Known Johnson

March 31, 2005

Various and sundry, vol. 72, no bullets edition

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 10:43 pm

This has been a busy, weird little week. First I had last Friday off of work, then there’s that whole U2 concert thing (and yes, a review is forthcoming, you’ve gotta give me a little time, baby) for which I took two more days off, and then the week is further shortened by a half-day at work tomorrow (the ultrasound is tomorrow afternoon,) so I’ve been thrown off of any semblance of a “normal” schedule. I still feel like I’m catching up, but with what I don’t know.

Anyway, the weird personal news item of the day for me is that we found a message from our local newspaper, the Arizona Republic, on our answering machine. It seems I’ve been chosen to take part in some kind of discussion about how people get their information today. Yeah, that’s a little cryptic. The upside is that they will pay me $75 for my time. The downside is, well, let’s just say I’m more than a little antisocial and have to seriously weigh whether $75 is worth the nerves and hassle of dealing with talking in front of a bunch of people I don’t know, with no real idea of what this shindig is even about. Let me repeat myself to make this clear: I am so antisocial that getting $75 in exchange for a night with other people is actually stressing me out. I’m actually a little weirded out that I might be mentioned in the paper, or that this site will be mentioned . . . I’m a little paranoid, too, I guess you could say. I guess I should call the woman who left the message and at least find out what this deal is about.

Other “exciting” news is that I picked up the new Beck album, Guero, at Best Buy tonight, opting to take the “deluxe” edition home as it has 7 extra songs on it plus a DVD. If the record labels are going to pull this “deluxe edition” nonsense, at least do it the day the album comes out and not 6-8 months later, as Elvis Costello did with The Delivery Man. And I have to say, this is a really nice package – a DVD-sized case bound like a book, with big thick, glossy pages filled with lots of interesting pieces of artwork that I assume aren’t featured in the standard jewel-case edition, or at least not in their full versions like here. And the music? It’s great. Much “happier” than the dreary (but occasionally pretty) Sea Change, and kind of like a best-of Beck but featuring all new music. A little of this, a little of that, and it all adds up to a lot of great music (especially the deluxe with those extra songs.)

Also picked up the Yo La Tengo best-of/rarities package with some trade today (as well as the two albums below,) and I’m having a hard time figuring out why I need all those YLT albums when this best-of is so successful at presenting the basic outline of this very defined niche the band has carved out for itself. At $18 (that’s $6 a disc, kids!) this is a must-buy for anyone that finds the band even remotely interesting. You really can’t regret a deal like that.

I was shocked to find out that I had somehow not heard of a brand new Peter Himmelman album being released this week. Hot on the heels of last year’s Unstoppable Forces is Imperfect World, which finds him in a more stripped-down setting, often with only drummer Pete Thomas (Elvis Costello’s drummer) accompanying him, and mining more straight-ahead rock-folk territory (not folk-rock – because he’s less folk than rock) he really hasn’t touched since the amazing 1994 album Skin. It’s a much easier album to warm up to than Unstoppable Forces, which makes it a decent starting place for new listeners.

Also picked up Toad the Wet Sprocket singer Glen Phillips’ new solo album, Winter Pays For Summer. If you were put off by the dark, mopy nature of his previous solo album, Abulum, you weren’t alone. Breathe easier, however, because this sounds like the follow up to Toad’s final album, Coil, that never got made. So Toad-like are these songs that I wondered if maybe Glen hadn’t held these close during the short Toad reunion tour in the winter of 2003/2004 with hopes that the band might work out whatever likely stupid issues broke them up. In this dumb scenario I concocted entirely out of thin air, I surmized that Glen kept this notebook of all these great, catchy songs by his side, hoping that after a particularly great show the guys would all realize what needed to happen and permanently reform the band, at which point Glen could whip out his handy notebook, saying “Well I just happen to have some songs I think would work great for us.” Of course, it’s entirely possible this happened and instead of the warm, welcoming response, the other guys got pissed, threw some pizza at Glen, and stormed out of the room yelling “We’re song-writers, too, Glen!” I still think Toad’s break up is one of the more pointless things to happen in rock. It’s not like these guys ran off to do some drastically different material – Glen’s the main voice of Toad, but the other guys formed Lapdog and proved that they were just as essential to the band sound. The only thing is, they don’t need each other to make decent music, except maybe to get that tiny little spark of magic that a group-setting like Toad had. Well, make up whatever fantasies you want – Winter Pays For Summer is likely the closest thing to the music of Toad the Wet Sprocket we’re going to see for a while.

