Known Johnson

May 30, 2006

New Building Keneallying Down

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 9:27 pm

Having had the day off today, due to Amanda having her 9-month doctor check-up, and due to it being a whole lot easier to just take the whole day off work than to figure out how to juggle getting to and fro parents/doctor/etc., I had some time to catch up on DVDs I hadn’t gotten to watch yet.

So when Amanda went down for a nap this morning, I grabbed Einsturzende Neubauten’s On Tour With Neubauten.org and quickly found out the title isn’t misleading – they aren’t kidding when they emphasize the website address, because the band hardly factors into this official release. I’m so disappointed in this thing that I really don’t feel like putting much effort into it at this point except to sum it up like the 1-star review on Amazon does: it’s just a bunch of fans talking about the concept of a band letting the fans get involved in the funding of new music. For 90 minutes. In the right hands, this should have been a fascinating glimpse into the amazing amount of life that goes on between people on the internet, but here it just falls completely flat on all counts.

Completely deflated after that, I didn’t feel like turning to the afternoon talk shows or burying my head in a pillow and crying, and that’s when it hit me – after nearly two years, I still haven’t gotten around to watching the DVD that accompanies the special edition of Mike Keneally‘s half killer-rockin’/half-weird-experimental album, Dog. I quickly ran and grabbed that and sat, thrilled, as two small concert sets entertained me and then a surprisingly fascinating “making of” piece on one song, and then a segment of various studio tidbits that I guess didn’t fit anywhere else. All the while I kept thinking how there had to have been similar markets – two very small, niche pockets of fans, yet one group really made out like bandits and the others got a rather crappy souvenir that isn’t worth thinking about again. I think what it comes down to is really come at the projects from the perspective of having been a fan, but now being a professional – and wanting pros to put them together for the fans. That’s where Neubauten has stumbled each time. I’m a huge fan of the band and I fully support them – I’m involved in their “support” campaign for a third time for a reason: because the end results have been spectacular – but they haven’t pulled these things off very smoothly, and I think that’s because they’ve put a lot of this stuff in the hands of other fans. That’s fine if the fans happen to be extremely adept at particular tasks that are in need, but that, so far, has not been the case.

Case in point: “phase 2” of Einsturzende Neubauten’s fan-supported initiative was offered as either a CD, a DVD, or a CD and DVD, but the way it was worded from the beginning was confusing so some people wrongly assumed that you could add the DVD at a later time when you could afford it (me included.) This was righted and those who wanted the DVD ordered it. When it came time for the project to be shipped, it turned out that most of the people who ordered the DVD had somehow now only ordered the DVD and would not be getting the CD – a CD of completely separate, brand new music! It was a complete mess – but it did eventually get sorted out.

Mike Keneally has made an effort at each turn in his career to keep stepping it up, even if it’s just a little bit at a time – and yet he’s managed to keep his fans close. It’s really amazing, in fact. For a while I feared that Keneally was on the verge of mega-success and therefore losing that “homey” feel that I like so much about him – the man is absolute genius on guitar, but there’s something about him that makes you feel at ease. I just had a feeling that he was on the cusp of something really big a couple years back, and perhaps he was – and he simply chose not to go that route.

And to think it was 11 years ago that I picked up Boil that Dust Speck on a whim because I’d read a review in a guitar magazine that mentioned a goofy send-up of damn-near every significant riff associated with Yes. It’s hard to believe, in some ways, that this is the same musician.

By the way, that special edition of Dog? It’s still available!

May 27, 2006

Events transpiring Wednesday evening, with a preface set today

Filed under: General — Tom @ 12:26 pm

One week in on my (the drug I take for my migraines which begins in “Top” and ends in “amax,” written this way because of damn bots spamming my comments) and one side-effect has definitely kicked in: I’ve lost 4 pounds doing absolutely nothing. Very weird. I know it affects your appetite and all, but I really haven’t changed how I eat all that much. I do feel a lot less hungry, so maybe I’m just snacking a lot less. What I have definitely changed is what I drink: soda is out for the most part, replaced by water, lots and lots of water. The reason is two-fold. One, this stuff dehydrates you, so I need to make sure to keep a lot more water in me than usual. Second, and really weird, it makes soda taste flat and sometimes even acidic. It was almost immediate – I popped open a can of my usual morning Diet Coke last Saturday, just over 12 hours after taking the first dose, and it already tasted odd. At different times throughout the week, the few times I’ve had soda, it has tasted flat and sometimes very sharp, but never did it taste normal. I guess if I have to give up something . . . let it be soda. And weight.

