Known Johnson

December 12, 2006

In the sick of it

Filed under: General — Tom @ 9:40 pm

It’s winter, so you know what that means: it’s disease time. I guess I’ve managed to become a target for some so far unknown bug that has, at this point, not been too awful, but just bad enough to take me out of commission today at least. It took a while to wind up, however – I’ve been feeling pretty dumpy for almost a week, whether due to allergies because of the horrible pollution Phoenix suffers in the winter or the slow build-up of this cold, I don’t know. But today I woke up and just knew that I wasn’t going to work. Sore throat, groggy head, burning nasal passages, achy muscles. Nope, I was down for the day.

In a way, I knew it was coming – I’ve been running around like a headless chicken for weeks, stressing out over stupid things at home and at work, even stressing out over the possibility of getting sick (stressing out, in fact, about getting sick for Christmas like I have so many times in the past.) I just had a feeling my body was just going to suffer a stress fracture at some point.

I don’t even know why I get like this – I just do. I get all wound up inside for no reason. Work, for whatever stupid reason, gets crazy busy between the middle of November and the end of December, the very time of year I absolutely need it to not be crazy busy so that I don’t get sick (because I know how I get when things get busy – I get stressed out, and stress kills your immune system.) I could almost sense the stress cracking like a board snapping in half – one loud crack and things afterward are different. If I’m back at work tomorrow, I know I’ll go in with a much more relaxed state of mind – what gets finished, gets finished, no more stressing. Why I couldn’t have just been like this before, I don’t know, but that’s just now how my mind works. I tend to roll things up in tight little mental bundles that end up unspooling if I get too many things going on at once because I can’t keep track of what I’m doing, and then everything gets tangled together and I can’t make any headway on anything. Having reached my breaking point, I’ll be okay for a while again. And then I’ll just do it again. I never learn.

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December 11, 2006

Music industry beginning to get a clue

Filed under: Music,News — Tom @ 4:41 pm

It’s only taken, what, 7 or 8 years, but the music industry is finally starting to get a clue – people want MP3 files, not their stupid DRM-drenched, digital-player restricted proprietary file formats: MSNBC is reporting that the music industry has started selling, at least on a limited basis for now, actual MP3 files via Yahoo’s music service.

They’re still using Itunes’ price point – 99 cents a track – so I still have no interest, but it’s a start toward a smarter business model. If Emusic can make this work and offer songs for as low as 26 cents each, then so can everyone else (and yes, they do pay the artists, too – they’re completely legit. Check ’em out if you’re into indie music of all kinds – rock, jazz, country. It’s a pretty cool deal.) But it’s a start.

December 7, 2006

The usual Grammy nomination crap

Filed under: Music,News — Tom @ 7:05 pm

The Grammy nominations are out and, as usual, it’s a bunch of crap for the most part. There are, of course, the occasional nods to genuine great artists and albums, but most of the noms went to stuff that no one will remember in a few years’ time.

Most questionable to me is how Bob Dylan’s fantastic Modern Times went without a best-album nomination despite near universal reviews that stated it as one of the year’s best? And the Flaming Lips’ At War With The Mystics, a tremendous letdown of an album, somehow was nominated (best alternative album, technically – but you get my point)? Or that someone like Neko Case, whose Fox Confessor Brings The Flood came from behind as an initial disappointment to be a sure top-10 for me, has been overlooked entirely? And so many others more deserving of all the attention the Grammies will afford the nominees.

But, let’s look at the bright side for one moment: the jazz nominations were pretty good, even if one of the best albums, Bill Frisell’s collaboration with Ron Carter and Paul Motian, somehow got overlooked, Ornette Coleman’s great Sound Grammar was. Strange is Sonny Rollins’ Sonny Please being nominated – an album I haven’t even heard about, which isn’t slated for release in the US until January 23, 2007, but apparently can be bought on his site for a whopping $17.95 plus additional $6.95 shipping. If it’s really that good, then granola bars to him for the nomination, but it just seems a little strange that something this out-of-left-field would get a Grammy nomination and Frisell wouldn’t.

I suppose that’s how it goes – and that’s why I’m here. Like gold, precious gems, and other precious artifacts, the good stuff requires digging. I’ll keep digging, maybe toss some stuff up on the surface for others to find. I hope somebody’s taking notice.

