Known Johnson

September 28, 2006

Baby Plays Around – Elvis Costello and Bill Frisell

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 11:48 pm

I have been absolutely haunted by this amazing song this week. In between bouts of Slayer, Mastodon, and Gojira (because it has been that kind of week and I needed to pull out the big guns) for some reason, I have found this beautiful piece of work wafting through my head. My favorite guitarist, Bill Frisell, and my favorite lyricist, Elvis Costello, taking on a song from Costello’s Spike album, giving it a bit of a torch-song spin. It is utterly stunningly beautiful. If you like what you hear, it is worth seeking out this unfortunately far too short EP, Deep Dead Blue, for more glistening beauty like this. Despite its 26 minute run-time and $20 price tag, you will get your money’s worth.

Elvis Costello and Bill Frisell – Baby Plays Around (Live, June 25, 1995 at Meltdown Festival – 4mb) (Grab it while you can – it won’t be here forever!)

Only the best in dancing midgets

Filed under: General — Tom @ 2:33 pm

I could watch this over and over. And I have, in fact.

Music for matzos

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 10:01 am

Stop! Before those of you who hate the music posts move on, watch the Colbert piece below because it’s hilarious.

Stephen Colbert on John Zorn:

I was looking up my favorite guitarist Bill Frisell on YouTube and couldn’t find much, unfortunately, but due to his association with John Zorn I found a bunch of Zorn-related stuff, including the above video. Now before those of you who aren’t familiar with John Zorn start to think I’m completely crazy, because I do like and endorse quite a bit of Zorn-related material, take a look at what else Zorn does and I think you’ll see why I love some of Zorn’s stuff:

John Zorn’s Masada, Live at Tonic, 1999: “Beeroth”

This, by the way, is from a great DVD put out by Zorn’s Tzadik label of a Masada show, should you find yourself equally amazed by the band – on trumpet is the always amazing Dave Douglas, on drums is one of my favorites, Joey Baron, and on bass is the fleet-fingered Greg Cohen. A truly astounding powerhouse of a band – possibly my favorite jazz group of all time. Yeah, it’s jazz music that uses traditional Jewish music as its basis instead of pop standards or free jazz abstraction. Eat a matzo while listening and enjoy.

September 27, 2006

Winning the war

Filed under: General — Tom @ 1:36 pm

One week later, the Battle Of The SnotTM seems to be mostly over. Amanda weathered her first cold amazingly well – never underestimate the power of play. It’s pretty funny, actually. When I get sick, it feels like the world is ending, and I just want to crawl onto the couch and curl up in a ball and watch TV all day, feeling like I’m on the verge of death for days. Amanda? She barely acknowledged that she was sick, save for the wheezing, snorting, and sneezing (which was followed by us chasing her around trying to clean globs of The SnotTM before she managed to smear it onto her and then, of course, onto everything around her. She even went to the Little Gym on Saturday (she was no longer contagious by this point – just occasionally drippy) and had as good a time as any of the other times. It’s truly a testament to how whiny we get as we grow older. As I remarked to Alissa, perhaps it’s just that being sick to her is a novelty, and to us it’s become a routine annoyance – we know it’s going to happen again and again, and we know how long it takes to get over it, so why not relax and be pampered? But for Amanda, who gets pampered plenty, what is there to complain about? Except for that bulb syringe . . .

Who2

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 11:12 am

. . . Because that’s what Roger Daltrey keeps calling it. Pete and Roger are back together for a new album and I can’t be more excited – not because they’re back together (because they’ve been touring together as The Who for quite a few years now) but because I’ve heard a number of songs here and there from Endless Wire and they’re all surprisingly excellent. (I’ve heard “It’s Not Enough,” “Tea & Theatre,” and the Wire & Glass EP, which is just snippets from the album proper, and now the following . . . )

The pair showed up on David Letterman last week to play an acoustic version of “A Man in a Purple Dress,” Pete’s scathing attack on organized religion written after watching The Passion Of The Christ, a performance which I completely missed because I didn’t even know they were going to be on, but I found it on YouTube and share it here so hopefully you too can enjoy it now:

There’s a whole bunch of information in the official album press release on Pete’s site to whet your appetite. Just don’t get turned off by the cover:

Endless Wire

What is this, 1983, and we’re at a motivational speaking gig? Awful.