Let me tell you about Wednesday night. I’ve been meaning to get around to this for two days now. Wednesday night, in a simple phrase, blew chunks. We had planned on Alissa bringing pizza home and getting settled in to watch the big Lost finale at 8, but I got a call at 6:30 and she was stuck at Costco after she got gas with a dead battery! I had known this day would come – her battery had been acting weird, causing her car to start sluggishly, but you don’t just up and replace a battery until it dies. So we waited. And waited. And waited – and somehow that battery got almost an entire extra year from the time I figured it was going to die (late last summer, right around the time Amanda was due to arrive in the world, in fact.) I just didn’t figure this day would come today.

They sell batteries at Costco but strangely don’t install them, so I had to go do it. It’s not a hard job – two bolts on a bracket hold it in, then the one bolt on each battery terminal, remove the battery, and do the reverse. A five minute job – absolutely not worth paying someone to do. At that very moment, however, I was in the middle of feeding Amanda, so Alissa had to find someone to help get her moving at least to get her out of the pump area. Well, since she was stuck at the pump and no one around her had jumper cables, a couple people attempted to help push her car, but the transmission locks in some situations and she had to call me to figure out how to unlock it (which, obviously, slowed me down leaving.) She got it moved, but in doing so they pushed it into a pole and now she has big scrapes on her front bumper. A minor thing, but just one more thing on top of the battery. She lucked out when some guy helped jump her so she could actually move and have AC, so I had her drive around the side near where the entrance was so I could get in and out easily with the battery.

Finally I got there, got the battery, and got in line behind a lady with a cart full of crap. I’m standing there with this 50lb. battery in my arms thinking “she’s going to let me go, right?” and she turns around, looks at me and sees the battery, seems to acknowledge the burden, and just when I think she’s going to offer to let me jump in front of her, she goes right back to loading the conveyor belt with her shit – a collection of practically every item the store sells, it seemed. Really, what would it have taken out of her day to let the guy with the ONE item, the ONE VERY HEAVY item go ahead of her?

I eventually got through the line, then got the battery in about 7:30, got the pizza, and got home at 7:58. We already had Lost set to record because I knew not to trust something like that to chance, and it was good I set it because Amanda was still up and needed to eat and go to bed after we ate, so we didn’t even get to start watching until after 8:30. While eating pizza I made the mistake of drinking Diet Coke, which I hadn’t had any of since noon the day before. Going a day without soda is very unusual for me. I shouldn’t have been surprised at my body’s reaction to caffeine when I had it after a day without: I couldn’t fall asleep! That is my luck.

May 23, 2006

Yeah?

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 4:03 pm

Def Leppard were my first musical love. They were the first band I fell really hard for. I bought everything I could find – singles, stickers, shirts, patches, you name it. They were my first “by choice” concert – meaning they were the first concert that I wanted to go to. I followed them through the mid-90s and then just lost touch with them as my tastes changed and I grew. Their CDs drifted out of my collection piece by piece as I stopped listening, replaced by other things I regarded as more important. Until recently, that is – maybe it’s the introduction of the little bundle of joy that is Amanda, but I’ve recently just wanted to get back to fun music. And, really, what Def Leppard did in the 80s with Pyromania and Hysteria is nothing short of astounding – these two albums are absolute rock classics that deserve to be held in high regard More than that, I can see no reason why there is any shame in loving Def Leppard’s take on the same 70s glam rock that everyone considers iconic today – yet there certainly is a stigma attached to that name. We all know what happened to rock in the 90s, how grunge came along and pretty much wiped clean any traces of anything that happened to contain (gasp!) a guitar solo. Much of it deserved to be swept away and forgotten, but unfortunately some bands fell victim undeservingly.

I read sometime last year that Def Leppard was working on an all-covers album. You know the cliché – covers albums are an artist’s last gasp. It seemed a really sad step for them – I gave them another shot when 1999’s Euphoria came out, which was being touted as a return to the Pyromania days, but it felt hollow to me. I didn’t even hear, let alone buy the follow up to that, X, but gathered that it left most fans unhappy. After that, a covers album? Of a bunch of bands that Def Leppard already sounded a lot like to begin with? And it’s called Yeah!? And the cover looks like this?

Yeah!

