Known Johnson

October 30, 2006

Another week, another week

Filed under: Boring site stuff,General — Tom @ 11:36 pm

Well, I had good intentions. Unfortunately, I forgot that this weekend was going to be another really busy one with not one but TWO separate birthday celebrations, not to mention tracking down a decent pumpkin in what amounts to the worst pumpkin season I’ve ever seen, and, of course, fitting in the usual weekend house duties, many of which seemed to go ignored due to exhaustion. In other words, yes, you guessed it, the unveiling of my new site is off by one more week – but that’s it! This upcoming weekend is as free as it gets and I’m going to get everything in order. It’s not like it’s that big of a deal, but I just can’t have it going up and down as I put things in place or test things while people are trying to access it. It’s mostly in place right now, but it’s merely a shell of a site right now and simply utilizes a thrown-together theme stolen from this site.

I had meant to get it all together tonight and have it up for tomorrow’s Overlooked Alternatives, but tonight became Pumpkin Carving Night as I took on the one we settled on this weekend and a tiny one that my parents bought for Amanda. Wouldn’t you know it, but the little one turned out to be the most difficult of the two! I’ll have pics up tomorrow when we get them lit. My hand is still sore from carving that little sucker . . .

As tomorrow is Halloween, I’m going to make my yearly prediction that the majority of costumes in the workplace will be worn by women, consisting mostly of pajamas, followed by cats or other feline-type creatures.

October 28, 2006

Kids who don’t listen to Barney

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 4:16 pm

Okay, so maybe the kid could enunciate a little better, but could you do this when you were, what, 10?

October 24, 2006

Overlooked Alternatives: Def Leppard, Elvis Costello, Flaming Lips, Aimee Mann, Jeff Tweedy, Marc Woodworth

Filed under: Music,Overlooked Alternatives — Tom @ 11:23 pm

Def Leppard – Hysteria (Deluxe Edition): My history with Def Leppard may have started with Pyromania, one of the greatest hard rock albums ever, but Hysteria holds a very special place in my heart. Like a couple of my other favorite albums of all time (Queensryche’s Operation: Mindcrime and Iron Maiden’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son,) it came along at just the right time – late summer of 1987, mid-teenage years, when I picked it up based solely out of a love for Pyromania. And there would begin a nearly two year stint of daily listening to this album, the kind of listening that seemed to only happen at that time in my life – after that, life got much busier and it became much more difficult to fit in a one hour listening session every day. But for a couple of years there, I somehow managed to complete the ritual nearly every day, at least more than several times a week – something I can’t say ever happens nowadays even with my most prized CDs. But I do still spin Hysteria and often find a brief glint of the same pull the album had for me 19 years ago.

This deluxe edition packs the original 12-song album in remastered format with four studio b-sides on disc 1 while disc 2 culls the live b-sides from the era together in one place with a number of remixes, rounded out by the hilarious-one-time “Release Me” sung by, I believe, their manager. I had all of these b-sides on7″ vinyl – and still do – that came in sleeves that would recreate the album cover in giant form. Of course, the band ended up only releaseing 7 singles off Hysteria (“only” 7 – ha!) so the remaining two spaces in the 9-piece puzzle will apparently remain forever empty. Regardless, I’m just thrilled to have everything in one place finally – when I tracked down all the 7″ers, I hastily made a tape copy of the b-sides and never played them again. That tape saw a lot of action – the b-sides from this era (besides the joke “Release Me,” of course, and those unnecessary remixes) were spectacular left-overs. Some would end up on the rarities release RetroActive, but not in the form I originally heard them. So here is where I’ll finally get to hear them again for the first time in about 15 years. I’m excited, to say the least.

Elvis Costello – Live: A Case For Song (DVD): Another one for the Christmas list – a rerelease of a video from the 90s featuring Costello performing against a trio of ensembles – the Attractions, the Brodski Quartet, and the White City Septet.

The Flaming Lips – At War With The Mystics (Limited Edition CD/DVD): We knew this had to be coming, didn’t we? What with Yoshimi receiving the CD/DVD treatment and then The Soft Bulletin getting it earlier this year, it was inevitable that Mystics was also going to be appended by a DVD with surround sound and bonus tracks. It’s just a shame that the album couldn’t be better – it’s one of my bigger disappointments this year. However, the DVD on this one is so jam-packed with extras that I’m going to go ahead and take the dive on it in hopes that the non-album tracks redeem it – because “You Got To Hold On,” from The W.A.N.D. single was as good as or better than much of what made it to the album (“Hold On” is also on the DVD.)

