Known Johnson

July 31, 2005


Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 9:52 pm

(Apologies to anyone looking for the previous post about the humor styles quiz. I had to remove it because it was wider than the text area of my site would allow, and with my new header above it really stood out as a mistake. If you still want to play with it, here it is. And if you want to see my results, they’re here.)

Alissa participated in the first of four or so non-stress tests yesterday (two a week for the next couple of weeks.) I say “participated” because really she doesn’t do much of anything in the test – it’s all up to baby. Essentially all it is is just a long doctor’s visit – the staff hook up a doppler monitor to Alissa’s belly and an ultrasound transducer above it, then we wait while a machine counts baby’s heartbeats and matches it to movements. The Unknown Johnson was apparently very sleepy yesterday, so the nurse brought in this microphone-shaped device that she placed right above the baby, pressed a button, and a loud buzz jolted the baby rudely awake as evidenced by a gigantic lurch outward of Alissa’s belly. It was pretty comical, to say the least. The doctors want to see a 15-20 beat increase in the baby’s heart and they sure got it. Amazingly enough, as a testiment to how lazy our little one may be, within minutes the heartbeat settled back down and it appeared that baby went right back to sleep. Ten or fifteen minutes later, the assistant came back in with the buzzer and shocked baby awake again, albeit a much lesser shock. The heartbeat shot back up again and slowly decelerated. Alissa, and baby, were done with that test, and it appeared they both passed with flying colors.

We were then sent upstairs to “medical imaging” where we would get an ultrasound, the first in 18 weeks (of at least three, one a week on Saturdays,) to determine the amount of amniotic fluid surrounding the little Unknown. As is apt to happen when involving us, we followed the staff’s directions to where we were supposed to go and still managed to not be in the right place. A doctor approached through some double doors and we must have looked clearly lost, as he asked us right away if we needed any help. We told him we were looking for the ultrasound department and he led us somewhere else seemingly far away from where we were had been told to go. On the way, he joked that they’d recently redesigned this ward to make it as confusing as possible to outsiders. “Well,” I said, “they did a great job!”

Once inside, Alissa was up on the table and the technician began the scan. We had both wondered what we’d get to see – and hoped that we wouldn’t accidently see the sex. After waiting all this time to find out when baby emerged into the world, it would be such a shame to have it revealed only weeks before Alissa gave birth. Alissa made sure to inform the technician and he said it would be no problem – he wouldn’t be scanning in that area anyway.

And what would it be? Would it simply be a quick scan of just the amniotic fluid, or would the technician show us around our nearly-fully developed fetus? The answer came quick – the technician found his ultrasound wand right on top of the baby’s head, then swept it up toward Alissa’s chest. For a brief moment I saw parts I recognized – the unmistakable shape of a nose, cheeks, browline – and he briefly circled around until the whole face came into view. And what a view it was – it seems impossible to believe now, but there was our baby, entirely recognizable with unique features and shapes and rendered in a nearly perfectly clear picture. Baby could be clearly seen opening his or her mouth, and the technician said babies often practice breathing in the womb and that might have been what we were seeing. There was a tiny little nose that was, as Alissa said, like my tiny little nose, and some very big, chubby cheeks which, at this point, look an awful lot like my chubby cheeks . . . there were also eyes, fully open, blinking eyes that the technician pointed out when Alissa asked if the baby had its eyes closed. He pointed with his finger to the almond-shaped dark spots and told us that those were the eyes, wide open, and the spots Alissa could make out (I was too far away to see) were the irises. It was as if the baby was looking out at us from in there, through the ultrasound machine. We saw everything, and it was all perfect – a perfect neck and a perfect spine, perfect little hands that grasped and thrust at nothing, perfect tiny little feet kicking about. The final image we saw was another of the baby’s face, and the only unfortunate thing was that we weren’t offered a print of the image.

