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Mini White 3.5mm Pillow Speaker for MP3 MP4 Player iPod IG
Mini White 3.5mm Pillow Speaker for MP3 MP4 Player iPod IG
Offered by FDS (Factory Direct Sales)
Price: $2.28

2.0 out of 5 stars It works, but not useful for instrumental music., May 30, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
No surprises. I didn't expect much, but then I didn't lose much. This little speaker may be adequate for talking books or late-night talk shows on AM radio. For music, on the other hand, it proved woefully inadequate. The tones of instruments were unrecognizable, seeming to "collide" with one another and making it impossible to delineate the different instruments in an orchestra or small group. After a couple of nights I simply placed an iPod under my pillow. Whether playing stations through the app "TuneIn" or streaming my own iTunes, the clarity was 5 times better, and I could fall asleep without garbled tones clashing in my ear.

Ultimate Sinatra [4 CD][Centennial Collection]
Ultimate Sinatra [4 CD][Centennial Collection]
Price: $31.92
41 used & new from $26.73

5.0 out of 5 stars More than the 4-hour HBO documentary, this collection of 100 tracks allows us to see the truth about Sinatra, May 29, 2015
This set certainly has to qualify as the "most Sinatra for the least money" ever to hit the market. Even those Sinatra fans who have lightened-up on their hard-copy collections in favor of downloading and streaming should find it hard to resist this set of four CDs, each with 24-27 tracks, plus the production values included with a deluxe package released to coincide with: A. the year of Ole Blue's centenary; B. the 4-hour documentary, "Sinatra: All or Nothing at All," which began showing on HBO in April, offering snippets of many of the complete versions of the songs on this collection.

Sinatra's recording career falls conveniently into 4 periods, and "Ultimate Sinatra" represents all four with judicious proportionality. Sinatra's voice was at its most flexible and his popularity at its most hysterical during the 1940s, the period when, as a national heart-throb to millions of "bobby-soxers," Sinatra was the first mass-media pop star (anticipating the arrival of Elvis by a decade and a half!). This period is also the most unfairly neglected today--partly because the public's fascination with Sinatra as a pop phenomenon during this period has always overshadowed interest in the recordings and partly because those recordings were released before the complementary technologies of the 33rpm long-playing album and high-fidelity audio ("HI-FI" was an instant buzz word and pervasive success, extinguishing 78rpm records more quickly and decisively than CDs replaced LPs).

Of the recordings used to represent the young Sinatra, the track entitled “If You Are But a Dream” demonstrates the powerful breath-stream and virtuoso range of a young singer driven by the goal of replacing Bing Crosby as not only the most popular American singing voice but the best.

The 2nd half of the first disc, beginning with “I’ve Got the World on a String,” through the greater part of the 3rd disc, comprises the most critically acclaimed period of Sinatra’s career when, while recognized as “The Master Storyteller,” he collaborated with arranger-conductor Nelson Riddle at Capitol Records to reach a new high-water mark in American popular music, bringing out the life and meaning of the love songs of America’s most enduring composers (thanks in great part to Sinatra’s definitive interpretations) —Berlin, Kern, Gershwin, Arlen, Rodgers and Hart, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Cole Porter, Jimmy Van Heusen. Both with the “swing” albums and, to a greater degree, with the ballad collections (“suicide songs,” or “wrist slashers,” Sinatra called them), the foremost interpreter of America’s indigenous art form enabled listeners to weigh their experiences against his in collections of “classic” songs, or “standards,” organized carefully into tone poems (“concept albums,” Frank called them), exploring an emotion, a mood , an attitude—each album and each song examining another stage or aspect of a commonly shared experience by the "free agents" in a democratic and capitalist society (deemed “decadent” by Karl Marx) with sufficient resources to allow each individual the "luxury" of self-realization through the contemplation of personal experiences of loneliness and despair, loss and consolation, even aging and death, and ironic self-deprecation followed by jubilant celebration of the liberated self.

“Playboy Magazine” may have gotten it ‘more right” than anyone else in a Sinatra profile with the title “The Last Romantic.” A century prior to the birth of Frank Sinatra, popular culture in Europe and America saw the birth of the first Romantics in the poetry of Blake and Goethe, Wordsworth and Coleridge, then Shelley, Keats and Byron—each rejecting the aristocratic and rational views of the 18th century Enlightenment in favor of the heightened feelings and dreams of the common man, or ordinary self. But then the French Revolution, initially greeted by Romantic thinkers as a “corrective” to the injustices of the old aristocracy, failed to liberate the masses from the “mind-forged manacles" that Blake had loudly decried as the dehumanizing instruments of the “Age of Reason.” Next, the people’s hope seemed to lie in the ideology of Karl Marx, who proclaimed that the common man could never aspire to enjoy the pleasures and privileges of the old aristocracy, or indulge in idle self-examination. He could, however, find fulfillment in practicing the skills that all human beings shared as “workers.”

