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"switterbug" Betsey Van Horn RSS Feed (Austin, Texas)

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The Remedy for Love: A Novel
The Remedy for Love: A Novel
by Bill Roorbach
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.30
53 used & new from $12.21

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It has its moments, October 15, 2014
I was drawn to this novel, my first Bill Roorbach, by the quirkiness of the plot blurb. I suspected that it would be a character study more than anything else, and in that I was correct. Eric, a small-town lawyer in Maine, finds himself half-reluctantly helping a vagrant-looking young woman after he has an odd experience with her in a grocery store. He follows her out to a rural and isolated cabin in the woods, as the snowstorm of the century (or ever!) begins to pile it higher and deeper. He intends to be the gentleman that he is and help this raggedy, dirty, disheveled woman; yet, the more he reaches out to Danielle, the more it is evident that he is a needy case, also.

Danielle's flinty, nihilistic voice is a compelling contrast to Eric's more pathetic and tender one. He is hanging on to an obviously finished marriage with a denial and hope that is transparently futile (to everyone but him), and also reaching out to Danielle for friendship. However, Danielle is guarded at best, and generally caustic, pushing Eric away with her volatile behavior and harsh words. Eric's life is like an open book, while Danielle's is a closed and secret history, revealing itself gradually toward its obliquely foreshadowed but shocking conclusion. The auguring serves to authenticate the climax without ruining it.

In the meantime, as the storm gets more severe, the cabin they are sequestered in starts to groan, hiss, creak, and croak. (Eric's car, with his cell phone in it, has been towed from where he parked it--there's a story behind that.) As the novel progresses, the cabin itself becomes like a character, a vulnerable one victimized by the snowstorm. Roorbach mixes levity with horror as Eric and Danielle's lives become increasingly imperiled. Their opposite natures are inclined to avalanche, until it becomes clear that they are going to have to establish a sense of working together in order to survive.

Roorbach creates penetrating and realistic characters. The theme of survival is both literal and metaphorical, as Eric and Danielle struggle to maintain safety and life, while any higher purposes that they possess are disclosed and put to a tense and high-wire test. At times, I wanted the plot to move along more swiftly, especially when more predictable events occurred and threatened to stagnate the story. Also, my engagement with these two stunted adults sometimes bordered on my own groans and creaks. Once the reader's insight reaches a peak, there's a certain amount of impatience, waiting for the characters' get-a-clue to kick in. Her "strange retractable beauty" and his tendency toward masochism periodically stretched my own tolerance limits. This is not an unforgettable book, but it has its moments.
3.75 stars
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 20, 2014 10:04 AM PDT

Bose CineMate 15 Home Theater Speaker System, Black
Bose CineMate 15 Home Theater Speaker System, Black
Price: $599.00
13 used & new from $549.95

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incomparable sound!, October 13, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The sound that the Bose CiniMate Home Theater System puts out is incredible. I own a superb stereo system that sounds solid with music, movies, and TV shows, but in a large room, sometimes the Home Theater experience seemed to be lacking distinction and clarity in sound. TV speakers don't offer a satisfying bass or rich, rounded sound. Enter Bose CiniMate Home Theater system, and the sound lights up, and that's my apt mixed metaphor

I'll never understand how Bose managed to achieve this lucidity and penetrability of sound! The sound-bar is only the size of a ruler, but delivers resonance, like a balanced sound-stage that can fill an entire room. The sub-woofer delivers a deep bass that can easily be adjusted to meet your aesthetic preferences. The set-up was a breeze, using one cable from your TV to the speaker. Several connection options are offered; you can connect via an optical cable (digital), a coaxial cable (digital), or by RCA plugs (analog, but stereo.) My TV is older, and does not have an optical plug input, but I was able to use a coaxial cable (not included), to connect. (Optical and RCA cables are included). Other options are explained for connecting to your cable box or DVD player to meet the limits or choices of your television.

The Universal remote is all-inclusive, and pairs easily with other components. I paired my Blu-Ray player and my cable/SAT in a snap, using the included codes listed by manufacturer. I am having a problem getting the correct TV code, as the included code does not work for my seven-year-old TV. Codes obtained on-line have not worked either, so I do not blame Bose. The remote is easy to use, and switching devices is seamless.

The Bose CineMate 15 offers me everything I seek in a system that connects directly to the TV. The performance is superlative and provides a high-end experience in music. Movies are crisp in both actions scenes and dialog, and every nuance can be distinguished. I cannot imagine a lesser priced unit sounding any better. Auden said that "music is the best means we have of digesting time." Well, don't waste your time or money on an inferior system. Investing in this Bose CineMate15 is a valuable way to spend your money on the pleasures of digesting time.