My youthful beauty

Filed under: General — Tom @ 10:29 am

Some of you may tell me I’m throwing away a dollar, but when the Powerball hits hundreds of millions of dollars, I’m going to go ahead and take that $1 chance. And so I did on Saturday when it was at something like $200 some odd million, but it wasn’t the excitement of possible future riches that amazed me. No, it was the exchange we had in getting the ticket:

Me: “Can I get a Powerball?”
Her: “I’m going to need to see ID, hon.”
Me . . . pausing in disbelief . . . “Um, okay.”

I extracted my wallet, unfolded it to the point where my ID was visible, and she carefully examined it, then also carefully examined me. The picture is a bit younger and maybe I have more hair (including a goatee,) but it is clearly me – and I clearly look well over 18, the legal gambling age in Arizona, in picture and in person. I guess I had to get carded sometime – that’s right, at age 33, since I don’t drink or smoke, I’ve never had a reason to get carded except going into concert venues that require drinking-age adults. I guess there’s something special about that – I still have a youthful beauty, I suppose.

But that’s not that point . . . I’m a little upset at this treatment because I know that this delay in getting my ticket was the thing that caused us to lose the winning numbers. They were there, poised to be printed on our ticket, but that one extra moment it took for me to fish out my wallet and for her to verify my age caused them to shuffle off to a machine in Iowa where some probably senile 89 year old man has misplaced his ticket and isn’t even aware anymore that he bought one. At least I know that old bastard isn’t going to be living it up while I work my ass off for the rest of my life – all due to my youthful beauty.

September 26, 2006

Special camera testing

Filed under: General — Tom @ 10:51 pm

Hey, I didn’t tell you all about the special testing I did to our new camera, did I? This is fantastic. Back in the middle of August, I decided that, since I was so happy with our new Casio Z600 that I’d do a little testing that I hadn’t seen anyone else do – shock testing. That’s right, I dropped the damned thing, one frickin’ month after buying it, and a mere two weeks before Amanda’s birthday, one of the very reasons we wanted the camera in the first place. It’s a great camera – very, very quick to start and focus (something my old camera, an otherwise wonderful and practically legendary Nikon Coolpix 995 was not) and takes nice snapshots. Alissa can actually use this camera without me having to show her how to deal with the many quirks of the 995. Plus nearly the entire back of the Z600 is taken up with the viewscreen, which makes it very easy to use – I was so used to squinting at my 995’s 1″ screen that it’s kind of a shock to this giant 2.7″ screen filling the back.

But back to my main point – I decided to really put the little Casio to the test completely inadvertently one day. I grabbed the camera to take it to the computer and apparently didn’t fully grasp it, took a few steps, swinging my arm as I did so, and the camera took flight, just a couple of feet and into the wall, where it plopped onto the carpet. I quickly grabbed it, flipped it on, and was relieved to see it working just fine – as I would hope from such an inconsequential fall. Again I bring up the specter of my 995 – it has taken a much worse beating in the past four years of service and never once balked.

However, two days later, I went to turn the camera on an found the screen nearly completely black, with one small, jagged triangle of bright white along the bottom edge of the Z600’s screen. My heart sank. Surely that little fall couldn’t have damaged it enough to cause this kind of destruction, right? Apparently it could. I called Casio and played innocent – I know, I know, it’s bad of me, but come on, ONE month and a little fall destroys the camera? I quickly packed the camera up and shipped it off to their repair place, The Time Machine, in California, who, Casio claimed, would turn the camera around in “10-14 business days.” And if there was a problem with the warranty coverage, I would have to cover it – as I would expect.

And sure enough, that next week a card arrived with minimal details but a shocking conclusion: $134.95 would return our camera to us in working condition. I reluctantly faxed off our payment information as requested and then waited, hoping the camera would come in the next week or so as promised.

The week came and went . . . and another, and another. And I’m still waiting – at the end of September. Amanda’s birthday was not a loss – it was covered by my parents’ borrowed digital camera. I called The Time Machine last week and was told that they had been waiting on the screen to arrive and that I should have my camera back by the end of this week. We’ll see. Had I known it would take this long, I would seriously have considered cutting my losses and buying another camera – from another manufacturer. As much as I like the camera, I have a very hard time believing that it’s acceptable for it to be that touchy that it can be virtually destroyed with one small fall like it suffered. Keep watching and see when the camera actually arrives . . .