This must clearly be a band on verge of calling it quits, right? Until two days ago, I’d say yes. But I got to hear the album thanks to VH-1’s handy little album-preview. I was prepared for something really embarassing – a bunch of tired sounding covers, surely. Wow, was I blown away when this thing started playing. I found myself unable to stop listening, in fact, and when the album was done, I was in shock – Yeah! is the best thing they’ve done in years, but that sounds like a back-handed compliment and it’s not meant to be. The energy of the band here is right back in the 80s, ranking right up there with Pyromania and Hysteria. It is that good. Def Leppard did the almost impossible – they were able to do an entire album of covers that not only works as a tribute to their favorite artists but also remains true to their own sound.

However, I do have to report some major annoyances with this release that, luckily, have nothing to do with the actual music, but how it is being packaged and distributed. The standard version of this album is 14 songs:

1 – 20th Century Boy (T. Rex)
2 – Rock On (David Essex)
3 – Hanging On The Telephone (Blondie)
4 – Waterloo Sunset (The Kinks)
5 – Hell Raiser (Sweet)
6 – 10538 Overture (ELO)
7 – Street Life (Roxy Music)
8 – Drive-In Saturday (David Bowie)
9 – Little Bit Of Love (Free)
10 – The Golden Age of Rock ‘n’ Roll (Mott the Hoople)
11 – No Matter What (Badfinger)
12 – He’s Gonna Step On You Again (John Kongos)
13 – Don’t Believe a Word (Thin Lizzy)
14 – Stay With Me (Faces)

If you live near a Walmart, you can also pick up a bonus CD for $5.88 that includes 5 more songs and three interviews:

1 – American Girl (Tom Petty)
2 – Backstage Interview #1.
3 – Search & Destroy (Iggy & The Stooges)
4 – Backstage Interview #2.
5 – Space Oddity (David Bowie)
6 – Backstage Interview #3.
7 – Dear Friends (Queen)
8 – Heartbeat (Jobriath)

The interesting thing on this disc is that this isn’t technically the band – each song is by a subset of the band or is solo (“Search & Destroy” is guitarist Phil Collen singing and playing everything, “Space Oddity” is Joe Elliot doing the same, and “Dear Friends” has bassist Rick Savage handling everything) and two tracks find the members supplemented by non-members (“American Girl” and “Heartbeat.”) Somehow it still manages to sound like Def Leppard.

But we’re not done with bonuses. Best Buy has to get in on the fun, too. Their version adds two tracks to the original 14 track lineup:

15 – No Matter What (Live 2005) (Badfinger)
16 – Winter Song (Lindisfarne)

Believe it or not, there are still more bonus tracks. Even Target has to get in on this action:

15 – Action (Live 2005) (Sweet)
16 – When I’m Dead And Gone (McGuinness Flint)

If you’re adding that up, that’s nine additional songs available for you to choose from. If you really want them all, you’re in luck, this week at least – everyone has this on sale. Best Buy and Target both have it for $9.99, and you can price-match it at Best Buy to Circuit City’s $7.99 if you still have this weekend’s ad. For about $24 total, you effectively double the album’s length. This is one of the few times when I think it might actually be worth investing the time and money into getting all these versions.

May 22, 2006

You can take my yellow skies away

Filed under: General,Migraine — Tom @ 2:18 pm

Tom Cruise would hate me. He’d probably say I’m glib. I will never be a Scientologist now – I’m three days, three doses into who-knows-how-long/a-lifetime on migraine preventive drug (the drug I take for my migraines which begins in “Top” and ends in “amax,” written this way because of damn bots spamming my comments). It’s been interesting so far.

The first day I woke up, interestingly enough, with a bit of a migraine buzzing about in my brain, but it was severely diminished (this may have been a reaction my brain had to dealing with the new drugs being added to it.) What was really phenomenal, however, was that I woke up, despite the mild migraine, feeling good. Good as in the way I’d feel the day after a recovering from a migraine, when I’d feel an amazing sunny disposition that I so rarely have. And when I went out that day, I noticed something shocking – the sky was bright blue, everything in the distance was crisp and clear. It was beautiful. This is notable because, as I’ve told Alissa many times before, when I look out at the sky, it feels “yellow” to me. You just have to accept that explanation as it is – I simply cannot make that make any more sense than it does there. It feels yellow, and that’s an unpleasant thing, and that is all. Well, it wasn’t yellow that day and hasn’t been since then.

As for the forgetfulness that the drug causes, I’d say it’s more absentmindedness at this point. Maybe a bit of confusion. At one point Saturday we were driving and an old firetruck was behind me, painted in a speckled white-and-black color scheme. I told Alissa to turn around and look at the firetruck because it was “painted like a doberman.” Dalmation. Ahem.