Comedian Mitch Hedberg dead

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 11:31 am

Sadly, news of comedian Mitch Hedberg’s death last night have been confirmed by Comedy Central’s bio . Rumors of a heroin overdose are unsubstantiated, but based on seeing a show last year (read my review here,) I am sadly not surprised.

Here’s the text of the Comedy Central release:

Tragically, Mitch Hedberg passed away this week. Mitch was a beloved member of the Comedy Central family, and we join fans in our sadness. He will be missed.

Born and raised in the St. Paul area, Mitch Hedberg decided to start his own comedy career in South Florida. Not so much for the comedy scene, but for the sun. His landlord would drive him up and down the coast from club to
club in his pick-up truck where Mitch would lie down in the back to avoid any of the negative conversations his landlord would try to have with him.

Mitch developed his style in Florida and decided to try it out on different audiences. He moved to Seattle and toured throughout the Pacific Northwest honing his act in front of the new audiences. While in Los Angeles, Mitch booked his first television appearance on MTV’s “Comikaze” by walking into the MTV offices and personally pitching himself to the talent coordinator.

Many cable shows followed including A&E’s “Comedy on the Road”, Comedy Central’s “Comedy Product”, and NBC’s “Comedy Showcase” hosted by Louie Anderson.

In 1996, Mitch got his break with an invitation to perform at the prestigious Just for Laughs Montreal International Comedy Festival. His performances secured him a deal with a studio and a spot on “The Late Show
with David Letterman.” Letterman enjoyed the set so much that he actually quoted one of Mitch’s bits later in the show.

With the money from his development deal, Mitch wrote, directed and stars in his own independent feature called “Los Enchiladas!” which premiered at Sundance. His film is a comedy about a drifter who gets a job at a Mexican chain restaurant in middle America, the relationships between the restaurant employees, and the deterioration of the business’ hierarchy over a 24-hour period. While editing the film in Seattle, Mitch entered the 1997 Seattle Comedy Competition and won the grand prize of three thousand dollars. He immediately handed the check over to his editor and finished the film.

On February 5, 1999 Mitch made his fifth appearance on “The Late Night Show with David Letterman.” Last July he was invited to return to the comedy festival “Just for Laughs” where he stole the attention of the industry, audiences, and press alike. His stand-out performances secured a development deal with FOX to create his own sitcom and prompted TIME magazine to include him as one of the next generation of comedy stars and The Hollywood Reporter to headline their review of the Festival, “Laughs are Loudest for Hedberg.”

Mitch also recently completed a reality show pilot for MTV.

Mitch passed away in March, 2005.

To say goodbye, I’d like to present one of my favorite Hedberg pieces:

I bought a doughnut and they gave me a receipt for the doughnut…I don’t need a receipt for the doughnut – I’ll just give you money and you give me the doughnut, end of transaction. We don’t need to bring ink and paper into this. I can’t imagine a scenario in which I would need to prove that I bought a doughnut…Some skeptical friend, don’t even act like I didn’t buy a doughnut, I’ve got the documentation right here…oh wait it’s back home in the file…under “D”, for doughnut.

If you’d like to revel in the simple genius of Hedberg’s odd observations like the above, Wikipedia has a page for him here. As the comedy clubs often put on their marquees to mark the passing of a fellow comedian, “Make God laugh.”

March 27, 2005

For those keeping score at home

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 6:25 pm

I finally broke the 30gb mark on my Ipod this weekend. It was kind of a scary moment – that means there’s just 7gb free left, but it really shouldn’t mean much because I’ve regularly been removing albums and indeed entire artists as my tastes changed, and I doubt anything will change that. I’ll just have to get a bit more creative about what stays and what doesn’t when I hit the limit at approximately 37gb (the rest of the space being taken up by system files.)

At present, ready for the road trip to San Diego, my Ipod is filled with 346 artist, of which there are 728 albums, or 7886 songs (which makes up the 31.72gb of space used so far.) Do you think that’s enough music for 6 hours of driving?

In A Little While . . . we’ll be moving in Mysterious Ways

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 6:14 pm

In about an hour I’ll be leaving for San Diego where I’ll see tomorrow night’s opening of U2’s “How to Fill a Gigantic Wallet” tour. We’ve got general admission tickets, so we’ll be fighting for territory on the floor of the San Diego Sports Arena at about this time tomorrow night. Hopefully we’ll be close enough that it feels worth the hassle, but not so close that we can taste Bono’s sweat.

