The Cassette.

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I sure remember when the cassette was in its heyday. You could find them just about everywhere, so it seemed, from the “five and dime” to the most discriminating audiophile stores. As a younger man, I remember the serious discussions about which tape brand was the best. Usually it came down to either TDK or Maxell. Personally, although acknowledging that both were good, I would always give the nod to TDK — in particular, the SA90. I don’t ever remember having a problem with a TDK tape. I do remember having multitudes of issues with cheaper tapes, such as would be find in plastic bags of three or more hanging on a department store rack. They quickly took sales from 8 tracks and became increasingly popular as decks for recording became cheaper and plentiful. They varied in quality, price and length. Common lengths were 60 and 90 minutes. 110s and 120s came along, but were not considered advisable. Some cassette deck owner’s manuals specifically warned against the use of 120 minute tapes, as they had a tendency to break and also could not often handle the recording level of a 60 or 90 minute tape. The cassette had its day in the sun and quickly became relegated to obscurity after CD recording became cheap and easy… and the MP3 started gaining in popularity. The Internet made it easy to grab music and software like iTunes made it easy to burn it to cheap CDs that sounded good.

Although an endangered species, the cassette never really went extinct! With great sadness, the brands I came to rely on stopped being produced (with the exception of Maxell, which still produces the UR series of type I tape). My absolute favorite (the TDK SA90) hasn’t been made in years. Fortunately, I have been able to locate stashes of them on Ebay — still wrapped and in new condition. In fact, just last night I recorded a couple of Grateful Dead albums to one with very satisfactory results. Also fortunate is the fact that we have the National Audio Company here in the United States that is still manufacturing blank tape and is soon to release a new type I formula that they say will rival the finest type IIs! (That will come as good news if true, since type II tape is not being manufactured anywhere in the world anymore, to my knowledge). I have also located a good supply of Polaroid Brand high bias tape that has been more than satisfactory, especially at the price it is being sold. I have had very good results with both the 90 and 110 minute lengths. You can pick them up at totalmedia.com or deltamedia.com at reasonable cost.

So, why all this writing about cassettes? I’ll get to that in my next post!

Jewett City Flea Market

Jewett City, once a thriving mill town oh so many years ago, is far from dead. Aside from the many residences and small shops that seem to survive in a small downtown atmosphere, it is also home to the flea market in the old Slater Mill — open every Sunday from 9 to 4.

This flea market has been in existence for many, many years — but is something I only recently re-discovered. My wife reminded me that I had been there once before, but I must not have spent much time there or wasn’t interested in shopping for anything then. (I have but a vague recollection of it at best). Being someone who loves to collect things that are either old or of some sort of interest to me, it is nirvana.

One thing of collectible interest to me is the vinyl record. For that, I am well satisfied with the flea market. There are several vendors who sell LPs, as well as many who offer equipment with which to play them. Aside from purchasing a few records (a couple of George Thorogood albums in near mint condition and one Bob Dylan record that played better than expected for cheap money), I also picked up a rather old Pioneer 100wt/ch receiver for the bedroom for twenty bucks which still works decently! It works well with my equally old Pioneer cassette deck I purchased for $5 the week before! Of course, what I appreciate it for more than anything is the way my vinyl sounds when I play it on a turntable that I have hooked up to it.

There was also a very interesting little shop I wandered into when first arriving there this past Sunday that sells DVDs and CDs. I picked up a few nice CDs for $2 each (one was only $1) and, although I spent no time looking at them, will no doubt peruse the extensive collection of DVDs and Blu-Ray discs when next I visit.

My wife was able to get a really nice bookcase made of real wood (not the typical particle board that you might acquire from Walmart) for $20 that she is well-pleased with.

So, if you are in the mood for a little browsing on a Sunday, you might consider the flea market. Who knows? You may find a once-in-a-lifetime bargain!

Rise in Vinyl Popularity

I thought I would take a break from writing the usual type of posts regarding the election and other events to discuss something much more entertaining [and perhaps] more meaningful: the vinyl record.

For many years I adored records and played them happily on my department store all-in-one home stereo when I was a kid and eventually a bit nicer setup that was kinder to the vinyl and more enticing to the ears. Back sometime in the 80’s the compact disc appeared and eventually overtook sales of vinyl, driving it to what many [myself included] thought was extinction.

There were many who scoffed at the compact disc, such as Neil Young, thinking its sound was unnatural or “too perfect.” They claimed the warmth of the vinyl was not present in the digital format. Many accused them of being resistant to change and not knowing what they were talking about. Well, it turns out they were right! Younger people are flocking to vinyl in droves, discovering its warmth and the sheer fun of collecting it. The few used record shops around my area are flourishing, or at least doing much better these past two years than in previous times. I read that vinyl sales are at a 28 year high (fortune.com, April 16, 2016). I also read recently that Crosley (a large manufacturer of vintage style stereos, turntables and portable record players) has bought a formerly defunct vinyl plant with the intention of putting it back in business. Places like FYE and Newbury Comics are selling a lot of vinyl. In fact, I have bought several Newbury Comics exclusive LPs with various colored vinyl discs. I know, but it’s fun… I recently visited a Newbury Comics location in Warwick, Rhode Island that is about 45 minutes from my home to discover a considerable inventory of vinyl and especially some interesting collectibles. Obviously, for a chain store to invest in vinyl for retail like that shows a renewed interest in that market that was previously gone.

