These nearly microscopic cards hold 1GB of music, liner art, photos, videos and whatever other little extras artists may want to include with their albums. The players are very inexpensive at only $19.99 ($34.99 for the artist editions like the nifty Abba one I have) and make quite affordable gifts. They also don’t require a computer to either buy the music or play it. None of this would matter if you could only use these mini music cards on the player itself. The music needs to be transferable, and it is. The card contains unrestricted MP3s with very good sound quality that you can put on your phone if it has a slot or easily transfer to a computer with a USB adapter that comes with the player. I had those Abba tracks from the card blasting from my stereo speakers mere moments after popping the card in my computer. So, you can make playlists with the music you purchase this way and unlike music bought from iTunes or eMusic, you get host of extras with releases even beyond what appears on most CDs.
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Rough Guide books are always gorgeous, comprehensive, and engaging reading, but this one, Wow! The natural world truly is your oyster, here. Each adventure, wherever it lay on/above/below/floating on/diving into this planet, clearly indicates the level of fitness required (Physical), how scary/dangerous an experience will be (Psych), how surefooted one must be to get there (Skill), and even how awe-inspiring the trek is guaranteed to be (Wow!). There’s delightful trivia about the regions (animals, history, lore, even recipes from local fare), and a chart to easily determine the best time of year to experience the place that catches your fancy. Surely at least one trip recommended here in literary fashion (yes, these write-ups are quality travel writing, too), is something one must do before one dies. First step in inspiring your hard-working, nose-to-the-grindstone friend to ‘live a little’: give him this book. He’ll be requesting his vacation time from his boss by week’s end.
The buzz on Barack Obama is that he’s a great speaker. Well, you haven’t listened to Winston Churchill lately, have you? You can compare these two notables while pondering the significance of their historical era, as well as other politicians, activists, newscasters, sportscasters, celebrities and more from this 5-CD set (so that’s 500 greatest, total) from the reputable Shout! Factory, whose catalogs includes Grammy®-nominated box sets. I’m listening to a radio announcement that the Russians are in Berlin, right now (100 Greatest News Stories), and it feels right now. These audible excerpts, the highlights of stories from modern history, are chilling, inspiring, funny and tragic. They’re historical earworms that wriggle right into your head and settle in your heart. This is stuff you never forget. Your history buff, your pop culture collector, the teacher in your family, the audio sampler (who will appreciate the alphabetical, rather than chronological organization) will want this, too.
A two-page spread shows photos of zeppelin’s floating in grayscale skies. Magical. Turn the page: a massive explosion and the fast disintegrating Hindenburg (1937). Ideas aloft, then burning guitars. That’s frickin’ perfect rock, man. Interviews, quotes and concert coverage by notable journalists and music insiders. Concert photos. Album covers. The entire discography. Whole Lotta Led Zeppelin is a whole lotta coverage of the genre-busting band from ‘A’ to ‘Zed’, 1968-1980 and 2007’s reunion concert. Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba doom, doom / Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba doom, doom. Give this and stand back to make room for air guitar freak-out.
You honestly can’t go wrong with Telltale games’ offerings this holiday season. Spanning a tremendous range of prices and formats, Telltale’s throwback adventure games are always welcome respite from the shooters, sports, and music games that sell so many copies throughout the year. What makes these games appealing is that they are highly passive gaming experiences; you play these as much to watch a story (one that’ll make you laugh, of course) as you do to play a game. If you want a surreal, chaotic experience, you go for Sam & Max. If you want a highly meta, sarcastic experience, you go for Strong Bad. Both have their merits, both stand up well as episodic adventures, and both will make you laugh. You really can’t go wrong with either of Telltale’s adventures, and even if you don’t want to commit to a whole game, you can buy each series one episode at a time, under $10 for a solid 5 hours of play. Even if you weren’t gaming back when LucasArts was synonymous for quality point ‘n’ click adventuring, you owe it to yourself as a gamer to give at least one of these two a look.