March 26, 2005

Death

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 12:08 pm

I’ll tell you what is scary about the Terri Schiavo case. I’m not going to get into politics or my view on this situation because I don’t think it’s my place, or anyone’s, to really have a say outside of the family. But what is scary about this is that it changes the perception of death. Usually death is a pretty simple concept – you’re either dead or you’re not. In the case of Schiavo, however, things are a little different. The basic medical explanation is that her brain deteriorated over time to the point where there’s essentially no cerebral cortex left, and it has been replaced by spinal fluid. The cerebral cortex, if you haven’t been beaten to death on this issue, is where we process thoughts and memories. No cerebral cortex means no thoughts or memories. So death, in this case, wasn’t a simple event that occured and one moment she was alive and the next dead. No, in this case, she slipped away cell by cell, and it really makes me question what death really means. If, in the end, most people believe the soul goes to something along the lines of heaven (or gets reincarnated in a new body, etc.,) how does that work in an awful, drawn-out situation like this? What is the nature of death? Is it only when the body stops functioning? Or is it when the essence of what made a person an individual, with thoughts and feelings, deterioriates into nothingness?

The moral of the story is, draw up a living will, spelling out every detail you can think of for your end-of-life options. Skipping out on this option forces your loved ones to make a decision no one should have to make.

March 23, 2005

Dem ol’ demos

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 11:16 am

The wonderful thing about having a demo of a song pop up on my Ipod in shuffle mode is that what normally sounds like a tossed-off throwaway (intriguing though it may be) suddenly takes on the persona of being a charmingly quaint portal into the creative process. Rather than sounding like it was simply a testing ground for song ideas, it feels like an artistic statement, like the song is saying “look at how quality I am, even being hidden under layers of tape-hiss and the warble of an old cassette.”

March 22, 2005

Do-it-yourself time machine

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 10:26 am

Our weekly team meeting at work was rescheduled this morning – just a little later, a half-hour. As the time approached, my brain acted as if it was on the normal schedule – that the meeting was still at 10 am instead of 10:30, and I realized that I’ve actually gained a half-hour of my day back because of this simple little schedule change. I KNOW that the meeting is at 10:30, but my body still feels like the meeting is at 10, and therefore the rest of the day will process mentally as a half-hour earlier than it really is. In other words, the end of my day is now a mental half-hour earlier than it should be.

So now I’m thinking that it would probably be pretty sweet if I were to get people to schedule meetings with me all the time and then they, at random, would reschedule them just a little bit. And not all of them – it has to be truly random. I would also have to make sure they abide by one very important rule: they must not ever, EVER cancel a meeting. Cancelling is essentially adding that meeting time back onto the day, and that’s just not fair nor is it fun.

March 21, 2005

Feeding the hunger

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 10:40 pm

Due to aggressive, but thoughtful, CD-collection pruning strategies, I’ve been trading in a good amount of stuff, allowing me to pick up another good amount of better stuff to put back in the collection. Having spent what seemed like a very long time in a non-jazz mood, I’ve suddenly found myself gripped by a new interest in the genre. And, actually, I’ve found myself re-energized to find new music in general.

As I’ve said before, the past few months have seen an amazing number of absolutely incredible new albums coming out. Most notable among those are new albums by Low (The Great Destroyer,) Archer Prewitt (Wilderness,) Andrew Bird (& The Mysterious Production of Eggs,) Lou Barlow (Emoh,) Antony & the Johnsons (I am a Bird Now, seriously beautiful but very weird – is this guy a transsexual? Either way, he sounds like a cross between Bryan Ferry and Aaron Neville,) Manic Street Preachers (The Holy Bible 10th Anniversary Edition,) not to mention some great new albums from old favorites like Paul Motian/Bill Frisell/Joe Lovano (I Have The Room Above Her) and Tim Booth (ex-James lead singer, Bone.)

Tomorrow a whole friggin’ slew of probably pretty damn great stuff emerges from shipping cartons like the new Queens of the Stone Age (Lullabies to Paralyze,) the Decemberists (Picaresque,) Yo La Tengo (3-disc best-of/rarities comp, forgot the long title, ah, here it is: Prisoners of Love: A Smattering of Scintillating Senescent Songs 1984-2003, they’re funny people,) yet another must-have Blue Series release from bassist William Parker (Luc’s Lantern,) plus reissues of some old Dinosaur Jr. albums (having gotten to check them out recently, I find myself embarassed that I never did before) and Ben Folds Five (Whatever And Ever Amen with bonus tracks.) This week alone should keep me busy for weeks to come.