But Sinatra clung to the Romantic dream, which he had attained not through luck (Sinatra himself was quick to acknowledge that Crosby was born with the superior instrument) as hard work, unwavering dedication to a goal, and a few of the breaks that only an advanced civilization like the new America had to offer the ordinary person. Unfortunately, at the height of his artistic powers and cultural influence, Sinatra began to think like a businessman, leaving Capitol Records in favor of his own label, Reprise, where he envisioned greater artistic freedom and the opportunity to build a bigger empire while spreading his brand name. He was no longer "The Master Storyteller": as owner and head of Reprise he was now the “Chairman of the Board.”

The move by Sinatra toward the commercial proved a temporary boon for Las Vegas, which now began to attract ever larger crowds to see Sinatra and the Rat Pack. And it resulted in recordings on his newly formed “Reprise Label” that, especially with the Basie band as the accompanying orchestra, seemed to swing with renewed energy. Beginning with “Pennies from Heaven,” or the last several songs of Disc 3, and extending through “Forget to Remember,” or track #21 of Disc 4. the listener can hear the downward trajectory of the Reprise years, which seemed characterized by as many “misses” as “hits,” leading to Sinatra’s retirement from show business in 1972.

The 4th period of Sinatra’s career—his recording activity after coming out of retirement in 1974--is represented by the last 4 tracks on Disc 4. Although many Sinatra-piles will cry “foul” at such a meager sampling of Ole Blue’s productivity for all of 16 years (1974-1990), I must applaud the final decisions of the editors of this collection. Given the assignment of assembling 100 of the best, most representative recordings for a proverbial “time capsule,” the compilers of this "Ultimate" set have, by and large, made the right decisions. As the years go by in tne new millennium, allowing us to view Sinatra’s art as the singular apex of American popular singing, the Capitol recordings of his 2nd period loom larger and shine brighter than ever at the same time as those of the third period, the Reprise years, appear uneven and redundant at best; mundane and banal at worst. When Bob Dylan, interviewed in the May 2015 issue of AARP Magazine, listed Frank Sinatra as the century's most important artist, he no doubt had the Capitol period in mind. The singers and songs of my generation have "come and gone," he said, adding:. "Sinatra's work endures."
From this 3rd period, or the "Reprise years," all three Sinatra-Basie albums can easily be recommended (the 3rd , "Sinatra and Basie at the Sands," is the only “live," or on-location, recording that Sinatra approved for release during his lifetime); two more essential recordings of the period are his albums with Brazilian-Jobim songs ; also, the concept album “September of My Years” (perhaps only Sinatra could look so fearlessly at the existential realities of aging and death); finally, the Hammerstein-quality, big, Broadway-style vocal interpretations of “The Concert Sinatra" (with Riddle-assisted, powerful readings of "I Have a Dream," "In the Still of the Night," "Old Man River"). After that, the “indispensables” come down to trademark, or “signature,” songs that Snatra could not seem to escape repeating throughout these final 16 years: “New York, New York” and “My Way" (one wonders how these two songs will play when, a hundred years from today, another generation discovers them without knowing the character of their performer).

Just prior to his first retirement Sinatra was, understandably, becoming increasingly disillusioned by the banality of much popular music—no longer driven by professional composers and specialist lyricists like Rodgers and Hart, the Gershwins and Cole Porter but by guitar-playing singer-songwriters drawn to songs on the basis of overt political references or transparent, prosaic meanings. By contrast, the sophisticated material that Sinatra was recording in the 1950s was equivalent to the sonnets of Shakespeare or the lieder of Schubert—"commonners" who had nevertheless transformed their experience into art of lasting brilliance. And when the settings for these songs were entrusted to Nelson Riddle, Sinatra was free to complete each project with interpretations that, from one album to the next, would represent American popular songs as an art form capable of withstanding changes in fashion or taste: the written music together with the interpretations of the Master Storyteller would preserve that living body of work known as the “Great American Songbook.” Sinatra’s recordings of it—more than any other single artist—were responsible for creating that musical library and will be responsible for preserving it for future generations.

It’s important that the owner of this package understand that Sinatra loved—more than anything else—to go into a studio and make recordings, with the full orchestra in attendance. But when he saw that such activity was no longer realistic (his last album prior to a 2-year retirement sold only 30 thousand copies), Sinatra made a courageous decision, one that was also a sacrifice: he was determined NOT to make more record albums, especially any with contemporary songs. Instead, he reasoned that if the public would not come to him to buy his records, he would go to them, through concerts with programs drawn from The Great American Songbook that he was largely responsible for creating. In fact, during this time this writer attended no fewer than five concerts by Ole Blue in the Midwest area (Madison’s Dane County Colosseum, Milwaukee’s Alpine Valley, Chicago Amphitheater, Chicago Stadium, Chicago’s Arie Crown concert hall).

