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Alan Rivière "Maggie's Dad" (Southwest, USA)

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Denon PMA50 Compact Digital Hi-Fi Stereo Amplifier with Bluetooth
Denon PMA50 Compact Digital Hi-Fi Stereo Amplifier with Bluetooth
Offered by home AV direct
Price: £449.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compact and versatile, 21 Feb. 2015
INTEGRATED AMPLIFIER
This Denon PMA-50 is an integrated amplifier which takes audio signals, digital or analog, from various playback devices like BD and CD players, video game consoles, computers etc., processes them through its pre-amplifier and power-amplifier, and outputs to a pair of unpowered passive speakers or a set of headphones (not included). Measuring 7-7/8 inches wide, 9-1/2 inches long, and 3-3/8 inches high, the PMA-50 is indeed compact. The footprint can be as little as 3-3/8" x 9-1/2" if set up vertically.

DIGITAL INPUTS
There are four digital inputs - 2 optical, 1 coaxial, and 1 USB-DAC. Most newer home stereo CD players today come with optical and coaxial output. My Samsung BD player, as well as my PS3 and PS4 game consoles, has optical audio output. These PMA-50 optical and coaxial inputs come in handy with today's digital audio equipment.

However, the most noteworthy feature of the PMA-50 is the USB-DAC digital input. It takes audio files in a computer through a software player like the iTunes, processes them with the onboard DAC (Digital to Analog Converter) and the power amplifier, and outputs high resolution audio to the speakers or the headphones, bypassing the shabby stock computer soundcard altogether. The PMA-50 supports both the PCM and the DSD digital audio formats (See Note 1). The front panel digital display indicates the format and frequency of the current audio file.

To deploy the USB-DAC, PC owners must download and install the PMA-50 driver (See Note 2). This PC driver is compatible with Windows Vista, 7, 8, and 8.1. Mac users with Mac OS X version 10.6.3 or later can skip the driver installation. A USB 2.0 cable is included for connection between the USB-DAC input at the PMA-50 and a UBS 2.0 host port at the computer.

BLUETOOTH CONNECTIVITY
The user can connect a playback device to the PMA-50 via Bluetooth if the device is so equipped. Up to three devices can be so connected although the PMA-50 can only play one device at a time. The PMA-50 supports NFC (Near Field Communication) for Bluetooth devices with such functionality.

ANALOG AUX INPUT
There is a set of AUX inputs for the analog audio of pre-digital equipment. The set of inputs consists of left and right RCA connectors.

AUDIO OUTPUT
The user connects a set of two unpowered passive speakers to two sets of speaker terminals at the back of the PMA-50 via speaker wires or banana plugs. The speaker output is rated at 25 watts at 8 ohms or 50 watts at 4 ohms per channel. A set of headphones can be plugged into the standard stereo phone jack in the front panel. Headphones with 3.5mm mini-plug requires a stereo headphone adapter plug (not included). There is a subwoofer PRE OUT output for a powered subwoofer speaker for bass enhancement, if the user so desires (See Note 3).

THE FRONT PANEL
The front panel is an object of simplicity. A large knob dominates the center. It is the volume control. To the left of it is the power button. In between, there is a digital display, visible only when it is on, and the remote control sensor. To the right are the input selector and the Bluetooth device selector, which doubles as a pairing button, and the standard phone jack. On the side is the NFC loop antenna as marked by a letter N, for radio pairing of Bluetooth devices.

THE REMOTE
A remote comes with the purchase. It duplicates the functions at the front panel, plus a few extras. There is a dimmer button for the digital display and a mute button for the audio. There is a set of buttons for adjusting the audio setting: tone, bass, treble, balance, and headphone amplifier gain. The remote runs on one button battery. Replacing the battery is a chore.

ONLINE MANUAL
A CD with a Quick Start Guide and an Owner's Manual is included. The Owner's Manual is also available online. Read it up before purchase (See Note 2).

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS
Consumer audio electronics are going digital. The old style analog integrated amplifiers just can't cut it anymore. This Denon PMA-50 Compact Digital Amplifier is a good replacement. With the proper speakers or headphones, the audio is crystal clear. It is compact, taking up very little space on the shelf. The remote is handy. At four hundred fifty pounds a pop, the price is steep, but the PMA-50 is versatile. The optical and coax inputs will accommodate the majority of consumer electronics. I am especially impressed with the USB-DAC functionality. It turns a computer into a high-resolution digital audio equipment.

