a group of brothers. Unlike Williams, he doesn't encourage any sentiment and he doesn't pull punches. There's a movie in which 20+ comedians are asked to tell the same filthy joke. Robin plays it safe. Carlin dives right in, giving a performance reminiscent of a jazz virtuoso like Oscar Peterson. (Gilbert Gottfried is the winner because of his placement in the sequence and his underdog status.) I recommend the film (for certain temperaments and ages). It demonstrates how the best surgeons perform at their best when given the most horrendous afflictions and injuries to work with. It's those challenges that bring out their best.

I live near Milwaukee, where Carlin was arrested for saying in public a word forbidden by the city statutes. He even did time in jail for using that word. My hunch is that he enjoyed every minute of his imprisonment. He had accomplished something that we as educators have trled and failed to do for the past 5-6 decades--viz. to demonstrate the power of words to young people, showing them how to make sense out of a frequently senseless world and to understand how their own words can shape that world for the better while admitting them to that eye-opening, mind awakening venture that Socrates pronounced the only reason for living because, as he asserted before surrendering to the government, "the unexamined life is not fit to be lived by any human being."


Angriest Man in Brooklyn
Angriest Man in Brooklyn
DVD ~ Robin Williams
Price: $9.99
81 used & new from $0.71

4.0 out of 5 stars The brilliance of Robin Williams again almost smothered by a cluttered, sappy and insulting attempt at crowd-pleasing closure, August 21, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Angriest Man in Brooklyn (DVD)
Please, no more comments about a character's/persona's death and his "real life." As a pianist, I've played quite a few shows for comics (though I'd rather do vocalists and magicians). A stand-up comedian's job has become tougher than ever in the age of superhero movies with special effects and a jump cut every two seconds. Wit, jokes and charisma aren't enough to prevent the "death" that comics fear (and all too often experience) each time they take the stage. Added to the comedian's gift of improvisation is the necessity of going to the subjects that "touch a nerve"--sex (premarital and marital), toilet business, race, drugs and death chief among them. With the good comics we laugh through the pain, realizing we're getting a glimpse of the reality that the "superhero" movies and video games (e.g. "Minecraft") enable us to escape from.

Robin Williams is a brilliant talent. His last appearance on Johnny Carson's last Tonight Show was, in itself, a masterful performance--as was his first feature film, "Pop-Eye." But along the way he's had to waste his talent on scripts with some of the worst, corniest, most humiliating commercial slop served up by Hollywood. "Angriest Man" gives us a chance to esperience Williams' brilliance, much of which is necessarily laced with profanity, which can be a powerful tool in the comedian's playbook if used selectively. "Angry Man" fails when it resorts to the "F-- " word for no better reason that to alleviate, or clear the atmosphere, of the excessive, cloying sentiment that it obviously sees as essential to a box office success.

The film would be a five-star movie if it ended about ten minutes earlier. Williams' character asks: "Would you really want to know when you're going to die." For him, the answer is yes--because then he can atone for a life of loss and regrets, making the most of each precious remaining instant. Having made this point, he demonstrates his newfound happiness and peace by laying his head upon his sympathetic nurse's shoulder and closing his eyes. The shot fades to black.

At that moment, we're not sure whether Williams' character has died before our eyes or is taking a nap. It doesn't matter. It's a blessed sleep, however long or short. But sadly, the film's most powerful moment is wasted, all but thrown away, by a narrated epilogue that's the sappiest piece of filmmaking I've seen since "Patch Adams." If the filmmakera had an ounce of the courage that all great comics must possess, they would have ended the film at that poignant, provocative moment (and perhaps deleted several gratuitous "F-" words).

About Williams' career, it might be said that he has never failed his material. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the producers of the maudlin, lifeless, inferior emphera Williams was so often saddled with--films like "Patch Adams," "Mrs. Doubtfire," and "A Night at the Museum." If I resent them, it's because they prevent us from experiencing the comic genius of this singular artist. (Would you make Charlie Parker play in a pit orchestra? Would you put John Coltrane in a circus band?) Would you make Clifford Brown exchange his trumpet for a toy "Jew's harp" in an Adam Sandler movie?

Perhaps Robin sensed that his greatest opportunities as a creative comic were behind him. Above all, he had managed not only to visit but to entertain his old but immobilized friend, Christopher Reeves. No doubt it was a performance that no one (including Robin himself) could ever hope to top.


Sony BDPS3500 Blu-ray Player with Wi-Fi (2015 Model)
Sony BDPS3500 Blu-ray Player with Wi-Fi (2015 Model)
Price: Click here to see our price
52 used & new from $51.34

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An upgrade of a proven gem of a player, August 20, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Aside from computers, I've been a Sony admirer for many years, and with few exceptions the company has repaid that trust. It's still a leader in consumer technology, often at the lowest possible price. I purchased the S3200 Blu-ray player at Christmas for $40 to complement a new Sony TV ($550 for a gorgeous 48" screen ready to go out of the box--both items sold by Amazon). It was while looking for a 2nd player for the replaced Sony that I came upon this latest, 2015 player. The only question now: Is the 2015 model (3500) worth $20-$40 more than the 2014 model (3200)?

