Known Johnson

November 29, 2004

Saturday night’s all right for . . . migraines

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 10:40 pm

After seeing Sideways on Saturday, Alissa and I ate and made the horrible decision to brave Costco on a Saturday as we needed bread and they’re the only store that we can find that carries the brand we want. Within moments of walking into the very crowded Costco I experienced one of the most unusual phenomena as it happened. A small, slow-walking family spread out in front of us, keeping me from moving us and our shopping cart forward. As I grew frustrated, it felt as if a “snap” happened inside my head and suddenly it seemed as if the world filled with dark, menacing clouds. In the space of just a few seconds, I went from simply being inconvenienced to being unbelievably irritated and cranky, complete with a headache bigger than the store itself. What’s more, I felt confused and fuzzy but oddly “sharp” – everything had an edge to it. Sounds were too loud, lights were too bright – everything was experienced in extremes. The time we spent in Costco is now a blur of confusion – I know it happened, but it seems dreamlike and weird in retrospect. Finding what we needed, we paid and I took us quickly home, having lost any desire to do much of anything, and shortly after arriving home wound up on the bed. Ninety minutes later I woke up feeling much the same – exhausted and irritable and pretty much unable to muster up any energy with which to do anything. I thought maybe, just maybe I was coming down with a cold. But how could a cold come on so quickly like that?

When I woke up Sunday morning I felt pretty much the same. Certainly not refreshed and awake like one should after 8 hours of sleeping. A headache hung on most of the morning until I both took some non-brand ibuprofen and had lunch. For most of the rest of the afternoon I was okay – I had hints of a headache and the general malaise I’d had earlier, but it didn’t affect me too badly. Going to bed, however, is when I noticed the problem – tired as I was, there was a general feeling of “franticness,” like my mind was on edge and I couldn’t concentrate for long. I eventually fell asleep after a couple hours of that weird pre-sleep awakeness where you’re fully aware of everything around you but somehow lack the ability to react to it.

When I awoke this morning I just knew something was off – I didn’t feel so headachy as I had, but I just didn’t feel right. After being at work a couple of hours and having a couple of small jobs that I managed to screw up relatively minor but really annoying things on, and feeling quite irritated that I was being asked to fix them, that I was being inconvenienced, I realized something was going on here that I hadn’t been aware of – I’m deep in the middle of a migraine. My mom gets migraines, or got them quite frequently, and I too have had them on occasion – usually the screaming, searing knife-in-brain kind of pain associated with them – and when the idea occured to me I started doing some research. It turns out that I likely do indeed have a migraine, but it’s likely a “painless migraine” – I suffer many of the symptoms, but don’t get the main one, the horrible pain. When I started seeing lists of symptoms come up, I realized I’ve been having these for a long, long time. What I’ve taken for “just being down” type of feelings have likely been migraines of varying severity. It’s a rather shocking and saddening discovery because it means I’ll likely never get away from these awful things. Days like a few weeks back when the vision in my left eye was taken over by a series of snaking lines of flashing lights are obvious – I know that’s a migraine symptom and it only surprises me in how disorienting it is. But feeling . . . weird . . . ? It’s hard to make it sound serious, but it is – I simply do not feel like myself, feel helplessly confused at times, and can unfortunately be more than a little impatient and easily angered. I liken it to a wounded animal: left alone, the animal will suffer in silence and let the wound heal, but when approached and/or prodded, the animal’s going to snap at whoever dares bother it. What I hate more than anything is that there’s little I can do to prevent it – I have so far been unable to catch on that what’s happening is a migraine, so I can’t jump on it quick enough with medication (a coworker who also works weekends at a hospital got me some Imitrex to try out, but they can only be taken the moment symptoms are recognized. I, so far, have only realized what’s going on many hours, or days in this case, into the suffering.) I also hate that my temper gets short when I’m suffering, and try as I might I always end up responding very defensively to people bothering me. However, maybe now that I’m starting to see what’s going on here, I can be more aware of my moods.