December 5, 2006

Bad for good

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 5:11 am

I didn’t go looking for it, but I stumbled upon this stunningly in-depth examination of Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl” that reaches hilarious levels of seriousness. Read it with the voice of VH1’s Behind The Music‘s voiceover talent and you’ll probably get the same enjoyment out of it that I did. Such an amazingly bad song doesn’t normally deserve this kind of attention, but when it’s delivered with such a deadly-serious tone that I just have to appreciate its existence for exactly this kind of thing.

One of my favorite quotes from the entry, a quote from a critic who pretty much nails how I feel about this song:

“Eric Greenwood of Drawer B Media commented: ‘[The song is] moronic and embarrassingly tuneless. I’d quote the lyrics, but they’re so bad, I almost feel sorry for her. A 35-year-old woman singing about pom-poms and “talking shit” in high school betrays such a delusional self-image that it’s hard not to be taken aback.'”

December 3, 2006

Problems in need of solutions

Filed under: General — Tom @ 11:45 pm

The problem:

CIMG0141

The solution:

CIMG0139

I spent most of today building something I was badly in need of: more CD storage. As the first image attests, I am out of room and have been for some time. All of the CDs on the floor? They need homes, and the four racks I have are out of room. If you notice, there are several stacks of CDs laying there in front of the two twin-sized racks, and in the distance is a long row of discs. The former are newer discs that simply have no place to go. The latter are ones that have slowly been migrated out of the fourth and last rack as newer stuff has come in – that represents everything from Wilco to John Zorn, to be exact.

The second image is one of two four-foot tall, two foot wide racks I built today (the materials for which lay below on the concrete) and there’s still one to go. As you can guess, two racks is not enough – that simply solves my problem now, and as I have learned from years of driving in Arizona and dealing with our tendency to design road construction programs for now instead of when they’ll be finished years from now, I have planned ahead to build a third rack for the next few years of music buying.

These are super-sturdy racks – 3/4 pine with plywood backs, glued and screwed (naughty!) everywhere possible for strength. I need these to not only hold the discs vertically but also be able to transport them whenever we move. I simply can’t handle packing up all these discs in flimsy cardboard boxes like I did when we moved into this house years ago – it was a ridiculous mess, a waste of way too many boxes with a lot of wasted space because CDs, like books, weigh a lot, so you can’t really pack many in those boxes. These are designed to move – carefully.

Unfortunately, not having the best equipment on hand, they’re a bit rough, but that’s okay – I’ll just call them “utilitarian” in design. I did the best I could. It was a one-man job. Someday they’ll get sanded and painted to cover the ugliness of this cheap, raw pine, but for now, they’ll get the job done.

Itunes, shmitunes

Filed under: General — Tom @ 8:24 pm

Do you know what I find really annoying about the latest version of Itunes? Even more annoying than the ever-present popping and clicking in playback, as if Apple thought us digital junkies needed to be reminded of modern music’s vinyl roots (a problem I spent two hours attempting to solve late Saturday night – to no avail)? It’s the spotty implementation of cover art.

At this very moment I’m importing the very excellent 4-disc Charlie Parker boxset that I’ve had for years, The Complete Live Performances On Savoy, which, for whatever reason*, I’ve never bothered to rip until now. Disc 1 ripped and Itunes grabbed the correct art. Disc 2 ripped and grabbed completely different artwork for a compilation set derived from this box, but it’s completely different artwork. Discs 3 and 4 ripped and grabbed the right artwork as well. When I attempted to simply copy the artwork from the correct discs to disc 2, it wouldn’t let me. When I went to Amazon, I couldn’t find artwork of the correct size – instead, I find artwork with a giant white border which leaves the real artwork very small. This is just completely stupid – why can’t I copy the artwork from one disc to another? A Google image search is fruitless – this box is apparently out of print and only the compilation is available now, so finding a decently-sized image of the cover is very difficult. Yet somehow Itunes new to do it for discs 1, 3 and 4 . . .

I eventually found something suitable, but it took far longer than it should have. That, afterall, is the whole point of adding the album-artwork finder feature to Itunes, isn’t it?

*Perhaps it’s that some boxes I just don’t seem to like digitizing – I really like enjoying them as a whole. It’s cool to have the immense and informative liner notes with me when I listen, but like all things, it’s just easier to have it in a smaller format to take with me everywhere now.

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