Note 1: PCM (Pulse-code modulation) and DSD (Direct Stream Digital) are two competing digital modulation formats.
Note 2: See my comment below for the Web address.
Note 3: This output is called PRE-OUT because the signal is NOT amplified. It will only work with a powered subwoofer with its own built-in amplifier.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 21, 2015 8:49 PM GMT


White Queen [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
White Queen [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ James Frain
Offered by supermart_usa
Price: £11.20

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wars of the Roses, through the eyes of the women, 8 Feb. 2015
The White Queen is a British 10-part television series based on the historical novel series The Cousin's War by the award winning British writer Philippa Gregory. It is the story of the struggle for the throne of England between two rival royal factions, the house of Lancaster and the house of York, in the Wars of the Roses between 1455 and 1487, as seen through the eyes of the female characters Elizabeth Woodville, The White Queen (Rebecca Ferguson), Margaret Beaufort, The Red Queen (Amanda Hale), & Anne Neville, The Kingmaker's Daughter (Faye Marsay).

The film is engrossing, with beautiful cinematography and excellent acting. The plot is fast moving, full of political intrigue and family feud with grave consequences. There are some criticisms of historical inaccuracies of the scenery, stage sets, and the chronology of events. To avoid confusing fictions with facts, the viewers should remember that the film is a historical novel, not a history documentary (See my comment below). Two versions were made. The BBC version, first aired on June 2013 in the UK, is more conservative, followed by the steamy Starz version, aired in the US on August 2013. This Region 1 DVD is the Starz version, with male and female nudity, explicit sex acts, and graphic childbirth footage. So parents beware.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 8, 2015 12:58 AM GMT


Nature: Touching the Wild - Living With Mule Deer [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Nature: Touching the Wild - Living With Mule Deer [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Joe Hutto
Offered by supermart_usa
Price: £8.20

5.0 out of 5 stars ...the sorrow that I observe in these animals is just simply exhausting, 8 Feb. 2015
This Nature program is a moving story of naturalist Joe Hutto who spent 6 years living intimately with a herd of mule deer at Deadman Gulch near his homestead in Wyoming and got to know many deer individually. For the first two years, he was out every day with the herd and eventually gained the trust of a doe and leader of the herd, whom he called Raggedy Anne. He was then able to move freely in the herd. He discovered that his deer knew sorrow and love just like people. He saw how the family of Raggedy Anne stayed at her side as she lay dying, and a fawn he called Molly ran around in great distraught looking for her mother Red Tag who just died.

In spite of what he would have hoped, Joe Hutto couldn't protect his deer from predators. He expressed sorrow on the deer kills in the snow, on which he lamented, "...they're quintessential death by a thousand cuts....They (the deer) don't cling less desperately to their lives than we do; they do not experience death with less fear than we do. Their agony and their horror is absolutely real. And this is an individual that you know.... you can't look at it and say, "well, this is the natural order of things, this is the way it should be....." Joe Hutto was telling something most of us already know - that Nature is cruel and uncaring, and that she has no regard for individuals.

"Animals are not the only predators that Molly will encounter..." Joe Hutto commented, as he was petting the fawn he befriended. He meant the "orange vests" who "arrive at every direction" when the hunting season began. He witnessed the killing of Babe. As he was helping the hunters lift the buck into their vehicle, one of them asked, "Do you have any idea how old this deer might be?" He answered with great sorrow, "Yeah, I know exactly how old this deer is. I've known him since he was a spotted fawn. And I know, because I have all his other shed antlers in my house...."

Befriending wildlife exacts a price, as Joe Hutto found out. He said, "They (the deer) are under assault from so many different directions, and I see it in their eyes. I have come to know the lives of these wild creatures, I've become a member of the herd, but I don't know how long I'll be able to continue, because the sorrow that I observe in these animals is just simply exhausting..." I know what he was saying.