My experience would suggest that those who explained that Sinatra’s inactivity in the recording studio was due to a “failing” or “weakening” voice were considerably wide of the mark. Although he was not in good voice in 1974 for his “comeback” concert at Madison Square Garden, he simply got better with each concert between l975 and 1985. Each of the five times I was privileged to attend a Sinatra concert, the experience was electrifying, uplifting, totally satisfying—one tuxedoed man with a microphone telling the story we had heard it but needed to hear again. No white suits, no back-up groups, no guitars, no glitter—just the man and the moment—which was larger, more expansive, more pregnant with fresh meanings drawn from the inexhaustible beauty of the ballads. And when it came time for the up-tempo numbers, we may have remained in our seats, but that didn’t stop us from swinging.

From Here to Eternity
From Here to Eternity
DVD ~ Burt Lancaster
Price: $8.67
118 used & new from $1.23

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's a very cynical, and very good, anti-war movie that's not for everyone., May 25, 2015
This review is from: From Here to Eternity (DVD)
Reasons NOT to see this movie:

1. The setting (both time and place) is not during but prior to the U.S. engagement in World War II
2. Even though it's a World War II picture, fans of the genre are likely to be disappointed that, aside of a minute or two of stock footage representing the attack on Pearl Harbor, there is no action depicting the U.S. or Allied forces vs. the Nazis or "Japs."
3. The audience-favorites as "heroes"--Sinatra, Clift,, even Lancaster--are apparent losers, as they are either killed by de-sensitized American army men or left companionless and loveless.
4. The famous, iconic love-scene of a buffed Burt Lancaster embracing a scantily-clad woman in the foamy brine is early and brief (no longer than the time required for a wave to go "in and out."
5. Though written shortly after the "good war," the original story by James Jones is candidly and uncompromisingly "anti-war" in its sentiments about the American military complex.
6. The literary source was notorious for its preoccupation with, and graphic depiction of, sexual frustration among American military men as well as the "victimhood" of officers' wives and the plight of those women forced by the economic circumstances of war to "service" our servicemen. Yet the sex as shown in the film is tame by the standards of current popular television drama.
7. The female actors entrusted with playing a prostitute and a promiscuous wife are the "squeaky clean" Donna Reed (Mary Bailey in "It's a Wonderful Life") and the irreproachable and proper British actress, Deborah Kerr (Anna in "The King and I").
8. Fred Zinnemann, a director never known for his war or action-packed movies, was at his best when filming complex but nuanced, layered characters like the protagonist played by Audrey Hepburn in "A Nun's Story."
9. Fans of Frank Sinatra will need to prepare themselves for seeing "Ole Blue" (or the "Chair") at his nadir, having descended in a mere 5-6 years from his uppermost perch as the first major pop-star phenomenon among America's youth to an expendable, almost forgotten, has-been.

Reasons NOT TO MISS this movie:
(The words are much the same as those written above. It's the "meanings" that are different):

1. Zinnemann has been given the script of a best-selling novel that was NOT about the war itself but the preparations for it. Many viewers should find its representation of men preparing to defend a nation or to go to battle as engaging as war itself and as relevant today as 65 years ago.

2. There's no lack of dramatic action in James Jones' 800-page novel or in the film adaptation. The fist fight between Prewitt (Montgomery Clift) and Fatso (Ernest Borgnine) is filmed with striking, memorable realism while numerous other activities (of men entering and exiting a downtown brothel or of their actions in such an establishment) are more subtlely, or indirectly, captured. Censorship codes during this time were so severe that it was forbidden to have any character in any movie use the word "virgin"--except as an epithet referring to the Madonna herself.

3. This is a hard-hitting story, and the movie pulls no punches in underscoring its basic theme that there are no "good" wars. In war "everyone" is a loser: for 2 of the 3 male protagonists, it's their lives that are erased--incidentally, arbitrarily, practically off-screen--as though they counted for nothing. Death may be the heroic arena of storied warriors in literature, drama, and movies--but not in this movie. Yet the surviving soldier goes on being a soldier because that's the only life he knows--much to the distress of the woman he wanted to love--not to mention the hopeless grief of the woman who had counted on her now-deceased "champion" to be her partner on a journey from prostitution to a "life of decency."

4. As for the Lancaster-Kerr brief contact in the sand and surf, it's merely a "movie poster moment." On the other hand, a boy who came of age in the '50s most likely acquired--thanks to the power of suggestion--a more active imagination that his counterpart in the '60s and '70s, when nudity became accepted on stage and screen, and pornography began to surface in mainstream movie houses. By contrast, this child of the 1950s can attest that nothing rattled his senses like the dance scene between Kim Novak and William Holden in "Picnic," a scene in which the circling camera creates the illusion of an erotic dance shared by a couple who never touch one another.