More examples are along the same line – making dinner last night, I went to the fridge to get out some cheese and the ground beef that I’d bought at the store that morning. But where was the beef? I looked all over the fridge, in every drawer, on every shelf, even the freezer – several times. No beef. I closed the door, utterly confused, then saw the package of beef sitting on the counter. First thought? Oh my God, I’ve left that beef sitting on the counter for 8 hours! Wrong. I really had gotten it out of the fridge about five minutes before this chain of events.

And on the way back to work from a dentist appointment this morning, I saw the same exit sign that I always see on the freeway that I drive every weekday, but today I had to really look at it to determine if that really was my exit. I still wasn’t sure it was right until the building I always pass came up.

They’re minor things so far and, reportedly, this goes away after a while. I can see, however, how this could be a really trying couple of weeks while I get up to the dose I need to be at. Humorous in hindsight, maybe. Or maybe just glib.

May 19, 2006

Some possible responses to “It’s a _____ thing, you wouldn’t understand.”

Filed under: General — Tom @ 8:27 am
  • “I might.”
  • “Is it a moron thing too?”
  • “Try me.”
  • “Oh, I do. I just don’t care.”

May 18, 2006

Girlful of cars

Filed under: General — Tom @ 10:34 pm

I was struck humble this morning as I sat in the neurologist’s waiting room. I realized that most of the people in there were probably in there for something a lot more serious and possibly deadly than my measly little migraines. Coming at things from a different angle, I saw that my migraines may be a serious impediment at times to me, but they don’t afflict me in ways that I’m sure some of those people were afflicted with their own brain disorders. I may suffer and want to die occasionally, but they won’t ever actually do me in.

The doctor was great – very thorough, very attentive, just what . . . uh, the doctor ordered. I figured the appointment would really be mostly talking about my symptoms, since he can’t obviously fondle my brain to check for problems, but there was actually some real poking and prodding. You can imagine my surprise when he took a safety pin from a jar, opened it, and said, “Now I’m going to poke you in a few spots. Tell me if you feel the sharpness.” I did – every one of ’em.

I left with a couple of prescriptions – one to take every day to prevent migraines from flairing up and one to take if one does anyway. The fun thing about the every day one is that for the first couple of weeks it could have “cognitive effects” – as he put it, I may have a hard time remembering words and completing sentences, or just may feel a bit slow until my body gets used to the meds. This could be interesting – I am not a good speaker at all, which is why I prefer the written word as my form of communication. In person, I stammer over things – when I first saw George W. Bush speak, I saw myself on stage bumbling through every speech I had to give in classes and most conversations where I feel like I need to be on top of things. It’s all there in my head, I just have a hard time getting it to flow out through my mouth in an intelligent way. So it’s quite often that a conversation will go something like this:

“I replaced the . . . um . . . I replaced the . . . ”
“The what?”
“You know, the . . . thing,” at which point I’ll probably gesture in some fashion that makes sense to me in order to portray the item in question. “Thing! You know, the . . . thing.”
“No, I don’t. What thing, where?”
“In the fridge. The . . . cylinder. Tube. Washing, cleaning thing.” There’s probably some more gesturing at this point that means everything to me and nothing to anyone else. “Water?”
“The filter?”
“Yes, that thing. The filter. I replaced it.”
“Oh. Okay, hon.”

Don’t misunderestimate it – it’s probably more annoying to me than it is to those around me, which is probably pretty irritating. I do try to embetter myself about it, but the fact remains that I’m just not very good at talking.

I can only imagine how things are going to go when I’m on something that makes that even worse. It should be a fun couple of weeks. I decided to save myself the frustration of dealing with my first day on this at work by starting it tomorrow night.

I don’t think dyslexia is a part of migraines, is it? Because on the way home from work tonight I saw, you guessed it, a “girlful of cars.”

May 17, 2006

Life on Mars?

Filed under: TV — Tom @ 8:45 am

(Forgive me – for two days this went without a title, but now that I think about it, had I titled this when I wrote it, I would not have had the great Bowie song pop into my head, so therefore this is a good thing.)

I was thrilled this morning to find news that the best drama on TV has been renewed – Veronica Mars, a UPN show, will be making the move to the new CW network this fall. You all know I love Lost, but the most satisfying hour of dramatic TV is found in Mars. Of course, it’s one of those shows that is struggling, so I’m asking – begging – for you to check the show’s first season out on DVD and then grab season 2 when it comes out later this summer (or watch it in repeats.) I couldn’t save Arrested Development, but I won’t let that stop me from helping save another great show.

