Known Johnson

January 31, 2006

Catch and release

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 1:05 pm

Longtime readers, and friends in general, know that I have a very conflicted relationship with music. I love it, love it dearly, and besides the obvious things like family, it dominates my life. It’s nearly all-consuming hold over me, however, eventually culminates in a kind of spiteful reverence for it – I know how powerful it is, I know that I am essentially powerless to resist it, yet I sometimes just want to spit on it and yell about how greedy it is and how jealous I get because there’s always more. I can’t keep up.

There are countless occasions on which I’ve stared at my ever-shifting music collection and sighed, then silently asked, “Why are you all here?” And thus begins the slow process of delaminating some of this music from my life. At first it’s just a little tingle, a dissatisfaction that I have so much and, honestly, listen to relatively little of it (the key word there being “relatively,” of course – I still listen to a lot of music.) This wasn’t always the case – I have always had clear favorites, obviously, like anyone else – but my desire was always more in finding something new and wonderful to fascinate me for a while. Like others, as I’ve gotten older my list of favorites has solidified for the most part, but has slowly continued to grow little by little.

So as the tingle subsides – having shed a small number of obviously unnecessary discs on Amazon and Half.com or at the local used music store – a new urge arises. In years past I have referred to this as The Big Purge – as if the relatively small number of discs that I have sold off were keystones in an arch, or the plug in the levee, suddenly it all comes crashing down, flooding out, etc. I begin to question most everything, with very few artists’ catalogues remaining free of scrutiny. Inevitably, I wind up with a tall stack of things I’ve become clear-eyed enough to see are no longer necessary, and they move on to new homes, and I pocket some cash or a bunch of credit for later purchases (more like “sooner,” however.)

Maybe it’s growing up, or becoming a father, I don’t know – but all of a sudden I find that there’s a lot of music that simply no longer applies to my life, moreso than ever before. What’s more, I am confident like never before that a line was unknowingly drawn, probably shortly after Amanda was born, that is unlikely to ever be crossed again. Just like I can’t imagine my life without her, I also can’t imagine how a lot of this stuff fits in my new life, either. In a way, it feels irresponsible to continue to seek out new music, even by well-established favorites, while I maintain this huge collection of things that seem only to be attracting dust. And so I’ve made the decision to go with my gut on this – it’s time to let some, maybe a lot of this go, allowing the collection to dwindle down to a more reasonable number of essentials. The primary deciding factor will be a simple one, derived after a month with my Ipod-less truck: what must I absolutely, without question, physically have on hand in case I lost my Ipod, lost all my files, or had a car that couldn’t handle an Ipod. Exceptions will be made for the few true sentimental favorites I own, but for everything else deemed inessential, they will be preserved in a tenuous way on my harddrive as mp3s – just in case of that once-a-year-or-two urge that pops up. It should be fairly easy . . . but as with anything relating to my love of music, it’s not – not with 1500 CDs to examine and rank. The prospect is, however, reinvigorating, making me excited about music in a way I haven’t been in a while, as well as excited about what I can do with the freedom (and, to be honest, the cash) of ridding so much of it in such a short time.

Now comes the hard part.

2005 in filmic adventures

Filed under: General — Tom @ 11:24 am

We watch a lot of TV. Too much TV. We watched a lot of TV (too much) before Amanda, but now that Amanda’s come along, she makes a good excuse as to why we watch so much TV (you know, because we don’t get out so much anymore.)

The sad fact that I faced today is that not only did I not see any of the Oscar best-film nominees, I didn’t even want to see any of them. I can’t think of another year where this has happened, but it confirms my suspicion that last year was one of the worst movie-years ever. The unfortunately short list, with explanations:

Fever Pitch: This was pretty light fare, but I found the heart of the film, about the love and devotion a fan gives to his chosen obsession, really resonated with me. I know the kind of love that the main character, played by Jimmy Fallon (who is actually okay here, and whose character’s name I forget – it doesn’t matter,) has for his team. It’s what I feel for my most-favorite music. The fanatical drive to be there for every game is like my desire to buy every release by a number of bands, just to have experienced it all. Nothing earth-shattering or important in this one, but I would think anyone who has that kind of love of something would find something to enjoy here, and being a Nick Hornby project, it’s just an enjoyable distraction overall.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Well, I had high hopes but did what I could to remain realistic. The books are just too odd and the humor just too internal to really recreate well visually. What worked worked really well. What didn’t fell flat in a most embarassing way.

Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith: Oh, jeez, what more can be said about this that hasn’t been said? Overall, a disappointment, but I’ll give it that back-handed compliment of being the best of the prequels. But it could have been so much more than what it was.

War of the Worlds: It’s really unfortunate that Tom Cruise picked 2005 to be the year he flew his freak-flag, because his antics overshadowed what was basically a very good sci-fi/action film. I don’t know why it has to be this way, but people can’t seem to divorce the real idiots from the characters they play and wind up using that as an excuse to not see their movies. I have this feeling that it’s more because they don’t want to actually say to others that they went and saw a Cruise flick in light of his Oprah couch-jumping and Today Show BS-philosophizing, fearing that they will appear to somehow be sympathetic to his moronic public behavior. Luckily for me, I don’t care. The original 1953 War of the Worlds is one of my favorite movies of all time, so an updating by Spielberg, who says the original was one of the reasons he became a filmmaker, is a must-see. I will tell you now what other people are ashamed to say: Spielberg’s remake is really, really good. Putting aside his unnecessary changes to the story to include allegories for terrorism in our back yards, this was one of the most intense and realistic action films I’ve seen in a long, long time. What made it most effective was a claustrophic sense of urgency, the panicky desperation that drives people to do stupid things in large numbers, and an incredibly deft use of special effects that were so realistic that you forgot you were looking at things that don’t even exist (take that, George Lucas.) And for the complainers out there, the ending that you all hate so much? It’s in the book, and it works perfectly!

Murderball: I can’t say it much better than my original review did, so go read it.

The 40-Year Old Virgin: I didn’t really have high expectations for this, but I like Steve Carell, and it was co-written by Freaks and Geeks‘ Judd Apatow and Carell, so it couldn’t be all bad, right? Right! It was hilarious – dirty, crude, even disgusting in spots, but a hell of a lot of fun. Especially fun was seeing Freak Seth Rogen in a supporting role (which was very similar to his role in F&R, and apparently I’m not the only one to think so as Apatow is creating a film around him next (this one, I believe.) This also has the distinction of being the last movie Alissa and I would see as non-parents. Twenty-four hours later, Amanda made her way into the world.

Shopgirl: I’m a sucker for Steve Martin. He’s generally very good in all of his roles, but that’s probably because he always seems to play himself. Not so here – even though he penned the novella and the screenplay, he’s cast as the elder gentleman who puts the moves on a willingly naive young woman, and it’s just plain creepy. Read my thoughts on it here. (As good as Martin is, I will not be seeing The Pink Panther. Are you friggin’ kidding me?)

And that was it – our year in movies. There were more than a few films that slipped through our fingers – either in theaters for too short of a time or that we just plain didn’t know about until it was too late, but that’s what DVDs are for, right?

January 30, 2006

Pony gas experiment

Filed under: General — Tom @ 11:26 pm

So apparently the beautiful lull was hacked again. It wasn’t targeted at me, just WordPress users in general. It’s pretty minor – just the index page was replaced with the mysterious “BI0S TEAM” message, which a quick Googling turned up is pretty common the past couple months. I haven’t updated the lull or Unproductivity to the latest WordPress, which has likely left me wide open to an attack like that. I’ll have to move that update to the front burner – I have no intentions of using the sites right now, but it’s nice to have them there, especially Unproductivity for anyone who wants to follow along on the 9 months of our lives when Amanda was the one and only Unknown Johnson. (I know, I know – long time readers might wonder why everything going back to 2001 is gone. Sorry, it’s just too difficult to get all this stuff running under different blogging platforms. If you ever really, really want to read it, archive.org has everything going back to January 2002 (note: the site’s navigation won’t work – you have to back up to their catalog page to go the next section of the site you want to read, sorry.) Archive.org: manages to be both neat and a bit scary.)

The hacking has been fixed now, so go read about music if you want to.

Please insert emotive “sigh” sound here: I’ve got a million things to write about, but no time to do so. I’ve got two partially written pieces sitting in WordPress right now, one for weeks, the other for a few days, and I have very little energy to get back to them to finish them up. One of these days . . .

January 29, 2006

Five months

Filed under: General — Tom @ 11:25 pm

August 29, 2005:

DSCN2468

January 29, 2006:

DSCN2704

(To be completely honest, the second photo was taken sometime last week – but you get the point.)

