Oct 24 2016

Album-crazy

Adel Gabot

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7:40AM

I don’t really know why, but I’ve recently been album-buying on iTunes like it’s going out of style. This, after not buying anything for months. (I feel I’m being gypped when buying albums, a feeling of entitlement I got after 20 years of having anything I like for free as an FM DJ just by asking for it.)

Since last week, largely on whims, I’ve bought:

  • Joanne – Lady Gaga
  • Version of Me – Melanie C.
  • Integrity Blues – Jimmy Eat World
  • Mad Love – Jojo
  • Eric Benet – Eric Benet
  • Day Breaks – Norah Jones
  • Outside Looking In – The Radio Sun
  • Ghosthunters OST – Various Artists

Two compilations of old songs:

  • The Power of The 80s
  • Classic Rock (3 CD Set)

A couple of old albums:

  • Kamakiriad – Donald Fagen
  • The Best of Sade – Sade

And, for some reason, a single:

  • Erase (Original Mix) – The Chainsmokers

So far, I love Jimmy Eat World, The Radio Sun and surprisingly, Jojo. I kind of like Eric Benet, Sade and Donald Fagen. And of course I adore the compilations. The jury is still out on the others.

Just trying to get back (very belatedly) into the groove again, I guess. Starting to feel my age.


Jul 7 2016

Batman kills

Adel Gabot

10:13AM

I really don’t know how to feel about director Zack Snyder’s revisionism of our classic comic book superheroes.

In Man of Steel he had Henry Cavill break the cardinal rule of being Superman: Do Not Kill Anybody, when he killed General Zod (Michael Shannon) to save a family from being burned to a crisp.

This is not to mention the many hundreds of others in Metropolis he indirectly killed when he went mano-a-mano with Zod in that urban battleground, people inadvertently crushed in the fallen buildings or killed in the streets and in their cars in the aftermath of their clash.

You don’t kill when you’re a superhero. Cardinal Rule No. 1. It’s easy to indiscriminately kill people when you’re that powerful, so the solution is never ever kill them, directly or indirectly. In fact, you take extra special care that you never do. It’s a line all the DC superheroes of my day never crossed.

It’s an old-fashioned Victorian aesthetic, a near-Puritan moral code that the comic books instituted in the old days because it was easy to cross the line when you reach the rarefied air of superhero-dom (to mix a couple of metaphors). Who decides who lives or dies? Superman? Who made him God?

Yet Snyder had Supie break that Cardinal Rule, that strict moral code, in the interest of cinematic license.

Now, again, he has Batman (Ben Affleck) doing the same thing in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Now that they’ve released the Ultimate extended version, I got an even closer look at the movie, and I’m kinda appalled.

In fact, someone made a supercut (linked above) on YouTube detailing the Batman’s kill count in that film: 21 people, as far as we know. And that’s just in the days of the Batman-Superman thing. God knows how many he’s killed since he first became the Caped Crusader. And will kill in the future.

Hell, the Batman’s not even supposed to own guns, yet Snyder has him shooting from the hip with assault rifles and assorted weapons, killing the bad guys. It was another cardinal rule in the DC universe—you’re not supposed to own guns when you’re a superhero, and you’re never ever supposed to shoot anybody, even if they’re evil as all get out. Maybe with gas pellets or rubber bullets. Maybe, but only then.

Yet here we are. It’s the new 21st century morality.

Of course, I still enjoyed the movies as separate, independent entities from the comic book world, and I took them at their cinematic value.

But it’s never gonna be the same. Sheesh.


Jun 11 2016

An update to the BT earphone review

Adel Gabot

IMG_0783

2:39PM

Ok, the Awei A920 110dB Smart Wireless Bluetooth 4.0 Sports Stereo Earphone Noise Reduction with Mic (Gold) has been with me for a few days now, and I think I can add some more details to my intial review:

  1. I know I already said it previously, but now I can say it with more authority—the friggin’ cord is really short, particularly when you wear it from the back of your neck. I may have a larger-than-average neck size, but man, it’s really short for me when I wear it fthat way. It doesn’t dangle as much as constrict my neck. When you put the buds together to form a necklace, it looks more like a choker. (Not unless you choose to wear it hanging from the front, which you can also do. But then it looks like any other earphone.) Which brings me to a related thing…
  2. When worn from the back, it’s kinda awkward to reach up to the control pod, which, because of the shortness of the cord, is on the side of my neck. It’s hard to reach up to with my right hand and I have to reach across and operate it with my left. Granted, operating it by touch is easy as there are only three buttons to fiddle around with, but reaching around almost to the back of my neck to adjust the volume or change the song makes me look a bit comical.
  3. The default in-ear earbuds (medium) are a tad too large for my ears, and after a while they tended to pop out. I have to push them in deep to keep them from doing that, and as a result are a bit uncomfortable for the first few minutes, until they settle in and you get used to them. The manufacturer includes three sizes, but the small is too small and the large way too large, at least for me. A size somewhere between small and medium would be nice, but those are the breaks.
  4. The audio output is a bit too bassy for my taste; normal songs play as if you had set the bass setting way up high. The “explosive bass” feature is truly that: if the song has a pronounced bass line, it’s really pronounced through this pair. But I can live with it. Equalization settings aside, it really plays loud and clear in your ear if you want it that way. “HD sound,” you know.
  5. The “intelligent noise reduction” part works well, even without an active electronic component to it. I have to commend Awei for accomplishing this through mere physical means, although I still have no real idea how it works. I wore it in a noisy cafe, and while you could still faintly hear the loud ambient outside noise without any audio input in the earbuds, that all disappears when the sound comes on.
  6. It’s not immune to the clicks, pops and occasional dropouts associated with the current Bluetooth V4.0 technology. Although they seldom occur, the shortcoming is still there. I know the Apple products I paired them with don’t currently employ the A2DP feature that newer Android products use to improve the sound, and which this pair is equipped to handle, but man I can’t wait for the BT tech to advance and finally eliminate this problem. Bluetooth V5.0?
  7. It paired handily and readily with all the devices I connected it to (except the PS4, but it’s more a shortcoming of the PS4 than anything else), so no real problems there. It can also connect simultaneously to two sources, although I can’t think of a situation where you’d ever want to do that.
  8. When you make a phone call, your audio is clean and clear but a little faint to the other side. I believe this is more a function of the mic itself being a bit too far from your mouth (it’s practically on the side of my neck), at least in my situation. Other people with thinner necks might not have this problem, or if they wear it from the front.
  9. I would dearly love for the earphones to have longer battery life. Out of the box and fully charged, you can talk on the phone for about six hours, but only listen to music for four. Standby time is 200 hours. That’s great but it would be greater it if could do, say, at least six to eight hours playing tunes. On the plus side, it takes less than an hour for it to fully charge (45 minutes, by my count).
  10. A final, small niggle: along with the two extra pairs of earbuds, Awei also includes a pair of what I assume are rubber ear-rentention mounts, a cord clip and a small, strange black button with cord grooves, yet nowhere does it say in the packaging and dual-language (English/Chinese) manual what these damn things are and how to properly use them. Eh?

I guess that’s it for this pair of earbuds. Quality and value for money it already has. Only time will tell if they have any longevity.


Jun 9 2016

A review of my new Bluetooth earphones

Adel Gabot

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3:06PM

I have a hell of a lot of headsets. A hell of a lot. Some of them come from my old days as tech reviewer for Technoodling and the Inquirer but most of them I bought for myself.

I guess I like them because they were an essential part of my old job/career/hobby of being an FM disc jockey. I began using them as a trainee in 1983 in DWRK-FM. and ended as president and announcer of my network in DWKX-FM in 2004. Over two decades of using one headset or another for at least four hours everyday. More if you count my time as commercial producer.

After I began my journalism and publishing career, I still used them, largely just for listening to my music, and stupidly kept buying them. I have around ten pairs now, ranging from elaborate sets that wrap comfortably around your head and envelop your ears in the sound and experience, to simple, inexpensive earbuds for daily use.

I especially loved my old Bluetooth earphones because they did away with the pesky cords. I wore them everywhere I went, listening to music, radio programs, podcasts, anything you could think of, and you couldn’t separate me from my BTs. But I simply used them to death, and now they’ve given up the ghost. I miss them.

Which is why I finally got another pair.