I stated way back in January that seeing the little circus-peanut shape bobbing about in Alissa on the much more primitive ultrasound screen was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen, but I think this takes it by far. This was undoubtedly our baby, and the face we saw there is the same face we’ll see in a few weeks, and we’ll actually recognize that face from what we saw yesterday. Regardless of whose features it takes on, it was perfect.

July 28, 2005

Pretty tied up

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 10:33 pm

Today was one of the rare “shirt and tie” days at work. We had visitors, whom we would most likely never see, but regardless everyone in the company had to dress up. Shirts and ties it is (and while we do normally wear shirts (you know, no shirt/no shoes/no business) they’re usually of the more casual variety, but if you know me, even “business casual” is “dressed up” to me.) It’s pretty rare that I’ll actually choose to put on a shirt that features buttons as its main method of closing, preferring the much more effective and efficient t-shirt and jeans/shorts to any other outfit. So I reluctantly got out one of the . . . three? I think . . . ties that I own this morning, buttoned up a long-sleeve shirt – AND tucked it in (this is an extreme rarity for me) – and then stressed out trying to remember how to tie a tie. I won’t describe the situation but it involved some creative usages of swear words and a ritual slamming-down of the tie onto the counter. But hey, when I did get it going, I did look pretty dapper, so I had that going for me. I cleans up real good.

I can understand wearing a tie in a business where I’m seeing customers, making sales, etc. – where my appearance is actually part of my job. But design work? Please. No one sees me, and those who do just don’t care. I could make an argument as an artistic person of sorts that I need comfortable clothing to let my artistic spirit soar, or some such crap, but I know that’s crap. It’s just uncomfortable and foreign to me, and, therefore, the day is long and slow, with much of it spent fidgeting and running my finger under my collar absent-mindedly. I have no idea what that gesture is supposed to do, yet I do it just the same as every other guy suddenly forced into wearing a tie. It doesn’t really relieve any of the annoyance and probably just makes things worse. It was annoying before, but now that I’ve run my finger around my collar and found no relief, I’m even more annoyed.

The thing about tucked in shirts and ties, the whole deal, that I don’t get, is how some people seem to be so at home in it. I feel very stiff, and I suppose I must look as uncomfortable as I feel. To me, this method of dressing seems created to automatically look dissheveled. I bend over one time and the back of the shirt bunches out. I stretch my arms up too high and the sides bunch out. Then it all slides forward somehow and I wind up with a crumpled and wrinkled mass of shirt up front, which I then have to go to the bathroom to straighten out. And then, for just a little while, I look pretty good again. Until I bend, or sit crooked, or reach. Maybe there’s a trick I’m missing, like a shirt-garter that keeps it constantly pulled down as those goofy sock-garter things old men wear to keep their socks up. All I know is that it all starts out okay, and then I quickly start to look like I’ve been out carousing all night. It’s not a look that works particularly well for me. I’m anything but a carouser.

The great thing is, tomorrow morning I get to repeat this. Maybe I’ll have kept the memory of tying a tie fresh in my mind so it goes more smoothly tomorrow morning. I’m not counting on this, but I am counting on a few more creative combinations of swear words. And maybe some countertop tie-slamming.


Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 7:31 pm

Well, it appears I have had my first case of hacking. If you stopped by on Tuesday, you may have noticed that the site essentially didn’t exist. I got it fixed up pretty quick, and the site backs itself up frequently, so nothing is ever really lost. It’s just an inconvenience. Life goes on.

I find it kind of hard to believe I’ve been doing this stuff for over four years and have only now encountered it, but I guess it’s taken me that long to build up some enemies, I guess. Who knows? I can’t imagine why anyone would bother hacking this site – there’s nothing I can see as particularly offensive enough to piss someone off enough to go through all the effort to do that, or any effort, but whatever. Kids these days.

July 26, 2005

A clockwork Diehard

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 7:32 pm

Like clockwork, my battery died just about exactly two years after buying my car. It’s pretty amazing, really, that I can almost predict it, to the point where just this weekend the question crossed my mind: “Hmm, I wonder how much longer that battery’s going to last?” The answer, I found out this morning was, “exactly two more days.”