5. Despite (or because of?) the extreme cycnism of tthe story and its "message" (basically, that war destroys lives and is only for individuals who are complete "losers" even before the fighting begins), it ranks among the great (and few) big-screen "Hollywood" representations of World War II that refuse to descend to patriotic bathos for the sake of box office returns. And judging from the awards it received from the Academy, the point was not lost on an important share of the film's audience. (Confession: I still enjoy some of the more conventional fare--"Battleground" holds my interest every time, even more than "Saving Private Ryan"--but "Battle of the Bulge" is so silly that its wasting of resources on an atrocious script can only be compared to the spending of our Department of Defense.

6.. This film may lack the graphic sensationalism of present-day crime shows (NCIS, CSI, Criminal Minds, etc.), with their preoccupation with forensics and with serial killers who are brought to justice with the help of computers that never require rebooting. And all in time--despite the side-plots of romances among "hot" employees--to wrap up the case by the end of the hour. By comparison, "From Here to Eternity" offers a strong, even depressing, dose of grim reality. In fact, given the escapist predilections of movie-goers, it's a wonder the film was a commercial success.

7. In an inspired moment of casting during a period when a book as salacious as "From Here to Eternity" barely stood a chance of making it to the silver screen, the roles of a promiscuous wife and a reluctant prostitute were given to two of the most "unsoiled," pristine actresses of the 1950s.. By employing Deborah Kerr and Donna Lee, the studio: A .muted the controversial sensationalist aspect of their characters and behavior in the novel; B. made even more apparent and believable their near-tragic circumstances at the end of the story. With Burt Lancaster's choice of the army (the only life he knows) over Deborah Kerr, Karen Holmes remains a prisoner of the oppressive (and adulterous) officer from whom she had planned to get a divorce in order to marry the stable Lancaster.. With the death of Prewitt, Donna Reed loses the love of her life and the opportunity to live the life she loves: that of a "decent" woman. Both women are left without hope or options: Karen is stuck in a marriage where she is likely to continue to be branded a "whore": Alma retains only her good looks and the desperate dream of settling into the role of a decent wife--now more distant than ever.

8. Zinneman's eye for detail is precisely what a film like this required. Bypassing the usual broad action (soldiers assaulting and retreating) and clichéd themes ("They died so that we might be free"; or "War is Hell"), he instead dissects the lives of 5 main characters, making each so believable that we cannot help but hate war and its institutions for the damage inflicted upon human lives.

9. The first time I saw this film I was, surprisingly, conflicted about Sinatra's character--primarily because his body type is so close to Clift's that the viewer can easily mistake him for a slightly younger (or older), brother. But upon viewing the film this third time, I was struck by the "family resemblance": it makes Clift's holding the dying Maggio like a brother all the more gripping. Moreover, Sinatra's Maggio, like Prewitt, is a fighter, though not a professional one. But even without the "fisticuffs," Sinatra acquits himself as someone who, under no circumstances, will give up. The acting that we see in Sinatra's creation of a never-say-die loser on the screen is simply another side of the actor we hear on all of the great long-playing albums Sinatra made with Nelson Riddle. Especially on the ballad albums--"Only the Lonely," "No One Cares," etc.--Sinatra's performance transforms popular love songs into complex, timeless art. He must be considered the greatest American popular singer because of the material he selects and his interpretations, which are "enactments" about loving and losing, trying and failing, dealing with loss, and each rises to the level of lyric art--but, in addition, he uses his experience as a "down-and-outer" (which he was in his personal life at the time of this film) to create a "persona" that we can identify with and trust--to the point that his interpretations, or enactments, speak to our own experience with unequaled believability. I would never say about Sinatra: "He has a lovely voice," or "His acting style is very accomplished." It's always "No one can tell the story--of a movie script and, above all, a complex melody and lyric--like Sinatra. Only he can make it my own story."

If you haven't seen this film, don't be daunted by any of the foregoing. If its any assurance, the extreme cynicism and darkness of the film did not strike me until the third viewing. It was only then, and upon closer examination of each character, that the film's themes began to "shine through" with undeniable force, elevating "From Here to Eternity" to its place, in this viewer's estimate, as a truly remarkable if not uniquely realistic film about war to come out of Hollywood, especially in the 1950s. But during a first viewing, the film is capable of capturing and holding the viewer's interest sole by virtue of the performances of an all-star cast and the direction of a professional who resembles Alfred Hitchock in his unwavering concentration on the important details of the story and his flawless implementation of each piece. (Seeing "Battle of the Bulge" immediately after "From Here to Eternity" certainly did nothing to diminish my admiration of Zinnemann's acclaimed film.)