I can’t even begin to go into the show’s storyline – there are many and they all weave together in a pretty spectacular way – but I’ll use Amazon’s synopsis instead:

Veronica Mars had the perfect life at 17, a boyfriend, popularity, and a great family. But it all came crashing down when her best friend, Lilly Kane, was murdered and her dad, the sheriff, accused Lilly’s father of the crime. His accusation cost her dad his job and wife and soon Veronica became an outcast. Now with her dad working as a private investigator, Veronica tries to uncover Neptune’s darkest secrets and who murdered Lilly Kane.

Why is this the best thing on TV? Because it’s written with no fear – unlike Lost, VM’s writers aren’t afraid of giving away some vital clues each week, all the while either deepening the mystery or adding new ones to the list. It’s almost as if the writers see it as a challenge – by revealing some details, they have to add new things to keep up the suspense. In addition, the show is peppered with great lines and witty comebacks – fitting for a PI show, of course – but it’s rooted in pop-culture that rivals only Gilmore Girls. Each week has been rich and fulfilling on every level – I have yet, in two years, to be disappointed with an episode.

Despite how it may sound, being based around a teenage girl, it is not a teen drama, which is made obvious by the fact that teens just aren’t watching it. But adults are – just not enough, yet. And that’s where you come in: watch this show. Just watch it one time. If you like what you see, you can count on the rest to deliver, and if you don’t, you know there’s nothing else there for you. But I’m betting most people who like what I like – what I talk about on this site – will love this show.

May 16, 2006

Weeper waits for a thrill

Filed under: General — Tom @ 11:10 pm

Mother’s day weekend has come and gone all too quicky – it was a very busy weekend. I would be remiss in not saying a big public “thank you” to Alissa for being such a dedicated mother to Amanda. I’m always amazed – I spend a couple hours alone with Amanda every weekday and while I love being with her every minute of it, it is a very demanding role to fill. Amanda wants, needs, and, of course, deserves every bit of attention we can give her, but Alissa always seems to have a much deeper well of energy than I do.

For those wondering, Amanda insisted that Alissa wanted the game Brain Age, so she also got a Nintendo DS on which to play it. Alissa had seen the commercial for the game numerous times and had said, each time, “I would totally play that.” Lucky for her, Amanda was listening, and I simply did her bidding when it came time for a gift on behalf of her. But don’t worry – I got Alissa a mother-and-child necklace, too.

In Amanda-news, she’s now standing on her own occasionally. I haven’t figured out what combination of events it is that allows her to do it, but she can actually stand straight up on her own without any support. Sometimes. I think she really can do it but doesn’t realize it, so she continues crawling over to something supportive and pulling herself up, but from there she will often remove both hands from whatever she’s holding. Given the right amount of applause and excited vocal encouragement, she will continue to do this over and over, each time throwing her arms in the air in a triumphant manner, squealing and smiling in delight. As often as she wishes to do this, we’re just as happy to watch her.

Tied in with this is a hilarious new habit she’s formed – when music is playing, and if it has a strong beat, she will dance in time with it. It appears to be almost involuntary – the music starts and her lower body will slowly start bobbing around in time with the music, but her upper body seems to be completely indifferent to the goings-on below. We’ve spent some time flipping around local radio stations and the digital cable’s music-only channels trying to see what it is that sets her off, but whatever it is has been a little elusive. Unfortunately for Amanda, neither Alissa’s nor my CD collection has much to offer in the way of danceable music, so for her entertainment we’ll probably be slaves to the ways of pre-programmed radio.

For those who had wanted to keep tabs of my progress on the RC truck I got a couple months ago, here’s the update: it’s done! I’ve taken pictures of the build process, but have yet to actually sit down and do anything with them. It took a surprisingly long time – I know there may have been a couple hundred nuts, bolts, and other assorted fasteners and parts in general, but I’ve built these before at least 3 times in my life, plus broken them down and rebuilt them countless times. This one, however, was a level of complexity several steps up from those previous ones – and that’s what makes it so fun. After a few runs, I’m already planning on tearing down the transmission to see what the hell is making such an annoying, loud clicking sound. It’s good to be a kid, even at 33.