What is that thing? (Expanding chrome rack edition)

Filed under: General — Tom @ 10:24 pm

And now a very special presentation . . . What is that thing?

Collapsed:

Expanded:

Found a couple weeks ago abandoned in a parking lot, looking brand new, I tossed it into the bed of my truck because I am physically unable to resist such tempting crap. No, I had no idea what it could be at the time either, but I figured it must be something nice . . . so shiny, so chromey, so mechanically interesting. I figured I’d mess around with it at home and surely whatever it was would just jump out at me. Alissa and I thought momentarily that it was a drying rack for clothes, but only the top rack is usable for drying because it’s the only place that’s flat – the rest of the bars are at 45 degree angles. So that’s out. Other than being an extremely inefficient (and tall) table, I really cannot come up with any ideas as to what this could possibly be. So I come to you, good people of the internet, for answers.

Mysterious expanding chrome rack, what are you?

Overlooked Alternatives: Nels Cline, Depeche Mode, Isis, Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood, Sparklehorse, Paul Westerberg

Filed under: Music,Overlooked Alternatives — Tom @ 10:22 am

Another week, another surprising amount of intriging stuff . . .

Nels Cline – New Monastery: Some may only know guitarist Cline as the newest addition to the Wilco lineup, but fans of skronky jazz guitar will undoubtedly know him as one of the leaders of the avant garde and improv scenes. Here, Cline reportedly plays slightly more restrained in tribute to one of his favorite artists and composers, Andrew Hill, from whose repertoire all the music is drawn. From the bits I have heard, if one was looking for a way into Cline’s sometimes difficult work, this might be the most welcoming avenue.

Depeche Mode – Touring The Angel (CD and DVD): As I’ve pointed out in the past couple of weeks, Christmas is approaching and the labels are going to be preparing things that are perfect for gift-giving. Here is one such item – Depeche Mode caught on tour for last year’s fantastic return to form, Playing the Angel. Includes a short 8-track CD of audio (come on, why not a full CD?) from the full-length DVD as well as another DVD of additional material.

Isis – Clearing The Eye (DVD): There’s not a whole lot of information out there on what this is, but what I gather is that it’s a pretty simple gathering of live footage – several different cuts and one full show from Sydney, Australia, and then a video for “In Fiction.” I don’t picture Isis being a particularly exciting band to watch live – their music is very intense, but slow, dark, and it requires a particular mood for me to really get into. I’d complain about them not releasing live CDs, but they actually do that – in extremely limited numbers through their website and at their shows. How limited are they? Ask me how many of the 4 that they’ve released so far that I own. ZERO – and I keep tabs on this stuff. So I’ll get the DVD and rip the audio to listen to instead. It’s not as elegant, but it works in the end.

Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood – Out Louder: Maybe I was the only one, but I found guitarist John Scofield’s 1997 album with Medeski, Martin, & Wood, A Go Go, to be extremely disappointing. It seemed to compromise at every turn – it wasn’t either “Scofieldy” enough to work as his album nor was it “MMWy” enough to work as their album. It just felt flat, felt too much like the group didn’t know who was supposed to be the primary leader (Scofield or MMW) and it resulted in boring me on all fronts.

I found myself very skeptical, then, when I saw that Out Louder would pair the band again with Scofield – but I also noted that Scofield was included in the band name, rather than them being simply his backing band. And while they were only 30 second clips, Amazon’s wise decision to put them up a week early led me to conclude that the “new” name meant that a more balanced and nuanced set of music would emerge. Consider me curious enough to give them a second shot.

Sparklehorse – Dreamt For Lightyears In The Belly Of A Mountain: There’s something about Sparklehorse’s music that evokes images of being lost, but not the panic-stricken moments when you don’t know where you are. I mean the moment when you simply have to stop worrying about where you are, or, more accurately, where you are not. It’s in those moments where a kind of calm sweeps over you, when you simply give up and give in, even if only temporarily, to being lost. That Mark Linkous seems to shun society and live off in the woods where he creates his music only adds to my belief that he intends his music to invoke exactly these sentiments, and he does it well.