Earphones Plus EP-TR-BLK-3L-BLU Replacement Earbud Tips, Replacement Earphone Cushions for Sony, Black
Earphones Plus EP-TR-BLK-3L-BLU Replacement Earbud Tips, Replacement Earphone Cushions for Sony, Black
Price: $7.95
3 used & new from $5.06

4.0 out of 5 stars Close enough, May 22, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
After determining that Sony Extra-Large Hybrid tips worked best for me, I began looking for a package that didn't require the purchase of 3 smaller sizes to get one pair of usable tips. These tips don't appear to be made by Sony. They have the stiff, color-marked sleeves that distinguish the Sony tips, but there are slight differences. The silicone has a different degree of "shine" and is a bit more "slippery." In fact, the Sony medium-sized tips managed to stay in my ears more securely that these large-sized tips with blue sleeves (unfortunately, these appear not to come in an "extra-large" size).

Included with the 3 large pair of silicone tips is one pair of foam tips. Although the tips don't have quite the same structural integrity as Comply foam tips, they're soft and versatile enough to fit on practically any brand of earphone and, like Comply tips, they soon expand in response to body temperature (listeners with "cold-blooded ears" may be out of luck). Initially, I thought I'd have to remove them because of the characteristic "itchy" feeling of foam. Soon I became sufficiently distracted by my video to ditch the itch.

The World We Knew
The World We Knew
Price: $5.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Despite a thin program and thick orchestrations, Sinatra (like Don Draper) teaches the world how to sing their music, May 20, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The World We Knew (MP3 Music)
As a Sinatra "completist," I endeavor to collect all of his albums in their original state (no latter-day anthologies) and to arrange them on my bookshelf in chronological order. I understand that a new edition of this album is imminent, which frankly makes me grateful that I was able to secure a sealed copy of the original album. Though an inarguably inferior program, Sinatra is in a voice sufficiently strong and confident to tackle any material, at times elevating it to a level reminiscent of a pop Pucinni--or, perhaps more accurately, enacting through music the triumph of Don Draper in the very last episode of "Mad Men'"s 7th and final season (May 17, '15).

When the first tune-- "The World We Knew, Over and Over Again"--appeared on the air waves in the late '60s, I was attracted to it by its tricky spiraling chromatics (one of the few contemporary recordings that, as a pianist accustomed to working bars and cabarets, I couldn't listen to one or two times and immediately answer a request to "Play it again, Sam"). Listening to it now, it's still an intriguing number, providing the listener can penetrate what is an overwritten, "slushy" arrangement which, like other songs in this collection, threatens to "double" and smother Sinatra's voice--which nevertheless is resolutely strong, firm, and "in charge" on all tracks.

The recording opens with the ugliest sound on any Sinatra recording. It's a loud and growling, distorted electric bass, and when Sinatra comes in with his first note (the 2nd G below middle C), it sounds alien, even non-human, setting my sufwoofer into a momentary tizzy. Soon the arrangement oozes into smarmy strings that provide not an attractive complement but a broad "melodic highway" for the vocalist to travel on, and soon Sinatra is in high gear, with a flexible range, with full tones that are equally matched in the lower and higher registers (he easily rises from the 2nd G below to the G above middle C). This is often simple and broad material with orchestration that tries to have it both ways--the occasional acoustic guitar or lightly played piano in a Floyd Cramer country idiom alternating with an "overstrung" string orchestra (no hint of Nelson Riddle anywhere on this album!)

It's easy to imagine a Jerry Vale or Englebert Humperdink working with arrangements this obvious and overblown. But when it's the Voice / Master Storyteller / Chair who is singing an expendable period piece like "Don't Sleep in the Subway," we listen with higher expectations and elevated criteria. And on this occasion, unlike the lamentable "Watertown," both the songs and their settings give Sinatra a fighting chance. In fact, his voice is not only secure and powerful enough to take on the menace of loud and blatant pop ephemera: he heroicallly rises above it, before taking it by the claws (or beak or wings) and pinning it down for the 10 count (reminding me of the stories about his fearless one-on-one confrontations with bandmate Buddy Rich during their Dorsey days).

Partly accounting for the "sheer fun" (!) of this recording is the brevity of tracks--protecting us from the otherwise cloying quality of the arrangements. Most are taken a single time through--few if any "time stretchers" in the form of strings alone on the melody or an instrumentalist attempting to play jazz (heaven forbid), especially on these chord changes. The latter would defeat the purpose of this recording--which is to meet the audience of the late '60s on its own terms rather than the with the "artful concept" albums of the Capitol days ("Only the Lonely," "In the Wee Small Hours," "Where Are You"). As for the "swinging" Sinatra (whether he was better as a ballad storyteller or as the hardest-swinging vocalist on record is likely to remain an unsettled question forever), there's only one brief stretch of the swingin' Sinatra on this album.

It's hard to fault the intentions of the producers of this album--and, for that matter, its egregious successor, "Watertown." It's a depressing but inescapable fact that as early as 1967 the public no longer had any understanding of "swing." Today the word has vanished from the vocabulary of most Americans--of no usefulness either as a noun ("the King of Swing"), adjective ("Songs for Swingin' Lovers"), and verb (Basie swung more than Goodman) In the '70s libertines used "swing" as a synonym for group sex.