January 26, 2006

Loo query

Filed under: General — Tom @ 3:46 pm

Restroom-related questions posed to the world in general:

  • Why must you eat peanuts in the stall?
  • Why did you bring your fruit into the stall, then leave it on the floor to roll around?
  • Why won’t you flush?
  • Why, when you insist on standing in the stall instead of using a urinal, must you pee all over the seat and then never wipe it up?
  • Why must you smear your nasal excavations all over the walls?
  • Why must you talk on the phone in there? Don’t you need a break?

January 24, 2006

This document contains no data

Filed under: General — Tom @ 10:04 am
no data

If you’re a Firefox user (and why wouldn’t you be?!) you’re probably very used to seeing the subject line in an irritating popup window when you go to some webpages. I figured out a long time ago that it’s likely related to ad-blocking by the browser, but I never could understand why I’d care enough about it that I need a popup that I need to divert my attention from in order to continue using the browser. Uh, hello? Isn’t that the point of using Firefox, that we don’t have to deal with popup ad windows? Sure, it took care of the ads, but replaced them with something the user can’t even ignore.

I finally decided to do a little research and came across a simple solution (found here):

In the Firefox address bar, type:

about:config

Scroll down in the window to a setting called “browser.xul.error_pages.enabled.” Double-click the line anywhere and set it to true (the line will display in bold now as well.)

When you go to a page that would normally have caused this popup, whatever was causing the problem will now display this message:

no no data

And you can happily ignore any blocked content without any interaction with your browser – the way it should be, but for whatever reason Mozilla decided it shouldn’t.

January 23, 2006

Question of the day

Filed under: Movies — Tom @ 2:51 pm

Is it okay with the rest of America if I have absolutely no interest in seeing Brokeback Mountain? Gay theme or not – I don’t care, I really don’t have time or, hell, whatever, to give a crap about anyone’s sexual orientation, let alone a friggin’ movie about it – I just do not want to see this film. It might be fantastic, and from most reports it really is a good movie. But like a million other “great” movies, if I’m not interested in the story itself, I’m not going to go see it. The controversy seems to be driving more people to the movie than anything else. Think about it this way: replace one of the guys with a woman and ask yourself how interested you’d be in seeing this. No thanks.

Hell, I’m still offended that people didn’t go see American Splendor two years ago. That was an incredible film that went completely overlooked by most moviegoers. And that was a true story. I guess a cranky recluse who writes comic books about his everyday life (drawn by other people because he’s not an animator) just isn’t all that interesting. Whatever.

I’ll cover you in frost

Filed under: General — Tom @ 9:39 am

I can’t keep up. I keep trying to get things done around the house, but don’t, because on top of getting things done on weekends, I also want to rest. Resting always takes precedence. So then, because of resting, things don’t get done and get added to a list of things I need to do next weekend. The next weekend, the same thing happens: not much. I now am overwhelmed with things I need to get done, so I’ve been foregoing rest a bit to try and get ahead, but since I still don’t get all that much accomplished, I’m now behind on both rest and tasks. I should have realized that you can accomplish only one or the other, but not both. And since resting is easier and more immediately rewarding . . .

January 16, 2006

Love cavalcade extravaganza (asterisk)

Filed under: General — Tom @ 5:46 pm
DSCN2638

Relax.

I accomplished my main task this weekend – getting the Ipod-adapter installed in my truck, and I have dozens of photos to prove and document it. What I lack at the moment is motivation.

As I’m off from work today due to the MLK Jr. holiday, and Alissa is not*, I’m home taking care of Amanda. The past couple of week’s she decided she needs a lot of attention so I really haven’t accomplished much besides that since about 8:45 this morning. She’s finally drifted off to sleep, but not before an extended giggle session wherein she determined that daddy’s cheeks are quite funny, and continued to find my near-total lack of head-hair just as funny as it has been in the past. Infant hands may be small, but they are very strong – and cheeks are pretty flexible things, providing lots to grab onto. At least it made her laugh.

(*As Alissa was quick to point out the other day, isn’t it funny how hard everyone fought to get this day declared a holiday, especially here in Arizona (do some research on our former governor, Ev Mecham (Wiki’d just for you there,) and see why this is especially embarassing here) and it’s a relative rarity that anyone gets it off now.)