Aimee Mann – One More Drifter In The Snow: A Christmas album from the Diva of Depressing? Actually, that sounds great! It just seems so out of character. If I have to buy a Christmas album, this is going to be the one. And probably the only one.

Jeff Tweedy – Sunken Treasure: Live in the Pacific Northwest (DVD): Wilco frontman Tweedy took his solo act to venues on the west coast and recorded the results for this DVD. As usual with the Wilco folks, they’re making this a “value-added” effort – buyers of the DVD will gain access to mp3s of the songs performed on the DVD. Now that’s the kind of fan-friendly service that ALL bands should be paying attention to. I didn’t have this DVD at the top of my must-buy list simply because I don’t have a lot of time to sit down and watch anything at the moment, but when I read this I decided I wanted to vote with my wallet. There’s only one way to show your support for selfless acts of kindness on the parts of artists and labels like this and that’s to buy.

Marc Woodworth – 33 1/3rd Book Series: Guided By Voices’ Bee Thousand (Book): The title says it all – a book on the creation of Guided By Voices’ lo-fi classic. It just sounds interesting as hell, and Bob Pollard gave the book his approval so there’s that.

October 23, 2006


Filed under: General — Tom @ 9:28 pm

First off, because I’ve had a couple of questions via email . . . the new site does exist. It’s not the Great Pumpkin of sites. It’s actually up and running right now, in fact. I just got WordPress installed about 90 minutes ago, actually, using my host’s very handy installation thingie-mabab so I didn’t even have to bother downloading, customizing files, and uploading. Just click a button, fill in some fields, and click another button. Done. So it’s alive, but it’s ugly and needs personality. So, sorry, but not this week my friends.

I would have had it done this weekend but I basically ran completely out of time. Saturday we weren’t even home – we left the house at 9 am and came home that night at about 8:30 pm with only one quick return for about a half-hour in the morning. Amanda’s Little Gym class and then off to an ASU football game followed by her sister’s birthday pretty much ate up the entire day.

Sunday morning I spent fixing, or attempting to fix, a broken sprinkler system out front, then did some badly needed yard work. I left some glued pipes to dry for the afternoon and when I got back to connect the last piece I found out that I’d bought the wrong one – wrong thread pattern, meaning I wouldn’t be closing up the gaping hole in our front yard last night and wouldn’t be running the sprinklers to our very thirsty plants.

A doctor’s appointment gave me a reason to take a day off – I wasn’t going to originally, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I was just going to stress myself out trying to get to and from work and I’ve got a lot of vacation time, so why not? I’ll take the day and get some stuff done around the house, and since I have the whole day off, I can get the new site up and running. Well, almost. I did get stuff done – the sprinklers are now done (having bought the correct part,) we have a gate permanently installed at the master bedroom so Amanda can roam free from around the now-safe areas of the house, and I installed one last cabinet lock in the kitchen (making it now-safe) – but that pretty much consumed the entire day. It’s really amazing how seemingly simple projects wind up taking much longer than anticipated. And they always do. Whatever it is, and however long you figure it’s going to take, double that time because that’s at least how long it’s going to take.

I did, however, manage to take a little bit of time for myself today on the way to pick up Amanda and hit Zia for the first time in what feels like forever*. In the “new” category, I picked up Jay Bennett (ex- of Wilco)’s new album, The Magnificent Defeat, and it’s, well, magnificent – if you’re one of the Wilco fans that feels slighted by the artsy-fartsy direction that Jeff Tweedy has taken the band, and prefer the Summerteeth and Being There days, this album should be high on your “must buy” list. The first two songs had me going “hmmm, not so sure this was a good use of my money” and then after that it was a resounding “WOW – this is great.” Used finds include a copy of Branford Marsalis’ Braggtown (I had a feeling if I held out a few weeks I’d find a copy,) Voivod’s Dimension Hatross (I haven’t heard this in, literally, 15 years – will it with stand the test of time?) and Sausage’s Riddles Are Abound Tonight (I’ve been regretting selling off my copy many, many years ago and promised myself that if I saw it again I’d buy again, if only because I get the ridiculously stupid sound of Les Claypool sing-yelling the chorus of “Girls For Single Men” in my head on a pretty regular basis. Primus fans, this is a must – it’s basically Primus in their early incarnation.)

And, of course, when I got home I found a puffy package from Canada with my copy of the new Tragically Hip album inside.