Having shown no signs of problems until now, I was kind of surprised at the chugging-chugging-chugging my engine went through to turn over at lunch today. When it finally started, I just looked off in the distance with a sigh, knowing my lunch, which would have been a leisurely trip to grab some Wendy’s and maybe, just maybe, visit Zia Records in search of a bargain, was ruined. Instead, I quickly ran through the drive-thru (so as not to have to shut off the car,) ate quickly on the way to Sears, and just gave in to fate: why stress out? There’s nothing I could do about it, I absolutely, positively, 100% could not afford to have a car with a possibly dead battery while I have a very pregnant wife to ferry around.

I pulled into the special battery-only lanes at the Sears automotive center, stood around a few minutes and saw exactly zero personnel around. A garage full of cars needing work and no one was around? Heading inside, I heard a woman whining about something with a tire, something about a $15 charge for tax and the environmental fee, and the tire was replaced for free under warranty. She just went over essentially the same things – “I’m late, I missed an appointment, you should wave the $15/I’m late, I missed an appointment, you should wave the $15/I’m late, I missed an appointment, you should wave the $15 . . . ” I couldn’t see her, mind, you, she was down on the floor with her also whining child, and as the minutes rolled on, the woman quickly progressed from mere whining to absolute bawling, until finally she reappeared above the counter, glanced at me with a look of shocked embarassment, and after a few awkward moments, slipped free of the salesman to find a more private place to overdo her reactions. I could still hear her, however, and within a few minutes she’d managed to convince the manager to take care of the tax and fees. I realized while listening to this, and her amusingly surprised reaction at my presence, that this is probably how this woman deals with her world – not by simply coming to terms with things she must do, but by whining and crying until she gets her way. It works for some people, but it certainly does come with a price.

The salesman that eventually helped me seemed set on selling anything but just a battery, especially a set of rims. He didn’t come right out and say it, of course. “Toyota Matrix? Man, that’s a great looking car.” I agreed. “You ever see one of these with some 18s (18-inch rims) and some low-profile tires?” I nodded. “Man, sure does look sweet like that.” I pointed out that that’s way beyond my means today, hoping that he’d get the hint that I’m just plain not interested in new rims. “Eh, not really, you just start saving some cash now and when you need to replace these tires you’ve got some extra for new rims.” True, but I’m planning on selling this car in a couple years with these tires. I didn’t bother to go into this – I really just wanted my battery and to get back to work. And “save up”? What am I, 12?

Finally I was free, and I wandered around the mall for a while, hitting Suncoast to check out the latest movie- and TV-related figures that I’ve missed out on (they now make Adult Swim figures! I was disappointed in the selection – most of the big-name stuff was not stocked, unfortunately) and ultimately winding up browsing the slim-pickin’s at Waldenbooks. Surprisingly, I stumbled upon an Arthur C. Clarke book I didn’t even know existed, and figuring that, while organizing books last night I was thinking about how I missed reading his stuff, it must be fate or karma or what-have-you, and took the book to the register. I figured, if they’re going to be as slow as it appears at Sears, I might as well have something to read for a bit.

It turns out, however, that my battery was done and I was ready to go . . . if only I could get my salesman to let me pay and get on my way. He was, not surprisingly, deeply engaged with another customer who did want a set of tires and rims, and for whom the selection on the walls was just not enough. No, even while standing there, holding my receipt, clearing my throat, just wanting to take the two minutes to finish up my transaction, the salesman was so wrapped up in wheel-glory that he simply couldn’t tear himself away. I heard a lot of terms such as “sweet” and “badass” being tossed about, and I knew it was a lost cause. I finally convinced the “I’m in training” salesman (I know because his badge said so) to coerce another salesman to finish me up, having successfully watche my lunch blossom from the usual hour to well over twice that. So much for finishing my project at work, which I was so close to finishing, today.

