Known Johnson

March 28, 2006

Arrested Development gets its death sentence

Filed under: TV — Tom @ 10:06 am

Show creator Mitch Hurwitz has officiall announced that he’s done with Arrested Development. I think it’s sad that he’s giving up this easily when he’s probably got the best opportunity to take the show to new heights with Showtime, but I can’t be too surprised – when the only news for two months is that Showtime wants the show badly and Hurwitz is mulling over the deal, it can’t be good.

They went out nearly on top, however, as the final four episodes were the best of the stunted third season. It’s unfortunate that this season worked out the way it did – had they known that they’d only have 13 episodes to work with, they might not have worried about trying to desperately appeal to a wider audience that wouldn’t have them. As it is, season 3 was rough – a frantic, jumbled mess of storylines that struggled to weave themselves together as quickly as possible for some kind of neat ending. As it is, the final five episodes, all written after Fox truncated the season, were back to the quality we fans had come to expect, and the two-hour, four-episode finale was a very satisifying send off.

I just wish it didn’t have to be over. Taste the sad. Can you taste it? I can.

March 23, 2006

A girl and her dad’s CDs

Filed under: General — Tom @ 7:45 pm

Amanda, scooting about the front room while I check email this evening, has finally taken notice of my CDs:

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“Man, daddy, how many of these things do you have?!”

Click over to Flickr for the two below and you can actually make out plenty of titles in the largest sizes (yes, I actually uploaded these two at full size just so you can check out what’s in there.)

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Good taste already – Amanda’s got her hand on some late-model King Crimson.

March 22, 2006

Wild Wood

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 3:17 pm

For whatever reason, I found myself with a bug in my brain about Paul Weller (he of the great 70s band, The Jam) this morning. I’d had his recent album Illumination a couple years back but, other than a few songs, it just didn’t grab me. I knew, however, that his older stuff was preferred for newbies such as myself, and I knew there was a recent two-CD/one-DVD Deluxe Edition reissue of the album that most say is his best, Stanley Road. I’m not prepared to drop $30 on that at the moment, but I figured that maybe there’d be a used copy of the original single disc. Of course, when I got to Zia I found only the Deluxe, but did find a used copy of Wild Wood, which just happens to be the other album that comes highly recommended (I’m sure Chris would know best, a big Weller fan, he.)

It turns out it was an excellent choice for two reasons: one, it’s really quite great afterall, and two, I somehow managed to snag a copy that has a bonus disc attached to it – I didn’t even notice when I picked it up that it was in a slim two-disc jewelcase. Inside was a promo disc with three tracks: “Fly on the Wall,” a live version of “Foot of the Mountain,” and something called “Kosmos (bonus beats.)” What this disc is, I have no idea – AllMusic doesn’t list a version with this disc, and I can’t find anything on Amazon like it, either. Of course, I do know that “Fly on the Wall” offers its title to the boxset of Weller rarities that came out last year, which features all three of these songs, but that doesn’t explain this disc, which bears a copyright of 1994, like the album itself. The mystery remains.

Regardless, it fit a very specific mood I was in today – I needed something just like this: rock with a touch of soul, and Weller’s warm, slightly-gritty vocals are really soothing. That Stanley Road Deluxe isn’t looking so ridiculous of a purchase to me now . . .

March 21, 2006

Taking a stand

Filed under: General — Tom @ 10:50 am
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In the past week and a half or so, Amanda has gone from scooting around in reverse to suddenly not being content simply with mobility. No, that’s not good enough for our girl! She has to stand. Reach your hands out to her and she’ll grasp your fingers tightly, strain a little, and pull herself up to standing. She needs help balancing, but she’s actually almost strong enough to support herself. And from there she refuses to sit back down. Try and set her back down and she locks her legs at the knees and refuses to bend. She’d be content to stand all day if she could.

While it’s amazing, it’s also a bit frightening. We’re still dealing with her being able to motor about (in reverse) and keeping the floor free of easily ingestible items. Now we have to consider all the low table-tops and shelves! We thought shoes and electrical cords and outlets were a problem – now we have to watch out for remote controls and books and other blunt – or sharp – objects that frequently get left around. I’ve said it before, but it only gets more relevant: we have a lot of work to do to get our house safe!

March 20, 2006

Two sides of Amanda

Filed under: General — Tom @ 11:11 pm

It’s sad, but in a funny way, that when we attempted to get Amanda to wear a poncho that had been hand-knitted by my step-grandma, the reaction we got was one of the most unhappy ones we’ve seen yet.*

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Daddy, why are you doing this to me?

However, things can be quickly righted again simply by giving Amanda something – anything – with a tag on it. Why she loves sucking on these, we’ll probably never know, but it sure does make for a cute picture:

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*However, there is video evidence of Amanda far more upset about another thing we attempted to foist upon her in the past few weeks: eating solid food. I’ll be putting that into the computer pretty soon. It’s one such moment that simply must be shared with the world.