After thought: Mule deer as a species are not threatened currently, but their number has declined dramatically in recent years in the American West. In the state of Wyoming, mule deer population had plummeted 36% from 578,000 in 1991 to 369,000 in late 2012. Among other factors, the loss of habitat, oil and gas development, aggressive wild fire suppression, predation, harsh winters, and drought are responsible. But this video is not about wildlife statistic; it is about one man's connection to wild animals. Animals are not dumb. They have feelings and emotions. They have an inner life. Any pet parent of cats and dogs can testify to that. They feel love, joy, and sorrow. They fear death as much as any human being. The terror and agony of slaughter are as real and vivid to them as to people. But in a world plagued with war, terrorism, disease, poverty, and assorted human miseries, animal right is probably the furthest thing from anybody's mind. That much I know.


Flying Wild Alaska: Seasons 1-3 [DVD]
Flying Wild Alaska: Seasons 1-3 [DVD]
Offered by The Canny Store
Price: £18.49

5.0 out of 5 stars One of the few wholesome reality TV series, 24 Jan. 2015
Flying Wild Alaska is one of the few wholesome "reality television series" on cable. It features the Tweto family who ran a regional airline ERA Alaska at Unalakleet, Alaska and the bush pilots who flew airplanes for them. The series ran on the Discovery Channel for three seasons from January 2011 to July 2012.

Jim Tweto was the chief operating officer (COO) of ERA and his wife Ferno the station manager at Unalakleet. Jim Tweto started out as a bush pilot with one airplane and, with the help of Ferno, grew his company into a regional airline that serves much of Alaska, from Kodiak in the south to Barrow in the north and Nome in the west to Fairbanks in the East. The viewers watch as the pilots and ground crew struggle against foul weather, impossible schedules, primitive and sometimes nonexistent landing strips, government regulations, and occasionally fuel shortage. In addition, the viewers are treated with a brief look at the Eskimo culture which is woven into the lives of Alaska residents. It is fun to watch pilots from the Lower 48 eating Eskimo food, like walrus intestines. Other Eskimo delicacies include seal flippers buried in the ground for three months, dug up, and boiled in water. Yum!

Jim and Ferno raise two beautiful daughters Ayla & Ariel. Ayla is away from home attending classes in Anchorage for a paramedic. Ariel stays with her parents and works at the Unalakleet airport. Ariel is all sunshine even when a blizzard is raging outside of the terminal. Regrettably the show ended in season three when Jim Tweto retired and started building his dream cabin, but the viewers get to watch as Ariel finally gets her pilot license. Don't miss out on this excellent television series.


Lost in Austen - Episode 1
Lost in Austen - Episode 1
Dvd

5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious and entertaining but Austen purists should stay away, 4 Jan. 2015
**Spoiler alert**

Amanda Price (Jemima Rooper), a 21st century Londoner from Hammersmith and a devoted Austen reader, found herself transported to the house of Elizabeth Bennet, a character in Jane Austen's book Pride and Prejudice, and the fun begins. Ms. Jane Austen would have turned over in her grave if she watched this movie. Guy Andrews, the writer of this 2008 ITV series, pretty much butchered the story: Darcy is a jerk, Bingley is a drunk, Wickham is a good guy, Jane marries Mr. Collins, Caroline is a lesbian and so on. Amanda desperately tries to set things straight while fending off attention of the men and one woman.

**End of spoilers**

Austen purists should stay away, but I found this ITV series hilarious and entertaining, so much so that I watched all four episodes in one sitting.


Dynamite (Remix by Meed Diggo & Max Lazarev)
Dynamite (Remix by Meed Diggo & Max Lazarev)
Price: £0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Best work by Liza Fox so far, 15 Dec. 2014
Liza Fox is a Russian-born singer-songwriter who first appeared on the music scene in 2011 on American Idol under the name Inessa Lee. She didn't do too well, receiving three "No" votes from the judges, but the show gave her international exposure. After a string of singles released between 2010 and 2013 under the names of Inessa Lee, Princess X, and Liza Fox (See Note 1) with various degree of success, "Dynamite" first premiered on May 2014 as a music video in the Russian language on the YouTube ProStar channel, followed by the English version in October of the same year (See Note 2), together with a Mastered-For-iTunes single and a remix version by Meed Diggo and Max Lazarev (See Note 3).