I had another task to accomplish today, one that I just decided to take on. Following my Ipod-adapter install, I put in a new light out front to take the place of one that slowly fell apart through the past couple of years. Piece by piece it deteriorated until finally this past Christmas season, while I was putting up lights and using a screw-in plug adapter for it, I was unable to do much of anything to keep it together. Two pieces of glass slid out, crashing to the ground, one piece hit me just below the eye (amazingly without leaving a mark,) and I was able to cath the remaining two. Of course, there’s really nothing left to do with that glass, because I didn’t have the knurled nuts that should hold them in place, so we made it through by covering the light up with a large bow. That lasts, of course, only until Christmas is over, at which point our folly is revealed. So, Saturday, I replaced the light with a new one and fell in love with the photocell on it, realizing that I could just turn the light switch on and leave it on, all the time, letting the light decide when it was dark enough to come on. Of course, the other two lights out front lack this feature, so I can’t do that until I get two more. Well, as of this morning, two more I have . . . now I just have to find the time to put them in as well as a motion-sensor activated light for the side of the house.

After four months sleeping by Alissa’s side in her bassinette, Amanda moved into her crib this weekend. The first night, after a long active day, neither Alissa nor I were awake enough to worry too much about it, but last night I found myself troubled and lonely, sad that Amanda was laying in the dark 10 feet further than usual from us. The baby monitor hissed the magnified silence of her room at me, but it did little to calm my nerves. Worrying that she was suffering in silence, I repeatedly checked on her before we hit the lightswitch for our own night of sleep. Each time, I’d find her comfortably snoozing away, oblivious to my concerns. That’s how fatherhood goes, I suppose. I’d better get used to it.

January 13, 2006

Rain covered you in airlines

Filed under: General,Music — Tom @ 4:06 pm

Note: anytime from now on that I don’t have a good title for a post, I’m just going to make something completely random up, and it’ll probably sound like a real Guided By Voices song title.

Seriously, this band (and founder Robert Pollard) has the best song titles in the history of music. Check ’em out here. Yes, that’s right, there’s many, many hundreds of songs there, maybe thousands – I know he’s rumored to have written at least 5000 songs, how many are represented there, I can’t tell you, and I’m certainly not going to count.

Interesting side-story: Pollard keeps notebooks of song titles, then goes back and finds the ones he’s most intrigued by for which to write songs. One of my favorite titles is “Pimple Zoo,” with the lyrics consisting solely and entirely of “Sometimes I get the feeling/That you don’t want me around/But just when you are waking/Just as the snakes are flaking” (repeat.) The words “pimple zoo” never show up in the song.

But that’s not why we’re here, is it? I didn’t intend this to be a music post, but as you can see, I’m easily distracted.

Tomorrow is notable for my Ipod-adapter install in the Ridgeline. I attempted this a couple weeks ago with the same unit I’d given to Alissa for Christmas for her Accord, but Honda likes to keep people on their toes by pointlessly switching things up. So what appeared to be an identical 14-pin adapter buried deep in the dash in the back of my truck’s CD player turned out to only share visual similarities. Honda got crafty and switched the wiring on it so all previous aftermarket adapters wouldn’t work. Why? Hmm, could it be because of the offical Ipod-adapter that Honda just released last week? I’d have chosen that, but I’ve read report after report that the unit is a complete pile of dung – the Ipod loses its controls while attached and the CD player screen can’t render artist or song info, leaving you guessing which of your thousands of songs that “5 68” might really be. It might make for a fun game of “guess who,” but when you’re speeding down the highway and want to hear the aforementioned “Pimple Zoo,” it’s going to be awful hard to differentiate, say, “2 77” from “4 21.” Honda, however, did create a text-to-speech app that runs on your computer in conjunction with Itunes, building a database of audio cues for artists. Boy, would that be fun to listen to potentially hundreds of artists or thousands of songs? What a bargain for this spectacular system at just $200 – plus labor fees if you’re not brave enough to dive in behind the dash.

I will be documenting my install pretty closely – the Ridgeline is a new vehicle and as such it’s hard to find much in the way of documentation of things like this. Expect an annoyingly detailed post this weekend about this project (annoying for those of you not interested, of course.)

Amanda’s 4.5 month old vocabulary consists mostly of squealing, the sounds “aah” and “ooooh,” and a hilariously loud popping noise she makes with her tongue. She also made me very proud the other night with a shockingly well-rendered belch. This is definitely daddy’s girl.

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