Nora Webster: A Novel
Nora Webster: A Novel
by Colm Toibin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.20
48 used & new from $16.20

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A quiet masterpiece, October 7, 2014
This review is from: Nora Webster: A Novel (Hardcover)
It's a modest elegance that pulls you along in this story of 40-ish Irish widow Nora Webster and her family in Wexford County, in Ireland. The gulf between wife and widowhood is daily captured by Nora's inscrutable, withdrawn demeanor and period of emotional turmoil. She is struggling to adjust without her husband, Maurice, who died three months ago. He was a fine teacher and a capable, loving partner, although he didn't share her love of music. It begins circa 1969; no dates are mentioned, but one can assign it by historic events and people, and the story closes three years later.

Over the course of the novel, we settle deeper into the conventions and conceits of Nora's provincial family, and especially Nora herself, as she strives to emerge from her quiet despair and well-meaning but stifling cadre of support. She wants to be left alone with her inner life and her sons (she chose not to have a phone), but the visitors, while trickling to few now, continue to politely intrude. Tóibín's exquisite examination of the quotidian reveals a masterpiece of character and reflection. Reading this was like listening to movements of classical music in a minor key. Many are mentioned in the book, such as Schubert's hymn "To Music;" I was drawn to listen to it. The text, or the context of the novel, would fit neatly inside the hymn.

Nora's two nearly grown daughters, Fiona and Aine, and her two young sons, Donal and Conor, are her primary concerns. The two daughters seem to be confident and established, on to their own futures (although Fiona teaches close to home). Conor, the youngest son, and Donal, a few years older, (with a significant stammer) worry her the most. She wants to provide a steady life for them, but feels periodically inept. Her widow's fee is small (which increases), and the idea of going back to work after twenty years of marriage is grim. Then there's the idea of reconfiguring her social life, a tough one for the widow.

Nora seeks structure, a soothing coping strategy that provides consistency and limits. Every summer now, she takes her children to the beach at Curracloe for two weeks. When she starts working, Nora comes home for lunch (or tea), when the boys do, and is also there to prepare dinner at the end of the day. It's as if she is trying to protect others from experiencing her grief. Her sisters and other family members observe her anxiety, and she knows that they do. She just wishes everyone would leave her alone, and stop coming to visit her with their obligatory condescension.

When Maurice was dying at a TB clinic at the edge of town, she had left the boys with her Aunt Josie while she was at her husband's bedside for several months. After revisiting her aunt again early in the novel, Nora is wracked with a tremendous but nebulous psychological strain and fear. She feels something unsaid in the air, and a crushing suffocation from her thoughts about it. This ongoing duel with her inner self and the temporal world mounts with tension, and Tóibín's delicate distillation of prose down to its most spare essence allows the reader to meditate on the blank spaces, which corresponds to Nora's "world filled with absences." The voids threaten to topple over into discord at times; at other times, eloquent stillness. But she is rarely meek, just restrained by custom.

Nora is as bordered as a button, with deep-seated zones of repressed desire. There's no grand heroics in her baby steps toward spirited liberation, which makes her that much more relatable. Her private moments listening to music, close to trance-like in her enjoyment--even that has its limits for Nora. I held my breath at times, watching and waiting (hoping) for Nora to emerge from her shell, more fully realized.

As Nora gradually moves toward active engagement with the present, the music I hear picks up, and I hear a confident capriciousness at intervals. I was installed in Nora's rich, inner life--one that is stifled, boundless, and hesitantly optimistic. In an inner life, the contradictions are more congruous, spoken only to the self. That's not to say that Nora didn't have her outspoken, laconic wit; she also had moments of fierce independence and what others may think of as eccentric behavior. She wanted release from being everyone else's idea of a widow. Along the way, a nun, a music teacher, and a selfish young woman indirectly guide the taciturn widow forward toward her vocal talent.