The song is a mixture of dance, pop, and electronica, typical of Liza Fox's musical style. In my opinion, "Dynamite" is her best work so far. Liza Fox has a strong and penetrating vocal. One couldn't help but sit up and take notice. She is also young and attractive. She reminds me of the young Madonna - beautiful and talented. I think she will have a promising career ahead.

Note 1: Insane in F#, You Turn Me on, Gimme all (Ring My Bell), and Free.

Note 2: See my comment below for the link to the Dynamite music video on YouTube.

Note 3: Meed Diggo and Max Lazarev won the 1st place in the Liza Fox Remix Contest held by Soundtrack Loops. See my comment below for the link.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 15, 2014 10:27 PM GMT


Dynamite
Dynamite
Price: £0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Best work by Liza Fox so far, 15 Dec. 2014
This review is from: Dynamite (MP3 Download)
Liza Fox is a Russian-born singer-songwriter who first appeared on the music scene in 2011 on American Idol under the name Inessa Lee. She didn't do too well, receiving three "No" votes from the judges, but the show gave her international exposure. After a string of singles released between 2010 and 2013 under the names of Inessa Lee, Princess X, and Liza Fox (See Note 1) with various degree of success, "Dynamite" first premiered on May 2014 as a music video in the Russian language on the YouTube ProStar channel, followed by the English version in October of the same year (See Note 2), together with a Mastered-For-iTunes single and a remix version by Meed Diggo and Max Lazarev (See Note 3).

The song is a mixture of dance, pop, and electronica, typical of Liza Fox's musical style. In my opinion, "Dynamite" is her best work so far. Liza Fox has a strong and penetrating vocal. One couldn't help but sit up and take notice. She is also young and attractive. She reminds me of the young Madonna - beautiful and talented. I think she will have a promising career ahead.

Note 1: Insane in F#, You Turn Me on, Gimme all (Ring My Bell), and Free.

Note 2: See my comment below for the link to the Dynamite music video on YouTube.

Note 3: Meed Diggo and Max Lazarev won the 1st place in the Liza Fox Remix Contest held by Soundtrack Loops. See my comment below for the link.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 15, 2014 10:25 PM GMT


Gran Turismo 6 (PS3)
Gran Turismo 6 (PS3)
Offered by 101Trading
Price: £16.89

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Grand Prix, 17 Nov. 2014
This review is from: Gran Turismo 6 (PS3) (Video Game)
This is my first Gran Turismo game, so I am not going to compare it with the previous games in the series. Gran Turismo 6 is quite exciting by itself. The graphics is awesome and the racing mechanics is as close to fast driving as I can tell. I was especially impressed by the playback after each race, which is presented as a well-edited video, with constant changing camera angles and cut-in/cut-out effect.

The player is first given a Honda Fit at the beginning of the game. He earns credits as he wins or completes races, which he can use to upgrade the various components of the car, or to purchase a more powerful car.

Many types of races are offered: Online Mode in which players race each other, Arcade Mode in which the player races AI drivers or his buddy in the same room, and the single player Career Mode in which the player progresses from Novice through the Nationals and the Internationals to the Red Bull X Challenge, as he earns his racing licenses through a series of driving tests. As the player becomes more experienced, special racing events are offered.

To do the game justice, the player needs a decent racing wheel. The standard PS3 controller simply doesn't cut it. There is the Logitech G27. It is an excellent wheel for the PS3. Unfortunately, it is NOT compatible with the PS4, which offers exciting new racing games like DriveClub and Project CARS. For wheels compatible with both PS3 and PS4, there are the entry-level Thrustmaster T80RS and the high-end T300RS (See Note). Many players are disappointed with the T80RS because it doesn't have force feed-back, but the price is reasonable.

One additional thing I like to mention is the background music of the game - I hate it. But fortunately, the game offers the player option to replace it, which I did with the soundtrack of the 1966 film Grand Prix. What is more fitting for an auto-racing game like Gran Turismo 6 than that?

Note: According to what I read, the T500RS, released for PS3 over three years ago, is supported in DriveClub and will be in Project CARS.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 24, 2015 2:46 AM GMT


Awakening
Awakening
Offered by ScreamingCd
Price: £5.75

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars New things to come, 21 Sept. 2014
This review is from: Awakening (Audio CD)
Jackie's new album Awakening is a mix of classical and contemporary pieces with several original compositions, as well as covers of musical & movie sound tracks. The Walmart exclusive 2-disc album also contains six Christmas classics. There's a lot for everyone on this album, just like Jackie said.