I broke down this morning and ordered a new CD/DVD writer for my computer (from the always excellent Newegg.) Hopefully it’ll ship tomorrow and I’ll have it in time for the weekend. I have a growing slew of discs needing ripping and I have, unfortunately, been witness to the unreliability of the 6+ year old DVD-reader that I’ve tried using the past week or so. Because I can’t just run out and buy a new drive – because I can’t do anything without researching the topic thoroughly – I’m stuck waiting for one to come to me. Until then, I’ve been carrying around a stack of discs that haven’t been ripped yet – many of which are recent purchases due to my ongoing Big (slow) Purge.

Big “holy crap” news for me, and how I missed this until now, I have no idea: my favorite guitarist, Bill Frisell, is coming here, Phoenix, for one show and one show only on June 13. Finally! I found this out while dumping a small load of trade at Zia’s trade counter the other day where I saw the flier. So distracted by it was I that I could barely talk – in something like 13 or 14 years of worshipping his amazing playing, I have never seen him listed as playing locally. As June 13 is a Tuesday, I’m not quite sure how to work this – his music isn’t exactly Alissa’s forte’ to begin with, but she has not only Amanda but sleep to consider, so I doubt either will be going. As I’m the only Frisell fan I know of, I’m left in a bit of a pickle – go alone? I have to say that I’m more than slightly uncomfortable going to a concert by myself, but it ranks considerably lower than going to a movie by myself. As anti-social as I may be, even that seems weird to me. But for Bill . . .

You’d think with the relative dearth of posting I’ve done lately that when I did sit down to do it, I’d have an enormous amount of stuff to discuss. Oddly, it’s the opposite – too many little things have happened for me to really do them service as it would require way too much backstory to make it mean anything to anyone. This is why I always set out to post something every day or two . . . and then I forget.

May 10, 2006

Gilmore Girls season finale

Filed under: TV — Tom @ 4:13 pm

It had been lacking for much of the season, but the usual fun and chemistry we’ve enjoyed for years helped open the episode after a glum scene of Lorelai laying on the couch at Sookie’s house, seemingly oblivious to everything around here and absorbed in the drama of her rocky relationship with Luke.

A Friday-night dinner with the elder Gilmores, during which Lorelai’s mother Emily attempts to set up Lorelai’s ex and the father of Rory, Christopher, with the daughter of a family friend, a psychologist, allowed for a healthy dose of the usual Gilmore humor. Rory, who was supposed to be in attendance, instead opted to throw a party for her boyfriend, Logan, who was soon to be off to England to help with his rich father’s newspaper business. This left Lorelai to distract the awkward set-up with her usual cache of ridiculous questions in an attempt to save Christopher from further humiliation.

Emily Gilmore’s attempt to set up Christopher fails miserably, but it provides an opportunity for Lorelai to spill her guts to a qualified professional. And she does so from the backseat of her car, filling her in on the ups and downs of her life with the Gilmores, her brief relationship in her teens with Christopher which resulted in Rory, and the bumpy relationship with Luke, whom she says to her is the only man she ever really loved and that they really belonged together. Luke, who has spent much of the season getting close to a 13 year old daughter he never knew he had until late last year, has put on hold their June wedding and, in doing so, unwittingly put their relationship on hold. The psychologist tells Lorelai that she needs to speak her mind and get what she wants.

And she does – she runs to Luke’s diner and demands that he elope with her that evening, right then and there. Luke, understandably, is confused and thrown off guard by her frantic ultimatum and reacts like most rational people would – he asks that she just calm down and wait. Instead, Lorelai walks away, and when we see her next she’s knocking on Christopher’s door, who takes her in.

We cut to the morning and see Lorelai in bed, under sheets but obviously naked, and Christopher enters the room in a robe. There’s a glimmer of hope that what we’re thinking happened didn’t really happen, but that is dashed when Christopher removes his robe, crawls into bed, and snakes an arm around Lorelai. Staring off screen, she glares with the knowing, weary stare of someone who did something very bad and very stupid.

I have to wonder if departing show creators and writers Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband had to feel the same way, because with that one move they virtually destroyed any hope for this show functioning next season the way it has in the past – and may have driven off a large number of the show’s fans, many of whom flocked to the internet to discuss and generally diss the season finale.

Oddly, much of the episode’s non-Gilmore related story pertained to the events following town troubadour Grant Lee Phillips‘ “discovery” on the streets of Stars Hollow, and he is whisked away to open up for Neil Young. An onslaught of troubadors descend on the town also hoping to hit it big. Town mayor Taylor Doose has his hands full trying to dissuade the singers off his streets, but as the episode moves on, we see the town square filling up with them, whose numbers are populated by a who’s-who of indie fame from Joe Pernice to Sonic Youth to Yo La Tengo. It was especially thoughtful to give Sam Phillips (who sings all the “la la la” songs sprinkled throughout the show) a special spotlight at the end. It was a nice gesture by the departing Palladino creative team – both to Phillips and fans who expect semi-obscure musical references right and left throughout each episode – but it didn’t really fit in with the episode.