Nora's doubts and mourning are expressed superbly in her response to music by Beethoven:

"The energy in the playing was sad, and then it became more than sad, as if there was something there and all three players recognized it and were moving towards it." "...she was sure someone had suffered, and moved away from suffering and then come back to it, let it linger and live within them."
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 10, 2014 4:43 PM PDT

LifeForm Core 8400 mAh Battery Pack (Red)
LifeForm Core 8400 mAh Battery Pack (Red)
Price: $69.99
3 used & new from $39.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Works well, but equal and cheaper can be had, October 6, 2014
I have been offered no fewer than 8 of these Battery Packs from various companies in exchange for an honest appraisal. They range in storage from 12,000mAh to 3000mAh. All perform well and charge equally in speed (for their storage capacity) and devices they can charge. I have no issues with the performance of the Lifeform Powerbank, only the price. It charges my phone, Kindle, iPad, and any other USB devices as as well as my others in the 8400mAh range that cost a third or half the price. A 10,000mAh unit I own lists for half this price and comes with more options for plugs and comes with a carrying case.

The Lifeform Battery Pack charges competently. It charged my phone from 5% to 85% in two hours. It significantly slowed down after 85% and and shut off after 95%. It used 25% of the power to charge the phone. I plugged it into my iPad with 75% remaining and it has charged to 75% in about an hour (respectable). There is currently 25% left on the Lifeform.

It is an attractive unit and the same size as my other 8400mAh units. The Lifeform has numbers to show how much power is left on the unit, my other 8400mAh units have LED dots or bars that represent the same thing. All have a 2A output needed for charging a tablet and all have a flashlight built in.

I don't want to discourage anyone from buying the Lifeform battery pack, but I would suggest doing research, reading reviews, and comparing prices for equal performance before buying. It appears that the higher price tag is for for cosmetics here--it is quite attractive and elegant looking for a battery. I was offered a sample in return for my honest appraisal.

1Byone® 27W 4-Port (2.4A, 1A*3 Outputs) Travel-Sized Multi Ports Desktop USB Charger with U-station Design for Apple iPhone 6 6 Plus iPhone 5/5s/5c iPhone 4 4S iPad 1 2 3 iPad mini iPad Air iPod 5th iPod classic iPod nano iPod touch Samsung Galaxy Smartphones Samsung Tablets Motorola HTC Asus Huawei Cellphones Android Smartphones Tablet Pc Gopro Ebooks e-Reader MP3 Player GPS and More Digital Devices with 5V Input
1Byone® 27W 4-Port (2.4A, 1A*3 Outputs) Travel-Sized Multi Ports Desktop USB Charger with U-station Design for Apple iPhone 6 6 Plus iPhone 5/5s/5c iPhone 4 4S iPad 1 2 3 iPad mini iPad Air iPod 5th iPod classic iPod nano iPod touch Samsung Galaxy Smartphones Samsung Tablets Motorola HTC Asus Huawei Cellphones Android Smartphones Tablet Pc Gopro Ebooks e-Reader MP3 Player GPS and More Digital Devices with 5V Input
Offered by 1byone
Price: $10.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exactly what I wanted, October 6, 2014
I've needed one of these charging hubs for a long time. The 1Byone 27watt 4 port charging station fit the bill nicely. It boasts that it is specifically made for Apple devices, but it also works for charging all of your USB devices' charging needs, such as my Kindle Touch. The 2.4A ports charge an iPad quickly and removes the need for all the individual blocks that take up all the plugs. I also like the cord which adds length , and allows you to use your devices while charging. The cord only takes up one plug as opposed to a one-piece design that always take up more than one plug on a power strip. Having the hub away from the power outlet also reduces the number of cords around the outlet, reducing cord clutter.

This hub is perfect for travel, especially for hotel rooms, where electrical outlets are few. It is well made and feels solid and durable. For the price, this device is essential. Retire the blocks!

Eachine VS-18 Wireless Bluetooth Speaker with LED Lights Mic FM Radio(Blue)
Eachine VS-18 Wireless Bluetooth Speaker with LED Lights Mic FM Radio(Blue)
Offered by Eachinedirect
Price: $37.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unbelievably beautiful sound!, October 6, 2014
To be perfectly honest, I had reduced expectations for a speaker that comes with a pulsing light. I thought it would be just a cheesy novelty. However, I was wrong, and the opposite is true! The sound that this little speaker emits is unbelievably crystal clear. It obviously contains a high quality audio processor. The bass is surprisingly rich, and as deep as one could expect for it's size; the highs are superbly clear. I have been offered several of these speakers in exchange for an honest review, and this one has surpassed my previous number one speaker for sound quality. In fact, I just reviewed another Eachine Bluetooth speaker, one that appears more "serious" in its design, but is inferior to this product.

The light feature of my blue Eachine has four settings. The light can be 1) turned off completely, 2) upper light on, 3) upper and lower light on, or 4) the light pulsing to the music. I enjoy the "strobe" pulsing feature, which is fairly hypnotic. The lights set a nice ambiance to a dark room, act as a night light, and can be pretty bright, depending on the setting you choose.