And I’m done for the night. It was a busy weekend and a busy day. I could push on a do my Overlooked Alternatives piece right now, and there’s a lot of cool stuff out this week that I want to talk about, but I need to keep up on that “time for myself” thing for the moment. Tomorrow. And the new site will be beautified for the world by next week, barring any weird disasters. Time now to relax.

*See, you think all music-related stuff is going over to the new stuff, but it’s going to slip in here and there on occasion. I can’t help it – it’s in everything I do . . .

October 17, 2006

Overlooked Alternatives: the Tragically Hip, Manic Street Preachers, Primus

Filed under: Music,Overlooked Alternatives — Tom @ 12:14 pm

The week in hard to find things, apparently – one set of easy to find US releases and a couple of albums that aren’t technically out in the US make it difficult for us music lovers to get our hands on these things. I really don’t get why, in this day, the labels do things like making releases available only in certain markets.

I remember years ago stumbling upon import releases that I’d only read about in magazines. Before the internet, my only hope of finding this stuff was that my local indie store or, maybe, Tower Records would manage to get in one copy at an extra-exorbitant price. And I’d grab ’em whenever I saw these things because it was unlikely that a US release would happen anytime soon, if ever. Of course, the internet made those experiences redundant – Amazon stocks almost everything, and if they don’t, the artist’s own website will surely direct you to their own shop where you can get what you can’t easily find. Not to mention good old downloading, for those of us without a conscience.

But here’s the thing: people do still want to buy CDs and own them. And they want to be able to find and buy them easily – at good prices. I, and I’m sure many others, really figured that the internet would permanently put to rest the days of imports because, frankly, it was a stupid notion. One release for all the world makes a lot more sense than multiple versions all over the place and at different times. But here I am telling you in 2006 that exactly that is going on – more music is being released like it’s 1992 again and there’s no telling that these albums are going to see release in the US. Only today people have that other option that the labels hate. They only encourage it with behavior like this. People are going to find a way to get the music they want, and if you make it even slightly difficult for them, they’re going to take the path of least resistance. That said, maybe with at least one of these I can steer a few sales back toward the band . . .

The Tragically Hip – World Container: If you ask me, the Hip’s management, label, someone in charge made a major mistake with this album. They’ve allowed it to be released everyone but the US this week while the US release date hangs in limbo – there is absolutely no information to be found about when or even if this great Canadian quartet’s latest album will be released in the states. In the meantime, US fans will do exactly as I did – purchase the album through Canadian means, such as the officially sanctioned Maple Music. Very frustrating indeed.

And the music? I don’t know much there, either – another big mistake: absolutely no promotion whatsoever, because I only found out about this today, release day, and I generally keep up on this stuff, being one of my favorite bands. All I know is that the man who is popularly known as “the one who ruined Metallica,” Bob Rock, produced it. Let’s hope the results here are only positive.

Manic Street Preachers – Everything Must Go (Deluxe Edition): After guitarist Richie Edwards disappeared following the release of their fantastic Holy Bible, it looked pretty grim for the Manics. But the managed to pull it together again for another album, and this is the result. It’s nowhere near as manic nor as interesting, but it is an intriguing and, in spots, really beautiful piece of work. This three-disc deluxe package is a wonderful way to celebrate it – lots of bonus tracks on the two audio discs and a DVD with videos, live tracks, and a documentary.

That said . . . I realize the Manics are a pretty obscure group in the US, but their previous album, Holy Bible, got a similar “deluxe” treatment and US release, so why is it that this one is not being released in the US? Were the DVD in NTSC format, which all PAL players can use, there would be no issue, but it’s a PAL format disc, making this an expensive investment with 1/3 less payoff for US buyers.

Primus – They All Can’t Be Zingers (best-of) Blame It On The Fish (DVD): Look at that, something you actually can buy here in the US! Primus releases a long-awaited best-of in the form of this 16-track, career-spanning disc. Not much to be said – it hits all the right spots for those who don’t want to commit to an entire discography. Best Buy, of course, has the usual bonus this week – an extra disc with 4 live tracks and a super-low price of $7.99.

Blame It On The Fish is a live DVD culled from the 2003 reunion tour.

Bizarre news item of the day

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 6:43 am

This woman:

. . . has just signed a deal to record an album. Not unusual news – movie stars record ill-advised albums all the time, but here’s the twist: Scarlett Johannson will be doing an album of covers of Tom Waits songs.

And, yeah, I’m kinda in love with that picture.