I left with a little sigh of relief – not just because my work there was done, but because the man my original salesman was helping, in between many more calls of “sweet,” had mumbled something about “checking those out when I’ve got some money.” Sweet.

July 25, 2005

Overlooked Alternatives: new releases for July 26, 2005

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 9:20 pm

I’m back, did you miss me? It’s been a very busy couple of weeks preparing our home for the impending arrival of the Unknown Johnson (anytime between now and the end of August!) and a combination of exhaustion and a lack of compelling new releases the past couple weeks kept me away from posting.

New Releases

Bob Mould: Body of Song – The highlight this week is squarely on Bob Mould’s latest album, Body of Song. As a follow-up to the more electronic, experimental, but ultimately disappointing Modulate, it’s an overwhelming success. And as a new addition to his strong catalog (including Husker Du, Sugar, and his other solo material,) it will probably depend on what era of Mould you like. Those looking for a Sugar fix might be a little disappointed – very little of this album contains the pop buzz Sugar was so good at, but those looking for follow-ups to his first two, more stripped down solo albums Black Sheets of Rain and Workbook might also need some time to adjust, too – less so than the Sugar-enthusiasts, however. Where this album shows the most similarities is with Mould’s post-Sugar solo output, tempering the excessive, naive electronics of Modulate with Mould’s signature razor sharp guitar. Mould’s skills with programming have developed quite well, and there’s very little of the awkward, pre-programmed feeling of Modulate. What you get is an album of guitar rock with a techno edge – nothing new in the music world, but Mould’s particular spin on this style is something new and interesting to listen to. While some may balk at his occasional use of the now-cliche “Cher vocoder” effect she made popular again with “Believe,” if you can listen past it, the songs are as strong as Mould’s work is always known for. Highly recommended is the beautiful deluxe edition that comes with a bonus disc of 9 extra tracks (three of which are unfortunately remixes) and lush packaging.

Garage a Trois: Outre Mer – 8-string guitar/bass virtuoso Charlie Hunter continues his explorations of funk-jazz with saxaphonist Skerik, vibraphonist Mike Dillon, and Galactic as well as (temporary) Corrosion of Conformity (!) drummer Stanton Moore (check their latest, In the Arms of God for a very different outing for Moore!) Outre Mer functions as both a soundtrack and their third release.


Brad: Brad vs. Satchel – To be honest, I really don’t know much about this one – Brad and Satchel are essentially the same band, Brad featuring Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard, but the real power on display comes from singer/keyboardist/guitarist Shawn Smith, whose high, scratchy falsetto allows him to belt out 70s-esque soul as easily as wail dramatically in straight-up rock. All I know is that this consists of outtakes of the two bands material from the later 90s. If you like one band, you’ll likely like the other.


Death Cab for Cutie: Drive Well, Sleep Carefully: On the Road with Death Cab for Cutie – A Film by Justin Mitchell – The title pretty well sums it up – live and “life on the road” footage mingle throughout, so those looking for a straight concert DVD will be disappointed.

July 24, 2005


Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 10:59 pm

Alissa had her shower last weekend, but not being there I can’t really tell you what happened. I know there was cake, and there were some tiny bags of Sweettart-like candies and various nuts, and a lot of big boxes. Not least of which was not one, not two, but THREE strollers, and unless I’ve completely missed some really big news, we only need one of those. We made out really well, however, getting nearly ever major item on our registry, including my most-desired baby-related thing, a Baby Bjorn carrier. I’ve been eyeing these since well before we knew Alissa was pregnant. I can think of nothing cooler than being able strap the little UJ to my chest and go do things. The ultimate accessory! And babies go so well with pretty much any ensemble, so I’m sure to be styling in everything I wear.