March 14, 2006

Visual migraine . . . visually

Filed under: General,Migraine — Tom @ 4:27 pm

Today on the way to work I experienced something I’ve worried about for a long time – a visual migraine while I was driving. For those who don’t know, I occasionally get migraines, and lately (the past few years) they have either been accompanied by or have solely consisted of what is known as a “visual migraine.” This is a result of blood vessels in the visual part of the brain suddenly spasming, causing bloodflow changes in the region and, hence, visual weirdities. I was most concerned about this because it does impair my vision and, when on the road, this could be a serious problem.

Stuck in the middle of heavy traffic this morning, I suddenly saw the tell-tale flickering, like a non-existent light flashing on and off quickly right in the center of my vision. Within a few minutes it expanded and grew to encircle my vision, leaving a disorienting open area in the middle of my vision while blurring out the lower right. Too far from home to turn around, I decided to press on, doing my best to pay very close attention to what was going on around me.

For years I’ve attempted to describe the sensation, but it’s almost impossible to really get across how disorienting it is. Today, however, I finally figured out a good way to do so: Flash. Below you’ll see a pretty accurate animation of what happens. The timeline is obviously shortened, so imagine this happening over a half-hour time span. This is very similar, but still not quite as strange as what I see in my head (nothing is happening in my eyes – this is all deep in the brain. Oh, except for the “start over” button. That doesn’t really pop up in reality.)

Freaky, huh?

March 10, 2006

News of my own weird

Filed under: General — Tom @ 7:00 am

I was just thinking how our hands are evolutionary improvements on a basic design centered around feet (this is obvious from looking at primates, whose hands look like feet and whose feet can function as simple hands.) Since we don’t typically use our feet for much other than walking, the toes are smaller than the fingers and function mainly to help us keep our balance. So why the hell are our big toes so freakishly large compared to our thumbs?

Anyway, here’s some juicy tidbits about me that you all can share around the water cooler:

I woke up a couple of weeks ago so groggy that I fell asleep momentarily in the bathroom and wound up peeing on the cat.

I woke up this morning from an extremely strange dream, the only remnant of which I could remember was that I’d had to go to the hospital repeatedly, where whatever they did had turned one of my testicles black – like graphite black. I keep thinking of when Adam Sandler played a character whose foot had been blackened, as seen in Mr. Deeds. (Never saw it – wasn’t it due to frostbite? This is why I can’t watch most of his movies.)

Apparently using Google’s language translator is so popular that it was blocked at work. Finally this scourge of the internet has been stopped!

The bottom of the fruit drawer in our refrigerator is a covered in a layer of discarded twist-ties. So lazy are we that, when opening a bag of hand-picked fruit from the store, we just toss the twist-tie into the bottom of the drawer. Hey, it’s not dirty, it’s just messy.

Once, at lunch one day back in my “wild and crazy” high school days, I ate half of a styrofoam cup for no particular reason. I really wish I had a great story to go along with that, but this is pretty much it.

March 9, 2006

The day in pre-emptive purchases

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 9:44 pm

A check ’round of the usual suspect sites revealed that a couple of King Crimson members’ solo albums are being readied for release shortly. First a new Tony Levin album, the wonder bassist for so much music that his portfolio is mind-bogglingly long (seriously – look at this link. If you live in the western hemisphere and listen to non-classical music, I guarantee that you’ve heard this man’s work. He’s backed things artists such as Sarah McLachlan, Peter Gabriel (his most well-known outing,) John Lennon, Pink Floyd, and a billion or so others.) Unfortunately, I’ve found his solo releases to be less than thrilling for some reason. The man lays down some of the absolutely best basslines in the business. I read somewhere long ago that he may be the bassist responsible for that familiar disco bassline. Of course, now I can’t find a single bit of evidence to support that. Anyway, his new album, Resonator is due out April 4, and he reportedly pulled the Stick back out of hiding for this one – it’s about damned time! He’s also singing, but the little of it we’ve gotten to hear in past albums reveals that this may not be a bad thing. Hopefully this’ll be more solid than his other solo albums, which veer strangely into new-age territory far too often for me.

Speaking of Adrian Belew, he is continuing his releases in the “side” project, this time Side Three, which will be out April 18. I have no idea what to expect except more of the same – weirdness. I believe that Primus bassist Les Claypool and Tool drummer Danny Carey will be back for a couple songs on this one, just like on the first one, so it might be slightly more grounded in something approaching typical songs rather than the insanely fun guitar weird-outs on Side Two. And then he’ll be releasing Side Four sometime this summer – a live album, finally, which makes sense following three “sides” of new material.