As inexplicable as this sounds, for those of you who’ve fortunately never experienced migraines of any sort, you can get an idea of what it feels like by listening to the 10 minute noisescape that ends Wilco’s “Less Than You Think,” from their amazing A ghost is born album. Wilco is centered around the eccentric genius of Jeff Tweedy, a frequent migraine sufferer (who had to check himself into rehab after getting hooked on painkillers he used to ward off their attacks) and I am convinced that the churning, scraping, squealing sounds of the extended leadout of “Less Than You Think” is his aural description of the pain one experiences during a severe attack. The discomfort you feel in listening closely to that is what migraine sufferers experience. Pretty harrowing, isn’t it?

November 28, 2004

Listmania begins . . .

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 10:14 pm

It’s that time of year again – list time! I’ve been thinking about what should and shouldn’t make my lists this year, and it’s actually been very tough. Strangely, for the first time in a couple of years, there are actually a lot of albums that are vying for much-sought-after status on my lists. For first place alone in the “rock” category I have three albums between which I may simply have to call a tie – they’re all that good that I simply may not be able to name one as the best. This year, however, I’m going to do something a little different: in addition to the lists, I’m actually putting together tracklistings for CDs to reflect the lists (three lists at this point: rock, jazz, and metal.) Not only will these be for my own enjoyment in years to come, I’m going to give these out to anyone that might be interested – email me if you are interested. Some of you whom I’ve exchanged various thingies and bits via the mail over the years will likely automatically receive a copy whenever I get them finished. If we’ve exchanged various thingies and bits via the mail and you really, really don’t want to get free music (albeit only a song or two from each artist,) click that same email linky above and say so. But really, who doesn’t want the year’s best music? (Seriously, I mean it – no strings attached. You want to hear the best and I want you to hear it, too. Of course, I’m assuming that only a very few people are really going to want this, so if I get absolutely swamped with requests I’m going to have to limit who gets them – so it’s “first come first served” and the limit is when I just don’t feel like doing it anymore. It won’t be many, I assure you.)

In attempting to start picking out the best of each genre, I broke out all the CDs stamped “©2004 ” on the back, weeding out live albums and best-ofs since those are kind of cop-outs. As much as I love live albums, I have to admit it’s just not fair for a rehash of any kind to knock something actually new off the list. In doing so, I was shocked to see that the number of brand new, just-released albums I bought this year was “only” 62. Yeah, yeah, I realize that’s actually more than one a week, but that doesn’t feel like very much to me . . . maybe that’s just indicative of the kind of sick hold music has on me. And breaking it down into genres further reduced the ranks – I found that metal and a great love of mine, jazz, had relatively small representation compared to the “rock” list (which is really just everything not metal or jazz) – about 25 CDs between the two. Now, jazz is easily explained – there’s just not that much great new jazz coming out, but what has come out truly is great. Most jazz purchases were of older materials, but even with that said, my jazz purchases were way down this year. Same can be said of metal – what I really enjoy is a couple of very particular facets of the many-faced diamond that is metal, so if I bought it, it was likely already one of the best things of the year. The “rock” category, therefore, makes up the bulk of the material, and there’s an awful lot of great stuff in there. It’s going to be very interesting, if not downright stressful, to determine what exactly deserves being enshrined this year.

Jazz is done, by the way, but I won’t reveal the secrets held within the list just yet – it’s far too early to go whipping out best-of lists already. Just rest assured that it’s an interesting list and it makes for a really intriguing 75 minutes of listening . . .

Driving Sideways

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 9:52 pm

Alissa and I saw Sideways yesterday, and it relieved the doldrums of movie-going I’d been going through lately. It just seems like this year the theaters have been filled with fantastically turdicular (new word, I made it up – you saw it here first) blockbusters and very little of substance. Sideways, however, is luckily not one of them, and is in fact one of the year’s best movies. Paul Giamatti turns in yet another stellar performance, landing him on the very coveted, very short list of actors who I’d watch in just about anything. What’s amazing to me is that films like this exist and yet the public still chooses to shell out their cash for turdicular trash like National Treasure. I mean, come on, really. You’ve got what are almost universally said to be great films like Kinsey and Finding Neverland and you choose a particularly stupid knock-off of Raiders of the Lost Ark?