The only problem is that, due to being, as the Baby Bjorn manual states, a “larger parent” (meaning “American, and not a perfect, slender, stunningly photogenic Scandinavian”,) the carrier requires a different strap, otherwise my “larger parent”ness will probably crush our tiny baby. So that’s another must-buy item . . . that I can’t find anywhere to buy! The official site yields nothing – it’s like they’re denying they even have to create something for us Americans and the only thing I turn up are on dodgy sites that I’ve never heard of. If a product’s not available on the manufacturer’s site or the Amazon-backed Babies R Us site, it’s pretty touchy whether you can trust these little sites. And while I’m always willing to save a buck or two by buying used on Ebay . . . there’s something weird about buying something this important on Ebay, used, possibly damaged, who knows? At last, after digging through the results on Google, there’s a name I recognize – BabyCenter, who have nursed my desire for knowledge these past eight months. It’s pricey, but no worse than anywhere else I found, trustworthy or no – $40.45, which is almost half the price of the carrier itself. I do like the reviews, however, as one mom notes that the strap “allow[s] Daddy to carry baby (he’s a guy with broad shoulders)”. Did you see that – broad shoulders, not fat. BabyCenter gets my business just for that.

30 days

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 10:29 pm

Here we are, just hours from being exactly 30 days away from Alissa’s due date. In some ways, I look at that amount of time and think, “30 days? That’s a lot of time . . . ” for, say, mail, or to be reunited with a long-lost loved one. And then the rest of the time I think “30 days?! How the hell are we going to be ready for this tiny, very needy little person in only 30 days?” And so I occupy myself doing little things here and there, trying to finish up whatever tasks we have left. The problem I’m running into is that I think, maybe, I’m creating new tasks for myself hoping to keep myself completely and totally occupied for the next month . . . so I don’t have time worry and obsess over things that are essentially completely out of my control.

Take today, for example. We had a number of relatively small task that need to be taken care of fairly soon, but not immediately. One of those tasks was getting a ceiling fan hung in the Unknown Johnson’s room, which we bought last night. Now, you’d think that, were I so concerned about getting things done, I’d have jumped out of bed immediately this morning to get working on it. Instead, I got up, had some breakfast, checked out websites, ripped a few CDs for my Ipod . . . all totally nonessential tasks. By the time we finally got moving, around 1 today, I’d really accomplished nothing of substance. We still have piles of books in the hallway that need to find a home. We still have gatherings of various odd things to go through to see if we still want, and if so, find a home for them. We have boxes and things to sort. But how much of that was actually taken care of? None of it. Instead, I’d managed to watch a couple of TV shows I had no interest in, read the parts of the paper (which could have waited,) and basically avoided doing much of anything. By the time we left, it was well into the afternoon. We ate some lunch then hit a couple stores but walked out with basically nothing we needed. I came home, ripped some more CDs in Itunes, then finally got around to installing the ceiling fan.

And then I didn’t. When we bought this fan last night, it was with the belief that, even though it comes with a light kit, it came with a cap to close off the open end if one was to choose not to use the light kit. Wrong. I came to this conclusion only after emptying the box. I consulted the Home Depot and Lowe’s websites and found that, basically, Home Depot just doesn’t carry non-lighted fans like we wanted, but Lowe’s did. So I packed up the box, returned it to Home Depot, and drove way down to Lowe’s to pick up the fan. Of course, it’s never simple, and I came to find out after walking around for 10 minutes looking for this particular fan, and a call home to Alissa to check the one I’d found on the website, that they mislabeled it on the site. Regardless, they had the fan, so I grabbed it, left . . . and went to Zia.

By the time I got home, Alissa was hungry but not for anything we had, and she specifically wanted pizza. So pizza it was, so off we went for pizza – not that I’m complaining, because I’ll eat pizza pretty much anytime I can. We got home close to sunset, and I had a task to do that I’d forgotten many times, so out I went to check on the drips in the yard, the plants around which seemed to be suffering from lack of water. I quickly determined that the drips seemed to fine, so I changed the watering schedule, but noticed that there were a lot of leaves and flower petals beginning to rot out there. So I grabbed the blower and went to work . . . like I said, I seem to find new projects for myself that prevent me from finishing others, and this was no different – an hour later, and it’s nearly completely dark outside, I find myself drenched in sweat, scooping up an enormous pile of plant debris that I can barely see. I realized then that I’m still not finished – from blowing the junk around, I’d pretty badly messed up the gravel, so I had to rake the yard (again, in the dark.) By the time I came back in, it was nearly 8:30, and I still had not done anything with the ceiling fan. Well, it was just going to have to wait, because there’s no way I’m starting on that so late in the day.