I also stumbled across the news that saxophonist John Zorn’s already to release the fourth disc of new Masada material – I didn’t even know the third had come out. For those not in the know, Zorn is extremely proud of his Jewish heritage and has decided to dedicate a huge amount of his music to exposing people to the intricate beauty of Jewish music. It’s not all Fiddler on the Roof, people. Zorn has taken traditional Jewish/middle-eastern voicings and given them a fresh start in jazz where they form the basis for some incredible improvisations. It’s some of the most exhilerating music I’ve ever heard, so much so that I have begun to wonder if maybe I have a little Jewish blood far back in my blood, or maybe if by so much exposure to it I’m actually converting to Judaism. Anyway, Koby Israelite’s Orobas: Book Of Angels Vol. 4 will be out April 4. Haven’t heard him outside of clips on Amazon, but it’s slightly more traditional sounding than much of the other Masada material has been – but great fun to listen to.

And finally I decided to check in at guitarist Mike Keneally’s site just to see what was up, and was surprised to see that he’ll soon be releasing Guitar Therapy Live. It’s available for pre-order right now, and if you do that, you get a limited CD/DVD package (for an extra charge, but it’s signed by the man himself, so that’s pretty cool. I hadn’t heard a word about this anywhere, so I’m glad I stopped by. You should too. Mike’s a good guy and a great musician. He deserves your money, and you deserve his music.

March 8, 2006

Dig for the sky

Filed under: General,Music — Tom @ 10:57 pm

For the first time in something like 141 days, we got actually rain today. On my way home from work, dark clouds crowded the horizon to the north, and as I got closer to Alissa’s parents (from whom I retrieve Amanda,) they opened up with a healthy downpour. I was glad to see my relatively clean truck covered in raindrops, and revelled in the warm, soft velvety smell of fresh rain. Of course, officially, this doesn’t count – no rain hit Sky Harbor Airport, far south in Phoenix, so technically we’re still waiting for rain. The word is that this weekend will finally, officially break the spell. I can’t wait for a rainy weekend – a great excuse to stay indoors and be lazy. Without guilt, that is.

I told Alissa yesterday that I was going to go extra-lean on my CD buying for a while. I’ve run into this ridiculous situation where I’m stuck on a particular band at the moment (Guided By Voices and everything associated with it) and everything else is just going ignored. Not entirely true, however, now that I think about it – for the first time in ages, I’m actually kind of obsessing about certain long-time loves. This indicates to me that my efforts to trim the excess from my CD collection are working. It’s becoming more clear everyday what is and is not essential, but sometimes the revelations are kind of painful.

As I write this, the thought comes into my head about how selfish and just plain dumb this really is. Here I am having deeply conflicting feelings about CDs that I don’t really listen to anymore when there are people who are deeply conflicted over how they’re even going to eat that day. Nowhere out there is a homeless man or woman faced with the realization that in the 13 months they’ve owned an Ipod, they haven’t even bothered to rip any of the Bela Fleck & The Flecktones CDs for it. This is not an issue – and yet I make it one.

And yet I still ran out and bought it, that new Flecktones album, the day it came out a few weeks back . . . and listened to it twice. I don’t hate it, I don’t love it. I’m completely indifferent to it. And that is what disturbs me – that things that have been long-time interests are starting to slip away from me. I still think they’re a cool band, I still would enjoy seeing them in concert. I just don’t know if I need to own much of their stuff anymore. And so it goes with a number of artists throughout my collection.

So what is it that makes it so difficult to part with these CDs? Is it nostalgia? Is it a slightly OCD need to complete a collection for no other logical reasons than that I have it all? Or is it fear that I’m wrong, that suddenly I’ll be swept up in a deep obsession about these bands again at some unknown later date? The latter has been a problem all along – I simply lack a very good understanding of the difference between what I’m not interested in right now and what I’m truly finished with. I have made a great many mistakes along the way, but I seem to be getting much more accurate lately. There is, lately, a more reassuring thud of ignorance when I think about some bands.

My biggest problem is simply that I like too much. There’s lots and lots of music that I like, but like most people, the stuff that I truly love figures in much lower numbers. I have a real hard time distinguishing between the two, I’m sad to say. This is one of those situations in which I start thinking that a castrophic loss of my entire collection wouldn’t be as traumatic as one would assume it would be for a music-lover like me. To start over, from scratch, what would I completely overlook? What would I scramble to buy again? What would I need?