As with most of these small rechargeable Blue-tooth speakers, when paired with your phone, it will act as a telephone receiver/transmitter for hands free telephone use. Other features that are noteworthy include a Micro SD card slot, and the FM receiver mode. The FM stations came in clearly, and sounded clear. That feature makes this speaker more versatile than most speakers on the market.

Inside the box are the speaker, an aux cord to connect directly to a device, a USB charge cable and a small user guide that adequately explains the features and how to access them. Great speaker, very unique. If you are looking for novel Christmas or Chanukah gifts this season, I highly recommend this. It's fun AND impressiveI received this in exchange for an honest review, but I plan to order some more for gifts and stocking stuffers. You will not be disappointed with this speaker's sound; in fact, I am confident that you will be thrilled!

Eachine Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker with NFC Bass FM Radio ON SALE Best Price
Eachine Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker with NFC Bass FM Radio ON SALE Best Price
Offered by Eachinedirect
Price: $79.98
2 used & new from $39.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice sound, October 6, 2014
I have sampled several of these rechargeable blue tooth speakers in exchange for honest reviews. In comparison, this is a nice sounding little speaker. It has surprisingly good bass for it's size. The highs aren't as crisp and rich as a couple of others that I own, but it is decent, more than adequate. If I didn't have several to compare, I would not have known that better ones existed.

This Eachine speaker has a couple of features that my other speakers do not have. It has a slot to insert a memory card. I cannot comment on this feature, since I have no memory cards that size. The other feature that is potentially unique is that the speaker acts as an FM receiver. I couldn't locate it, but the friendly representative told me how it was done, and the radio works just fine now.

In the box are the speaker, a aux cable to connect directly to a device, and a USB charging cable. It has a very solid feel and seems well built. When paired with your phone, it acts as a receiver and transmits for a total hands-free phone experience. Overall, it has a favorable sound, but it isn't exceptional. My one complaint is that the sound could be crisper. It's slightly muffled, especially as you crank up the volume.

Sennheiser Urbanite XL Over-Ear Headphones - Black
Sennheiser Urbanite XL Over-Ear Headphones - Black
Price: $249.95
10 used & new from $203.39

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb sound, October 6, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I have been a fan of Sennheiser for many years, and am proud to say I own three pairs that I use for different situations. I have been offered different brands through the vine program, including Bose and Onkyo, but none can compare to the sound quality and comfort that Sennheiser offers. They have a very solid feel to them, and are definitely built to last. The headphones fold neatly and fit nicely into a carrying bag for those on the go. The cord detaches, is high quality, and has a volume + and - and pause for easy control.

These headphones do benefit from "burn in" time. Although great sounding right out of the box, they sound even better after a few days of continuous use. I tested these headphones on all of my mobile devices, my iMac, and a high quality Onkyo receiver. I also used a headphone amplifier with the mobile devices to test higher volumes. Formats tested were MP3 @ 320kbs, FLAC, and and regular compact discs.

I started with my go-to stereo, speaker, and headphone evaluator album,Dark Side of the Moon (in all formats listed). I've been listening to this album for over 40 years, and I know every note of that album. With these headphones, I have never heard it sound better. Even when compared with my other Sennheiser headphones, the sound stage is eminently more balanced--the lows robust, and the mid-range and highs crystal clear. These blow my Bose over- the-ear headphones (comparably priced) away. Often, listeners cannot distinguish between an MP3 @ 320kbs and a regular compact disc. These headphone are clear enough for the compression of MP3 to be noticeable. All genres of music sound incredible.

These are noise-canceling over-the-ear cans, and they achieve that objective nicely. I have worn these for hours without the least discomfort. I like the single cable design, versus plugs that insert into both ear cups. I would consider these headphones as close to audiophile quality as can be obtained at this price.

Quincy Jones said, "If architecture is frozen music then music must be liquid architecture." And to listen to music, and keep it liquid, you need superior equipment for the ultimate sound. These Senns will keep your music dulcet and molten.

Consumed: A Novel
Consumed: A Novel
by David Cronenberg
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.45
57 used & new from $11.64

7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I have better hopes for the movie version, September 30, 2014
This review is from: Consumed: A Novel (Hardcover)
"Could he really say anything about classical concepts of art, and therefore beauty, being based on harmony, as opposed to modern theories, post-industrial-revolution, post-psychoanalysis, based on sickness and dysfunction?"