October 15, 2006

Proud parent moment of the weekend

Filed under: General — Tom @ 11:58 pm

Very easy: Amanda dancing in her car seat to the bassline in “Tekufah” on Disc 2 of Electric Masada’s absolutely mindbendingly awesome At The Mountains Of Madness (sound samples at the site linked.) Amid the chaos of John Zorn and others, she somehow was able to pick out a fairly obscured, but very steady bassline and bop along in time with it. It was both hilarious and inspiring to watch.

Oh, okay, fine, she also dances to the washing machine, but anyone can dance in time to that. You try finding a steady beat in most Zorn pieces!

And . . . I’m back

Filed under: General — Tom @ 11:50 pm

Not that it really seems any different to you, but I’m posting this from my brand new computer, which was up and running as of some time Saturday afternoon, but I had a bunch of junk to install (antivirus, updates, etc.) before I could even think about posting on my site.

And, in kind of a fun “sticking it to the man” turn of events, I’m using less Microsoft products than ever before – I’ve shunned, for the first time in ages, pretty much everything MS has to offer besides Windows XP in lieu of what appears to be much better options (for one reason or another.) While I always use Firefox as my browser (and everyone on Windows should, too for all the security holes in Internet Explorer,) I decided to give Mozilla’s email client, Thunderbird, a try for once, instead of boring ol’ Outlook Express. With the addition of user-created extensions (just like Firefox has,) Thunderbird is capable of being everything that OE’s big brother Outlook can be – and it’s FREE! And to keep on that “free” ride, I also downloaded Sun Microsystem’s OpenOffice to use instead of Microsoft Office – why bother with that bloated chunk when I could use this much smaller, more streamlined suite of software, especially when I rarely use most of it anyway? And, of course, as always, I’m using my usual suite of free anti-virus stuff – AdAware, SpyBot, and while I have been using AVG for my anti-virus scanner, I switche this time to Avast Free Edition as it seems to be getting better reviews. Those three have done me no wrong in the past few years, so I see no reason why to bother paying for software that I read causing problem after problem for many buyers.

I also managed to find a loophole around many, many hours of waiting while Itunes examined my library – I copied the basic library database files from my old hard drive, then installed Itunes on my new Windows install, found where the database was installed, moved it, and then pasted in the old one pointing to the correct drive. Restarted Itunes and it was up and running as if nothing had happened – saving me what I figured was probably 10 hours of watching Itunes first identify my music, then analyze it for gapless information, then find its artwork (because all of this information is saved outside of the audio files, believe it or not!)

And those of you who were wondering if I forgot about that new little website I mentioned about a week ago . . . I didn’t! This one week delay has seriously thrown me off, but I hope to have something up in the next week or so!

October 10, 2006

Overlooked Alternatives: Neko Case, Isis & Aereogramme, Damien Jurado, Robert Pollard, Porcupine Tree

Filed under: General,Music,Overlooked Alternatives — Tom @ 12:13 pm

Not having access to my own computer this week is seriously throwing me off. My computer, see, lays in pieces as I await the arrival of new components to update it and bring it up to speed with today’s specs – what I was working on was painfully out of date (ahem – by about 6 years) and struggled with just about every task I put to it. What started out as a weekend project quickly grew out of hand when I realized that everything about my old computer, case and power supply included, was so out of date that I was simply better off replacing just about all of it. I’d hoped to get by with “just” the motherboard, processor, RAM, and of course a fresh install of Windows, but I quickly realized that I could take advantage of the faster processes with a better hard drive, and then the power supply needed upgrading, and then the case didn’t have space for my three hard drives, and I needed more fans to cool all this hot-running equipment off . . . I went into this project much less prepared than I should have been.

And so my I remembered why I will always feel safe having my CDs handy, even while I tote my ever-present electronic friend, the Ipod, along everywhere I go – because I never know when something is going to prevent me from putting stuff on my Ipod. This week, at least, I’m carrying around a stack of CDs that aren’t on my Ipod and won’t be until the computer’s back up and running Itunes again. I’ll likely be adding a couple of these to the pile in the next couple days:

Neko Case – Live from Austin, Texas (DVD): Another great release from PBS’ fantastic Austin City Limits series. Why has it taken them so long to finally start releasing these shows on CD and DVD? (In this case it appears to only be on DVD, however.) This 2003 concert might be where I first experienced Case’s enchanting voice and music – I remember being so enthralled by what I heard that I immediately went out the next day and picked up Blacklisted and The Tigers Have Spoken. You can guess that this comes highly recommended. The DVD includes material not aired on TV.