It looks like a more "no-nonsense" machine, with flatter, squared-off surfaces compared to its predecessor's (S3200) shiny plastic, sloped sides. It's also slightly more compact. And Sony's description at least "implies" faster load times and quicker internet streaming.

Like some other reviewers I had uncharacteristic difficulty setting the player up until reading some of the comments (including some suggestions from Sony reps) in the Amazon reviews. Initially the player had a tough time seeing my wi-fi. I went to the Sony site, downloaded (but never really bothered to read) the Sony instructions and the zip file for upgrading the unit via USB and a thumb drive. Instead, I followed Sony's recommendation to use the internet rather than USB. It's also useful to take a look at the Sony rep's comments re: the first reviewer's problems with the unit. There's a simple setting that can be made on the router--but also occasional "traffic jams" in local network use that can slow down, even temporarily immobilize, the player's internet connnectivity. I realized, then, that my problem with the unit occurred in the late afternoon, after another "crash" in the markets was no doubt leading to heavy computer use.

For the present it's working (I suspect everyone on the block was selling their stocks when I first tried the connection). Assuming the connection remains secure, I think I like the new one better than its immediate predecessor--maybe not $30 more but certainly $10, possibly even $20, more. The remote is exactly the same (one exception: "SEN" has been replaced by the more practical "FAVORITE"). Of course the buttons are too tiny for most human hands, so thank your lucky stars if you have older Sony equipment or even a new Sony TV set. Even though my pricey, large and slow Sony Blu Ray player of 5-6 years ago is now a "boat anchor," its remote continues to be the best Sony remote available. This larger, more user-friendly switch for outmoded Sony equipment will most likely become your "wireless wand" of choice. The new flat-sided player not only looks more efficient but in my limited testing is delivering (slightly) faster loading times for discs as well as faster downloading and opening times for files streamed from internet sites.

If you don't have a Smart TV, either of the two Sony players mentioned above will readily take its place. (If you're an Apple fan, the Apple TV box would be the only addition worth considering. Since viewers are playing fewer DVDs than ever), the internet connection is likely to receive more attention than the player. On the other hand, if I wish to check out some favorite scenes from, say, Hitchock's "Vertigo" or watch "Citizen Kane" while listening to Roger Ebert's commentary, there's nothing that can take the place of the Blu Ray disc. Moreover, if you've amassed a collection of music CD that you value, the player will handle those as well as your video collection.


Guess Who I Saw Today: Nancy Wilson Sings Songs Of Lost Love
Guess Who I Saw Today: Nancy Wilson Sings Songs Of Lost Love
Price: $10.19
36 used & new from $5.15

5.0 out of 5 stars Despite her outsized talents, her accomplishments, her eloquence, her striking beauty--she's underrated., August 18, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I didn't recognize one of the tunes on this anthology (hand-selected from a collection of Nancy's best albums, all with strong casts of supporting musicians). It's a tune called "Ghost of Yesterday" by Kitchings and Herzog, Jr. (the latter a name I associate with a Billie Holiday hit). I'm still not sure whether it's all that great a song (by contrast, the other tunes in this collection belong at the front of the The Great American Songtbook). But as performed by Nancy Wilson it's nothing less than poetry of the broken heart, a monument of emotion (as D.G. Rossetti once defined poetry). It has long sustained notes, inviting Nancy to employ that heart-rending "wail" that only she can bend until the listener's skin crawls with anxiety, then tingles with excitement--one instant, she's slightly above, the next she just below, the pitch, before bringing it into perfect alignment with George Shearing's piano, finally capping it with just the right amount of warm, heart-melting vibrato.

When I first heard Nancy (in the early '60s on "The Real McCoy," with Chicago DJ Sid McCoy), I was admittedly "underwhelmed." I had come to understand the unique talents of, first, Ella and Frank, then Carmen and Sarah (who still ranks #1 for her combination of melodic imagination, eschewing "scatting" in favor of improvising melodies that compete with those of the composerk and the range of emotions she evokes.

Nancy Wilson's art is equally unique and, like all great art worthy of the name, "universal" and timeless in its appeal to human emotions related to memory and desire, to the enchantment of love that is "found" and the challenges of love that is "lost." If she sings the words that some feminist critics decry as "masochistic," have no fear. This lady is never the loser, never the victim. If we cry during the films belonging to the category of "weepers," it's not because we feel sorry or bad for actresses like Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck, and Joan Crawford--regardless of the losses the script makes them endure. Above all, we admire their stamina and triumphant spirit in the face of adversity and isolation. Life deals severe blows to us all (someday, maybe even to Trump), and when we meet up with a face, a voice, a spirit that can bear the heaviest cross, transforming it into the staff of affirmation, or the masthead of the most unsinkable vessel, the experience is suddenly familiar, shared, significant--not merely "impressive" but deeply, indelibly touching.