That said, I did indulge in some trade-induced buying and picked up two great new Blue Note Freddie Hubbard re-releases – Blue Spirits and The Night of the Cookers (a title I find really humorous because I keep seeing it as “Night of the Cookies,” which is funny for no reason in particular,) plus a really amazing mystery in the form of a Blue Note session by previously unknown to me saxaphonist Ike Quebec, Heavy Soul. This last one is worth a shot – not only is Quebec a sadly under-appreciated sax player, it also features some extremely greasy organ squirtings from Freddie Roach.

I’m glad to see Blue Note’s finally reaching back into their considerable vaults, rather than putting together endless packages of artists that, while entirely deserving of the attention, have seen their catalogs pretty much revamped. There’s some great lesser known jazz out there besides your usual Miles Davis and John Coltrane (and even Dexter Gordon, who seems to have become a relatively household-ish name lately.) Open an ear and check some out.

Also picked up today was a used copy of Low’s three-CD and one two-sided DVD boxset, A Lifetime of Temporary Relief. This is my second effort at exploring Low lately. The first was the absolutely engrossingly wonderful experience that is The Great Destroyer, their latest album (which I point out above) and since I couldn’t find a single other entry from their catalog, I decided to give this comprehensive set of previously unreleased and hard to find goodies a try – kind of an expensive experiment, but it turned out to be good. I don’t think you can go wrong with Low – this band simply can’t really screw up. It’s slow, it’s dark, but it’s wonderful, warm music. It’s too bad all chances can’t be this rewarding, but then that wouldn’t make the ones that are so special, now would it?

It’s been a month . . .

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 10:17 pm

. . . since my last post. Not for lack of wanting to, really, just for lack of time. The big excitement comes over the next 10 days – Friday, March 25 is another baby-doctor meetin’, where hopefully we’ll finally get to hear little Buster/Antoinette’s heartbeat for the first time, and the REALLY exciting news is next Friday, April 1, will be the ultrasound that I keep referring to as “the big ultrasound,” even though that actually doesn’t mean anything. This is the one where we could – theoretically – find out the sex of the Unknown Johnson, but we both feel that something fun is spoiled by learning that. We’re both content to let nature take its course with UJ. Regardless, this is a more powerful, more thorough ultrasound so we should be able to see UJ in much more detail. Unfortunately, this is likely the last time we get to see the little dude/dudette until late August at the earliest, but we are fortunate in that the office we are going to for this procedure allows us to bring in a video tape that they will put in their machine to document the whole thing. Of course, in the process of this it’s entirely possible that the sex of UJ could be revealed entirely by accident, so we’re hoping the technician just steers clear of the area entirely.

We’ve begun prepping the house for UJ. A little. A very little. We bought a new desk at Ikea, in fact. Try as I might, I couldn’t locate the legendary Fartful, whatever that may actually be, but I did settle on a lovely beech veneer L-shaped desk kind of like what I have at work. I’ve grown scarily accustomed to that size and shape of desk and now require this amount of surface area on which to sprawl useless crap like my collection of Alien figures and piles of CDs. I’ve also purchased a wireless router and card for Alissa’s computer, as moving me out to this front room prevents our computers from being connected directly, so I have to take one further step into the 21st century and go wireless! After I manage to run a 50-foot line of cable from our cable box out front, under the driveway and along the house, plus through a fence, I’ll be able to finally make some real headway. We have much to accomplish in the next few months. My already overactive worry-genes are going to be in high gear very soon.

Speaking of worry, I find myself spending far too much time worrying about the developing UJ. It’s disconcerting to spend four weeks between doctor visits not knowing what’s going on. I wish women were equipped with a little light or some sort of marker that indicated the health of the baby. Because in between visits, until UJ’s movements start being noticeable (which could be any day now, actually,) it’s impossible to tell what’s going on in there. I’m sure, and so is Alissa, that my concerns are entirely unfounded. I’d just like a little proof to reassure me. Have I mentioned before that I’m going to be a worrywort father?

March 20, 2005

The sound of my birth

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 10:29 pm

On the day I was born (February 26, 1973,) Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly” was the number one song in America. Not bad – it could have been a lot worse. For example, Alissa’s birthday (February 27, 1976 – yeah, I know about the one-day-apart coincidence) is represented by “Theme from S.W.A.T.” by Rhythm Heritage. That one didn’t quite have the staying power of “Killing Me Softly,” apparently.

What out what all-time classic or pile o’ crap was terrorizing the charts on your birthday?

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