Isis & Aerogramme – In The Fishtank: These “Fishtank” performances are always intriguing – pair two bands together for two days and see what happens. Usually they’re quite different in style, but in this case, Isis and Aereogramme aren’t all that different. Both are metal bands, but Isis is big, unrelenting wall of terrific noise where Aereogramme is more dramatic with greater dynamics (think a harder, weirder A Perferct Circle.) The result here is pretty interesting – things go further in both directions, but Isis’ influence stands out the most, being the most intense of the two.

Damien Jurado – And Now That I’m In Your Shadow: Jurado and his cracked, wavering voice has won me over. He’s not a perfect singer – he’s not even great in the way that enigmatic leads can be imperfect and yet still make it work. There’s something so earnest and vulnerable that sometimes I feel almost as if I shouldn’t listen, because it feels too private, but its because it’s so earnest and because there’s a genuine sound of desire in his voice to have people really listen to what he has to say. And so I can’t not listen. Jurado wasn’t an easy artist for me to get into because of this, but it’s been really rewarding – like slowly building up trust in a friendship. He may have put it all out there, but it’s only with time that I felt comfortable really listening closely to what he had to say. I can only imagine this new album will be more of the same.

Robert Pollard – Normal Happiness with Moon: Believe it or not, this is Pollard’s SIXTH (and technically seventh) release this year. First it was From A Compound Eye, then he released, in May, The Takeovers’ Turn To Red, the Keene Brothers’ Blues And Boogie Shoes, and Psycho And The Birds’ All That Is Holy – and his Psycho pseudonym put out an EP just a couple months after that, Check Your Zoo. There are even rumors of another album being readied. But we’re not talking about those – we’re talking about Normal Happiness here. I’ve stayed away from all leaks and previews so I can hear it fresh, so I can only tell you what I’ve read – that it’s a return to his Guided By Voices 2-minute pop song genius.

UPDATE: To find the indie store in your area carrying Moon, you’ll need to look for a store listed with the Coalition of Independent Music Stores. Here in Arizona that amounts to ONE store – Hoodlums, buried deep in the bowels of ASU’s Memorial Union, which is unfortunately an extremely inconvenient location for most people – on campus, open only during the week from 9am-6pm. But what are you going to do?

And if you buy from an indie store and you ask real nice, you should get a copy of Moon, a live album recorded this summer while Pollard and his Ascended Masters opened for Pearl Jam. This alone should make the purchase a must. Very limited – get at least one copy NOW.

Porcupine Tree – Arriving Somewhere (DVD): Why it’s taken Porcupine Tree so long to release a live DVD, I don’t know, but I’m glad to finally see one. Disc one is the show culled from two performances in Chicago on the Deadwing tour, disc two has a number of odds and ends (a couple videos from the Rockpalast performance which is available as an audio download from their store, movies that backed the band live, and a few other things.)

October 9, 2006

Best Laid Plans

Filed under: General — Tom @ 9:19 am

Well, things didn’t go quite as expected with my computer this weekend. I got everything installed by Sunday morning just fine, really, then hit the power button and . . . nothing. Oh, it powered up – fans spun, at least, but the monitor remained black and things remained suspiciously, worrisomely quiet. I rechecked a few things to make sure everything (processor, RAM, video card, etc.) was seated correctly, but it was all fine. What could be the problem?

Consulting the manual a few times, I realized what my biggest problem was: ancient equipment. It seems that in the 6 years since my previous computer build motherboards have grown such power needs that they get a second power source. What for, I don’t know, but all I know is that my power supply didn’t have the 4-pin plug that the motherboard needed to run.

This is when having a two-computer household is handy because I was then able to get on Alissa’s computer and look up what I needed – but not after a completely wasted trip to Fry’s Electronics where I realized that the prices were ridiculously high for really crappy equipment. So back home and online it was – I would have to wait a few days, but I’d save a lot of money and get way better stuff. Should I just buy a power supply and put it in my old case, or go for a new case? The issue being that I don’t actually have enough space in my old case to hold my three hard drives. I think you can guess the answer there.

And then it got even more fun, because WiFi apparently in our case at least, sucks. Up, down, up, down, up, down, up, down – you get the picture, and it was pretty much exactly like that. Five seconds it was up, then it would be down for two minutes, then up for half a minute, then down for a minute. Maddening. It took me hours to look up what I needed to look up.

When all was said and done, after one problem after another, I just had to assume that it was nature’s way of telling me that I needed a few days away from the computer. With a weekend like this, I’m more than happy to oblige.

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