These pop tunes are neither fish nor fowl, ballads or swing. Yet Sinatra manages to find something worth while in each of the songs, even the first time around--and when he doesn't, he goes along with the joke. "Some Enchanted Evening" is admittedly an overdone, pseudo-operatic number that could use a face-lift. But the arrangement by an H. B. Barnum is a loser from the introduction--abrasive and brash, literally "shocking," then assaulting the listener before allowing Sinatra to have more fun with it. Perhaps if I hadn't heard a successful swing version by Etta Jones (not James) on an earlier album, "Love Shout," I would have found Sinatra's "non-swinging swinger" a clever way to end the party. Better Ole Blue had, like Don Draper in "Mad Men," ended with something light, folksy and ultra-accessible, like "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing in Perfect Harmony." Draper's ultimate restoration and answering to his true calling--as a top ad executive on Madison Avenue--comes only when he can do so without "selling out" his newly found integrity of self. Sinatra's challenge on this program is not unlike Draper's.

The brief liner notes, which again ring true with Draper's journey, best capture the inspiration and purpose behind this uncharacteristic program by the most important contributor to the "Great American Songbook." In fact, as stated on the back of my copy they practically demand quoting:

"...the singer looks out into the plastic, humming world about him. He stands at the microphone, singing in depth, doing his best thing... sharing. Sinatra's songs, soon to scatter worldwide the belongings of one man's soul.. . Decades spent in living, in recording and in singing small but poignant truths about loving. This ambiguous man, with clear, touching insights. Sinatra at the microphone, nurturing a bouquet of emotions, then plucking them in full flower, without first checking for possible thorns."

Flowers and thorns seem better-suited to describing the complex Hamlet-like meditations of the previous decade's Sinatra-Riddle ballad albums. Whether or not this present attempt at a bigger and broader audience was a commercial success, you can hardly blame Sinatra for trying. And when it appeared not to work as well as planned, he had the good sense, unlike many of his peers, to walk away and simply "think about it" for the next three years. When he returned, it was with a plan--viz., to refrain from doing what he liked to do the best--making records. Instead, he would give concerts before sold-out, spell-bound audiences in large stadiums and amphitheaters. In places like Madison, Milwaukee, Chicago (and on outdoor stages in between) he came to sing--live and in person--the songs that had first caught his and then our attention--songs by Berlin, Kern, Gershwin, Rodgers and Hart/Hammerstein, Harold Arlen, Cole Porter, Jimmy Van Heusen. For nearly two full decades, he was available to us just as he had been to our parents. When my wife was the first to shake his hand as he left the stage of the Chicago Amphitheater, I asked her which registered most: the feeling of Sinata's hand or the kisses planted on each cheek by Duke Ellington.

Tough choice. But who wouldn't want it?

Griffin Technology GC17097 USB Mini-Cable Kit
Griffin Technology GC17097 USB Mini-Cable Kit
Offered by TurboDeals
Price: $7.95
13 used & new from $1.95

4.0 out of 5 stars A good value even if you can use only 2 (better if your gadgets require all 3--but don't forget the Lightning connector!), May 17, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
It's reassuring to receive a brand-name cable at a reduced price and (surprise!) in a faux-suitcase (with plastic handle). The bulk of the "suitcase" is made of thin cardboard, easily torn and therefore no longer a handy-dandy, versatile "traveling kit" answering to your various "connectivity issues" -- moreover, owners of recently acquired Apple equipment will require at least one additional cable. (After seeing the final episode of "Mad Men," I'll concede that some of life's greater connectivity challenges might best be addressed by finding some friends, sitting in a circle, and humming "OM" together. I tried it alone, and it works--both as a conceptual trigger and a perceptual healer bridging the space separating us from one another and our authentic, "gadget-free" selves).

In the world of materialistic gadgetry, the equivalent of "OM" is wireless technology, such as Bluetooth and Apple's Air Play (it never ceases to amaze me that I can activate my printer and run off pages of text "long distance," with a mere click of my iPod). But nothing is as dependable as a hard-wired connection--providing that it's a dependable cable to begin with. These shorties from Griffin are effective both at charging and synching, and you have a choice of three different connectors: 1. the "dock connector" is useful for older iPods and iPhones; 2. the "micro" connector is required for Kindles (readers and Fire tablets) as well as storage batteries and most Android devices; 3. the "mini" connector is seeing increasingly less use as people opt for phone cameras instead of a Canon, Nikon, Olympus, etc. digital camera. But for those of us who still use dedicated cameras and who retain a suspicion of the dependability of the wireless connectivity most new models offer, the mini connector is needed for "dumping" the contents of your camera into a computer's software program.

There is no Lightning connector in this collection, which will reduce its usefulness to owners of Apple equipment of the past 3 years. On the other hand, for $6 or $7 it may be easy to rationalize purchase of this set for only 2 of the connectors.