The master of body horror, David Cronenberg, has written an esoteric debut novel that proves that the director is confident with a narrative story beyond dialogue and images. He allows the reader to form the visuals themselves that he graphically describes in print. Cronenberg leaves some psychological motivations to the imagination, but as far as vivid body mutilation, not much is left to ponder there. He captures it, almost casually, raw, and sometimes with an absurd delicacy. It isn't for the weak of stomach or the faint of heart! And, like certain exotic diets, it won't go down or digest well with everybody.

Two photojournalist lovers, Naomi and Nathan, often communicate through their technology because they are usually traveling for work at different ends of the world. Here, Naomi is in Paris investigating a celebrity academic couple, Aristide and Célestine Arosteguy, existential and possibly nihilistic philosophers. An allegation that Aristide has killed his wife, mutilated her, and eaten her, is being investigated. Meanwhile, Nathan travels to Budapest to photograph an unlicensed surgeon perform cutting edge surgery on a young woman with breast cancer. How these two stories finally connect is through people, technology, a rare STD, North Korea, global politics, cannibalism, Body Integrity Disorder (particularly apotemnophilia) and Cronenberg's active, vivid imagination about the concept of beauty and artistic innovation.

Cronenberg pulls off a quasi-linear narrative (albeit with some accessible jumps back in time to reveal history) that, while shocking, failed to really seduce me while I was reading it, fascinating though it was. It was cold, cerebral, and detached. However, I waited several days to write this review to see how it would linger in me. My conclusion is that the director was effective in transmitting florid and shadowy images behind my eyes, even as the characters fade. And, as a film director, it is what he does best. He frightens through hyper-surrealism, and leaves you with fears beyond the savage acts of his characters. The finale is both coy and suggestive, which conveys that the horror of being monitored, of privacy quashed by a terroristic government, may not be many steps apart from our society of social media fetishism. The crimes and the criminals have some blurry lines to navigate, and our obsession with images, the "other," and social media have consequences.

There are many themes to explore here, and Cronenberg is no doubt an intrepid genius and techno-obsessed (especially Apple and Nikon). I have to admit, though, that I didn't enjoy this book, but was riveted by his combo of psychological and body horror, and felt compelled to see where it was going. Like watching surgery on LSD. I did feel that Cronenberg's characters are largely straw-like--the relationships often felt contrived--selected only to further his themes and harrowing plot. Aristide did come alive, as did Sophie Roiphe, at intervals. But it was not enough to convince me to empathize. Of the Davids, I prefer Lynch.

This is certainly a filmic book, in the Cronenberg-esque vintage way. And this may appeal to certain fans of the macabre. But, it is a matter of taste. It went down hard and cold for me.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 1, 2014 3:25 AM PDT

Tayogo Magic Cube Rechargeable Portable Bluetooth Wireless Speaker with 3.5mm Audio Port for Iphones, Ipads, Android Cell Phones, Touch Screen Tablets, Macbooks, Laptop Computers, Mp3 Players & Portable Cd/dvd Players (Gold)
Tayogo Magic Cube Rechargeable Portable Bluetooth Wireless Speaker with 3.5mm Audio Port for Iphones, Ipads, Android Cell Phones, Touch Screen Tablets, Macbooks, Laptop Computers, Mp3 Players & Portable Cd/dvd Players (Gold)
Offered by Tayogo
Price: $24.99
3 used & new from $24.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Decent cube, September 30, 2014
I've tested several of these rechargeable blue-tooth speakers in exchange for a review, and the Tayogo Magic Cube did not disappoint. In the box are the speaker, a 3.5mm audio jack cable, a mini USB charging cable, and an instruction guide. The cube has an LED indicator to show when it is powered on and blinks when it is pairing with a Blue-Tooth device. It is compatible with all Blue-Tooth enabled devices and devices that have a 3.5mm audio jack.

The sound is good for a speaker this size. It isn't as rich or dynamic as another brand I own, but decent overall. The bass is adequate to balance the sound, and the cube works best with lyric-centered music. It pairs easily with my iPod Touch, my iPad, and my iPhone. While I was evaluating the speaker while paired with my phone, I received a call and answered the call on the cube. The reception was clear and the microphone transferred my voice clearly as well, as reported by the person I was talking to.

The instruction guide is very useful and detailed. It came fully charged. The guide states that the battery will last 4-6 hours (not the best) of listening to music or using it as a receiver. Some of my other speakers boast of 10 hours of use. The Magic-Cube is decent for what it is, a small blue-tooth speaker.

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