Unlike Ella and Sarah, Nancy doenn't "scat" (an overrated technique), and like Sinatra and Billie, she doesn't reshape the composer's melody in a radical way (Sarah is the expert at this). But, as is true of the latter two singers, she takes just enough liberties with a tune to "make it real." In songs like "Guess Who I Saw Today" and "You Can Have Him, I Don't Want Him" Nancy may be singing the familiar story of love lost or, more specifically, woman used, rejected and abandoned--but she's no loser--as is evident in the very grain of her voice. Nor is the attentive listener left with the face and voice of a character who's a "loser." As in all great art, we are all winners: we come out of the experience perhaps sadder but more importantly and, most certainly, "wiser" for the journey. Listening to Nancy sing "Love, I've Found You" or "Hello, Like Before" is a different journey--straight upward in its Apollonian trajection, which brings to mind John Coltrane (Nancy's voice can even produce Trane-like "multiphonics" in passages of spiritual ecstasy, briefly taking us "outside" of musical conventions to an extra-musical bliss but, unlike Coltrane's last two years, bringing us back to the certainty of form, harmony and closure. (Coltrane "peaked" with "A Love Supreme," after which the sound and fury of his frenzied sonics drove away not only McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones but, as my eyes witnessed on three occasions, many disenchanted spectators.)

It took me a while to come to a realization that the sighs, cries, whispered vocalizations, "panting" insertions, were all essential components of the "language" that only she possesses and can use to express the broadest pallette of moods and emotions. Still, you can always trust her never to lose sight of the main story. In fact, if ever there was a doubt about her skills as a story-teller, they were dispelled by her recent 10-year stint as a jazz announcer for NPR. In the tradition of the knowledgeable and eloquent Billy Taylor, Nancy regularly brought us interviews that were as much telling "profiles" of jazz all-stars--from Hank Jones to Melba Liston to J. J. Johnson. There has never been amore polished and profession female voice on the air (I don't recall her ever stumbling on a word or missing the telling word of a sentence or phrase). She was a national treasure, telling the story of America's indigenous art form while giving us glimpses into the most important remaining makers of the music.

And don't kid yourself. She herself is a vital chapter in that story, as stellar and indispensable to the music as the alto saxophonist, Cannonball Adderley, with whom she made one of the most enduring vocal jazz recordings of all time.

Have you ever mused about who belongs on the list of, say, "Greatest Female Jazz Singers"? Certainly, Nancy belongs on a list of 10-best. Or, just maybe--after Ella, Sarah, Billie and Carmen--maybe that 5th spot is reserved for the one and only Nancy Wilson. Like Sinatra, her art goes way beyond categories like "torch singer" or "saloon singer." She's a masterful musician and a master storyteller. We're unlikely to see her like any time soon.


Sony BDPS3200 Blu-ray Disc Player with Wi-Fi (2014 Model)
Sony BDPS3200 Blu-ray Disc Player with Wi-Fi (2014 Model)
Offered by Electromart Deals
Price: $119.99
91 used & new from $34.95

5.0 out of 5 stars A blockbuster high-performing, incredibly versatile player from Sony (and it will do anything a Smart TV or Roku Box can do!), August 18, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is a small, very "plastic-y," possibly fragile and breakable Blu-Ray player PLUS Roku, Amazon videos and up to 100 additional streaming sites. And last Christmas it was going on Amazon for under $50 (occasionally on sale for $40). My Roku is giving me so much trouble, I planned to replace it with this "smart," all-purpose player (which includes a remote that does everything--if your fingers are tiny enough to push the right buttons). The materials of the machine may signify a $40 product; the performance of the machine is equal to similar products costing hundreds of dollars.

Despite its unimposing (i.e. "cheap") appearance, the performance and versatility of this player make it a winner. In 2009 I purchased from Amazon a Sony BluRay player (BDP-S350) that was going for $360. It's a big and heavy, durable and dependable machine, but it's also a boat anchor--not only 6 times the price of the pictured BDPS3200 but 5 times slower (and without the wi-fi / internet connectivity). My only use for the S350 now is the large, well-made, big button Sony remote control, which will still operate a Sony TV and player made in 2015.

(I've since purchased the latest version (S3500) for another TV. It's essentially identical with this one, with less emphasis on "style" and more on practicality and security settings. Still, the 3200 saw my wi-fi and connected with it faster than the S3500--until I applied Sony's upgrade, released in July'15 for the new, S3500 model, which appears to have added additional "security" features. During the frustrating set-up of the newer machine, I almost wished I'd picked up another S3200 instead. Now that it appears to be locked in with my wi-fi, I'd lean toward the purchase of the S3500, unless it's priced $30 higher. Currently, however, it's showing a lower price than the pictured S3200!)


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