But my day wasn’t done . . . something still itched at me, and that was the fact that my Ipod is very nearly completely full, making it hard to load new stuff on without having to figure out what to delete (I know – that’s FORTY gigabytes of mp3s, about 7000 songs, and I’m fretting over what to delete.) So, before taking a shower, I cued up the latest Ipod Updater and wiped my Ipod clean. After my shower, I picked out several thousand must-have songs and sent them slipping through the ether to my Ipod. Nearly two hours later, it’s only half-way through that task. And I’d wanted to run a badly needed defrag routine on my Itunes drive . . . not tonight, unfortunately. Like the ceiling fan, and the books, and the rest of the tidying up around here, it’s just going to have to wait.

July 21, 2005

Recommended: Sufjan Stevens

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 10:12 pm

A serious lack of time and energy prevents me from doing much in-depth this week on either site, but for those checking in, here’s a little gift (from NPR, as found on Blogcritics, not me, I’m just passing it along):

Sufjan Stevens – The Lord God Bird (free download)

Summary: Stevens (first name pronounced Soof-yawn) wrote this song on the spur of the moment for NPR when they were doing a piece on the reappearance of a long-thought-extinct rare white-billed woodpecker that had come to be known as the “lord god bird.” Stevens’ music is all like this – dark, quiet, but intriguing and beautiful. You don’t quite imagine the banjo turning out this kind of music, but it works so beautifully in the context of his songs.

For the unaware, who might find the info out and get scared off: Sufjan Stevens technically falls under the “Christian music” label, but his music is so much more rewarding than most of the pap that gets labeled with that title. He’s a truly incredible musician, gifted with talent on many instruments, and his albums typically put his abilities to the test, with playing most instruments. He’s also known for a project he undertook a couple years back to document the entire 50 states of the US with dedicated releases for each state. So far he’s hit two – Michigan and Illinois (mentioned a couple weeks back.) In between those two he release a truly heartbreakingly beautiful album, Seven Swans, which surely would have been high up in my top-10 of last year – had I heard it in time. If you like what you hear here, you’ll like the rest of his material – it only gets better from here.

July 17, 2005


Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 8:52 am

And now, after many weeks of work, it can be revealed: the Room of the Unknown Johnson (please forgive me some really bad framing – I had a limited amount of space to work within.)

I finally managed to get the crib together the other night after deciphering instructions that didn’t really jibe with the illustrations. Oh, they looked like they matched up, but when putting the instructions into practice, it became pretty difficult to determine exactly what it was they wanted me to do. The brown layer is a piece of cardboard from the box, in case one of the kitties manages to jump into the empty crib – there’s nothing there but a wire spring until we get a mattress.

Partially cut off is our amazing bargain-find – the $79 Kmart glider that is nearly identical to the ones Babies R Us sells for three or four times as much. And it is so comfortable:

Another cheap find, this changing table comes from and was considerably cheaper – including shipping – than anywhere else, and also happened to look like it was made to match the crib:

This dresser has history, at least family history. This dresser was my dresser as a baby and I used it until I was a 10 or 12 years old. My dad cobbled this together, from what I understand, from an even older falling-apart hulk and whatever spare wood he found that suited the need. When I stopped using it, in lieu of some more “grown up” style dressers, my dad continued to use it to store various things in. When we expressed our shock at how expensive simple baby-oriented dressers were, my parents took it upon themselves to strip off the many layers of paint (including a very 70s orange and yellow theme that I vaguely remember) and got it ready for us.