I’m not writing this, however, just to say how great a movie it is. No, I’m writing this because of the pure frustration that movie-going has become. Alissa and I show up early to movies – ALWAYS – because we want the good seats. If we’re likely to arrive any earlier than 30 minutes before a movie, we likely won’t go because we know we’ll have to compromise and find seats somewhere we’d likely not choose to sit. If we’re spending that much of our money on something, I want to make sure we’re in the best position to enjoy it. So when half the audience spends the movie talking, I’m furious. I’m so furious that I’m ready to leave as soon as it starts and it’s clear that no one is going to shut up. The choices there are to either leave and get our money back and try it again at another time, say something to get them to shut up, or to just put up with it. I have to skip the second option because, while I’m a very patient person, when I have to speak up to get people to shut up will be when I’m far, far beyond the realm of my patience. I will be into the zone of just wanting to make sure that the other people’s movie experience has been ruined as completely as mine.

And I know what you’re thinking- you think I’m talking about kids here, right? Kids rudely talking and carrying on as if they’re sitting in their bedrooms chatting. You’re wrong – I’m talking about adults, and not just any adults but the elderly. Yes, that’s right – the people who are always first to complain about how little respect the youth of today has for their elders, the first who complain about any inconvenience or disturbance – the elderly. I don’t know if they’ve given up or what. This wasn’t idle chit-chat, either – they were actually talking about things in the movie. For instance, in the opening scene we see an apartment building. The woman next to me, in her 60s, says without the slightest intent to be quiet, “That looks like San Diego.” Her friend replies, “It does look like San Diego.” A moment later, the words “San Diego, CA” appear on screen. Not content to just have been right, the first woman says, “It is San Diego,” and her friend can’t resist backing her up: “It is.” Really? REALLY? Is this necessary? Behind us half of a couple spends the movie explaining to the other half what just happened, and somewhere else someone is busy doing something similar.

Maybe it was the time we went – middle of the afternoon – or maybe the movie just appeals to older people, I don’t know. All I know is that every time something like this happens I move “going to the movies” down a notch or two on the “things I’d like to do” list. I’m getting to the point where I think it would make more sense to just rent – or even buy – movies we’d like to see and skip the movie theaters all together. (Face it, a DVD costs about the same as going to a movie does, anyway – and you almost always get a bunch of extras. If I don’t need the DVD, I can always sell it on or Amazon.) I’m sure if I could factor in the intangible cost of frustration, I’d see that waiting for the DVD is the better deal.

November 22, 2004

Wilco & Calexico – Marquee Theater, Tempe, AZ Nov. 20, 2004

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 9:45 pm

Wilco finally brought its amazing conglomerate of musicians to Tempe this weekend, supporting their album of the year contender A ghost is born with the equally talented, although unfairly publicly ignored opening act choice of Calexico.

The forty-five minutes allotted to Calexico was far from enough, but the band made the most of it, packing their setlist with a solid, high-energy selection of songs mostly chosen from their last album, Feast of Wire, and recent EP Convict Pool. A blend of the deep southwest and the expansive music one might hear in film score, Calexico’s bold and evocative sound envisions long dusty roadtrips lost in the desert, a sound they are able to deftly pull off live thanks to a gifted band. In addition to upright bass, drums, and pedal-steel guitar, a two-man trumpet section (whose members also alternate on vibraphone, guitars, one lone tiny synth, and vocals) flavors their music with a good touch of authentic south-of-the-border zip, but never degrades into what could easily become a parody of mariachi music. By the conclusion of their set, which included Feast tracks like “Quattro” and “Not Even Stevie Nicks…” as well as their stunning cover of Love’s “Alone Again, Or” and a surprisely uplifting cover of Joy Division’s bummer “Love Will Tear Us A Part” (it must be the inclusion of those horns,) Calexico had dashed my hopes that Wilco could possibly impress me – I half-jokingly commented to Alissa that we could leave now. How wrong I was . . .