I must admit, it took me over a year to finally buy another set. I made a case for not buying by telling myself that all the headphones are the same, it’s just that some have cords and cables, and some don’t. Since I had a bunch of them already it would be wasteful to get another pair.

But it isn’t quite the same.

Often, I like to listen when I’m out, and having to use a pair with a cord and sticking it to your player and being bothered with it dangling and hanging off your person is at the very least troublesome and irritating. Fine if I’m just stuck somewhere, in the house or in an office and don’t have to move around. Cables are fine then. But what if you’re mobile and out and about?

So I finally got another pair, this time an Awei A920 110dB Smart Wireless Bluetooth 4.0 Sports Stereo Earphone Noise Reduction with Mic (Gold), to use its official name. It’s inexpensive, costing a little under a grand, and is made in China. It can connect simultaneously to two devices, has HD audio, noise reduction and has “explosive bass.” At least that’s what it says on the packaging (which is coincidentally very nice and professional looking).

It’s a deceptively simple contraption, and its cord is a bit shorter than I’m comfortable with, but it’s ok on the whole. It’s not as bulky as my late, lamented old pair. It’s basically two (gold) earbuds connected by a cord, and along the cord is a tiny contraption where all the controls are, and the battery. There are buttons for song selections and volume control. You charge it using a microUSB port on the control pod for an hour, and the power lasts for around another four to six, depending on use.

You wear it around the back of your neck, with the control pod hanging off on the right side. The pod has a microphone on it so you can use it talk to people on the phone. The best thing about it is that the two earbuds have a magnet inside each, and attaches to each other when not in use, forming a de facto necklace of sorts and keeping it from falling off your neck.

I paired it with my iPhone, and it works fine, although it’s a bit bassy when you’re playing music (no doubt a function of that “explosive bass” feature). It’s certainly nice and loud. It cuts down on the noise some, but I haven’t really tried it in a very noisy environment yet, so that remains to be seen. Calls are loud and clear, too.

I plan to use it with my iPhone, iPad, iMac, Macbook Pro and Apple TV. So far I’ve just paired it with the phone, but I’ll get around to connecting it to the other devices soon. I’m going to test this thing to death and bring it around with me whenever I go out of the house.

Time will tell if this earphones will last. My experience with inexpensive pairs has been that one or the other bud will fail soon, or it may stop connecting, or the power will gradually shorten until it doesn’t charge at all. I give it three months, and if it’s still fine then, I expect a couple of years of satisfaction with it.

I’m pretty happy with it so far.


May 5 2016

Isleys

Adel Gabot

screenshot_232

8:10PM

I was walking through a mall yesterday afternoon when I heard a cover of an old favorite Aaliyah song off the PA system of a restaurant—At Your Best (You Are Love), sung by an unidentified male jazz singer. I hadn’t heard the song for a while, and the version by the guy was a nice one.

As I walked, I hummed the song to myself, and I thought, I got to get the lyrics of that off the net so I can properly sing it to myself when I wanted to.

The next day, I looked for the Aaliyah song, and was surprised to find out that Aaliyah’s version was actually a cover of an Isley Brothers original, which they originally wrote for their mother. (Gives you an idea of my knowledge of music history—hey, I was a radio DJ for contemporary music; I can’t be expected to know everything.) Reading further, I found out that the song had been done over by many artists, including a couple of local ones—notably Nina, and Juris of MYMP .

My knowledge of the Isley Brothers was confined to Harvest For The World and Highways of My Life. I loved Harvest, and Highways used to get played often back in the day on AM radio, and I remember sort of liking it as a kid. But that was the extent of my experience with the band.

So I dug further into the Isleys, and my curiosity got piqued so much that I downloaded a greatest hits album—and was shocked to find I knew a lot of their songs, but sung by other artists! Some of my favorites!

Like Listen To The Music done over by The Doobie Brothers, Summer Breeze done by Seals & Crofts, and For The Love of You by the late Whitney Houston. (To be sure, the Isleys did covers too, like Put A Little Love In Your Heart, Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight and Love The One You’re With, which goes to show that what goes around, comes around.)

Thing is, I hadn’t realized they were covers. Man.

The Ultimate Collection of The Isley Brothers is a old-new favorite I’ll be listening to a lot these next few months.