And so I try to approach it with that last thought in mind – what do I really, absolutely, definitely need? It seems simple at first – my brain rattles off a relatively short list of familiar characters: Rush, Guided By Voices and extended family, King Crimson and extended family, Elvis Costello, David Sylvian, XTC, Iron Maiden, James, Bill Frisell, Einsturzende Neubauten, John Zorn and extended family, Mike Keneally . . . it’s at this point that I have to start looking at my CDs to identify things that I would want back, which, to me, signals that maybe this is the fringe of what’s necessary and what is not. But that’s such a drastic cut to make at that point because I know that’s simply being too short-sighted, that there are definitely other “keepers” hidden in there that I listen to all the time. And that’s when it all gets confusing. What figures in as “nearly essential” and what doesn’t? The simple answer, of course, is just to keep everything, but then the outcome of that is also to probably not buy much that’s not by very familiar artists. And that, to me, is the death of what keeps me interested in things. To stop exploring music . . . it seems alien. And yet to keep on keepin’ all of this stuff seems utterly ridiculous in light of how often I actually listen to it.

So it’s really surprisingly difficult, as embarassing as that might be to admit. My safest criteria so far has been “if the Ipod were stolen, and I didn’t have $400 to replace it, what of all of this would I need to have on hand to listen to at any time?” The answer’s not easy, but it seems to slowly become more clear as time wears on – it’s not anywhere near as much as I have. So what is it that makes me keep, say, those Flecktones CDs – is it love, or is it just pride?

March 6, 2006

Freakish Man Collapse

Filed under: General — Tom @ 10:02 am

I don’t think I’m starting off the week on the right foot by waking up at 3:30 and not falling asleep after that.

In sad news, Alissa’s aunt died over the weekend after a shockingly short battle with cancer. When it comes to death, I really don’t have much to say (for once,) and the awkward placement of this among otherwise light-hearted material probably makes obvious my discomfort with the topic. Suffice it to say that it really got me thinking about how many people are affected by the loss of a loved one – family, friends, acquaintences, coworkers – and how shocking and difficult it is to deal with the knowledge that someone who was always around suddenly no longer is.

All I can ask is, if you smoke, seriously consider stopping. You’ve heard it all before, but try and realize that while what you’re doing may only have its most drastic consequence paid unto yourself but those who you leave behind have the rest of their lives to regret your decision.

In lighter news, Amanda has been sitting up by herself for a couple weeks, as noted previously, and now likes to make short tours of the living room. In reverse. She hasn’t gotten the grasp of forward movement, but she’s quickly becoming an expert at circular backwards motion. Typically, she winds up bulldozing a bunch of her toys behind her, as her scooting legs act like a trap for anything in her path. It’s a little sad to watch her as she notices something just out of reach, and while she strains mightily to make her way to it, the only thing her chubby legs will do is move her backwards. She may eventually make her way back around to it, but by then she’s likely been distracted by something else.

I could have sworn I posted about this before, but apparently I didn’t: a few weeks ago, I had a major hard-drive problem. After editing some photos in Photoshop, I saved the final one and everything locked up for a moment. When the computer went back to normal, I opened up one of my three harddrives, the one that contains all of my photos, and was greeted with a very disturbing message from Windows trying to convince me that the drive was “unformatted. Would you like to format now?” NO! And shortly after that I discovered that everything in my folder of digital photos was gone. EVERYTHING. Strangely, through “Open recent” in Photoshop, I could access the very last few images I’d worked on – they were still there, even though the folder that contained them was completely empty. Needless to say, I could find no way to get Windows to re-recognize the contents of that folder and, after messing around with several demonstration versions of file-restoration programs, I wound up having to fork over $70 for a registration number with which the files could be saved somewhere safe.

Fast-forward to last Friday: when I got home from work, I turned on my computer and found error messages about that drive. I figured that was it – it was toast. Windows did some kind of deep check and maintenance on the drive, alerting me to countless damaged sectors. I let Windows do whatever it needed to do for an hour or so and nervously attempted to open the drive . . . only to find that it seemed okay. My first destination was my photo folder and I was shocked to find everything right back where I’d expected to see it! My first action was to copy the entire folder onto another, safer drive, then grab whatever else mattered to me, lest the drive take a full nose-dive shortly there after. I moved all of the photos and most of the live concerts that I’ve downloaded over the past year, plus almost all of the concert DVDs that I’ve ripped audio from – except one. However, I’m not complaining – I have the DVD and will rip it if needed. Having everything else is a tremendous relief.

Finally, I’m really surprised and glad to see how well Jon Stewart handled his first Oscar-awards duties last night. Dude’s funny, but I really didn’t think it was going to go over well with the Hollywood types. The highlights of the evening were seeing Will Ferrel and Steve Carell present the nominations for best makeup – in really bad makeup, a really awful song winning against two other awful songs in the best song category, and the negative campaign ad parodies (the best being the one for best sound editing.) Now if only they could get the content of the actual show to be that much fun to watch. (And a big boo to Murderball losing out for the best documentary award to a bunch of penguins. Not unexpected, unfortunately.)

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