(As others have mentioned, the extra short cables can be annoying. Say you're charging a phone and trying to use it at the same time--actually, don't say it. Practice it. It's not that easy, balancing a phone and portable charging battery in one hand, being extra careful not to jostle them and dislodge the connection. You may decide that spending more on 4 cables, each 3 feet in length, is the more prudent, practical choice.)

Frank Sinatra: Primetime
Frank Sinatra: Primetime
DVD ~ Frank Sinatra
Price: $13.99
24 used & new from $8.39

5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional but not "essential" Sinatra, even in the year of his centenary, May 14, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Frank Sinatra: Primetime (DVD)
This DVD is a pretty terrific triple-header of Sinatra TV specials—one from '68 and another from '69 (2 years prior to his retirement from music and show biz). The 3rd special is from '76, several years following his return to the stage. It's a television special featuring Sinatra in the company of pop-country stars of the '70s (it presages his own two best-selling "Duets" albums from the '90s as well as Tony Bennett’s two Duets albums from the past 5-6 years)..

No doubt Sinatra detractors (and he still has more than his share) will find support for their arguments against Sinatra the musician-singer, but his supporters will find just as many reasons to agree with Bob Dylan's recent assessment of Sinatra as the greatest artist of his or any of our life-times.

Even daughter Nancy conceded, when asked a few years ago why her father was never a TV star, that "he couldn't excel in everything." At times these programs suggest why. Not only did the Sinatra persona have too much “edge” for the cozy, warm-sweater world of TV, with its new country music folksiness, but the years of continuous smoking were producing a voice with a harder, and occasionally harsher, sound than anything heard from him in the three preceding decades. And there are moments when Sinatra’s intonation is slightly “off”—enough to produce discomfort in this pitch-conscious musician. Finally, the bows to contemporary pop music seem to suit Frank no better than any the other music giants who had come up in the age of swing—Ella, Peggy, Sarah, Carmen, of music post-Bob Dylan).

The 2nd program offers a deeper, fuller profile of Sinatra, who isn’t served badly by the less psychedelic visuals, occasionally placing him in a brown suit rather than the customary tux. There’s a vintage, representative ballad medley as well as some hard-swinging moments (“Please Be Kind” is a stand-out—better, in fact, that the several recorded examples in my collection). The review of Sinatra’s film career has numerous comical moments though, as a whole, the overdone modesty does too little justice by Sinatra as an actor (he not only comes off as apologetic but as self-critical to a fault, practically dismissing his entire film career as a mistake!). Moreover, some of the contemporary song selections—country and Rod McKuen tunes—don’t go far toward making Frank’s case that the inferiority of his acting is borne out by the superiority of his singing.

The 3rd program has been made available on various collections of Frank’s Duets with high-profile entertainers. It’s a potpourri of hits and misses, mostly of the former. But as usual, Sinatra—the most riveting performer I’ve seen to take the stage—is poorly represented on the television screen. I don’t recall a single moment during the five occasions when I caught him "live and in-person"—between 1967 and 1984—that was anything less than electrifying, spellbinding, enthralling (it made no difference whether my seats were in the front row or the nosebleed section—it was one man in a tux with a nothing more than a microphone, reprising the music from the Great American Songbook that he, more than any other artist, was responsible for “creating.”

Why is the magic lacking on television (including his return in 1974 to the stage of Madison Square Garden)? Much of the answer is related to “space” and the resonance of a bigger-than-life voice (even on the most intimate ballads) from a persona that could influence a Miles Davis as much as the undeniable musicianship. The American Dream was not a congenital gift to Ole Blue: he scratched and clawed, willfully worked his way up the ladder, including the unscalable walls, to the impossible dream—a self-made, self-created "overachiever" whoe total triumph can be heard on 90% of his recordings—not just the timeless art of "Ole Blue" with Riddle during the Capitol years but the early emergence of “The Voice” during the Columbia years and "The Chair" who presided over his own label during the Reprise years.

There’s only one filmed performance that I can recommend without a hitch. It’s a benefit in St. Louis circa 1965 featuring Sinatra and the Rat Pack (minus Joey Bishop, whose place is taken by Johnny Carson). On the uptempo tunes, a viewer can actually see, in ordinary black and white, a jazz performer so hard-swi)nging in his joyful immersion in the music that nothing else matters. (I had to view it a 3rd time to remember that it wasn’t shot in color.

PNY 8GB Flash Drive (P-FD8GBCOM-GE)
PNY 8GB Flash Drive (P-FD8GBCOM-GE)
Price: $4.99
9 used & new from $2.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Unbeatable thumb drive and price (but color could make a difference), May 12, 2015
This convenient little flash drive (probably my 30th) is markedly superior, I finally concluded, to sending yourself a document from your notebook to your main computer (or vice versa) via e-mail. It saves me the time of opening up a program, addressing the message and attaching the document as well as the "wait and search" on the receiver's end. And it saves me the cost of an Apple Watch in order to be reminded of when its time for some physical activity. (Walking to another room in my own house is a chore only when I "think about it" before simply doing it.)