The whole episode seems like it was purposely written by Amy Sherman-Palladino to showcase everything she and her husband had to offer to the show and the network, who are both leaving the show having not convinced the WB to hand over large sums of money and guarantee two more seasons. Insufficiently financially compensated, the Palladinos seem to have set forth determined to put the show on an irreversible path, tacking on a horribly bad ending as if to say “you had all this humor and fun as well as intelligent drama, and now we’re going to leave you with this ‘nearly impossible to make positive next season’ ending! Good luck!”

I found it tremendously insulting – after a season of characters not acting anything like they normally would, they pull the ultimate out-of-character stunt and have Lorelai do exactly what she had scolded Rory for two seasons ago when she up and slept with (and lost her virginity to) then-married ex-boyfriend Dean? After all that emoting to the psychologist about how Luke was the only man she’d ever loved, that she’d never loved Christopher, she runs off and sleeps with him and throws away that relationship she so cherished with Luke? None of this makes any sense – but very little of what the main characters did this season made much sense, either.

Even knowing it was coming, from reading spoilers on the internet, I still found myself amazed at how minimally developed the issue of Lorelai sleeping with Christopher was because nothing in the rest of the show, or even the entire series, would lead you to believe she was capable of doing something that incredibly stupid. They failed to even provide sufficient impetus in this episode alone for her to make a dramatic character shift such as this. Lorelai, always given to impulsive moments, had never done anything quite this wretched, and we weren’t given a suitable build up to make it seem possible.

It’s bad writing to have a main character do something as momentous as cheating without actually showing it happen – it’s a cheap ploy by writers who don’t care to develop a situation and just want the quick shock. While it struck many fans as disingenuous two seasons ago, at least we actually saw Rory give in to Dean’s gross advances. Even though the whole thing was contrived to begin with, it at least had some development. We should have been given scenes with Christopher that made them getting together make sense. But we didn’t. We didn’t get any development that would make this make sense because, given any amount of thought, the twist in the story just would never happen. What we got was a cheap soap opera trick – and that was how we ended the season, on that dreary note.

You can look at it two ways – perhaps it was just time for the Palladinos to move on. They seem to have simply run dry of ideas for the show that didn’t sink into melodrama. Not having the freedom to end the show this season, and I’m guessing not feeling comfortable ending it next season with the events on the show working out as they have lately, they asked for a two season guarantee and a bundle of money to get their creative juices flowing again. They didn’t get it, and so they seem to have sunk the show as a final rude gesture.

But if they were going to stick around with their drought of ideas, then perhaps it’s better they left and handed the reigns to someone else. David Rosenthal is that someone else, and he’s got a huge task on his hands next season figuring out how to right the wrongs that were committed in the finale. The Palladinos may or may not have intentionally dug this show into a hole to spite the WB, but here’s hoping that next season Rosenthal can, as the old saying goes, get the best revenge by doing well.

May 4, 2006

he sang his didn’t he danced his did

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 11:53 pm

Thank E. E. Cummings for that subject title (and yes, his name is capitalized and punctuated correctly – all those teachers that insisted on the lack of punctation and capitalization were WRONG! Ha!) And it was found not because I’m a poetry fiend but because it is the title of an EP I have seen at Zia Records for a long time – so long I don’t even remember when I first saw it sitting there, used, alone, sad, beckoning a buyer to pick it up and take it home. Well, today I did just that without any idea what the music sounded liked. The artist, you ask? “Tim Kinsellas” – in quotes because his real name is Tim Kinsella. No ‘s.’ No idea why it’s printed that way, but whatever.

Anyway, I have nothing to report on that because I didn’t really get to listen to it – I was too enamored of the Mark Knopfler CD I picked up, Sailing to Philadelphia, to get into it. The Knopfler disc was bought in response to picking up his album with Emmylou Harris, All The Roadrunning, which came out last week. It seems an odd pairing of vocals – his gruff and haggard, hers angelic and light – but it works. It works so well that I excitedly emailed Alissa to say that I had just bought what might be the best album of the year. It’s that good. Roadrunning isn’t all that different than anything either of the two have been doing on their own lately, but maybe amps up the Americana twang on a few numbers for a more countrified feel.