Wilco took the stage with the quiet beauty of “Be Not So Fearful,” a cover of mysterious singer-songwriter Bill Fay, then jumped quickly into the Beatles-esque “Hummingbird,” from their ghost album, which would come to dominate the night with two-thirds of its tracks making an appearance. Along the way the band dove into deep cuts from their 2002 breakthrough Yankee Hotel Foxtrot such as a stunning reading of “Ashes of American Flags” featuring new Wilco guitarist and jazz-guitar great Nels Cline pulling off an absolutely mesmerizing, David Gilmore-inspired solo. The set relied heavily upon their latest two, more experimental albums, but also featured a couple of key cuts from their first two albums. Taking full advantage of the presence of Calexico, the band included the presence of the Calexico horn-section in the first of two encores for “California Stars,” “I’m The Man Who Loves You,” and “Monday.” The band closed out the show with a faithful reading of Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear The Reaper,” book-ending the concert with a message of peace that singer/guitarist Jeff Tweedy repeated throughout the show – often with comments about Arizona’s “red state” election status.

Wilco was not only able to meet my expectations – they exceeded them time and time again. Over the years, Tweedy has slowly recrafted Wilco into a true artistic vehicle, with this live band being the pinnacle. If they can manage it, keeping guitarist Nels Cline on board for future studio material could result in the kind of amazing artistic statement so rarely heard from fairly mainstream acts such as this. Cline’s playing with Wilco is a testiment not only to his flexibility, talent, and open mind – it’s a testament to the artistic importance of their music.

Poetry Corner: Ode to Turducken

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 6:42 pm

I am intrigued
by you,
but I will not
of you.

Your multi-pronged approach
appeals to those
cannot commit
to only one form
of poultry.

Poetry Corner: “things”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 6:42 pm

I like
things like
the accumulation
of goods
and services

U2 and the Ipod

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 6:41 pm

The eve of the release of the new U2 album, How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, finds an elevated amount of the usual conjecture about bands at the astronomic levels of success the band has achieved. People rant and rave using one of three thematic elements – “U2 sucks,” “U2 rules,” or a virtual shoulder-shrug of indifference. While the “U2 rules” crowd’s crowing is the predictable fawning in the form of “total catalog love,” it’s those who complain that “U2 sucks” that usually get to say so with more creativity. The common attribute among their disdain is the disclaimer that they ruled up until X, X usually being The Unforgettable Fire, The Joshua Tree, or Achtung Baby and everything since album X has sucked, and they will usually throw in the “sell out” attack at some point, too. What it points out is that people just got attached to the band at some point in their career – that it varies so wildly just proves that the band does anything but “suck.”

U2’s strength has always been writing great “anthems” – but not particularly great albums. Every one one of their albums has contained at least one or two spectacular songs but only a handful of the 11 studio albums, however, are actually great as a whole. They have managed, despite the roller coaster nature of their catalog, to secure a very steady foothold on the steep, rocky terrain of the music industry. In doing so, they’ve become a tremendous common denominator among people. Some love them for their politics, based in “feel good” issues they may be (AIDS, Africa, etc.,) some love them for their gift of song craft, and some love them for the talented musicians they are. Everyone and anyone can be a U2 fan, it seems.

“Sell out” has been a common term used with the band, and their latest venture will, no doubt, fuel the burning hatred some feel for the band. An icon themselves, U2 has brilliantly aligned themselves with the single greatest icon of the music experience in the 21st century. The Ipod, love it or hate it (and I speak as a very recent convert to the “love it” camp,) is a bonafide, verified turning point in the history of music. One could suggest the MP3 itself as the turning point, but without a portable music player like the Ipod or its counterparts, the format was forever chained to computers. Not since the introduction of videos and MTV has something so gripped the fickle attention of the public and caused people to listen to music in a new way because of it. Someone had to come along at some point and become the “face” associated with the Ipod. What other musical acts today are more fitting of alignment with such an important cultural revolution? Few bands can successfully cross the boundaries that U2 can – age, race, and religion. U2 stands alone in finding proponents over a statistically enormous amount of people. And U2 does it over and over again – every album, regardless of its reception by die-hard fans and critics, finds its way into the hands of more people than it seems possible at this point in their career. They’ve done so simply by tuning in to what the people want. With a slew of admirable and increasingly formidable MP3-players on the way from competing companies, this year is arguably the biggest year the Ipod may ever see. More Ipods than ever before, and more than any other competing MP3-products, will be stashed under Christmas trees this year. U2 has wisely jumped on board for this watershed moment – the people want Ipods, and U2’s making sure they’re along for the ride while it lasts.