For the classical fans, there are "Ave Maria" by Russian composer Vladimir Vavilov and the traditional art song "Dormi Jesu" (The Virgin's Cradle Hymn). They are beautiful and timeless. There is "Vocalise" by Sergei Rachmaninoff, which is a wordless song carried only by a soprano voice with light orchestra accompaniment. These classical pieces showcase Jackie's gifted voice, which has evolved through the years from the operatic in Dream With Me to the bright crystal-clear vocal today.

For the pop fans, there are Jackie's covers of "With or Without You" from the album The Joshua Tree by U2, "Memories" from the album The Silent Force by Within Temptation, and "Je t'aime" from the album Pure by Lara Fabian. More notable are Jackie's covers of "The Rains of Castamere" from the popular HBO TV series Game of Thrones and "Your Love" with lyric by Dulce Pontes and music by the legendary Ennio Morricone from the 1968 film Once Upon A Time in the West.

For musical lovers, Jackie sings "Think of Me" from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera. This musical is her favorite. There are new songs in this album. "Take Me There" by Johan Oberholzer, "Open Fields of Grace" by Paul Sumares and Lisa Venkatrathnam, and "Made to Dream" by Jean-Pierre Steyn are original compositions for Jackie, written specifically to fit her range and tempo. "Take Me There" is notable for its faster beat than Jackie's usual singing style.

On August this year, Jackie's third PBS Great Performance was filmed at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania. It is based on the songs of this album. The show will air in December on PBS stations. It will be a treat for Jackie fans.

The music tracks were recorded in Budapest, Hungary with the Budapest Concert Orchestra and the Budapest City Choir, conducted by Nicholas Dodd and Richard Cottle. The Budapest Concert Orchestra has performed in a number of classical music recordings, including Symphony No. 1 & Hungarian Dances Nos. 5 & 6 by Brahms, and Mozart's Requiem - Coronation Mass.

This album was produced by record producer Nick Patrick who has worked with many classical crossover artists, including Katherine Jenkins and Russell Watson. "We all wanted to find a balance that would present Jackie in all that she is as an artist," says the famed record producer regarding the new album. I think he has succeeded. The mix of different genres in this album signifies new directions in Jackie's music while maintaining her classical root. Fans like myself are waiting with bated breath for new things to come.


The Pantheist World View
The Pantheist World View
Price: £0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars An introduction to Pantheism, 2 Aug. 2014
This digital pamphlet is published by the Universal Pantheist Society based on Visalia, California. It very briefly describes Pantheism (See note) and the views and goals of the Universal Pantheist Society. Those who wish to know more about the topics may visit pantheist dot net for additional info and resources. This pamphlet is a good start for readers interested in Pantheism.

Note: The following is a brief summary of what I understand of Pantheism:

(1) Some people call Pantheism a religion; others call it a philosophy.

(2) Pantheism embraces an all-encompassing immanent god.

(3) An immanent god such as the Pantheist god resides within this universe and is subject to its laws. This is different from most mainstream religions, which feature a transcendent god or gods. A transcendent god is outside of this universe but controls events in it by supernatural powers without subjecting to its laws.

(4) The Pantheist god is all encompassing: He/she is made up of people, animals, mountains, deserts, stars, galaxies and so on. In other words, the Pantheist god is the Cosmos and hence the Pantheist motto: All in one and one in all.

(5) It follows that people are not the center of the universe as in many mainstream religions but only a part of it, and that there is an interconnection among all things.

(6) Pantheism rejects a personal god. The Pantheist god does not keep track of what a person does, nor does he/she punish or reward the person.

(7) Pantheism rejects the afterlife. Life is here and now. Death is the end of the consciousness of an individual. However, the elements of his/her body remain part of the Cosmos after death.

(8) Pantheism paints a glossy picture of Nature and the universal interconnectedness of all things, including all human beings. It does not adequately address the violence, cruelty, misery, and suffering in the natural world and the evil side of human nature. To me, unless and until the dark side of Nature and human beings is accounted for and explained in a satisfactory manner, Pantheism appears to be incomplete.


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