A few updates from recent posts:
Scottsdale Run: John Sandford (John Camp) on the left and Ctein in the middle, at their personal appearance three nights ago at the Poisoned Pen Mystery Bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona USA for the launch of their science fiction thriller Saturn Run, which I notice is #8 on the Science Fiction > Exporation bestseller list at Amazon as of this writing. (My brother and sister-in-law both wrote me to tell me the book was featured by the Literary Guild.)
The photo is by Jeffrey Goggin, who added a nice signed copy of the book to his shelves. Ctein said there were four or five TOP readers in attendance, "...a remarkably high percentage. The disproportionate influence of TOP continues to startle me." For deep fans, the occasion has been put online here.
The Cubans: Speaking of books, Peter Turnley's gentle collective portrait of the Cuban people, Cuba: A Grace of Spirit enjoyed an extremely successful launch, with the press run, designed to last at least a year, more than 1/5th sold out already.
Here's Peter in the TOP Lightbox (that's what he dubbed my family room, unusual in that it has windows on all four sides).
DAC rec: One reader got incensed that I would recommend a DAC (digital-to-analog converter) for desktop audio that costs $465, which he considers silly money for a DAC. That's wrong; the Halide HD I use is keenly priced and a good value, and most audiophile DACs cost more than that—a lot of them, much more.
However, I was remiss in not suggesting an alternative for those who are interested but don't want to spend $465. If you're using the Audioengine A2+ (black, white, or red) or A5+ (black, white, or bamboo) desktop computer audio speakers that I recommend (I have black A5+'s), do try the Audioengine D1 DAC in preference to the soundcard in your computer. Amazon has a 30-day return policy, and I think once you try an outboard DAC you'll find it more than worth the very modest $169 pricetag.
An Audioengine D1 DAC connected to an Apple iMac and Audioengine's A5+ powered desktop speaker in bamboo.
Setup is very simple: on a Mac, just go to System Preferences > Sound > Output and select the DAC. Audioengine includes easy-to-follow setup guides for all their gear. For simplicity in the illustration above, a few additional needed wires are not shown; the picture illustrates just the connection of the DAC.
And by the bye, my Audioengine S8 subwoofer (black or white) arrived last night and is now pumpin' the bass from under the desk. Hugo's hilarious country(!) cover (with banjo!!) of Jay Z's hiphop classic "99 Problems" now sounds much more powerful. I'll write more about the S8 later.
And for those of you with somewhat more money than $465 burning a hole in your pocket, I'd recommend the PS Audio DirectStream DSD DAC. (Of course, that's for a full system, not for desktop.) PS Audio's Paul McGowan is a fellow photo enthusiast, and used to be a reader of TOP, although I don't think he visits very often now. He's told me that running his business takes up a little more than all of his time.
Poets and actors? Still speaking of books, also I received my copy of TOP reader John Sarsgard's fine book Like Musical Instruments: 83 Contemporary Poets. (Broadstone Books. There's still a courtesy discount for you (that is, TOP readers) in place; thanks to the folks at Broadstone for that). I'm enjoying both pictures and poems, and, as always, the presence of writing on the facing pages has the effect of slowing me down and making me look at the portraits more, which enriches them. The balance is nice—hearing the poet's voice and seeing his or her visage at the same time. I do wonder how the poets were chosen.
[UPDATE: See John's response below. —Ed.]
John's son Peter is an accomplished actor with a number of movie roles on his resumé. Perhaps John's next project could be actors of the younger generation, of all sorts; maybe he could ask them what their favorite movie or play is and why they love it, and use that for text. In any event Like Musical Instruments is good enough that it seems like John has found his métier, and I hope he continues in the same vein.
Alternate view: Film director Bob Burnett augmented his earlier iPhone snap of "Marshall's House," the Edward Hopper subject where he stayed recently, with this frame grab from a tracking/slider shot taken late in the day:
Here is the Edward Hopper painting again, for comparison purposes:
Bob writes, " In terms of spot-on accuracy, I was told by locals that Hopper frequently took liberties with what he painted to make them stronger as paintings, both in perspective and in elements within the scene. The biggest change besides the growth of trees that I mentioned previously is that the screen porch in the painting is now a formal room with windows. The painting includes a corner of the still standing shed shown here as well as a slight shift in location of the red house that’s visible in the distance."
(Thanks to Jeffrey, Dennis, and Bob)
Original contents copyright 2015 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
james wilson: "Any comments on the DAC included in the A2+ and A5+. The speakers can be plugged in to USB without the external DAC."
Mike replies: There's no DAC in the A5+ speakers. If hooked directly to the computer (or, say, iPod) they're using the computer's (or other device's) built-in sound processing, which is usually considerably inferior for music listening. The D-to-A conversion in the computer is a) typically very rudimentary, b) operating in a hostile environment electrically speaking, and c) designed to be "just good enough" for either earbuds or the very cheap, very small speakers built in to the computer.
Audioengine says the D1 offers "a benefit to audio quality" over the DAC in the A2+.
[Note: Thanks to Tom Noto for his corrections to this reply. —MJ]
You can also do a lot of good for the quality of your music by replacing the driver in iTunes with dedicated software such as PureMusic, Audirvana or Amarra.
Here's a nice intro by Steven Stone about how to start optimizing your Mac as a music server.
John Sarsgard: "The poets for Like Musical Instruments were mostly chosen by my collaborator, New York poet Larry Fagin. We wanted an assortment of young and old, unknown and famous, and representing all kinds of very different work. There are many more that could have been included, but we had to stop somewhere.
"Thanks for the followup, and the comments about my actor son, who spells the name Sarsgaard, originating with an incorrect spelling in an otherwise stellar review of a play he did years ago. Poets were easy to photograph; most were so happy someone was paying attention they welcomed me. Young actors could be different!"
Roberto M.: "Geez, that Hopper really needs to take a basic composition class and learn to process properly. He cut off the building on the left and he hasn't followed the rule of thirds. He needs to fix the white balance and get rid of that awful color cast. And he has way overdone the noise resolution—all the details have been turned to watercolor smears. There is no texture left on the roof or the screens, and there is color splotching everywhere. He hasn't fixed the blown out highlights in the sky or the weeds. And he definitely needs to lay off that saturation slider. He really shouldn't be posting pictures until he learns how to handle the basics first. *SA."
Keith B.: "Mike, I purchased the Audioengine D1 DAC on your recommendation a few years ago. Despite the cheap-feeling volume knob, it is still happily providing nice sounding music reproduction from my desktop computer stereo."