I love the design, which saves me the certain loss of the cap (usually by the end of the first month). And the price is $3 less than the identical flash drive at Walgreen's--even after Walgreen's sale price representing a 50% reduction in the regular price.

There's just one catch. I was misleading in describing the 2 drives as identical. This Amazon PNY 8GB Flash Drive is black--a stately, even professional, color for a highly functional drive. But the Walgreen's PNY 8GB Flash Drive is an eye-catching, sporty, checkered blue. Is color alone worth the $3 extra? Well -- just maybe. (Were I to replace my 13-year-old car, I'd pay a thousand extra NOT to be stuck with a silver model.)

In any case, next week the sexy-looking Walgreen's version in checkered blue will revert to its regular price of $16. At that time it will be easy to learn to like black. It's $11 cheaper--and who would would buy a new car in checkered blue if it were available in solid black?

Blood Count
Blood Count
Price: $1.29

3.0 out of 5 stars Be sure to credit the black contributors to this great African-American art form (but apparently it's the thought that counts)., May 12, 2015
This review is from: Blood Count (MP3 Music)
This performance of Billy Strayhdorn's "Blood Count" by the all-time champion in the "Down Beat" Annual Critics' Poll (five 1st-place finishes) and the winner of a MacArther Genius grant as well a professorship at Harvard University, is carefully-crafted but somewhat slow and labored. It's pleasant enough but there's nothing especially remarkable or original about the interpretation, and there certainly is no improvisation. Listeners who do not take the opportunity of checking out the signature version by Ellington and Johnny Hodges or the heart-rending interpretation by Stan Getz with Chick Corea or Kenny Barron are passing up unequivocal 5-star performances. There's also a tight yet flowing solo piano performance on Marian McPartland's "Piano Jazz featuring Shirley Horn." (Although the performance is attributed to Horn on iTunes and elsewhere, downloaders should know that it's actually McPartland who is playing the tune).

Iyer recently played the song on the PBS interview show hosted by Tavis Smiley. After affirming the importance of jazz as "black music" which, he insisted, meant that "black musicians" must be considered whenever approaching the legacy of an important African-American art form, the guest pianist neither identified the title of the tune nor mentioned the composer and dramatic context of the song's composition. (To be fair, these shows may be "edited down" to fit the hour.) Perhaps host Smiley showed the most encouraging progress toward what distinguishes jazz, or any art form, from much pop music when, upon introducing Iyer's performance, he said: "In this case, I guess it would be mistaken to say that Vijay will 'cover' the tune. Rather, he will 'interpret' some one else's composition."

I've been complaining about the use of "cover" for jazz musicians for the past 5-6 years. Even when Sinatra sings six versions of Cole Porter's "Night and Day" (the number of recordings in my own library), he's not "covering" himself. Each version is a unique, musically valid "interpretation" of the song, as different from one another as, well, night and day. (Sometimes learning occurs at a gradual pace--and in the places you least expect it.

Hansen's Pomegranate Soda, 12 Ounce Cans (Pack of 24)
Hansen's Pomegranate Soda, 12 Ounce Cans (Pack of 24)
Price: $18.38
6 used & new from $18.38

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pros and Cons (it's a good mixer that saves money), May 11, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Although I tend to side with Warren Buffett in his loyalty to Coca Cola, there's something to be said on behalf of Hansen's Pomegranate. But first the NEGATIVES: 1. the flavor is merely inoffensive and pleasantly sweet; 2. the amount of genuine pomegranate juice in each can is the equivalent of homeopathic remedies, which claim cures when the anti-venom is diluted by a ratio of a million to one; 3. viewed outside the can, Hansen's Pomegranate Soda is a pure, transparent, white color, making it highly improbable that the imbiber will fantasize he's drinking pomegranate juice with its healthful Omega 3's.

Now for the AFFIRMATIVES: 1. the flavor is noffensive and pleasantly sweet; 2. there's an insufficient amount of pomegranate juice (if any) to produce the puckered lips and shuddering expressions that come with gulping a mouthful of ultra-tart POM pomegranate juice ; 3. the drink is pure and transparent like club soda, making it a perfect mixer with Seagram's 7, or a brandy and sweet (popular in Wisconsin); or a shot of POM juice (for Omega 3's without the mouth-wringing, face-wrinkling effects of swallowing the stuff neat).

Finally, the price isn't bad, especially with Prime, and its 130 calories won't make you as fat as Coke's 140 (or Pepsi's 150). Moreover, with Hanson's Pomegranate, only one can per day will most likely satisfy the most hardened, addictive soft drinker.

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