November 11, 2004

Ugliest great website for a band, ever

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 10:15 pm

I can’t think of a site more fitting of receiving my just invented “ugliest best website” award than the official site of a band I didn’t know anything about as of about 4 hours ago, Menomena. Truly horrific in its abuse of colors, animated gifs, mixed fonts and font sizes and yet somehow, it all adds up to a wonderful thing, just like their music appears to, as well. Kind of a really psychotic Dismemberment Plan, and I like that kind of thing. Do check them out.

November 10, 2004

Various and sundry, volume whatever addendum

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 6:23 am
  • The Polar Express – huh? What is this thing? Is this a zombie Christmas movie? It’s not? Because all of the 3D characters in this movie have this pasty, slow-moving look about them, and they have those glazed over, lifeless eyes of the Undead. This is, hands down, one of the ugliest movies I’ve ever seen. And what’s with all the hype about this being based on some “Christmas classic”? I’ve never heard of it, Alissa’s never heard of it, no one I’ve talked to at work has heard of it . . . has anyone actually heard of this thing?
  • I’m officially sick to death of comment spam. I just deleted 114 meaningless comments, all pointing at some form of computer-gambling. File me under “really not getting the point of spam like this.” Do they actually think someone’s going to click through? Do they actually think that their spam is not going to get deleted? I don’t know what’s going on here, but I can say that under PMachine, my previous never had comment spam. Frankly, this sucks.

November 9, 2004

Various and sundry, volume whatever

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 10:33 pm
  • It is officially the Christmas season. How do I know? I heard Jose Feliciano’s classic “Feliz Navidad” last night in a commercial. When “Feliz Navidad” has hit the airwaves in any form, it is officially Christmas. I hate the song, hate it, hate it, hate it, but I can’t deny what it represents*. Merry Christmas everyone.
  • I’m neither a “glass half-full” nor a “glass half-empty” type of guy. I’m a “glass is always full of something, unless you’re in a vacuum” type of guy. That means that I’m a “realist,” and, therefore, neither romantic nor particularly amusing.
  • I really hate the way the Ipod commercials have iconized a song before I’ve even gotten to know it as a song. I’m talking about the U2-Ipod commercial featuring their new song “Vertigo.” I’ve heard the actual song maybe twice now, but I’ve seen the commercial ALL THE TIME, and all I can think of when I cue that song up in my mind is “Hello hello!” and “Do you feeeeeeeeeeeelllllllll?” and some guitar chunks. And I don’t like it. When I did hear the song itself . . . not so bad, but not so great either, but I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt when I hear the album. The only problem is that now I have significant pieces of the song embedded firmly in my gray matter and, no matter what, that song will forever be registered that way. This has happened with any song that’s released as a single, no matter how much I like it – having heard it time and time again, it has already been pre-worn, so it will never feel like a part of the album to me. Yeah, it’s a bit of a complex, but I haven’t heard of any prescriptions that’ll take care of it, other than avoiding the song at all cost. Go ahead, you try avoiding that Ipod commercial. I almost feel guitly for wanting an Ipod very, very badly. Almost.

*It is both good and bad – Christmas is a fun “season,” highly commercialized as it may be. I love it, I can’t help it. I know that in just a few short weeks I’ll be out risking life and limb to hang lights off the eaves of the house, and a few weeks after that we’ll figure out a way to shove a huge tree into my little car. Pine needles everywhere? That just means it’s Christmas, baby! The bad? I will, at some point – it is unavoidable – be forced to endure the worst Christmas-song of all time. That song? Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime.” Oh the humanities!

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