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The iPod FM tuners are, in my opinion, overrated; a cassette adapter (or patch cord to a line-in plug, if you've got one) are much better and usually cheaper.

I'd recommend the teakettle I have, but alas, I know not what it is. It still has some residual lime caked on the bottom from the hard water of Pennsylvania.


I just drove 4 hrs with a new nano and cassette adapter. It's a great combination and much easier to use than the FM games.


Slate just did a roundup of kettles.


For the digital pen, it sounds like you want something like the Logitech io. I have never used one, so I have no idea how effective it is. A Palm or a Windows Mobile PDA could also work for you, though that's larger than what you want.

I personally am not a fan of FM tuners for portable audio devices. FM tuners don't work well in densely populated areas, like Los Angeles or New York, where's there's a radio station on every channel. I, like many people, however, have no choice because I have no cassette player in my car. The best choice would be an audio-in jack in the car receiver, but those are not so common.

Etymotics are great.


It's not digital, but it might suit your needs just as well: Picopad


A Musical Idea: The New Pornographers are great (and all the members have side projects too)


The Revere Ware kettle is serviceable, it has a good whistle, and it's much cheaper than other stove-top kettles of similar quality. I "inherited" one from a roommate; when it finally started to leak I got another new and haven't regretted it. Probably my biggest cookware purchase other than an iron skillet.

ms. f

I absolutely adore my electric kettle. It's a Phillips I believe, I've had it for years and it boils water vastly more quickly than my gas stove.


I like being able to put CDs on the wall. (I like being able to put stuff on the wall in general, but you probably have more space than I do.) I don't have this, but it looks great.

Ima Fake

New music? Orchestra Baobab. Jazzy, funky cuban-african fusion.

"This is one of the great comeback albums, a gloriously enthusiastic and classy set from the band who dominated the music of Senegal in the 1970s. At the time they had no real chance of success outside Africa, simply because no one in the west was taking much notice of the rapidly developing African music scene. Yet in Senegal there was already a global fusion movement (not that anyone in Dakar would ever use such a term), and Orchestra Baobab were at the forefront.

They were special not because they played Cuban dance songs, then popular across west Africa, but for the way they mixed those Latin influences and sturdy pop melodies with a whole variety of Senegalese musical styles. Their line-up included a griot (a traditional African praise singer), other vocalists from the Casamance region in the south of the country, and a brilliant self-taught guitarist, Barthelemy Attisso, a law student who has learned to play because he needed a night job to pay his university fees.

Orchestra Baobab started out in 1970 as the house band in Dakar's Baobab nightclub. They went on to develop their distinctive musical style in some 20 albums. But then Senegalese musical fashion began to change, with the advent of the new M'balax style - whose key exponent, Youssou N'Dour, became one of the first truly global African stars. By 1987 Orchestra Baobab had broken up. Attisso put away his guitar and moved backed to his native Togo to pick up his career as a lawyer.

That could easily have been the end of the Boabab saga, but as western audiences belatedly discovered what they had been missing, the band began to acquire cult status. Their classic, much-bootlegged, album Pirates Choice, recorded in 1982, was released in the UK in 1989, and re-released last year to even greater acclaim. The surviving members of the band celebrated by getting together for a reunion tour. They clearly enjoyed themselves, for they have now recorded the first new Baobab album in 15years. Attisso is thankfully back in the line-up, having put down the law books once again for some serious guitar practice, and so are three of the original lead singers: Balla Sidibe, Rudy Gomis and Ndiouga Dieng. They are joined by an inspired young newcomer, Assane Mboup, and two impressive saxophonists.

The album has all the easy-going vitality of their earlier work, but with far more sophisticated production that they ever enjoyed in the past. It is ironic that the co-producer should be none other than Youssou N'Dour, who once helped put them out of business. He, however, insists that he has always been a fan. "Orchestra Baobab," he says, "were the forerunners in incorporating Senegalese music into a modern band. For me, they were using Cuban music to play African folklore."

Specialist in All Styles is an appropriate title for the new set, for the Baobab line-up still enjoy mixing their influences and changing styles as often as they swap lead vocals. Many of the songs offer a relaxed, rolling blend of Cuban salsa, African rhythms and boisterous pop melodies, dressed up with uplifting harmony singing and strong saxophone work. Attisso's guitar playing remains wildly varied; he switches easily from playful, rippling melodies to soulful blues, and there are sections where it seemed that he learned everything he knows about the guitar from Hank Marvin.

The album includes old Cuban favourites such as El Son To Llama and the charming On Verra Ca, both originally recorded by the band in the late 1970s. There are also reggae-tinged dance tunes, and ballads like Dee Moo Wor, a slower, bluesy lament for the death of a father. All are performed with the contagious ebullience of great musicians who never expected a second chance quite like this.

There is an obvious comparison here with those elderly Cuban veterans, the Buena Vista Social Club, and it is no surprise that the album's second co-producer should be Nick Gold, who helped mastermind the Cuban outfit's massive success. No surprise either that the Buena Vista star Ibrahim Ferrer should make an appearance, sharing vocals with Youssou N'Dour and three of the Baobab soloists on the show, slinky, exquisite Latin ballad, Hommage a Tonton Ferrer.

This may be a grand exercise in African nostalgia, but Orchestra Baobab don't look or sound like a mere revivalist outfit, as anyone who watched their cheerful, confident and compelling appearance at Womad this summer will know. This is a band that is looking forwards, not backwards: in fact, the best track on the album, the rousing N'dongoy Daara, features passionate lead vocals from the band's young newcomer Mboup. That is why, two decades after they called it a day, Orchestra Baobab are still one of the great African bands."

Robin Denselow

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