The stereo I have today is not as elaborate or ‘audiophile’ as that of many years ago, but it provides me with many hours of enjoyment as I spin the latest find from a record store or even a Salvation Army Family Store! I won’t say they always sound better than my CDs do to my aging ears — and I am not a militant “vinyl guy” as some are, but they are my preferred medium for music and are simply fun to collect and play.

There are a great many choices for turntables today that range from portables for around $50.00 to high end audiophile setups in the thousands. Any of them will allow you to experience the fun of spinning vinyl again and the better systems will present to you a sound you’ve not quite heard before if you’re new to the VINYL LP. Better systems will also be much easier on your vinyl collection. You can get as obsessed with the hobby as you like and can afford.

2017

I have high hopes for 2017. Of course, I say that every year. One of the things I must admit that I also say often is how glad I am to see the previous year go! Sometimes, I say that more than other years. This is such an occasion: 2016 was a tough year in many ways. It became apparent in the spring that I had to do something about my stepson and his girlfriend who were renting the upstairs apartment from us along with their 3 children. We put up with their disrespectful nonsense for 4 years. Time for them to go. I pray for them. That has been hard on my wife — not really missing the parents, but sad over the kids.

My wife finally had her surgery in August 2016 to have her right shoulder replaced. It seems to be successful, but there is a clicking sound when she moves it and there are issues with the place she went to for physical therapy. In my opinion, she has not received the care she should have from the Norwich Orthopedic Group. That’s a whole other issue that is best left in capable hands to deal with. She had another stay for a few days in Backus Hospital to clear up a matter of vomiting blood. Interestingly, she has not had another occurrence of it since her GP took her off of all the medications she had been put on. Currently she is home nursing a cold that I am sorry to say she likely caught from me.

This year I am hoping to focus on my health and being of better service to God.

 

 

Merry Christmas.

I noticed that some news commentators like to make an issue of  whether or not some people say Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays or nothing at all. I saw a Naughty/Nice list of retailers on the O’Reilly Factor (Fox News) recently and it gave me reason to pause and think about it for a few minutes. The list referred to those who frown on their employees saying “Merry Christmas” and those who allow and sometimes encourage it. I really prefer to say “Merry Christmas” and have never been chastised by anyone for wishing them one.

As a Christian, Jesus is truly the reason for the season. I confess that I can be caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season and forget the focal point from time to time: Jesus.

So, where is this all leading? It is not a hill I wish to die on, so to speak. But I leave you with this heart-felt wish: Merry Christmas.

 

Jeff Sessions?

Do you think that Jess Sessions would make a good Attorney General? That might be a tough pick to get confirmed, considering his history of racially-charged remarks. Ronald Reagan tried to appoint him as a Federal Judge when he was in office, but was shot down.

In and Out of Trump Tower…

With speculation amidst all the comings and goings on Trump Tower lately, the media is having a field day with President-Elect Trump and his transition team as they seek to establish suitable candidates for the many positions they must fill. I would remind the reader that past presidents have taken as much as 6 weeks or more to fill the key slots they must have ready to go by Inauguration Day. Many names have been floated for key positions and a couple are done deals, such as Steve Bannon (the one I question the most). That said, I’m pretty sure that there’s no candidate whose entire list I would necessarily agree with.

Everybody’s favorite film maker Michael Moore paid a visit to Trump Tower and made [what he knew would be] a failed attempt to see Mr. Trump. While I will give credit where credit is due to some of the points he has raised recently (such as Mr. Trump’s inevitable win and how the far-left has been out of touch with the average American voter), his visit was obviously designed to draw attention to himself. He asked the President-Elect  in a note to do [what he thinks] is the right thing and step aside to let the person the popular vote elected (Clinton) assume office. Sure. He is all about reforms and the party that is out of touch with the blue collar middle class voter — so he wants Trump to let Clinton take the reigns? Right. The ‘panderer in chief’ who would have little to no regard for the plight of the American family and would undoubtedly continue the catastrophic course the country has been on.

Look, I have never been a huge fan of Trump, but I think a Clinton victory might have been even worse. It is a shame the Libertarian party couldn’t actually produce a viable, informed person to run for the office. If ever there was a chance for  a third party candidate to gain traction, it was this year! At least we would have had a much clearer choice.

President Trump

I never though I would attach the word president to the name of Trump, yet this is what we have come to. Do I necessarily think it is a bad thing? Time will tell. As a principled conservative, I cannot say that Donald represents my thinking in its entirety, for sure. But perhaps enough. Certainly, Hillary does not conform to my moral/ethical standards at all. Not really much of a choice for me this year. The Republican party now has the majority in the House and Senate, as well as the presidency. Let’s see what they can get down in the next two years. One thing is for certain: the Democrats can be expected to regroup and come after them in full force. If they don’t get some things done that were promised to Trump’s supporters, their majority will be short-lived and he will be a one-term president. I realize I state the obvious. There is not much else I can say about the subject right now.

I will remind the readers of this blog who share my faith that Jesus is still King of Kings and Lord of Lords, no matter who humanity elects to power! There is certainly some comfort to take from that.