Paul Westerberg – Open Season (Original Soundtrack): There’s something really worrisome when you hear that any highly regarded artist is doing the soundtrack for a kid’s movie. It conjures images of Sting and Phil Collins destroying their careers and what little credibility they had left. But, you know, Paul Westerberg. I mean, come on. The Replacements? How could he ever sink to those levels? Surely a soundtrack crafted by him couldn’t possibly be that bad, not Sting-bad or Phil Collins-bad, right? But seeing a title like “The Right To Arm Bears” doesn’t help much. However, Alissa, the Replacements/Westerberg fan, reports that it’s actually not bad and doesn’t stray too far from Westerberg’s typical solo sound, so there you go. And fellow ex-Replacement Tommy Stinson pairs up with Paul on a couple of tracks. Also features Pete Yorn on vocals on one Westerberg track as well as two Deathray songs and one Talking Heads song.

September 20, 2006

It’s not just grass that is always greener

Filed under: General — Tom @ 9:22 am

I should have known when I saw the kid licking the mats that Amanda would catch something. It was only a matter of time. I just didn’t realize that “time” in this equation would amount to mere “days.”

Amanda’s been a bit sheltered for the past year – she hasn’t really been around a lot of kids as we’ve had her grandparents watching her during the week. We haven’t had a lot of chances to get her around the people we do know who have kids, either, so she tends to just spend a lot of time with adults, and that’s been fine for a while, but when she is around other babies, we can see that she really seems to enjoy it – like walking into a room full of strangers, even as adults you seek out at least an age group that you can identify with. Why should it be any different as children?

So we started Amanda off in her class . . . or workout . . . or whatever it is you call it that kids do at The Little Gym this weekend. The previous week we attended a class or . . . you know . . . by invitation from a friend of Alissa’s whose children go there, and Amanda really seemed to enjoy it. Oh, sure, at first, she was a little confused – not having really been exposed to all those other people her size like that, she was kind of overwhelmed, but she quickly took to it. And for forty-five minutes, she cavorted and banged stuff and ran around in a very padded way, and then the instructor . . . or leader . . . or whatever it is they call these people at the Little Gym started blowing bubbles, which is like crack for little kids, apparently, because they all swarm to the bubble-blower.

And then she got out the bells, which she’d gotten out at the beginning of class, and they banged those around for a bit, and Amanda really enjoyed the bells, but it’s only a tease because just as the kids get into it, the teacher . . . or you know . . . starts singing “It’s time to put the bells away/bells away/bells away/at the Little Gym” to the tune of “The Wheels on the Bus,” and that means the class . . . or nevermind . . . is over. And Amanda was very upset having to give those bells up the first time.

So this weekend’s first official class (or . . . ahem) Amanda did pretty much the same things. I guess they must mix things up enough to keep it fresh, but, really, I think the kids are just happy to be doing something that doesn’t involve carpet and dodging sharp objects, and the parents are just happy to be able to let them roam relatively free without worry of too much damage occuring. And let me tell you, Amanda is a little daredevil – she climbs what shouldn’t be climbed, she snakes between what she shouldn’t possibly be able to fit between, and she eats everything that she can find off of the carpet – because no matter how clean, there’s always something that her much sharper eyes can find and her much smaller fingers can get to. Giving her one safe place a week to get out her youthful aggression is probably a good thing . . .

. . . But my one fear appears to be coming true: germs! We made it through her whole first year with nary a cold, but just three weeks into number two and we wake to find her nose crusted over with green gunk. She may have a tiny tiny nose, but there’s a stunning amount of snot hidden up in there, as I found out when I used the bulb syringe to suck out some bubblin’ brew as we got her ready this morning. I fully expect to be doing the same thing, minus the bulb syringe, to myself within a couple of days. That’s just my luck, and I know who to blame: the sickies at the gym who dripped and drooled on everything in sight. Amanda has to get sick sometime, it’s just a matter of fact and time, and it’s enough to deal with it vicariously through Amanda, but man, I’ve been through this myself already many times. I don’t need to go through it again!

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