Anyway, Philadelphia is equally inviting and warm and it occurs to me that my favorite albums are quickly emerging from this genre – Bill Frisell’s Good Dog, Happy Man, Emmylou Harris’ Wrecking Ball, Willie Nelson’s Teatro, Bruce Cockburn’s last few (but I guess he must be playing Canadiana,) to name a few. These all share the same trait that, from the moment the cued up them in my CD player, they were instant favorites. There aren’t as many CDs in my collection as I would like that I could claim would be the CDs I wouldn’t want to live without, but these are among that elite group.

I am a good music fan. I downloaded the new Pearl Jam, which came out this week, weeks ago. Okay, so that makes me a bad music fan, but let me justify myself. I had gotten burned, like many others, on their final album for label Epic, Riot Act. It was just a dreary, boring, nothing of an album and I wasn’t going to just jump for Pearl Jam again. So I did “the bad thing” and downloaded a copy when I ran across it (won’t say where, how, or who, so don’t ask.) I listened to the first three songs and immediately knew this was a keeper. I paused my Ipod and moved on to something else – I didn’t want to spoil all of the fun of hearing a new album for the first time. And I’m glad I did – I ran out and grabbed this on Tuesday (along with the new Tool, obviously) and was thrilled to find the whole album as good as the three songs I’d already “previewed.” Is it Ten or Vs.? No – and thank God. Those are great and classic and fine, but they’re also the past and don’t need to be revisited. Pearl Jam settled into a new sound between Vitalogy and No Code and that is the “real” Pearl Jam sound – unfortunately for those who can’t keep their minds open to change, they missed out and abandoned them long ago. What Pearl Jam has become are heirs to the throne that Neil Young once occupied – angry, but thoughtful, if a bit clumsy in the execution. They make up for it with the energy they put into their music. And this self-titled album sounds like a band rejuvenated and hungry to prove something – what, I don’t know, and it doesn’t really matter, and even if it did, Eddie Vedder would just mumble his way through it anyway. Mumbling or not, I want to hear bands that are hungry. And this is it.

Now the question I have to ask is, what is the deal with the avacado on the cover? Not just why is it there, but why is it such a shoddy picture – it’s blurry! But even weirder is that inside the package is filled with really cool artwork – sculptures of faces that become puzzles and other odd anatomical-looking things. Maybe it’s just an example of Pearl Jam’s awkward sense of humor – they’re like that kid you knew that always wanted to be the jokester, but just didn’t have the comedic chops to crack jokes, and when he did, he humiliated himself by reading out of one of those ridiculously unfunny books of dirty jokes.

In addition to the Knopfler and Kinsellas discs, I had enough trade to pick up something I’ve been wanting for a while now – the latest and apparently greatest remaster of Queen’s classic, A Night at the Opera, this version a CD packaged with a DVD of surround-sound versions of the album songs, which are also accompanied by newly compiled video footage for most of the songs. I had held off buying this because I don’t really care about the DVD component – I don’t have surround and don’t anticipate having the capability any time soon – and I’d read that a single CD version would be released soon. Well, that apparently didn’t happen in the US, so I waited and waited for a used copy to show up in the racks, and today one did. One listen and I regret having waited so long – the remastering is astounding. What makes it stand out is not how bright and loud and modern it sounds but how natural it sounds. This, I would think, is as close to the vinyl experience one could get with CDs. It’s warm and lush, making the sound of today’s albums sound so pale in comparison. It’s actually refreshing to hear something with such dynamic range. Most music today has all of the levels nearly maxed out to make for a really bright, big, bold presentation, but that saps the music of any subtlety and makes for a tiring listening experience.

But what gets me most of all is how weirdly all-over-the-place Queen’s music really is. Sure, there’s the firepower of Brian May’s guitar, but it’s cloaked in, essentially, a number of period pieces that Queen excelled at making seem perfectly normal in rock. And that’s what I didn’t get about Queen for so long – that what I’d taken as silly humor was really a very intelligent and cheeky way of making some serious music. Once I clued myself in, Queen’s brilliance really shone through. Nowhere else in their catalog is this as perfectly framed than here. Opera is a classic for a reason (but I’ll always pull for Sheer Heart Attack as my favorite) – it had one of the biggest hits of all time (I don’t have to say it, do I? “Bohemian Rhapsody,” of course,) but the album overall is a great experience of humor and power. They sure don’t make them like this anymore.

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