And some details of the sheep:

It kind of stuns me that I spent two months, or about 45-50 hours spread over those two months, on this room, because it looks so simple. I guess that’s always the way it goes – whatever you slave over is what winds up looking like it must have been easy. We do have a few small things to finish up in there – a new window-shade solution would be nice to replace the very cheap mini-blinds and a ceiling fan is now a priority. After spending so much time in the stagnant air of that room, there’s no doubt about it. We’re also not entirely sure that the current layout of furniture is quite right. The crib will stay were it is – I planned it out so that corner would be where the crib was placed, but we may end up moving the dresser to the opposite wall and putting the glider into that corner. Essentially, however, I was able to breathe a huge sigh of relief this weekend. The most important work is done. There is, however, a huge amount of organizing of junk from around the house, but that doesn’t feel “important” like this room, so let’s call the important work done. Well, my important work. Alissa’s got a big task in 6 weeks, but there’s not much I can do there other than be there to offer encouragement . . . maybe some ice chips . . . someone to yell at . . .

July 14, 2005

Packaging lovers take note

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 7:32 pm

In our mailbox tonight I found two packages, neither of which I could readily determine from the outside what they were. The addresses didn’t betray their origins very easily, as I have a few cheap-buys winging my way from various used CD sellers. Once inside, I was able to tear into the packaging – one a small box, the other one of those puffy-package mailer envelopes. The box drew my biggest curiosity, as my only thought that this was the new Ween release through their Chocodog label, the mysterious Shinola entity that promised many previously unheard nuggets of weirdness. However, I was wrong – inside the box was the brand new Bob Mould album, Book of Song, the special edition (click through Bob’s blog to order)! I’ve been looking forward to this for a couple of months now, having been privy to a preview of one song available to hear on the YepRoc (Bob’s new label) site. The disc has just begun spinning up in my drive as I write this, so all I can say is that the first song makes an incredible first impression – if this is an indication, this will be one of the best albums of the year. I have a feeling the rest will actually live up to that.

For you packaging geeks out there, the SE of Book of Song comes in a textured black box with the stylized sunburst that adorns the artwork you can see on Bob’s site. On the back is a sheet of glossy paper printed with the tracklistings of both discs, and appears to be held on by removable rubber cement. Lifting the lid reveals a bright yellow gold felt cloth, in which are wrapped the two discs (inside their own black, flapped envelopes,) a couple of dozen artistic and intriguing photos (partially naked Bob alert!) and the album’s artwork printed on thick vellum, and a lyric book. To say the packaging is lavish doesn’t do it justice – this is beautiful work, especially for a “regular” album release (as opposed to a boxset, I mean.)

As for the music, four songs in and my prediction is holding correct – it’s a very, very strong album, and it doesn’t really have an analog in his catalog to compare it to. It’s not drastically different than his self-titled album nor Last Dog and Pony Show, and it shows some lineage from the electronically-flavored Modulate, but still it stands alone. What makes it seem so different may be the attitude rather than the music – this has an overall very positive, very “up” feeling about it. One listen, however, is far too early to make a firm judgement – all I can assure is that it’s looking to be a hell of a good album.

The other package? The latest offering from John Zorn’s Tzadik label, the Jamie Saft Trio taking on a small portion of the apparently 300 new Masada compositions that Zorn wrote last year. I haven’t heard one note of this, but the pedigree promises it won’t disappoint: Zorn’s new Masada compositions, Masada bassist Greg Cohen, and drummer Ben Perowski. That this is subtitled “Volume 1” is promising – more new Masada can only be a good thing. Oh, and the packaging here is subtle and simple – a pearlescent white digipak with a tasteful diecut star of David and simple, classy black and white scripted text. What’s it sound like? Masada on piano – slightly less raucous than Masada’s sax and trumpet squawk, but obviously structurally similar. My only complaint would be that there’s no place to store the OBI strip that comes with all Tzadik label releases.

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